How He Sees It Now

It is open season on the Dalai Lama and not just for Beijing, for whom he is “a monk in wolf’s clothing,” or for Rupert Murdoch, who dismissed him as a “very old political monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes.” During his trip to London in May, when I met the Dalai Lama three times, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined to receive him at 10 Downing Street, as Tony Blair had done; earlier, Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged both China and the Tibetans “to show restraint.”1 When the Dalai Lama visited Oxford, the head of one of the institutions where he spoke, who has connections with China, stipulated that the name of the place must not be used in news reports; nor could a picture be taken of the outside of the building while the Dalai Lama was there. (The Dalai Lama spoke without such limitations elsewhere at Oxford.) The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, once the paper’s Beijing bureau chief, recently wrote:

The Dalai Lama has won acclaim internationally, but that acclaim triggers the deep Chinese sensitivity to foreign bullying and thus has antagonized the audience that may count the most: China. The Dalai Lama missed opportunities by neglecting outreach by General Secretary Hu Yaobang in 1981, by spurning an invitation to China in 1989 and by announcing the choice of the Panchen Lama in a way that Beijing felt insulting.2

More hurtful to the Dalai Lama, as he observed recently in London, are the views of some Tibetans within Tibet and abroad who say openly that his “Middle Way” of nonviolence has allowed China to overwhelm their country. During his visit to Britain, at his news conferences and a meeting with members of Parliament, he was asked whether he has lost the battle for nonviolence in Tibet, and if Tibetans are better off materially under Chinese rule. He was asked, too, if he wants Tibetan independence, as Beijing asserts, and if he is contemplating abstention from political activity. A Chinese reporter asked him to compare human rights in Tibet before and after the Chinese occupation.

Has his lifelong advocacy of nonviolence failed? This question for the Dalai Lama came not long after innocent Chinese in Tibet were beaten and killed by young Tibetans in March. In India, Europe, and the United States I have heard young Tibetans, after affirming their respect for the Dalai Lama, urge that it is time to take up arms against the Chinese. The Dalai Lama said in London that the recent violence of Tibetans against Chinese made him sad and caused him pain. “There are Tibetans who are critical of myself,” he said. “And now after fifty or sixty years of Chinese policy there is a rule of fear. The majority of people now in Lhasa are Hans [ethnic Chinese] and in daily life even the Chinese language is becoming the most important. It is possible that the Tibetans will become an insignificant minority.”3


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