News and Views on Tibet

Dalai Lama trashes China for censorship, propaganda

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BY Lore Croghan

The Dalai Lama scolded the Chinese government for its censorship and propaganda in a speech at Hunter College Sunday morning.

“Openness and freedom of speech are essential,” the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of about 20 million Tibetan Buddhists, told a conference of 230 Chinese and Tibetan students. “Under fear, with police watching, how can harmony develop? Harmony by gun – impossible.”

The world-renowned monk, has lived in exile in India since 1959, after a failed uprising of Tibetans against Chinese rule.

He said he believes in self-governing “autonomy” for Tibet within China instead of total separation from the super-power – but that apparently hasn’t won him any friends in high places.

“Some Chinese officials, they describe me as a demon – with horns,” he said, holding two fingers up to his shaven head to illustrate. “Their thinking is almost like children’s.”

Some Tibetans have told him they fear visiting his government-in-exile in Dharamsala, India, because they believe it’s infested with Chinese spies.

“Any spy is welcome,” he said. “We have nothing to hide.”

Chinese government propaganda has given his fellow Tibetans a bad rap among many Chinese – who are led to believe “Tibetans are backward and stupid,” said the Nobel Prize winner, who wore his maroon-and-gold monk’s robes.

He said the Chinese government invited him to return home to Tibet in the 1980s, but he declined.

“The issue is civil rights. Until they address that, there’s no point in my return,” the 75-year-old said.

Both Chinese and Tibetan conference attendees were impressed.

“When he walked in, I was in awe,” said Hunter student Annie Su, 22, who lives in Elmhurst, Queens. “Maybe it sounds corny, but I had tears in my eyes. He’s adorable.”

Tenzin Gelek, 28, who lived in Tibetan refugee camps in India until 2008, helped organize the gathering – called the Bridge Conference – to foster understanding between Chinese and Tibetan students in the United States.

“The Western education system is all about objectivity. It’s easier for us to understand each other’s position here in the melting pot of America,” he said.

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