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Crisis in Tibet

Aijaz Ahmad: Dalai Lama caught between China and independence groups

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Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: Tibetan protests against Chinese rule gathered steam over the past week. The Chinese government issued an ultimatum to protesters to turn themselves in or face harsh punishment. The Real News senior editor Paul Jay spoke to senior news analyst Aijaz Ahmad.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Aijaz, the Dalai Lama in a press conference very recently said to the independence movement in Tibet, he said, “Do not fight for independence. Tibet needs to stay part of China. The Tibetans need to get along with the Chinese.” He threatened to resign if the leaders of the independence movement become violent.

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Dharamshala, India

March 18, 2008

DALAI LAMA: If things become out of control, then my only option is completely resign, completely resign.

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He also critiqued the Chinese government, saying if the Chinese government continues any violence against Tibetans and against peaceful demonstrators, he’ll also resign as a result of that. But his message, at least his public message, clearly is against independence, for peaceful reconciliation. Yet in another press conference the Chinese prime minister singled out the Dalai Lama and said he’s the one to blame.

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Beijing, China

March 18, 2008

WEN JIABAO, CHINESE PREMIER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We have ample evidence to prove that this incident was organized, premeditated and masterminded by the Dalai clique.

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So what do you make of all this?

AIJAZ AHMAD, SENIOR NEWS ANALYST: The government in exile in Dharamsala in India, which he heads, has been clearly implicated in, it appears to me, a coordinated action between the independence movement people located in India, as well as their counterparts in [“LA-za”]. The whole incident has put the Dalai Lama in a very, very awkward position, because his name is being used all the time by the people who are doing all that.

JAY: In his press conference, he said that these events are out of his control, out of control.

AHMAD: I am sure it is out of his control.

JAY: He’s also taken a position against boycotting the Olympics, which I assume increases the split with the militants in the Tibetan independence movement.

AHMAD: I think so, but you see, with or without boycott, if the violence continues, it embarrasses the Chinese anyway.

JAY: For the Dalai Lama, this is an issue of cultural repression, religious repression, not an issue of independence. But for the independence movement in Tibet, it’s much more a political question. It really is a question of succession, and that’s quite a big difference in strategy.

AHMAD: I think the Dalai Lama is a much more realistic person. There is not a single state in the world that has not recognized Tibet as an integral part of Chinese territory. He has said that he’s not for independence; he’s for autonomy. And to that extent, he is really isolated from the more militant sections, which have organized this both inside Tibet, as well as in India.

JAY: In a separate press conference, the foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, dismissed the Dalai Lama’s calls for an investigation into the Chinese crackdown on the demonstrations.

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Beijing, China

March 18, 2008

QIN GANG, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The issue the international community should pay attention to is the Dalai (Lama) himself: what kind of role has he played in this serious violent criminal incident? The Dalai (Lama) himself should be put on trial and accept investigation.

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AHMAD: What you find here is that the Chinese are avoiding saying it has been organizing by the Dalai Lama himself. For the most part they keep talking about the Dalai Lama clique, by which they mean the government in exile. And what they are saying is that for us to open negotiations with the Dalai Lama, he would have to explicitly, institutionally dissociate himself from this so-called government in exile, because the very term “government in exile” is tied up with the demand for independence. So long as he is the head of the spiritual community, he’s also the temporal head of that community, because he’s born God-king. If he were to dissociate himself from the exiled government, he would in effect say that this whole traditional setup of the Buddhist spiritual universe is incorrect, that there has to be a separation between the spiritual and the temporal, and the Dalai Lama I think is not willing quite to take that step.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.