My Four Meetings with Dalai Lama
More than thirty years ago, I was sixteen or seventeen, a youth “sent down” to the countryside of northeastern China to be reeducated. One day I drove the carriage to the commune to get the food aid. In the Food Control Office I found a bound collection of the newspaper “Can Kao Xiao Xi” (News Digest), and immediately grabbed it to read. In those days “Can Kao Xiao Xi” was the only newspaper that had news from overseas. Though its news was still ideological, it was at least different from the standard party newspapers of the day. Among the news was an interview with Dalai by a foreign reporter. I have forgotten the specific content of the article, but an image remained in my head – a young and lanky Dalai in his lonely exile, heatedly criticizing China in his broken English to his visitor. This was the first time that I had a relatively specific impression of Dalai Lama. Though I have heard of him before, in the usage of the communist party literature the word “Dalai” was just a synonym for the dark days of Tibet. The reason I remember this article was not due to any grandiose concepts like the Tibet issue, but a rather trivial detail. As I was reading the article, the employee at the Food Control Office came and took away the newspaper in my hands. He told me self-importantly that it was an “inside publication” which only those “ranked highly enough” were permitted to read. Neither he nor I could have guessed that one day, the boy that was me, with rope belted around the waist and a whip gripped in hand, who was sheepish because he wasn’t “ranked highly enough”, would embrace the Dalai from “Can Kao Xiao Xi”.
1. Invitation from exiled Tibet
In October, 2000, I traveled to Boston to take part in a Chinese multi-ethnic conference sponsored by the 21st Century China Foundation. (Perhaps to make it easier to raise money, the conference had a rather exaggerated title: “Chinese Ethnic Group Young Leaders Camp”). Many different ethnic groups, including Han, Tibetan, Mongolian, Uigur, and people from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macaoattended the conference. Among the representatives, Tibetans were the largest group after the Hans. None of them came from the Chinese mainland; all were exiles. Dalai Lama personally wrote the conference a congratulatory letter. Dharamsala also dispatched a delegation headed by a vice foreign minister in the exiled Tibetan government, as well as several staff members from the exiled government’s office in America. Altogether, the delegation had about seven or eight Tibetans. Their attendance showed how much importance they attached to this conference. Of course, they could not expect to reach any specific political goal from this type of unofficial meetings; their goal was probably only to understand the circumstances and to explore unofficial ways of bettering their situation.
As I recall it, in that event the Tibetans were the best-behaved group. Rational, restrained, serious, polite, they were outstanding among all the representatives at the conference. Without a doubt, this was partly due to the fact that they were a governmental delegation. Their words strictly conformed to the positions expressed by Dalai Lama in various occasions, never overstepping one bit. During meetings they quietly sat together, and at parties they deliberately scattered into the crowd, publicizing their viewpoints mildly but explicitly. Observing them often filled me with admiration.
Among the Tibetan delegates was a “nongovernmental figure” named BQ. He once was a reporter in India, and now was one of the directors of “International Tibetan Aid Organization.” It is actually a nongovernmental organization with mostly American members, which is why I never fully understood BQ’s role there. While he worked with this American organization, he was also quite involved in the affairs of the exiled Tibetan government. The other nongovernmental delegate was a Harvard doctoral student ZX. She was a very learned Tibetan woman, born in Canada. She came to the conference because of personal interest. ZX’s Chinese pronunciation was accentless. I thought she was fluent in Chinese at first, but a few sentences more and I realized that it wasn’t so. It turned out that she only recently started learning Chinese. One could therefore see her talent for learning languages. When mainland Tibetan author Zhaxidawa visited Boston, she had communicated with him in her recently-learned Chinese, since Zhaxidawa couldn’t speak any Tibetan. This peculiar phenomenon – that Tibetan scholars and writers could only converse in the language of the occupier- was one of the reasons that she was so interested in the Tibetan political problem.
As soon as I arrived at the meeting, a staff member at the conference told me that some Tibetan delegates had asked if and when I would come. The first day of the conference, BQ came to me during break. Since my English was very bad, I couldn’t really talk to him. I thought they were interested in contacting me because they knew that I had written books and articles about the Tibet issue. Later I learned that my book “Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet” had been translated into Tibetan and broadcasted in a series by Radio Free Asia. My article published in the mainland, “Tibet: China’s Weakness in the 21st Century”, had also been translated into Tibetan and English. Many Tibetans living overseas had read it.During the conference I often spent time with Tibetans. They were all born overseas, and had never been back to Tibet. But they spoke Tibetan amongst themselves, read Tibetan literature, wore Tibetan religious decorations on their chests and wrists, and played Tibetan music on their car stereo. In contrast to them, my nephew in Seattle, who left China when he was seven or eight, cannot read any Chinese characters and speaks less and less Chinese everyday. What’s more, he does not at all want to be a Chinese. When I thought of my nephew, I couldn’t help wondering at the heritage of Tibetan culture abroad, and what cohesion it must have to be sustained to such a degree! Though a political solution to the Tibet problem was nowhere in sight, the fact that Tibetan culture had been preserved so completely abroad, was itself a worthwhile achievement. As I saw all this, my admiration for Dalai Lama increased more and more.
One day BQ extended to me an invitation. He hoped that I would travel toWashington D.C. and meet with the special representative of Dalai Lama, Mr. LD. BQ said that if Mr. LD wasn’t so busy, he would come to Boston to see me, but he was going to visit abroad soon, and therefore had to trouble me to make the trip. They would pay for all expenses.I am by nature interested in new experiences, and naturally would not have refused. BQ said that a very good Tibetan-Chinese interpreter would receive me in Washington. By coincidence, the interpreter was the boyfriend of ZX. His name was WA and he was the Tibetan editor of a major American media company. The first time I talked to him on the phone, I had the feeling that I was speaking to a native Han. He visited ZX in Boston on the weekend, and flew with me to Washington on Monday. He suggested that I should stay at his place. This way it would be 1) cheaper (one could sense that exiled Tibetmust often be concerned with saving expenses); 2). He and I could conveniently meet and plan our schedules; and 3). He lived right in the center of Washington, which was close to many museums. But my plane ticket turned out to be very expensive. If the reservation had been early, a roundtrip plane ticket from Boston toWashington D.C. could be only one hundred dollars. But my ticket was bought last minute, and we had to name the airline, so it cost more than six hundred dollars.
WA was in his early forties. Growing up in Lhasa, he stayed in Beijing to do research after graduating from the Central Ethnic Institute. As the story went, in those days he could use Chinese to write novels. One could thus imagine the level of his expertise in Chinese. He traveled to India in the late eighties, and then decided to stay abroad and work for Dalai Lama. At that time Dalai Lama encouraged him to study in the U.S. Today he had already lived in America for more than ten years and just got his American citizenship, but he still participated in the work of exiled Tibet. Since he was very familiar with technical political language, and in addition could accurately grasp the situation in China and the mentality there, a Tibetan-Chinese interpreter of his caliber (especially in the field of politics) was quite rare among the exiled Tibetans.
The autumn in Washington displayed colorful leaves everywhere. WA drove me to the home of LD. He lived in a small house in the suburbs. Apparently many exiled Tibetans lived nearby. Though the building was western in style, inside LD decorated the rooms like many other Tibetans: Buddha figures, scripture banners, religious pictures, ghee lamps, and scripture books were all there. LD was over fifty. He was originally a living Buddha from Tang Borough Xinlong County. In 1959 he went into exile in India, and once served as the Gelun in the Tibetan exiled government. Now he lived permanently in the U.S. Besides being Dalai Lama’s special representative, he was responsible for communications with the Chinese government. He was the most important figure to the exiled Tibetans in America.
BQ had originally told me that this meeting would be only casual conversation, but I could guess that they mainly wanted to hear me talk. After the first cup of tea and all the pleasantries, LD expressed interest in hearing my views on how to solve the Tibet problem.The main idea of my talk with him was this: the exiled Tibet has been successful in their efforts abroad. It has been outstanding in matters such as striving for the support of international public opinion, dealing with the various international groups and organizations, cultivating public relations, winning the support of countries, and pressuring the Chinese government. The issue of Tibet has successfully become internationalized, and the public in the West is almost unanimous in support of the exiled Tibetan government. Though the various western regimes cannot publicly express their support for exiled Tibet, their actions usually contradict their words and they are all secretly sympathetic with exiled Tibet.
However, in the final analysis, to solve the Tibet problem is up to China and not governments or people from other countries. No matter how much pressure the international community exerts, they cannot solve the Tibet problem directly. Its significance exists only in the hope that this kind of pressure could work on Chinaand force the Chinese government to react and concede. Thus the standard for evaluating how much the Tibet problem has been solved should not rest on how successful one is in the international community, but rather how much headway one has made with China.
If we used this criterion to evaluate the work of exiled Tibet, then we cannot say that it has been successful, because pressure from the international community onChina has not been clearly effective, and sometimes even had negative effects. Chinais a large country. She would not find it unbearable just because the international community has exerted pressures. Even the sanction of so many countries after June 4th did not really work against her. To the contrary, in the profit-oriented economic age today, many countries in the world need China in many ways. China’s enormous market potential is something that no country would be willing to give up. Faced with the possibility of disturbing the economic development, products export, employment rate, and other practical interests of one’s own country, would these countries break with the Chinese government only because of its moral support forTibet? This is no doubt too much to ask. The Chinese government knows this, and therefore does not care about pressure from the international community.
Of course, I did not mean that it is exiled Tibet’s own fault that it has been unsuccessful with China. The Chinese government’s refusal to open the door of communication is without question the main problem. Without contact, there is nothing exiled Tibet could do. Moreover, I am not saying that the success that exiled Tibet has had in the international community is meaningless. Without international pressure, the Chinese government would never believe that there is a need for change. At least right now the Tibetan regions of the country receive many concrete benefits, and this all has something to do with the efforts of exiled Tibetans and international pressures. But only achieving this is not enough. Working onChina should not be seen as a singular task. It should not be seen as only a question of how to communicate with the decision makers in Zhong Nan Hai and how to influence or convince them. No doubt this is important, but one should not attach all hope to this, because history has proven that it is not easy changing these people. One should rather broaden one’s perspective and see that the so-called Chinaconsists not only of the few people in the central government. There are 1.3 billion people in China; there exist different classes and many groups in its society; one should not treat them simplistically as one entity. In fact, there are a myriad of conflicts within the Chinese society. On many issues the public opposes the regime. But on the Tibet question, the vast majority of the Han people accepts the propaganda of the authorities without objection and stand together with the government. This signifies at least one thing: until now the work of exiled Tibet has not been careful to separate the ordinary Chinese people and the ruling communist regime. Condemning China as a whole entity, expressing the sufferings of Tibetans from a ethnic angle, and demanding that the western community intervene based on the principle that human rights are more important than national sovereignty- these tactics on the one hand helped the success of exiled Tibet in the international community, but at the same time also served to encourage the Han people to unite with the Chinese government on the question of Tibet.
Even though the solution to the Tibet problem has to ultimately come from the Chinese government, one should still not look only at the present government, because governments are not immutable but always changing. Today’s China is filled with uncertain elements and the range of its fluctuations is very large. The changes can even become cataclysmic. If one considers the future this way, one should not try to expend efforts only on the rulers of the moment, but broaden the effort to include the entire elite class in China, since no matter how much China will change, and how often the regimes will alternate, those who come into power will always come from the elite class. According to Pareto’s definition, “elite” mostly means the political elite. Besides those who are already in power, the term also includes the ones that could potentially come into power in the future.
After the unavoidable political reforms in China, which will come sooner or later, those in power at that time will use new methods and make new choices about many issues. Their attitude about the Tibet issue will in some ways depend on how they are influenced today. If they still have the same views on the Tibet issue as theBeijing regime today, then the Tibet problem will not be solved even then. Even if democracy comes to other areas of Chinese society, the new regime can still enforce tyrannical rule in Tibet, just as Russia has done in Chechnya, or Serbia in Kosovo. Persuading the elite class should not mean only aiming at one particular group within, since participation in the future Chinese government cannot be decided by drawing lots. The so-called elite is a numerous and varied group; it includes those within the communist system, as well as the dissidents who are against the system; it includes independent intellectuals, as well as political figures with clear views. To persuade these people as a whole, one must employ the art of the golden mean; one must extricate oneself from political propaganda, ideological dispute, or racial warfare, give up emotional accusations and insistence on personal goals. One must employ an understanding and tolerant attitude to find the path to a win-win situation.
When I say this, of course I don’t mean that only Tibetans should act this way but not the Han people. I admit that as victims, Tibetans have more right to demand that the Hans should take a lead in considering the Tibetan perspective, to take the initiative in not doing onto others what one does not want for oneself. I myself have been acting exactly according to this principle. The reason I make this suggestions is because the exiled Tibetans have their own government, and are thus able to behave with more rationality and self-awareness; they are able to form a consensus and act in a more united way through the unity of their government. The current government of the Hans is the Chinese communist regime, the creator of the Tibetproblem. Naturally it would not encourage the Hans to understand the Tibetans. Therein lies the necessity to separate the Han people from the communist regime. As soon as one separates the two, exiled Tibet no longer faces organized Hans but millions of individual Hans. It is unrealistic to demand that the individual Han, who has always listened to the communist propaganda on Tibet, to repent the actions of their people and to understand the Tibetans all on their own. But if organized Tibetans could change first, and take the initiative to understand the Hans and to influence them in the right way, the latter would be much more likely to confront and to understand the Tibet problem.
The discussion of that day concentrated in this area. LD listened very intently. He spoke very little, but still made me feel like we communicated a lot. He was good at listening and encouraging criticisms. In a few days he was going to accompany Dalai Lama to Eastern Europe. He said that he would repeat what I said to Dalai Lama. At the same time, he wanted me to think a bit more and to give them some ideas, especially in the few aspects that I talked about, to give them some specific suggestions about what they might do in the future.
For lunch LD invited me to a Southeast Asian restaurant near his home. During the meal he revealed that Dalai Lama had recently written the Beijing regime a letter. Right now they were waiting for reactions from Beijing. To create a friendlier atmosphere and to avoid angering Beijing, Dalai’s planned second visit to Taiwanhad also been postponed. He asked me what I thought would happen. I had no optimistic expectations. I answered that while one could not absolutely rule out the possibility for progress, that progress required a miracle, and one should not expect a miracle to happen. I said: at the moment it is not a problem that Beijing does not want to respond in a new way, but that there are no more new responses to show. The hard-line response has already been done to the extreme in the Cultural Revolution; and for gentle responses no one can exceed Hu Yaobang’s “Six Items”, published in Tibet in 1980. Neither solved the Tibet problem, and instead gave theBeijing regime a heap of new problems. Beijing can no longer find any innovative ideas about Tibet, and the only feasible reaction now is a one-size-fits-all response. Since Tibet is under its control anyhow, solving the Tibet problem is not that urgent. Under these circumstances, how can one expect it to respond to Dalai Lama’s letter, or to have a dialogue with Dalai? A dialogue is not as easy as just meeting and talking. First one must know what to do after the dialogue, and what is possible for one to do. Before Beijing can find any ideas about what to do, dialogues for its own sake would only make it losing its advantage.
As I spoke, I couldn’t help recalling that Tibet, too, had once ignored England’s effort to communicate with it. Since Lhasa had refused to accept any letters fromGreat Britain, the British had even dispatched special envoys to Tibetan border officials in order to read aloud their letter to the government, in the hope that the border officials would repeat what they heard to Lhasa. At that moment, sensing LD’s urgent desires to have a dialogue with Beijing, I understood what “historical changes” mean. Today’s exiled Tibet has completely opened up itself, but like a fated retribution, it now faces an opponent who absolutely refuses to communicate. When Tibet refused to communicate, Great Britain could eventually send “military envoys” and fight its way to Lhasa to force Tibet to talk. But today, in contrast to history, faced with a powerful Chinese government, there is nothing the frustrated exiled Tibet can do.
After lunch we took a walk at the bank of a quiet lake with many wild birds. I told LD a bit about my ideas on successive multi-level electoral system. Since there was not enough time and we needed interpreting, we couldn’t really have a discussion in detail. But the one thing he said, that “we are also considering whether we should implement a western democratic system” gave me the feeling that he also felt thatTibet was not suited for a completely western democratic system. But since then, half a year after we spoke, exiled Tibet had the first direct election of Geluns, and established three branches of government. This shows that exiled Tibet still went down the road of western democracy. Clearly, finding a new way is not easy.
After that meeting, LD went to Eastern Europe, and I traveled to other places in theU.S. It was close to the U.S. presidential elections, and I had already planned to travel around to observe the elections. Right before Election Day, I went back toWashington to see the final vote. LD had come back from Eastern Europe by then, and we met for the second time at a downtown restaurant. LD told me that he had passed on to Dalai Lama our last conversation, and Dalai Lama had expressed agreement with my views. At this meeting, LD asked me if I could find time to meet Dalai Lama and to speak with him personally. He said that Dalai Lama really needed to know the real opinions of a Han intellectual, and how the Han people as a whole saw the Tibet issue.
Though Dalai Lama had already met some Han people from the mainland, they were mostly exiled participants of the democratic movement. In my observations, the status and political situation of the exiled Han people determines that their views would often be different from the populace in the mainland. There are some among them who support exiled Tibet, but this kind of support is a little like the westerners and not so similar to the Hans, and therefore not so persuasive to the Hans, either. Instead, it is often easy for the nationalists in the mainland to attack this position as ”playing the Tibet card” or “treason”. But most Hans overseas are still in favor of unification just like those within China. No matter how much they disagree with the Communist Party in other areas, they are with the Communist Party on the Tibetquestion. According to LD, I was in the middle, different from both the Beijingregime and the western society. I did not completely break away from the position of the Hans, but could also understand and sympathize with the Tibetan, and therefore was suited to build bridges between the Hans and the Tibetan, as well as objectively describe and analyze problems. This was perhaps the major reason why he hoped that Dalai Lama and I meet.
At the same time, LD told me, Dalai Lama’s middle-of-the-road position, which states that Tibet not become independent but stay with China and retain a high degree of self-governance, is absolutely not just rhetoric, but instead a serious and sincere position. He also said something that impressed me deeply: “If we are only paying the ‘middle-road’ position lip service, we would not have contacted you. Because for the independence of Tibet it’s people like you who are the biggest threat. It’s the things done by the Department of Military Unification that are most beneficial to Tibetan independence.” I knew what he meant was that the doings of the Department of Military Unification always aroused the resentment of the Tibetans, and therefore pushed Tibet further and further away from China. But what I did was to try to eliminate the antagonism between the two ethnicities, and to bring them closer together. This is of course harmful for those who really want independence.
I answered LD that being able to meet Dalai Lama would be my honor. I would be willing to do it absolutely. I have always believed that Dalai Lama is the key element in solving the Tibet problem. If I could tell him my views personally, perhaps I could help him in his own thoughts about Tibet. On the other hand, my own curiosity and my research on Tibet both made meeting Dalai Lama a rare opportunity for me.
In terms of specific plans, LD at first thought that I should go to India, then changed the place to Southeast Asia where I could use the chance of Dalai visiting there to meet. After a few months, he told me that it has been again changed to America. Dalai Lama was going to visit America in May, 2001. If I could have had my wish, I would have wanted to meet in India, because there Dalai has more time, and our meetings and conversations could be more unhurried and thorough. But if I met him while he was on a visit, I could only see him between his already fully scheduled events. It would be very rushed.
I was right.
2. First meeting with Dalai Lama
WA had worked on arranging my meeting with Dalai Lama. In the spring of 2001, he sent me an invitation from “International Campaign for Tibet”, asking me to travel to America to discuss the Tibet problem. After the officer at the American consulate finished reading the letter, he looked at me keenly, said “no problem”, and gave me the visa. I suspected that perhaps I was the first person from the Chinese mainland in many years who applied for a visa with this kind of invitational letter.
WA had sent me the plane ticket beforehand. When I arrived in Washington, I still lived in his home. Since I had stayed with him a few times, though we only recently met, we already felt like friends. The second day LD visited WA, and together we ate some Tibetan, western, and Chinese styled meals that WA cooked.
According to the original plan, I was going to meet Dalai Lama sometime between May 25th and May 27th in Los Angeles. The exact time depended on Dalai Lama’s daily schedules. LD told me this time that he divided my meeting with Dalai Lama into two meetings. The first time would be in Washington. The meeting would not be too long, and was mainly ceremonial, so that we could meet each other. I could start by asking a few questions. The second meeting would be in Los Angeles, because Dalai Lama had relatively more time there. Our main conversation would take place there, and the duration could be longer. Also, our talks could be more satisfying there because we would have already met and become friends, and would have thought over the questions placed at the first meeting.
I asked LD, could my meeting and conversation with Dalai Lama be made public? He answered that on their side there were no reservations, because there was nothing secretive about it. But they would not take the initiative to publicize it, mainly for my safety. What I wanted to do was up to me. I asked this question not out of a desire to interview or publish anything, but out of safety concerns, too. Once I returned to China, if the government knew that I had this meeting and interrogated me, to tell the truth should be the safest venue for me. Trying to evade the questions would appear the most suspicious. I felt relieved that LD did not ask me to keep the meeting secret.
Counting this meeting, I had only met LD three times, but I already admired him greatly, and could understand why Dalai Lama relied so heavily upon him. He had a clear, analytical mind and was also very personable. He played a large part in the success that exiled Tibet had in the international community. I heard that he had been the first Gelun in the exiled government before he quitted his office to concentrate on being Dalai Lama’s personal representative. He resided in theUnited States. Dalai Lama’s many affairs, especially such important issues such as his interactions with the U.S. government and the contact between exiled Tibet and the Chinese government, were all arranged through him. When Dalai Lama made international visits, he almost always arranged the matter and accompanied him.
After meeting LD, I went to New York and Boston. In between I held a seminar atHarvard University - WA and I each talked about our opinions on the “Seventeen Agreements”. The year 2001 was the fiftieth anniversary of the “peaceful liberation” treaty between Beijing and Lhasa (also known as the “Seventeen Agreements”) . Beijing had celebrated elaborately, but exiled Tibetans believed that it was an illegal treaty signed under the threat of violence. I said in the seminar, the “Seventeen Agreements” was indeed signed under military threat, but based only on this fact we could not conclude that it is illegal, since many important treaties in history were also the result of war. To determine whether the “Seventeen Agreements” is legal, we must think about it from another angle – as an agreement signed by both sides, the treaty needs to be completely implemented, and not only partially implemented while ignoring other parts. In the “Seventeen Agreements”, the clauses which call for the preservation of the Tibetan political system, the preservation of the role of Dalai Lama, not forcing Tibet to undergo reformation, and protecting Tibetan religion and so on, have not been implemented since March, 1959. These changes were not ratified by the other side of the treaty — the regional government of Tibet and Dalai Lama. Under these circumstances, the “Seventeen Agreements” should be treated as already null and void. The “Seventeen Agreements” is the first legal document from the Tibetan side that admits that Tibet belongs to China. If it were null and void, then the promise that Tibet belonges to China also becomes invalid. This is the basis of the existence of the “Tibet Problem”. Thus to solve the Tibet problem, the best way is no other than for the Chinese government and Tibet to create a new agreement, which would ensure that Tibet belongs to China. At the moment, the only one that most Tibetans listen to is Dalai Lama. Besides him, there is no one who can unify the severely divided Tibetan race. In the international community, Dalai Lama is seen as the representative of the Tibetans. He has enough authority, and at the same time, he has expressed many times that Tibet can stay in China. If one could create a legal document that Dalai Lama would sign, which admits the sovereignty of China in Tibet, then neither Tibetans nor the international community could challenge the fact that Tibet belongs to China. There would then be no basis for the struggle for Tibetan independence. Thus I believe that China should take the opportunity and sign such an agreement while the 14th generation Dalai Lama is still alive and well. Once Dalai Lama passes away, this chance would be lost forever, because on the question of whether Tibet belongs to China, no one can convince the entire Tibetan race except for Dalai Lama.
After the seminar, a Tibetan woman came and said to me that she could accept what I had said in this speech, but she thought the views on Tibet I had expressed before inspired the Chinese Communist Party and helped the Party to increase its control in Tibet. Thus in effect I had been serving the Chinese Communist Party and giving council to them. Another Tibetan man from Harvard Law School told me, they were organizing a workshop on the Tibet issue and had planned to invite me to participate. At the same time, they had invited an official from the Department of Military Unification. But the official from the MUD had said that if I came, then he wouldn’t come, so they had no choice but to invite me the next time. I was amused that my position irritated both sides. I answered the Tibetan woman that perhaps the communist side also thought that I was serving the exiled Tibetan side. But I was not a tactician from the Chun-Qiu Warlords period, who served the side that gave him the most benefits. My hope that all sides win was not an unprincipled one. Everything that I did was in the hope of avoiding and ameliorating conflicts between the races and realizing the common happiness of the different peoples.
On May 23rd, the 50th anniversary of the Seventeen Agreements, I arrived in Washington again. Dalai Lama was already in Washington. On this day, he met President Bush in the White House.
My meeting with Dalai Lama was arranged for the second day, on May 24th 2001. The weather that day was very clear, with bright sunlight. Our meeting time was scheduled for ten o’clock in the morning. WA guided me through the subway system to the Park Hyatt Hotel, where Dalai Lama was staying. Since we arrived very early, we had enough time to first have breakfast nearby. Park Hyatt Hotel looked quite high-class. Approaching the hotel, we could see small groups of Tibetans in traditional clothing, many of whom looked families. Before meeting me, Dalai Lama was meeting Tibetan residents in Washington. There were many other characters inside and outside the hotel, and all seemed to be related in some way toTibet or Dalai Lama, or trying to have some kind of relationship. For Americans, Dalai Lama is not only a religious leader or a political figure, but also a star. Quite a few popular American movie stars and singers are his followers, so he counts as a star among stars, and has of course many admirers.
Meeting Dalai Lama was a very formal event, and one must consider how to dress. (There was one thing that WA was dissatisfied with Wei Jingsheng, because Wei had actually worn shorts when he met Dalai Lama). I had never worn suits, and could not even tie a tie. This time I had brought from China a blue traditional Chinese buttoned-down shirt especially for the occasion of meeting Dalai Lama. Chinese clothes do not have the same complications as western clothes, but they are also suited for formal occasions – they are traditional! What’s more, it is always easy to find faults with western suits, but my Chinese traditional clothing, though it only costs 30 dollars, cannot be criticized by anyone. Just as I was exulting over my own cleverness, WA realized that my clothes might be a problem, because the people around the hotel noticed me especially – one could tell at first glance that a Chinese came to the hotel of Dalai Lama. If I had worn a suit, no matter how ill fitting, it would never have attracted attention. One would merely take me for an ordinary Asian who was a bit sloppy. But traditional Chinese clothing was very sensitive here, since the Tibet problem was the conflict between Tibet and China. Then what was somebody in traditional Chinese clothing doing here? Those who noticed me must all have this question. WA began to worry whether I was being videotaped or photographed. This was quite possible, since the intelligence departments in China must have someone watching the activities of Dalai Lama in the United States. Perhaps they were right around us. But we had already walked into the hotel, and there was no point in thinking anymore about this.
There was a lot of security in the hotel. The protection of Dalai Lama was provided by the American government. There were already security on the ground floor, and also bodyguards with dogs. We took the elevator to the floor where Dalai Lama was residing, and waited at first in an outside room. There were some people working in that room, and one even brought children, so the atmosphere did not seem tense. The president of the International Campaign for Tibet was also there. I talked with him last time I was in America. He used to be a lawyer. By coincidence, he encountered the Lhasa ”riots” when he vacationed in Lhasa in 1987. He was there and saw the whole thing, and this experience changed his life. From then on, he devoted himself to the international movement to aid Tibet. This man gave me a very good impression: simple, good, idealistic, but not extreme. We got along very well. WA also introduced to me a secretary of Dalai Lama. He was originally in charge of the security around Dalai Lama, and just became his secretary. Dressed in suits and leather shoes, he was tall and handsome.
While we were talking, suddenly someone hurried in and motioned urgently for us to go over. We got up hastily and followed. The place where Dalai Lama lived was a closed quarters; perhaps it was the so-called presidential suites. There were a bunch of bodyguards in front of the door. By the time we walked over, the front door was already opened, and there was a lot of people inside, too. It seemed to me like a dense mass of people. I saw Dalai Lama among the crowd right away. He was standing in the middle, wearing a red cassock, slightly crouching, looking out of the door quite attentively. It was his typical pose. Originally I expected to meet him in something like a living room, and did not expect at all that he would be waiting for me in the door. Later I found out that he had just received the Tibetans from Washington and came up in his personal elevator. This elevator was inside the presidential suite, close to the door and somewhat distant from his room. Therefore he did not go back to his room directly, but waited in the door for me to come. This was why his attendants hurried us so much – it was already a bit excessive to let Dalai Lama wait, we could not let him wait for too long.
I went up to Dalai Lama , put my palms together, and said in Tibetan “how do you do”. Dalai Lama told me in Chinese: “Ni Hao.” His voice was loud and clear. Then we shook our hands, not the usual ceremonial handshakes, but with both hands clasped together. Dalai Lama held my hands and looked at me carefully, saying: “I already know you. I have read your articles. I am very happy to see you.” He said this in Tibetan, which WA interpreted for me. I also uttered a few polite greetings. Then Dalai Lama led me by the hand and walked to his room. This scene impressed me greatly. It was a very long hallway, brightly lit, with many rooms on both sides and more than ten doors. In front of every door there was a bodyguard from the American government. Every single one was dressed in dark suits, tall and large, with short hair and earphones in the ear. I don’t know why they had to stand in front of every door. Was it to prevent assassins from suddenly bursting out? Dalai Lama led me by the hand through the long corridor. It was like a scene from a movie: a Lama in red cassocks and a Chinese in a blue gown, behind us a whole silent crowd. Dalai Lama’s hands were warm and full.
Walking into Dalai’s drawing room, I presented Dalai Lama with a hada according to Tibetan custom. WA had prepared it for me the day before.. Dalai Lama took the hada and set it aside, then we sat down. Dalai Lama looked at me, and I looked at him, and he began to smile but said nothing. Suddenly, he reached out and pulled me over. I didn’t know what he was doing and thought that he wanted to say something in my ear. I was trying to guess what he might say, but I wouldn’t have understood anyway if he spoke in Tibetan. But unexpectedly, he touched his head against my head. Our heads touched for a long time, ten or twenty seconds. Though I did not feel any warm stream coming into me or anything like that, I knew that it must have been a very good blessing. From the Buddhist perspective especially, it was the highest honor. After our heads separated, I sensed that Dalai Lama was a little emotional. I could see it from his eyes, and even felt that his eyes were moist. I don’t know whether it was really so or merely my imaginations. Maybe he took me for the representative of the Han people who for generations lived in the land near the Tibetans. Though he had met a few Hans in the past, those people were mostly émigrés who no longer had their roots in China, or else he met those Hans in public, and they were not as vivid for him.
Aside from Dalai Lama and I, present at the scene were also WA, LD, and the main secretary of Dalai Lama. The main secretary looked about fifty, bespectacled, and not very tall. He was reputedly the descendent of an eminent aristocratic Tibetan family.
Dalai Lama began to speak. The content of his speech was to this effect: whether or not the Chinese government acknowledges it, the Tibet problem definitely exists and cannot be ignored. The whole world knows that there is a Tibet problem, and is interested in the solution of the Tibet problem. Not solving the Tibet problem means suffering for the Tibetans, but it is also not good for China. Not only does the problem damage the image of China in the international community, it worsens other problems for China, for instance Taiwan, which has many doubts and reservations about China because of the Tibet problem. Thus, solving the Tibetproblem is not only advantageous for Tibet but also advantageous for the Chinese Communist Party.
To show that he was not against the Chinese government, he told me in Chinese: “I am not against communism!”. He explained that one could tell from his work that he was in favor of many things in socialism and communism. He also told me an anecdote. When he visited Taiwan, he also told Lian Zhan the same thing in Chinese: “I am not against communism!” Lian Zhan replied: “I am against communism!” After recounting the story, he laughed heartily. His laughter was very contagious.
He went on to say: the Chinese government repeatedly said that Tibet is a part ofChina, that it cannot become independent, as if they are chanting scripture verses over and over again. And he himself has already said on various occasions thatTibet does not demand independence, also as if chanting scripture verses. Both sides chant and chant, but just by chanting the problem won’t be solved. The first step is to communicate and to discuss. Yet right now the problem is that the Chinese government has refused all along to communicate. He jokingly said: perhaps more than half of the brain power of the Chinese government is used for suspicions; it is always imagining how others are plotting against them. But if one has only suspicions and fear, one cannot accomplish anything. What’s more, he said, on the one hand he attaches much importance to communicating with the Chinese government. On the other hand, he also thinks that it is important for the two peoples to communicate. This is the significance of his meeting with me. Before, the mainland Hans he met were all exiled and could not return to their country. But the intellectuals who could both understand the Tibet problem objectively, and observe and speak within China, are not only able to help the Tibetan people and the solution of the Tibet problem, but can also be especially useful in helping the Han people to understand Tibet.
Dalai Lama was very eloquent. He spoke on various occasions every day and must have had a lot of practice already. His talk was clear and logical; the points were well-connected; and his diction was simple and precise. People who knew him had already told me before that when Dalai Lama met Han people in the past, they rarely had in-depth conversations. Sometimes he liked to look back in history and to talk about how Tibet was like in the fifties and how he met Mao Zedong. The interest of those Han people would then be focused on those topics, and after a few rounds of questions and answers, the time would already be nearly over. As a result, this kind of meeting were often more ceremonial than practical. Thus, I did not plan on asking him questions or interviewing him. Since our conversation was so limited by time, I could not really ask many questions anyway and would not have gotten anything for an interview. Better to use this time to say what I really wanted to say to him. The reason LD and WA spent so much effort to arrange for our meeting was because they hoped that I could say something that he could not hear from other people.
The arranged time for this meeting was only half an hour, and just interpreting took half the time. Thus after Dalai Lama had spoken, I did not have a long time to speak. The main point of what I said to Dalai Lama was this: if we view Tibet as a part of China, then I also see Dalai Lama as a leader of the Chinese people, and not just the leader of the Tibetans. The Tibet problem is not an isolated problem; it is a part of the China problem. Without having solved the China problem, one cannot solve the Tibet problem by itself. What I meant was: if the present political system in China does not change, and if one can only deal with the single-party Beijingregime, then there is no way that the Tibet problem can be fundamentally solved. Only when the totalitarian society in China changes into a pluralistic and open society, can one really solve the Tibet problem. Thus, I said, I hope that Dalai Lama not only uses his energy to solve the Tibet problem, but also to solve theChina problem.
In reaction to this, Dalai Lama jokingly said, right now I have been branded a separatist for merely talking about the Tibet problem. If I meddle in the internal affairs of China, who knows what they will call me? But jokes aside, he did not seem to disagree with the basic analysis that only after the China problem is solved can the Tibet problem really be solved.
During that meeting there was a strange interlude. As soon as Dalai Lama and I began talking, after only a few sentences, the fire alarm in the room suddenly went off. The bodyguards outside ran in to check, and I could hear someone talking in the intercom, as if the central control office was also checking. The confusion was quite overwhelming. Dalai Lama stopped talking and asked what happened. But those people could not find the problem, nor could they make the alarm stop ringing. So Dalai Lama talked with me while the alarm was still ringing. One of the bodyguards had to cover the alarm with his hands so the sound would not disturb us too much. More than ten minutes later, the alarm was finally overcome and silenced. Later I asked WA about this, and joked that I didn’t know what kind of omen this was. WA mumbled something and did not continue the topic. According to the Tibetan way of thinking, this should indeed mean something and therefore requires an explanation. I did not dare to ask further, since it might involve me – did the alarm go off because my appearance could result in some bad things, or was it predicting that my meeting with Dalai Lama could set some things “on fire?”
Time was soon almost over. LD and Dalai Lama’s secretary began to look at their watches frequently, and finally told us explicitly that we needed to stop. Before I said goodbye, I gave Dalai Lama a set of photographs taken during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. A Tibetan who had passed away took these photos. I said to Dalai Lama: no doubt the experience of the Cultural Revolution is a very painful memory for Tibet, but history is history and one cannot and should not forget it. Tibet has very few mementos left from the Cultural Revolution. Thus these photos are very valuable. Dalai Lama looked at each photo in good spirits. He recognized in one of the photos a man in a tall hat and painted in the face, being denounced. It was an aristocrat that he once knew very well. Among the photos was one of the Red Guards carrying a large propaganda picture and marching down Bolang Street. In the propaganda picture, a “liberated serf” was sweeping two clown-like persons away, one was Dalai, the other was Panchen. Dalai Lama laughed every now and then, but did not react when he saw the photo of a female Red Guard with obvious Tibetan features smashing with an ax the golden roof of a temple. Tibetans smashing by themselves the temples in which they had worshipped for centuries – this historical period has always been an unexplained puzzle, even for Dalai Lama.
As soon as we left the drawing room, we met in the corridor the next group coming to see Dalai Lama. Those people were carrying all sorts of TV equipments. WA told me that the one in front was the most famous black woman TV host inAmerica. We passed by them, and the time in between could be measured in seconds. It was clear to me how busy Dalai Lama’s daily schedule was.
LD came out as well and invited me to sit for a while in the bar downstairs. He could not accompany Dalai Lama to Los Angeles, because Dalai Lama had just met President Bush and there were many things that he must deal with in Washington. Thus he said goodbye to me there. He said that after more than half a year of effort, he was gratified to at last arrange the meeting between Dalai Lama and me. He further hoped that when I go to Los Angeles, I could have a more in-depth conversation with Dalai Lama. I gave him my heartfelt thanks.
3. Listening to Dalai Lama’s lecture in Washington
That same afternoon Dalai Lama was going to speak at a commencement ceremony. It was a school devoted to training political and diplomatic talents. Its English name was quite long: Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. I heard that many high officials in the American government graduated from there. The school has an old tradition - every year before graduation, the graduates vote on the celebrity they most want to speak at the commencement ceremony. This year after voting, Dalai Lama was in first place. The school then invited Dalai Lama to come to the ceremony. It happened that the date of the ceremony was the same as the date of Dalai Lama’s visit to Washington. Exiled Tibet had always been good at public relations, and especially valued this kind of school that commanded the future powers of America. Thus Dalai Lama accepted the invitation to come.
WA got two tickets for me. He had a lot of work, and had already seen a lot of this kind of events, so could not accompany me. By chance I had a friend who really wanted to go, so I made an appointment with her, and she also acted as my interpreter. Having already seen such tight security measures this morning, I was worried that this time we also needed to pass a security check. There were a lot of people attending the commencement ceremony, and it would take a long time for sure. So we came half an hour early, but the entrance was not restricted at all. Perhaps it was because at the commencement ceremony Dalai Lama was only a guest and not the main program, thus they could not check each visitor out of security concerns for him. Looking at it from a security perspective, as long as there was an event like this without security checks, the strict precautions this morning became completely meaningless, since assassins would of course avoid the situation this morning and choose a place like this one, in which it was both convenient and easy to flee from.
Before the commencement started, the graduates entered first. One of the graduates glued on her doctoral cap a white adhesive tape that read: “Free Tibet”, which was very conspicuous among the sea of black caps. One could witness this kind of scenes not only at events that Dalai Lama attended. Last year when I went to the New England countryside to attend a holiday festival with the people there, I also saw the snowy mountain and lions Tibetan flag. There were even a few people raising money for exiled Tibet. It is hard for those of us who have lived in China for so long to imagine the extent to which the Tibet issue impacts the western world.
After the graduates came in, the guests followed. Dalai Lama entered in the front of the procession. The audience cheered thunderously, mostly to Dalai Lama. The guests walked through the middle aisle to reach the stage. My seat was the fourth seat from the aisle, and my friend’s seat was the third seat. Dalai Lama stopped right beside us and kissed a child. Later my friend said with wistfulness that if she had sat at the aisle seat, she would speak to Dalai Lama, and would introduce me to Dalai Lama and tell him that I was a Chinese writer researching the Tibetproblem. I had not told her that I had just met Dalai Lama.
Before Dalai Lama spoke, the president of the university and a few other people gave speeches. Among them was a deputy secretary of the Department of Defense, a graduate from the school. As he explained what kind of official the deputy secretary of the Department of Defense was, he joked that whoever was interested in how many missiles China had pointed at the United States, they could ask him. From this kind of joke, one could see that in the thoughts of the American military organizations, China was taking the place of the collapsed Soviet Union.
Dalai Lama’s speech was scheduled for the last slot. He spoke at first in Tibetan, and a Tibetan stood beside him to translate. But after the beginning, he no longer needed the interpreter and began to speak English himself. He said that he could actually speak English. Though his pronunciation was not good, he could express the meanings clearly. Then why did he first speak in Tibetan? Because there was an interpreter right there. If he did not speak any Tibetan, then wouldn’t the interpreter be out of his job? His speech was very humorous, and the crowd erupted often in laughter. The central idea of his lecture was, human beings need to have knowledge and skills, thus humans need to be educated. You people came to this school to study in order to acquire knowledge and skills. But just having knowledge and skills is not enough. If at the same time you do not have the compassion for humanity and the sense of responsibility for society, then the effect of knowledge and skills becomes negative, becomes destructive to others, and would ultimately be destructive to yourself. The more you have knowledge and skills, the more destructive you become. Thus, only when someone possesses the compassion and sense of responsibility for society, can knowledge and skills have good impacts. His speech would have been right on target for the educational situation right now in China. The Chinese school now can produce large quantities of professionals. They are very clever and capable within their own professional fields, but they have no compassion or sense of responsibility towards society and humanity. These people often use their abilities to do bad things, and do them at a quite efficient level. This is not at all rare in China today.
After the speech, Dalai Lama departed immediately. The whole audience cheered thunderously again, and the applause did not die down for a long time. Dalai Lama frequently turned back and acknowledged the audience. We were not interested in the rest of the ceremony and left as well. Outside his row of cars had already started to move. People on both sides of the road waved to his car warmly. A female reporter was using her cell phone to dispatch the news. The president of the International Campaign for Tibet was also outside. He greeted me, then walked hurriedly away.
Outside it was a sunny and breezy spring day. I suddenly wondered how Beijing on the other side of the earth would look at all of this. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the signing of “Seventeen Agreements”. President Bush had chosen to meet Dalai Lama on this particular day, and even at the White House. Beijing would no doubt believe that this coincidence of time was a deliberately planned provocation. In the morning when I met Dalai Lama, he took care to tell me that this timing did not have any special meaning but was completely coincidental. If the schedule had been completely planned by the Americans, then I believe that they would have indeed not regarded the date as special. But though the Americans had not thought of it, the exiled Tibetan government should not have forgotten it. For Beijing, this kind of coincidence in time would no doubt constitute a severe aggravation. Recently the U.S. Congress had just passed a new bill regarding the Tibet policy. It granted more support for exiled Tibet. During Dalai Lama’s visit to America, Chen Shuibian was visiting America at the same time. He was received like an honored state guest in the same league as Jiang Zemin and Chu Rongji. His movement was also not as restricted as the two occasions before. He met many Congressmen, and had many other events planned. The mayor of New York City Giuliani would not meet Jiang Zemin, Zhu Rongji, or Li Peng when they came to New York City, and called them the representatives of totalitarianism and the executioners of the June 4th massacre. But when Chen Shuibian came to New York, he not only met with him, but also gave him the golden key of an honorary New Yorker. All of these would not doubt be seen by the Beijing regime as Bush’s deliberate provocation toward China after his inauguration. They would further believe that various forces in favor of Tibet independence, Taiwan independence, and other anti-China stances were coming together under the manipulations of theUnited States.
It happened that I also came to the U.S. around this time and even met Dalai Lama secretly. Would the Chinese regime see this as a part of the conspiracy, too?
4. Second meeting with Dalai Lama
That night I had dinner with WA, JM, and another Tibetan couple at a Chinese restaurant near JM’s house. JM had just bought a new house. It was a town house. He had lived in the U.S. for more than ten years, but had always rented apartments. What he spent on rent had long surpassed what he would have paid for a house. Now he finally bought a house. This signified that his plans had changed. Before he would not buy a house because he had always thought that he would not reside permanently in the U.S. and would sooner or later return to Tibet. Now he had finally begun to face ”reality”.
After dinner we parted, and I went with JM to his new house to talk. JM looked a bit wooden on the outside but was actually a deep thinker. In the eighties he visited India, and from there joined Dalai Lama. At that time his choice was completely based on his idealism. Otherwise, if he had stayed in China, with a high official as father he could have had anything he wanted. Later he came to Americato study with the encouragement and arrangement of Dalai Lama. Now he was the chairman of the Tibetan department in some radio station. While I conversed with him, I smiled often, but there was always a bit of sadness inside of me. He did not tell me what he thought of the future of Tibet, but I sensed that deep inside he was no longer so confident and firm as before. It was not so much that he changed, but that more than ten years had passed, and his ideal not only did not became closer, they seemed further away. I think every Tibetan dedicated to freedom and ideals would have been downcast in the face of this, unless they deliberately try to avoid it in their hearts. Only when he talked about playing bridge with his father on the Internet did he smile somewhat happily. Recently his sister passed away. He requested to return to China to see her, but was not allowed. His father was already ninety-two years old. Not allowing father and son to be reunited was really too cruel.
I don’t understand why the government in China is so petty in such details. Especially since his father helped the Communist Party tremendously in the occupation of Tibet, they should not have been so vengeful n the matter of his son. It chills one to the hearts.
That night I stayed with JM. The house was not yet furnished; in my room there was only a mattress on the rug. The next day, on the morning of May 25th, JM took me to the airport before he went to work. I flew to Los Angeles from there. I started to, but finally did not, tell him that I came to the U.S. to see Dalai Lama. It was not because I wanted to keep anything secret, because JM was very trustworthy. It was rather because I did not know to what extent I should have told him. Then it was better not to say anything at all. But I think he could have guessed from my schedule - wherever Dalai Lama went I followed. Many people noticed it. If agencies in China wanted to analyze my whereabouts, they could have of course guessed the connection as well.
WA flew from another airport on the same day, and reached Los Angeles more than an hour later. Dalai Lama’s group had already arrived the day before. WA reserved a room in Pasadena Hilton, the hotel where Dalai Lama was staying. I went there to meet him. Dalai Lama’s main objective in Los Angeles was to host a three-day Buddhist scripture meeting for the Chinese Buddhists there. This was the second time that he came to Los Angeles to teach the holy manuscripts. Its purpose on the one hand was to spread Buddhism. On the other hand, it also showed that exiled Tibet was concentrating more of their efforts on the Chinese people. They could not communicate with the Hans within China now, so they were trying to form a united front with the Hans overseas.
On May 26th, the second day of Dalai Lama’s scripture teaching, WA and I went to hear the lessons in the morning. He was teaching the Ban Ruo Xin Jing. Before entering one must pass through a security check. No bags were allowed. Everyone had to pass through a metal detector, and there were policemen sweeping people with wands. Dalai Lama’s bodyguards followed him from Washington. I heard that their personal and equipment costs had long exceeded the spending of Dalai Lama’s own group, but of course, they were spending the money of the U.S.government. The people coming to hear the lesson already seemed very numerous to me. There were not only Chinese, but also many Americans. Among them were also Buddhist monks of every kind, coming from many different countries. But WA and his colleagues still thought that the organization was not good enough and that not enough people came. Perhaps it was in comparison to the occasions they had seen before.
My meeting with Dalai Lama was scheduled between the two lessons in the morning and in the afternoon. After hearing the lesson in the morning, I had a picnic-styled lunch with WA and BQ outside of the hall. We discussed how to proceed with the conversation with Dalai Lama this time. The time scheduled for us was not as sufficient as we had expected. In fact it was not so much more than the first meeting, thus we must consider how to say as much as possible in a short time, while also explaining clearly what we wanted to say. WA thought that it was really inauspicious that LD did not come to Los Angeles. Though others would also arrange time for us, they would not put us in an important slot. If LD had arranged it, he would not have scheduled the meeting in such a tight space.
Fortunately I had already printed my two articles in advance. One was titled “Successive multi-tier Electoral System and Representative Democracy: A Comparison of Solutions to the Tibet Problem”. The other was: “The Most Effective Non-Violent Method – Successive Multi-tier Electoral System”. My thoughts about how to solve the Tibet problem were all in these two articles. I would give the articles to Dalai Lama. If he wanted to read them, he would have them translated into Tibetan. This way we could save many words. Otherwise to go over these contents in detail would require a few days. If our meeting had been in India, as we had planned in the beginning, it would all be different. Neither of us would have needed to hurry. I could speak with him whenever he was free. But during a foreign visit, in which everything was measured in minutes and seconds, one could not really develop a theoretical conversation. I could only prepare in advance and give him my articles, and then concentrate my talk on a few important points.
Our meeting time came. We went in through the side door of the auditorium. The side door served for the moment as the personal entrance for Dalai Lama. There were bodyguards both outside and inside. We were led into the resting room on the side of the auditorium. It was not large, very simply furnished, and did not have too much light. It could not even come close to the hotel in Washington where Dalai Lama had stayed. Walking inside the room, I saw Dalai Lama sitting in the lotus position on the couch. Seeing me, he stood up to greet me, and extended his bare feet to put on the slippers under the couch. It was a pair of cheap wedge slippers made of rubber or some synthetic material. In China only ordinary laborers would wear them. This time Dalai Lama shook my hands as if I were a friend, and pulled me to the sofa to sit down. I sat down directly, and Dalai Lama stood and spoke with WA and his group. Later I realized that no matter what occasion it was, If Dalai Lama had not sat down, the other Tibetans would never sit down first. That day except for WA and BQ, there was also the secretary of Dalai Lama, as well as the chairman of the New York office of the exiled Tibetan government. Last year I saw him at the conference in Boston. A cheerful, mild, and affable man, he graduated from Moscow University.
Since time was urgent, I started speaking before Dalai Lama had said very much, because if he started to speak, then it would not be polite to interrupt him, and he was usually very talkative and would not have left me with too much time in the end. I first gave him my two articles and told him that my thoughts about how to solve the Tibet problem were all within, and that I hoped it would be useful for him. Dalai Lama gave the article to BQ and said something. I could not understand what he said. I hope that he was telling BQ to find someone to translate for him, and I hope that BQ would really give the translated article to Dalai Lama. But to tell the truth, I don’t know whether exiled Tibet works in the same way as the ”Self-Governing Region of Tibet”, in which many things end up not getting done.
I had already discussed with WA in advance what I wanted to say. We had also decided that some things I would only bring up the beginning, and he would continue on in Tibetan. This way we could save a lot of time. I first talked about the situation and problems in current Tibet. On the one hand, its economy has indeed made a lot of progress. On the other hand, the Tibetan traditional culture is being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. I especially cited the example of “prostitute city”, recently appearing in the western part of Tibet. It is a dirty and disorderly field, with hundreds of pitched tents, which Tibetan prostitutes use as a place to entertain their guests. Most of the people who visit the prostitutes are also Tibetans. Empty beer bottles are stacked into walls around the tents; the sounds of mahjong and flirting reverberate everywhere… Although in theory, the Tibet problem will be resolved one of those days, but if too much time elapses, it will only be resolved in terms of politics. Though Tibet will then receive self-governance and political freedom, it will no longer be the Tibet that Dalai Lama so yearns for, nor theTibet that those who love Tibet hope to see. It will instead have become a nondescript Tibet, not so different from the other regions of China. Thus, one cannot comfort oneself by saying that there will eventually come a day when theTibet problem can be resolved. The Tibet problem must be resolved while the Tibetis still the real Tibet, still the Tibet that preserves its traditional culture; only then can the resolution be a meaningful one. This means that resolving the Tibet problem is not an endless wait, but rather a fight for each minute and second.
I then went on to speak about the dilemma Dalai Lama found himself in when he wanted to use non-violent methods to solve the Tibet problem. Non-violent methods require three conditions to be effective. The first condition is that the opponent must have a conscience. Just as Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Our ability to bear suffering will dry up your hatred. When we win our freedom, we will wake up your conscience and win you over.” This way, the non-violent side can use its own suffering to make the other side unable to bear the condemnation of its own conscience and to concede in the end. The second condition is that it requires the opponent to have highly advanced rule of law. When Gandhi fought against the English colonists, one of his important methods was to use the English law to constantly bring up lawsuits. In the legal system of England, if one could prove what was illegal about the opponent’s actions, one could win through the legal process even if the opponent was the government itself. The third condition is that there must be nongovernmental communities. In other words, aside from the regime, the society must have space for nongovernmental organizations and the activities of various unofficial groups, which can motivate and organize the society. This way the non-violent side is not in a state of disunity, but able to unify and coordinate with each other. Only then can the non-violent struggle be effective on a large scale. But these three conditions do not exist in present day China. In a one party rule, the current communist regime has neither conscience nor a rule of law in any real sense. At the same time, it tries in every way to limit and destroy nongovernmental communities. Thus for the three representatives of non-violent opposition in today’s world – Gandhi, King, and Dalai Lama, — only the former two could be successful, and Dalai Lama cannot make any real progress. In the word of a Taiwanese proverb, Dalai Lama using the non-violent method against the Chinese government is like “mosquitoes stinging a bull horn”.
I said, right now the methods of non-violent opposition are all passive. Whether or not the goal can be realized depends entirely upon whether the opposing side – namely, the Chinese government – would yield or not. No matter how much support you get internationally, how many congresses pass resolutions regarding theTibet problem, how many international organizations condemn China, how many exiled Tibetans demonstrate, protest, hunger strike, or set themselves on fire, none of this can have a direct effect. Though they create pressure on Beijing, they can only be called useful if Beijing will yield under the pressure. If Beijing does not care and pays no attention to the pressure, then there is nothing anyone can do, and the methods will not be effective at all. In the situation in China right now, we cannot yet see what kind of pressure would force the government to yield on the Tibetproblem, and thus there has been no positive outlook on the non-violent opposition thus far.
I told Dalai Lama, I am against all violence, and completely approve of his non-violent principles. But with the realities in China and in Tibet, we must find a new method for non-violent opposition. With the new method, the effect would not have to be realized only when the opponent yields. It would be an activity dependent only upon oneself. The more one does, the more progress one makes and the more the goal comes true. In the end, whatever one accomplishes, he would win exactly the same amount of victory. Only when one finds such a method, which is different from the non-violent methods in the past, can one take the destiny into one’s own hands, and no longer depend on the favor that the powerful opponent may or may not grant.
Later WA told me, he had interpreted for Dalai Lama many times before. This time his expression was the most grave. He had never seen Dalai Lama with such a grave expression; it even made him afraid.
I continued to say, successive multi-tier electoral system is such a new method. Specifically, take the election of a village: as soon as the villagers there realize one thing – from then on, they would only recognize the village head that they elected themselves, and would no longer obey the person appointed by the authorities, whether it is a village head or a secretary of the party, then advanced self-governance is realized in that village. When another village do the same, they have also realized advanced self-governance. When all or most villages in the township do so, they can begin the election on the next level – all the village heads come together to elect the leader of the township, and only recognize the township leader that they elected themselves and no longer obey the leader appointed by the authorities. This township then would also have realized advanced self-governance. Thus step by step, from township to country, from county to region, the advanced self-governance of whole Tibet can be gradually realized through the individual changes of each of the societal units. In the past, the way to change society was from the top down. In other words, from the very beginning there must be total changes on the highest level. The ruling authorities must first agree to the total change, or else one must use violence to overthrow the ruling authorities. But in the method of the successive multi-tier electoral system, change occurs from the bottom up, from the most basic societal organizations, controlled by the members of the community themselves and not dependent on the concessions of those in power. This can thus break the impasse of the current Tibet problem.
Of course, in the beginning stages, this process must go through certain trials. For instance, the authorities have imprisoned the township leader. What should one do then? No problem, elect another one. It is convenient for the village heads from the same township to elect a new township leader together. Then the village heads would still only recognize the township leader they elected themselves. Though the township leader appointed by the authorities could use the office and the seal of the township, if the village heads do not obey him, he would be nothing more than an empty title. If the authorities arrested the second elected township leader, then one can continue with the non-violent method and elect the third township leader. In short, the authorities can use violence and arrest constantly, and we can constantly elect peacefully. Can they arrest everybody? If they think that merely arresting the township leaders is not enough, and want to further arrest the village heads who elected the township leader, then the people in each village will then elect their new village head, and let the new village heads elect a new township leader. Unless they arrest everybody, this kind of election could go on indefinitely. Non-violent movements have a slogan “to fill up the prisons”. One should try to act on this slogan then, in order to advance wave upon wave and to never give up. For those who are elected, the danger should not be too great for them, since they were passively elected, and not the “bosses” who control from behind the scene in traditional struggles. For the real “bosses”, the authorities could try to arrest “the small few”, but since successive multi-tier electoral system is an election from the very bottom, it is the act of the majority, arresting “a small few” would lose its effectiveness. Of course, the reality would not be so simple, and the courage of man would not always be so sufficient. But as long as one perseveres, very soon the oppression of the authorities cannot continue, because it does not have so many prisons. In the grand tide of freedom and democracy and under the gazes of the whole world, it also could not apply the ultimate repression to tens of thousands of people who only participated in an election.
I said to Dalai Lama, there is another advantage to the successive multi-tier electoral system. It non-violently transforms the totalitarian system from the bottom up, and does not need to directly challenge the highest totalitarian authority from the very beginning. Thus the totalitarian powers would have relatively more tolerance for it. In contrast, those top-down methods for advanced self-governance must clash with the totalitarian powers and enter the stage where one must eliminate the other from the very beginning. Therefore, it is hard for totalitarian regimes to tolerate it. In the successive multi-tier electoral system, only in the final stages – when the chiefs from all the regions in Tibet come together to elect the highest leader of the whole Tibet - would the system completely replace the totalitarian powers inTibet. By that time, the totalitarian regime will no longer have the power to repress. The advanced self-governance of Tibet could thus be accomplished completely without violence.
Of course, with this method the process will be quite long. One must bear all of the hardships oneself. No doubt, obtaining permission for self-governance directly from the Chinese government requires only a few words from Beijing and would have been much easier. But the problem is: when is Beijing going to say those words? If it never opens its mouth, then must one wait forever, until Tibet is no longer Tibet, and Tibetans are no longer Tibetans? This kind of waiting, with one’s destiny in someone else’s hands, has no hope and no end in sight. Though it is not easy in a successive multi-tier electoral system, at least one’s destiny is in one’s own hands. One requires only oneself for progress, and moreover, the more one does, the closer one comes to the goal. The only requirements are one’s own courage and patience. As long as one keeps going, one would reach the goal sooner or later. Going down this road, the difficult part is only the beginning. When one jumps over the hurdles in the very start, it would become increasingly simple in the end, and could even carry the situation through with very little resistance.
I said in the end, perhaps at the moment one does not yet have the conditions to immediately implement the successive multi-tier electoral system within Tibet, but the Tibetan communities overseas could at least first experiment a little, research the method from theory to practice, and accumulate some experience. At the same time, they can wait for opportunities to start the process in Tibet. Tibetans have an exiled community. This on the one hand is their misfortune, but one the other hand can be turned into a unique advantage.
After hearing me speak, Dalai Lama opened his mouth. But what he said seemed rather irrelevant and far-fetched to me. From his doctrine of the ”middle road”, he went on to the question of who should rule the future Tibet, to the fact that the Panchen Lama is to this day under house arrest, and his own feelings of guilt. For a while, I even thought that he did not understand what I just said, or did not really listen. But soon, he came back to my topic. Perhaps his meandering then was just to give himself more time to decide on his reply. He said, one can only attach the hope for a solution to the Tibet problem to reforms within China itself. It must also depend on the people in Tibet now and the various Tibetan officials. Right now, he has been branded a separatist by Beijing though he has not yet engaged in any activities aiming at the region within the Tibet borders. If he really starts to do something aimed at Tibet, he would no doubt be seen as an even bigger enemy. His implication was that to reach a solution of the Tibet problem, he could only urge for change and wait quietly overseas, but could not initiate any activities directed against Tibet itself.
He only asked one substantial question. He said that right now, Tibetans were imprisoned for merely expressing different opinions, how could they elect officials according to their own wishes? What would happen then if they did not obey the leaders appointed by the communist party? Wouldn’t the situation be even worse then?
I answered in this way: since in a successive multi-tier electoral system, everyone participates from the bottom up, violent repression will not be able to prevail against so many people, and thus will lose its effect. Moreover, the units that participate in successive multi-tier electoral system only govern themselves internally, but externally they still obey the original system. If the authorities tolerate it, then the old system can still operate. If they insist on repression, the old system would malfunction or even break down. Thus, if one continues with enough patience and the courage to fill up the prisons, the authorities – especially the authorities whose power is declining – would most likely concede. Furthermore, China has issued and implemented “Villagers Self-Governance Legislation”. There is now legal basis for elections and self-governance within the village. It would be perfectly justifiable to do so. As long as one can elect officials freely on the village level, one has already planted the roots for successive multi-tier electoral system, and acquired the foundation to ascend and expand. Of course there will be risks. The totalitarian powers will not be reconciled to the fact that there are alien elements within its own system. But compared to the other methods of reform, successive multi-tier electoral system should be the least risky and the most likely to succeed.
Dalai Lama thought that free elections based on the “Villagers Self-Governance Legislation” was a good idea. But in the end, he still maintained that it should be accomplished by the people and officials within Tibetan borders. Tibetans overseas could assist them, but one must attach all the hope for the future of Tibet to the people within the Tibetan borders.
Later I said to WA, how could one attach all the hope to the people within Tibetan borders? They are not organized and do not have sufficient information. By themselves they cannot accomplish anything systematic. The biggest hope to solve the Tibet problem is Dalai Lama. If he let the matter drop, the unorganized Tibetan people would not have any direction. But WA had another opinion- though in the beginning Dalai Lama’s speech was rambling and meandering, in the end it returned to the central theme clearly, with very distinct internal logic and clear-cut ideas. Though there were some diplomatic utterances, his answer did not veer from my central topic. But he was definitely moved by my suggestion, otherwise his expression would not have been so grave. I guess that perhaps Dalai Lama was not able to clearly express anything on my ideas, since after all, he did not know me well. He could have taken me for a writer coming for an interview. If I had published later that Dalai Lama would do this and that, this might harm him politically. Thus he could only speak in a way that would not cause any trouble.
But at the end of this meeting, Dalai Lama asked me to arrange a time to speak to me again, thus I believed that he really did want to further listen to me. I advocated successive multi-tier electoral system to him, not only for the benefit ofTibet, but also because I hoped that solving the Tibet problem could be a beginning for the implementation of successive multi-tier electoral system everywhere. For a new system to start, the hardest part is the beginning. I believe that Tibet is the most appropriate place for this beginning. First, there is an exiled community for experimentation, whereas within China there is no such possibility for experimentations. Second, there is Dalai Lama. His summons could give the Tibetan people courage to take extensive action, but in China there is no one who has enough strength for such mobilization. Third is that Tibet has religious beliefs, and thus could easily generate the spirit of “filling the prisons”, but it is harder for a Chinese to have such courage. The decisive element here is of course Dalai Lama, since he controls both the exiled Tibetan community and the religious beliefs of Tibetans. Thus as long as he accepts it, successive multi-tier electoral system can then begin in Tibet and affect a breakthrough. And if Tibet can succeed, it could serve as an example for reforms in Chinese society. Thinking about it this way,Dalai, Tibet, and successive multi-tier electoral system together can inaugurate a new era.
Of course, these are only the thoughts in my head. To influence Dalai Lama, just thirty or forty minutes of conversation is not enough. He has already lived for several decades in the old ideological framework. The fact that his career relies heavily on the west also determines that he cannot stray too far from the western mainstream paradigms and its value system. Right now, the construction of the political system in the exiled Tibetan community is also imitating the congressional model in the west. This kind of politics could perhaps be implemented in the exiled Tibetan communities, but to copy it entirely in the vast Tibetan farms and fields would certainly be problematic.
When we took our leave and came out, there was already a crowd of south Asian looking people waiting outside the resting room. In the front there was a role of gorgeously dressed children. Everybody had bright and colorful flowers and hada in his hands. Before the teaching of scripture in the afternoon, Dalai Lama had to meet more people.
5. Listening to Dalai Lama speak in Los Angeles
That night Dalai Lama gave a speech at the University of California at Los Angeles. It was still WA who got me the tickets. I was like a real fan, not missing any opportunity to see him. I was indeed interested in this Tibetan lama, and wanted to observe him in all occasions. A friend in the city drove and translated for me. Coming out of the hotel, we saw Dalai Lama just leaving the hotel. The securities temporarily prohibited other people from entering or leaving the main entrance, and cleared a way for him to leave the lobby and get into his car. When he was blessing the crowd on the sides, he saw me. We smiled at each other, and did not say anything more.
The site of the speech was at the gymnasium in the University. The ticket cost $6. A Tibetan lama lingered in front of the ticket counter. He thought the ticket was too expensive. Since WA did not come, we had one extra ticket to give to the lama. Sometimes I tried to guess how much income Dalai Lama had from this type of events, and how did he use it? With his star power, if he had a good agent, he should have no problem earning huge amounts. Though he himself did not need money, exiled Tibet did. Everyone would understand if he used commercial means and his star power to generate income for exiled Tibet. But I heard that he really disliked associating his own movement with money, and often did things for free or even paid himself. The donation money that his disciples gave him was often given in the next instant to someone else. WA once told me that when he visited Taiwanwith Dalai Lama, Dalai Lama asked that all the money that they received in Taiwanto remain in Taiwan. The donation of the Taiwanese was very generous. People working for exiled Tibet must witness Dalai Lama giving away large sums just received. They were secretly distressed. This kind of money could accomplish so many things for exiled Tibet!
The gymnasium was very big. The seats within were mostly filled. Many chairs were also placed in the floor in the middle. According to the news, twenty thousand people were coming. Before the speech began, the large screen above the gym played a documentary about the reincarnated Panchen Lama recognized by Dalai Lama – the documentary film called him the youngest political prisoner in the world. Many celebrities appeared in the film. Among them, the Tutu Cardinal said something very wise: “Freedom is cheaper than repression.” Indeed, I deeply agree with this point. If China grants Tibet advanced self-governance, it would spend much less money than now, but obtain much better results.
Before Dalai Lama appeared, the lights in the gym dimmed, while bright lights illuminated the stage, as if a drama was about to begin. When he appeared on the stage, everyone gave him a standing ovation. But he was blinded by the light above and had to shield his eyes with his hands to look at and to greet the people welcoming him. His movements were natural and completely without artifice. At this age in which everything was a show, on stage politicians only wanted to show off themselves. But he was charismatic precisely because he was not artificial (of course, one could also say that he had the cleverest artifice, which expressed itself as naturalness). There was a single chair in the middle of the stage, brightly illuminated by lights. It was hard for anyone not to feel awkward, sitting in that chair and knowing that in the darkness tens of thousands of eyes were fixed upon him. But he acted as if he was at home, sitting on the chair and crossing his legs into a lotus position. The audience laughed sympathetically at this gesture. Even with their own celebrities, they could not see someone so free and easy. I was already familiar with this position. Whether in the presidential suite in Washington, or in the small resting room in the Los Angeles auditorium, he was always in this position. He was always barefoot and wore only slippers, maybe so it was more convenient to take his shoes off and cross his legs. Tibetans, especially Tibetan monks, found their most natural positions in sitting cross-legged. Perhaps once he crossed his legs on stage, he felt as if he was already at home.
Dalai Lama’s speech was in English. His interpreter sat next to him and only reminded him when he came across a word that he didn’t know. There were four sides to the large screen above the gymnasium, which broadcasted four giant close-ups of him at the same time. His speech was on some topics about life and wisdom. I no longer remember the specific content. I am interested in the political problem in Tibet, but he seldom talks about politics to the western audience, and instead speaks about life philosophies and religion. His popularity with the western public is due largely to the fact that he has an image of a wise man and a religious leader, and not just the representative of a repressed races\. The sympathy obtained purely from a political angle is too limited. There are so many repressed races in the world, and so many people telling the suffering of their people and advocating for his own race. Why is the western public not interested in them? Because there are too many sufferings worthy of sympathy, and too many injustices worthy of condemnation. They all speak to the western audience, but there is not enough time to listen to all. Moreover, asking them to give something every day, and soon they will be exhausted, and even fed up. But Dalai Lama is different. He makes the western audience feel that they are not asked to give, but that they are given, they receive, they are the beneficiaries. They receive from Dalai Lama advice on life, exaltation with philosophy, and the fulfillment of religious feelings. Therefore, they warmly welcome and love him.
Dalai Lama is intelligent. He himself does not talk about the political problem inTibet, but that does not mean that the Tibet problem is ignored or overlooked. Other people would talk about this topic for him. Take this speech for example: the documentary in the beginning had already embellished the Tibet problem quite sentimentally. The prologue given by the university president was also about theTibet problem. This is the norm. At every occasion that Dalai Lama appear in, there are always celebrities, congressmen, or stars from the west introducing him and talking about the Tibet problem, expressing their condemnation for the Chinese government, calling upon the western public to support the freedom movement ofTibet, etc. So when he begins to speak, he no longer mentions it. Since there are already people saying these things for him, what is the use of saying them himself? Isn’t it smarter to let the others speak?
That night I did not really listen to the content of Dalai Lama’s speech, but was mainly watching the reaction of the audience. The Americans around me almost all watched him with admiration. They were completely transfixed, sometimes nodding knowingly, sometimes bursting out with laughter. Faced with them, Dalai Lama was completely within his elements and directed the thoughts and emotions of thousands in the gym with total ease. Watching such a scene, I was very moved. All the more, I realized what a rare leader he is. Such a figure is so wanting in China, but futureChina desperately needs such a leader. Such a leader is worth more than a mountain of gold. One of the most lacking elements in the political transformation of future China is the leader. The source of leaders of the Han people themselves has almost been completely exhausted. For so many years, I observed one figure after another who appeared on the political arena, hoping to see one leader who could possibly lead the future China out of the crisis. I finally gave up my hope. My Han compatriots did not lack excellent talents in many fields, but the person who possessed all qualifications never appeared. This kind of figure is not a warlord who despotically rules a territory, not an official good at schemes and tricks, nor a rebel who rises in revolt. It must be a leader who can balance all factors, unify all sides, who has personal charms and spiritual authority, who is accepted and admired by the whole world, who is able to lead China to complete the transformation to freedom and democracy and create a new society, who, at the same time, does not use power as a private property. In short, it should be a leader like Dalai Lama.
If Dalai Lama were Han, no one but him would become the leader who controls the future destiny of China. But if he were really Han, could he have been the Dalai Lama of today? Then again, though he is not Han, why can he not be Chinese? Chinese is not necessarily Han. He has often expressed the belief that Tibet can stay in China, and thus in effect admitting that he could be Chinese. I have a friend who visited Dharamsala, and heard him saying something like this: “If Mr. Jiang Zemin could solve the Tibet problem, I am willing to nominate him as the second Chinese who wins the Nobel Peace Prize.” Put this way, who is the first Chinese who has won the Nobel Peace Prize? Who could it be but him? If he could be a Chinese, of course he could be the leader of the Chinese!
I did not come to this idea only that night. In January 2000, in my first article in the new millennium ”The Summary of a Fantasy Novel about Dalai Lama and Excerpts from Another Novel”, I wrote as a story my visions about the two possible endings of the Tibet problem. The two endings are one negative and one positive (of course negative or positive for me). The negative one is that after the passing away of the 14th Dalai Lama, he reincarnates his successor in America, and from then on realized the independence of Tibet. The positive ending is that Dalai Lama is elected as the national leader of the Chinese, and becomes the stabilizing element which ensures that China safely goes through the period of political transformation. A friend of mine who converted to Tibetan Buddhism told these two stories to the Wuming Buddhist Institute in Kanquseda. After he came back to Beijing, he told me that, when he narrated the first story, the monks all nodded in agreement. But when he told the second story, the monks all fell into silence with strange expressions.
In any case, while I listened to Dalai Lama’s speech in Los Angeles, I began to think specifically about all this – what needs to be done to make Dalai Lama the leader of future China. For Dalai Lama, all the other qualifications he already has: fame, influence, the recognition from international society, the spiritual authority, and the ability to unite the various ethnicities and peoples in China, all of this is already sufficient. The only problem, and the biggest problem, is that right now he is not yet understood and accepted by the Hans. This is a fatal problem. More than ninety percent of the population in China is Han. Without being known and accepted by the Hans, it would not work no matter how good one is in other areas. But one can think about it from another perspective: ordinary Chinese people do not necessarily need a leader that they know. Circumstances make heroes. In a certain historical juncture, the public could readily accept a leader overnight. Though Dalai Lama is not Han, he has a high Buddhist position, and could transcend the differences of race for the Han people with Buddhist cultures. The important task now is to let the elite class among the Han people understand and accept him, because a leader cannot work without the recognition and cooperation of the elite class. And the acceptance of the elite class cannot happen at the last moment – then it would be too late. We need to let them understand and accept Dalai Lama as soon as possible.
It occurred to me that night that what I can do is to write a book, and to introduce to my Han compatriots in detail what kind of person Dalai Lama is, what is he about, what benefits he could bring to China, and how he could help the transformation of the Chinese society. There is no such book at the moment, especially no book that is especially written for the Han people. Right now besides the propaganda of the Chinese government, the Han people basically know nothing about Dalai Lama. There are indeed many books in the world about Dalai Lama, but books written by Tibetans or foreigners are hard to accept by the Hans. The Han people have lived in an environment of deliberate propaganda for so many years, it is easy for them to dismiss those books as propaganda material for an ideology, only that the position is the opposite from the position of the Communist Party. In this area, books written by a Han would be better accepted by Han people. This could be seen from my book “Sky Burial”. Though before there were already many books about the Tibet problem, but, in the words of He Qinglian, only “Sky Burial” brought the Tibet problem into the field of vision of the Chinese intelligentsia. ”Sky Burial” helped them to understand the basic concepts of theTibet problem, and to begin to ponder the problem in-depth. Before this, though the Tibet problem was a hot topic in the international discussion, the Chinese intelligentsia had always considered it an ideological topic, and believed that it was not worth being considered from historical, political, and religious perspectives. One of the reasons for this attitude is that, all of the comments about Tibet before this, whether from the Communist Party, exiled Tibetans, or the western world, have always had a strong ideological flavor, and were thus rejected as propaganda from their consideration. But “Sky Burial” on the one hand broke away from ideology, and used the thought methods and analytical perspectives of an intellectual; on the other hand, since the author was a Han, they believed at least that it was not separatist, and found it easier to read. Although reading does not necessarily mean acceptance, as long as they start to confront, start to think, their first impressions and prejudices can be broken and the result is much more productive and beneficial. Looking from this perspective, it is the same with books about Dalai Lama. If I can write it, Han intellectuals would be more willing to read it. It will thus encourage them to think more about Dalai Lama and interest them in understanding Dalai Lama better. This way their original ignorance and rejection of Dalai Lama can be changed.
However, I only considered this project, but did not yet know when I can start doing it. To start it requires a few conditions. The first is to be able to converse with Dalai Lama many times and in a thorough way, and to observe him from close quarters. I don’t know whether this is possible, and when I can have such an opportunity
6. Third meeting with Dalai Lama
My third meeting with scheduled at 9:00 a.m. on May 27th. Every day when Dalai Lama got up, he first read some scripture and medicated, then discussed work and breakfasted. Before seeing me he had another meeting. Then he would talk to me, and then go to the scripture lessons. This time our meeting would take place in his room in the hotel. WA and I first waited in BQ’s room. BQ’s room and Dalai Lama’s room were on the same floor, not too far away from each other.
While we waited, Dalai Lama asked his Tibetan-Chinese interpreter, a 20-something Taiwanese, to first come over and speak with us. I don’t know why he arranged it in such a way. The young interpreter and I had no specific topics, and just randomly chatted for a while. The interpreter had been sent to the Sela Templein India to study Tibetan and religion when he was not yet ten. He looked very innocent and not yet learned in the ways of the world. He mostly interpreted for Dalai Lama in matters of religion. The past few days he had interpreted at the scripture meetings. Yesterday, when I listened to the lesson, I felt that he could translate the literal meaning, but not the spirit of the words to the audiences. For instance: the American audiences at the lesson listened to a simultaneous translation in English with earphones. Often, the people listening to the earphones laughed, but not the people listening to the Chinese translation. This interpreter was too young, and also born in Taiwan, and thus had no knowledge of many events such as the Cultural Revolution or the movement against Rightism in the mainland. I could not imagine how he could be a good interpreter between Dalai Lama and the mainland Han people. It is different with English translation. There are many people good at English among the exiled Tibetans. I heard that Dalai Lama’s English interpreter is outstanding. One can see that from the results of the simultaneous interpretation at the scripture lessons. But the people the Tibetans most need to know and to communicate with are not westerners, but Hans, whether or not they want to emotionally. Thus discovering and using people talented with Chinese are very important for exiled Tibet. My feeling is that they did not seem to have done enough in this area.
Fortunately, WA interpreted for Dalai Lama and me. With him, I could hardly feel the language barrier. Often I did not even need to finish what I said, and he could already translate according to my intentions. There were many words about which even I could not be sure, but he could always prompt me appropriately. To ensure the quality of our talk, WA interrupted his own work and flew acrossAmerica to be our interpreter. This showed, on the one hand, how serious and important they thought this was, and on the other hand, showed that Dalai Lama really lacked good Han speakers by his side.
Since Dalai Lama arranged this meeting himself, and we did not have to save every seconds for speaking and to forget anything else, I, like many other people who saw Dalai Lama, began to ponder how to get a little souvenir. After all, seeing Dalai Lama was not easy. Thus I brought a book written by Dalai Lama. It was a Taiwanese translation, titled “Living More Happily”. Originally, I had only wanted Dalai Lama to sign his name on the book. Just the words “Dalai Lama” would have been enough. I planned to give the book to the family member of the photographer who took those photos during the Cultural Revolution, as a thank-you gift for the photos I gave to Dalai Lama. But holding the book and pen, Dalai Lama thought seriously for a while before he wrote. It was not just an autograph, but quite a lengthy passage in Tibetan, addressed to me. WA later translated it for me. It meant: “For scholar Mr. Wang Lixiong. I pray that you may use your wisdom to find the truth of things, in order to make a large and beneficial contribution to yourself and to humanity.” The signature was “Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso”, dated “May 27th, 2001″. Of course, I would not give the book to someone else now. But since I was afraid that when I returned home it would be confiscated at the custom, I had to give it to WA to keep for me, and did not bring the book back toChina.
I began the conversation by speaking about the speech Dalai Lama gave at the University of California, and went on to the success exiled Tibet has had internationally. I then spoke about my belief that he was first and foremost a spiritual leader, and then a political leader. I said, as a political leader, he is only Tibetan. But as a spiritual leader, he can transcend races and ethnicities. His influence among the western audience is due to the fact that he is a spiritual leader. But for the Han people, he has not been successful in this respect. I had said the same things to LD. The majority of Han people have the same opinion with Beijingon the Tibet question. For them, Dalai is only a political figure who wants Tibetan independence politically and tries to separate it from China. They are ignorant about his religious function and his spiritual role. Of course this is partly due to the information block and the deliberate distortion by the Communist Party, but it is also due to the fact that exiled Tibet spent most of its energy on the West, and did not attach enough importance to China and the Hans. Moreover, the conversation withChina is focused too much on nationalism and ideology, and neither stresses the difference between the government in Beijing and the Chinese people, nor consciously tries to broaden the religious influence of Dalai Lama in the mainland or to cultivate among the ordinary Han people the image of Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader. What’s more, there is a further relationship that needs to be adjusted. The two events — exiled Tibet’s success with the west and failure with China - are indeed connected. Their original tactics has resulted in an inverse relationship: the more successful exiled Tibet is with the west, the less successful it is with the Chinese mainland, since the elements that enabled it to win over the hearts of the western audience are also the elements that cause it to lose support among the Hans. How to position the two sides should be reconsidered.
While listening to these opinions, Dalai Lama continually nodded. Furthermore, I said, even in terms of politics, there are also areas that need to be improved. For instance, there is the “middle road” advocated by Dalai Lama, which does not demand independence but only self-governance. Just him saying that is not enough, since without a detailed plan and thoughtful research, as well as the specification of technicalities, it is just an abstract concept, or could even be seen as just a slogan. No doubt, Dalai Lama himself cannot do this research. But looking around him, other people are not doing it either.
I gave Dalai Lama some examples. For instance, once Tibet has self-governance, would it permit Han people to move in and out of Tibet freely? If yes, then what are they going to do about the current Tibetan complaint that the large quantity of people flowing into Tibet is causing the destruction of Tibetan culture and environment? If no, then how could they control the flow? The constitutions of all modern countries permit their residents to move and travel freely within the country. From this angle, even if Tibet becomes self-governing, it is still the same country as China. If they try to control the Han people coming into Tibet, how would they resolve the conflict with the constitution? What would be the method of control? With residence registration? Or with issuing passports and visa? Should there be border guards and toll gates between Tibetan regions and Han regions? Would the Tibetan region be able to finance and supply the manpower for these toll gates itself, or would it rely on the Han region to establish them for it? … etc, etc. I had asked these questions to the officials of the exiled government at the Boston conference. They had discussed in Tibetan for a long time, but had never given me a clear answer. Evidently, exiled Tibet did not think about these questions deeply, nor did they have a mature plan.
Also, Dalai Lama has suggested that the future system in Tibet should be neither socialism nor capitalism. For myself, I admire this ideal. But what exactly would such a system be? Just having ideals is not enough. The system must be realized in specific arrangements and detailed descriptions. The exiled Tibetan government has publicized the political system of future Tibet, but it never said what would the economic system be. The difference between a socialist system and a capitalist system is mostly economic. If one does not concretize this area, there will be many obstacles one cannot cross. Currently, Tibet has many so-called “liberated serfs”. One cannot ignore their existence. They are anxious about the kind of economic policies the exiled government will have once it returns to Tibet. Will it require them to return their land to the former owners? Though Dalai Lama has always emphasized that Tibet would not return to the old system, as long as he does not clarify what the new system is going to be, the “liberated serfs” will not stop suspecting and worrying.,
Also, there is the legacy that the Communist Party has left in Tibet. A few decades have produced a large number of Tibetan who share their sorrow and joys with the Communist Party. These people include officials in the Party, employees of the state-owned businesses, retirees, and other beneficiaries. All sides of their lives, even their survival, are deeply connected to the current communist regime. If Tibetbecomes self-governing and the Communist Party leaves the Tibetan society, how will the lives of these people change? Could their lifestyles be guaranteed? How would a self-governing Tibet deal with the state-owned organizations left from the communist era? Can it assimilate more than one hundred thousand officials and employees who are mostly concentrated in the cities? How to assimilate them? Change them? What is the plan? What are the methods? … All of this requires systematic research and thorough arrangement, in order to design a set of system that can balance all sides. Only depending on the general concepts is not nearly enough. ”Revolution is a grand holiday for the people”. During the revolution, the people might exultantly celebrate. But problems usually occur the second day that the revolution succeeds. Once Tibet really becomes self-governing, there will no longer be anyone else who takes care of these matters and bear the responsibilities. Everything must depend on itself. What it facex then would be the banal details of everyday life, which cannot be lacking one bit. But exiled Tibet now not only has not prepared well for these things, it has not even thought very much along these lines.
My final conclusion was: one must avoid such a situation – within exiled Tibetonly Dalai Lama himself is waving the flag of “middle road”. The other people do not contradict him in words, but do not think and consider appropriate policies and plans, either. Right now, Beijing criticizes ”middle road” as a deceptive measure to first achieve semi-independence, and then to use that as a springboard towards full-independence. To refute such a criticism, the best method is to concretize the “middle road”, and not give the simple answer that some exiled Tibetans have given – Dalai Lama has already made such a compromise, and you still don’t accept! We can only try to win our independence! Such rhetoric will serve as evidence that “middle road” is only a negotiating ploy and a middle step. But if one can concretize “middle road”, and present every detail, it will be easier to prove to the Hans the sincerity of Dalai Lama’s “middle road” principle, and that he indeed treats “middle road” as an end and not a means. The Han people are prone to distrust, because they were so often deceived in history. They are thus used to being suspicious. They are not like the Tibetans, who treat the words of Dalai Lama as a sacred promise. They find it hard to believe verbal promises. Only when they se real actions with their own eyes can their suspicions be dispelled and their trust won.
Here, Dalai Lama said that he agreed with me one hundred percent. But I knew better than to be too self-satisfied with his “one hundred percent”, because this was a pet phrase of his. I heard several people describing their conversations with Dalai Lama, which all received “one hundred percent” agreement or approval from Dalai Lama. After that, Dalai Lama began to explain to me some specific contents of the “middle road” policy. I felt that perhaps I was not clear. I mentioned those problems, not to aim at the problems themselves, but mainly to illustrate how the “middle road” policy has not yet been concretized. But he seemed to have thought that I wanted specific answers for those questions, and thus changed the topic to this. He first talked about the relationship between Tibet and Hans once self-governance is achieved. He said that someone had once suggested such a criterion: those who were born inside Tibet could become a resident of Tibet and have the right to remain in Tibet permanently. Those who were not born inside of Tibetshould return to the Han residence area. I have seen this view before. But just saying this did not answer my question. If only those who were born inside Tibethave the right to permanently remain in Tibet, the number of such people will be miniscule. Even for those Han people whose residence is registered in Tibet, who have lived in Tibet for many decades, when they give birth, they usually go back to Han residence areas, because they believe that the altitude of Tibet is not suited for Han mother and babies. Thus, their children are mostly not born in Tibet, either. Would it be reasonable to demand all of the people who were born outside of Tibetto leave Tibet? Would it be practical? The right for permanent residence is not even the biggest problem. More important is whether the future Tibet would permit Han people to come in freely. Will Tibet turn into another Hong Kong, which can only be entered with a special pass? The policy has been easy to implement in tiny Hong Kong, since before Chinese were permitted to go there anyway (but this still spurred the resentment of Han people in the inland, who said that unification was not like unification at all). But Tibet’s area is one fourth of the total area of China. Han people have traditionally been able to move freely there, but suddenly one day they need to have a special pass to enter. This seems both unreasonable and impractical.
Dalai Lama went on to talk about the economic system for future Tibet. Why is it neither socialism nor capitalism? Because he has many discontents with capitalism. The materialism of the western societies has brought many problems to humanity, but socialism also has many disadvantages and created many problems, as well. But exactly what kind of economic system would be most suited for futureTibet, he said, is not a question he could answer. It must be researched by scholars and professionals.
There was an interlude in between. In the first two meetings, I had not taken a picture with Dalai Lama. This time I gave BQ a digital camera in advance and asked him to take a few pictures during the conversation. It was not necessary to take those kinds of pictures where the two of us stand together. The camera was new and never had a problem. But during the conversation, I saw BQ raising the camera and trying several times, but couldn’t press down on the shutter. He looked really exasperated. There were many legends among the Chinese people about how one cannot take photos of people with supernatural powers. At the time, I wondered secretly, did Dalai Lama really have this kind of supernatural powers, which made the camera malfunction? Dalai Lama had to leave for a short while during our conversation. Taking this opportunity, I checked the camera. The shutter button indeed could not be pushed down, and the other buttons also did not react, either. The screen and the various functions all did not work. Only when I took out the battery inside the camera and put it back in again did the camera start working again. BQ was afraid that the camera would malfunction again, so as soon as Dalai Lama came back, he took two pictures of us.
Dalai Lama continued with the topic before. According to the original time arrangement, our meeting should have been already over. He was supposed to go to the scripture lesson at 9:30. But the time of the scripture lesson was flexible. Normally, in the beginning they sang and prayed, and helped the followers to get into the mood. The duration of this could be extended or shortened as needed, so it was all right even if he was a little late. That day he extended his meeting time with me for at least twenty minutes. Though I felt that his topic had departed a little from our main conversation, I think he probably thought that I was a writer and must want an interview, so he answered my questions. Actually I had rather that he did not say those things, because he answered me with views that he had repeated on many occasions, most of which I had already read.
A hada lay on the coffee table. It was supposed to be given to me at the end of the conversation, which would signify a final farewell. But at the end of this conversation, Dalai Lama said that he wanted to see me again at noon, and asked BQ and his secretary to arrange it. So he did not give the hada to me. After that, he put on a yellow aromatic bag and left to attend the scripture meeting, and we stayed behind and waited until he was out of the door to leave. He was still wearing his slippers barefoot. I saw that as soon as he was out of the door, two Americans who were waiting there came and shook his hands, and then walked on with him at his side. They were arranged to speak to him on the way to the scripture meeting. It seems as if every single moment of his life had already been fully scheduled.
I really admire Dalai Lama’s uncommon energy. For an old man of sixty-six years, the fact that he can endure such a strenuous schedule is enough to prove that he is very healthy; otherwise he would have never been able to bear it. WA said that when he visited Taiwan with Dalai Lama, the accompanying young men were all exhausted. And they were only following him, unlike Dalai Lama, who must meet, converse, meditate, and teach. But Dalai Lama never seemed tired. I thought of the rumors from the Beijing government, which said that Dalai Lama was very weak, and hoped for his death. It must have been either wrong information or wishful thinking. Judging from his constant activities in America for over a month, it should not be a problem for him to live for another ten or twenty years healthily. It would probably be a mistake if the Communist Party tried to compete with him in longevity, since it is questionable whether the Chinese Communist Party itself could last another ten years.
WA seemed very happy leaving the meeting. He said that there were many ”firsts” at this meeting: He saw for the first time Dalai Lama writing down so many things for an autograph for someone; he saw for the first time the almost terrifyingly serious expression that Dalai Lama had when he was translating; moreover, Dalai Lama had never seen someone four times in a row during such a strenuous visiting schedule. I was also happy. WA did all the specific arrangements for my meeting with Dalai Lama. He put a lot of painstaking effort into this, and to succeed was the best reward for him. WA had worried that since LD did not come to Los Angeles, when others arranged the schedule they would not have given us too much time. But unexpectedly, Dalai Lama had arranged the meetings himself, and added two more meetings. It became very satisfactory. Unlike other Han people who met Dalai Lama, I did not see the meetings as only ceremonial, and also did not only want an interview. I wanted to tell him my views on the Tibet problem. For that I prepared a lot in advance, and could therefore give him views and ideas that he has not yet had before. I guess this was the main reason why he kept arranging further meetings with me.
7. Fourth meeting with Dalai Lama
At noon I had a box lunch supplied by the scripture meeting with WA and BQ. It was free, probably the alms given by some Chinese restaurant owner to the scripture meeting. A funny thing happened there. BQ was a vegetarian, and had especially asked for a vegetarian meal. But when we found a place to sit down and opened the box, there was a chicken leg in every box. BQ was astonished, and hurried to exchange his box. The people told him that the chicken leg was fake. It was actually made from tofu. But BQ was still not reassured, since the chicken leg looked very genuine. Not only could one not tell by looking at it, after I carefully tasted it, I still could not judge whether or not it was chicken meat. Only when the wooden stick ”bone” appeared in the middle, could I tell that it was a fake, and immediately assured BQ. BQ asked me a question. If one is vegetarian, then why expend so much effort to make it exactly like meat? What kind of mentality do the Han people have? I did not have an answer for this.
My fourth meeting with Dalai Lama was just like the previous day. It was arranged at the resting time between the lessons. After eating, we went to the auditorium and first waited on stage next to the holy seat and holy vessels. Soon, Dalai Lama’s accompanying officials led us inside. It was still the same small resting room as last time. Dalai Lama was not yet there, so we waited inside the room. No one sat down. This time I also learned my lesson, and stood there politely. In a while someone came and said that Dalai Lama was here, then Dalai Lama appeared in the doorway. He first bowed to me slightly. The scene is still clear before me even today, but at that time I was surprised, and hurried to return the bow. I found that one of the reason for his charisma was the fact that he was modest and unassuming. He was not one of those people who were convinced of their own importance. These people consciously or unconsciously distance and exclude others. But whenever he met people, he always tried to pull them closer, and make them feel very intimate with him. They would not think that he wasn’t an important figure because of it. He was still an important figure, but at the same time so friendly with you. One can imagine how he could win over many people just because of this.
We started talking again. I tried to clarify what I said in the morning. I said that exiled Tibet probably has its own reasons for not working on the concretization of the “middle road” principle-since the Chinese government completely rejects “middle road”, why is it necessary to concretize it? Since one can see no hope for self-governance, what is the point of preparing for self-governance at all? But one must look at this from all sides. Concretizing the “middle road” policy is not only useful after the ”middle road” policy comes true, but is necessary in the process of changing it from idea to reality. Only when the “middle road” policy is concretized, can all sides understand what it is, and have pertinent considerations and judgments. This also involves a question of means: one must separate the Beijing regime and the Chinese people. Even if the Beijing regime is tough until the end on the Tibetquestion, one still should – or even especially should – work hard to win over the Chinese people. With this kind of premise, one will never be disheartened and give up what one should do just because the Beijing regime does not react. One must realize that any specific work that exiled Tibet does for “middle road” will eventually be known by the elite class in China, and will diffuse through them to the Chinese people. The Communist Party is not China’s eternity. As soon as the Communist Party leaves, the seeds that were sown today can be harvested then. But if one does not make such an effort, one leaves the majority of the Han people tied together with the Communist Party on the Tibet question, and enabling the attitude of the Communist Party today to extend to the time of post-communism. In my opinion, this is the biggest danger.
I then gave Dalai Lama a suggestion. If it is inappropriate for exiled Tibet to call for the implementation of successive multi-tier electoral system since it would interfere in the internal affairs of Tibet, such a problem does not exist for another matter, namely, establishing a magazine devoted to the discussion of “middle road”. The main purpose of the magazine would be to research the Tibet problem, which could also extend to other problems of Chinese ethnicities. It should be a completely independent academic journal, which only discusses how to turn the “middle road” policy into concrete plan, and does not argue over “-isms”. The magazine itself should be like the topic it is discussing: it should stay in the “middle’. Its standpoint should be completely neutral and objective, and it should reject propaganda, extreme language, and ideology from either side. The so-called “middle road” is only a banner that Dalai Lama waves right now. People can see it, but cannot gather under it because there is no space beneath. This should be the other function of the magazine. It should provide a forum for people interested in “middle road” to gather together in order to communicate and discuss and eventually become a gradually stronger camp.
I emphasized that the independence of the magazine does not mean it should cast away all ties with exiled Tibet. To the contrary, it should let the world know that it is founded with the support of Dalai Lama, and therefore could express even more Dalai Lama’s sincerity and devotion to the policy of ”middle road”. ”Independence” just means that exiled Tibet does not interfere with the policy and the content of the magazine. The magazine should have a self-governing and representative editorial board that manages it independently.
Of course, right now the magazine can only be published overseas. Though the news block in China makes it hard for ordinary Chinese readers to see it, in today’s information age, there are always channels of communication, especially through the Internet. Sooner or later the Chinese intelligentsia will know the content of the magazine. The magazine can help them understand “middle road”, and attract them to join in the reflection and discussion on “middle road”. At the same time, since the magazine rejects ideological propaganda, it is not impossible that the Chinese government will tolerate it to some extent. At least the relevant departments in the Chinese government would subscribe to it, and the magazine would accomplish the function of communication. At the same time it could establish a board of trustees with prominent figures from the Tibetan and Han communities, and invite people within the Communist Party who are relatively liberal on the Tibet question to participate. This way, Beijing could understand the situation of the magazine, and avoid the suspicions that arise out of ignorance. It might even acquiesce to some space for the magazine within China. Through this a positive interaction could spring up.
To this, Dalai Lama immediately said: “Good! You people should do it! It’s very good! If it can be successful, I support it.” He immediately asked BQ and others to think about this idea. Actually, I had already discussed this suggestion last time with LD. I thought of this idea when LD asked me to make suggestions. At first they were very serious about it, and had discussed with me extensively. I had already designed rather meticulously the structure of the magazine. But then there was no more word on the magazine. Now I mentioned the magazine again to Dalai Lama, because I had remembered this matter all along. Indeed, I still believe that founding such a magazine would be effective for solving the Tibet problem. With the influence of Dalai Lama, it should be no problem to promote the founding of such a magazine. Of course it depends on whether he also believes it would be useful.
This meeting was rather short, only about half an hour. It was a pity that I do not remember more of what Dalai Lama said. All throughout the few meetings, I focused on speaking to him. My mind had been concentrated on how best to speak, and therefore found it very hard to also take down what he said. Moreover, since I didn’t know whether recording was appropriate, I never asked to record him. Now as I try to recall everything, there was only a vague idea left to the content of Dalai Lama’s talk. Especially this last meeting, I could hardly remember his words. I only remember at the moment when we said our last farewell. He put the hada on me and gave me his blessings. I also used this last time to say to him that for me, he is needed not only to save Tibet in the future, but also to save China. When he heard this, he smiled. It was a smile of disbelief. But these words came from my heart. They were absolutely not just insincere compliments. Perhaps he does not want to add to his responsibilities the heavy load of saving more than one billion people. Just solving the Tibet problem is enough for him to worry about. Moreover, he only has a responsibility to the Tibetan people, and the problems of the Hans are not his affair. But I already told him at our first meeting: the Tibetproblem cannot be separated from the China problem. It is impossible to only solve the Tibet problem without solving the China problem as well. The “middle road” policy does not have any practical solutions for many specific problems in Tibet, and always finds itself in an insurmountable dilemma. An important reason for it is that it limits itself only to Tibet and does not consider Tibet as one with China. This also means that to really solve the Tibet problem, Dalai Lama must put himself in the position of a Chinese leader. As long as he is not willing to give up Tibet, he must carry at the same time the load of China. There are no other choices. To me, this is perhaps fate. To tie the Tibet problem and the China problem together, is to make it possible that Dalai Lama one day becomes the leader of China. When the tremendous changes in China arrive, his influence would be unmatched and irreplaceable by anyone. Though other people would laugh off what I say right now as a ridiculous notion, Dalai Lama should not. If he could really understand providence, he should be conscious of this mission in his heart.
At the last moment, when we shook our hands and said good-bye, Dalai Lama clasped my arms and pulled me to him, and touched my forehead with his forehead. I also held his shoulders. Neither of us spoke. We stood like this for a while. The time seemed very long, but also very brief. That same night he was flying back toIndia. Who knew when and where we would meet again? I walked to the door, then turned around and put my palm together to say goodbye again. He stood in the same place and watched me go. For some reason, my heart was filled with melancholy.
After leaving Dalai Lama, we returned to the restaurant. Some Tibetans living inLos Angeles came in succession. After the scripture lessons Dalai Lama would see them. BQ led me to a hall that some Tibetans were arranging. Inside there was a yellow religious seat, on its back hung the snow-mountain and lions flag. A row of Tibetan women waved their long sleeves and sang Tibetans songs. They were rehearsing their dances for Dalai Lama.
WA was rushing back to Washington that night. He signed out of the room in the morning. We sat in the hotel lobby and said goodbye. BQ and I discussed the idea of publishing the magazine. He said that the reason for the silence last time after our first talk was mainly due to their worry that the Han people and Tibetan people within China would be too scared to participate. If the magazine were only for people outside the country, then it would not have the intended effect. I could understand such a worry. In the highly repressive atmosphere in China today, everyone is indeed very cautious and afraid of being involved in complications. But I believe that one should not do nothing because of that, because these days inChina there is nothing that does not require worrying, unless one does absolutely nothing at all. I thought a good way was to first start the magazine, and try to solve the problems as they come. Perhaps in the end it would succeed. Even if it doesn’t, and some energy and money were wasted, it would still not be a big sacrifice. Many things that exiled Tibet has done and is doing cannot count as successful, judging from their immediate effect. Compared to the cost of international activities, visits, or foreign offices, the cost of publishing a magazine would probably be much less, but the effect could be much greater. What’s more, one should not immediately conclude that people within the Chinese border would all be too scared to participate. After coming back from America, by chance I had to go to the Tibetan region to do a project on environmental education. I traveled through Tibet and the Tibetan regions in the four provinces. During that trip I did a special investigation, and the reality is not so bleak. The Tibetan scholars, monks, officials, and social activists all thought highly of such a magazine, and most of them would be willing to write for it. Of course there were security concerns, but they can be solved by using pseudonyms and so on. However, after that conversation, I have not received news from BQ for a long time. I guess the project had been set aside once again.
On the trip across the Pacific Ocean back to China, facing the gate of the country that I was about to enter, I began to think about the troubles I could encounter, and how to resolve them. Though the meetings with Dalai Lama inAmerica were secret, and before my departure no one in the mainland knew the reasons for my trip, right now I no longer dared to say that no one knew about it. After the fourth meeting with Dalai Lama, we ran into a Canadian Hong-Kongese outside the door, waiting to speak to me. Though I did not speak to him, it still meant that my whereabouts were known. Then wouldn’t the relevant departments inChina know as well? What kind of action would they take, and what should I do? Around me other travelers were deep asleep. I thought for a long time under the dim light of the cabin, but still could not decide. If they really knew what I said to Dalai Lama, they probably would convict me of treason – giving counsel to Dalai Lama, what could it be if not treason? It really felt a little ridiculous. LD, who did not know me at all, could see across the Pacific that I had a “Chinese heart”, but the Chinese regime, who kept me under surveillance every minute, thought that I was a “traitor”.
Actually, while seeing Dalai Lama, there was something that I almost said, but did not. If one uses successive multi-tier electoral system, one can achieve even the independence of Tibet. That would only required one condition- that the vast majority of Tibetans all insist on independence. I did not say this because it would really feel a bit “treasonous”. But in all fairness, everything I said to Dalai Lama was aimed at keeping Tibet in China, and not promoting Tibetan independence. All the council that I gave to Dalai Lama had the principle “Tibet stays in China” as our common basis. Only I believe that what will make Tibet stay in China is not repression, but granting it freedom and democracy – “freedom is cheaper than repression”. At the same time I also believe this: if China would of its own accord permit Tibet to practice successive multi-tier electoral system, then the condition for Tibetan independence would no longer exist. Since Tibet with successive multi-tier electoral system is already self-governing, the vast majority of Tibetans will no longer demand independence. Moreover, the leaders elected in the successive multi-tier electoral system are highly rational. They would understand more than anyone else that the price for independence would be unbearable for Tibet. The argumentation for this can be found in my article “Successive multi-tier electoral system and representative democracy: A comparison of solutions for the Tibet problem”.
While thinking about this, a thought seriously crossed my mind. After returning to the country, if I go of my own accord and “report” the circumstances of my meetings with Dalai, could it attract the attention of those in high places, and communicate to them the idea of using successive multi-tier electoral system to solve the Tibet problem? Could it influence them and help solving the Tibet problem, as well as help to start the successive multi-tier electoral system? But I immediately rejected the idea. For a regime that wants to control even elections on a village level, it is unimaginable that it would try a political system that is completely foreign to it. To tell them the ideas of successive multi-tier electoral system is asking them to act against their own interest. Nonetheless, having spoken so much with Dalai Lama was rare either for official or nonofficial persons. I should be able to find something to communicate and see whether it could be useful. I always hope to find “usefulness” in things. Since I could not talk about successive multi-tier electoral system with the authorities, could I settle for less and talk about something else? I summed it up. There were three different points I could talk about. First was Dalai Lama’s sincerity about going the “middle road”. I could explain it with my own close observations and refute the view that described the “middle road” as a conspiracy. Second was Dalai Lama’s health. I wanted to tell those who believed that Dalai Lama was weak and declining, and who strove to drag the Tibet problem beyond his death, to rethink their schedules. Third was the prestige of Dalai Lama in the western community. To antagonize such a person is to put oneself in the opposition camp of the western audience. In all three of these points, explaining Dalai Lama was the key. Only when one solves the Tibet problem together with Dalai Lama could the efforts be fruitful. If I said it like that, could it influence the relevant decision-makers a little?
But as I began to consider how to express these things, and to think about specific details, problems arose. First, who should I talk to? Of course not the security departments. I neither wanted to “report” to those places, nor did I want to foolishly look for trouble. Then there was only one other place that took care of these things: Department of Military Unification. But the Department of Military Unification is very exasperating. For many years, it has been nothing but an obstacle to the solution of the Tibet problem, and has never had a good effect. More than a year ago at a conference at Beijing University I had debated with the official responsible for Tibetan affairs from the Department of Military Unification. I well knew that these people would never accept any views that accepted Dalai Lama and his influence. The saying “China’s attitude towards Tibet” actually means the attitude of the seven permanent members of the Politburo (or even just the general secretary himself) towards Tibet. Those few people control such a vast China, their minds rarely entertain the Tibet problem, nor do they ever think about it deeply. Thus their thoughts on the Tibet problem are led internationally by the Department of Military Unification, and domestically by the regional Tibetan government. The Department of Military Unification was most influential in devising the policy of treating Dalai Lama as an enemy. If it changes, would it not be rejecting what it has always said and done before? Under the communist regime, this kind of change is unimaginable. Thus to go to Department of Military Unification to talk about this kind of topic was asking for trouble.
If I could not talk about big and general problems, could I settle for less again and only talk about the “middle road” magazine as a specific problem? Indeed, as BQ said, if the magazine could win the acquiescence of China and receive the space to survive in China, or at least, if China would not forbid people within China to write for it, then the magazine could have the assurance of having influence and effect. Then could I try to council the Chinese government and to argue for the benefit of such a magazine? Acquiescence does not require someone being responsible for it, but it can open a window. It could be useful even just for the purpose of acquiring information. In communicating with Dalai’s side, it is not enough to only rely on representatives and middlemen. Those methods are the roots of much wrong interpretations and misunderstandings. If such a magazine exists, every article would be written with careful thought and clearly explained. It would clearly be very beneficial to accurately understanding the real views of every side. Moreover, this window would not be only one-sided. China will also be able use it to clarify its own opinions. The academic aspect and the non-ideological principle of the magazine determine that it can be better than other propaganda methods to help the international society to understand and accept China’s view.
But, even if one shrank it to such a specific problem, one still could not talk to the Department of Military Unification. This kind of bureaucratic organization could do much more harm than good. Entering into its system is like falling into a black hole; one cannot not hope to see the light again. After thinking for a long time, the only way I could think of is Mr. PJ. He is familiar with the Chinese regime, has connections to high places, and also wants to urge the solving of the Tibet problem. To directly communicate this idea to the high leaders of Chinese Communist Party is a shortcut for this kind of extraordinary matter. If the top says a word, the people below would give it green lights all the way. The problem was whether he was willing to communicate it? Moreover, I had imagined that he and another liberal party member YF could join the council of the magazine. Without the acquiescence of the CCP, they would not dare to accept. Thus this also required him to communicate with the high officials in the Communist Party in advance.
After coming back to Beijing, I began contacting Mr. PJ, but could not meet him for a long time. Either he was not there, or I had to travel. I finally saw him after a few months. When I told him what I had in mind, he did not answer directly, and only told me a small story with smiles. Once he mentioned to YF that some Tibetan would like the latter to participate in an event related to Tibet. YF’s reaction was immediately shaking his hand and saying quickly: don’t you get me involved in Tibet! Tibet was already seen as a forbidden zone for the Chinese officials, why would anyone want to participate in an oversea Tibetan magazine?
Coming out of PJ’s home, I once again felt the powerlessness. Walking on the crowded street of Beijing, my last sight of Dalai Lama appeared again before my eyes. His silent silhouette in the crimson cassock was so unforgettable to me, because it reminded me of a scene in a documentary that deeply moved me. It was an old lama who was already spent many decades in exile. Standing alone on the mountain top along the border of Nepal, he looked from a distance at the vast Tibetan plateau, and uncontrollably wept …
July 2001, recorded in Lhasa
November 2001, arranged in Beijing
December 2001, revised in Beijing