Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Dalai Lama is an insignificant character, Deng

Gyalo Thondup and Deng Xiaoping in 1979
In my book The Negotiations that never were, I mentioned the encounter between Deng Xiaoping, China's new Paramount Leader and Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's elder brother in March 1979.
Excerpts of the book are posted below. 
We have now another side of the coin.
The US Department of State has recently released Volume XIII of the Foreign Relations of the United States (Carter Administration - 1977-80).
What is surprising is that there are very few mentions about Tibet (was not President Carter a great 'friend' of the Dalai Lama?)
One discussion is however worth citing. It took place during Walter Mondale, the US Vice-President's visit to China in August 1979. 
On August 27, 1979, Mondale met  Deng Xiaoping (then China's Vice-Premier of the State Council). 
Mondale was accompanied by Leonard Woodcock, U.S. Ambassador to China; David Aaron, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Denis Clift, Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs while Deng Xiaoping had Huang Hua, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zhang Wenchin, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chai Zemin, China's Ambassador to the US, on his side.
During the course of the conversation Deng broached the topic of Dalai Lama.
He stated:
As for the matter of the Dalai Lama, that is a small matter. We made clear our position. It is not a very important question because the Dalai Lama is an insignificant character.
Vice President Mondale: You have awfully good housing waiting for him. Could Woodcock [the US Ambasssdor] live there? (Laughter)
Vice Premier Deng: If he wants to come back, he could still live in that house. Of course, it is an illusion on his part. The idea of wanting to have a state of Tibet. Not long ago he visited the Soviet Union, and we have confirmed information that he went there on orders of the Indian Government. Some of his important officials [the first fact-finding delegation] have recently come back and have gone to Tibet to see officials and conditions there.
Though the discussion shifted on Cambodia and Vietnam, Vice President Mondale later brought back the question of the Dalai Lama:
Concerning the Dalai Lama’s visit to the United States, he was received only as a religious leader and not as a political leader. He will not be treated as a political leader. And our position, whenever asked, is that Tibet is part of China. 
Deng's remark raises a serious question, was the Chinese leader sincere when, a few month earlier, he told Gyalo Thondup: “The door is opened for negotiations as long as we don’t speak about independence. Everything else is negotiable”.
Difficult to say!

Excerpts of The Negotiations that never were:
The first encounters
In November 1978, Gyalo Thondup met with Li Ju-sheng who was designated as ‘Xinhua Director No. 2’ in Hong Kong. They had several encounters which lasted 5 or 6 weeks. Li certainly relayed his conversations to the leadership in Beijing. It seems that the objective from the Chinese side was to build confidence to prepare an eventual visit of Thondup to China where he would meet officials.
At the beginning, Gyalo Thondup did not know that Li Ju-sheng was close to Deng Xiaoping (who was acquainted with his intelligence work in Indonesia in the 1960s). Deng had personally sent Li to Hong Kong and given him this designation (Director No 2) . After a few meetings, Li recommended to Deng that Thondup be invited to discuss the situation in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama recalled in his memoirs that around the same time:
Thirty-four prisoners, mostly elderly members of my own administration, were publicly released with great ceremony in Lhasa. These men were purportedly the last of the 'rebel leaders'. Chinese newspapers stated that, after being taken on a month-long tour of the 'New Tibet', they were to be assisted in finding jobs and even in going abroad if that was what they desired.”
The Dalai Lama was informed of the meetings between Gyalo Thondup and the Chinese emissary. He commented:
The arrival of the [Tibetan] New Year brought no let-up in this spate of extraordinary developments. On 1 February 1979, coincidentally the day that the People's Republic of China was formally recognised by the US, the Panchen Lama, in his first public appearance for fourteen years, added his voice to those calling for the Dalai Lama and his fellow exiles to return. 'If the Dalai Lama is genuinely interested in the happiness and welfare of the Tibetan masses, he need have no doubts about it, he said. I can guarantee that the present standard of living of the Tibetan people in Tibet is many times better than that of the old society’ .
A week later, this invitation was repeated by Radio Lhasa. The nomination of a special welcoming committee to receive Tibetans from abroad was announced.
The Dalai Lama continued:
This was followed just a week later by the unexpected arrival of Gyalo Thondup in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) where I was attending a religious conference. To my surprise, he announced that he had heard through some old and trusted friends of his in Hong Kong (where he now lives) that Xinhua, the New China News Agency, which constitutes China's official legation to the British colony, wanted to make contact with him. Following this, he had met a personal emissary of Deng Xiaoping, who explained that the Chinese leader wanted to open communications with the Dalai Lama. As a mark of his goodwill, Deng wanted to invite Gyalo Thondup to Peking for talks. My brother had refused as he wanted to seek my opinion first.
This was totally unexpected, and I did not reply immediately. The developments of the past two years all looked very promising However, as the ancient Indian saying goes, 'When you have once been bitten by a snake, you become cautious even of a rope.' And unfortunately, all my experience of the Chinese leadership suggested that it was untrustworthy. Not only did the authorities in question lie, but worse, when these lies were exposed they were not the least bit ashamed. The Cultural Revolution had been a 'tremendous success' whilst it was going on; now it was a failure — but there was no sense of humility in this admission. Nor was there anything to suggest that these people ever kept their promises. Despite the concrete undertaking of clause thirteen of the Seventeen-Point Agreement that the Chinese would 'not arbitrarily take a needle or thread' from the Tibetans, they had ransacked the whole country. On top of this, through countless atrocities, they had shown a total disrespect for human rights. It seemed that to the Chinese mind, perhaps because of the huge size of their own population, human life is considered to be a cheap commodity — and Tibetan lives to be of still less value. I therefore felt it necessary to exercise extreme caution.
On the other hand, my basic belief is that human problems can only be solved through human contact. So there could be no harm in hearing what the Chinese had to say. Hopefully we could simultaneously explain our own views. We certainly had nothing to hide. Also, if the authorities in Peking were in earnest, we might even be able to send some fact-finding missions to discover for ourselves the real situation.
With these considerations in mind, and knowing that our cause was 100 per cent just and in accordance with the wishes of the entire population of Tibet, I told my brother he was free to go. After he had seen the Chinese leaders, we would consider the next step .
The road was cleared for the first direct contacts between the Dalai Lama’s brother and the new leadership in Beijing.

The Deng-Thondup meeting
The meeting between the supreme leader of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama’s brother took place in Beijing on March 12, 1979. Immediately, Deng blamed the Gang of Four for the difficult situation in Tibet. It was then the standard excuse for all that had gone wrong in China (and in Tibet) since the mid-sixties. But Deng said that he was keen to improve the lot of the Tibetan population. He told Thondup that he would like to invite the refugees in India and abroad to return to Tibet, “It is better to see once than to hear a hundred times”.
It was during this encounter with Gyalo Thondup that Deng Xiaoping said: “The door is opened for negotiations as long as we don’t speak about independence. Everything else is negotiable”. 
Around that time, the Dalai Lama proposed to Beijing (via the Chinese Embassy in India) that a fact-finding mission from Dharamsala should be permitted to visit Tibet with a view to discovering the real situation there and reporting. Gyalo Thondup had been requested to work out the details.
It is in these circumstances that three delegations were sent by the Dalai Lama in 1979 and 1980 to visit their native land after a gap of 20 years and much suffering.

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