Translated from the Tibetan original
Note on the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People
Note addresses the principal concerns and objections raised by the
Chinese Central Government regarding the substance of the Memorandum on
Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People (hereinafter ‘the Memorandum’)
which was presented to the Government of the People’s Republic of China
(PRC) on October 31, 2008 at the eighth round of talks in Beijing.
carefully studied the responses and reactions of Minister Du Qinglin
and Executive Vice-Minister Zhu Weiqun conveyed during the talks,
including the written Note, and in statements made by the Chinese
Central Government following the talks, it seems that some issues
raised in the Memorandum may have been misunderstood, while others
appear to have not been understood by the Chinese Central Government.
Chinese Central Government maintains that the Memorandum contravenes
the Constitution of the PRC as well as the ‘three adherences’.
The Tibetan side believes that the Tibetan people’s needs, as set out
in the Memorandum, can be met within the framework and spirit of the
Constitution and its principles on autonomy and that these proposals do
not contravene or conflict with the ‘three adherences’. We believe that
the present Note will help to clarify this.
Holiness the Dalai Lama started internal discussions, as early as in
1974, to find ways to resolve the future status of Tibet through an
autonomy arrangement instead of seeking independence. In 1979 Chinese
leader Deng Xiaoping expressed willingness to discuss and resolve all
issues except the independence of Tibet. Since then His Holiness the
Dalai Lama has taken numerous initiatives to bring about a mutually
acceptable negotiated solution to the question of Tibet. In doing so
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has steadfastly followed the Middle-Way
approach, which means the pursuit of a mutually acceptable and mutually
beneficial solution through negotiations, in the spirit of
reconciliation and compromise. The Five-Point Peace Plan and the
Strasbourg Proposal were presented in this spirit. With the failure to
elicit any positive response from the Chinese Central Government to
these initiatives, along with the imposition of martial law in March
1989 and the deterioration of the situation in Tibet, His Holiness the
Dalai Lama felt compelled to state in 1991 that his Strasbourg Proposal
had become ineffectual. His Holiness the Dalai Lama nevertheless
maintained his commitment to the Middle-Way approach.
re-establishment of a dialogue process between the Chinese Central
Government and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2002
provided the opportunity for each side to explain their positions and
to gain a better understanding of the concerns, needs and interests of
the other side. Moreover, taking into consideration the Chinese
Central Government’s real concerns, needs and interests, His Holiness
the Dalai Lama has given much thought with due consideration to the
reality of the situation. This reflects His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s
flexibility, openness and pragmatism and, above all, sincerity and
determination to seek a mutually beneficial solution.
Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People was prepared in
response to the suggestion from the Chinese Central Government made at
the seventh round of talks in July 2008. However, the Chinese Central
Government’s reactions and main criticisms of the Memorandum appear to
be based not on the merits of that proposal which was officially
presented to it, but on earlier proposals that were made public as well
as other statements made at different times and contexts.
Memorandum and the present Note strongly reemphasise that His Holiness
the Dalai Lama is not seeking independence or separation but a solution
within the framework of the Constitution and its principles on autonomy
as reiterated many times in the past.
Special General Meeting of the Tibetans in Diaspora held in November
2008 in Dharamsala reconfirmed for the time being the mandate for the
continuation of the dialogue process with the PRC on the basis of the
Middle-Way approach. On their part, members of the international
community urged both sides to return to the talks. A number of them
expressed the opinion that the Memorandum can form a good basis for
1. Respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the PRC
Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated that he is not seeking
separation of Tibet from the People’s Republic of China, and that he is
not seeking independence for Tibet. He seeks a sustainable solution
within the PRC. This position is stated unambiguously in the Memorandum.
Memorandum calls for the exercise of genuine autonomy, not for
independence, ‘semi-independence’ or ‘independence in disguised form’.
The substance of the Memorandum, which explains what is meant by
genuine autonomy, makes this unambiguously clear. The form and degree
of autonomy proposed in the Memorandum is consistent with the
principles on autonomy in the Constitution of the PRC. Autonomous
regions in different parts of the world exercise the kind of
self-governance that is proposed in the Memorandum, without thereby
challenging or threatening the sovereignty and unity of the state of
which they are a part. This is true of autonomous regions within
unitary states as well as those with federal characteristics. Observers
of the situation, including unbiased political leaders and scholars in
the international community, have also acknowledged that the Memorandum
is a call for autonomy within the PRC and not for independence or separation from the PRC.
Chinese government’s viewpoint on the history of Tibet is different
from that held by Tibetans and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is fully
aware that Tibetans cannot agree to it. History is a past event and it
cannot be altered. However, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s position is
forward-looking, not backward grasping. He does not wish to make this
difference on history to be an obstacle in seeking a mutually
beneficial common future within the PRC.
Chinese Central Government’s responses to the Memorandum reveal a
persistent suspicion on its part that His Holiness’ proposals are
tactical initiatives to advance the hidden agenda of independence. His
Holiness the Dalai Lama is aware of the PRC’s concerns and
sensitivities with regard to the legitimacy of the present situation in
Tibet. For this reason His Holiness the Dalai Lama has conveyed through
his Envoys and publicly stated that he stands ready to lend his moral
authority to endow an autonomy agreement, once reached, with the
legitimacy it will need to gain the support of the people and to be
2. Respecting the Constitution of the PRC
Memorandum explicitly states that the genuine autonomy sought by His
Holiness the Dalai Lama for the Tibetan people is to be accommodated
within the framework of the Constitution and its principles on
autonomy, not outside of it.
fundamental principle underlying the concept of national regional
autonomy is to preserve and protect a minority nationality’s identity,
language, custom, tradition and culture in a multi-national state based
on equality and cooperation. The Constitution provides for the
establishment of organs of self-government where the national
minorities live in concentrated communities in order for them to
exercise the power of autonomy. In conformity with this principle, the
White Paper on Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet (May 2004), states that minority nationalities are “arbiters of their own destiny and masters of their own affairs”.
the parameters of its underlying principles, a Constitution needs to be
responsive to the needs of the times and adapt to new or changed
circumstances. The leaders of the PRC have demonstrated the flexibility
of the Constitution of the PRC in their interpretation and
implementation of it, and have also enacted modifications and
amendments in response to changing circumstances. If applied to the
Tibetan situation, such flexibility would, as is stated in the
Memorandum, indeed permit the accommodation of the Tibetan needs within
the framework of the Constitution and its principles on autonomy.
3. Respecting the ‘three adherences’
position of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as presented in the
Memorandum, in no way challenges or brings into question the leadership
of the Chinese Communist Party in the PRC. At the same time, it is
reasonable to expect that, in order to promote unity, stability and a
harmonious society, the Party would change its attitude of treating
Tibetan culture, religion and identity as a threat.
Memorandum also does not challenge the socialist system of the PRC.
Nothing in it suggests a demand for a change to this system or for its
exclusion from Tibetan areas. As for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s
views on socialism, it is well known that he has always favoured a
socialist economy and ideology that promotes equality and benefits to
uplift the poorer sections of society.
Holiness the Dalai Lama’s call for genuine autonomy within the PRC
recognises the principles on autonomy for minority nationalities
contained in the Constitution of the PRC and is in line with the
declared intent of those principles. As pointed out in the Memorandum,
the current implementation of the provisions on autonomy, however,
effectively results in the denial of genuine autonomy to the Tibetan
and fails to provide for the exercise of the right of Tibetans to
govern themselves and to be “masters of their own affairs.” Today,
important decisions pertaining to the welfare of Tibetans are not being
made by Tibetans. Implementing the proposed genuine autonomy explained
in the Memorandum would ensure for the Tibetans the ability to exercise
the right to true autonomy and therefore to become masters of their own
affairs, in line with the Constitutional principles on autonomy.
Thus, the Memorandum for genuine autonomy does not oppose the ‘three adherences’.
4. Respecting the hierarchy and authority of the Chinese Central Government
proposals contained in the Memorandum in no way imply a denial of the
authority of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and other organs of
the Chinese Central Government. As stated in the Memorandum, the
respects the hierarchical differences between the Central Government
and its organs, including the NPC, and the autonomous government of
form of genuine autonomy entails a division and allocation of powers
and responsibilities, including that of making laws and regulations,
between the central and the autonomous local government. Of course, the
power to adopt laws and regulations is limited to the areas of
competency of the autonomous region. This is true in unitary states as
well as in federal systems.
principle is also recognised in the Constitution. The spirit of the
Constitutional provisions on autonomy is to give autonomous regions broader
decision-making authority over and above that enjoyed by ordinary
provinces. But today, the requirement for prior approval by the
Standing Committee of the NPC for all laws and regulations of the
autonomous regions (Art. 116 of the Constitution) is exercised in a way
that in fact leaves the autonomous regions with much less authority to
make decisions that suit local conditions than that of the ordinary
(not autonomous) provinces of China.
there is a division and allocation of decision-making power between
different levels of government (between the Central Government and the
autonomous government), it is important to have processes in place for
consultation and cooperation. This helps to improve mutual
understanding and to ensure that contradictions and possible
inconsistencies in policies, laws and regulations are minimised. It
also reduces the chances of disputes arising regarding the exercise of
the powers allocated to these different organs of government. Such
processes and mechanisms do not put the Central and autonomous
governments on equal footing, nor do they imply the rejection of the
leadership of the Central Government.
important feature of entrenchment of autonomy arrangements in the
Constitution or in other appropriate ways also does not imply equality
of status between the central and local government nor does it restrict
or weaken the authority of the former. The measure is intended to
provide (legal) security to both the autonomous and the central
authorities that neither can unilaterally change the basic features of
the autonomy they have set up, and that a process of consultation must
take place at least for fundamental changes to be enacted.
5. Concerns raised by the Chinese Central Government on specific competencies referred to in the Memorandum
a) Public security
was raised over the inclusion of public security aspects in the package
of competencies allocated to the autonomous region in the Memorandum
because the government apparently interpreted this to mean defence
matters. National defence and public security are two different
matters. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is clear on the point that the
responsibility for national defence of the PRC is and should remain
with the Central Government. This is not a competency to be exercised
by the autonomous region. This is indeed the case in most autonomy
arrangements. The Memorandum in fact refers specifically to “internal
public order and security,” and makes the important point that the
majority of the security personnel should be Tibetans, because they
understand the local customs and traditions. It also helps to curb
local incidents leading to disharmony among the nationalities. The
Memorandum in this respect is consistent with the principle enunciated
in Article 120 of the Constitution (reflected also in Article 24 of the
LRNA), which states:
organs of self-government of the national autonomous areas may, in
accordance with the military system of the state and practical local
needs and with approval of the State Council, organise local public
security forces for the maintenance of public order.”
should also be emphasised in this context that the Memorandum at no
point proposes the withdrawal of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from
protection, use, and development of the Tibetan language are one of the
crucial issues for the exercise of genuine autonomy by Tibetans. The
emphasis on the need to respect Tibetan as the main or principal
language in the Tibetan areas is not controversial, since a similar
position is expressed in the Chinese Central Government’s White Paper
on Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet,
where it is stated that regulations adopted by the Tibet regional
government prescribe that “equal attention be given to Tibetan and
Han-Chinese languages in the Tibetan Autonomous region, with the Tibetan language as the major one…”
(emphasis added). Moreover, the very usage of “main language” in the
Memorandum clearly implies the use of other languages, too.
absence of a demand in the Memorandum that Chinese should also be used
and taught should not be interpreted as an “exclusion” of this
language, which is the principal and common language in the PRC as a
whole. It should also be noted in this context that the leadership in
exile has taken steps to encourage Tibetans in exile to learn Chinese.
proposal which emphasises the study of the Tibetan people’s own
language should therefore not be interpreted as being a “separatist
c) Regulation of population migration
Memorandum proposes that the local government of the autonomous region
should have the competency to regulate the residence, settlement and
employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to
Tibetan areas from elsewhere. This is a common feature of autonomy and
is certainly not without precedent in the PRC.
number of countries have instituted systems or adopted laws to protect
vulnerable regions or indigenous and minority peoples from excessive
immigration from other parts of the country. The Memorandum explicitly
states that it is not
suggesting the expulsion of non-Tibetans who have lived in Tibetan
areas for years. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Kashag also made
this clear in earlier statements, as did the Envoys in their
discussions with their Chinese counterparts. In an address to the
European Parliament on December 4, 2008, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
reiterated that “our intention is not to expel non-Tibetans. Our
concern is the induced mass movement of primarily Han, but also some
other nationalities, into many Tibetan areas, which in turn
marginalises the native Tibetan population and threatens Tibet’s
fragile environment.” From this it is clear that His Holiness is not
at all suggesting that Tibet be inhabited by only Tibetans, with other
nationalities not being able to do so. The issue concerns the
appropriate division of powers regarding the regulation of transient,
seasonal workers and new settlers so as to protect the vulnerable
population indigenous to Tibetan areas.
responding to the Memorandum the Chinese Central Government rejected
the proposition that the autonomous authorities would regulate the
entrance and economic activities of persons from other parts of the PRC
in part because “in the Constitution and the Law on Regional National
Autonomy there are no provisions to restrict transient population.” In
fact, the Law on Regional National Autonomy, in its Article 43,
explicitly mandates such a regulation:
accordance with legal stipulations, the organs of self-government of
national autonomous areas shall work out measures for control of the
Thus, the Tibetan proposal contained in the Memorandum in this regard is not incompatible with the Constitution.
point made in the Memorandum, that Tibetans be free to practice their
religion according to their own beliefs, is entirely consistent with
the principles of religious freedom contained in the Constitution of
the PRC. It is also consistent with the principle of separation of
religion and polity adopted in many countries of the world.
36 of the Constitution guarantees that no one can “compel citizens to
believe in, or not to believe in any religion.” We endorse this
principle but observe that today the government authorities do
interfere in important ways in the ability of Tibetans to practice
spiritual relationship between master and student and the giving of
religious teachings, etc. are essential components of the Dharma
practice. Restricting these is a violation of religious freedom.
Similarly, the interference and direct involvement by the state and its
institutions in matters of recognition of reincarnated lamas, as
provided in the regulation on the management of reincarnated lamas
adopted by the State on July 18, 2007 is a grave violation of the
freedom of religious belief enshrined in the Constitution.
practice of religion is widespread and fundamental to the Tibetan
people. Rather than seeing Buddhist practice as a threat, concerned
authorities should respect it. Traditionally or historically Buddhism
has always been a major unifying and positive factor between the
Tibetan and Chinese peoples.
e) Single administration
desire of Tibetans to be governed within one autonomous region is fully
in keeping with the principles on autonomy of the Constitution. The
rationale for the need to respect the integrity of the Tibetan
nationality is clearly stated in the Memorandum and does not mean
“Greater or Smaller Tibet”. In fact, as pointed out in the Memorandum,
the Law on Regional National Autonomy itself allows for this kind of
modification of administrative boundaries if proper procedures are
followed. Thus the proposal in no way violates the Constitution.
the Envoys pointed out in earlier rounds of talks, many Chinese
leaders, including Premier Zhou Enlai, Vice Premier Chen Yi and Party
Secretary Hu Yaobang, supported the consideration of bringing all
Tibetan areas under a single administration. Some of the most senior
Tibetan leaders in the PRC, including the 10th
Panchen Lama, Ngapo Ngawang Jigme and Bapa Phuntsok Wangyal have also
called for this and affirming that doing so would be in accordance with
the PRC’s Constitution and its laws. In 1956 a special committee, which
included senior Communist Party member Sangye Yeshi (Tian Bao), was
appointed by the Chinese Central Government to make a detailed plan for
the integration of the Tibetan areas into a single autonomous region,
but the work was later stopped on account of ultra-leftist elements.
fundamental reason for the need to integrate the Tibetan areas under
one administrative region is to address the deeply-felt desire of
Tibetans to exercise their autonomy as a people and to protect and
develop their culture and spiritual values in this context. This is
also the fundamental premise and purpose of the Constitutional
principles on regional national autonomy as reflected in Article 4 of
the Constitution. Tibetans are concerned about the integrity of the
Tibetan nationality, which the proposal respects and which the
continuation of the present system does not. Their common historical
heritage, spiritual and cultural identity, language and even their
particular affinity to the unique Tibetan plateau environment is what
binds Tibetans as one nationality. Within the PRC, Tibetans are
recognized as one nationality and not several nationalities. Those
Tibetans presently living in Tibet autonomous prefectures and counties
incorporated into other provinces also belong to the same Tibetan
nationality. Tibetans, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, are
primarily concerned about the protection and development of Tibetan
culture, spiritual values, national identity and the environment.
Tibetans are not asking for the expansion of Tibetan autonomous areas.
They are only demanding that those areas already recognised as Tibetan
autonomous areas come under a single administration, as is the case in
the other autonomous regions of the PRC. So long as Tibetans do not
have the opportunity to govern themselves under a single
administration, preservation of Tibetan culture and way of life cannot
be done effectively. Today more than half of the Tibetan population is
subjected to the priorities and interests first and foremost of
different provincial governments in which they have no significant role.
explained in the Memorandum, the Tibetan people can only genuinely
exercise regional national autonomy if they can have their own
autonomous government, people’s congress and other organs of
self-government with jurisdiction over the Tibetan nationality as a
whole. This principle is reflected in the Constitution, which
recognises the right of minority nationalities to practice regional
autonomy “in areas where they live in concentrated communities” and to
“set up organs of self-government for the exercise of the power of
autonomy,” (Article 4). If the “state’s full respect for and guarantee
of the right of the minority nationalities to administer their internal
affairs” solemnly declared in the preamble of the Law on Regional
National Autonomy is interpreted not to include the right to choose to
form an autonomous region that encompasses the whole people in the
contiguous areas where its members live in concentrated communities,
the Constitutional principles on autonomy are themselves undermined.
Tibetans divided and subject to different laws and regulations denies
the people the exercise of genuine autonomy and makes it difficult for
them to maintain their distinct cultural identity. It is not impossible
for the Central Government to make the necessary administrative
adjustment when elsewhere in the PRC, notably in the case of Inner
Mongolia, Ningxia and Guangxi Autonomous Regions, it has done just that.
f) Political, social and economic system
Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly and consistently stated that no
one, least of all he, has any intention to restore the old political,
social and economic system that existed in Tibet prior to 1959. It
would be the intention of a future autonomous Tibet to further improve
the social, economic and political situation of Tibetans, not to return
to the past. It is disturbing and puzzling that the Chinese government
persists, despite all evidence to the contrary, to accuse His Holiness
the Dalai Lama and his Administration of the intention to restore the
countries and societies in the world, including China, have had
political systems in the past that would be entirely unacceptable
today. The old Tibetan system is no exception. The world has evolved
socially and politically and has made enormous strides in terms of the
recognition of human rights and standards of living. Tibetans in exile
have developed their own modern democratic system as well as education
and health systems and institutions. In this way, Tibetans have become
citizens of the world at par with those of other countries. It is
obvious that Tibetans in the PRC have also advanced under Chinese rule
and improved their social, education, health and economic situation.
However, the standard of living of the Tibetan people remains the most
backward in the PRC and Tibetan human rights are not being respected.
6. Recognising the core issue
Holiness the Dalai Lama and other members of the exiled leadership have
no personal demands to make. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s concern is
with the rights and welfare of the Tibetan people. Therefore, the
fundamental issue that needs to be resolved is the faithful
implementation of genuine autonomy that will enable the Tibetan people
to govern themselves in accordance with their own genius and needs.
Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks on behalf of the Tibetan people, with
whom he has a deep and historical relationship and one based on full
trust. In fact, on no issue are Tibetans as completely in agreement as
on their demand for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
It cannot be disputed that His Holiness the Dalai Lama legitimately
represents the Tibetan people, and he is certainly viewed as their true
representative and spokesperson by them. It is indeed only by means of
dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama that the Tibetan issue can be
resolved. The recognition of this reality is important.
emphasises the point, often made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that
his engagement for the cause of Tibet is not for the purpose of
claiming certain personal rights or political position for him, nor
attempting to stake claims for the Tibetan administration in exile.
Once an agreement is reached, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile will be
dissolved and the Tibetans working in Tibet should carry on the main responsibility of administering Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama made it clear on numerous occasions that he will not hold any political position in Tibet.
7. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s co-operation
Holiness the Dalai Lama has offered, and remains prepared, to formally
issue a statement that would serve to allay the Chinese Central
Government’s doubts and concerns as to his position and intentions on
matters that have been identified above.
formulation of the statement should be done after ample consultations
between representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese
Central Government, respectively, to ensure that such a statement would
satisfy the fundamental needs of the Chinese Central Government as well
as those of the Tibetan people.
is important that both parties address any concern directly with their
counterparts, and not use those issues as ways to block the dialogue
process as has occurred in the past.
Holiness the Dalai Lama is taking this initiative in the belief that it
is possible to find common ground with the People’s Republic of China
consistent with the principles on autonomy contained in PRC’s
Constitution and with the interests of the Tibetan people. In that
spirit, it is the expectation and hope of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
that the representatives of the PRC will use the opportunity presented
by the Memorandum and this Note to deepen discussion and make
substantive progress in order to develop mutual understanding.