Interviewed May 2011
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and, for a time, led the government of Tibet in exile.
His Holiness was born July 6, 1935, to a farming family in northeastern Tibet. He was identified as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, when he was three years old and was raised in Lhasa, Tibet, where he was educated in topics such as Buddhist philosophy, logic, Tibetan art and culture, and medicine in preparation for his responsibilities as the Dalai Lama.
In 1949, at age 15, His Holiness assumed responsibility as the political leader of Tibet. Later that year, the People's Republic of China invaded Tibet. In 1959, as Chinese troops suppressed a Tibetan uprising in Lhasa, His Holiness was forced into exile and has since lived in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan political administration in exile.
His Holiness has worked to establish a democratic government in exile. The Charter of Tibetans in Exile grants freedom of speech, belief, and assembly. In 2001, His Holiness ceded his absolute power over the government to an elected parliament. He has recently ceded any role in the government because of his view that spiritual and political authorities should be divided.
In 1989 His Holiness was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In announcing the award, the Nobel Committee recognized that “the Dalai Lama . . . consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has instead advocated peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”
I think now we are 21st century. I think, and within the 20th century, I think all the people sort of struggled. So the freedom, I think, more wider compared early part of 20th century. So now we 21st century. I think similar. See, we have to carry struggle to few remaining area where no freedom.
I think people, I think, have to carry their spirit and their struggle. And I think possibly nonviolent way. Long run, that’s more effective. But sometimes it’s out of desperate, like Egypt or some other places, there’s some possible exception there. But now Libya, some exception there. But generally, I think should be, I think, nonviolent way. Like, I think, the way topple Philippine dictator [Ferdinand] Marcos or something. Peaceful, popular movement. And also Chile, I think.
So the popular sort of peaceful movement is now become, I would say, I think the reality. And I think comparatively South Africa also see peaceful ways, change, finally. So I think that I want to share. Please keep determination, will power, because we have the justice.
In my lifelong experience or observation, ultimately truth always remain stronger than for power of force or power of gun. Very clear. My own case is a – I always used to carry our struggle openly, transparently, truthful, honest. So it will always remain certain power.
The gun temporarily very powerful. Everybody loves one’s own life. So when gun shows, you see, out of fear, it’s a little discipline there. But that’s temporary method. I think world history shows that. So therefore, the struggle for freedom, democracy is really right, reasonable. And everybody have the right to be free.
The People’s Republic of China is a country of 1.2 billion people governed by the Chinese Communist Party. Since the death of Mao Tse-Tung in 1976, the Chinese government has modified the Marxist economic system instituted by Mao by instituting limited market-based reforms, but the party has retained its monopoly on power. Freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion are severely restricted, and the people of China are denied the right to change their government. The courts are controlled by the Communist Party and do not provide due process of law. Government control extends into every aspect of people’s lives, most notably in the one-child-per-couple program in which unauthorized pregnancies often result in forced abortion and sterilization.
In 1989, a hundred thousand people gathered in a peaceful demonstration in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to protest human rights violations and demand democratic reforms. The protest lasted several weeks and inspired similar nonviolent demonstrations in other cities throughout China. On June 4, 1989, the People’s Liberation Army converged on the area surrounding the square with hundreds of thousands of troops as well as tanks and other advanced military weapons. Estimates of the death toll ranged from several hundred to several thousand. The army used similar tactics to suppress demonstrations in other cities and subsequently rounded up and imprisoned many thousands of protestors. The government vigorously defended these actions and instituted a campaign to purge from the party and the government those who had sympathized with protestors.
Although the Tiananmen Square massacre put an end to hopes for a speedy transition to democracy, courageous Chinese citizens have continued to risk imprisonment and worse to demand freedom. These human rights activists have included students, workers, lawyers, artists and writers; Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims who demand respect for their cultures, traditions, and religious practices; members of the spiritual discipline known as Falun Gong; Catholics who insist that their church is headed by the Pope rather than by government-appointed religious officials; and members of the “house church” movement, representing millions of Protestant Christians who are forced to worship in secret because their churches are not authorized by the government. China’s many prisoners of conscience include members of each of these groups.
In 2010, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo. His wife was arrested in order to prevent her from attending the award ceremony, and the government employed a range of coercive techniques to prevent other human rights activists from attending. China’s leading human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, disappeared in early 2009 and is presumed to be in government custody.