q: When President Clinton started his presidency, very much tied trade issues
to human rights. And then he did completely a turn. What's the consequence of
What happens when you separate economy and trade and human rights?
a: President 's de-linking of trade and human rights, was really, really
harmful. Immediately after that, the Chinese started arresting people left,
right and center in channels and in Tibet. They suddenly realized that they
didn't have to put up a pretense. Prior to this, although they were locking
people up, whenever some Senators or someone came, someone from the Congress
visited Tibet or China, there were kind of token releases of prisoners, some
one-- at least under house arrest he was put there.
There was some attempt at keeping up a decent front. But, after this deal
with him, all that is gone. Far more arrests took place this year, and the
last year-- just immediately after delinking-- than has ever happened. Now,
they don't even bother to explain even. Before that, there was a lot of
explanation if you remember in the newspapers. The Chinese trying to convince
the world that their actions are right. Now they don't even bother; they
realize that the other side is as cynical as they are. Explanations are really
If you read the papers now, the Chinese have righteous indignation on these
things now. Every day, in their newspapers.... This condemnation of
American. Now, American are all upset when they hear of the media in places
like Iran that's ranting against Americans all the time, talking about
decadence of American imperialism, American lifestyle. But, the same thing is
going on in China---discussions on American decadent culture and lifestyle is
there all the time. But nobody talks about it.
q: What happened with the choice of the Panchem Lama? What is its
a: Traditionally the Dalai Lama must choose the Panchem Lamas; the
Panchem Lamas chose the Dalai Lamas. And it's been that since the whole
Now, when the Chinese refused to recognize the Dalai Lama of his choice, they
locked up the chief of the commission of the Lama, who was actually a really
gung-ho supporter of the Communist Party. A real party man, someone that
Chinese had trusted all along. They locked him up. Now, nobody knows where
the young Panchem Lama is, but somewhere. Probably under arrest, at least
With that new [Chinese] appointed Panchem Lama--essentially, the politics of
this, from the Chinese point view, are quite clear. They know that
immediately all the Tibetans will not respond to this Panchem Lama, but it's a
fait accompli. It is done there. This is what the Tibetans have to accept,
maybe in one generation.
The Chinese can afford to be patient; that's the only Panchem Lama they have.
So, maybe one old lady in the neighborhood might go over and... accept him,
because she needs some blessing for one thing or the other. And someone else
will do it. And gradually it will be there.
And, if they control the Panchem Lama, they control the future Dalai Lama,
because the Panchem Lama chooses the Dalai Lamas. So, in a sense, it's power
manipulation, and they know what they're doing. Essentially, if everything
works by their game plan, they've got it fixed. The next Dalai Lama is going
to be born in their kind of hands; they're going to control him totally.
But once again, life doesn't play games so conveniently. Even the most
Machiavellian politician gets his now and then. And, I think, with the
Chinese, what they forget is they did control the previous Panchem Lama; he was
born in a part of Tibet which is under the Chinese. And, the Communists got
him very early, at a very tender age. They really indoctrinated him. And, he
didn't play that game at all. He may not have been the greatest of Tibetan
nationalists, but he sure stood up for his people and their rights. And he
died for it some say. He went to prison and suffered tremendously for it.
And, he was a very brave man. He didn't play the game at all.
He was the first man to speak out against Mao Tse-tung's great leap. He
wrote, what they call the 80,000 character denunciation of Mao's programs.
q: And the banning of the Dalai Lama's picture, why is that happening?
a: It's considered revolutionary. When you have a picture of the Dalai
Lama in your house, it means "My loyalty is not to China. It is not to the
Party. My loyalty is to Tibet."
The Dalai Lama, ultimately, is the symbol of Tibet. Many people who put the
picture up, they see it that way. It's not that they are following a cult or
personality. They don't see the Dalai Lama the same way as Richard Gere does,
or someone else does. The Dalai Lama means many things to Tibetans. It's not
just a religious figure. He represents our country.
q: And the reeducation campaign going on in the monasteries, what is that
a: Essentially, it's very tiresome in China now. Anyone visiting China
knows that Communism is dead. They talk of Socialism, but that's all nonsense.
Essentially, it is not only capitalist, but it's capitalist in the worst
But in order to hang onto Tibet, the Chinese really don't have any other
reason, except to say that "We are re-educating Tibetans. We are giving them
Socialism." Otherwise, the legitimacy of Chinese position in Tibet falls
apart; there is no other reason. Otherwise, they are just imperialists.
All along, their grand reason that they stayed all the time for having invaded
Tibet, is to rescue Tibet from Western Imperialism and Colonialism. To take
these Tibetans, who've been downtrodden under the man-eating feudal system, to
raise Tibetan serfs to a higher level, and to raise them to kind of socialist
freedom and liberation.
Now, if Socialism is not there, what reason do they have to stay in? So,
that's why they keep this up in Tibet. In Tibet, you still pictures of Mao
Tse-tung and you still have the socialist jargon, you still have reeducation in
a tremendous way in these monasteries. Essentially, it is also to control in
these monasteries. Because the monasteries have become, in the last decade,
they have become the focus of a lot of demonstrations and uprisings in many
q: So what have monasteries become? Why has the reeducation in monasteries
a: Monasteries have become the flash points for a lot of demonstrations
and for anti-Chinese literature, rhetoric, or action even sometimes. There
have been conflicts not only in the major monasteries, like Sera but even
outlying monasteries. Not only within, let's say, what the Chinese call
Tibet's "autonomous region," which is defined as the only proper Tibet, but
even outlying areas like Chinghai-- What the Chinese call Chinghai.... the
northeastern provinces. In Szechwan Province itself, many monasteries--
If there's a demonstration in Lhasa-- because there are monks who belong to,
let's say, branch monasteries, in all sorts of outlying areas. And, it
immediately radiates-- from Lhasa to all of these areas. And you see
demonstrations of some of the most remote areas of Tibet, monasteries
q: And how have the Chinese reacted?
a: When all these things have happened, the Chinese have reacted in a
very, very brutal and straightforward manner. Immediately, ring leaders are
arrested, the PSB comes in, a lot of monks are beaten, and initially there's a
lot of violence going on in these places. Arrests are taking place. And then
the rest of the monastery, re-education comes in. And, also, there's a
reshuffle of the monastic administration, they try to place, let's say, Lamas
who are more amenable to the Communist Party guidelines than Lamas who are
A lot of monasteries are under control of the Party, nearly all monasteries
have an official ... (inaudible) they're responsible to the party itself. But,
nevertheless, monasteries have become a flash point, primarily because there's
a concentration of people. Because in Tibet, you must realize a lot of people
are spread over a vast area. The villages are very small. Nomads are spread
out over hundreds, even thousand of miles.
With monasteries, you have a concentration of people, not only just ordinary
people, but of people who have an education. People who know how to read and
write, in most cases. Also, people who have traveled, because monks in Tibet
are itinerant. They move from place to place, for pilgrimage, for whatnot.
They are people who picked up information. A lot of them might have even
traveled to India because they want to get the blessings of the Lama.
So, people who are not totally receptive to Chinese propaganda. With that
sort of situation--especially there's another thing, that even nuns have come
out and said so-- One reason for them, why it's easier to revolt is they don't
have any connections; they don't have a family. So, if something happens, it
happens to them directly; it doesn't affect, let's say, their wife or their
children, or what have you, or their husband. They are on their own. Because
of these reasons, monasteries, nunneries have become, let's say, foremost in
defying Chinese oppression in Tibet.
q: So essentially, if one looks at Tibet today what China is doing? What do
a: Essentially, what is happening in Tibet now is ever more oppression,
ever more tightening of authoritarian rule. In education, in economics, now
even in let's say law and order. Especially since, the last few years, there
have been some bombings also in Tibet. So, they've got more and more
informants out there. The PSB has been expanded. Now they are cracking down
on demonstrations even more swiftly than they ever did before.
Now, they don't even permit crowds of more than two or three people out in ...
They are very careful. The moment they see a small, little crowd happening,
the PSB comes there, right there, and breaks it up. Their response time is
One nun told me that she and a friend just got out there and just shouted
"Ransen for Tibet; freedom for Tibet," and said within two minutes the PSB were
there; they were bundled off in a truck. They're getting very good at it;
they've got surveillance cameras all over the place. Their police records are
meticulous. They've got state-of-the-art equipment which they buy from Japan
and even from this country, to keep the Tibetan people totally down, totally
The way the Tibetan populace lives is in the center of town, old Lhasa.
Immediately around it are all these public security bureau offices--police,
armed police, paramilitary, all of them. Immediately around that, around Lhasa
city itself are military installations. Divisions after divisions of Chinese
army-- So, they've got more security there than even the Tibetan population.
And, there's another factor of control that I wanted to bring up which I
forgot. Just to show you how subtle they are, because of certain Western
response to religious oppression in China, now they are doing this because of
Christianity, of Catholics being persecuted. And now, of course, the Buddhist
come into it also.
Because of this, the Chinese so as not to seem too heavy handed, they are
importing-- We've heard of Chinese immigrants coming into Tibet, hundreds and
thousands of them are moving in to displace the Tibetans.
The Chinese are making sure more and more Muslims come in, Chinese Muslims.
Because the Chinese Muslims have always had a traditional kind of antagonism
towards the Buddhists the Tibetans. The Chinese Muslims also have an advantage
that Chinese Muslims are mutton eaters. In the highlands, that's what you get;
they don't eat pork. Pigs don't breathe too well at 20,000 feet above sea
So, Muslims are sent in-- Muslims also eat barley and wheat; they don't eat
rice; they don't eat so many vegetables like the other Chinese do. They adapt
better. They are also horsemen. Traditionally, even before the Communists, the
_... (inaudible) and the Manchus used Muslim horsemen against Tibetans whenever
it got difficult.
There has been a traditional kind of antagonism between the two sort of
people. So, they are importing Chinese Muslims. And Chinese Muslims now
control so much of the business in Lhasa. Restaurants are controlled nearly--
Like all these shish kabob places are controlled by the Chinese Muslims.
Now, another factor is at the moment there is fighting between the Tibetans
and the Chinese Muslims. The Chinese are seen in some ways as- they're
negotiating between them. All he is trying to do is prevent a conflict between
these two communities.
q: And what should America do for Tibet?
a: I don't think, at the moment, there is any possibility of Americans
aiding Tibetan actively for its independence. And, Tibet is far away; it
doesn't have oil. I don't see any way that American Marines are going to come
to rescue us. But for America itself, I think, for its own conscience, for its
own kind of dignity, it has to stand up for the Tibetan cause. In a sense,
acknowledge that Tibet is a free country, condemn Chinese actions in Tibet
clear-cut. And to a certain degree link trade again with human rights and with
oppression of Tibetan people.
We are not asking for the impossible as far as the government or the
administration is concerned. What we are asking is even-- I think it will
benefit America. In this day and age, we talk of cynicism all the time. But,
if America behaves in this fashion, to a certain extent, it influences other
nations. People do look to America. Americans may not believe this. But, a
lot of countries play to the American tune.
If American stands by Tibet, I'm sure a lot of other countries will.
So, it's important for Americans to take a definite position. And not to
be wishy-washy, and not try to influence the Dalai Lama; that's one of the
problems with the administration. They have their own agenda. They want to be
seen right in human rights context, but at the same time they want to push the
Tibetans into the Chinese kind of arms.
I don't think they should try to influence the Dalai Lama to make peace--
whatever the cost may be to make peace with China. This is what the
administration has been trying to do for sometime. I don't think they should
try to influence the Dalai Lama, but they should respect the Tibetan cause.
And, they should come out clearly and say they recognize that Tibet is an
independent country. There should at least be a debate on it. And they should
recognize that Tibetans have a right to live as free people in this world; not
necessarily because they have any advantage to Americans or to western
civilization or whatever. But, just because they are people.
q: And at the same time do you have a concern about the image that these films
coming up may promulgate that is ultimately negative? Is there a cautionary
thought you have about these films coming up?
a: Not with these specific films, because from what I understand the
kind of reviews I've read, they've been quite well researched and truthful to
fact, from what I understand. So, I don't think we have anything to fear from
this, from just a few films.
But, essentially I think, westerners, and especially people in this country,
should really realize Tibet exists on its own, not as an extension of their own
needs and their own psyche. They should not try to impose any kind of agenda
on the Tibetan people and their cause, even if it is well meant. The question
of peace now.
A lot of Tibetans are really frightened about doing anything, because they
feel Westerners would disapprove. People fight for their freedom. Why
shouldn't Tibetans fight for theirs?
Everyone has fought for their freedom. This country is built on violence.
Like you threw out the Brits with rifles-- But nobody is saying that's a bad
thing altogether. Or, World Ware II. Why are westerners only allowed to
fight? Why can't Tibetans also take up a gun now and then? And, nobody thinks
that was wrong to fight in a Hitler.
So, for us, we see the Chinese as the West saw Nazi Germany. Your pain is
yours; it's more immediate to you than someone else's pain. Tibetans have
every right to tackle it in their own way. Of course, advice can be given.
It's sometimes senseless to go out with a rifle and do something that's
suicidal. But, I don't think any kind of moral imperative should be pushed on
q: And, you're not concerned that these films might just reinforce that
Shangri-La western myth of Tibet?
a: I'm a bit worried. Because once again, we're going to be seen as
appendages to the Dalai Lama rather than people with a separate history. The
Dalai Lama is fairly recent in Tibetan history. I am loyal to him, and the
rules of the Dalai Lamas. But, they came into power in the 15th, 16th
century. We've had emperors before that. Tibet, in it's three or four thousand
years of history have had a lot of other rulers. People sort of forget that we
are only seen as a bunch of very cuddly ... (inaudible) ruled by this sort of
beneficent Lama, the Lama who won the Nobel Peace prize, wonderful cuddly,
feely-feely, touchy-touch, feely-feel kind of thing.
And I think the second film might do that. But, of course, I'm anticipating. I
hope it won't. But, this is one of the real problems we have. Far more than
fighting the Chinese. The number of New Age people we have to push away from
the offices is incredible. Everyone wants a translator. And then there are so
many Tibetans in exile. And ... (inaudible) there are only about four or five
thousand of us. Half the time you have to spend saying sorry, I can't do this
for you. I know your spiritual life is important, but I've got to get a job
And, a lot of younger people are snapped up now just by all these sort of--
because there's money there. Everyone is way into it. Our language is
changing, it's becoming mushy. People are talking . (inaudible) all the time
now. They're not really saying groovy, but they're getting close to it. And
it's taking away the edge from Tibetans.
And, I know Tibetans right from the 60's when ... (inaudible) came out-- I
know a lot of these people. A lot of them were big, for instance. We hadn't
suffered all the disease that we had in an exile. A lot of them were pretty
violent. Everyone carried a knife. If you could afford it, you carried a
pistol. People had an edge. They were spiritual people, but you didn't ...
(inaudible) with them. And they were proud; they didn't go around begging.
Now, everyone is basically looking for a sponsor, looking for some grants here
and there. And everyone is, ... (inaudible) crawling around. And for me that
really hurts, to see a proud people reduced to this conduction, and being
humble and being nice. I feel sometimes that Tibet is lost when you see that.
You only survive in Tibet if you are independent, I mean as a person. Take
one look at the landscape. No humble person can live there. And no nice
person can live there. It's a hard place; it's hard to be a nomad. And, if I
went back to Tibet, I know I would die on the third day if I tried to be a
nomad. It's difficult. There's an element of violence there. You have to
hunt and you have to keep away wolves; there are bandits in that sort of area;
there's no law in your immediate neighborhood. So, if someone tries to take
your flock of yak, you give them.
These are the real Tibetans; these are the ones who created all the
monasteries, who paid the taxes. And, now they are being changed; they are
being made to sort of-- they're becoming cuddly. I wouldn't call that
genocide, exactly. But, I think, one could call it sort of a fading away of