They fear what might happen if Tibetans were allowed to live freely and others under Chinese rule started to demand more respect for their rights. That has meant, he said, that "they ignore ... reality and they impose their rules. ... That's the problem."
Still, the Buddhist spiritual leader says he remains optimistic. Eventually, he told NPR's Renee Montagne, things will change for the better. He gets some hope from Chinese leaders' comments in recent years about the need for political reform in China.