By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, November 19: Gyalo Thondup, an elder brother of the Dalai Lama and a former Kalon Tripa
(Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala), Wednesday said he was shocked by China’s attempt to deny a statement made by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 that “except for independence all other issues can be settled through discussions.”
Gyalo Thondup (L) and Juchen Thupten Namgyal at a press conference in Dharamsala, Wednesday, November 19, 2008 (Photo: Tenzin Dasel/Phayul)
Earlier this month, following the eighth round of talks with the representatives of the Dalai Lama, China refuted that any such statement was ever made by Deng Xiaoping.
In response to a Japanese reporter's question whether Deng Xiaoping had stated in the late 70s that "except independence all other issues can be settled through discussions'' as repeatedly claimed by the Tibetan side, Mr. Zhu Weiqun, executive Vice-Minister of China’s Central United Front Work Department, which handles contacts envoys of the Dalai Lama, reportedly said it was not true.
"Comrade Deng Xiaoping had never made such statement. It is a falsehood made by Gyari and is a complete distortion of Deng Xiaoping's statement," Zhu said at a press conference organised by Information Office of the State Council in Beijing on November 10, 2008.
“I am shocked to hear such statement from the Chinese officials because it was myself to whom the late paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, said that ''except independence all other issues can be settled through discussions,” Gyalo Thondup said.
He said: “Deng Xiaoping is no longer with us today. But to put the record straight I would like to clarify in front of international media that during my first visit to China in 1979 I met the paramount leader Deng Xiaoping on March 12, 1979.
“He told me "except independence all other issues can be settled through discussions."
Thondup also pointed out that various other Chinese officials, in their dealings with him, had also stressed on the same. He noted that the former Chinese premier Li Peng in an interview with Xinhua News Agency on 19 May, 1991, also stated that all matters “except Tibetan independence can be discussed”.
This supposed indication from Deng and other Chinese leaders subsequently influenced Dalai Lama to renounce ‘independence’, a dream cherished by millions of Tibetans, especially the younger generation which was torn between their aspiration for freedom and their love for their leader.
Thondup, who worked for many years to advance the Dalai Lama’s efforts to begin talks with the Chinese leadership, addressed a press conference here this evening to counter China’s recent refusal to acknowledge the statement allegedly made by the then Chinese leader.
Giving a broad overview of his involvement, particularly in the period leading to his meeting with Deng Xiaoping in 1979, Thondup, today said while he was in Hong Kong studying on China he was approached several times by a Chinese official to visit Beijing to discuss Tibet’s situation directly with the Chinese leader.
Thondup said his first response was to reject the idea since he did not hold any “political responsibility” over Tibet at that time. Upon much insistence from Chinese, Thondup said, he later reported to the Dalai Lama in India about the Chinese suggestion. He said the exiled Tibetan leader welcomed the idea and advised him to meet Deng on a “personal capacity” to hear what the Chinese leader had to say on the Tibetan issue.
Thondup said it was during the meeting that Deng told him: “except independence all other issues can be settled through discussions," the statement that later became the basis for the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle-Path’ approach for almost 30 years now.
Thondup said upon his meeting Deng told him so many things had happened in the past years and acknowledged that Tibetans had suffered tremendously, including Chinese people and also himself.
“Whatever has happened happened. So it is important to look to future – future is more important,” Thondup quoted Deng as telling him during their meeting in the Great Hall of the People.
Thondup said Deng even offered to hold talks immediately to settle the Tibet issue, which he said he refused saying he had no authority to negotiate on Tibet.
Thondup also added that soon after his meeting with Deng, a number of ‘fact-finding’ delegations were sent by the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
Thondup said he still optimistically supported the face-to-face meeting with China as the best possible way to plead for the “equal legitimate rights” that he said he personally advocates for the Tibetan people in his dealings with China. He cautions China that the talks should be a two-way traffic in terms of confidence building.
He maintains that the Tibetan people’s fight for their legitimate rights is a justified cause that would prevail no matter how long it takes. He said he has been volunteering his service since 1952 to find a solution to the Tibetan problem, entirely on his “personal capacity” and without holding any “political responsibility”.
Former Kalon Tripa Juchen Thupten, who had been a member of the first Tibetan fact-finding and exploratory mission, also said he was “totally surprised to learn” that Mr. Zhu had denied that such a statement was actually made by Deng Xiaoping.
“I myself have sought confirmation on this regard from our Chinese counterparts when I visited China as a member of the First Tibetan Exploratory Mission to Beijing in 1982” Mr Juchen said in a statement issued at today’s press conference here.
Juchen said: “As a member of the First Tibetan Exploratory Mission, we met with Vice-premier Yang Jireng, who was also the head of Central United Front Work Department and Nationality Affairs Commission and others on April 29, 1982. I sought confirmation from Yang Yireng whether Deng Xiaoping had made such a statement. He did not deny this fact.”
The issue of Deng Xiaoping having actually made the statement has become a subject of discussions among Tibetan exiles as eight rounds of talks between Dharamsala and Beijing, started since September 2002 has failed to generate any progress with China even denying that such a statement was ever made.
Over 500 Tibetan exile leaders are holding closed-door discussions for a major re-evaluation of their strategy since the Dalai Lama outlined his “middle-way” policy in 1988 that seeks “real and meaningful” autonomy through dialogues with the Chinese leadership and rejects outright independence for the Tibetan region.