Dalai Lama Sees a Culture Endangered
|The following article is from the Spring, 1989 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
NEW DELHI, March 21Fearful of both hard-liners in the Chinese leadership and young Tibetans eager to challenge Beijing with violence, the Dalai Lama appealed today to China, his own followers and the West to help save Tibetan culture from annihilation.
The world community has a responsibility to preserve one of its ancient cultures, the Dalai Lama said in an interview during a brief stay in New Delhi. He is planning to take that message to Europe next month and to the United States this summer.
Recent violence in Tibet surrounding the 30th anniversary of an uprising against the Chinese in March 1959 and China's subsequent imposition of martial law on the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, concerns the Dalai Lama for several reasons, he said. Chinese actions are spurring more radical responses from Tibetans, and Tibetans in turn are in danger of inviting large-scale military intervention.
Buddhist Tibet now faces many threats, he said, from a loss of language, art and traditional dress to a destruction of the country's environment from what many Tibetans believe are Chinese nuclear installations or waste dumps in or near Tibet. He offered no proof for the environmental charge.
'This Culture Is Worth Saving'
You look at our Tibetan refugees, as well as people inside Tibet, the Dalai Lama said, in English, and despite their hardships, on their face there is peace, there is joy. That is something quite precious. This culture is worth saving.
The Dalai Lama, who left Tibet after the suppression of the 1959 revolt, lives in exile in the Himalayan hill town of Dharamsala, in the Indian state of Himachal. He acknowledged that he does not know how many people died or were detained in Tibet this month, but he said that early reports he received put the deaths in the hundreds. One Tibetan trader reaching India said he had heard of 10,000 or more arrests
The Dalai Lama, who has been seeking talks with the Chinese since last year, said today that each time the Chinese authorities take military action in Lhasa, the use of firepower is quicker and more fierce. But he added that young Tibetans, who he said have completely lost their hope and trust toward the Chinese, must understand where armed provocation on their part could lead.
Nonviolence is not a question of holiness, he said. It is a question of reality. There are about 6 million Tibetans and a billion Chinese, the majority of whom are ethnic Han.
Worried About More Violence
So far, I can argue with these people, he said of the militants among the refugee population here. But he added that he did not know how much longer his nonviolent struggle for a middle wayneither independence nor total absorptionwould be respected by a new generation of Tibetans.
If the Chinese Government really wants to eliminate the entire Tibetan population, then there is nothing I can say, the Dalai Lama said.
A statement from the Chinese Embassy here, which distributes material in defense of its Tibetan policies, reiterated Beijing's earlier response that talks be held on its terms, without foreign advisers. The Dalai Lama has a Dutch-born legal adviser on his staff.
He said there is evidence that the Chinese are moving more ethnic Han people into Tibetan towns and villages.
This is my main worry now, he said. If the present situation remains, then within a short period, within 10 years, there is every evidence that Tibetans will be a minority in our own land.
There's a real danger of complete assimilation in a massive Chinese population, he said.
In my own birthplace area, according to a Chinese local newspaper in the early 1980's, the Tibetan population was a little over 700,000 and the Chinese population was 2.5 million, he said of his native village of Taksar.
The Dalai Lama said Tibetans are also concerned about the disappearance of their religious and artistic treasuresthose that survived the Cultural Revolution. He said that with tourists visiting Tibet in greater numbers in recent years, there have been reports of valuable objects being sold for dollars.Back to all Snow Lion Articles