The Dalai Lama is now in Washington despite stark criticism from the Chinese government. To avoid upsetting China, President Barack Obama has decided to keep the meeting low-key.
The Dalai Lama has lived outside of Tibet since the 1950s and it is feared he may never return home
Before the latest talks in Beijing last month, many Tibetans were optimistic once again and felt Chinese recognition that talks were needed was a positive first step. But the talks seemed to turn out fruitless, as Beijing vehemently rejected full autonomy for Tibet.
The Representative of the Dalai Lama to the Americas, Lobsang Nyandak, says, "I would say the Chinese government still holds the same position. They have never shifted their position in favor of the Tibetan sentiment. And it is precisely the reason why the dialogue process could not move forward in a positive manner. People are really disappointed with China's adamant position to not favorably consider the demands of
The Dalai Lama (in front with glasses) in the Himalayas, protected by warriors during his flight to India following Chinese repression
the Tibetan people."
The talks were not useless
However, Thierry Dodin, an expert on Tibet and long-time observer of the negotiations, says most Tibetans continue to back the Dalai Lama's policy. "An enormous majority expects that he will be able to solve the problems somehow. People are also realistic enough to understand that wonders in the field of politics are rare. There are those who don't agree with the political course which he has taken and they feel concerned by seeing the results coming out of the talks, but I am not sure that the talks have had so few results as people think."
One Tibetan living in Bonn, Lobsang Tenpa, agrees that most Tibetans support the Dalai Lama's
The Dalai Lama at a military camp, after he had crossed the border to India in 1959
approach which is to take the "middle way" of autonomy. That goes for exile Tibetans as well, but he also says, "I know some youngsters who have a more radical approach to the issue of Tibet. But I think they will not go into violence because they know they would need resources which are not there. I don't think Tibetans will turn to violence because too much is influenced by the religion also."
Gain more by asking for less
The general sentiment among the Tibetan people seems to be: you gain more by asking for less. This is contrary to the Chinese government, which has recently strongly criticized the Dalai Lama for planning talks with the US president so shortly after the Sino-Tibetan meeting. Though the Chinese have issued strong words, there is little fear of repercussions, as Dodin explains:
"In politics there is always an amount of theater and in Chinese politics especially. The Chinese government knows very well that this meeting is happening. They don't like anyone talking
At the first National People's Congress in Beijing, 1954, the Dalai Lama, left, shakes hands with Mao Tse-Tung
to the Dalai Lama, but they know very well that they are not in a position to stop it. As far as negative consequences of these meetings are concerned, I don't see them."
Representative Lobsang Nyandak adds, "I am very optimistic. China has changed in the past 50 years and China is still changing. I believe there are more and more Chinese who are calling for freedom and justice inside Tibet, so we have every reason to be optimistic, even though it might take some time. It is only a matter of time. We believe that truth will ultimately prevail."
One thing is for sure: the Tibetan spirit has not been broken.
Author: Sarah Berning
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein