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Negotiating the Future of Tibet

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Today, the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation held its first Jackson/Ho China Forum for the academic year titled “Negotiating the Future of Tibet: An Insider's Story.” Lodi Gyattsen Gyari, who served as the Special Envoy of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, from 1990-2012, was the guest speaker.

In addition to his work with the Dalai Lama, Mr. Gyari is currently a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in the Foreign Policy Program and a research scholar in Asian Studies at Georgetown University.

Mr. Gyari spoke about a number of topics, including the activities of the Dalai Lama, Buddhism in China and Tibetan-Chinese relations.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet during the 1959 Tibetan uprising and has not returned since. However, Mr. Gyari spoke on the possibility of his return sometime in the future.

“I don't speak for him, nor for the exiled administration, but yes, I think it is not just rumors because His Holiness himself has in recent days acknowledged that, in fact, discussions are going on about a possible visit by His Holiness to China, and possibly even Tibet,” Mr Gyari said. “It is very difficult at this stage to say whether it would be a visit to Lhasa or to some of the other areas. But whatever it is, it would be unimaginable for the people of Tibet to have this opportunity.”

Tibet was effectively an independent state from 1912 until 1951 when the People's Republic of China annexed it and declared it the Tibet Autonomous Region. Relations between the province and China have been tense ever since.

“Can you think of happiness in the absence of all the freedoms we talk about: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion? Can someone be genuinely happy with the absence of all that we talk about?” Gyari said, in talking about the Dalai Lama's hope for Tibetan independence.

Tibetan culture is, in some ways however, gaining wide-spread acceptance throughout the rest of China. “They do not see Buddhism as a foreign religion. It has become so much a part of Chinese culture, Chinese tradition, Chinese music. So it is not at all seen as foreign. It is very much a Chinese culture,” Gyari said.

For more information on upcoming events with the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation, visit