Dalai Lama's Special Envoy Describes Status of Discussions With Chinese Government
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the Dalai Lama's Special Envoy, described the obstacles affecting the dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Chinese officials during a November 14 address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Gyari's prepared statement, available on the Brookings Institution Web site, explains that his remarks were offered in part to respond to Chinese news media articles (see, e.g., Xinhua, July 28, 2006) and official briefings to foreign diplomats that, according to Gyari, "led to the circulation of speculative, uninformed, and one-sided information about some of the important issues at stake."
Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, the Dalai Lama's Special Envoy, described the obstacles affecting the dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Chinese officials during a November 14 address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Gyari's prepared statement, available on the Brookings Institution Web site, explains that his remarks were offered in part to respond to Chinese news media articles (see, e.g., Xinhua, July 28, 2006) and official briefings to foreign diplomats that, according to Gyari, "led to the circulation of speculative, uninformed, and one-sided information about some of the important issues at stake." Gyari's statement, "Seeking Unity Through Equality: The Current Status of Discussions Between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Government of the People’s Republic of China," is more detailed than statements made by Gyari after the previous five rounds of dialogue between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. (Gyari’s 2002 and 2003 statements may be found on the Tibetan government-in-exile Web sites; the 2004, 2005, 2006 statements are available via CECC news updates). Contacts between the Tibetans and the Chinese government resumed in 2002.
Gyari's statement focuses principally on two issues: the administrative unity and level of autonomy that the Dalai Lama seeks for the Tibetan areas of China. Gyari rejected Chinese government accusations that the Dalai Lama intends to "split the motherland" (see, e.g., TAR government Chairman Jampa Phuntsog's remarks in a March 14, 2006, Xinhua article). "Tibetans are not asking for the separation of Tibet from China," Gyari's statement said, and "[h]aving the Tibetan people under a single administrative entity should not be seen as an effort to create a 'greater' Tibet, nor is it a cover for a separatist plot." Tibetans "yearn to be under one administrative entity so that their way of life, tradition, and religion can be more effectively and peacefully maintained," he said, and pointed out that the Chinese government "has redrawn internal boundaries when it suited its needs."
Like many Tibetans, Gyari refers to all of the territory in China in which Tibetans live as "Tibet." Referring to that area, he said, "[I]t is a reality that the landmass inhabited by Tibetans constitutes roughly one-fourth the territory of [China]." A People's Daily Web page states that the area of China is 9.6 million square kilometers; the Tibetan government-in-exile Web site asserts that the area of Tibet is 2.5 million square kilometers. Unifying all Tibetan areas into a single administrative entity would affect the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), all or most of Qinghai province, approximately half of Sichuan province, and parts of Gansu and Yunnan provinces, according to a map of Tibet available on the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Web site that shows provincial boundaries as dashed lines. Gyari also serves as the ICT Executive Chairman. A map of Tibet available on the Tibetan government-in-exile Web site includes more territory along the northern Tibetan border than the ICT map.
The Chinese government has established 13 areas of Tibetan autonomy at county-level or higher that are contiguous and have a total area of approximately 2.24 million square kilometers. Chinese officials only refer to the provincial-level TAR, the largest (1.2 million square kilometers) of the 13 Tibetan autonomous areas, as "Tibet." The other Tibetan autonomous areas are located in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. The National People's Congress (NPC) establishes areas of regional ethnic autonomy under the authority of Article 4 and Chapter III, Section 6, of the Constitution, and governments of ethnic autonomous areas are subject to the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law. (For more information about the Tibetan areas of China, see endnotes 3 and 14 in Section VIII, Tibet, of the CECC 2006 Annual Report.)
Gyari's statement also discusses the level of autonomy that the Dalai Lama seeks in order to protect "the Tibetan identity, culture, religion, and way of life." "[W]e have not proposed specific labels for how Tibetan areas would be designated, such as a special administrative region," Gyari said, "Nor have we specifically proposed formulas that ask for higher or lower levels of autonomy than Hong Kong and Macao." Article 31 of the Constitution authorizes the NPC to create special administrative regions, such as Hong Kong and Macao, that have systems of government established "in light of specific conditions." The Chinese government provides a lower level of autonomy to the residents of Tibetan autonomous areas under the REAL, as well as to residents of other ethnic autonomous areas, than it provides to Hong Kong and Macao. (For more information about regional ethnic autonomy, see "Special Focus for 2005: China's Minorities and Government Implementation of the Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law," in Section III, Monitoring Compliance With Human Rights, of the 2005 CECC Annual Report.)
Gyari acknowledged that differences between the Tibetans and Chinese officials are "seemingly insurmountable," but he asserted in the statement that the Dalai Lama's "unambiguous commitment to the integrity and sovereignty of [China]" should encourage Chinese leaders to accept "the aspirations of the Tibetans to survive as a distinct people." The Chinese government’s distrust of the Dalai Lama, he said, is "one of the most critical obstacles" that Tibetans face in the dialogue process. Gyari pointed out that the Dalai Lama's offer to visit China on a religious pilgrimage is facing "considerable opposition from Tibetans, both inside and outside Tibet," but he said the Dalai Lama believes that such a visit would help both sides to find common ground and build trust.
Qin Gang, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Spokesman, responded to a question about Gyari's statements at the Brookings Institution during a December 7 scheduled press conference, according to a December 8 MFA transcript. "The person you mentioned and the group he represents have long been in exile and engaged in the activities aimed at splitting the motherland and undermining national unity," Qin stated. He repeated the Chinese government position that the Dalai Lama and his representatives should "genuinely renounce their proposition for Tibet independence and completely stop all the activities in an attempt to split the motherland."
The CECC 2006 Annual Report recommended that "the President and the Congress should continue to urge the Chinese government to invite the Dalai Lama to visit China so that he can see for himself the changes and developments in China, and so that he can seek to build trust through direct contact with the Chinese leadership." See "The Status of Discussion Between China and the Dalai Lama" in Section VIII, Tibet, of the CECC 2006 Annual Report, and in Section VI, Tibet, of the CECC 2005 Annual Report for more information.