Dalai Lama: “Encouraging Signs” in China (Updated)
Amid a stream of mostly bad news out of Tibet, including more than 50 self-immolations by protesting Tibetans, the Dalai Lama has now offered a ray of hope for Tibetans seeking more autonomy in their homeland. From Reuters:
“I can’t say for definite, but according to many Chinese friends, they say the new, coming leadership seems more lenient,” the Dalai Lama, 77, told Reuters in his audience room in the Indian Himalayan foothills town of Dharamsala.
“If their side … for their own interest are thinking more realistically we are ready for full cooperation with them.”
His comments were more upbeat than just a few weeks ago when he declared that resuming formal negotiations – frozen since 2010 – was futile unless China brought a more realistic attitude to the table and that it was useless trying to convince China that he was not seeking full independence for Tibet.
The Nobel peace laureate said there had been a stream of visitors to Dharamsala from China, among them people who told him they had connections with senior Communist Party leaders.
UPDATE: While the feelings of presumed incoming premier Xi Jinping toward Tibet are not known, some observers have looked to the policies and personal life of his father, former Vice Premier Xi Zhongxun, for clues. From Reuters:
[Xi Jinping's] late father, Xi Zhongxun, a liberal-minded former vice premier, had a close bond with the Tibetan leader who once gave the elder Xi an expensive watch in the 1950s, a gift that the senior party official was still wearing decades later.
The Dalai Lama, 77, recalls the elder Xi as “very friendly, comparatively more open-minded, very nice” and says he only gave watches back then to those Chinese officials he felt close to.
“We Tibetans, we get these different varieties of watch easily from India. So we take advantage of that, and brought some watches to some people when we feel some sort of close feeling, as a gift like that,” the Dalai Lama said in an interview in Dharamsala, a capital for Tibetan exiles in the foothills of the Himalayas.
The Dalai Lama gave the watch to the elder Xi in 1954 during an extended visit to Beijing. Xi was one of the officials who spent time with the young Dalai Lama in the capital where he spent five to six months studying Chinese and Marxism.
Read more about the the Dalai Lama and the dialogue process between Beijing and the Tibetan government-in-exile, via CDT.