April 1, 2009
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HEARING ON TIBET: AN UPDATE ON THE CURRENT SITUATION AFTER THE BREAKDOWN OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH CHINA

Statement as prepared for delivery by Kelsang Gyaltsen,Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai LamaThe European Parliament  –  Committee on Foreign Affairs31 March 2009 – Brussels

 
 Kelsang Gyaltsen, Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama/File Photo


Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the Committee, at this critical
time for Tibet, I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to the
European Parliament for its consistent and principled support for His
Holiness the Dalai Lama and his efforts to find a peaceful solution for
Tibet. I thank you for convening this timely and important hearing. Undeclared martial-law in Tibet
This hearing is taking place at a time, when Tibetan areas in the PRC
are completely sealed off from the rest of the world. No foreigners can
enter Tibetan areas. Communication lines – such as internet and mobile
phone services – are cut off. There is a huge presence of security and
military forces. Political campaigns are being conducted with rigor at
monasteries, work places and schools to intimidate and coerce the
people. On daily basis Tibetans are being arrested resulting in brutal
beatings and torture during interrogations and detention. An undeclared
martial-law has been imposed on Tibetan areas. At this very moment the
Tibetan people inside Tibet are experiencing the second military
occupation of their homeland and the harshest wave of repression since
the days of the Cultural Revolution. China’s misguided Tibet policy
China’s Tibet policy has been consistently misguided, because of lack
of understanding, appreciation and respect for Tibet’s distinct
culture, history and identity. In occupied Tibet there is little room
for truth. The use of force and coercion as the principal means to rule
and administer Tibet compel Tibetans to lie out of fear and local
officials to hide the truth and create false facts in order to suit and
please Beijing. As a result China’s treatment of Tibet continues to
evade the realities in Tibet. These policies reveal the ugly face of
racial and cultural arrogance, chauvinism and a deep sense of political
insecurity. This approach is, of course, short-sighted and
counter-productive. The Strasbourg Proposal
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has led the Tibetan freedom struggle on a
path of non-violence and has consistently sought a mutually agreeable
solution of the Tibetan issue through negotiations in a spirit of
reconciliation and compromise with China. With this spirit in 1988 in
Strasbourg at this Parliament His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented a
formal proposal for negotiations. The choice of the European Parliament
as the venue to present his thoughts for a framework for negotiations
was on purpose in order to underline the point that a genuine union can
only come about voluntarily when there are mutual respect and
satisfactory benefits to all the parties concerned. His Holiness the
Dalai Lama sees the European Union as a clear and inspiring example of
this. On the other hand, even one country or community can break into
two or more entities when there is a lack of trust and benefit, and
when force is used as the principal means of rule. The Middle-Way Approach
This proposal, which later became known as the “Strasbourg Proposal”,
envisages that the whole of Tibet should become a self-governing
democratic political entity in association with the PRC.  With this
formal statement His Holiness demonstrated his willingness not to seek
the independence of Tibet. The guiding spirit of the Strasbourg
Proposal is the pursuit of a mutually acceptable solution of the issue
of Tibet through negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and
compromise. This spirit has come to be known as the “Middle Way
Approach” of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In March 1989 China imposed
martial-law in Tibet which lasted for one year. The worsening situation
in Tibet and the failure to elicit any positive response from the
Chinese government since the formal presentation of his proposal in
Strasbourg compelled His Holiness to state in 1991 that his “Strasbourg
Proposal” has become ineffectual. However, he left no doubt about his
continued commitment in seeking a resolution to the Tibetan problem in
the spirit of the “Middle Way Approach”. Meanwhile, in Tibet
a most alarming trend emerged: The flood of Chinese settlers who come
to Tibet to take advantage of Tibet’s opening to market capitalism.
Every year, the Chinese population inside Tibet has been increasing at
an alarming rate leading to economic, political and social
marginalization of the Tibetan people in their own homeland. New
measures of restriction in the fields of culture, religion and
education coupled with the unabated influx of Chinese immigrants have
been presenting a constant assault on the integral core of the Tibetan
civilization and identity. Obviously, if these concerns are
not addressed soon the very purpose of trying to reach a negotiated
solution becomes meaningless, because the Chinese government would have
then created facts in Tibet, which would make the situation inside
Tibet irreversible. Some of our Western friends call this Chinese
policy “the final solution” to the issue of Tibet. Against
this background His Holiness the Dalai Lama left no stone unturned to
reach out to the Chinese government. Moreover, the Tibetan leadership
in exile redefined the concrete features of the “Middle-Way Approach”.
A number of components of the “Strasbourg Proposal” were dropped to
conform to existing political realities in the PRC. His Holiness the
Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership in exile took the courageous
decision to seek genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the
framework of the Constitution of the PRC in a way that would ensure the
basic needs of the Tibetan people in safeguarding their distinct
culture, language, religion and identity and the delicate natural
environment of the Tibetan plateau. Sino-Tibetan dialogue
In 2002, when direct contact with the Chinese leadership was
re-established, the Tibetan leadership in exile had already formulated
a clear policy on our approach in the dialogue process. The Kashag, the
Cabinet of the Tibetan Government in exile, with the approval of His
Holiness, had determined that there will be only one official channel
and one single agenda in our talks with Chinese leadership. The single
agenda has been to seek genuine or meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan
people under a single administration within the framework of the
Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. I have the
honour to serve as one of the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
entrusted with the task of conducting the talks with the
representatives of the Chinese leadership. With my senior colleague,
Mr. Lodi G. Gyari and three senior Tibetan assistants, we engaged in
eight formal rounds of discussion and one informal meeting with our
Chinese counterparts since 2002. The mission of our
delegation was two fold: First, to re-establish direct contact with the
leadership in Beijing and to create a conducive atmosphere enabling
direct face-to-face meetings on a regular basis in future. Secondly, to
explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach with the aim
of bringing about earnest negotiations in resolving the issue of Tibet
peacefully. Throughout our contact we focussed our energy and efforts
towards building confidence by dispelling misconceptions and distrust.
With this spirit after our first visit to China and to Lhasa in
September 2002, Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, the chairman of
the Kashag, appealed to Tibetan communities in exile and to our
international supporters to abstain from holding demonstrations during
visits of Chinese dignitaries abroad and to help creating a
constructive atmosphere for the dialogue process. Within our limited
possibilities, the Tibetan leadership in exile initiated a number of
such confidence-building measures. Tibetan suggestions and proposals
Right from the first round of discussions in 2002, we proposed that
both sides initiate measures that help building trust and confidence in
our relationship. We requested the Chinese leadership to make a
good-will gesture by stopping the denunciation and lifting of the ban
on the possessions of the photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
This would send a psychologically important positive message to the
Tibetan people and help to create the right kind of environment. We
also proposed to expand our contact by allowing visits between Tibetans
living in exile and in Tibet and to arrange exchange visits by scholars
and experts to academic, cultural and religious institutions in the PRC
and as well to institutes of the Tibetan refugee community. When it
became obvious in our discussions that there were major differences on
a number of issues between the two parties, including some fundamental
ones, we proposed to first concentrate on issues where both sides have
common interest in cooperating and to increase the number of meetings
to two or three times per year. In 2005 we requested the Chinese
government to allow a small number of 5 – 10 monks to visit various
sacred sites in Tibet to perform prayers for a long life on the
occasion of 70th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A
major difference between the two sides has been the conflicting
perspectives on the current situation inside Tibet. So in order to have
a common understanding of the real situation, we proposed in 2007 that
we be given an opportunity to send study groups to look at the actual
reality on the ground, in the spirit of “seeking truth from facts”. We
explained that this could help both sides to move beyond each other’s
contentions. In 2008 after the wide-spread demonstrations throughout
Tibet and the ensuing events during the Olympic torch relay, it was
appropriate and necessary to send a strong and clear signal to the
Tibetan and Chinese people as well as to the international community
that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership are
determined to engage in serious discussions on all issues concerning
the Tibetan people with the aim of finding a mutually acceptable
solution. We, therefore, proposed in July 2008 to issue a joint
statement to that effect at the conclusion of the seventh round of
discussions (a copy of the draft joint statement is submitted for the
record). Moreover, right at the beginning of our contact on April 18,
2002, we had written to President Jiang Zemin explaining, among other
things, that our mission was to bring about a face-to-face meeting
between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership. Such a
summit has the potential to achieve a breakthrough i n opening a new
chapter in the relationship between the Tibetan and the Chinese
peoples. Consequently, in all the rounds of discussion we raised it
again and again. His Holiness the Dalai Lama reiterated publicly in
2006 his wish to visit China on a pilgrimage. Chinese attitude and positions
To our deep disappointment, none of our suggestions and proposals were
entertained or accepted by the Chinese side. Nor has the Chinese side
reciprocated any of our confidence-building initiatives or presented
their own suggestions or proposals for a way forward. Since the start
of this dialogue in 2002, the Chinese side has been adopting a position
of no recognition, no reciprocity, no commitment and no concession and
no compromise. Although they continue to profess even to these days
that the door to dialogue is open, however, so far they have been
pursuing a strategy of avoiding any progress, decision and commitment.
This lack of political will on the part of the Chinese leadership was
clearly demonstrated at the last round of discussions that took place
in November last year. In July last year during the seventh
round the Chinese side explicitly invited suggestions from His Holiness
the Dalai Lama for the stability and development of Tibet and
emphasised the fact that they would like to hear our views on the
degree or form of autonomy we are seeking. Accordingly, on  October 31,
2008, we presented our Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan
People to the Chinese leadership. (A copy of the memorandum is
submitted for the record). Our memorandum puts forth how the specific
needs of the Tibetan people for self-government can be met through the
application of the principles on autonomy contained in the Constitution
of the PRC. The Constitution gives significant discretionary powers to
state organs in the decision-making and on the operation of the system
of autonomy. These discretionary powers can be exercised to facilitate
genuine autonomy in ways that would respond to the uniqueness of the
Tibetan situation. On this basis, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been
confident that the basic needs of the Tibetan people can be met through
genuine autonomy within the PRC. Unfortunately, the Chinese
side rejected categorically our memorandum in its entirety. At one
point of our discussion the Chinese Executive Vice-Minister Zhu Weiqun
stated: “Even the title of your memorandum is unacceptable. How many
times do we need to say that the Dalai Lama has no right to speak about
the situation in Tibet or in the name of the Tibetan people?” When we
asked him why in the first place he had invited us to present our views
on autonomy, his answer was: “This was a test to see how far you have
come understand the position and the policy of the Central Government.
And you have failed the examination miserably”. (The press release of
Chinese side rejecting the Tibetan memorandum is submitted here for the
record). The basic Chinese position on the issue of Tibet During the sixth round of talks from June 29 to July 5, 2007, the Chinese side outlined their basic position as follow:
“Firstly, the Dalai Lama must accept the political basis for
maintaining contact with Central Government. The political basis for it
is the recognition that Tibet has always been an integral part of
China. This is not an academic-historical issue. It is a matter of
political standpoint. Secondly, you have to have a correct
understanding of the nature of the contact between the Central
Government and the Dalai Lama. It is a contact that concerns the Dalai
Lama and a handful of people around him. There cannot be any
discussions going beyond this scope. There is no such a thing as the
issue of Tibet. The Tibetan people in Tibet are happy. (At
the eighth round of talks the Chinese side further clarified this
position.) The Dalai Lama has no right to talk about the situation
inside Tibet or in the name of the Tibetan people. The discussion can
be only about the personal matters of the Dalai Lama and the people
around him. Thirdly, it is necessary to correctly understand
with whom you are in contact. You have to correctly discern who we are
and who you are. You have to give due recognition to this fact. Our
contact is between the Central Government and the private
representatives of the Dalai Lama. There will be no contact and talks
between the Central Government and the so-called Tibetan government in
exile.” Since the last round of talks in November 2008, the
Chinese government has been undertaking massive propaganda efforts to
whitewash their brutal subjugation of the Tibetan people and to justify
their rejection of the Tibetan initiative for genuine autonomy by
distorting our positions. We have clarified repeatedly verbally as well
as in writing our positions on a range of issues in the talks. However,
the Chinese side has chosen to continue to distort our positions and to
mislead the world on a number of issues. CHINESE DISTORTIONS OF THE TIBETAN POSITIONS Historical status of Tibet
The Tibetan people and the Chinese government have their own version of
Tibet’s historical status. The Chinese government asserts that Tibet
has always been an inalienable part of China. They demand that His
Holiness the Dalai Lama publicly acknowledges it. This is a
precondition for negotiations. For Tibetans Tibet has been an
independent nation. Against this background, we have repeatedly stated
to our Chinese counterparts that history is best left aside. Revisiting
history will not serve any useful purpose but complicate only the quest
for a mutually acceptable solution. Concerning the present and the
future we are committed in seeking a solution within the framework of
the Chinese Constitution. Chinese military presence in Tibet
Our position on this is clear and unambiguous. Our consistent position
has always been that defence and foreign policy are prerogatives of the
Central Government in Beijing. In the Five-Point Peace Plan (1987) and
the Strasbourg Proposal (1988) His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
expressed his personal hope and vision that eventually the Tibetan
plateau will be transformed into a demilitarized zone of peace. This
will greatly contribute in building trust and confidence between India
and China and in bringing about stability and peace in that part of the
world. It is the hope and vision for the future by a man of peace and
not a condition to a solution of the issue of Tibet. This has been
explained repeatedly to our Chinese counterparts. Moreover,
as stated earlier since the formal presentation of the Strasbourg
Proposal the concrete features of the “Middle-Way Approach” have
evolved. In the course of the talks we conveyed to our Chinese
counterparts that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was willing to clarify
the misunderstandings or misinterpretations of some of his positions.
We offered to engage in consultations with the Chinese side on such a
statement by His Holiness in order to ensure that a new statement by
His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the resolution of the Tibetan issue is
acceptable to the Chinese leadership. However, the Chinese side never
responded to our offer. Expulsion of non-Tibetans from Tibetan areas
The fundamental objective of national regional autonomy and
self-government is the preservation of the identity, culture, language
and so forth of the minority people. However, the very principle and
purpose of national regional autonomy is disregarded if large scale
migration and settlement of the majority Han nationality and other
nationalities is encouraged and allowed. Major demographic changes that
result from such migration will have the effect of assimilating rather
than integrating the Tibetan nationality into the state and gradually
extinguishing the distinct culture and identity of the Tibetan people.
There is precedence in the PRC for restriction on the movement or
residence of citizens. To Tibetans it would be vital that the
autonomous organs of self-government have the authority to regulate the
residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons
who wish to move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC. It is
not our intention to expel the non-Tibetans who have permanently
settled in Tibet and have lived and grown up there for a considerable
time. Restoring the old socio-political system in Tibet
Such a notion is unfounded and untrue. No Tibetan, whether in exile or
in Tibet, has any desire to restore the old system. In exile, we have
democratized our political system and adopted a democratic charter that
set guidelines for our Government-in-Exile. Even our political
leadership is now directly elected by the people. In 2005 His
Holiness the Dalai Lama reiterated his position on this matter as
follow: “My involvement in the affairs of Tibet is neither for the
purpose of claiming certain personal rights or political position for
myself nor attempting  to stake claims for the Tibetan administration
in exile. In 1992 in a formal announcement I stated clearly that when
we return to Tibet with a certain degree of freedom, I will not hold
any office in the local Tibetan government or any other political
position and that the present Tibetan administration in exile will be
dissolved. Moreover, the Tibetans working in Tibet should carry on the
main responsibility of administering Tibet”. We neither
desire to restore the old socio-political system nor do we aim to
replace the present socialist system. Our aim is as we have stated the
exercise of genuine autonomy. The issue of “Greater Tibet”
There is no such thing as “Greater Tibet” or “Minor Tibet”. In
literature we find the distinction “Political Tibet” or “Cultural or
Ethnographic Tibet”. Political Tibet has never been part of the Chinese
state until 1951. Cultural or ethnographic Tibet is by definition
entitled to regional national autonomy according to the principles of
the Constitution of the PRC. The term “Greater Tibet” has, therefore,
no basis. The Chinese side is labelling our position as a
demand for the separation of one-fourth the territory of China. First
of all, since we Tibetans are not asking for the separation of Tibet
from China, there should be no concern on this front. More importantly,
it is a fact both of history and geography that the landmass inhabited
by Tibetans constitutes roughly one-fourth the territory of the PRC.
Actually, the Chinese government has already designated almost all
Tibetan areas as Tibet autonomous entities: The Tibet Autonomous
Region, Tibet Autonomous Prefectures or Tibet Autonomous Counties.
Therefore, the positions on what constitutes cultural or ethnographic
Tibet are not so divergent. Our demand that the Tibetan
people should live in a single autonomous entity within the PRC is not
based on history. This aspiration is based on the right to regional
national self-governance and equality of all nationalities, both
principles contained in the Constitution of the PRC. The
current partition of Tibetan areas, by which Tibetan communities are
ruled and administered under different provinces and regions foments
fragmentation, promotes unequal development, and weakens the ability of
the Tibetan nationality to protect and promote its common cultural,
spiritual and ethnic identity. Whereas the other major minority
nationalities such as the Uyghur and Mongols govern themselves almost
entirely within their respective single autonomous regions, Tibetans
remain fragmented as if they were several different minority
nationalities. It is clear that the Tibetan nationality
within the PRC will be able to exercise its right to govern itself and
administer its internal affairs effectively only once it can do so
through an organ of self-government that has jurisdiction over the
Tibetan nationality as a whole. The Law on Regional National Autonomy
recognises the principle that boundaries of national autonomous areas
may need to be modified. There are several precedents where this has
actually been done. Unifying the Tibetan people should not be
seen as a cover for a separatist plot. It is basically a question of
recognizing, restoring and respecting the integrity of the Tibetans as
a people and distinct nationality of the PRC. This unification would
give the Tibetans a genuine collective sense of having benefited by
being part of the PRC and would embody the respect for the integrity of
the Tibetans as a distinct people. Tibetan commitment to dialogue
On issues of national importance and during major crises it has always
been the natural inclination of His Holiness the Dalai Lama since his
youth to consult with a wide range of people representing the Tibetan
society before deciding on a course of action. In exile a democratic
system ensures the full participation of the people in the
decision-making. On the vital issue of our relationship with the
Chinese government His Holiness has called a Special Meeting of the
Tibetan people to discuss the course of our policy. Last November after
the demonstrations across the Tibetan plateau and the ensuing brutal
crack-down of the Chinese authorities and securities as well as the
failure of the eight formal rounds of talks with the Chinese side, a
Special Meeting of Tibetan People was convened. Around 600 delegates
from all over the world representing the entire spectrum of the Tibetan
society in exile participated in it. Special efforts were also made to
solicit the opinions of Tibetans inside Tibet. Despite a deep
sense of bitterness and urgency that every participant displayed, after
six days of intense and passionate discussions the majority of the
delegates supported the continuation of the “Middle-Way Approach” of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the time being. A vocal and strong
minority, whose supporters are increasing in recent time, pleaded
passionately for changing the goal of our freedom struggle to the
complete rightful independence of Tibet by arguing that the Chinese
Communist government will never engage in serious talks on genuine
autonomy for the Tibetan people. On the issue of non-violence there was
unanimity in the commitment not deviate from the path of non-violence
in our freedom struggle. Following of the Special Meeting of
the Tibetan People, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has emphasised in his
statement on March 10 this year that “we are pursuing this policy (of
“Middle-Way Approach”) with greater confidence and will continue our
efforts towards achieving a meaningful regional national autonomy for
all Tibetans”. Today, we Tibetans stand ready to engage in honest and
earnest discussions with the Chinese government on autonomy for the
Tibetan people anytime, anywhere. It is now for the Chinese government
to show sincerity and seriousness in addressing the real problems and
issues of the Tibetan people in Tibet. While we remain ready
to engage with Chinese government anytime, anywhere when there is a
clear and serious signal from Beijing, we will make determined efforts
in reaching out to the Chinese people. Since the demonstrations in
Tibet last year and the protests during the Olympic torch rally, the
Chinese government has fanned nationalism among the Chinese and called
for a “people’s war against the separatists” thereby inciting hatred
against the Tibetans. Nonetheless the trend in China is that a growing
number of educated and informed Chinese people are becoming critical of
their government’s policy with regard to Tibet. Chinese intellectuals
and lawyers have publicly expressed their concerns about the Chinese
government’s handling of the Tibetan problem. This development is
inspiring. The role and responsibility of the international community
The crux of the problem in finding a mutually acceptable solution to
the issue of Tibet is that we Tibetans do not have a partner for an
honest dialogue. It is in this context that this hearing so important.
The Chinese leadership must be made to realize that the issue of Tibet
cannot be suppressed and silenced unless it is properly addressed and
resolved. World opinion is far from being immaterial to the Chinese
leadership. Obviously, the pursuit of international recognition and
respect is priority of China. What is, therefore, needed is a strong
and unified message with regard to the issue of Tibet. We
Tibetans need your help. First and foremost in opening up Tibet to the
rest of the world so that the Chinese authorities and security forces
no longer have a free hand in Tibet. International presence will a have
restraining influence on the authorities and the security forces and
will thus provide some form of protection to the captive Tibetans
inside Tibet. Ultimately, we Tibetans need on the other side of the
negotiating table a partner who is willing to engage in an honest
dialogue with the aim of finding a fair, just and mutually acceptable
solution to the issue of Tibet. In today’s heavily interdependent
world, it is not in the hands of the Chinese leaders alone whether the
Tibetan people will be able to enjoy a life in freedom and dignity in
future or be compelled to live under continued brutal repression. The
policies of the European Union towards the cause of Tibet and China
will have just as much a bearing on the outcome of this tragedy. In
this context, once again I wish to express our deep appreciation to the
European Parliament for consistently taking the lead in building a
consensus and common approach in promoting a peaceful resolution of the
issue of Tibet. Thank you very much.
Related reports:MEMORANDUM ON GENUINE AUTONOMY FOR THE TIBETAN PEOPLE

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