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
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
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. …