As a result of His Holiness the Dalai Lama efforts, we were able to re-establish direct contact with the Chinese leadership in September 2002. In continuation of the process my colleague Kelsang Gyaltsen and I, accompanied by two members of the Task Force, Sonam N. Dagpo and Bhuchung K. Tsering, visited China from May 25 to June 8, 2003. This visit follows the changes in leadership of the Chinese Communist Party as well as of the Chinese Government and has given us the opportunity to engage extensively with the new Chinese leaders and officials responsible for Tibet and our relationship.
In addition to the main objective of continuing the process begun in September 2002 to meet Chinese leaders responsible for Tibetan affairs, we had three specific aims for this visit; i) to broaden our overall understanding of the situation in China through visits to different areas and meeting with officials; ii) to meet Chinese Buddhist leaders and to visit Buddhist holy sites; and, iii) above all, to visit Tibetan areas and meet Tibetan officials.
In Beijing we met with Ms. Liu Yandong, head of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China, Mr. Zhu Weiqun, deputy head, Mr. Chang Rongjung, the Deputy Secretary-General, and other senior officials. We were impressed by the attention and candor displayed by the Chinese leaders during our meeting. Both sides agreed that our past relationship had many twists and turns and that many areas of disagreement still exist. The need was felt for more efforts to overcome the existing problems and bring about mutual understanding and trust.
We feel greatly encouraged by our first encounter and exchange of views with our new Chinese counterparts. They have explicitly acknowledged the positive efforts made by the Tibetan leadership to create a conducive environment for the continuation of the present process and we suggested that both sides take further steps.
The second visit provided us with an opportunity to tour areas in the provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Yunnan. We have been greatly impressed by the economic and social changes in the areas that we visited.
A high moment of our tour was the brief visit to Gyalthang, including to the Gaden Sumtsenling Monastery (founded by the Great Fifth Dalai Lama), in present-day Dechen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province. In Yunnan, we were able to have interaction with Tibetan officials working both at the provincial and prefecture level. We have been impressed by efforts to protect the beautiful environment of Gyalthang as well as the living conditions of some of the families that we visited. However, we emphasized to the officials the importance of maintaining Tibetan religious, cultural and linguistic identity along with the material development. Our visit was too short for us to assess in an adequate manner how effectively the Tibetan language, culture, religion and identity are being preserved, protected and promoted in this Tibetan area.
In Yunnan, we have been very pleased to visit some areas of ethnic minorities belonging to the Yi, Naxi (Jang), and Bai nationalities. These people have close historical, cultural and religious links with the Tibetan people. It was our great pleasure to meet various officials of these peoples and to befriend them.
On our tour we have been able to meet officials of various levels of the provinces we visited and exchange views in a warm atmosphere. During this visit we visited Mount Putuo (Riwo Potala) in Zhejiang Province and Mount Jizu (Riwo Jakang) in Yunnan Province. These two sites are sacred to both Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist traditions and it was our honour to be able to visit them. In Beijing we were particularly pleased to meet with Master Yicheng, President, and Master Sheng Hui, Executive Vice President, of the Buddhist Association of China. The meetings with various civil and religious leaders gave us the opportunity to share with them some of the thinking of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Today, we briefed His Holiness the Dalai Lama about our visit. His Holiness is particularly pleased that the Chinese leadership has a positive assessment of our recent direct contact. He is encouraged by the development and reiterated the importance for us to continue to make vigorous efforts to advance this process further. Our mission is to lead this process to an earnest negotiation to find a mutually acceptable solution for the Tibetan people.
Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Chairman of the Kashag (Tibetan Cabinet), who has given continued, close guidance and firm support to our mission, has expressed his determination to continue the present course of creating a conducive atmosphere for the continuation of the process of rapprochement.
Our host for this visit was the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party. Many other authorities, including the governments of Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Yunnan and their autonomous prefectures, cities and counties, have been involved in organizing our visit. We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the officials at various levels for their hospitality and assistance.
Dharamsala, June 11, 2003:
Contact: Mr.Thubten Samphel, +91 (01892) 222457