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WASHINGTON, Aug. 8-The elder brother of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, urged China on Thursday to meet with Tibetan exile leaders and lift curbs on its Tibetan citizens after his first return visit to the Himalayan region in 50 years, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

Gyalo Thondup, speaking in the dominant Tibetan dialect, Uke, also said he was �very hopeful� for Tibet�s future. He has just completed a month-long visit to China that included stops in Beijing, Tibet, and the northwestern region of Xinjiang. He plans to leave Hong Kong for India, his primary residence, on Monday, he told RFA�s Tibetan-language call-in program.

�In the past 23 years, I have been to China many times,� Thondup said. �Now I see great hope. Based on my personal experiences with Chinese officials, I am very hopeful for Tibet�s situation in the future.� But he urged Chinese authorities to meet personally with Tibetan exile leaders, preserve Tibetan culture, and permit Tibetans to travel and communicate freely.

�The most important thing is for Chinese President Jiang Zemin and His Holiness the Dalai Lama to meet face-to-face,� he said. �The Chinese government should respect the rights of Tibetans as equals.� �I discussed two major issues with the [Tibetan Autonomous Region] officials,� he said. �First, Buddhist monasteries� must be thoroughly renovated and the special qualities of the Tibetan race, culture, and language maintained. Second, Tibetans inside and outside Tibet should be allowed to move freely and communicate without restrictions.� China�s late paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, promised Thondup in 1979 that he would allow Tibetans to travel freely inside and outside Tibet and meet their relatives, he said, but that hasn�t happened. �My trip went very well. I have not been back to Lhasa and my hometown in Amdo [Prefecture] for 50 years,� he said. �Visiting these places and seeing these situations in person was very helpful.�

Over 13 days, he said, he met with Tibetan villagers and Chinese officials in the capital, Lhasa, as well as at Samye monastery, in the Lhoka district, and in the towns of Gyantse, Kongpo Nyentri, Shigatse, and Tsethang.

Thondup cited �great changes inside Tibet, including many good roads and significant development in the cities.�

�The Tibetan and Chinese leadership should meet face-to-face, in person,� he said. �The main issue is to achieve progress inside Tibet by improving the living conditions of Tibetans in health and transportation, for example.�

�In my opinion, there have been great changes in the outlook of the Chinese government in terms of policy toward minorities in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. I have great hope now. The central and local Chinese governments want changes, and those changes are considered precious and important.�

Thondup said he hoped to visit Tibet again, possibly for three months including one month in Amdo, one month in Kham, and one month in Utsang.

Thondup has acted as an envoy between Beijing and the Dalai Lama in the past. He last visited Lhasa in 1952 and Amdo, where he and his siblings were born, in 1950. Beijing, which has drawn international criticism for its heavy-handed treatment of Tibet, has rebuffed previous efforts by the Dalai Lama to engage it in a dialogue about the future of Tibet.

Now retired and living mainly in northern India, Thondup worked with the CIA in the 1950s and 60s in waging a guerrilla war against Chinese forces in Tibet. That campaign failed, and American backing for it ended during Washington's rapprochement with Beijing in the early 1970s.

On orders from Mao Zedong, Chinese troops invaded and annexed Tibet in 1950 in what Beijing calls a "peaceful liberation" from feudalism. Chafing under Chinese rule, Tibetans staged an uprising in 1959. When it failed, the Dalai Lama and nearly 100,000 of his followers were forced to flee across the Himalayas to northern India and Nepal.

The Dalai Lama, born Tenzin Gyatso, won the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his long-running, nonviolent opposition to Chinese rule.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcasts news, information, and cultural programming to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia--giving them a voice as well as a means of connecting with the world and with one another.

Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content.


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