Legal Materials on Tibet

Letter of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Deng Xiaoping (1992) with Annotation [p.158]


Dear Mr. Deng Xiaoping,

I am pleased that direct contact has once again been established between us. I hope that this will lead to an improvement of relations and the development of mutual understanding and trust.

I have been informed of the discussions Mr. Ding Guangen had with Gyalo Thondup on June 22, 1992, and the position of the Government of China concerning negotiations for a solution to the Tibetan question, I am disappointed with the hard and inflexible position conveyed by Mr. Ding Guangen, particularly the emphasis on pre-conditions for negotiations.

However, I remain committed to the belief that our problems can be solved only through negotiations, held in an atmosphere of sincerity and openness, for the benefit of both the Tibetan and Chinese people. To make this possible, neither side should put up obstacles, and neither side should put up obstacles, and neither side should, therefore, state pre-conditions.

For meaningful negotiations to take place it is essential to have mutual trust. Therefore, in order to create trust, I believe it is important for the leaders and people of China to know of the endeavours I have made so far. My three representatives carry with them a letter from me, accompanied by a detail note of my views and my efforts through the years to promote negotiations in the best interest of the Tibetan and Chinese people. They will answer and discuss any questions and points you with to raise. It is my hop that through these renewed discussions we will find a way that will lead us to negotiations.

On my part, I have put forward many ideas to solve our problem. I believe that it is now time for the Chinese government to make a genuinely meaningful proposal if you wish to see Tibet and China live together in peace. I therefore, sincerely hope that you will respond in a spirit of openness and friendship.

Yours sincerely,

(HH the Dalai Lama)



On June 22, 1992, Mr. Ding Guangen, head of the United Front Works Department of CCP Central Committee, met with Mr. Gyalo Thondup in Beijing and restated the assurance given by Mr. Deng Xiaoping to Mr. Gyalo Thondup in 1979 that the Chinese government was willing to discuss any issue with us except total independence.

Mr. Ding Guangen also said that, in the government�s view, �the Dalai Lama is continuing with independence activities.� but the Chinese government was willing to immediately start negotiations as soon as I give up the independence of Tibet. This position, repeatedly stated in the past by the Chinese government, shows that the Chinese leadership still does not understand my ideas regarding the Tibetan-Chinese relationship. Therefore, I take this opportunity to clarify my position through this note.

1. It is an established fact that Tibet and China existed as separate countries in the past. However, as a result of misrepresentations of Tibet�s unique relations with Mongol an the Manchu Emperors, disputes arose between Tibet and the Kuomintang and the present Chinese government. The fact that the Chinese government found it necessary to conclude a �17-Point Agreement� with the Tibetan government in 1951 clearly shows the Chinese government�s acknowledgment of Tibet�s unique position.

2. When I visited Beijing in 1954, I had the impression that most of the Communist Party leaders I met there were honest, straight forward and open-minded. Chairman Mao Zedong, in particular, told me on several occasions that the Chinese were in Tibet only to help Tibet harness its natural resources, and use them for the development of the country; General Zhang Jingwu and General Fan Ming were in Tibet to help me and the people of Tibet, and not to rule the Tibetan government and people, and that all Chinese officials in Tibet were there to help us and to be withdrawn when Tibet had progressed. Any Chinese official who did not act accordingly would be sent back to China. Chairman Mao went on to say that it had now been decided to establish �Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region� instead of the earlier plan to put Tibet under the direct control of the Chinese government through a �Military-Political Commission�.

At my last meeting with Chairman Mao, before I left China, he gave me a long explanation about democracy. He said that I must provide leadership and advised me on how to keep in touch with the views of the people. He spoke in a gentle and compassionate manner which was moving and inspiring.

While in Beijing, I told Premier Zhou Enlai that we Tibetans were fully aware of our need to develop politically, socially and economically and that in fact I had already taken steps towards this.

On my way back to Tibet, I told General Zhang Guohua that I had gone to China with doubts and anxiety about the future of my people and country, but had now returned with great hope and optimism and a very positive impression of the Chinese leader. My innate desire to serve my people, especially the poor and the weak, and the prospect of mutual co-operation and friendship between Tibet and China made me feel hopeful and optimistic about the Tibet�s future development. This was how I felt at that time about the Tibetan-Chinese relationship.

3. When the �Tibet Autonomous Region Preparatory Committee� was set up in Lhasa in 1956, there was no alternative but to work sincerely with it for the interest and benefit of both parties. However, by then the Chinese authorities had already started to use unthinkable brutal force to impose Communism on the Tibetan people of the Kham and Amdo areas, particularly in Lithang. This increased the resentment of the Tibetans against Chinese policies, leading to open resistance.

I could not believe that Chairman Mao would have approved of such repressive policy because of the promises he had made to me when I was in China. I, therefore, wrote three letters to him explaining the situation and seeking an end to the repression. Regrettably, there was no reply to my letters.

In late 1956, I visited India to attend Buddha Jayanti, the anniversary of the birth of Buddha. At that time, many Tibetans advised me not to return to Tibet, and to continue talks with China from India. I also felt that I should stay in India for the time being. While in India, I met Premier Zhou Enlai and told him how deeply saddened I was by the military repression inflicted upon Tibetans in Kham and Amdo in the name of �reforms�. Premier Zhou Enlai said that he regarded these matters as mistakes committed by Chinese officials and that �reforms� in Tibet would be carried out only in accordance with the wishes of the Tibetan people, and that in fact the Chinese government had already decided to postpone the �reforms� in Tibet by six years. He then urged me to return to Tibet as soon as possible in order to prevent further outbreaks of unrest.

According to the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Premier Zhou Enlai told him that the Chinese government �did not consider Tibet as a province of China. The people were different from the people of China proper. Therefore, they [p.the Chinese] considered Tibet as an autonomy.� Prime Minister Nehru told me that the had assurance from Premier Zhou Enlai that Tibet�s autonomy would be respected and, therefore, advised me to make efforts to safeguard it and cooperated with China in bringing about reforms.

By then, the situation in Tibet had become extremely dangerous and desperate. Nevertheless, I decided to return to Tibet to give the Chinese government another opportunity to be able to implement their promises. On my return to Lhasa through Dromo, Gyangtse and Shigatse I had many meeting with Tibetan and Chinese officials; I told them that the Chinese were not in Tibet to rule the Tibetans, that the Tibetans were not subjects of China, and that since the Chinese leader had promised to establish Tibet as an autonomous region with full internal freedoms, we all had to work to make it succeed. I emphasized the point that the leaders of China had assured me that all Chinese personnel in Tibet were there to help us, and that if they behaved otherwise, they could be going against the order of their own government. I believe, I was once again doing my best to promote cooperation between Tibet and China.

4. However, because of the harsh military repression in the Kham and Amdo parts of eastern Tibet, thousands of young and old Tibetans, unable to live under such circumstances, began to arrive in Lhasa as refugees. As a result of these Chinese actions the Tibetan people felt great anxiety and began to lose faith in the promises made by China. This led to greater resentment and a worsening of the situation. Nevertheless, I continued to counsel my people to seek a peaceful solution and to show restraint. At the risk of losing the trust of the Tibetan people I did my best to prevent a breakdown of the communications with the Chinese officials in Lhasa.

But the situation continued to deteriorate and finally exploded in the tragic events of 1959 which forced me to leave Tibet.

Faced with such a desperate situation, I had no alternative but to appeal to the United Nations. The United Nations, in turn, passed three resolution on Tibet in 1959, 1961 an 1965, where in it called for the cessation of practices which deprive the Tibetan people of their fundamental human rights and freedoms including their right to self-determination and asked member States to make all possible efforts towards achieving that purpose.

The Chinese government did not respect the United Nations resolutions. In the meantime, the Cultural Revolution started and there was absolutely no opportunity for solving the Tibetan-Chinese problems. It was, in fact, not even possible to identify a leader with whom we could talk.

5. In spite of my unfulfilled hopes and disappointments in dealing with the Chinese government, and since Tibet and China will always remain as neighbours, I am convinced that we must strive to find a way to co-exist in peace and help each other. This, I believe, is possible and worthy of our efforts. With this conviction I said in my statement to the Tibetan people on March 10, 1971: �In spite of the fact that we Tibetans have to oppose Communist China, I can never bring myself to hate her people. Hatred is not a sign of strength, but of weakness. When Lord Buddha said that hatred cannot be overcome by hatred, he was not only being spiritual. But his words reflect the practical reality of life. Whatever one achieves through hatred will not last long. On the other hand, hatred will only generate more problems. And for the Tibetan people who are faced with such a tragic situation, hatred will only bring additional depression. Moreover, how can we hate a people who do not know what they are doing. We cannot even hate the Chinese leaders for they have suffered tremendously for their nation and the cause which they believe to be right. I do no believe in hatred, but I do believe, as I have always done, that one day truth and justice will triumph.�

In my March 10 statement of 1973, referring to the Chinese claim of Tibetans being made the �masters of the country� after being �liberated from the three big feudal lords� an enjoying � unprecedented progress and happiness�, I stated: �The aim of the struggle of the Tibetans outside Tibet is the attainment of the happiness of the Tibetan people. If the Tibetans in Tibet are truly happy under the Chinese rule then there is no reason for us here in exile to argue otherwise.�

Again, in my March 10, 1979 statement, I welcomed Mr. Deng Xiaoping�s statement �to seek truth from facts�, to give the Chinese people their long cherished rights, and of the need to acknowledge one�s own mistakes and shortcomings. While commending these sign s of honesty, progress and openness, I said: �The present Chinese leaders should give up the past dogmatic narrow-mindedness and fear of losing face and recognize the present world situation. They should accept their mistakes, the realities, and the right of all people of the human race to equality and happiness. Acceptance of this should not be merely on paper, it should be put into practice. If these are accepted and strictly followed, all problems can be solved with honesty and justice.� With this conviction I renewed my efforts to promote reconciliation and friendship between China and Tibet.

6. In 1979, Mr. Deng Xiaoping invited Mr. Gyalo Thodup to Beijing and told him hat apart from the question of total independence all other issues could be discussed and all problems can be resolved. Mr. Deng further told Mr. Thondup that we must keep in contact with each other and that we could send fact-finding delegations to Tibet. This naturally gave us great hopes of resolving our problems peacefully and we started sending delegations to Tibet.

On March 13, 1981, I sent a letter to Mr. Deng Xiaoping in which I said, �The three fact-finding delegations have been able to find out both the positive and negative aspects of the situation in Tibet. If the Tibetan people�s identity is preserved and if they are genuinely happy, there is no reason to complain. However, in reality over 90% of the Tibetans are suffering both mentally and physically, and are living in deep sorrow. These sad conditions has not been brought about by natural disasters, but by human actions. Therefore, genuine efforts must be made to solve the problem in accordance with the existing realities in a reasonable way.

In order to do this, we must improve the relationship between China and Tibet as well as between Tibetans in and outside Tibet. With truth and equality as our foundation we must try to develop friendship between Tibetans and Chinese in the future through better understanding. Time has come to apply our common wisdom in a spirit of tolerance and broadmindedness to achieve genuine happiness for the Tibetan people with a sense of urgency. On my part, I remain committed to contribute to the welfare of all human beings and in particular the poor and the weak to the best of my ability without making any distinction based on national boundaries.

I hope you will let me know your views on the foregoing points�.

There was no reply to my letter. Instead, in July 28, 1981, General Secretary Hu Yaobang gave Mr. Gyalo Thondup a document entitled, �Five Point Policy towards the Dalai Lama.�

This was a surprise and a great disappointment. The reason for our consistent efforts to deal with the Chinese government is to achieve lasting and genuine happiness for six million Tibetans who must live as neighbours of China from generation to generation. However, the Chinese leadership chose to ignore this and, instead, attempted to reduce the whole issue to that of my personal status and the conditions for my return without any willingness to address the real underlying issues.

Nevertheless, I continued to place hope in Deng Xiaoping's statement "seeking truth from facts" and his policy of liberalization. Therefore, I sent several delegations to Tibet and China and wherever there was an opportunity we explained our views to promote understanding through discussion and dialogue. As initially suggested by Mr. Deng Xiaoping I agreed to send Tibetan teachers from India to improve the education of Tibetans in Tibet. But for one reason or the other the Chinese government did not accept this

These contacts resulted in four fact-finding delegations to Tibet, two delegations to Beijing, and the start of family visitations between the Tibetans in Tibet and in exile. However, these steps did not lead to any substantial progress in resolving the problems between us owing to the rigidity of the Chinese leaders' positions which I believe, failed to reflect Mr. Deng Xiaoping's policies.

7. Once again, I did not give up hope. This was reflected in my annual March 10 statements to the Tibetan people in 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1985 wherein I said the following:

"...past history has disappeared in the past. What is more relevant is that in the future there actually must be real peace and happiness through developing friendly and meaningful relations between China and Tibet. For this to be realized, it is important for both sides to work hard to have tolerant understanding and be open-minded."(1981)

"The right to express one's ideas and to make every effort to implement them enables people everywhere to become creative and progressive. This engenders human society to make rapid progress and experience genuine harmony...The deprivation of freedom to express one's views, either by force or by other means, is absolutely anachronistic and a brutal form to oppression... The people of the world will not only oppose it, but will condemn it. Hence, the six million Tibetan people must have the right to preserve, and enhance their cultural identity and religious freedom, and find fulfillment of their self-expression, without interference from any quarters. This is reasonable and just."(1983)

"Irrespective of varying degrees of development and economic disparities, continents, nations, communities, families, in fact, all individuals are dependent on one another for their existence and well-beings. Every human being wishes for happiness and does not want suffering. By clearly realizing this, we must develop mutual compassion, love, and a fundamental sense of justice. In such an atmosphere there is hope that problems between nations and problems within families can be gradually overcome and that people can live in peace and harmony. Instead, if people adopt an attitude of selfishness, domination and jealousy, the world at large, as well as individuals, will never enjoy peace and harmony. Therefore, I believe that human relations based on mutual happiness."(1984)

" order to achieve genuine happiness in any human society, freedom of thought is extremely important. This freedom of thought can only be achieved from mutual trust, mutual understanding and the absence of fear...In the case of Tibet and China too, unless we can remove state of mutual fear and mistrust, unless we can develop a genuine sense of friendship and goodwill the problems that we face today will continue to exist.

It is important for both of us to learn about one another... It is now for the Chinese to act according to the enlightened ideals and principles of the modern times; to come forward with an open mind and make a serious attempt to know and understand the Tibetan people's viewpoint and their true feelings and as irritations...It is wrong to react with suspicion or offence to the opinions that are contrary to one's own way of thinking. It is essential that differences of opinion be examined and discussed openly. When differing viewpoints are frankly stated and sensibly discussed on an equal footing, the decisions or agreements reached as a result will be genuine and beneficial to all concerned. But so long as there is a contradiction between and action, there can never be genuine and meaningful agreements.

So, at this time, I feel most important thing for us is to keep in close contact, to express our view frankly and to make sincere efforts to understand each other. And, through eventual improvement in human relationship, I am confident that our problems can be solved to our mutual satisfaction." (1985)

In these and other ways I expressed my views clearly. But, there was no reciprocity to my conciliatory approaches.

8. Since all the exchanges between Tibetans and Chinese yielded no results I felt compelled to make public my view on the steps necessary for an agreeable solution to the fundamental issues. ON September 21, 1987, I announced a Five Point Peace Plan in the United States of America. In its introduction, I said that in the hope of real reconciliation and lasting solution to the problem, it was my desire to take the first step with this initiative. This plan, I hoped would in the future contribute to the friendship and co-operation among all the neighbouring countries including the Chinese people for their good and benefit. The basic elements were:

1. Transformation of the of Tibet into a zone of ahimsa (peace and non-violence);

2. Abandonment of China's population transfer policy which threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as a people.

3. Respect for the Tibetan People's fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms;

4. Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.

5. Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

As a response to this initiative, Mr. Yang Mingfu met Mr. Gyalo Thondup on October 17 1987 and delivered a message containing five points criticising me for my above peace initiative and accusing me of having instigated demonstrations in Lhasa of September 27,1987 and of having worked against the interest of the Tibetan people. This response, far from giving serious thought to my sincere proposal for reconciliation, was disappointed and demeaning.

Despite this, I tried once again to clarify our views in a detailed 14 Point response on December 17, 1987.

9. On June 15, 1988, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, I once again elaborated on the Five-point Peace Plan. I proposed as a framework for negotiations to secure the basic rights of the Tibetan people, China could remain responsible for Tibet's foreign policy and maintain a restricted number of military installations in Tibet for defence until a regional peace conference is convened and Tibet is transformed into a neutral peace sanctuary. I was criticised by many Tibetans for this proposal. My idea was, to make it possible for China and Tibet to stay together in lasting friendship and to secure the right for Tibetans to govern their own country. I sincerely believe that in the future a demilitarized Tibet as a zone of ahimsa will contribute to harmony and peace not only between Tibetan and Chinese, but to all the neighbouring countries and the entire region.

10. On September 23,1988, the Chinese government issued a statement that China was willing to begin negotiations with us. The announcement stated that the date and venue for negotiations would be left to the Dalai Lama. We welcomed this announcement from Beijing and responded on October 25, 1988, proposing January 1989 as the time and Geneva, and internationally recognized neutral venue, as our choices. We announced that we had a negotiation team ready and named the members of our team. The Chinese government responded on November 18,1988, rejecting Geneva and expressing preference for Beijing or else Hong Kong, as the venue. They further stated that my negotiation team could not include "a foreigner" and consist only of "younger people", and that it should have older people, including Mr. Gyalo Thondup. We explained that the foreigner was only a legal advisor and not an actual member of the negotiating team and that Mr. Gyalo Thondup would also be included as an advisor to the team. With a flexible and open attitude we accommodated the Chinese government's requests and agreed to send representatives to Hong Kong to hold preliminary meetings with representatives of the Chinese government. Unfortunately, when both sides had finally agreed on Hong Kong as the site for preliminary discussion the Chinese government refused to communicate any further and failed to live up to their own suggestion.

11. Although I championed this proposal for over two years there was no evidence of consideration or even an acknowledgment from the Chinese government.

Therefore, in my March 10 statement in 1991 I was compelled to state that unless the Chinese government responded in the near future I would consider myself free from any obligation to abide by the proposal I made in France. Since there appeared to be no benefit from the many solutions I had advocated concerning Tibet and China, I had to find a new way. Therefore, in a speech at Yale University on October 9,1991, I said: ...I am considering the possibility of a visit to Tibet myself on the spot and communicate directly with my people. By doing so, I also hope to help the Chinese leadership to understand the true feelings of Tibetans. It would be important, therefore, for senior Chinese leaders to accompany me on such a visit, and that outside observers, including the press be present to see and report their findings. Second, I wish to advise and persuade my people not to abandon non-violence as the appropriate form of struggle. My ability to talk to my own people can be a key factor in bringing about a peaceful solution. My visit could be a new opportunity to promote understanding and create a basis for a negotiated solution.

Unfortunately, this overture was immediately opposed by the Chinese government. At that time, I was asked on many occasions by the press whether I was renewing the call for Tibetan independence since I had declared that the Strasbourg proposal was no longer valid. To these questions, I stated that I did not want to comment.

12. The Chinese government has, with great doubt and suspicion, described our struggle as a movement to restore the "old society" and that it was not in the interest of the Tibetan people but for the personal status and interest of the Dalai Lama. Since my youth, I was aware of the many faults of the existing system in Tibet and wanted to improve it. At that time I started the process of reform in Tibet. Soon after our flight to India we introduced democracy in our exile community, step by step. I repeatedly urged my people to follow this path. As a result, our exiled community now implements a system in full accordance with universal democratic principles. It is impossible for Tibet to ever revert to the old system of government. Whether my efforts for the Tibetan cause are as charged by the Chinese for my personal position and benefit or not is clear form my repeated statements that in a future Tibet, I will not assume any governmental responsibility or hold any political positions. Furthermore, this is reflected clearly in the Charter which governs the Tibetan Administration in Exile and in the "Guidelines for Future Tibet's Policy and the Basic Features of Its Constitution," which I announced on February 26, 1992. In the conclusion of these guidelines relationship with its neighbours on equal terms and for mutual benefits. It shall be devoid of hostility and enmity." Similarly, in my statement on March 10th 1992, I stated, "When a genuinely cordial relationship is established between the Tibetans and Chinese, it will enable us not only to resolve the disputes between our nations in this century, but will also enable the Tibetans to make a significant contribution through our rich cultural tradition for mental peace among the millions of young Chinese." My endeavors to establish a personal relationship with Chinese leaders include my offer presented through your Embassy in New Delhi in the latter part of 1980, for a meeting with General Secretary Hu Yaobang during one of his visits abroad at any convenient place. Again in December 1991 when Premier Li Peng visited New Delhi, I proposed to meet him there. These were to no avail.

13. An impartial review of the above points will clearly show that my ideas and successive efforts have consistently sought solutions that will allow Tibet and China to live together in peace. In the light of these facts it is difficult to understand the purpose to the Chinese government's position that Mr. Dent Xiaoping's statement on Tibet of 1979 still stands and that as soon as "the Dalai Lama gives up his splittist activities," negotiations could start. This position has been repeated over and over again with no specific responses to my many initiatives. If China wants Tibet to stay with China, then China must create the necessary conditions for this. The time has come for the Chinese to show the way for Tibet and China to live together in friendship. A detailed step-by-step outline regarding Tibet's basic status should be spelled out. If such a clear outline is given, regardless of the possibility or an agreement or not, we Tibetans can then make a decision whether to live with China or not. If we Tibetans obtain our basic right to our satisfaction then we are not incapable of seeing the possible advantages of living with the Chinese. I trust in the far sightedness and wisdom of China's leaders and hope that they will take into consideration the current global political changes and the need to resolve the Tibetan problem peacefully, promoting genuine lasting friendship between our two neighbouring peoples.

Printed with permission of the Tibetan Government in Exile

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