From the 17th century until 1951, Tibet has been ruled by the Dalai Lama's and their regents from the traditional capital of Lhasa. In 1911, Tibet declared it's independence from China at the fall of the Qing dynasty. From that time until 1941, it remained an independent state until the formal formation of the People's Republic of China, at which time the government in Beijing (formally Peking) launched an armed invasion of the region in 1950. The unprepared Tibetan army of 5,000 was routed by 40,000 Communist Chinese forces near the city of Chamdo. In 1951, Tibet and China signed the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, recognizing the rule of China over Tibet. In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India with his government, going into exile, and repudiated the agreement.
The Dalai Lama is more than just the leader of the government for the people of Tibet. Tradition holds that the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of a line of Buddhist Masters who have become so enlightened that they have been able to become exempt from the wheel of life, death, and rebirth, and have chosen by their own free will to be reborn on this plane to teach mankind.
The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th Dalai Lama and has proclaimed that he will be the last.
The Dalai Lama is currently on a visit to the United States, and has issued a statement today from Silicon Valley in California concerning the violence and protests over the Olympics in Beijing.
“If violence becomes out of control then my only option is to resign,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader told reporters on the sidelines of a five-day conference on compassion in Seattle.
“If the majority of people commit violence, then I resign,” the 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate said on his first visit to the U.S. since the recent Chinese action in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama said he was fully committed to his “middle way” approach to Tibet’s relationship with China. “I am fully committed to the middle approach; further more concessions, I don’t know,” he said. “Our struggle is with a few in the leadership of the People’s Republic of China and not with the Chinese people,” he said in a statement.
However, he expressed fears that suppression in Tibet may increase if the present situation continued.
“I am very much concerned that the Chinese government will unleash more force and increase the suppression of Tibetan people,” he said.
The Dalai Lama also indicated that there have been ongoing private conferences between his government and Beijing since the eruption of protests last month, adding that he had had no direct contact with Beijing, but that talks were being conducted through "private channels," giving no indication as to nature of the talks or the means of communication. He also expressed his support for the Olympics in Beijing, expressing that he was "saddened" by recent anti-Chinese protests surrounding the arrival of the Olympic torch in San Fransisco.
Beijing, however, has accused the Dalai Lama of "masterminding" the protests in an attempt to stir unrest and split Tibet from China, and ruin the Olympics.
At the weekend, Chinese President Hu Jintao defended the action in Tibet and dismissed the claims that the riots in Lhasa were linked to human rights. “Our conflict with the Dalai clique is not an ethnic problem, not a religious problem, nor a human rights problem,” Mr. Hu told Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The human rights controversy is and has been at the center of the protestation of China's occupation of Tibet for several years. Actor Richard Gere has been a long time advocate for human rights in Tibet.
For now, the violence and unrest, the protests and demonstrations, are what are taking center stage as the Olympics prepare to begin in Beijing. It does give pause to consider, in stepping away for a moment to look at the entirety of the situation, who benefits from a disrupted, politicized Beijing Olympics? Who suffers? And what will be the final outcomes once the Olympics are past for China?
There is something to be said for timing. China accuses the Dalai Lama of stirring unrest, the Dalai Lama expresses his regrets that the Olympics are being overshadowed by the unrest, so the question remains, who has sparked it?
Is the Dalai Lama truly behind the protests, while claiming denial on the international stage, or is it possible that China, itself, has staged the demonstrations as some way of discrediting the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government.
Somewhere, there is truth that has yet to be brought to light.
In the meantime, the athletes of the world gather under the taint of political and social disharmony.
Once and Always, an American Fighting Man