Supporters Vow More Help for Tibet Activism:
U.S. backers of Dalai Lama believe Chinese president was
conciliatory partly because of pressure from them.
Article includes comments from Tseten Panucharas of Los Angeles Friends of Tibet
-- by Norman Kempster, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON, Tuesday, June 30, 1998 (Los Angeles Times) -- American supporters
of Tibet vowed Monday to maintain the pressure on China that they believe
contributed to Chinese President Jiang Zemin's stated willingness to open a
dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
"The campaign will continue until His Holiness is entertaining visitors in
the Potala Palace" in the Tibetan capital, said Mary Beth Markey, director of
governmental relations for the privately funded International Campaign for
Tibet in Washington.
Markey said a "confluence of forces"--from strong congressional support to
the effect of a pro-Tibet rock concert--probably persuaded Jiang that the
international political cost was too high for China to maintain its
traditional hostility to Tibetan aspirations.
But she and other pro-Tibet activists also said that Jiang's remarks, made at
the end of a news conference Saturday with President Clinton, seemed to
signal little more than a change in atmosphere. The substance of China's
demand that Tibet acknowledge it is part of China remained intact.
Still, Jiang is the first Chinese leader to talk publicly about Tibet in
relatively neutral terms; in the past, the Chinese government has coupled
statements about Tibet with personal attacks on the Dalai Lama, the exiled
Tibetan spiritual leader, and on other Tibetan officials.
"What is progress is that this became a matter for the [Chinese] public to
listen to," Markey said. "There is a lot of misinformation about what is
happening in Tibet. There has been vilification of the Dalai Lama over the
years. In that regard, this is quite amazing."
* * *
In Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's headquarters in northern India, the Tibetan
government-in-exile cautiously welcomed Jiang's overture. Spokesman T. C.
Tethong said Tibetans "applaud President Jiang Zemin for publicly recognizing
the fact that Tibet is an important issue needing a solution and for
indicating his willingness to have an exchange of views and discussions on
Jiang, in comments Saturday, said: "Actually, as long as the Dalai Lama can
publicly make the statement and a commitment that Tibet is an inalienable
part of China--and he must also recognize Taiwan as a province of China--then
the door to dialogue and negotiation is open."
In response, Tethong said, the Dalai Lama has already "stated very
unequivocally that he is not seeking independence. We hope the Chinese
leadership will recognize the sincerity of His Holiness' gesture and take a
In Los Angeles, the Dalai Lama's followers were skeptical that the
Clinton-Jiang remarks on Tibet offered new hope. In calling for the Dalai
Lama to recognize China's sovereignty over Taiwan, they said, the Chinese
leader did nothing more than add another condition for negotiations.
"They have not changed their rhetoric at all," said Tseten Phanucharas,
former president of the Los Angeles Friends of Tibet organization. Although
Jiang refrained from personally attacking the Dalai Lama during the televised
weekend session with Clinton, China's religious affairs minister had publicly
railed against the Tibetan leader and denounced his regime as a "dark age"
theocracy in earlier remarks, she said.
To improve relations, she added, the Chinese should take such concrete steps
as freeing thousands of political prisoners--more than one-third of whom are
Tibetans, she said.
* * *
Chinese troops occupied Tibet in 1950. The Dalai Lama, the country's
religious leader, fled to India in 1959 after an unsuccessful uprising
against Chinese authorities. China maintains that the Himalayan region has
always been a part of China, while Tibet supporters claim it was once an
independent nation. The United States regards Tibet as part of China but
urges Beijing to end its repression there.
Under pressure from Congress, Clinton last year appointed an official envoy
to the Tibetan government-in-exile, a step that previous administrations had
refused to take. Gregory Craig, whose primary job is director of policy
planning for the State Department, holds the envoy post.
Times staff writer Teresa Watanabe in Los Angeles contributed to this report.