Dalai Lama Takes His Case to Chinese

Article excerpt

When the Dalai Lama traveled to the Netherlands last week his Buddhist teaching was heard by 10,000 people and he was received by the mayor of Amsterdam.

But the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader had another engagement that was less in the spotlight but equally important: a private meeting with Chinese pro-democracy activists.

The Dalai Lama and about 30 Chinese emigres, mainly from Europe, discussed the need for dialogue between Tibetans and Chinese and for reform in China. Trust between Tibetans and Chinese is crucial in reaching a solution for Tibet, the he emphasized during the meeting, which took place on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.

Reaching out to overseas Chinese - whether activists, journalists, Buddhists, or ordinary people - is a priority for the Dalai Lama. This soft diplomacy has taken on greater importance after talks with the Chinese government last fall broke down.

Although the Dalai Lama says his faith in the Chinese government is "thinning," he insists that his faith in Chinese people "is never shaken."

China contends that he aims to split the country by advocacy for a free Tibet. The Dalai Lama stresses that he wants autonomy for Tibet under China with better conditions for Tibetans, not independence from Beijing.

Still flamed over the torch

Last year, the Dalai Lama sought to defuse nationalistic anger among Chinese worldwide over disruption of the Beijing Olympic torch relay by pro-Tibet activists. He was "almost desperately trying to meet Chinese people," recalls Tenzing Sonam, a filmmaker who tracked the Dalai Lama around the world before the Olympics.

With Olympic fervor in the past, droves of Chinese protesters no longer greet the Dalai Lama on his global travels. Yet, reaching out to Chinese people remains an urgent priority for Tibet's spiritual leader, says Chhime Chhoekyapa, joint-secretary in the Dalai Lama's exiled government offices in Dharamsala.

"Governments will come and go. The most important thing is to reach out to Chinese everywhere so they understand His Holiness's stand. In the future, Chinese and Tibetans will have to live together," Mr. Chhoekyapa says.

Appeals for calm

This year, an aggressive Chinese clampdown on Tibet leading up to March 10 - the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese forces - stifled major protests like the ones that had flared across Tibet a year earlier. …