Dalai Lama goes hi-tech to reach ordinary Chinese

Interacting with Chinese rights activists for the first time through videoconferencing this month, the Tibetan spiritual leader said: "Even though our consistent stand of middle way policy based on the foundation of non-violence has not yielded tangible result through dialogue with the Chinese government, it has helped us in getting strong support from the Chinese."

The 75-year-old Nobel Laureate interacted with civil rights activist Teng Biao and human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong from his residence in this northern Indian hill station from where he heads the Tibetan government-in-exile.

"It is difficult to deal with the Chinese, but I think despite our inability to maintain extensive contacts with Chinese intellectuals and the public, our stand will win their support and it will continue to grow," the Dalai Lama said.

Thubten Samphel, a spokesperson for the Tibetan government-in-exile, told IANS that this was the first time that the Dalai Lama had interacted with the Chinese through videoconferencing.

"Earlier, he tweeted his Chinese followers on (micro-blogging site) Twitter," he said. Political observers here say that using the cyber space to reach out to the ordinary Chinese was an attempt to counter China's adverse stand    vis-a-vis the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause.

Noted Chinese writer Wang Lixong, who arranged the interaction, said: "If interactions like these are deemed constructive for Sino-Tibetan relations and understanding each other further, then in the future I think and I hope that many Chinese scholars and concerned people will take part."

In his interaction, the Dalai Lama touched upon various topics concerning Tibetan exiles. On losing grip over the behaviour of a few Tibetans in exile, the spiritual guru said: "There are over 150,000 Tibetans living in exile, of which perhaps 99 percent share a common concern. Of course, there will be difference of opinions and it should exist since here we are following the path of democracy.

"I tell my people that they have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of thought and they should express themselves freely. So there will be different opinions."
Regarding the stand of pro-independence activists of the Tibetan Youth Congress, he said: "They struggle for independence and criticise our middle way policy. During my occasional meetings with them, I tell them the Chinese government expects that I should arrest some of you, but we cannot do such things here in a free country and I would never do such a thing."

The Dalai Lama, who believes in "greater autonomy" for the people of Tibet, is viewed by the Chinese as a hostile element bent on splitting Tibet from China. More than 50 years ago, the Dalai Lama fled into exile and established his government-in-exile here. The government is not recognised by any other country.

Commenting on the issue of his reincarnation, he said: "The 400-year-old tradition of the Dalai Lama as both spiritual and temporal leader ended with the direct election of political leadership by the Tibetans in exile in 2001. "In 1969, I made it well known in my official statement that whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not would be decided by the Tibetan people. In future, to decide whether to have the Dalai Lama's reincarnation and if there is a need, it is not necessary to always follow the past precedents, but we can act in accordance with the given circumstances," he said.

Asked about the deep-seated anger the Chinese establishment displays towards him, he joked: "I am a demon. I have horns on my head." "This (animosity) is understandable since the Chinese people have access only to one-sided and distorted information," he said while clarifying his stand on protests in several areas of western China in March 2008 prior to the Beijing Olympics.

"The Chinese government greatly publicised that we were creating obstacles for the Olympic Games. Because of such propaganda, the Chinese people are not aware of the entire situation and thus we cannot blame them."

"Can you see my face clearly? Can see my grey eyebrows? See you later," the Dalai Lama said in his concluding remarks.

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