Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Thirty-Eighth Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day
In the closing years of the 20th century, as we commemorate the 38th anniversary of the Tibetan people's National Uprising, it is evident that the human community has reached a crucial juncture in its history. The world is becoming smaller and increasingly interdependent. One nation's problem can no longer be solved by itself. Without a sense of universal responsibility our very future is in danger.
Today's problems of militarization, 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 mankind's 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obsolete values and beliefs, a fragmented consciousness and a self-centered spirit, we will continue to hold to outdated goals and behaviors. Such an attitude by a large number of people would block the entire transition to an interdependent yet peaceful and cooperative global society.
We must draw lessons from the experience we 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 the 20th century can be called the century of war and bloodshed. The challenge before us, therefore, is to make the next century, a century of dialogue and of peaceful co-existence.
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 Buddha's 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 pretense 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 Tibet's 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 Tibetan language in education 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 1980s with the active encouragement and support of the late Panchen Lama, are being closed down. These schools were very successful and 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 Tibet's distinct cultural and religious identity and reducing the Tibetans to an insignificant minority in their own country, amount to a policy of cultural genocide. Today, in most of the major towns and cities Tibetans are already marginalised. If this population transfer is allowed to continue, Tibetan civilization will cease to exist in a few decades.
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 creating an appropriate 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.
Although my forthcoming visit to Taiwan in less than two weeks is of religious nature, it is also consistent with our efforts over the years to reach out to our Chinese brothers and sisters, wherever they live. I am undertaking this visit in a spirit of reconciliation and friendship. Despite the initial negative reaction by the government of the People's Republic of China, I hope that they will come to understand my sincere motivation to promote a better understanding between the Tibetan people and the Chinese. Since some time I also have had an earnest desire to make a pilgrimage to sacred Buddhist places in China. There are many holy Buddhist sites in China. In fact, I had wanted to visit Wu Tai Shan, when I was in China in 1954-55, but the situation did not permit then. I would embark on such a pilgrimage to China in the same spirit of reconciliation and friendship.
The recent passing away of Mr. Deng Xiaoping is a great loss to China. I had 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 people's 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 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 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. No external force can solve the problem for us. Bearing in mind this reality, we have consistently pursued a course of dialogue with the leadership in Beijing. However, Beijing's refusal to listen to and to recognize 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 ways of the oppressors are intimidation, coercion and the use of force. Ours is the belief in and the 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