Fading Hope

The Dalai Lama delivers his annual speech marking Tibetan National Uprising Day, in Dharamsala, India, March 10, 2001.
The Dalai Lama delivers his annual speech marking Tibetan National Uprising Day, in Dharamsala, India, March 10, 2001.

The Dalai Lama makes a much-anticipated return to the United Stares this May. During his monthlong stay he will visit the cities of Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Salt Lake City. Public events in the six cities have been sold out weeks in advance, with some organizers scrambling to add seats to venues booked at full capacity. In Utah, for example, an estimated 10,000 tickets were sold two months in advance of a May 12 teaching date, a response well above even the most optimistic expectations.

While the Dalai Lama’s popularity in the West has perhaps never been higher—his books now occupy a firmly established position on the best seller lists in the United States and Europe—his visit does come on the heels of several sobering developments for the Free Tibet movement.

The promise of renewed dialogue between Beijing and the Tibet government-in-exile has dissolved in recent months. Both sides exchanged guarded overtures for new discussions last December. but despite a secret visit to Beijing last July by the Dalai Lama’s brother, Gyalo Thondup, which brought hope of a shift in the hard-line position of Chinese leadership, subsequent requests for negotiations have been met with silence.

The Dalai Lama expressed his disappointment over the situation in a recent speech marking the occasion of the forty-second anniversary of the Tibetan uprising: “l sincerely hoped that this development would lead to an opening for a realistic approach to the Tibetan issue. I reasoned with the Chinese leadership that through face-to-face meetings we would succeed in clarifying misunderstanding and overcoming distrust . . . Yet, now they are stalling in accepting a Tibetan delegation. This is a clear indication of a hardening attitude of Beijing and a lack of political will to resolve the Tibetan problem.” 

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