June 04, 2010

English Translation of the Dalai Lama/Chinese Citizens Twitter Talk

The New York Review of Books posted the May 21 Twitter conversation between the Dalai Lama and Chinese citizens in its entirety. Perry Link translated the dialogue and explains how such an event was able to take place.

So how did Wang Lixiong do it? First he asked representatives of the Dalai Lama, who is on a tour of the U.S., for an hour of time in which the Tibetan religious leader might answer questions from Chinese citizens. The Dalai Lama agreed to use the hour of 8 to 9 a.m. (EST) on May 21 for this purpose. Wang then arranged to open a Twitter page beginning on May 17 at 10:30 a.m. (Beijing time), onto which Chinese Web users could pose questions. In order to promote democracy in the questioning process, Wang decided to prioritize the questions using the program Google Moderator, which posts all questions on a Google Moderator page inside China. According to the program, any Web visitor can vote on which questions he or she prefers and only one vote from any one remote Web user is accepted (to prevent a cyber version of ballot-box stuffing); during the voting period, a running tally is published on which questions have received the most votes.

The questions themselves are pointed and interesting. Here's an example:

Question 5: I would like to ask the Great Teacher why your description of earlier Tibet—as a harmonious Buddhist society—differs so radically from the Chinese government’s description of an evil slave society. There are many drawings and other visual materials that document a cruel and dark slave society. Can you explain why this discrepancy is so big?

Dalai Lama: Tibet before 1950 was a “backward society” and its institutions were imperfect. We acknowledge this. No one ever said Tibet before 1950 was a paradise. I don’t think any Tibetan, inside Tibet or outside, even in their dreams, would want to restore the old system intact.

On the other hand, the Chinese government’s widespread claims that old Tibet was a kind of hell are also very wide of the mark. For example the film called “People Denied the Right of Birth,” which was sponsored by the Chinese government, is pure propaganda and utterly unacceptable to most Tibetans because it departs so far from the truth. This is like the propaganda of the Cultural Revolution, with all its claims about “great victories”—which, once the true situation could no longer be covered up, melted into nothing.

It's worth reading. Find it here.

See our previous blog coverage here.

UPDATE/QUESTION: Somebody has asked how this conversation could have taken place on Twitter, with the 140 character limit. Does anybody know the answer to this?

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