Tibetan Exile Group Presses for Independence Western governments are stepping up pressure on China to stop its violent crackdown in Tibet. Tsewang Rigzin, head of an exile group called the Tibetan Youth Congress, says his group reveres the Dalai Lama but disagrees with him on how far to go in pushing for freedom.
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Tibetan Exile Group Presses for Independence

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Tibetan Exile Group Presses for Independence

Tibetan Exile Group Presses for Independence

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Western governments are stepping up pressure on China to stop its violent crackdown in Tibet. French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested he might boycott the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Beijing in August. The White House says President Bush still plans to attend the ceremony, but the U.S. is urging Chinese authorities to refrain from violence and respect minority cultures in that country, especially in Tibet.

Tsewang Rigzin heads an exile group called the Tibetan Youth Congress. His group reveres the Dalai Lama but disagrees with him on how far to go in pushing for freedom. He joins us on the phone from Dharamsala, India. Hello.

Mr. TSEWANG RIGZIN (Tibetan Youth Congress): Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, the Dalai Lama has long emphasized he's not asking China for independence for Tibet but for autonomy within China. Now, you lead a group of 30,000 activists demanding, I believe, complete independence from Tibet. That's a pretty big difference.

Mr. RIGZIN: That is correct. I mean, our main goal is to regain our independence, and that's what we're struggling for right now and that will continue until Tibet is independent.

MONTAGNE: Now, how does that work if China insists that Tibet stay within China and is historically part of China?

Mr. RIGZIN: Well, it's, you know, totally the opposite, because historically Tibet has been an independent nation until the Chinese invasion in 1949. And you know, the recent protests that we have seen inside Tibet is a clear indication of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people against the Chinese government, even after 60 years of brutal occupation by the Chinese.

MONTAGNE: Well, beyond these current demonstrations, how are you putting pressure on China to give Tibet actual independence?

Mr. RIGZIN: We have, you know, organized many campaigns, you know. We're writing to the international community. We're writing to different human rights groups and you know, the athletes that are participating in the Olympics to boycott the Olympics until Tibet is free, that's been our, you know, one of our main campaigns since 2001.

And you know, we want the international community to send a fact-finding delegation in Tibet to truly assess the situation and not just go with, you know, what the Chinese propaganda is providing to the rest of the world.

MONTAGNE: Now, I know your parents fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama back in 1959. So you're a new generation. And I'm wondering, do you consider that the Dalai Lama, though you may revere him, is on the wrong track in effectively going along with China and its claim on Tibet?

Mr. RIGZIN: Well, I mean, yes. I mean, like you said, you know, we revere and we respect, you know, every Tibetan respects and loves our holiness the Dalai Lama. But in terms of the political stand of our struggle, you know, we differ and we are struggling for complete independence. And we believe that, you know, that's the only solution for us in order for us to have our culture, have our religion, have our education system. Anything to be, you know, protected.

MONTAGNE: Well, does that suggest you may end up breaking with the Dalai Lama?

Mr. RIGZIN: Well, I mean, you know, like I said, I mean Tibetan Youth Congress since 1970 has, you know, been struggling for independence. His holiness has compromised everything he could. He has done everything he could in his capacity to find a resolution, but the Chinese have never been sincere. And I don't think they will ever be sincere unless we really ask, you know, what we want.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. RIGZIN: All right. Thanks, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Tsewang Rigzin heads an exile group called the Tibetan Youth Congress, which is based Dharamsala, India.

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