DALAI LAMA INTERVIEW – Wednesday 19th March, 2008

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China has deployed more troops across Tibet to quell spreading protests, as dramatic new footage emerged of Tibetans rampaging a remote town on horseback and destroying a Chinese flag.

As China deployed a massive security force to quash the uprising and sealed off flashpoint areas from foreign media, activists and a rights group warned hundreds of Tibetans believed arrested could now be at risk of torture.

Tibet, calm by spiritual nature, these days anything but. As we speak, the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, are busily blasting off verbal missiles at each other. Last year George Negus spoke with the popular figurehead of the Tibetan people when he was here in Australia. Even then, eight months ago, he predicted that the Chinese would blame him for the sort of violence we have seen this week in Tibet. Now of course, that is what’s happened as many young Tibetans, more activist than their spiritual leader, are putting their lives on the line in Lhasa and other centres in the face of the Chinese military crackdown on their protests less than six months before the Olympics. Much of what the self-exiled Tibetan leader said to us in our interview last June remains highly pertinent in the light of this week’s disturbing developments in Tibet.

DALAI LAMA: Whole world knows I am not seeing independence, therefore is many Tibetan disappointed and also some of our supporters and also the Chinese officals. They also you see, acknowledged the Dalai lama is not, for future is concerned, Dalai Lama’s side not seeing independence. There are officals also you see, using that same sort of accusation continuously. I think there must be some reasons.

GEORGE NEGUS: Maybe they don’t believe you?

DALAI LAMA: I don’t know. I don’t know. I think the real thing is overall, they themselves are facing some kind of dilemma of how to handle the problems of Tibet. So they choose more easily that simply suppress and accuse.

GEORGE NEGUS: Young people in Tibet are angry and frustrated, you have acknowledged that. They don’t think that your position is correct, because the young people think you are compromising Tibet’s petition.

DALAI LAMA: Firstly, Tibetan case materially backward country. Spiritually, yes, now many people knows Tibetans in spiritual field are very, very advanced, but in material field is very, very backward. Meantime, every Tibetan is want a modernised Tibet. No single Tibetan dreaming return of previous sort of backwardness. Therefore as far as economy is concerned, Tibet remain within the Republic of China, we will get greater benefit.

GEORGE NEGUS: So you think there is an absolute plus, a definite plus?

DALAI LAMA: I feel like that, provided Chinese Government respect our sort of culture, our spirituality, our environment.


DALAI LAMA: So far no, so far no.

Today the Dalai Lama was still treading a tricky line between loud protest and soft diplomacy and not just with the Chinese. As he said in our interview, many young Tibetans frustrated with his non-violent, no independence ‘middle path’. Today, he said he would resign if the violence got out of control and he won’t join calls to botcott the Olympics.