The Fate of Tibet
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, right, confers with Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, during a function in Dharmsala, India, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008. A summit of Tibetan exiles is turning into a clash of generations over the direction of their struggle with China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia)

The Dalai Lama, right, confers with Samdhong Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, in Dharmsala, India, Nov. 20, 2008. (AP)

For decades now, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has smiled and talked of peace and won Western hearts — and dreamed of autonomy for Tibet.

And China has listened, intermittently, and said no, consistently.

This fall, after riots in Tibet last spring, China said no loudly — flatly rejecting Tibetan autonomy and the Dalai Lama’s smiling appeals.

For the last week, more than 500 Tibetan exiles from across the world gathered in Dharamsala, India, to debate their way forward: whether to stick with the Dalai Lama’s peaceful “middle way,” search for autonomy within China, or to reach openly for independence. Whether to pray, to fight, to wait, to hope.

Their path looks as steep as the Himalayas.

This hour, On Point: The Dalai Lama, China, and the fate of Tibet.

You can join the conversation. Are you still rooting for the red-robed Buddhists and their struggle to reclaim their kingdom at the “roof of the world”? Will that struggle outlast the Dalai Lama? Will old Tibet simply disappear one day under a wave of Chinese immigration and development?


We’re joined from Dharamsala by Tsewang Rigzin. He is president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, an exile group that advocates full independence from China.

From Vancouver, we’re joined by Tsering Wangdu Shakya, a Tibetan scholar and professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for Asian Research. Born in Lhasa, he fled to India with his family after the Chinese invasion. He is the author of “The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947,” which The New York Times called “the definitive history of modern Tibet.”

Joining us from New York is Robbie Barnett, director of the Modern Tibetan Studies program at Columbia University.

And from Melbourne Australia, we’re joined by Cameron Stewart. An associate editor at The Australian. He was in Tibet in early November, one of only a handful of Western journalists to have been in Tibet since the March riots.

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