Dalai Lama demonstrates will to end violence

I write in response to Robert Li’s editorial (“Dalai Lama sows seeds of selfish plan in Tibet,” 3/27) published on these pages yesterday. His unreasonable attacks on the Dalai Lama completely ignore the fact that the root cause of much of the conflict today is not the Dalai Lama at all, but has been the result of the Chinese government’s occupation of Tibet and its refusal to grant it meaningful autonomy. His article, which lauds China’s “achievements” in Tibet and largely ignores historical truth, rips a page right out of the Chinese Communist Party’s playbook for Tibet.

I had the opportunity to visit Tibet this past summer and the country is anything but a “perfect counterexample of the destruction of Tibetan culture.” Sure, the Chinese government is “preserving” Tibetan culture by renovating the Potala Palace. But let’s not forget that the Potala Palace, the historical seat of the Tibetan government for hundreds of years, only fell into disuse and disrepair because China essentially forced the Dalai Lama to flee.

Sure, the Chinese government subsidizes Tibetan monasteries, but the 200 million RMB (equivalent to approximately $28 million) paid apparently is not enough to wipe away the Communist graffiti still faintly covering that wall of a monastery I visited. These words are a painful memory of the Cultural Revolution, which brought thousands of Chinese youth to Tibet to destroy a culture that the Chinese government is now trying to “preserve.” This money is the least China could do to remedy years of destruction of Tibetan monasteries and religious relics.

A visit to any number of Tibetan monasteries today would certainly make one think twice about Li’s denial that Tibetan monasteries have been negatively affected since the Chinese arrived. My trip this summer included visits to over 10 monasteries, many of which still contain the footprints of buildings destroyed during the Cultural Revolution as stark reminders of the former grandeur of these monasteries and the large monk populations that once supported them.

Lastly, Li’s reference to Patrick French, the former director of the Free Tibet campaign, and his New York Times article admitting that the 1.2 million Tibetans reportedly killed since 1950 was based on no evidence is a gross misrepresentation of the author’s intent. If one reads his article, it is clear that French is by no means suggesting that the assertion that many Tibetans have died at the hands of the Chinese is completely baseless, as Li’s words would imply. Instead, French, who is still a supporter of Tibet, only cites this number to question the tactics pro-Tibetan groups have used in order to achieve their aims. I’ll concede. Perhaps only 500,000 people have died since 1950 as a result of the Chinese occupation. But is that an acceptable statistic?

I agree with Li that the Dalai Lama is not a flawless individual. But at least his expressed willingness to talk to the Chinese government demonstrates his humility, something the Chinese Communist Party sorely lacks. Only when the Chinese government recognizes that the problems it faces today are largely the result of the many years that they have oppressed the Tibet people, and seeks to open dialogue with representatives of Tibet, will the issues facing both be meaningfully addressed. Perhaps if the Chinese government ever bids again for the Olympics, it won’t need to throw a tantrum over a problem it caused in the past but presently refuses to solve.

Jeffrey Sun is a senior in Silliman College.


  • TonySu

    I am very surprised that as a Yale student, you apparently didn't bother to do any research before you made your claims.

    (1) You said the Potala Palace fell into disuse and disrepair. About disrepair, that's not the truth. The Chinese government spent 55 million yuan (6.6 million U.S. dollars) repairing the palace between 1989 and 1994. The second phase of five-year repair work, involving 180 million yuan (22 million dollars), started in 2002. About disuse, that's not the truth either. Today Potala Palace is open to the public visitors, and well preserved just like any western museums. I am not sure whether you paid a visit there today, but I am very sure you won't be able to visit it during the old Dalai days when he was in Tibet.

    (2) You said 200 million RMB (equivalent to approximately $28 million) paid by Chinese government to the Tibetan monasteries apparently was not enough to wipe away the Communist graffiti, that's a pretty cute argument, but it has no substance. You forgot to research to find out that Tibet as a whole also witnessed an average annual GDP growth of 12 percent between 2001 and 2005. Clearly people are enjoying a better life under Chinese government.

    (3) No Chinese would defend the disaster the Cultural Revolution caused to their country, not just to Tibet. However, the last 30 years ever since China started to open the door to the world and started the reform, things became better and better. Anyone who denies such progress made and only looks at a few spots left with old ruins really should look in the mirror to see if you are perfect.

    (4) Any loss of life is not acceptable to people with conscience. I also need to remind you other parts of China during the same period lost more lives because of some disastrous policies at the time. So when you talk about the loss of life during a historical period, at least you need to look at the overall situation across the China at the same period. The loss of life of those innocent Chinese people during the atrocious riot on March 14th caused by the Tibet monks is not any lighter. You should at least acknowledge the victims of this riot, which was not peaceful at all.

    (5) Chinese government has stated many times that they would like to talk to Dalai and that process started before but interrupted, why? Because Dalai's concept of Tibet was much larger than the current one, it also includes some territories historically never under Tibet's control, which was not acceptable to Chinese government. Plus, Tibet exile groups under Dalai's leadership have become more and more radical, for example, the Tibetan Youth Congress, the radical group of Tibetan Exiles, has become so violence pron that they openly discuss and incite Tibetan people to resort for violence. All these could not be tolerated by any government let alone Chinese government.


  • A conscious Chinese citizen

    I'm writing in support of the author, although I do not share every single point of his view.

    The communist government is exceptionally manipulative in distorting facts and leveraging absurd logic to drag the international community. In the case of Tibet, it is not the first time of the Chinese government to frame the abhorrence of the communist rule among Tibetan people on the evil will of their spiritual leader Dalai Lama, which has long been proven to be malicious and ungrounded.

    The state-controlled, highly biased media in China generates chauvinist people ignorant of the well-being of their fellow citizens in Tibet. Because China is not historically a liberal nation cherishing the value of respecting ethnic minorities, many a Chinese people takes it for granted that their government's everlasting efforts in denigrating someone that Tibetan people traditionally respect, trust and worship.

    I suppose the political figures in the civilized world should continue to facilitate the peaceful dialog between Dalai Lama and the communist government, considering the fact that Tibet is legally a sovereign part of China. Rather than seizing an opportunity to strutting their advocate for democracy, the leaders in US,Europe or elsewhere should take concrete measures to help safeguard the Tibetans in exile and promote the regional stability in Tibet highland.