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Q&A: &#39Olympics Used to Legitimise Chinese Rule in Tibet&#39

Interview with Pema Gyalpo, Tibetan affairs expert and author

TOKYO, Mar 19 2008 (IPS) - Pema Gyalpo was official representative of the Dalai Lama in Japan from 1975 to 1990. Founder of the Tibet Culture Centre International, he is known for his many books on Tibet, his columns in major newspapers, and as an international affairs expert.

Pema Gyalpo, author and Tokyo-based expert on Tibetan affairs  Credit: Catherine Makino/IPS

Pema Gyalpo, author and Tokyo-based expert on Tibetan affairs Credit: Catherine Makino/IPS

Gyalpo told IPS correspondent Catherine Makino that the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was opposed to the current protests in Tibet because they were certain to invite brutal repression by the Chinese military.

IPS: The Dalai Lama says that if the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence he would have to resign. Do you think he should resign?

Pema Gyalpo: He can’t resign because he will always be the Dalai Lama. He is trying to save more Tibetan people from becoming victims of Chinese repression. The Chinese military wants to put every suspected person in jail and they are prepared to resort to mass murder. So this is the only way His Holiness can help save them. He is also appealing to them to stop violent methods in resisting Chinese rule, because he does not believe that violence will bring good results to anyone.

On the other hand, it is true that many younger Tibetans are getting very frustrated with the Dalai Lama’s approach through non-violence and peaceful resistance. They see that peaceful ways are not accomplishing anything. Many years of self-restraint have not brought any changes or results.

In my personal opinion too, negotiations with the Chinese have not brought any visible changes in Tibet, but the efforts of his Holiness are highly recognised by the international community. It has brought international moral support to the cause of Tibet, which might bring about the kind of results it brought to South Africa. Nelson Mandela and his people took their rightful positions without taking revenge against their former rulers.

IPS: Some are calling for a boycott of the Olympics. Do you support it?

PG: As long as the Olympics are peaceful, I support it. But China is trying to use the Olympics as a political tool to convince the world that Tibet is part of China. I am against the Olympics as a means to legitimise Chinese rule over Tibet.

However, I am against the Games being closed down because so many people have been working hard for it and some may never get the opportunity to compete again. We have no right to deprive them of these opportunities. But if athletes wants to voluntarily withdraw of their own free will, it will also help those Chinese who are also being deprived of their human rights. Beijing continues to jail Chinese dissidents.

IPS: What is current information you&#39re getting about Tibet?

PG: Unfortunately, as you can imagine, things are still very tense. People are still under house arrest, or getting arrested and beaten up. They’ve closed off the country to the world and this does not help the Tibetans. The Chinese have given their military and paramilitary the authority to shoot and kill.

IPS: How did this situation start?

PG: The whole thing started with the Chinese attacking a group of monks. A military truck just crashed into a gathering of Buddhist monks on the second day of demonstrations. Although the demonstrations were peaceful, they did not hesitate to kill innocent people.

IPS: How many people were killed?

PG: The Chinese are saying there were 13 people killed, but they have also shot more than 80 people … though they do not mention anything about it. They think they have a right to kill. We would be fooling ourselves if we think the situation is over, because the paramilitary are arresting a lot of people, anyone they think took part in the demonstration or is against Chinese rule.

IPS: Why did the Tibetans demonstrate?

PG: Because there is strong Tibetan resentment against Chinese rule. In over half a century they have not brought any physical or mental peace to the Tibetans. The people are still restricted on human rights and religious freedoms. They are not allowed to display or have any photos of the Dalai Lama. The Chinese are putting money into Tibet, but it&#39s not benefiting the local people. It’s only being used to bring in more Chinese. Even the railroad was built to transport these settlers. They are also taking away our antiques, even ripping up temple floors.

Bringing in more Chinese is a tool to exploit the Tibetan economy. Unless the Chinese change their past policies there will no solution to the Tibet problem.

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