His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's message to the Chinese people on the occasion of the Chinese New Year
On the occasion of the Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, I extend my affectionate greetings to all our Chinese brothers and sisters across the globe, including those living in Mainland China.
The past year witnessed many developments throughout the world and particularly in China, at times worrying us while at other times filling our hearts with happiness. Besides having to bear the brunt of natural disasters and other problems that hit the country, China also had the proud moments like hosting the world's greatest sporting event, the Olympic Games. The year that ended is, therefore, marked with great changes taking place everywhere.
These days, due to the global economic meltdown, the people of the world in general, and of the developing countries in particular, are plunged into an abyss of anxiety and suffering. To pray for the end of all sufferings of humanity, as well as for their happiness and well-being, is a responsibility that rests on all believers.
Besides having a long history of over 5000 years and a splendidly rich cultural heritage, China is also the most populous nation in the world. Moreover, it is emerging as a super power in terms of political, economic and military might. However, China cannot perform the responsibility of a super power in this modern and progressive world if there is no freedom, rule of law and transparency in the country.
President Hu Jintao's policy of creating a harmonious society is indeed laudable. Such a policy is indispensable for China as well, if it were to make a mark globally. Harmonious society should, however, come about through mutual trust, friendship and justice. It cannot be brought about by brute force and autocracy.
Not only should the Chinese citizens have economic facilities, but they should also enjoy the freedom of conscience, education and to know what is actually happening around the world. These freedoms are indispensable for human societies. If - in this fast-changing modern world - one does not keep abreast of the daily happenings around the globe, then it goes without saying that one will be naturally left behind. In China today, popular news outlets such as television, radio and Internet - including the international news services like the BBC and CNN are blocked - thus preventing its people from knowing the true information about the world's events. I am immensely disappointed by such negative actions of the Chinese government, which greatly hamper the fundamental rights as well as the short and long-term benefits of the Chinese people.
The 21st century is regarded as a century of information revolution. And yet some countries of the world, which includes China, impose restrictions on the free flow of information. Such actions are anachronistic and hence there is no way that these can be sustained in the long run. Therefore, I believe that China too will soon become more liberal in terms of disseminating and sharing information.
Last year, many Chinese intellectuals came out with a number of articles and other campaign activities, calling for freedom, democracy, justice, equality and human rights in China. Particularly in a recent development, we saw an increasing number of people from all walks of life signing up to an important document called the Charter '08. This is indicative of the fact that the Chinese people, including the intellectuals, are beginning to demonstrate their deep yearnings for more openness and freedom in their country. It is, therefore, a matter for all of us to take pride in.
While once again extending my warm greetings to the Chinese people, I hope and pray that in the coming year the People's Republic of China will be able to create a meaningful harmonious society by ensuring equality, justice and friendship among all its nationalities.
The Dalai Lama
25 January 2009
Note: translated from the Tibetan original