An interview with Zhu Weiqun, vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, by the Focus magazine of Germany on September 22, 2009
BEIJING, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- An interview with Zhu Weiqun, vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, by the Focus magazine of Germany on September 22, 2009.
China Tibet Information Center's note: At the request of the German magazine Focus, Zhu Weiqun, vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee, had an interview with the magazine on September 22, on condition that the magazine would carry the main contents of the interview. On October 5, the Focus reported the interview with a few more than 400 words when translated into Chinese. The China Tibet Information Center hereby presents the main contents of the interviews.
A combo photo shows Zhu Weiqun (left), vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, and Dometite from the German magazine Focus at an interview in Beijing on Sept. 22, 2009. (Photo: tibet.cn)
Zhu: First I would like to welcome Ms. Dometite and your colleagues from the Focus magazine to the United Front Work Department. Please feel free during the interview, and raise what you consider to be tough questions. However, I hope you can carry the main contents of this interview on your magazine. I have seen quite a number of reporters from Western countries who had a rather bad practice -- when what I said did not match what they needed, they were not courageous enough to report it.
Focus: Thank you for your warm welcome and for this interview opportunity. We all know it is not easy to have a chance like this. You just said we can ask questions we consider to be tough. We will take your words seriously.
Every country is entitled to handle ethnic relations in accordance with its own conditions.
Focus: In China, Tibet is an autonomous region. How do you understand the concept of "autonomy?"
Zhu Weiqun, vice minister of the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, speaks during an interview with the German magazine Focus in Beijing on Sept. 22, 2009. (Photo: tibet.cn)
Zhu: The question is a theoretical and political one, and is very practical in the meantime. China is a multi-ethnic country with 56 ethnic groups. We practice an ethnic policy featuring "equality, unity, mutual aid and harmony." In regions where ethnic minorities live in compact communities, that is, where ethnic minorities take up the majority of the local population, regional ethnic autonomy is exercised. Ethnic minorities account for a little more than eight percent of China's total population, but ethnic autonomous regions takes up about 64 percent of the country's territory.
One outstanding feature of the distribution of China's ethnic groups is that people of different ethnic groups live in a highly mixed way. For instance, in Tibet where regional ethnic autonomy is exercised, people of Moinba, Lhoba, Manchu, Hui, Qiang and Han ethnic groups live together with the Tibetans. In cities and provinces other than autonomous areas, such as Beijing and the provinces in central or eastern China, there are quite a number of people of ethnic minorities, who also enjoy the legitimate rights as citizens and favorable policies entitled to ethnic minority residents. Different countries have different ethnic distributions, as well as different histories, cultures and traditions. In this sense, different countries carry out autonomy in different ways, if they do have autonomy of certain kinds. Every country in the world is entitled to decide what system should be applied to handle its ethnic relations in accordance with its own national conditions. In other words, the word 'autonomy' has different interpretations, and incur different policies in different countries. No country should impose its own practice on others.
China's regional ethnic autonomy has been clearly defined by the Constitution and the Law on Regional Autonomy for China's Minority Nationalities. These stipulations have been earnestly implemented in practice. We will continue to perfect our regional ethnic autonomy system as our practice advances. But we will not deviate from our ethnic policies and the regional ethnic autonomy system we have worked out in accordance with our country's national conditions. What China's regional ethnic autonomy should be like, to put it more simply, is exactly what it is right now.
Focus: We would like to know what kind of rights people in Tibet enjoy, particularly their right to make decisions for the development of their own region. Can you give us an example?
Zhu: The people's congresses and governments at all levels elected by the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet have comprehensive rights to the region's economic, social and cultural development, on the premises that they follow and do not contradict the principles of the Constitution. I want to point out that China's regional ethnic autonomy is not the pure self-governance of a single ethnic group in your mind. China's regional ethnic autonomy is linked with the country's unification and the unity of the Chinese nation, without which the regional ethnic autonomy would not exist. History has proven that all ethnic groups would be subjects to bullies and invasions of the imperialist forces without ethnic unity and the country's unification. In that case, there would be no autonomy.
I can give you one example on the autonomy rights issue. For instance, some people are very curious about the percentage which Tibetan officials take up in the region's government. The Dalai Lama said the Tibetans had lost their political positions in Tibet. I can tell you that is a lie. In Tibet, more than 70 percent of government officials at the regional level are Tibetans. The figure is more than 90 percent at or below county levels in the region.
Ethnic unity remains mainstream in Chinese history
BEIJING, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Despite short-term separations and local divisions in Chinese history, unification has always been the mainstream and trend, said a white paper published here Sunday.
The vast territory of China, the time-honored and splendid Chinese culture and the unified multi-ethnic country are all parts of the legacy built by all ethnic groups in China, said the document issued by the Information office of the State Council.
The Dalai Lama's attitude is a reflection of his hatred, contempt and arrogance toward Tibetan people who have become masters of their own destinies.
Focus: The Dalai Lama and some Tibetans have mounted criticism toward China. They said Tibetans were left out of China's modernization, and were not given enough rights to participate in cultural and religious affairs. Can you understand such criticism? Indeed, the Tibetans hold a large number and a large portion of government posts. But these posts are not really important or key posts. The real decisions are made here in Beijing.
Zhu: The simple truth is, if there had not been the all-out efforts of Tibetan officials and people, if Tibetan officials had no real powers like the Dalai Lama said, Tibet would not have undergone such big changes over the last decades. Tibet has a population of 2.8 million, of which more than 92 percent are Tibetans. That is to say, there are only some 200,000 Han people and people of other ethnic groups living in Tibet. It is beyond imagination that Tibet can be transformed from a society of feudal serfdom to what you see today in Lhasa, other cities and in the vast countryside of Tibet by some 200,000 non-Tibetan people.
It is totally against the truth to say that Tibetan officials only hold pro forma posts instead of the key ones. Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government of, is a Tibetan. Isn't his post a key one? Legqog, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress, is a Tibetan. Isn't his post a key one? In fact, the heads of the CPC's Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee's publicity department, united work front department and the general office are all Tibetans. That means, three out of four leading organizations of China's ruling party at the regional level in Tibet are headed by Tibetans. There are also countless Tibetans working on key posts in Tibet's Party, government, military and mass organizations. According to our statistics, more than 70 percent of the CPC organizations from township to regional levels are headed by Tibetans. The Dalai Lama described all these Tibetan officials and comrades as puppets of the Han people, who hold their positions but cannot perform their duties. This is an insult to the Tibetan people. Not only is the accusation not true, it also reflects the hatred, contempt and arrogance held by the Dalai Lama, who used to stand for high-ranking monks, aristocrats and serf-owners in old Tibet, toward the Tibetan people who have become masters of their own destiny.
Why is the Dalai Lama so angry? The reason is very simple -- to him, if himself and the small number of people around him, who fled China in 1959 after a failed riot against democratic reforms, are not governing Tibet, then it's not "real autonomy". The "autonomy" he hopes for is no more than for these people to restore the theocratic feudal serfs system of old Tibet and the supreme power and status of the Dalai Lama. But all these are fundamentally against the interests of people in Tibet and the development of our country.
Therefore, it is not the time for me to understand his accusations of us, but for him to accept the denouncements from our central government and the people of various ethnicities in Tibet over his vain attempts to restore the feudal serfs system of old Tibet.
The Dalai Lama’s separatist propositions and actions have not changed Focus: Tremendous changes have taken place in China in the past decades, shouldn't China admit that the Dalai Lama has changed too? His intention is not to restore the theocratic feudal serfs system in Tibet. What's the reason of your utter distrust and suspicions on him? Do you have any evidence to support your accusations that the Dalai Lama was engaged in separatist activities and fanning or conspiring the Lhasa riot in 2008? The Dalai Lama wants real autonomy, not separation of the country. Besides, he is persuading or restricting some young people from turning violent.
Zhu: Just now, you said that China has undergone tremendous changes in the past years, including Tibet, and that the old Tibet represented by the Dalai Lama was under the feudal serfs system. I think we agree on this. But I don't agree that the Dalai Lama has changed in nature. First, I want to repeat asking why did he flee China back then? He did so in 1959 because he was against democratic reforms in Tibet. In fact, the central government then had already made it clear to further postpone the reforms in consideration of the interests of Tibet's upper class. It also promised to ask for the Dalai Lama's agreement before initiating the reforms. But the Dalai Lama would rather take on an armed rebellion to maintain the feudal serfs system of old Tibet.
From 1959 to the whole 1960s, the Dalai Lama violently harassed the border areas for more than a decade and caused bloodshed under the support of some western powers. I hope some friends wouldn't forget this fact or deliberately wipe it out. By the end of the 1970s, after repeated failures and the changes in the international environment, the Dalai Lama claimed to give up "Tibetan independence" and adopt a "middle way" policy. But his "middle way" policy was still seeking Tibetan independence in nature. Leaders of the central government pointed this out as early as the beginning of the 1980s when they met with an observers group sent by the Dalai Lama. In recent years, my colleagues and I have explained in various occasions why we say the "middle way" is still "Tibet independence" in nature.
The central government has always left the Dalai Lama a way out. After he fled China, the central government kept his position as vice chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee until 1964. At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, when the Dalai Lama showed intentions for negotiation, leaders at the central government and relevant departments resumed contacts with him. However, the Dalai Lama and his people were completely ungrateful. They not only proposed the so-called "Great Tibetan Region" and "high-degree autonomy", but also planned a series of separatist and criminal activities such as smashing, looting, robbery and arson in Tibet. These activities reached a climax in 1987, 1988 and 1989, which forced Lhasa to enforce martial law in March 1989. From March 14, 2008, to the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics, their sabotage activities reached another climax, which showed clearly that they attempted to use the Olympics to force the central government to make concessions on the so-called "substantiated issues". As is known to all, their conspiracy failed completely. In addition, after his attempts to mess up Tibet failed, the Dalai Lama went around the world for his so-called "visits" and purposely generate tensions between China and other countries. We hope the Dalai Lama has "changed" the way you said. The change should not just be in words, but in action. We have never seen any change.
As to your question about evidence on the Lhasa riot, I think the facts have been clear. First, the existence of the separatist group itself, including the "government in exile", is against the Chinese law, and was the source of riots. Second, since 2007 when we were preparing for the Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama group, especially its extreme organizations such as the "Tibetan Youth Congress", planned a series of schemes to disrupt Tibet, including the so-called "Tibetan People's Uprising Movement". Later violent incidents that took place in Tibet were all closely related to the "Movement". Third, although the Dalai Lama tried to plead innocence, he voiced support for violence in the March 14 riot in a number of public speeches and tried to fan up bigger incidents. For instance, he once said no matter what, where and when the Tibetans do, he would not stop them. He also said for several times that the riot in Lhasa was initiated by the Chinese authorities and the military, and the Tibetans were scapegoats. He had been spreading this rumor until April 24 of this year when he was in the United States. On April 6, 2008, in an interview with the Asia Week, he claimed that most of the Han-majority-run shops burned down in the riot were involved in prostitution, which insulted the dead after the tragedy. There was one shop with five girls in and all of them were burned to death. They were about 18 or 19 years old and one of them was Tibetan. What proof did the Dalai Lama have to say they were prostitutes? Did he look like a Buddhist or a kind man when saying these words? I have only listed here a very small part of what he has said. But we can tell from these words whether he was trying to restrain violence or preach it.
The Chinese never allow other countries to interfere with our internal affairs.
Focus: If the Chinese side is so sure that the Dalai Lama and his supporters were behind last year's March 14 incident, why can't China invite international figures to collect evidence? When the facts are made clear, doubts and suspicions from the international society would be gone.
Zhu: I understand your benign intention to raise this question. But we Chinese have a principle that our internal affairs should not be intervened by foreigners or foreign organizations. The Tibet issue is purely China's internal affair. We will brief foreign friends on the issue, answer relevant questions and invite you to report in Tibet. But we will never allow foreigners and foreign organizations to meddle in the issue or pretend to be a mediator or moral guardian in Chinese affairs. We Chinese have stood up for six decades and it has proved we are completely capable of dealing with all internal issues. What have the foreigners brought to China by meddling in our internal affairs? I think we all know the answer very clearly. I can make it even clearer. China used to be a victim to imperialistic invasions for more than a century since 1840. The bullies and the bullied feel differently. To the Chinese, the image of foreign interferers is not so positive as they imagined.
Focus: I'm not questioning China's capability to handle its internal affairs. I was just wondering if China could utilize some opportunities arising from this issue to demystify the Dalai Lama, or to unveil the mystery surrounding him. In many Western countries, quite a few number of people are sympathizers of the Dalai Lama.
Zhu Weiqun: I know that some foreign individuals and organizations have been extremely enthusiastic and eager to be engaged in the relationship between us and the Dalai Lama, as well as the so-called "Tibet issue". Let me repeat here: there is neither necessity nor possibility in this regard.
As of the so-called "sympathizers", they are actually "created" by government administrations and the press in their countries. How many supporters and sympathizers did the Dalai Lama have in the Western world before the year 1989? How many people did even know about this Lama? In fact the prestige of the Dalai Lama was built up by some people in the West as a tool to punish China. Many moves such as awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama were just part of the Western countries' sanctions against China in 1989.
Once such an example was set, it was hard to be changed, which brought about a very unfavorable factor in the improvement of ties between some countries and China after 1989. Although governments of the countries realized the necessity to promote the relationship with China, the decision-making was often hindered by the "sympathizers" of the Dalai Lama. This problem was created by no one but the countries themselves. I hope they could learn a lesson from it.
We have no intention to shut the door of Tibet to the world, because as part of China, Tibet should be open to the world. We welcome travelers as well as those who come to aid the development of Tibet or to conduct news coverage. However, we will never, at any time, welcome foreigners who come to act as if they are the master of our land. Let me give you an example. During my meeting with a major foreign politician not long ago, he said his country was dissatisfied because the country had asked China to provide complete information of more than ten cases involving individuals arrested after the March 14 riot in Lhasa, but China only provided the information of a few cases. I told this friend: "As a sovereign state, China has no obligation to brief any foreign country on how we handled criminal cases within our sovereignty. The reason why we still provided the information of several cases is merely for the good relations between our two countries, not because we have the obligation and responsibility to do so." I even told him: "Had I made the decision, I would provide nothing to you."
Focus: You may have known that China's reputation was damaged due to the Tibet issues. For a long period Tibet has been closed to foreign reporters who want to go there freely for interview. Don't you want to use this opportunity to tell the world the results of investigation into those cases inquired by that political VIP?
Zhu: I have already said that we offered the politician information about several cases because of the good relations between the two countries. But it is an issue within our sovereignty as for what and when we would offer, to what extent we would offer, or even whether we are going to offer. A fundamental principle in this regard is if it is in the interests of China. You mentioned that Tibet had been closed to foreign journalists for some time. Actually we just strengthened some management measures. We never close the door. Foreign journalists have never stopped going to Tibet for news coverage after getting permit since the March 14 riot. Nowadays we are arranging for more and more foreign journalists to go to Tibet, including you. After all, how wide the door to Tibet will be open is decided by our national interest and by the need for social stability and development in Tibet. I'd like to quote Cao Cao, a famous Chinese politician and military strategist in the Three Kingdoms era (220-280 A.D.), who said one should not pursue false reputation that would only bring troubles. Personally, I hope more foreign friends to have better understanding of Tibet. I also would like to have foreign media say something in favor of us. But pleasant words, regardless of the quantity, are secondary after all. Our top concern is that on no account should the interests of the country be infringed upon.
China reiterates opposition to foreign contact with Dalai Lama
BEIJING, June 2 (Xinhua) -- China on Tuesday reiterated its resolute opposition to any political contact with the Dalai Lama in whatever form, warning it would harm China's relations with the countries involved.
"We have a persistent, clear and firm position on the issue. Any irresponsible move by any country over this issue would be gross interference in China's internal affairs and would damage China's relations with those nations," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular press conference.
Dalai Lama must change his position if he really wants to improve relationship with the central government.
Focus: Your side halted talks with the Dalai Lama's personal representatives at the end of 2008. Under what conditions you would resume the talks?
Zhu: First I have to make it clear that it was not the central government but the Dalai Lama side that halted the talks. And this was not the first time for him to abruptly stopped contacts with the central government. It first took place in the early 1990s. Following several contacts with the central government in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Dalai Lama realized that it would be impossible to make breakthrough in persuading the central government to accept what he wanted. After the political turmoil in China in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, he made a wrong judgment that the Communist Party of China could not last long and the Chinese government would soon collapse. Then he announced stop of the contact and talks with the central government in the early 1990s.
The fact China did not collapse might be an unfortunate thing for the Dalai Lama. In 2002, he had no choice but to request for contacts with the central government again. Always being magnanimous, the central government conducted nine talks with the Dalai Lama's personal representatives, including three meetings last year.
During the third talks in last November, his personal representatives produced a memorandum, demanding for "real autonomy for all Tibetans". They even arrogantly requested the central government to accept the memorandum and use it as a base for future talks. At that moment we made it clear that the central government would not accept the memorandum because it still peddled for semi-independence, quasi independence or even the independence of Tibet. Then the representatives announced a stop of talks with us. Soon after that, also in November, the Dalai Lama group convened a conference of so-called "exiled Tibetans", in which they made a decision to halt the contact and talks with the central government. This is why we hold that it is the Dalai Lama who stopped the talks twice.
The stand of the central government remains unchanged, which means the door for contacts and talks is always open. However, only under the precondition that the Dalai Lama drops his separatist stance and behaviors could his personal future be discussed. If he still sticks to "Tibet independence", "semi-independence", or "covert independence", there is nothing to talk about. We are still on this stand. If the Dalai Lama side really intends to continue talks, he must first well explain why he cut off the talks twice last year, especially what they did on the second occasion. And secondly, although since last November the Dalai Lama and his followers they had done something foolish in halting the contact and hinted they still wanted to resume the talks, they still insisted the memorandum should be taken as the foundation of the talks. How could the talks produce any results since the central government has objected the memorandum? They must thoroughly and sincerely reconsider their political outlines and make corrections.
Focus: In what ways?
Zhu: It could be done in many ways. As long as you have idea and resolution, the channels always exist. Thirdly, from last year through this year, the Dalai Lama made light of hardships to visit some countries frequently. I once told his personal representative that it was inhumane for you to let such an aged person to go on errand at very high frequency. Due to the political nature of the Dalai group, his visit would certainly bring troubles that China and the country involved were not willing to see. The Dalai Lama should show restraint on such activities which disturbed the central government and were detrimental to friendly relations between China and relevant countries.
It's self-deceiving to label Dalai Lama as pure religious figure Focus: You are talking about the activities of the Dalai Lama. Do you mean these activities embody some of his political declarations? Do you mean they are with political context?
Zhu: To justify the Dalai Lama's visit, some countries' political figures made the excuse by saying that the Dalai Lama was a religious figure and the activities he has been engaged in were of religious instead of political nature. So they couldn't stop or restrain them. It's blankety-blank and self-deceiving. The Dalai Lama is of course a "Living Buddha" -- I hope he can remember his title of the Dalai Lama was conferred upon by the Chinese central government -- but he is more of a political refugee. He is both the political and religious head of the so-called "government in exile", which is a separatist political group. The Chinese government certainly wouldn't agree to allow such a person to engage in such activities in international community.
Whether the Dalai Lama has been only talking about religion as what he himself and some people repeatedly claimed? The facts are clear. Before I have this interview with you, I browsed over my drawer and found some documents including the Dalai Lama's speech at the United Kingdom's parliament on May 22 last year; his talk at the French senate on Aug. 13; and also at the European parliament on Dec. 4. It's interesting that I also found his remarks when he had an interview with the Deutsche Welle of your country. All these talks had nothing to do with religion. Instead, they are all political speech. It would be too long to cite all his remarks, let alone everybody has access to these materials. I just quote some remarks from his interview with the Deutsche Welle. He said the Communist Party of China (CPC) has ruled for 60 years, which could be the time for retirement. He said if the CPC retired now, it was an honorable retirement, but if the CPC was forced to step down by other political forces, it was not honorable anymore. I'd like to ask is this religion or politics.
The Dalai Lama on the one hand said he would have talks with the central government, and on the other hand asked the CPC to retire and step down. What does this mean? Does he really want to have talks or not? The Dalai Lama should not take the talks as a show. If he really wants to have talks with the central government, the most important task for him to do now is to create a favorable atmosphere for the talks instead of worsening the atmosphere. The Dalai Lama's intention for the CPC's retirement and step-down has become more obvious recently. He repeated this type of remarks not only in Germany but also on several other occasions including in Taiwan. I hope such remarks are not the Dalai Lama's original idea, but deliberately designed by some people around him in a bid to sabotage the relations between the Dalai Lama and the central government.
Dalai Lama lacks sincerity for contact with central government
BEIJING, June 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Zhu Weiqun, the Administrative Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department of CCCPC met with a delegation of foreign reporters on June 12. Zhu briefed the reporters on the stability and development in Tibet, and answered their questions.
The reporters are from Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, Poland, and Albania.
The Dalai Lama will not get along any longer without the support of certain foreign countries and forces.
Focus: Does the Communist Party of China regard the Dalai Lama as its political rival because of what he had said? Does the Party think that the Dalai Lama has challenged its monopoly?
Zhu: The Dalai Lama felt unhappy to see the CPC in power and he had been unhappy for 60 years. It was 50 years since he fled the country. Over the year, he did make some troubles for us, but he could never be a competitor or challenger. Do you thins a political party like the CPC would fear the competition and challenge of a lama who represents feudal serfdom. If people like the Dalai Lama could become a competitor or challenger to us, the Party and the country would not get where they are today. The Dalai Lama could not be comparable with the real difficulties and rivals we had encountered.
As for the troubles the Dalai Lama had created, it was not because of his own capability but some foreign countries and forces that supported him. Those countries and forces provided the Dalai Lama with propaganda platforms, funds and various titles. And they spared no pains to do it. With those supports, the Dalai Lama could not get thing going for any longer. A In a good example of the support, the congress of a certain country approved a 16.75 million-U.S.-dollar financial support to the Dalai Lama group this year.
Focus: Which country?
Zhu: I do not want to mention the name of any third country because our dialogue today is between the Chinese and German people. Against the backdrop of the global financial crisis, the fund is 25 percent more than 2008, which I'd like to say was provided at all costs. And it is only a tiny part of the financial support that some countries and forces had offered to the Dalai Lama. However, it is just because of the support that the Dalai Lama could not have a correct judgment of his status and future, and had made a series of wrong judgments and decisions. The support also made it hard for him to improve relations with the central government and kept him farther from going back home. In fact, the support had led the Dalai Lama into a trap.
Focus: The two sides should make a compromise to each other before they could continue the talks. What kind of compromise that China is willing to make for the resumption of contact and talks with the Dalai Lama's personal representatives?
Zhu: After the Dalai Lama firmly ceased the talks with the central government for twice, we still said that the door to the talks is open. This demonstrated great sincerity. Some people blamed us for not talking about "substantive issues". Actually we talked about substantive issues every time. What the Dalai Lama's personal representatives had claimed were issues that jeopardize the country's unity, national solidarity and the future of Tibet. We have firmly rejected and criticized those claims. Aren't those substantive talks? In fact, the Dalai Lama side has never made any substantive compromise, and he was just turning "Tibet Independence" into "semi-independence" and "covert independence" under different disguises.
Article exposes ill intention of Dalai Lama's alliance with "pro-democracy" activists
BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- A signed article Wednesday accused the Dalai Lama of creating a false impression that "Tibetan independence" is supported by Chinese people just because a group of so-called "pro-democracy activists" have joined his camp.
The article's author, Yedor, said the real intention of the alliance of the Dalai Lama and "pro-democracy activists" of Chinese origin was to use each other to benefit themselves.
All ethnic groups living in Tibet enjoy full freedom of religious belief and rights to criticism.
Focus: During our visit to Tibet, we also talked with some young people there who appreciated the great improvement in their lives and the rapid development in Tibet. But they felt that the progress of modernization was too fast and the promotion of religion, including Buddhism, was mostly limited in monasteries. The people was afraid to be punished if they preach religion in public.
Zhu: It is a strange idea to blame that the progress of modernization in Tibet was too fast. Although Tibet has made rapid progress in recent years, it has lagged far behind the country's east and central regions. We think modernization in Tibet should be even faster other than too fast. As far as religion is concerned, we implement the same policy of freedom of religious belief in Tibet and the rest of the country. The freedom of religious belief is fully respected and protected in China, and there are no obstacles. Currently, there are 1,787 monasteries and 46,000 monks in Tibet. Compared with the total 2.8 million population in the region, the proportion of monks is quite high. There is not the problem that anyone who criticizes Tibet's reality would face punishment.
Focus: I don't have any doubt about China's policy on the freedom of religious belief. What I want to ask is if there is any freedom of the expression of views or making criticism. Another question is about religious lessons or Buddhist lessons, as most religious teachers are in monasteries. If anybody is unsatisfied about something and making criticism loudly, he might be in great danger, as there are many soldiers and policemen in Tibet, and people might feel threatened.
Zhu: Throughout China, of course including Tibet, citizens have freedom to make criticism on our work and the problems that emerge during development. Such criticisms exist in various meetings, in newspapers and on TV, and there have been especially many more criticisms on our work with the boom of the Internet in our country. Such criticisms are protected. However, it is not allowed if somebody, in the name of freedom of speech, violates laws, harms others' benefits, undermines ethnic unity or tries to overthrow the government. We will absolutely never let any incident like the March-14 Lhasa riot happen again.
Surely there are soldiers and policemen in Tibet. Tibet is an inalienable part of our country, and thus it is quite natural for the country's army and policemen to station in Tibet. The soldiers and policemen are there to safeguard the security of the country, the unity of all ethnic groups and the legal rights of citizens. Most people don't feel uncomfortable about the presence of the army and police. It is those who always want to make troubles and induce tension that would feel uncomfortable or pressured. The Dalai Lama's so-called "middle way" required the central government to withdraw the troops from Tibet, making Tibet a so-called "international peace zone". Afterward, they said they had made some changes to the contents of the "middle way" and would no longer mention the troop issue. They even rebuked us for overlooking this change. However, on Oct. 27 last year during the third meeting between the private representatives of the Dalai Lama and the central government, Samdhong Rinpoche, the so-called Kalon Tripa of the "Tibetan government-in-exile", reiterated to a reporter from the so-called "Independent Chinese PEN Center" that "in the autonomous region no troops should be allowed, and the troop issue is always our core concern." Therefore, only the Dalai Lama clique, and only those who seek "Tibet independence", "indirect independence" or "semi-independence" will regard the presence of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Tibet as something intolerable.
As for the question on Buddhism teachers, I'm not quite clear about your intention. Like many other countries in the world, China has the policy of separating politics and religions. In other words, a government and the education system must be separated from religion. Under the policy, our country's education for citizens, including primary, middle schools and colleges, doesn't allow any activities of religious propaganda. However, lessons in monasteries enjoy complete freedom as long as they don't violate related laws and regulations on the country's management of religious affairs.
All ethnic groups enjoy equal freedom of religious belief
BEIJING, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- All ethnic groups enjoy freedom of religious belief equally in China, said a white paper published here Sunday.
"Freedom of religious belief in China means that every citizen has the freedom to believe or not to believe in any religion," said the white paper issued by the Information office of the State Council.
The 11th Panchen Lama is worshipped by the mass of religious people.
Focus: Another question, and possibly a secret... Where is the Panchen Lama -- or the one chosen by China, now?
Zhu: There is only one Panchen Lama, who is selected strictly in line with historical conventions and religious rituals. And he is the 11th Panchen Erdeni. You have deliberately asked only half of the question, and now I will fill in the other half: Where is the so-called Panchen who was illegally appointed by the Dalai Lama?"
The 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu (front) attends a sub-forum of the Second World Buddhist Forum (WBF) in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province, on March 29, 2009.(Xinhua/Han Yuqing)
Focus: You're right.
Zhu: First I want to say that the Dalai Lama fabricated a big lie about the Panchen Lama's reincarnation. The Dalai Lama made use of western people's lack of Buddhism knowledge, especially understanding about Tibetan Buddhism, to serve his claim that the selection of the Panchen Lama's reincarnation was his own right. Actually, behind the reincarnation of the Dalai and Panchen lamas, there is a complete set of historical conventions and religious rituals, which have evolved through a very long history.
First of all, after the Dalai or Panchen died, local Tibet authorities must report to the central government and get the approval to seek a successor. Then they would start a major project to find a group of candidates for the reincarnated soul boy. These children would go through a series of screening. Then the local authorities would report to the central government and let the government decide whether the last several candidates can take part in the lot-drawing from the golden urn. The golden urn itself was offered by the central government. Only after getting the central government's approval, can the child selected through lot-drawing officially become the reincarnated soul boy of his predecessor. The sitting-in-bed ceremony, when the soul boy ascended to the seat of his predecessor, must be presided over and overseen by the Tibet commissioner from the central government. Then the central government would issue a conference edict and a gold seal to him as approbation. Only then the child officially became the new Dalai Lama or Panchen Lama. Such traditions already became set and complete in 1793 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong. There were occasions when candidates didn't go through the lot-drawing process if there was only one candidate, but this should also get the approval from the central government.
The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu (L) visits a farmer's home at Labu village in Nanmulin County, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, and gives touch-head blessing to the wife of the farmer on July 23, 2009. (Xinhua Photo)
I've said a lot on this, just to illustrate that the selection of the 11th Panchen Lama went through a complete set of political and religious procedures. It was politically legal and religiously divine. Now the Panchen Lama is already a young man with outstanding learning, religious accomplishments and integrity. He is worshipped by the mass of Tibetan religious people. He is currently doing religious study in Tibet. The Dalai Lama violated the historical conventions and religious rituals and it was illegal and invalid for him to appoint a so-called Panchen Lama. The boy chosen by him is our own child, a child of the Tibetan ethnic group and a citizen of our country. We will surely create environments for him to grow healthily.
Focus: Where is the soul boy chosen by the Dalai Lama growing healthily now? In Tibet, will believers recognize a politically chosen Panchen Lama?
Zhu: The boy illegally chosen by the Dalai Lama is, of course, growing healthily in the territory of China. He will become a man that is useful for the country and Tibetan people. And the 11th Panchen Erdeni has won recognition and respects from the mass of religious people. Every time he took part in religious activities in Tibet and other Tibetan areas, tens of thousands of religious people would come to welcome him and pay their homage.
The Dalai Lama always says that the 11th Panchen Lama was born out of politics. But he should never forget that he himself became the Dalai Lama only after the approval by the central government. According to his logic, he himself is the very product of politics.
Focus: Thank you very much for giving us such detailed answers. I know that "Tibet" is a very tough topic. Under many circumstances, few people can talk in such a length and such details on this topic like you.
Zhu: I was hoping that you would raise much tougher questions. I think that one basic principle for a reporter is to report truths, including the truths you have seen in Tibet and the truths we have talked about today.