Between Tibet and China, a Rare Openness

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The level of distrust between China and the overseas Tibetan community is evident. You can see it in the plodding nature of talks between Dharamsala and Beijing, the sharp criticism coming from both corners, or even in the comments sections of this blog, where supporters of the two sides frequently spar. So it was refreshing to read an editorial from the Boston Globe about a meeting between Chinese scholars and the Dalai Lama where discussion and civility prevailed:

The Chinese scholars were respectful and open-minded, often acknowledging false impressions they had originally held about Tibetans, the history of Tibetan-Chinese relations, and the role of the Dalai Lama. For his part, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists seemed to surprise many of the younger Chinese academics as he described the three- and four-hour audiences he had with Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing more than a half century ago.

Some in the audience were amused when the Dalai Lama said he had once been attracted to the moral principles of socialism, particularly its ideal of equal distribution, and had even asked to join the Chinese Communist Party. There were no challenges and no raised eyebrows, however, when he said that today there is a ruling Communist Party in China without communist ideology.

Free from official mediation, the academics heard the Dalai Lama say that he welcomes the material progress China had brought Tibet – but also that his people were suffering nonetheless because they lacked freedom of expression, religious freedom, and freedom from fear.