A peaceful resolution of Tibet’s struggle for greater freedom under Beijing’s rule must be accomplished soon if the Tibetan and Chinese people are to avoid open confrontation and violence in coming years, a senior Tibetan exile official said this week.
“The quest for a peaceful resolution through non-violence and dialogue is no doubt a very tough and challenging task,” Kelsang Gyaltsen, special representative to Europe of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, told a Sino-Tibetan conference in Hamburg, Germany, on Wednesday.
“But it is also clear that Tibetans and Chinese would have to pay a much higher price in terms of human suffering and political turmoil when this quest is abandoned.”
“The sad state of affairs in Tibet—if left unattended any longer—represents the breeding grounds for violence and bloodshed in future,” Gyaltsen said, adding that grievances, despair, and emotion may someday “spiral out of control” under the pressure of continuing abuses by China.
“It is against this background that our discussions in the coming days assume special significance and urgency,” Gyaltsen said.
The Hamburg conference, attended by over 70 participants from at least 10 countries and including Tibetans and many Chinese intellectuals, activists, and writers, is aimed at finding a common ground in pursuit of a "just and peaceful resolution to the issue of Tibet through dialogue and reconciliation," according to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government in exile in India.
Divisions have long persisted in the Tibetan exile community over questions of how best to advance the rights and freedoms of Tibetans living in China, with some calling for a return of the independence lost when Chinese troops marched into the self-governing region in 1949.
Meanwhile, a Middle Way Approach proposed by the Dalai Lama and the CTA accepts Tibet’s present status as a part of China while urging greater cultural and religious freedoms for the Tibetan people.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 in the midst of a failed national revolt against Chinese occupation, and the Chinese government has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.
Talks held on Tibet’s status between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Beijing stalled in January 2010, and there has been no progress in the discussions since then.
“I believe none of us here has any illusions about the challenges and difficulties of the task we are embarking on,” Gyaltsen said.
“However, as Tibetans and Chinese committed to the values of non-violence, justice and freedom each of us feels a personal responsibility and call to join in this historic task of bringing about genuine reconciliation and friendship between Tibetan and Chinese peoples.”
The Dalai Lama, who also spoke at the conference, again expressed a longstanding wish to visit China.
“I’ve always wanted to visit Wu Tai Shan,” he said, referring to the holiest of four sacred Buddhist mountains in China."
“I thought about going there in 1954. Then it came up during the talks with the Chinese in 2005, but was rejected," the Dalai Lama said.
He said that following Beijing’s crackdown on peaceful protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989, he has encouraged Tibetans “to reach out to our Chinese brothers and sisters.”
“This is the latest of several opportunities that have arisen since then,” he said, referring to the Hamburg conference.
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date self-immolating to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.