My attention has been drawn to an interview published in the Chinese media by Executive Vice Minister Zhu Weiqun of the Central United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party on December 8, 2009 concerning our dialogue process.

We are currently under discussion with the Chinese leadership on the next round of dialogue and so the timing and content of this interview are perplexing. It is my understanding that the Chinese leadership is as desirous as our side in continuing a discussion, which we hope will ultimately lead to a mutually satisfactory negotiated solution to the Tibetan issue.

During our fifth round of talks in February 2006, the Chinese side clearly expressed appreciation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s position not to seek Tibetan independence and of seeking a solution within the framework of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

The Tibetan transcript from the recording of that meeting shows the Chinese side terming His Holiness’ position as a “Tamsangpo” (good or welcome news). It reads, “It is a welcome news that (the Dalai Lama) is showing a gesture by saying that he wanted to resolve the problem on the basis of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.” We looked at this as a small but important progress in our dialogue process with our counterparts. We felt that for the first time the Chinese side was registering and taking due note of His Holiness’ position in finding a mutually acceptable solution. We have been highlighting the positive aspect in our dialogue process and this was one such developments from the Chinese side in the five years that had passed since the re-establishment of our contact in 2002. It was this spirit that we conveyed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama upon our return to Dharamsala.

At the same time the Chinese side drew our attention to various issues that needed to be resolved. On our part we stated the willingness of H.H. the Dalai Lama to address all these concerns in a statement. We even suggested that both sides have consultations on the formulation of the statement in order to ensure that it will have the desired result in achieving a breakthrough. There was no response from the Chinese side to this initiative of ours.

Instead, from around May 2006 the authorities began intensification of campaigns in Tibet, including launching of patriotic re-education campaign. There was increased vilification of the person of H.H. the Dalai Lama and restrictions placed on peoples’ religious activities.

Following the series of demonstrations in Tibetan areas in 2008, we had two rounds of talks and one informal session with the Chinese leadership. During the most recent 8th round held in November 2008 we in fact presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People that clearly outlined the basic needs of the Tibetan people that can be fulfilled even under the present Constitutional provisions of the People’s Republic of China.

The outright rejection of the Memorandum by the Chinese side, without even looking into many of the points raised therein, did not leave any scope for further contacts. However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama continued to be committed to the dialogue process and impressed upon us the need to take steps to reach out once again to the Chinese leadership.

So far, it has been all our initiatives that have been the basis of any perceptible positive side to the dialogue process. It was at our initiative that contact was re-established and continued since 2002. Every time it has been our initiative that has started the process for the rounds of discussions.

The February 2006 meeting was not the only occasion when the Chinese side showed some positive development on His Holiness’ position. During the informal session in Shenzhen in May 2008, the Chinese side came out with “Three Stops” (stop separatist activities, stop violence and stop sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games) directed at His Holiness. When we rejected these charges, the Chinese side came up (during the subsequent seventh round in July 2008) with “Four Not-to-Supports” (not supporting activities that would disturb the Beijing Olympic Games; not supporting plots inciting violent criminal activities; not supporting and concretely curbing violent terrorist activities; not supporting activity seeking Tibetan independence.) as a replacement saying that this was being done positively because they considered our point that His Holiness was not indulging in the activities mentioned in “Three Stops” (one of which related to independence). Therefore, changing from “Three Stops” to “Four not-to-Supports” was an indication that the Chinese leadership acknowledged that His Holiness was not indulging in Tibetan independence activities.

The recent statements coming from Beijing, therefore, reminds me of an advice given to me by a Chinese Professor who was involved with the Tibetan issue for many years while serving the Chinese Government. He said that we should not expect the Chinese leadership to have the political courage to remove the hat of separatism from His Holiness the Dalai Lama even though they clearly are aware that he is not working in that direction. The professor told me that if the Chinese side were to remove such a hat from him, then they would not be able to justify to the Chinese people their current policies in Tibet or on the return of H.H. the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

Time and again, the Chinese side has been the one that has been cautioning us from negotiating through the media. They contend that we should take things up directly and face to face. But we see it is the Chinese side that is increasingly coming up with obstacles presented through selective interviews to the media. During our seventh round held in July 2008, the Chinese side portrayed the “Four Not-to-Supports” positively in comparison to the “Three Stops.” However, after our meeting and even before we had reached India to brief His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Chinese side went to the media and gave a totally negative message of their position.

We feel if the Chinese side is really serious in wanting to address the grievances of the Tibetan people and to provide them with the same rights that are provided for in the Chinese Constitution and the relevant statutes on minority rights, we should do that through our channel and across the dialogue table. His Holiness the Dalai Lama continues to be committed to the dialogue process and we are ever ready to continue the discussions.

Washington, D.C.
December 10, 2009

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