Allied Committee: Common Voice Vol. 2(1992) China and the future of Tibet

Common Voice

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Common Voice: Volume 2 (1992) China and the future of Tibet

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

During the past few weeks I have visited many parts of the United States and spoken at universities, colleges and religious institutions and small centres of learning. I have also had the opportunity to address several organizations concerned with world affairs and foreign policy.

In almost every situation I have taken the liberty to speak on love and compassion. I firmly believe that the promotion of these qualities can contribute to modern society's need for a balance against excessive material preoccupation.

I have spoken at length on these topics not simply as a Buddhist, but from a clear universal recognition that except for superficial differences all humans are in essence the same in that we all want happiness and do not want suffering and on this basis engage in various techniques to bring this about. Recognition of our fundamental aim and agreement is important.

The press, the general public and numerous individuals I have met have also indicated a keen interest in Tibet, the Tibetan people and their future.

It is obvious that developments in China during the past few years have contributed to this interest and caused speculations of a quick end to my exile. Therefore I think that I should express my thoughts on the subject and my views on what may possibly lie ahead.

One who is not politically motivated can easily understand that Tibet is a separate country different from China. This thought comes quite naturally because Tibet was and is in fact different from China - racially, culturally, linguistically, geographically and historically. No knowledgeable person would for a moment think that Tibetans are Chinese.

Patron-Priest Relationship

In the past there existed a special patron-priest relationship between China and Tibet; a relationship which was spiritual rather than temporal. In those times, the three countries, China, Mongolia and Tibet, were referred to as separate countries. You ask a Tibetan what his nationality is and his answer will be "Tibetan".

Similarly, when people discuss something Tibetan, it is always in the sense of something that is different and distinct from Japanese, Indian or Chinese. For example, when people talk about Tibetan Buddhism, it is never implied that Chinese Buddhism represents Tibetan Buddhism as well.

The word "China" is "Gya-nak" in Tibetan. Since the Tibetan word "Gya-nak" refers to a foreign land, it implies Tibet to be separate from China. The Chinese do not use this word. They use the vague term "our nation" and "motherland," instead of "China" in their official documents and publication in the Tibetan Ianguage. They explain to us that Tibet is not a part of Gya-nak (China), but that it is a part of Chung Kuo (Middle Kingdom), just as Gya-nak (China) also is!

However, Chinese who are not politically oriented do not make this distinction for they refer to the Chinese language as Chung Kuo Hua (language of the Middle Kingdom). But politically-motivated Chinese refer to it as Nan Hua (language of Han) in order to justify their stand that Tibet is an integral part of the Middle Kingdom. Linguistic concoctions cannot hide the facts of life and history.

Because Tibet as well as Mongolia and East Turkestan are basically and historically different from China, the Chinese have established various autonomous administrative systems in these occupied areas. They also use the language of these countries along with Chinese, on their currency notes.

Also, in the case of Tibet, because it was independent until 1950 when the Chinese signed the 17-point Agreement with the Tibetan government. No other Chinese-occupied nationality has any such agreement, pact or treaty with China. Here again, the Chinese say that this is an "agreement" and not a "treaty," giving the unsatisfactory explanation that "agreements" are made only within a nation between the central and local governments.

It may be of interest that Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Chinese republic, considered Tibet, Mongolia, and Manchuria as foreign countries. Also, Mao Tse-tung, in the 1930s when he was carrying out his struggle and not yet in power, supported Tibetan independence. Many years later, in 1954 when I was in China, Mao told me that while we were poor and backward, China would help us, but that after 20 years we (Tibetans) would be able to help them (the Chinese). On another occasion he told me that the Chinese personnel then stationed in Tibet would be withdrawn when the Tibetans could manage by themselves.

Even after 30 years of occupation by the People's Republic of China and in spite of China's world-wide propaganda projecting the picture of Tibet as an inseparable and integral part of China - nobody says that he has been to "China" when he has visited "Tibet," or that the "Chinese" have taken to socialism when he means that the "Tibetans" have.

During these past three decades the Chinese have placed great emphasis on the unity of their nation and have boasted much achievement in that direction. Speeches on this have been made on numerous occasions at public meetings and official receptions.

If we are to go by the number of times this theme has been stressed, the Chinese should have by now achieved a rock-like, unshakable unity. But this has not happened, for it is an artificial unity that is being imposed unsuccessfully on different nationalities, Tibetans being one of them.

To claim that Tibet is a part of the Chinese nation is both distorted and hypocritical. The Chinese seem to realise this, and one hopes, therefore, that they will change their policy and accept the reality of a Tibetan nation. If the Chinese really want understanding and friendship, Tibetans, Mongolians and East Turkestanis should be treated according to their real circumstances and given their inalienable national rights and fundamental freedoms in their own homelands.

The Chinese claim that they did not come to Tibet as imperialists or colonialists, but as "liberators." What sort of liberation is it that denies the people their birthright and the freedom to determine their own destiny themselves? Having deprived the Tibetan people of freedom, the Chinese talk about an imaginary "state of glorious happiness and progress" said to be existing in Tibet.

I am pointing out these facts not with any antagonism towards the Chinese. If one day all the countries of the world join together as one nation, I would welcome that, and Tibet would become a willing partner in such a movement.

But as long as this does not happen, the six million Tibetans are entitled to all the rights that other free peoples have, including the preservation of their separate, unique identity and way of life. As long as the six million Tibetans remain under foreign military occupation, they will continue to struggle for genuine national liberation and for legitimate rights in their own country.

A Clear Account

I think it is important that we as Tibetans present a clear and factual account of the Tibetan situation. This is particularly necessary now when the present Chinese leadership is reported to be following a moderate and responsible path.

It remains to be seen whether Chinese leaders are prepared to recognize realities as they really exist, or whether they will continue to direct facts in order to draw conclusions that serve only China's interests.

I have always firmly believed that unless we act according to the real existing circumstances we can never achieve our true aspirations. To my great disappointment, ever since the invasion of Tibet by the People's Republic of China, owing both to a lack of understanding of the actual situation, and often because the truth was intentionally ignored by the Chinese, there has existed most unfriendly relations between Tibet and China.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs between two countries who have been neighbours for centuries. The Chinese took advantage of the Tibetans whenever possible, and as a result the Tibetans have grown ever suspicious of them.

Unions or federations can take place only when there is mutual agreement and mutual benefits flow from such arrangements. But they have to be disbanded or discontinued when it is realized that the people do not support them. The future of Tibet is not a matter of determination by the Chinese occupation force. Six million Tibetans obviously cannot be absorbed or integrated with China, and their identity cannot be destroyed.

Friendly relation between Tibet and China, which I dearly wish for, can be established only on the basis of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. I, for one, would gladly accept whatever destiny the six million people of Tibet choose for themselves in a climate of genuine freedom and peace.

The free will of the Tibetan people is the only true basis for determining their destiny. Until it flourishes, there will be no peace in the hearts and minds of my people. With boundless faith in themselves and in the righteousness of their own cause, they will wait for the day, which must come, when they can fully and freely enjoy their legitimate national rights and at the same time enjoy a relationship with China on a new basis of mutual benefit and respect.

- The Wall Street Journal: November 8, 1979

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