Sino-Tibetan Dialogue: Confrontation (1994 - 2001)

Mar 1994: In his official statement on 10 March 1994, His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his concern at the lack of positive response from the Chinese government to his initiatives. While proposing to consult his people on the future course of the freedom struggle, His Holiness said in the statement: "Whatever the outcome of such conclusion, it will serve as a guideline for our future dealings with China and the reorientation of the course of our freedom struggle... I continue to remain committed to finding a peaceful and negotiated solution to the issue of Tibet with the Chinese government directly."

Apr 1994: On 28 April 1994, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with the US President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore. He also had a separate meeting with the US National Security Advisor Anthony Lake. The White House release said that the meeting was aimed to discuss efforts to initiate dialogue with the Chinese leadership and to inquire about efforts to preserve Tibetan religion and culture.

Jul 1994: From 20 to 23 July 1994, the Chinese government convened the "Third Forum on Work in Tibet" in Beijing and decided to follow a hardline policy on Tibet. The Propaganda Committee of the "TAR" Communist Party summarised the decisions of the Third Work Forum in a document for internal distribution among CPC cadres, entitled, A Golden Bridge Leading Into a New Era. The document revealed that the Chinese government was no longer seriously interested in dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or in his return.

Mar 1995: In his official statement on 10 March 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, "I have consistently and sincerely made attempts to engage the Chinese government in earnest negotiations over the future of Tibet. Regrettably China has rejected my proposals for a negotiated resolution of our problem. Instead she has set the pre-condition that I formally recognise Tibet to be 'an inseparable part of China' before any negotiations can start." His Holiness suggested that the true nature of the historical relationship of Tibet and China is best left for Tibetan and Chinese historians to study objectively, and said, "I also encourage other scholars, as well as international jurists and their institutions, to study the history of Tibet and draw their unbiased conclusions."

May 1995: On 14 May 1995, His Holiness the Dalai Lama formally recognised Gendun Choekyi Nyima, a six-year old boy from a semi-nomadic family in Tibet, as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. Just before making the public announcement, His Holiness the Dalai Lama informed Beijing of his intention through Gyalo Thondup.

May 1995: On 16 May 1995, two days after His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s announcement, the Chinese government rejected the choice. A spokesman for the State Council’s Bureau for Religious Affairs described His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s nomination as "totally illegal and invalid". On the same day, Chatrel Rinpoche, the leader of the Search Committee of the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation, was detained in Chengdu along with his assistant Jampa Chungla, for "colluding with the Dalai Lama." Later, on 21 April 1997, the Chinese authorities sentenced Chatrel Rinpoche with imprisonment of five years and his assistants, Jampa Chungla and Samdrup, received imprisonment of four years and two years respectively. Similarly, the 11th Panchen Lama, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, along with his family, was moved to an unknown location, where he still remains under Chinese custody.

Jul 1995: In July 1995, the "TAR" Party Secretary, Chen Kuiyuan, criticised His Holiness the Dalai Lama as "not only reactionary politically, but also a religious renegade who degenerated into betraying Buddhism", and called upon Tibetans to "mercilessly expose and denounce the Dalai Lama’s conspiracy and criminal acts."

Nov 1995: On 29 November 1995, the Chinese government announced Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama and vilified Gendun Choekyi Nyima.

Dec 1995: His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a public statement stating that his recognition of the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation could not be changed. His Holiness said: "On several occasions in the past years I have approached the Chinese Government in this matter without success. Last month again I appealed directly to the Chinese President Jiang Zemin to extend his government’s recognition to the young Panchen Lama. I had hoped that a personal appeal form my side might facilitate a gesture of goodwill from the Chinese Government. ...It is unfortunate that the Chinese Government has chosen to politicise this issue and to appoint a rival Panchen Lama."

Jan 1996: In January 1996, the Chinese authorities in Tibet labelled the photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Gendun Choekyi Nyima as "reactionary literature" and imposed a strict ban on it.

Feb 1996: In February 1996, Xizang Ribao (Tibet Daily) carried a series of reports blaming the Dalai Lama for unrest in Tibet; calling for the intensification of propaganda offensive against the influence of the Dalai Lama; and warning monasteries and nunneries where monks and nuns involved in political unrest to face their closure.

Mar 1996: Despite the tragic developments in Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama reiterated that he was committed to the spirit of the middle-way approach. In his official statement on 10 March 1996, His Holiness said: "We wish to establish a sustainable relationship with China based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and friendship. In doing so, we will think not only about the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people, but also take seriously the consideration of China’s security concerns and her economic interests."

Jul 1996: In Tibet, the Chinese authorities launched three major political campaigns of "Patriotic Education", "Spiritual Civilisation", and "Strike Hard" and stepped up repression even further. Whilst "Patriotic Education" and "Spiritual Civilisation" are tailored to undermine Tibetan religion, culture and language, "Strike Hard" is targeted against Tibetan political activism; this ranges from speaking to foreigners to possessing publications produced by the Tibetan Administration-in-exile and participating in peaceful protest demonstration.

Sep 1996: On 30 September 1996, the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo had been sentenced to three years in labour camp for writing a joint letter addressed to China’s President Jiang Zemin supporting the Tibetan self-determination and also calling for dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was the first Chinese to be sentenced for speaking up for Tibet.

Oct 1996: In October 1996, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Europe, where he addressed the three bodies of the European Union. In his address to the European Parliament, His Holiness the Dalai Lama urged for their intensified efforts to help facilitate an early and peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue through negotiation.

Nov 1996: On 28 November 1996, coinciding with President Jiang Zemin’s eight-day visit to India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a statement urging the Chinese President to reverse China’s repressive policy in Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: "Although I have a strong desire to meet President Jiang Zemin while he is in India it is obvious that in view of the new wave of repression and the ongoing campaign to denounce me inside Tibet the prospect of such a meeting is unrealistic. I, therefore, take this opportunity to urge President Jiang Zemin to reverse China’s repressive policy in Tibet."

Jan 1997: Around 240 exile Tibetan representatives took part in a three-day workshop in Dharamshala to discuss a proposed referendum on the future course of the Tibetan struggle. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had proposed a referendum in his 10th March statements of 1994 and 1995.

Feb 1997: On 19 February 1997, China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping died in Beijing after a long absence from a public view. In his statement issued on the same day, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that as soon as the Tibetans receive a positive indication from Beijing, he was ready to enter into negotiations anytime and anywhere without preconditions. His Holiness further said, "I very much regret that serious negotiations on the issue of Tibet could not take place during Mr. Deng Xiaoping’s life time. The absence of Mr. Deng provides new opportunities and challenges for both the Tibetans and the Chinese. I hope the Chinese leadership will realise the wisdom of resolving the issue of Tibet through negotiations in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise. True stability must be based on mutual trust, consent and benefit for all concerned, not on the use of force."

Feb 1997: On 24 February 1997, His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued another statement, explaining the purpose of his visit to Taiwan in March 1997. The statement read: "Although my visit to Taiwan will be religious in nature, there are some who wish to interpret it politically. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the Tibetan struggle is neither anti-Chinese nor anti-China. Over the past many years, I have sought a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan problem through negotiations with the Chinese leadership in Beijing. I have proposed a framework for negotiations for self-rule for Tibet. These initiatives have been taken in a genuine spirit of reconciliation and compromise. However, the government of the People’s Republic of China has so far not responded positively."

Mar 1997: On 10 March 1997, His Holiness the Dalai Lama accused China of employing a policy of cultural genocide in Tibet. In his official statement, His Holiness said: "These new measures in the field of culture, religion and education, coupled with the unabated influx of Chinese immigrants to Tibet, which has the effect of overwhelming Tibet’s distinct cultural and religious identity and reducing the Tibetans to an insignificant minority in their own country, amounts to a policy of cultural genocide."

Mar 1997: From 22 to 27 March 1997, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Taiwan, where he received a tumultuous reception from Taiwanese people. During this visit, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui, Vice President and Premier and also with the leaders of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party.

May 1997: On 25 May 1997, His Holiness the Dalai Lama told a gathering in New York that should his death occur in exile, he would be reborn outside Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, "The reincarnation will definitely not come under Chinese control; it will be outside, in the free world. This I can say with absolute certainty."

Jun 1997: In June 1997, the Chinese authorities called for five-pronged strategy to combat the "Dalai clique’s international campaign" against its rule in Tibet.

Oct 1997: China’s President Jiang Zemin paid an eight-day visit to the United Sates from 26 October 1997. During his 45-minutes speech at the Harvard University in Boston, a Harvard student asked why Beijing had refused to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama even though the Tibetan leader had no longer demanded Tibet’s independence. Jiang Zemin replied: "Our policy towards the 14th Dalai Lama is a very clear-cut one. He must recognise publicly that Tibet is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China, that he must state publicly to give up Tibet’s independence and that he must stop all activities aimed at splitting the motherland."

Oct 1997: While reacting to President Jiang Zemin’s statement, Tempa Tsering, Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations of the Tibetan Administration-in-exile commented that it was the same old wine in a new bottle. He said: "His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been on record saying that he would negotiate with the Chinese leadership to resolve the future status of Tibet anywhere, anytime but without preconditions... By demanding that His Holiness the Dalai Lama accept that Tibet has been an inalienable part of China, President Jiang Zemin is in effect demanding that His Holiness rewrite the history of Tibet. His Holiness can never do this. His Holiness is on record saying that stating this would constitute an enormous historical lie and he as a Buddhist monk would have no part in it... However, the fact that the highest Chinese leader has publicly commented on the issue of Tibet may be an indication of the seriousness with which the Chinese leadership takes the Tibetan issue and this is a welcome first step."

Oct 1997: On 31 October 1997, the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright named a top assistant, Gregory B. Craig, as the Special Coordinator for Tibet. China criticised the United States’ move, calling it as an "unacceptable" interference in China’s internal affairs. Later, Gregory Craig outlined his mission as the Special Coordinator for Tibet as to "preserve the unique religious, cultural and linguistic heritage of Tibet and to promote a substantive dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives."

Mar 1998: In his official statement on 10 March 1998, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, "I continue to believe that my ‘Middle-Way Approach’ is the most realistic and pragmatic course to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully. This approach meets the vital needs of the Tibetan people while ensuring the unity and stability of the People’s Republic of China. I will, therefore, continue to pursue this course of approach with full commitment and make earnest effort to reach out to the Chinese leadership."

Jun 1998: On 27 June 1998, in a joint press conference in Beijing, which was telecast live by the China Central Television (CCTV), the US President Bill Clinton urged the Chinese government to open a dialogue on Tibet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. President Clinton said: "I urge President Jiang [Zemin] to assume a dialogue with the Dalai Lama in return for the recognition that Tibet is a part of China and recognition of the unique cultural and religious heritage of that region." Clinton also said, "I have spent time with the Dalai Lama, I believe him to be an honest man, and I believe if he had a conversation with President Jiang, they would like each other very much." In response, President Jiang Zemin augmented the positive aspects of China’s rule in Tibet. He also said, "As long as the Dalai Lama makes a public commitment that Tibet is an inalienable part of China and Taiwan is a province of China, then the door to dialogue and negotiation is open... Actually, we are having several channels of communications with the Dalai Lama, so I hope the Dalai Lama will make a positive response in this regard."

Jun 1998: On 29 June 1998, reacting to the statements of two Presidents, the Tibetan Administration-in-exile said in a statement: "We applaud President Bill Clinton for asking the Chinese government to enter into dialogue and negotiation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We also applaud President Jiang Zemin for publicly recognising the fact that Tibet is an important issue needing a solution and for indicating his willingness to have an exchange of views and discussion on this." In response to the conditions spelt out by President Jiang Zemin, the statement said, "As far as the question of Tibet’s status is concerned, nobody can change the past. However, His Holiness feels that we should not be encumbered by the past. What is important is the future, for which he stated very unequivocally that he is not seeking independence. Regarding the issue of Taiwan, His Holiness stated during his March 1997 visit to Taiwan that this is a matter, which must be discussed and decided between China and the people of Taiwan. Confrontation and the use of military force will help neither China, nor Taiwan."

Sep 1998: On 25 September 1998, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, on the second day of his official visit to China, delivered the Chinese President a message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He urged President Jiang Zemin to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and said he was prepared to help arrange a dialogue if the Chinese leaders were willing. In response, President Jiang Zemin had reiterated that he was willing to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama if the exile Tibetan leader recognised China’s rule over Tibet. Jiang Zemin was reported to have said that there was "nothing new" in recent Tibetan proposals, suggesting thereby that the ball was in the Tibetan court.

Oct 1998: On 6 October 1998, British Prime Minister Tony Blair raised the issue of Tibet with his Chinese counterpart Premier Zhu Rongji, during his visit to China. British Prime Minister said that he hoped dialogue without preconditions could begin with the Dalai Lama to find a solution for the future of Tibet. Zhu Rongji replied that channels of communication were open to the Dalai Lama.

Oct 1998: On 26 October 1998, the Chinese government accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama of being "insincere and of ignoring official channels of communication." The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tang Guoqiang, said: "The central government’s position on negotiations with the Dalai Lama is consistent and clear. That is, the Dalai Lama must give up his proposal of independence for Tibet and stop activities to split the motherland... He must make public announcements to recognise Tibet is an inalienable part of China, that Taiwan is a province and that the government of People’s Republic of China is the sole government representing the whole China."

Nov 1998: Seven Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, urged China to open formal talks "to find a peaceful resolution to the Tibet issue", in their joint statement issued on 6 November 1998 at the end of a three-day conference on peace and reconciliation held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, USA.

Nov 1998: During his visit to the United States, His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a statement on 10 November 1998 in Washington, D.C. In his statement, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, "I have expressed my commitment to the process of dialogue as a means to resolve the Tibetan problem. Therefore, when President Jiang sought public clarifications from me on certain issues during his press conference with President Clinton in Beijing [in June this year], I did not have any hesitation in welcoming his statement and making clear my readiness to respond. However, I do not wish to make a unilateral statement without the opportunity of prior informal consultations with the Chinese leadership. I believe such an informal consultation needs to take place in order to forestall misunderstanding and to receive a positive response from the Chinese leadership."

Nov 1998: On the same day (10 November 1998), the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, People’s Daily, carried a front-page commentary accusing His Holiness the Dalai Lama for "playing tricks" and for "insincerity" in publicising the Tibetan issue on the international stage. The daily accused the Tibetans of constantly readjusting their tactics in attempting to split China.

Feb 1999: On 14 February 1999, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that the existing, informal channels of Sino-Tibetan communications had come to a complete halt.

Mar 1999: In his official statement on 10 March 1999, His Holiness the Dalai Lama appealed to governments, parliaments and friends to continue their support and efforts with renewed dedication and vigour. His Holiness said: "I strongly believe that such expressions of international concern and support are essential. They are vital in communicating a sense of urgency to the leadership in Beijing and in persuading them to address the issue of Tibet in a serious and constructive manner."

Oct 1999: On 25 October 1999, in his written interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro on the eve of his visit to France, Chinese President Jiang Zemin told that His Holiness the Dalai Lama must truly give up his advocacy of independence of Tibet and stop his activities to "split the motherland". Reiterating his preconditions, President Jiang said: "Dalai Lama must also openly declare that Tibet is an inalienable part of China and recognise that Taiwan is a province of China and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government representing whole China... Only on this basis will the Central Government open talks with Dalai Lama over his personal future."

Apr 2000: On 13 April 2000, the European Parliament passed a resolution, which among others, called China to start a dialogue "without precondition" with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet on the basis of the Five-Point Peace Plan. The resolution expressed concerns over the threat to the "Tibetan cultural and spiritual heritage" due to "large-scale transfer of ethnic Chinese to Tibet" and over the "continuing and widespread restrictions on fundamental freedoms."

Jul 2000: From 3 to 18 July 2000, Gyalo Thondup visited China after informing His Holiness the Dalai Lama. While in Beijing, Thondup met with three key officials of the CPC’s United Front Work Department--Zhu Xiaoming, Li Dezhu and Wang Zhaoguo.

Mar 2001: On 6 March 2001, Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao told Tibetan participants to the Fourth Session of the 9th China’s National People’s Congress that Beijing would stamp out separatism and curb "illegal" religious activities in Tibet. According to the People’s Daily (6 March 2001), Hu called for "cracking down hard on separatist activities and enhancing patriotic education of teenagers."

Mar 2001: In his official statement on 10 March 2001, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that Beijing had hardened its attitude and that it lacked political will to resolve the Tibetan problem. His Holiness said: "Last July, my elder brother, Gyalo Thondup, once more made a personal visit to Beijing and brought back a message from the United Front Work Department reiterating the well-known position of the leadership in Beijing on relations with me. In September of the same year we communicated through the Chinese embassy in New Delhi our wish to send a delegation to Beijing to deliver a detailed memorandum outlining my thinking on the issue of Tibet and to explain and discuss the points raised in the memorandum. I sincerely hoped that this development would lead to an opening for a realistic approach to the Tibetan issue. I reasoned with the Chinese leadership that through face-to-face meetings we would succeed in clarifying misunderstandings and overcoming distrust. I expressed the strong belief that once this is achieved then a mutually acceptable solution of the problem can be found without much difficulty."

Mar 2001: On 31 March 2001, His Holiness the Dalai Lama began a 10-day visit to Taiwan at the invitation of the Chinese Buddhist Association of Taiwan. Before departure from Dharamshala, His Holiness told the press on 28 March that China had no cause to be concerned about his 10-day visit. His Holiness further said, "My main goal is to meet the Buddhist community there and explain about Tibetan Buddhism. ...if they [Chinese leaders] know the reality and look at my activities from a wider perspective, then I don’t see any reason for them to be concerned."

Apr 2001: On 1 April 2001, the Xinhua News Agency’s commentary termed it "a political visit" driven by separatist motives the Dalai Lama shared with officials in Taipei. It said: "the Dalai Lama’s second Taiwan trip will certainly be a political visit for collaborating with ‘Taiwan independence forces’ to separate the motherland, regardless of the 10-day schedule which includes many preaching and religious ceremonies."