In 1979, First Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic of China Deng Xiaoping invited the Dalai Lama to send fact-finding delegations to Tibet and to enter into a dialogue in which, ‘apart from the question of total independence all other issues could be discussed and settled.’ Beijing accompanied this initiative with two conciliatory gestures, which included allowance for the regeneration of Tibetan culture and religion and measures to increase the standard of living of Tibetans.180 The Dalai Lama sent three fact-finding delegations to Tibet between 1979-80, and secret talks took place in Beijing in 1982 and 1984. But the talks were fruitless.
With China’s sudden ascent as a powerful political and economic player in the international scene in the 1980s, the perceived plight of Tibet (and Taiwan) provided a forum for western powers to attack China. From this point of view the Dalai Lama has become a pawn in the ensuing political struggles between the West and China. With confidence stemming from support received in the U.S. and Europe, in 1987, in speeches in Washington and Strasbourg, the Dalai Lama suddenly began to argue that the Chinese occupation was illegal and that a ‘Greater’ Tibet should become a self-governing political entity under a ‘democratic constitution’.181
Encouraged by the Dalai Lama’s campaign in the U.S., monks in Lhasa held demonstrations protesting against the Chinese occupation. Several of the monks were arrested, and a full-scale riot ensued. After a series of further demonstrations and riots in 1988 and 1989, Beijing declared martial law and introduced a new hard-line policy limiting religious and cultural expression. It also initiated a programme of rapid economic development in Tibet.182
‘Beijing has, in a sense, turned the tables back on the Dalai Lama, and the triumphs of the Dalai Lama’s international campaign look more and more like Pyrrhic victories. The international initiative won significant symbolic gains for the exiles in the West and spurred Tibetans in Tibet to demonstrate their support for the Dalai Lama, but it did not compel China to yield and played a major role in precipitating the new hard- line policy that is changing the nature of Tibet.
‘Beijing now has little interest in discussions with the Dalai Lama. It feels he is not serious about making the kind of political compromises they could agree to ….’183
The unexpected death of the Panchen Lama in Tibet in January 1989 produced another Chinese initiative, an invitation to the Dalai Lama to attend memorial services in Beijing during which time informal talks could take place.
‘The Dalai Lama had suddenly been offered an exceptional opportunity to visit China without having to sort out complicated political protocol issues.
‘… The Dalai Lama and his officials, however, were reluctant to accept the invitation…. with events apparently going well from their perspective, the exile leadership persuaded the Dalai Lama to take the safe course and decline the invitation … Many look back at this as one of the most important lost opportunities in the post-1978 era.’184
In recent times the Dalai Lama has flipped back and forth, one day adopting a conciliatory tone towards the Chinese185 and offering ever increasing concessions,186 and the next accusing them of ‘cultural genocide’,187 of turning Tibet into ‘a living hell’188 and comparing the Chinese Government to the Nazis.189
Since 2002, eight rounds of talks have been held between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama says ‘the talks did not yield any tangible result’.190 By the Dalai Lama’s own admission, therefore, in 30 years of negotiating with Beijing, he has achieved nothing for his people.
The reason for this, according to the Chinese side, is the Dalai Lama’s lack of sincerity. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said in April 2008:
‘The Central Government has exerted great sincerity and patience with regard to its dialogue with Dalai. However, the Dalai side failed to respond to our position in a positive and comprehensive manner. The door for dialogue is open, but Dalai is the one to make the difference by exerting sincerity for dialogue, particularly in his concrete actions. As we said on many times, we are ready to continue contacts with Dalai, provided that he gives up separatist activities against the motherland, disruptive activities against the Beijing Olympic Games and incitement of violent activities.’191
The following day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Dalai Lama held a press conference and said:
‘From the very beginning I have supported the Olympics. We must support China’s desires. Even after this sad situation in Tibet, today I support the Olympics.’192
And previously, in March 2008, in his ‘An Appeal to the Chinese People’ the Dalai Lama had said:
‘Similarly, despite my repeated support for the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese authorities, with the intention of creating a rift between the Chinese people and myself, the Chinese authorities assert that I am trying to sabotage the games.’193
However, on 18 January 2008, (the UK) ITV News together with the London-based ‘Free Tibet’ conducted an interview with the Dalai Lama. ITV News published a piece entitled ‘Dalai Lama calls for Olympic Protests’ and broadcast excerpts of the interview.194
Perhaps realizing the Dalai Lama had let his guard down and strayed from his public message, the Department of Information and International Relations of the Tibetan exile government issued a press release saying the Dalai Lama had been misquoted and that he fully supported the Beijing Olympics.195
Free Tibet, however, had already printed a partial transcript of the interview:
‘Asked by ITV’s China correspondent, John Ray, whether supporters of Tibet “should be allowed to express, in China, at the time of the Olympics, in a peaceful way, their support for the people of Tibet” the Dalai Lama responded that peaceful protests would be justified in order to bring the Tibetan issue to the attention of the Chinese public:
‘ “It is worthwhile to remind. I think the (Chinese) government knows that, but the Chinese people sometimes may not realize the problem. So I think it is worthwhile. So in the eyes of millions of Chinese I think worthwhile to remind them there’s a problem. That I think is very important.”
‘Asked if now was the best time for peaceful protest, the Dalai Lama responded: “I think so.” ’196
Throughout the build up to the Beijing Olympics, particularly dur- ing the Olympic Torch relay, violent protests were organised by Tibet Support Groups.197 The action plan for these protests was drawn up at the Fifth International Conference of Tibet Support Groups held in May 2007 in Brussels. This international gathering was convened by the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration [the Tibetan exile government].198
The conference was addressed by Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan exile government, and Lodi Gyari, the Dalai Lama’s representative in negotiations with China,199 the two Tibetan politicians most closely linked with the Dalai Lama.
On the steering committee of the conference was Dr. B. Tsering Yeshi, the President of the Tibetan Women’s Association.200 Dr. Tsering is also on the organising committee of the ‘Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement’201 that are accused of directly organising the riots in Lhasa in March 2008.202
At its inception in January 2008, the Movement issued the following declaration:
‘Through unified and strategic campaigns we will seize the Olympic spotlight and shine it on China’s shameful repression inside Tibet, thereby denying China the international acceptance and approval it so fervently desires.
‘We call on Tibetans inside Tibet to continue to fight Chinese domination and we pledge our unwavering support for your continued courageous resistance. We call on Tibetans in exile and supporters in the free world to take every opportunity to protest China’s Olympic Games and support the Tibetan people’s struggle for freedom.’203
And in a press release in February 2008, the group declared:
‘We will bring about another uprising that will shake China’s control in Tibet and mark the beginning of the end of China’s occupation of Tibet.’204
Other press releases claimed that the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement ‘will launch an all-out struggle on a war-front scale’.205
Of the five principal groups that established the ‘Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement’: two were founded directly by the Dalai Lama, one was founded at his request, and another was founded under the auspices of organisations funded by his government.206 The Tibetan Youth Congress in particular has as its primary aim:
‘To dedicate oneself to the task of serving one’s country and people under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Spiritual and Temporal Ruler of Tibet.’207
Despite these groups’ sworn allegiance to him, and the fact that they carry out all their activities in explicit support of the Dalai Lama, he himself claims to have neither involvement in their activities nor power to influence them. At a meeting with the media on Sunday 16 March 2008, at the time of the riots in Lhasa, the Dalai Lama was asked if he could stop the protests. The Dalai Lama replied swiftly: ‘I have no such power.’208
Furthermore, as the New York Times reported in an article entitled ‘Dalai Lama won’t stop Tibet protests’ the Dalai Lama revealed that he is in direct personal contact with those involved in the rioting in Tibet.
‘He said he had received a call on Saturday from Tibet. “Please don’t ask us to stop,” was the caller’s request. The Dalai Lama promised he would not.’209
It should be noted that during the Lhasa riots many Han Chinese and Hui Muslims in Lhasa were attacked, beaten, stabbed and killed. Many shops were looted and destroyed and then set alight – those trapped inside were left to burn to death.210 Since the Dalai Lama would not ask his supporters in Tibet to stop, could their actions be consistent with his idea of ‘non-violent protest’?
Dawa Tsering, the head of the Chinese Affairs Ministry of the Tibetan exile government was interviewed by Radio France International at the time of the riots. He displayed a chilling lack of compassion for the victims, and exhibited the twisted Tibetan exile government’s understanding of ‘non-violence’:
‘First of all, I must make it clear that the Tibetan [rioters] have been non-violent throughout [the incident]. From Tibetans’ perspective, violence means harming life. From the video recordings you can see that the Tibetans rioters were beating Han Chinese, but only beating took place. After the beating the Han Chinese were free to flee. Therefore [there was] only beating, no life was harmed. Those who were killed were all results of accidents. From recordings shown by the Chinese Communist government, we can clearly see that when Tibetan [rioters] were beating on their doors, the Han Chinese all went into hiding upstairs. When the Tibetan [rioters] set fire to the buildings, the Han Chinese remained in hiding instead of escaping, the result is that these Han Chinese were all accidentally burnt to death. Those who set and spread the fire, on the other hand, had no idea whatsoever that there were Han Chinese hiding upstairs. Therefore not only were Han Chinese burnt to death, some Tibetans were burnt to death too. Therefore all these incidents were accidents, not murder.’211
In an interview back in 1997, Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan exile government, spoke about inserting agents into Tibet to engage in direct action:
‘ “Many think this plan is nothing but a suicidal effort, but we thought it worth trying. At the moment we are training the people who might take part, though it’s a difficult thing to accept that you might be imprisoned or even shot.” He adds: “Whatever may come, they will be dedicated non-violent activists. If we are going to disappear, let it be with some positive resistance. If we keep quiet it would amount to an acceptance and we, too, would be guilty.” ’212
How can we reconcile these words of the Tibetan Prime Minister, conjoined with the special Tibetan understanding of what non- violent activists can do (as revealed by Dawa Tsering above) with the Dalai Lama’s statement to the Chinese people:
‘It is unfortunate that despite my sincere efforts not to separate Tibet from China, the leaders of the PRC continue to accuse me of being a “separatist”. Similarly, when Tibetans in Lhasa and many other areas spontaneously protested to express their deep-rooted resentment, the Chinese authorities immediately accused me of having orchestrated their demonstrations.’213
The Dalai Lama portrays himself in the western media as untainted by any protest against the Olympics or any unrest in Tibet, and yet behind the scenes organisations established by him and dedicated to fulfilling his wishes carry out his ‘dirty work’ for him. Is it any wonder that despite his declarations of sincerity the Chinese government have little confidence in negotiations with him?
It is also of interest that many of the groups involved in the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement are supported by the U.S. organization ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ (NED). Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into these groups over the last few years as part of the NED’s efforts to undermine Communist China and support the US government’s strategic interests.214
What exactly is the National Endowment for Democracy and who are they? A brief history of how the NED was established has been given by the South Asia Analysis Group:
‘After his election in November, 1980, and before his taking- over as the President in January, 1981, Mr. Reagan appointed a transition group headed by the late William Casey, an attorney and one of his campaign managers, who was to later take over as the CIA Director, to recommend measures for strengthening the USA’s intelligence capability abroad.
‘One of its recommendations was to revive covert political activities. Since there might have been opposition from the Congress and public opinion to this task being re-entrusted to the CIA, it suggested that this be given to an NGO (non- governmental organisation) with no ostensible links with the CIA.
‘The matter was further examined in 1981-82 by the American Political Foundation’s Democracy Programme Study and Research Group and, finally, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was born under a Congressional enactment of 1983 as a “non-profit, non-governmental, bipartisan, grant- making organisation to help strengthen democratic institutions around the world.”
‘Though it is projected as an NGO, it is actually a quasi- governmental organisation because till 1994 it was run exclusively from funds voted by the Congress (average of about US $16 million per annum in the 1980s and now about US $30 million) as part of the budget of the US Information Agency (USIA). Since 1994, it has been accepting contributions from the private sector too to supplement the congressional appropriations.’215
The New York Times exposed the secret side of the National Endowment for Democracy:
‘Project Democracy, began as the secret side of an otherwise open, well-publicized initiative that started life under the same name. Project Democracy’s covert side was intended to carry out foreign policy tasks that other Government agencies were unable or unwilling to pursue, the officials said.
‘Although the public arm of Project Democracy, now known as the National Endowment for Democracy, openly gave Federal money to democratic institutions abroad and received wide bipartisan support, officials said the project’s secret arm took an entirely different direction …
‘Project Democracy grew into a parallel foreign policy apparatus – complete with its own communications systems, secret envoys, leased ships and airplanes, offshore bank accounts and corporations.
‘It operated outside the established Government decision- making process and beyond the purview of Congress and was, officials said, an expression of the Administration’s deep frustration that it could not push the foreign policy bureacracy or Congress to embrace what Administration officials described as the “Reagan doctrine” of supporting anti-Communist insurgencies.’216
In an interview with the Washington Post in 1991, Allen Weinstein (Programme Director of American Political Foundation’s ‘Democracy Programme’ which led to the establishment of the NED) said: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.’217
As has been widely reported by both the American operatives and the Tibetan fighters involved, from the 1950s through to the 1970s, the Dalai Lama and his government were involved with the CIA’s secret war in Tibet.218 Throughout that time the Dalai Lama presented himself as a champion of non-violence and denied any involvement with the CIA.219
Today the Dalai Lama again has groups working for him – supported by a shady CIA-like American NGO – creating violent unrest against Communist China, and yet in the media he presents himself with the opposite image. The Dalai Lama was dubbed in Newsweek as ‘the Teflon Lama’,220 and while he usually succeeds in mesmerising the western media, in the all-important matter of negotiations with Beijing it is clear that his duplicity has brought no result for the Tibetan people.