Monday, March 12, 2007

Look Who's Praising Hu: HHDL Springs a Surprise

By Suresh Khatta

Indian Express; Sunday, March 11, 2007, McLeodGanj -- The Dalai Lama today sought to bridge a very difficult emotional gap for Tibetans when he praised Chinese President Hu Jintao in his statement on the anniversary of Uprising Day, sending a clear signal that he is willing to look ahead without letting the past come in the way.

“President Hu Jintao’s continued call for a harmonious society is laudable. The basis for the realization of such a society is to foster trust among the people, which can take place when there is freedom of expression, truth, justice and equality. Therefore, it is important that officials at all levels not only take heed, but also implement these principles,” said the Spiritual Leader of the Tibetans in his statement issued on the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the Tibetan people’s uprising.

The Dalai Lama has been more open to talks on regional autonomy and engaging the Chinese leadership towards a peaceful solution. But in praising Hu, he has sent out a very significant message. Hu is regarded by Tibetans as the most ruthless administrator of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

As Party Secretary in the region between 1988 and 1992, he is said to have come down very hard on Tibetan protests. Tibetans in-exile claim that near 400 peaceful Tibetan protestors were killed by Chinese forces in a span of three days in the early part of his tenure. He quelled the rebellion and that is said to have earned him recognition among the Communist Party ranks.

Deng Xiaoping then identified him to be groomed as Jiang Zemin’s successor. In this backdrop, the Dalai Lama has travelled a fair distance through this statement. It may be recalled that Tibetans came out it large numbers to protest Hu’s visit last year to India.

Expressing concern over the “vilification campaign” launched by the Chinese regime against his people, the Dalai Lama said not all the recent changes in China were negative.

“In 2006 we witnessed both positive and negative changes in the People’s Republic of China. On the one hand, the hardline position was intensified with a campaign of vilification against us, and more disquietingly, there was heightened political restriction and repression in Tibet. But on the other hand, in China itself, we saw some improvement with regard to the freedom of expression,” he said.

He said there was growing belief in religion in general, and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, and that there were many who wanted him to make a pilgrimage to China and preach there.

Maintaining that the Tibet issue could be resolved through dialogue, the Dalai Lama said the Tibetans and their government-in-exile had adopted a “middle path approach” which would address the immediate and long-term interests of both Tibetans and Chinese.

“In the five rounds of talks with the Chinese that have taken place since 2002, both sides were able to express in clear terms the suspicions, doubts and real difficulties,” he said.

“These rounds have helped create a channel of communication between the two sides.”