The Dalai Lama hopes that democratic changes in China may not be too far off, and he’s “quite definite” that he’ll see his Tibetan homeland again.
The 79-year-old made the comments to Dateline during an interview for SBS’s Dateline to commemorate Tibetan Democracy Day.
“It is difficult, but things are changing,” he says on the subject of China, which invaded Tibet over 50 years ago and eventually forced the Dalai Lama to flee to India.
“I always looked, last 60 years, like Chairman Mao's era, I consider an era of ideology. Then, Deng Xiaoping - they find economy more important than just ideology. So, Deng Xiaoping's era concentrated on the economic field.”
“Now, in some ways, China becomes a capitalist country. Socialist country - socialist, just a name. So now, Xi Jinping era. There's not much choice, but to accept some liberalisation in political field.”
Tibetan Democracy Day marks 54 years since the first elections for exiled Tibetans, but their continued frustrations have been most evident recently through a wave of protesters setting fire to themselves.
“There is tremendous sadness about the restriction, about Tibetan religious study,” he told Dateline.
“In meantime, this act - self-burning - also uses some kind of sort of non-violence - such sort of people easily shoot other people or use explosives, but still, they restrain just to sacrifice their own life.”
“Strictly speaking from the Buddhist viewpoint, it ultimately depends on the motivation. The motivation thinking about Buddhism - then the action becomes very positive. If such action is carried full of anger, hatred, then negative.”
In a move which shocked most Tibetans, the Dalai Lama has now resigned as political leader of the Tibetan people, seeing his function as purely spiritual”
“It's an old, outdated sort of system, no matter how sacred. It's outdated, so I must act according to the first century's new reality,” he says regarding his decision to step down.
“From my childhood, I saw a lot from our old system. Ultimately, because power, in few people's hand - no independent judiciary, so since my childhood – very critical about this situation.”
But does he think he’ll even see Tibet again in his lifetime?
“Oh, quite definite. Things are changing,” he says simply.
See the story above and the full half hour interview on Dateline’s website.