The Dalai Lama expressed confidence Monday that rapid reforms in the ruling Chinese Communist Party would bring about a resolution to longstanding demands for greater autonomy in Tibet.
The Tibetan spiritual leader pointed to extensive reforms that have taken place in the Communist Party over the last 60 years and said the Chinese leadership would have to eventually grapple with this "new reality" in confronting the Tibetan question.
"Now even [Chinese] Prime Minister Wen Jiabao [is] expressing publicly [that] China needs more political reforms," the Dalai Lama said in an interview with Radio Free Asia.
"If Chairman Mao [Zedong] comes today to China, I think he will be shocked," he said of the changes that have transformed the world's most populous nation.
The Dalai Lama was asked about the outcome for Tibet if the issue of greater autonomy just drags on.
"Nobody knows," was his immediate reply.
He also called for patience, saying "the communist authoritarian system or leaders ... should have the ability to act according to [the] new reality."
"Year by year, voices about democracy, rule of law, free information, now these things [are] increasing.
"So this kind of situation cannot remain forever. Sooner or later, [we] have to face this reality," said the Dalai Lama, who celebrated his 76th birthday last week.
Asked about rising criticism among younger Tibetans about his "Middle Way" approach to seeking greater autonomy for Tibet, the Dalai Lama said the question should be referred to the newly elected political leadership in the Tibetan government-in-exile.
The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese occupation, has been the face and symbol of the Tibetan freedom struggle for more than five decades.
He retired as political leader of the exile government in March as part of a process to transfer political power to an elected leader.
The Dalai Lama also said that the people of China on the whole back Tibetan demands for greater autonomy because, he added, the Tibetan struggle is based on nonviolence and the principle that Tibet will remain within China.
"The younger generation criticizes our way of approach. That is understandable," he said.
But he hastened to add that based on his feedback from people of all levels inside Tibet, "all of them fully support our approach of not seeking separation."
"Because we strictly follow [the] nonviolence principle," he added, "large numbers of Chinese Han brothers and sisters, intellectuals, and some students fully support, fully appreciate, and show solidarity with us."
"So I think our young people should know that."
While the Dalai Lama remains optimistic about Tibet's future, the situation in the territory and in Tibetan-majority areas in China remains grim.
Tibet under Chinese rule was rated among 10 most repressive societies in a survey published last month by U.S.-based rights group Freedom House.
In southwestern China’s Sichuan province, security forces have detained at least 300 Tibetan monks from the Kirti monastery amid a crackdown sparked by the self-immolation of a monk protesting Chinese rule in Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) prefecture, and paramilitary forces still have the monastery on lockdown.
The detained Tibetans have been sent for "political re-education" while local Tibetans seeking to protect the monks were beaten and detained, in an action drawing worldwide condemnation.
More than three months after the self-immolation death, Kirti monastery is surrounded by hundreds of police, soldiers, and government officials, with the activities of the monks tightly monitored by security cameras.
And in the Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) Tibetan prefecture of Sichuan province, Chinese authorities have clamped down hard on protests against Beijing rule.
Authorities in Kardze have detained more than 60 people in the wake of the protests which began on June 6 and have escalated since June 17.
Most of those detained are lamas or local people, according to Tibetan sources in exile.
In addition to calls for Tibetan independence, protesters have also demanded the release of political prisoners who were detained in Kardze the previous year.
Chinese authorities however said Monday that Tibet has undergone "profound political, social and economic changes," in a White Paper marking the 60th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet by Chinese troops, the state news agency Xinhua reported.
"Within six decades, Tibet has achieved development that would normally call for a millennium. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the Chinese government, the people of Tibet have created a miracle," it said, citing the document released by the State Council's Information Office.
Freedom of religious belief of all ethnic groups in Tibet is respected and protected, Xinhua said, quoting the document "Sixty Years Since Peaceful Liberation of Tibet."
Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.