In the closing years of the 20th century, as we commemorate the 38th anniversary of the Tibetan peoples National Uprising, it is evident that the human community has reached a critical juncture in its history. The world is becoming smaller and increasingly interdependent. One nations problem can no longer be solved by itself. Without a sense of universal responsibility our very future is in danger.
Todays problems of militarisation, development, ecology, population, and the constant search for new sources of energy and raw materials require more than piece-meal actions and short-term problem-solving. Modern scientific development has, to an extent, helped in solving mankinds problems. However, in tackling these global issues there is the need to cultivate not only the rational mind but also the other remarkable faculties of the human spirit: the power of love, compassion and solidarity.
A new way of thinking has become the necessary condition for responsible living and acting. If we maintain obsolete values and beliefs, a fragmented consciousness and a self-centred spirit, we will continue to hold on to outdated goals and behaviours. Such an attitude by a large number of people would block the entire transition to an interdependent yet peaceful and co-operative global society.
We must draw lessons from the experience we have gained. If we look back at the development in the 20th century, the most devastating cause of human suffering, of deprivation of human dignity, freedom and peace has been the culture of violence in resolving differences and conflicts. In some ways, our century could be called the century of war and bloodshed. The challenge before us, therefore, is to make the next century a century of dialogue and non-violent conflict resolution.
In human societies there will always be differences of views and interests. But the reality today is that we are all inter-dependent and have to co-exist on this small planet. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue. The promotion of a culture of dialogue and non-violence for the future of mankind is thus an important task of the international community. It is not enough for governments to endorse the principle of non-violence or hold it high without any appropriate action to promote it.
With these convictions I have led the Tibetan freedom struggle on a path of non-violence and have sought a mutually agreeable solution to the Tibetan issue through negotiations in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise. Inspired by Buddhas message of non-violence and compassion, we have sought to respect every form of life and abandoned war as an instrument of national policy. For us Tibetans the path of non-violence is a matter of principle. And I am convinced that this approach is the most beneficial and practical course in the long run.
As we commemorate this anniversary, we look back at yet another year of escalating repression in Tibet where the Chinese authorities continue to commit widespread and grave human rights abuses.
Under the “Strike Hard” campaign launched by the Chinese authorities in April last year, Tibetans are subjected to increased torture and imprisonment for peacefully expressing their political aspirations. Political re-education conducted by the authorities in monasteries and nunneries throughout Tibet have resulted in mass expulsions, imprisonment and death. I continue to be concerned about the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the boy I have recognised as the 11th Panchen Lama, and whose whereabouts are still not known.
Last year China dropped all pretence of respecting the ancient religious and cultural heritage of Tibet by launching a large-scale reform of its religious policy. The new policy states that “Buddhism must conform to socialism and not socialism to Buddhism”. Under the pretext that religion would have a negative influence on Tibets economic development, the new policy aims to systematically undermine and destroy the distinct cultural and national identity of the Tibetan people.
New measures to curtail the use of the Tibetan language in schools were introduced. The Tibet University in Lhasa has been compelled to teach even Tibetan history in the Chinese language at the Tibetan Language Department. Experimental Tibetan language middle schools, established in the 1980s with the active encouragement and support of the late Panchen Lama, are being closed down. These schools were very successful and were highly appreciated by Tibetans.
These new measures in the field of culture, religion and education, coupled with the unabated influx of Chinese immigrants to Tibet, which has the effect of overwhelming Tibets distinct cultural and religious identity and reducing the Tibetans to an insignificant minority in their own country, amounts to a policy of cultural genocide. Today, in most major towns and cities Tibetans are already marginalised. If this population transfer is allowed to continue, in a few decades Tibetan civilisation will cease to exist.
Tibetans have reacted to all this repression largely peacefully and I believe all people have the right to peacefully protest injustice. However, recent reports of isolated incidents of bomb explosion in Tibet are a cause of deep concern to me. I will continue to counsel for non-violence, but unless the Chinese authorities forsake the brutal methods it employs, it will be difficult to prevent the situation in Tibet from deteriorating further.
Being a Tibetan, I have been giving particular importance to reaching out to the Chinese people, whether they are in China or elsewhere. It is in the interest of both the Tibetan people and the Chinese that there be a deeper level of understanding between ourselves. It has always been my belief that the cultivation of human relationship is of great importance in the creation of an atmosphere conducive to human understanding, mutual respect and peace.
In recent times the people-to-people dialogue between the Tibetans and Chinese is fostering a better understanding of our mutual concerns and interests. The growing empathy, support and solidarity from our Chinese brothers and sisters in China as well as overseas for the plight and fundamental rights of the Tibetan people is of particular inspiration and encouragement for us Tibetans.
The recent passing away of Mr. Deng Xiaoping is a great loss to China. I have known him personally. Mr. Deng Xiaoping took the initiative to establish direct contact with us to start a dialogue to solve the Tibetan problem. Unfortunately, serious negotiations could not take place during his lifetime. It is my sincere hope that the succeeding Chinese leadership will find the courage, wisdom and vision for new openings to solve the Tibetan issue through negotiations.
The beginning of a new era in modern China presents an opportunity for constructive change and positive development. The recent military clampdown in East Turkestan (Xingjiang), aimed at quelling the Uighur peoples demonstrations and the ensuing cycle of violence are tragic and unfortunate. As in the case of Tibet, similarly also in East Turkestan, a lasting and peaceful solution can be found only through dialogue. Another important task ahead for the Chinese government is the smooth transition of Hong Kong and the implementation of the pragmatic and wise concept of “one country, two systems” in spirit and letter. A constructive approach to these issues provides important opportunities to create a political climate of trust, confidence and openness, both domestically and internationally.
The growing international support for Tibet reflects the inherent human empathy for and solidarity with human suffering and the universal appreciation for truth and justice. To portray the support for Tibet as a plot of Western anti-China forces is to evade the truth for political convenience. This is unfortunate because such kind of mental bamboo-walling will continue to prevent a constructive approach to solve the problem.
Ultimately, it is for the Tibetan and the Chinese peoples to find a mutually acceptable solution to the Tibetan issue. Bearing in mind this reality, we have consistently pursued a course of dialogue with the leadership in Beijing. However, Beijings refusal to listen to and to recognise the genuine grievances of our people left us no other choice but to present our legitimate and just cause to the international community.
The Tibetan people have displayed a remarkable spirit of endurance, courage and patience in the face of the most brutal repression. I urge my fellow Tibetans to continue to resist violent acts of frustration and desperation as a means to protest against injustice and repression. If we give in to hatred, desperation and violence, we would debase ourselves to the level of the oppressors. The way of the oppressors is intimidation, coercion and the use of force. Ours is a belief in and reliance on truth, justice and reason. This distinction is our most effective weapon. The call of the time for us in this period of difficulty is to exert ourselves with greater determination, wisdom and patience.
With my homage to and prayers for the brave men and women who have died for the cause of Tibetan freedom.
The Dalai Lama March 10, 1997