LONDON (Reuters) - Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday resuming talks with China on his homeland’s future was futile unless it adopted a “realistic” stance, adding it was useless trying to convince Beijing he was not seeking full independence.
In comments likely to enrage a Chinese leadership already angry over his trip to Britain, the Dalai Lama also said a shift towards democracy and better human rights in China was inevitable and the Chinese people “really want change”.
The 76-year-old monk was speaking in Britain, which he is touring to spread a message of non-violence and compassion, touching upon issues including European economic woes, which he said were partly caused by “greed and ignorance”.
“The issue is (the people’s) basic right. In future, unless they start a realistic approach for the Tibetan problem inside Tibet, there’s not much to discuss,” the Dalai Lama told Reuters in an interview at Britain’s houses of parliament.
Beijing has snubbed British officials, warned of “serious consequences” and, according to an unsourced report in the British media that China did not confirm, threatened to relocate its Olympic team from the northern British city of Leeds in protest at the Dalai Lama’s meetings with British officials.
China considers him a separatist for his long struggle for Tibetan autonomy, and tensions over the issue are at their highest in years after a spate of protests and self-immolations by Tibetan activists, which have prompted a Chinese security crackdown.
China has ruled Tibet since 1950, when Communist troops marched in and announced its “peaceful liberation”. Beijing insists Chinese rule has brought development and prosperity and denies trampling Tibetan rights.
The Dalai Lama, who has accused China of “cultural genocide”, fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising, and unrest has continued sporadically ever since.
Earlier this month, two of the Dalai Lama’s envoys to talks with China resigned over what they said was the deteriorating situation inside Tibet and Beijing’s lack of a positive response to Tibetan proposals for genuine autonomy.
The Dalai Lama insists he is not seeking full independence, but says there is little he can do to convince Beijing, which he said was actually only interested in imposing its will.
“We both have mantras to recite. My mantra is ‘We are not seeking independence’. The Chinese mantra is ‘Tibet is always part of China’. I think the real effect of both mantras is limited,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner said.
“This is not a question of convincing. I think they feel it is easier just to suppress.”
The Dalai Lama hoped, however, that China may take a different approach under a new president, virtually certain to be Xi Jinping, or will be forced to do so by an increased clamour for change among its 1.35 billion people.
“I hope Mr Xi Jinping, a new leader, new blood, looks in a more open, realistic way,” the Dalai Lama said, adding that Xi should usher in political reform in the same way that former leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s and 1980s brought in the market reforms that have made China an economic powerhouse.
“Deng Xiaoping said: ‘Seek truth from facts’. Then he followed the capitalist road for economic reasons. Now the political system - I think the time has now come to seek truth from facts,” the Dalai Lama said.
In any case, a shift towards democracy and better human rights in China is inevitable, he said.
Chinese authorities have moved to stifle growing dissent, fuelled partly by greater confidence among the country’s burgeoning middle class and also online social networks.
“China has to go along with world trends. That’s democracy, liberty, individual freedom. China sooner or later has to go that way. It cannot go backward,” the Dalai Lama said.
“Chinese people themselves, they really want change,” he said, adding that his meetings with Chinese former officials and intellectuals supported his view.
Editing by Alison Williams