Dalai Lama pins hopes on China's new leaders

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 October, 2011, 12:00am


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The Dalai Lama has voiced hope that Beijing's policy towards Tibet may change under the new Chinese leadership to be ushered in next year, even though Hu Jintao's heir apparent, Xi Jinping, has pledged a tough line on the region.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Morning Post the Dalai Lama, who announced his retirement from political leadership this year, also said he was still the best and only person to handle negotiations with Beijing.

'The reality is ... I think for the time being, I'm the only person who has the trust of the majority of Tibetan people,' he said in Dharamsala, India. 'That's clear.'

'Once I am gone, then, firstly, to whom do they talk? Difficult,' the 76-year-old Nobel peace laureate said.

On October 12, with a growing number of young Tibetans in China setting themselves on fire, the newly elected prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, issued a statement urging Beijing to resume talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama which have been stalled since January last year.

Beijing calls the Dalai Lama and his followers separatists and his 'middle way' of meaningful autonomy under Chinese rule 'a call for independence in disguise'.

In his first important speech on the subject in July, Xi - who is widely expected to become the Communist Party's general secretary next year - vowed to 'deepen the fight against separatist activities led by the Dalai Lama clique' and 'smash all schemes that harm Tibet's stability and the motherland's integrity'.

He uttered the words at a ceremony that marked 60 years since Beijing cemented Chinese control over Tibet.

But the Dalai Lama said Xi's harsh rhetoric may not represent what he really thinks. 'Xi Jinping's statement, whether it's his words, expression of his true feelings or not, is a big question,' the Dalai Lama said. 'Some say Xi Jinping is more open-minded. Some say the whole system is such that one individual, even if he is more open-minded, cannot do much. So I don't know.'

He pointed to other changes within China he thinks may help bring a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue.

'It seems [there are] more and more voices [calling for] openness, justice, and also freedom and democracy, like Liu Xiaobo's movement. Even Wen Jiabao ... has said on several occasions that China needs political change.'

The Dalai Lam also denies that international support is waning in the face of China's growing might - this after struggling in the week of the interview to get a visa to South Africa, a trip he later had to abort.

For a transcript of the interview with the Dalai Lama, go to www.scmp.com