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Excerpts from the Clinton - Jiang News Conference

Federal News Service
Sunday, June 28, 1998

Following are excerpts of yesterday's news conference by President
Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, beginning with remarks by
Jiang:

Tibetan Autonomy

PRESIDENT JIANG: I'm sorry, I have to take up . . . additional five
minutes. I'd like to say a few words on Dalai Lama. President Clinton
is also interested in this question, in Dalai Lama. Actually, since
the Dalai Lama left in 1959, earth-shaking changes have taken place in
Tibet.

First, the system of theocracy has forever become bygone. . . . And
the more than 1 million serfs under the rule of the Dalai Lama were
liberated.

In 1990, when I was in Tibet, I went to visit the liberated serfs. And
now the system of national autonomy is in practice in Tibet. And the
people there, they have their Tibetan autonomous region government.
Since I came to work in the central government, I have urged the 29
sovereign municipalities and autonomous regions to assist Tibet in its
development, even including those provinces that are not very
developed, such as Xinghai province. So, altogether, nearly 8 billion
yuan of financial resources were raised, and already 62 projects have
been completed in Tibet.

As for the freedom of religious belief, there is clear stipulation in
our constitution for the protection of religious belief, and this also
includes in Tibet. And we have also spent a lot of money in renovating
the lamaseries and the temples in Tibet, and we have spent 100 million
yuan and one ton of gold in renovating the Polotov palace.

Just now, President Clinton also mentioned the Tibetan issue and the
dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Actually, as long as the Dalai Lama can
publicly make a statement and a commitment that Tibet is an
inalienable part of China and that he must also recognize Taiwan as a
province of China, then the door to dialogue and negotiation is open.

Finally, I want to emphasize that according to Chinese constitution,
the freedom of religious belief in Tibet, and also throughout China,
is protected. But as the president of the People's Republic of China
and as a member of the Communist Party, I myself am an atheist. But
this will by no means affect my respect for the religious freedom in
Tibet. . . .

I think President Clinton is a strong defender of the American
interest, and I am a strong defender of the Chinese interest. But
despite that, we still can have very friendly exchanges of views and
discussion. And I think that is democracy. And I want to stress that
actually there are a lot of areas in which we can learn from each
other.

[In English.] If you agree, we will finish this.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I agree, but you have to let me say one thing about
the Dalai Lama. [Laughter.] First, I agree that Tibet is a part of
China, an autonomous region of China. And I can understand why the
acknowledgement of that would be a precondition of dialogue with the
Dalai Lama. But I also believe that there are many, many Tibetans who
still revere the Dalai Lama and view him as their spiritual leader.

President Jiang pointed out that he has a few followers of Tibetan
Buddhism even in the United States and Europe. But most of his
followers have not given up their own religious faith. He has
followers who are Christians -- supporters -- excuse me, not
followers, supporters -- who are Christians, who are Jews, who are
Muslims, who believe in the unity of God and who believe he is a holy
man.

But for us, the question is not fundamentally religious. It is
political. That is, we believe that other people should have the right
to fully practice their religious beliefs and that if he, in good
faith, presents himself on those terms, it is a legitimate thing for
China to engage him in dialogue.

And let me say something that will perhaps be unpopular with everyone.
I have spent time with the Dalai Lama. I believe him to be an honest
man. And I believe if he had a conversation with President Jiang, they
would like each other very much. [Laughs.]

PRESIDENT JIANG: Thank you for your attention.


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