The Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of Tibet, is optimistic that the Chinese government will enact political reforms, but cautioned that the Beijing must investigate the flurry of self-immolations by Tibetan protesters.
Since March 2011, more than 30 people, including monks and nuns, have publicly burned themselves to protest China’s brutal repression in Tibet.
Speaking in Hawaii at the end of a four-day visit to Oahu, the Dalai Lama told the conference: The same cultural revolution is returning that was the cause of a crisis in 2008 when several hundred people were killed or disappeared. Now the time has come that the Chinese authority must investigate the causes [of Tibetan discontent].”
The Tibetan Buddhist leader called the self-immolations “very sad” and blamed Beijing for them.
The Chinese government has repeatedly called the people who set themselves alight “criminals” and “terrorists” and blamed the Dalai Lama for encouraging them.
The Dalai Lama further warned: The local [Chinese] authority [in Tibet] I think .. are worshippers of the gun, as Chairman Mao Zedong once expressed that power comes from the barrel of the gun. Unfortunately some hardliners still believe that.”
Still, some recent comments by outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about the need for political reforms have the Dalai Lama optimistic.
Without a successful political structural reform, it is impossible for us to fully institute economic structural reform and the gains we have made in this area may be lost, Wen said at a conference in China a few weeks ago.
In response, Dalai Lama said in Hawaii: “the majority of the Chinese leadership is thinking seriously of some change, and that is a hopeful thing.
Both the Dalai Lama and Wen have warned against the return of a “cultural revolution” in China – a reference to the period from 1966-1976 when Chairman Mao brutally consolidated his power in the country by wiping out all vestiges of bourgeois elements in China in favor of rigid Communist orthodoxy. That political campaign sent millions of people into forced labor camps and killed untold tens of thousands.
The Dalai lama fled China in 1959 and has lived in exile ever since.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.