His Holiness the Dalai Lama Arrives In The Netherlands

June 3rd 2009

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 3 June 2009 - Today, His Holiness flew into Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport from the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, after visiting Iceland for the first time. His Holiness' arrival in the Netherlands marks the sixth visit to the country, with the previous visit in 1999. His Holiness was welcomed at the airport by Representative Tashi Wangdi and the visit Organising Committee.

 

His Holiness' gave a press conference in the airport, where journalists from the major Dutch TV networks and newspapers were present. His Holiness answered questions on the nature of his visit to the Netherlands, the role of children in Dutch society, and the role of women.

 

Speaking on His visit, HH said that he had two primary aims in visiting Europe; to speak about the need for compassion in society and the role of inter-religious tolerance. Asked about the Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende's unwillingness to meet His Holiness, HH said that the nature of his visit was not political and he had no desire to inconvenience officials. Asked if the Prime Minister's decision was influenced by Chinese pressure, His Holiness responded that that was a question for Prime Minister Balkenende to answer.

 

In relation to the role of children, His Holiness replied that he did not have a specific message for Dutch children, but that his feeling in general was that the 20th Century had seen great technological and scientific progress, but also great bloodshed. The 21st Century must be a century of the progress of compassionate values. In this, His Holiness felt that his generation represented the 20th Century and that young people today represented the progress of the 21st Century.

 

On the role of women, His Holiness said that the most important person in his life had been his mother, who had nurtured him and taught him values of compassion. So for that reason, the role of women has always been hugely important and personal for him. He also said that his views on the 21st Century as a century of compassion also reflected his view on the role of women in modern society. His Holiness argued that the dominance of men in society was a product of earlier times, where leadership was seen to rely on physical strength

 

His Holiness discusses Tibet with Dutch, Tibetan and Chinese students

 

In the afternoon, His Holiness attended a recording session for the Dutch TV program, NOVA College Tour. The NOVA College Tour is a popular Dutch program in which the host welcomes a distinguished guest to answer questions from students about their life and views. Previous participants include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, U.S. politician Jesse Jackson and various prominent figures from Dutch political and cultural life.

 

The program started by noting the Dutch help provided to the Tibetans in the 1960's. His Holiness was asked about the importance of fundraising, to which His Holiness replied that such help was always appreciated until refugees like the Tibetans coulsd stand on their own two feet. However, he reminded of the need for refugees not to be become used to such help, and to continue to work hard themselves.

 

His Holiness was asked if his calls for autonomy rather than independence were a response to a lack of international political support, for example the failure of the Dutch Prime Minister to meet His Holiness. His Holiness responded that this decision was been taken long ago in mid-70s while China was still in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. Tibetans in exile realised that at some point discussions with the Chinese authorities must begin, and felt that the Middle Way represented the best chance for productive talks. So the decision was one based on Tibet and Chinese perspectives alone

 

His Holiness also explained that in 1979, his emissary had a long meeting with Deng Xiaoping, who explained that all issues other than independence could be discussed.

 

His Holiness was also asked if he felt the situation in Tibet was hopeless. He answered that locally there were serious problems and these concerned him. He said the primary problem was that Tibet had obtained a new guest without a proper invitation, but that the Tibet situation could not be separated from China's development as a whole. His Holiness described what he called China's Four Eras, in which under Mao ideology was prominent, under Deng the economy took the front, then under Jiang the rise of the middle classes and rich Chinese emerged, along with growing social disparity, and finally under President Hu, there is an attempt to balance contradictions and disparity between regions and classes - this is called the Harmonious Society. His Holiness argued this was evidence of the Chinese Communist Party's ability to adapt to new realities - China today is not the China of 30 or 40 years ago. Thus we see many Chinese intellectuals, artists, lawyers, writers showing a growing concern for Tibet issues. His Holiness mentioned Charter 08, the Chinese lawyers who offered their services to Tibetans after March 2008 and also recent reports by academics in China challenging the CCP's version of the situation inside Tibet. These all gave His Holiness cause for hope, when seen with a broader perspective.

 

A tour guide in the audience asked how tourists to Tibet could see behind the facade created by the Chinese Government. His Holiness said that since March 2008, he himself has been accused of instigating protests inside Tibet. HH appealed for a thorough investigation of the situation inside Tibet and how the crisis happened. He insisted he kept nothing secret. So he appealed for people to go there and see Tibet for themselves. It is important that if the Chinese government is correct that the Tibetan people are happy and enjoy their current siituation, then government should invite more people, especilyb the media, to let them see the reality they say exists.

 

His Holiness also advised to visit Tibet beyond the TAR and study on the spot the causes of problems and whether people are genuinely happy. If not, the Chinese government must accept and face reality and adopt a more realistic approach in Tibet.

 

His Holiness continued that the unrest of last year had been created over generations, not just in a single upsurge. Due to wrong policies, Tibetans felt resentful and disappointed, and this is acknowledged by some academics in China. Many Chinese see the truth and express it - even within the CCP there are moderates and hardliners. After 10 March 2008, His Holiness received very mixed signals from the Chinese government, sometimes positive and sometimes negative. He felt this reflects a battle of views in the CCP - unfortunately at the moment, the hardliners have upper hand. His Holiness felt that these hardliner lacked common sense, only looking at one side. His Holiness said Tibetans are human beings and human beings cannot be transformed through beatings, but rather through reason, honesty and transparency. Closed societies have so many secrets, how can they develop trust, how can they develop harmony?

 

On outreach to Chinese people, young Chinese people, one Tibetan said that they tried this with an open mind but received a lot of rejection. Friendship was difficult as many young Chinese don't want to associate with Tibetans. She asked how to avoid this outreach becoming only one-sided. HH said that even before Tiananmen 20 years ago, he asked Tibetans to use all opportunities to meet and reach out to Chinese. After Tiananmen, there came a closer understanding between some Tibetans and Chinese - now many Chinese talk about Tibet without hesitationHis Holiness felt that in the beginning, it is sometimes negative but the atmosphere improves through talking. Tibetans must have determination, as they have truth and nothing to lose or hide. His Holiness said our strength is truth.

 

Speaking on the diplomatic efforts since last March, His Holiness was asked if he ever became desperate. He explained that many signs had given hope before the Olympics. For example, just before President Hu visited Japan, he met Japanese media and acknowledged that a dialogue was taking place and its seriousness. Xinhua also announced the talks, and this never happened before. Various ambassadors were also called to the Chinese Foreign Ministry and told about meetings between the Chinese and His Holiness' envoys. So His Holiness really felt that the Chinese government was showing seriousness and hoped a more realistic approach might follow. But very soon, this was gone. The seventh meeting ended with great disappointment - and His Holiness acknowledged that aspects of the Middle Way have not increased trust and confidence, followed by real improvements on the ground. But His Holiness argued that the decision to maintain the Middle Way approach is for the Tibetan people to decide, but he firmly believes that the majority outside and inside Tibet is supportive.

 

His Holiness stressed though, that while debates about Middle Way and independence existed, there was no question of a violent struggle. His Holiness was certain that even in a desperate situation, Tibetans would maintain a non-violent struggle. His Holiness said the Tibetan struggle is a national one and a Buddhist one. Since the goal is the creation of a compassionate society, then it must be achieved by compassionate means. Therefore the struggle must also be non-violent and transparent. His Holiness argued that while talking about armed struggle is easy, the reality is very difficult and violence is like suicide for Tibetans. He compared with Israel and Palestine, where many have suffered and been killed with what result? His Holiness said serious matters shouldn't be solved by emotion, but should be based upon reality. When we investigate reality, we must be neutral or we can't be objective.

 

One student asked whether a Western image of Tibet as a kind of Shangri-La actually hurts the Tibetan cause and development inside Tibet. His Holiness responded that every Tibetan wants to modernise Tibet. He said  that while Tibet has been materially backwards, it is spiritually advanced. Therefore remaining within the PRC was in Tibetans' own interest, provided the Chinese government give meaningful autonomy, as written in constitution. These rights are written on paper but implementation remains far behind. The CCP acts above the Constitution, above the Judiciary - the CCP acts with absolute power. Therefore the Middle Way does not seek separation, but Tibetans must have rights to their own language, script, religious philosophy and the right to protect their delicate environment. For example, His Holiness talked of an ecology expert in China who has called Tibet the Third Pole after the North and South Poles because of the effect of global warming. Therefore the environmental situation extends beyond just the 6 million Tibetans, but the 1 Billion who rely on Tibetan rivers from Pakistan to China. So if global warming continues, there exists a real danger of melting glaciers in Tibetan and more floods and then drought.

 

In closing, His Holiness once again reminded the audience of the need for compassion and tolerance in world affairs in the 21st Century and to renounce outdated classifications of

 

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