On the special occasion of the 56th anniversary of Tibetan Democracy day, I on behalf of 15th Kashag and the Tibetans across the world, bow down in deference and gratitude to His Holiness the great 14th Dalai Lama for establishing and steering this democratic system of Central Tibetan Administration. I would like to extend a warm greeting to my fellow Tibetans inside and outside Tibet, the Tibet supporters from both governmental and non-governmental organization and to everyone present here today.
Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama set up a reform committee in an attempt to make structural changes in the Tibetan political and administrative system and transform them into a modern democratic institution. But owing to many formidable challenges the changes weren’t implemented. However, soon after his arrival in India, His Holiness followed his vision by making the political system of exile Tibetans a democratic institution.
In 1960, on this very day, the Tibetan parliament-in-exile was established with the assumption of responsibilities by members of Tibetan Parliament elected from three provinces and various religious sects representing Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. Henceforth, the Tibetan democratic system progressed and matured into a full-fledged democratic system, and this is due solely to the pioneering and visionary efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the last 56 years. So I take this opportunity on behalf of every Tibetan to express our heartfelt gratitude to our most revered leader.
On 1st July 1960 in Dalhousie, His Holiness shared his vision of democracy. He said, “It is wrong and very dangerous to harbor prejudices between provinces, regions and sects. You should continue to develop internal harmony and be as firmly united as an iron ball.” In 1961, a draft democratic constitution for future Tibet was written and in 1963 His Holiness the Dalai Lama promulgated the constitution, which was mainly based on universal values and ideals of democracy. At His Holiness’ insistence a clause containing the provision of impeachment of the Dalai Lama was added. In 1964, a female representative was elected to the parliament and this is a great political stride as compared to other democracies in the world where women were disenfranchised. In 1976, representatives of Bon religion were elected to the parliament.
In 1991, His Holiness announced further democratization by making the Tibetan parliament in exile a full fledged legislative body. The Charter of Tibetans in Exile was adopted by the Tibetan Parliament and enacted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Charter provided enlargement of the Tibetan Parliament with powers to elect members of the Kashag after nomination of candidates by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In 1992, the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission was formed, thereby completing the establishment of the three pillars of democracy.
In 2001, His Holiness declared his status as semi-retired and called for the first direct election of the Kalon Tripa, the executive head of Central Tibetan Administration. A decade later His Holiness made a historic change with the announcement of devolution of his political responsibilities to the elected political leader. His Holiness declared on August 08, 2011 at the swearing-in-ceremony of Tibetan political leader that he has fulfilled his’ long cherished goal’ of bringing democracy to the Tibetan people. The Tibetan electorate took active part in the election process and the voter turnout in the general elections increased dramatically overtime – from 35,184 voters in 2001, to 49,184 in 2011 to 58,742 in 2016. Yet the recently concluded election witnessed some unfortunate incidents of internal bickering and regional discord that negatively impacted Tibetan unity and caused disappointment for His Holiness. I would like to reminisce the statement of Kashag made on the occasion of His Holiness’ 81st birth anniversary and reiterate our steadfast commitment to foster unity among Tibetan people and make electoral reforms to complement the ideals of our unique democracy.
Our freedom movement based in exile follows a democratic system and this is unique and to be celebrated. There is a growing global recognition of the accomplishments of our democracy. Recently on June 15, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) presented a citation to Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay to recognise and honour the democratic accomplishments of the Central Tibetan Administration, as envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The event was held at US capital Washington DC, in the gracious presence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Mr. Martin Frost Chairman of NED board of Directors, in his remarks, expressed the admiration that the organization has for the leadership provided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan people:
“Tibetan community under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration has thrived. The Tibetan Diaspora once housed mainly in camps in India and Nepal, is now global. Yet despite the dispersal, nearly six decades in exile and the pressures of assimilation, Tibetan retained a distinct sense of identity and community”
“The CTA has grown significantly over the last 60 years. At the core of the CTA is a commitment to democratic values in institutions, electing the members of Parliament since 1960 and directly electing the Prime Minister also known as a ‘Sikyong’ since 2001,” he added.
Likewise as citizens of a democratic institution we need to be mindful of the fact that while democracy bestows us with the rights it also expects us to shoulder our responsibilities. Like two sides of the same coin, rights and responsibility are closely entwined. Democracy confers you with the right to speech and freedom of expression and in a democracy diversity of opinion should be respected. But these rights and privileges shouldn’t be misused. As much as democracy gives you the right and freedom, it also demands accountability, ownership and agency. Engaging in acts of defaming His Holiness the Dalai Lama and leveling unfounded criticism against the CTA is an affront to the gift and tenets of Tibetan democracy.
We vehemently condemn the fringe group of extremists who bear the name of Shugden and have been making concerted efforts to denigrate the work and accomplishments of His Holiness. While we deplore the planned demonstrations against His Holiness, orchestrated by the Chinese government, we vow to confront these matters.
After the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the situation continue to remain grim with an abysmal human rights situation, crackdown on religious freedom and with the Chinese policies in Tibet leading to the obliteration of Tibetan identity and sinicization of Tibet. Till date 144 Tibetans in Tibet have self-immolated in protest against the Chinese policies. Tibetans working for the welfare of Tibetans inside Tibet are arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges. In 2015, respected Tibetan Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in custody after serving 13 years in prison on trumped-up criminal charges.
China’s policies of infrastructure development, mining and rapid urbanization have aggravated environmental degradation across Tibet impacting the quantity and quality of water resources which affect multiple downstream nations. China’s fast-paced large hydropower and water diversion projects on the Tibetan Plateau have already started impacting water quality and freshwater fish in Tibet. If these dam projects continue operation or are implemented at the current rate, the water security of nearly 1.4 billion people downstream will be heavily compromised.
In China, crackdown on civil society groups, lawyers and democracy activists and their arbitrary arrests and disappearances is rampant. Independent human rights groups and many governments, including the United States and Congressmen have deplored the situation in China and the Chinese government controlled regions. The recent appointment of Wu Yingjie as the new party secretary for TAR needs to be complemented by a review of China’s failed policies in Tibet and a commitment to heed to the true aspirations of people inside Tibet.
The recent spate of global events point to China’s adeptness at obfuscating issues of global and shirking of its responsibility as a global stakeholder. China’s abject rejection of International law has led to the creation of conflict and disturbances in its neighboring countries and substantiates China’s growing arrogance in Asia. China continues to assert pressure to the world leaders and religious heads against hosting His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is undoubtedly the most revered Buddhist leader in today’s world. We vehemently oppose such authoritarian acts and bullying tactics of the Chinese government and call on them to be a responsible stakeholder in the global affairs.
While the Panchen Lama His Holiness the Gendun Chokyi Nyima continue to be abducted since 1995, the Chinese government appointed Gyaltsen Norbu recently conferred the Kalachakra teachings in Shigatse, Tibet. Tibetans in the region were mandated to attend the teachings. Such parochial measures testify the lack of religious freedom in Tibet.
Larung Gar, which is the largest Buddhist academy on the planet voluntarily built by devotees from all over the world including China, is today facing demolition on the hands of Chinese officials. The institute houses over 10,000 devotees and official orders restrict the number to 5000 after the demolitions. Saddened by the destruction of the institute and unable to bear the sight of the government-ordered demolition, three nuns (Rinzin Dolma, Tsering Dolma, 20 and Semgha) committed suicide since July this year. The demolition of Larung Gar is an attempt to control Tibetan culture and religious life and is an act of trampling on the basic religious freedom and democratic rights of the people in Tibet.
Recent reports suggest that the Chinese government is taking measures to make self-immolations a separatist-related crime. Monks in Tibet are being forced to learn legal texts that highlight such offences. In the past the government has resorted to criminalization of the self-immolator’s family members. Such tyrannical measures will only exacerbate the situation inside Tibet and only validates the reputation of Chinese government as a repressive regime. Instead, heeding to the legitimate grievances of Tibetan people inside Tibet and according them the rights they are entitled to will address the aspirations of the Tibetans.
The issue of Tibet requires a political solution and the Middle Way Policy offers a mutually beneficial solution. CTA remain firmly committed to the Middle Way Policy and we are convinced that only dialogue can bring about a peaceful solution to the long-standing issue of Tibet. As we iterated in the press release held after the Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations meeting held in July this year, we believe that dialogue between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government should take place. Kashag will continue with its efforts to carry forward the vision of His Holiness by strengthening the foundations of our democracy and ensuring an effective functioning of the CTA.
On this special occasion, we would like to express heartfelt gratitude to the international community, especially the Tibet support groups, individuals and organizations for supporting the just and non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people. While we wish India on its 70th year of independence, we express our profound gratitude to the people and government of India for according highest respect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for generously hosting the Tibetan people. Finally we pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for the immediate resolution to the issue of Tibet.
2 September 2016
Note: This is a translation of the Tibetan statement. Should any discrepancies arise, please treat the Tibetan version as final and authoritative.