GEORGE NEGUS: Could you tell me why, do you think, Mr Howard and Mr Rudd - the man who is our Prime Minister and would like to be our prime minister - why do you think they've been dillydallying, as we say in the West, about seeing you? Are they right to be fearful of offending the Chinese by seeing you?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: Of course. Their relations with China, good relations with China is certainly important.
GEORGE NEGUS: But what damage could be done to Australia's relations with China by seeing a man like yourself?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: According to past experience, sometimes the Chinese initially showing some threat but if things go ahead, then they not necessarily carry or implement that threat.
GEORGE NEGUS: So you think Mr Howard and Mr Rudd may have been overreacting - far too worried about the Chinese?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: I don't know. I don't know. You should judge. People should judge.
GEORGE NEGUS: The Chinese Communist Party regard you as one of the most reviled people. They have accused you of waging a clandestine campaign for Tibetan independence, that you have been fomenting revolution. In fact, on that basis they actually warned Mr Howard and Mr Rudd not to see you because you were not the kind of person they should see. How do you react to that sort of description of you from the Chinese?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: I think many people knows what I am thinking. The whole world knows I am not seeking independence, therefore is many Tibetan disappointed, and also some of our supporters - many Indians, many Europeans, many Americans are also disappointed because I am not seeking independence. And also the Chinese officials whom, you see, our delegations have met, they have also, you see, acknowledged the Dalai Lama is not - for the future is concerned - the Dalai Lama's side is not seeking independence. Now, they have acknowledged. But the other side, the officials, also you see they're using that same sort of accusation continuously. I think there must be some reasons.
GEORGE NEGUS: Maybe they don't believe you.
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: I don't know. I don't know. I think the real thing is overall they themselves are, I think, facing some kind of dilemma how to handle the problems of Tibet, so they choose more easier way, that is simply suppress and accuse the Dalai Lama.
GEORGE NEGUS: Can you explain the difference between independence and autonomy, which is you say what you think should happen so that you can actually save Tibetan culture? I mean, young people in Tibet are angry and frustrated. You have acknowledged that. They don't think that your position is correct. What is the difference between autonomy and a compromise? Because the young people think that you are compromising Tibet's position.
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: Firstly, Tibet case - materially, backward country. Spiritually, yes, now many people knows Tibetans in spiritual field are very, very advanced but in material field is very, very backward. Meantime, every Tibetan is want modernised Tibet. No single Tibetan dreaming return of previous sort of backwardness, therefore as far as economy development is concerned, Tibet remain within the People's Republic of China, we will get greater benefit.
GEORGE NEGUS: So you think there is an absolute plus, a definite plus..
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: I feel like that.
GEORGE NEGUS:.. by maintaining your contact, your association?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: Meantime, provided the Chinese Government respect our culture, our spirituality, our environment.
GEORGE NEGUS: Do they?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: No. So far no. What I am asking the Chinese Government there are certain rights which are mentioned in the constitution and also according lenience for the minority policy. If these things implement sincerely, on the spot, then that is a major benefit. We remain People's Republic of China, meantime we will enjoy the full autonomy, and also is it possible now China is now changing.
GEORGE NEGUS: But you say "If", if that happens.
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: That's right.. Not so far. Not happen.
GEORGE NEGUS: It hasn't happened. Do you respect them? Do you trust them?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: I always, you see, sort of summarise the Chairman Mao's era, Deng Xiaoping's era, and Jiang Zemin's era and Hu Jintao era - if you look at the government in these different eras, it shows the people or leadership are more practical, so they acting according to the new reality, so therefore there is some business to trust them.
GEORGE NEGUS: You said recently ..
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: The present sort of situation is actually no benefit either to China or Tibet, particularly the President, Hu Jintao, very much emphasis importance of harmony. Absolutely, I agree. The policy based on harmony is very essential but, you see, the harmony must come from within, from heart not just lip-service or from under gun, therefore my approach, middle approach is the best way to achieve genuine harmony on the basis of trust.
GEORGE NEGUS: You said in our country a few days ago when you were talking about how frustrated and angry the young people were and how you understood their frustration, you said, "But if that situation doesn't change within 15 years," if you were quoted correctly, "Tibet could be swallowed up. Tibet is finished." Do you really believe that Tibet is finished, it's swallowed up?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: There is real danger. Now, for example, the population of Lhasa - our capital - there's about 300,000 - 100,000 Tibetan, about 200,000 are Chinese. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place because now they have people in the younger generation in Lhasa, the overwhelming Chinese population. The Tibetan language now, not much useful. And their sort of daily life becoming more like Chinese.
GEORGE NEGUS: Which you don't want to have happen?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: Their mentality also, you see, becoming more like Chinese. So we noticed Tibetan youth which recently come from Tibet and Tibetan youth who have grown up in India, we have noticed differences. This is, I believe, some cases in, for example, in a monastery, the Chinese put a lot of restrictions about Buddhist study, and also the school, they study about Tibetan usually less emphasis, less marks. Students who have the better sort of knowledge about the Han language or Chinese language, they have usually, you see, higher marks.
GEORGE NEGUS: So you think the only way to save the Tibetan way of life is this Middle Path? If that is the case, what you say to a young man who we spoke to last year on our program who said, "Even if they cut off my head I don't want to be ruled by the Chinese. I was a Tibetan born in exile but I want to die in Tibet," that's how angry that young man was. He said under no circumstances, he definitely didn't want to live under Chinese rule. He didn't agree with your Middle Path. What do you say to those young Tibetans?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: So now in our society it is complete freedom. Whatever they feel they can express. So a lot of criticism also towards me also out there. I am welcoming that. OK. But now question is - I usually telling these more radical sort of Tibetans, I usually telling them, "Oh, yes, you are right. Whatever you want you can express. But not just a sort of slogan. But you should it make clear how to achieve your goal, then make public, then people eventually vote to you." OK. That's the way. Just a slogan, just criticism is not solution.
GEORGE NEGUS: If our leaders said you, "The real reason we didn't want to see you, we weren't sure whether we wanted to see you is because we were afraid of upsetting the Chinese," in your wonderful Buddhist fashion what would you say to them?
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: OK. OK. That's their business. And furthermore, my visit here and most sort of other visits are not political, although the name of the Dalai Lama, I cannot make separation.
GEORGE NEGUS: No, you can't.
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: In political field I'm already becoming semiretired, position like that. So for my part, no particular sort of political agenda. If I have some political agenda, then I may insist I want to see the Prime Minister because I have some political, some point to discuss with him. Then if he will deny, then I feel sad. But there is no political agenda. So it doesn't matter if he feels very much inconvenience. OK. Let him more peaceful.
GEORGE NEGUS: There is absolutely no doubt that I have been talking to a Buddhist monk. Thank you very much.
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: Thank you. Thank you.
GEORGE NEGUS: It is wonderful to see you again. And enjoy the rest of your stay in our country.
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: Thank you.
ROWAN TUCKER EVANS