Sino-Tibetan Dialogue: Stalemate in Dialogue (1990 - 1993)

Mar 1990: In his official statement on 10 March 1990, His Holiness the Dalai Lama urged the Chinese leadership to be more open minded and said, "By their narrow outlook the Chinese are missing the main message which I have tried to convey to them in my Five-Point Peace Plan, the Strasbourg Proposal and the Nobel Lecture which concerns the future relationship between Tibet and China. I amprepared to consider this with an open mind through dialogue..."

May 1990: On 1 May 1990, Beijing lifted martial law in Tibet after 419 days. Welcoming this development, the press statement from the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi said, "We cannot help but to see it as more a public relations exercise in view of the growing international criticism."

Jul 1990: Towards the end of July 1990, the Chinese Communist Party leader, Jiang Zemin, and the army’s chief of staff, Chi Haotian, paid the party’s highest-level visit to the "Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)" in a decade. They promised new economic incentives for Tibetans and urged continued vigilance against pro-independence activities.

Mar 1991: In his official statement on 10 March 1991, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: "My proposals have not elicited any official response from the Chinese leadership... If in the near future there are no new initiatives from the Chinese I will consider myself free of any obligation to the proposal."

Mar 1991: On 21 March 1991, His Holiness the Dalai Lama sent a message to the Chinese government through its embassy in New Delhi, offering his assistance in searching for the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. His Holiness the Dalai Lama expressed his desire to send a religious delegation of high lamas and abbots to Lhamoi Lhatso, the sacred lake near Lhasa, to pray and observe prophetic visions in the lake, which would guide them to the genuine reincarnation. After more than three months, the Chinese government replied that "there is no need for outside interference in this matter" and that reincarnation of the Panchen Lama would be found by the officials responsible at Tashilhunpo monastery.

Apr 1991: On 16 April 1991, the US President, for the first time, received His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the White House. During his 30-minute meeting with the US President George Bush Sr., His Holiness the Dalai Lama briefed the President on the situation inside Tibet, including the issue of human rights violations, threat to the survival of Tibetan culture and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s own efforts to seek a negotiated settlement with China.

Apr 1991: On 18 April 1991, the United States lawmakers gave an emotional welcome to His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Capitol Rotunda. Speaking to the gathering of Congressmen from both the parties, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that China was unwilling to engage in a meaningful dialogue over the future of Tibet and called on the United States to take a stronger stand on the issue.

Sep 1991: On 2 September 1991, Kalon Gyalo Thondup, Chairman of the Kashag, announced that the Tibetan Administration-in-exile was no longer bound by the Strasbourg Proposal. The Chairman said: "Judging from the official statements and the experiences of our recent contact with the Chinese government, it is clear that the present leadership lacks a sincere commitment to finding a solution to the issue." However, Kalon Gyalo Thondup pointed out that the Tibetan administration was "open and willing to consider any realistic initiative by the Chinese leaders, which takes into account the historical facts, the changing situation of the world, the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Tibetan people, and the long-term mutual interest of both Tibet and China."

Sep 1991: On 24 September 1991, the Consulate of the People’s Republic of China in New York issued a press release, which was titled "Questions concerning negotiations between the Government of China and the Dalai Lama". The press release blamed His Holiness the Dalai Lama of not giving up his position of "independence of Tibet", and termed this as "the root cause for failure to achieve results in the past contacts and to continue the negotiations". It also reiterated that "except for the independence of Tibet, all other issues may be negotiated."

Oct 1991: On 9 October 1991, His Holiness the Dalai Lama put forward a new proposal to visit Tibet in an address to Yale University in the United States. His Holiness said: "The Chinese government’s refusal to reciprocate my efforts to start negotiations has increased the impatience of many Tibetans, especially young Tibetans in Tibet, with the non-violent path to follow. Tension in my country is increasing as China encourages demographic aggression in Tibet, reducing Tibetans to a second class minority in our own country... In view of these developments, I am considering the possibility of a visit to Tibet as early as possible... My visit could be a new opportunity to promote understanding and create a basis for a negotiated solution."

Oct 1991: On 10 October 1991, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing rejected His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s new proposal and said: "What is most important now is for the Dalai Lama to stop his activities aimed at splitting China and undermining the unity of its nationalities and abandon his position of Tibet’s independence."

Dec 1991: On 2 December 1991, British Prime Minister John Major received His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his official residence at 10 Downing Street and the two leaders discussed human rights issues and the results of Major’s September visit to Beijing.

Dec 1991: In December 1991, Chinese Premier Li Peng paid a six-day visit to India, which was the first visit of Chinese premier to India since Chou Enlai’s visit in 1956. During his visit, His Holiness the Dalai Lama sought a meeting with the visiting Chinese Premier, which was rejected by the Chinese government.

Jan 1992: On 23 January 1992, the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies (Tibetan Parliament-in-exile) passed a resolution stating that the Tibetan Administration-in-exile should not initiate any new move for negotiations with China unless there was a positive change in the attitude of the Chinese leadership. The resolution, however, noted that the Assembly would have no objection to negotiations if the overture came from the Chinese Government either directly or through a third party.

Feb 1992: On 26 February 1992, His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a document, entitled "Guidelines for Future Tibet’s Polity and Basic Features of its Constitution". The document states that the present Tibetan Administration would be dissolved the moment the Tibetans-in-exile return to Tibet, and that His Holiness the Dalai Lama would hand over all his traditional political power to an interim government. The interim government, it explains, will be responsible for drawing up a democratic constitution under which the new government of Tibet will be elected by the people. It assures that there will be no political recrimination against those Tibetans who have worked in the Chinese administration and said, "In fact, because of their experience, the Tibetan officials of the existing administration in Tibet should shoulder the main responsibility."

Mar 1992: In his official statement on 10 March 1992, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said: "On our part, there will be no lack of willingness or sincerity should the Chinese government show a genuine interest in finding a solution of the Tibetan problem. Even though Strasbourg Proposal, which I made more than three years ago, is no longer valid, we are committed to the path of negotiations."

May 1992: On 3 May 1992, Gyalo Thondup (who had then retired from the Tibetan Administration-in-exile) informed the Kashag that the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi had called on him and said that if the Tibetan side was willing to be "more realistic", they would like to be "more flexible". Thondup informed the Kashag that the Ambassador had invited him to visit Beijing.

May 1992: On 4 May 1992, the Kashag suggested that Gyalo Thondup should inform the Chinese Ambassador to channel such proposals through the Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi. Thondup then contacted His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Australia. His Holiness the Dalai Lama instructed him to discuss the issue with the Kashag.

Jun 1992: On 6 June 1992, Gyalo Thondup and his eldest son, Khedrup Thondup, arrived in China on a private visit. On 22 June, the Director of the CPC’s United Front Work Department, Ding Guangen, met Thondup and gave a 10-point statement to clarify the Chinese government’s policy. It said, "The day when the Dalai Lama makes an announcement, renouncing the idea of Tibetan independence, we will resume dialogues."

Sep 1992: On 11 September 1992, His Holiness the Dalai Lama formally wrote to China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and President Jiang Zemin. Along with the letter, His Holiness sent a 13-point memorandum to explain and clarify his views on the 10 points raised by the Chinese government. In the memorandum, His Holiness stated: "If China wants Tibet to stay with China, then it must create the necessary conditions for this. The time has come now for the Chinese to show the way for Tibet and China to live together in friendship. A detailed step by step outline regarding Tibet’s basic status should be spelled out. If such a clear outline is given, regardless of the possibility and non-possibility of an agreement, we Tibetans can then make a decision whether to live with China or not. If we Tibetans obtain our basic rights to our satisfaction, then we are not incapable of seeing the possible advantages of living with the Chinese." His Holiness decided to send a three-member delegation to Beijing to take his letter to the Chinese authorities.

Sep 1992: On 16 September 1992, the three Tibetan delegates (Gyalo Thondup, Sonam Topgyal and Kelsang Gyaltsen) met with the Chinese Ambassador in New Delhi and gave him a copy of the letter and memorandum. The Tibetan delegation asked the Ambassador for permission to visit Beijing to deliver His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s letter and memorandum. The Tibetan delegation also gave all the texts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s speeches and statements since 1979 and specifically requested to point out where His Holiness the Dalai Lama had demanded independence for Tibet. The Tibetan side suggested a mechanism of having regular monthly meetings at the Chinese Embassy to exchange views and ideas as a confidence-building measure.

Sep 1992: On 22 September 1992, the Information Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China released a white paper, entitled, Tibet--Its Ownership and Human Rights Situation. In it, the Chinese government claimed the "ownership" of Tibet with the usual argument that Tibet had become an integral part of China in the 13th century. The paper also said the Central government was willing to hold talks with His Holiness the Dalai Lama any time "so long as the Dalai Lama can give up his divisive stand and admit that Tibet is an inalienable part of China."

Sep 1992: The Tibetan Administration-in-exile’s reaction to the Chinese white paper was later issued by His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy in Washington D.C. In his reaction, Special Envoy Lodi G. Gyari said: "The dissemination of such propaganda is extremely unfortunate as it makes it clear that the Chinese leadership remains totally insincere in its approach to the issue of Tibet... It contradicts and departs from the stand taken by Mr. Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s in which he had stated that every thing could be discussed with the exception of total independence." Lodi Gyari’s statement further said, "the document released at this particular time is doubly disturbing, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Administration-in-exile are trying to set the stage for genuine discussions potentially leading to a resolution of the long standing conflict between our nations."

Dec 1992: Chen Kuiyuan succeeded Hu Jintao as the First Secretary of the regional Communist Party of "Tibet Autonomous Region".

Jan 1993: On 12 January 1993, the British Foreign Office urged Beijing to negotiate with the Tibetans without precondition. This was disclosed by Alastair Goodlad, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, during a question-and-answer session in the House of Commons. "We are strongly in favour of the principle of talks without precondition. We have consistently urged the Chinese authorities to get into a real dialogue with Tibetans including the Dalai Lama. We reminded the Chinese of our proposal only yesterday," said Alastair Goodlad.

Mar 1993: On 10 and 11 March 1993, the Chinese Government called a special meeting, Conference on the Work of External Propaganda on the Question of Tibet, in Beijing. The meeting was attended by Chinese and Tibetan representatives from the "TAR" and Tibetan autonomous districts and prefectures of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan. The 30-page conference document, which was smuggled out of China and released later on 15 November 1993 by the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, detailed the Chinese government’s aggressive propaganda offensive to sanitise its occupation and oppression of Tibet and "eradicate...divide and destroy" the international supporters of the Dalai Lama.

Apr 1993: On 27 April 1993, the United States President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore met His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the White House and discussed issues relating to Tibet. Commenting on the meeting, the President said: "The administration continues to urge Beijing and the Dalai Lama to revive a dialogue between them and presses China to address human rights abuses in Tibet."

May 1993: On 26 May 1993, the British Government’s Far Eastern Department issued its policy paper on Tibet. The paper stated: "We have stressed to the Chinese authorities the need for fuller autonomy in Tibet. We believe that a solution to the problem of Tibet can best be found through dialogue between the Chinese government and the Tibetan people including the Dalai Lama. It is disappointing that despite both sides’ stated willingness to enter into dialogue, talks have not yet taken place. We will continue to encourage the Chinese authorities to begin a dialogue without preconditions."

Jun 1993: On 1 June 1993, the European community and its member states issued a joint statement from Copenhagen on a weeklong visit to Tibet in May 1993 by their Heads of Mission and senior diplomats in Beijing. It said that the EU community and its members states believed that the problem of Tibet could be best resolved through dialogue between the Chinese authorities and the representatives of the Tibetan people, including its spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and urged both sides to engage in dialogue without preconditions.

Jun 1993: On 7 June 1993, the Tibetan Administration-in-exile’s definitive response to the China’s white paper on Tibet, entitled, Tibet: Proving Truth from Facts, was released by Kalon Tashi Wangdi at a press conference in New Delhi.

Jul 1993: In July 1993, the long overdue visit of a Tibetan delegation to deliver His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s letter and memorandum addressed to China's paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and President Jiang Zemin materialised. The Chinese government accepted only two delegates, namely Kalon Gyalo Thondup and Sonam Topgyal, Secretary for Information and International Relations of the Tibetan Administration-in-exile. The Tibetan delegation met Wang Caogo, Director of the CPC's United Front Work Department, on 14 July.

Jul 1993: In late July 1993, the delegation returned to Dharamshala, considerably encouraged by their impression in China. Kalon Gyalo Thondup informed the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile that there had been a change in the Chinese attitude, although not all the members of the Kashag were convinced of this.

Aug 1993: On 25 August 1993, quoting a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, the Xinhua News Agency said: "The affairs of Tibet are an internal business of China’s and the door of negotiations between the central government and the Dalai Lama remains widely open. Except independence of Tibet, all other questions can be negotiated." At the same time, the Reuters’ report from New Delhi quoted Chinese Ambassador Cheng Ruisheng as having said that early talks with the Tibetan leaders were not likely. In the same month, China severed all formal channels of communication with Dharamshala.