- Action Plan
- Keynote Address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Inaugural Address by Dr. Rolf Berndt
- Keynote Address by Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche
- Welcome Address by Kalon T.C. Tethong
- TSGS and the Struggle of the Tibetan People – A Report
- The Right to Self-determination – the Legal Cornerstone to Tibet’s Future
- Eye Witness Account by Kunchok Tendar, a former Tibetan Political Prisoner
- Eye Witness Account by Senator Bob Brown, Australia
We, the 282 representatives of Tibet support organizations from 52 countries of all continents, gathered in Berlin from 11 to 14 May 2000 to develop strategies to effectively support the struggle of the Tibetan people for freedom and justice, express our complete solidarity with the people of Tibet and pledge to intensify our efforts to help them achieve their legitimate objectives. We fully endorse the right of the Tibetan people to determine their own destiny, in accordance with their recognized right to self-determination, and recognize His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile to be the sole legitimate representatives of the Tibetan people.
We are gravely concerned at the deterioration of the situation in Tibet and condemn the continued violation of the Tibetan people’s human rights and freedoms, including their political, cultural, religious, social and economic rights, by the Government of the People’s Republic of China. We commend and admire the Tibetan people for responding to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s call to reject violence, despite the violence and suffering inflicted on them by the Chinese Government authorities.
We support His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which is caused by China’s occupation of Tibet, and for the proposals he has made for substantive negotiations with China’s leaders without any preconditions. We commend His Holiness for the consistency of his position in this regard and are pleased at the broad support, which governments and parliaments of many countries have expressed for the proposals put forward by His Holiness.
We condemn the persistent refusal of the Government of the Peoples Republic of China to enter into earnest negotiations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for setting unacceptable conditions designed to prevent such negotiations from taking place. This is particularly unreasonable given the extremely moderate and conciliatory position His Holiness has taken.
We endorse the proposal made by a Member of the European Parliament at the conference for an initiative to urge the Government of Tibet-in-Exile to reconsider its position on independence if no substantive progress has been made in negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on proposals for Tibetan self government in the next three years. In that event, we shall fully support such a stand and shall launch a major campaign for international recognition of Tibet’s claim or for the conduct of an internationally supervised referendum on the issue.
We have reviewed the activities, successes and weaknesses of the Tibet movement and are very encouraged by the strength, which the movement has demonstrated, in particular the considerable impact that some international campaigns have had. We are convinced that the potential for success can be considerably increased by improving the communication and co-ordination among all concerned and by creating a spirit of and mechanisms for mutual support so that the capacity and effectiveness, particularly of less established groups can be increased. Extensive discussions were held and recommendations on this issue were made.
In order to support most effectively the Tibetan struggle for freedom, justice and human dignity, we urge all Governments to intensify calls on China to respond positively to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s proposal for negotiations without preconditions and to support the non-violent efforts of His Holiness and the Government of Tibet-in-Exile and people.
We decide to take the following actions: Tibet Support Groups will actively lobby their governments to expressly press the Government of the PRC to start negotiations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Government of Tibet-in-Exile without delay and without any preconditions.
Tibet Support Groups will undertake coordinated lobbying of their respective governments to persuade them to take action at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to censure China with respect to Tibet. Special attention should be given and support provided for this purpose in Latin American and African countries. This activity should start as soon as possible. Appropriate follow-up to last year’s appeals to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan should be considered.
Efforts will be undertaken by Tibet Support Groups wherever possible to persuade the parliaments of their respective countries to recognize that Tibet is an occupied country and that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Government of Tibet-in-Exile are the sole legitimate representatives of the Tibetan people, as was done by the Australian Senate, the Belgian Parliament, the European Parliament, the Saami Parliament and the U.S. Congress.
Building on successes of a number of campaigns, and in line with the overall political strategic objectives, international campaigns will be conducted to prevent or stop development projects and direct or indirect foreign investments in Tibet that adversely affect the Tibetan people. In keeping with the Government of Tibet-in-Exile’s guidelines on development, projects that genuinely assist and empower the Tibetan people inside Tibet will be encouraged and supported. Research should be done and made available to all Tibet Support Groups on this. Direct actions targeting selected Chinese products abroad may also be organized.
Coordinated international campaigns will be conducted for the release of Tibetan political prisoners, in particular the 11th Panchen Lama.
Tibet Support Groups should work to highlight the situation of the Tibetan women in Tibet including forcible sterilization, forced abortions and prison rapes.
Coordinated satyagraha actions will be launched on an international level as well as within specific countries and regions. Special days, such as Tibet National Uprising Day (March 10th), the Tian’anmen Square Day (June 4th), Mahatma Gandhi birth anniversary (October 2nd) and Human Rights Day (December 10th) will be observed, and protests, marches and other forms of peaceful actions will be organized in a coordinated fashion.
Special efforts will be made to build functional coalitions with other appropriate NGOs, trade union movements and political parties, and interfaith outreach will be strengthened.
Given Tibet’s special links with other peoples of Asia, special efforts will be made to create support groups in as many Asian countries as possible. A Tibet awareness campaign will be launched in South Asia, which will include cultural festivals, exhibitions, media and NGO workshops, and activities targeting the political elite, student, youth and women groups. Support will be sought from other Tibet Support Groups such as International Campaign for Tibet. An Asian conference on the future of Tibet will be organized also with the aim of increasing understanding and support for the cause of the Tibetan people.
In the Latin American region more awareness building programs and selected cultural programs will be carried out. Special efforts will be made to strengthen the capacity of the Tibet Support Groups and a regional information and co-ordination network will be set up and a regional Tibet Support Group conference will be organized in 2001 for that purpose. Co-ordination with Tibet Support Groups outside the region, such as the Students for a Free Tibet, will be increased.
In Africa and the Middle East education and awareness programs shall be encouraged; co-operation with other NGOs in the region will be increased; and special emphasis will be placed on the social and historical experiences of the peoples of those countries, especially colonialism, apartheid and the Holocaust. Support will be sought from the more established Tibet Support Groups in other regions and visits by Tibetans will be encouraged and arranged.
In Eastern Europe and the CIS, the setting up or enlargement of parliamentary groups will be encouraged and a co-ordination system will be created. Tibet Support Groups will seek to co-operate with and to receive support from Tibet Support Groups inside and outside the region. It is proposed to solicit the engagement of influential personalities from the region in support of Tibet.
Special efforts will be made by European Tibet Support Groups to lobby the European Commission, which has been asked to appoint a special coordinator on Tibet.
The conference emphasized the importance of reaching out to the Chinese people and Tibet Support Groups were encouraged to maximize opportunities for this. The special experience of persons from former communist countries may assist them to reach out to the Chinese people. Use of the website in the Chinese language is essential. A major conference on Tibet will be organized by the Tibet-China Study Group next year. Similar conferences are encouraged. Writings of Tibetans and compilation of reports by Chinese visitors to Tibet and to the Tibetan community in exile will be published in the Chinese language and the making of a documentary was proposed.
The Government of Tibet-in-Exile is requested to consider posting a representative in Latin America, to increase its presence at the United Nations in New York, and to include a Tibetan fluent in Chinese in the New York office.
In order to improve the communication and co-ordination of Tibet Support Group activities and campaigns, which is considered to be of major importance, as stated above, it has been decided to set up the International Tibet Support Network, as proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee on Tibet Support Group Co-ordination. The Ad Hoc committee has been asked to take on the task of the Network’s Steering Committee for the interim period of one year until elections to that body are be held. All Tibet Support Groups will be encouraged to become members of the Network.
Third TSG action plan is based on the discussed and amended draft conference action plan emitting from the working groups.
I The Independent Tibet Network, 12 Beaumont Court, Worthing Road, East Preston, West Sussex, BN16 1BE, UK, www.truthtibet.com, which participated in the conference, opposes this section and demands to endorse the Tibetan people’s right to independence.
I am very happy to be here today at this gathering of Tibet Support Groups who are promoting the just cause of Tibet. I would like to thank the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for hosting this meeting. I am indeed very happy to be here with you today. Seeing many representatives from various countries is very encouraging. I would especially like to thank the previous speakers who spoke with a great sense of sympathy and concern – I’m very encouraged – and when Kunchok Tendar spoke I was also very moved.
As you know I always have the feeling that we are all the same human beings in spite of different continents, different countries, different religions, different traditions, different races. That is secondary and not important. We all have the human sort of amity, the human sense of concern, sense of caring for one another. Those are good human qualities and, I think, the most important good qualities. After all that is what constitutes human nature. As human beings we are going to feel compassion for each other in the end, whether we know each other or not. Simply because we recognise each other as human brothers and sisters this response, this sort of feeling of compassion is aroused. I think that is the essence, especially in our case. You see, for supporting the Tibet issue you won’t get any sort of benefit. On the contrary, you will rather get yourself into trouble. Firstly, this support, showing concern about the Tibet issue, really is part of being human, having a sense of sympathy, a human sense of caring for one another. Secondly, I always say the Tibet issue is a just issue, and as time passes you will see that very nature becoming clearer and clearer.
I think that is why more and more people are showing genuine concern. And it is not only just concern or sympathy, but now there is also a strong sense of how to help on a practical level. I think that is the kind of feeling that is now developing, not only among our supporters but also, for instance, among quite a number of government officials in various countries. I noticed that there is stronger feeling of what to do, as these governments have also faced some kind of dilemma at some time.
Of course, the Tibet issue is very complicated. And after all, everybody knows that the Chinese are very powerful. So I think that’s something to face reality?
I appreciate all our supporters coming here with that kind of feeling. Additionally, I also very much appreciate all our old friends. Those of you who make and have made commitments, you’re commitment remains steadfast. It is important that once you become friends, friendship should remain, must remain, till our death. Your sort of commitment, your genuine caring, unshakeable sort of determination, I appreciate immensely. However, even while I am expressing this appreciation, our tasks are not yet fulfilled. There are still difficulties to overcome. Our road is certainly not easy and it is possible that it may even take many years. Consequently our supporters as well as the Tibetans and ourselves must be steadfast, and we must give our determination from essence, from our bosom. There are, of course, other guests here and some may be well informed about the Tibet situation and some may not, but as you were listeners to the previous speakers you may have got some kind of picture.
Whenever I speak publicly, I usually touch upon three points. One point is the promotion of human value. As a human being, as a part of mankind, I feel I have a share of responsibility. That’s why I always try to make a little contribution regarding the promotion of human value. You can also call this secular ethics. I believe that a lot of our problems have to do with the negligence of these human values.
The second point is that as a Buddhist monk I always try to promote a closer understanding among the different religious traditions. At least the conflict in the name of religion can be reduced and also the trouble makers who use the name of religion can be isolated. The larger communities, if they have some clear sort of belief or awareness or religion, in spite of different philosophies all have the same potential to make this a better world and certainly this can reduce a certain kind of trouble. On the basis of closer understanding the various religious traditions can strengthen basic human values, not necessarily try to convert non-believers into believers – let them remain as non-believers – but at the same time try to be a good human being, a warm-hearted person.
Now I come to the third point about the Tibetan issue. In my mind I usually look at the Tibet issue from various different angles, various aspects. It is important to know the more holistic picture about the Tibet issue. Number one, as I mentioned earlier, we of the humanity need more effort to promote the basic human values. In that respect the Tibetan culture, Tibetan Buddhism certainly have some potential to make a contribution to this. Also, regarding the environment issue the Tibetan cultural heritage and Buddhism will have the potential to make a contribution. Therefore, the preservation of the Tibetan cultural heritage as well as the Tibetan Buddhist tradition I feel is very important, not only for 6 million Tibetans, but also for the larger community of the human being and particularly in that area, including a large number of our Chinese brothers and sisters. They have an immense responsibility to preserve the Tibetan Buddhist culture because traditionally several hundred thousands or I even think a few million Chinese follow Tibetan Buddhism. Some of the Chinese emperors considered it as something worthwhile to exist, but at the moment there is a danger to diminish this kind of tradition. Therefore it is very important to make a special effort to preserve it. The Tibetan cultural heritage and the Buddhist spirituality, I think they have great potential, something very valuable. The Tibetan cultural heritage is not only ancient, but it is also very relevant today.
About one or two years ago a report in a small Chinese newspaper mentioned an ancient Tibetan script found written on a rock, something like the ancient Tibetan way of writing, but the same script, same language. That script, according to some Chinese archaeologist and their examination of the rock, is 3000 years old. That surprises me a little, because usually the Tibetan script is believed to be taken from one Indian devanagari, that is what we are taught usually. After Buddhism came to Tibet then, you see, the relation developed, that’s the classical sort of view, the previous view. Now this finding shows, that Tibetans had already written very similar scripts before Buddhism came to Tibet. So what kind of religion was there before Buddhism came to Tibet? So, this is really a new field, we need to carry out more research. I asked some of my Indian friends how old that devanagari script is, but they are no specialists in this field. So they have no clear answer. It is my personal interest to research more. This shows Tibetan civilisation is a very ancient civilisation with written language, which means highly civilised, doesn’t it? The Tibetan medical system, by the way, is an ancient system as well, but even today in the 21st century very, very useful, especially its preventive measures.
So if you look at the Tibetan culture as a whole, it is really worthwhile to be preserved, as it is something very valuable. Culture belongs to humankind; therefore humankind has a responsibility to act when valuable cultural heritage is definitely facing a threat. Traditionally there are quite a number of Buddhist countries in Asia and each has some unique tradition. I usually regard Tibetan Buddhism as the complete form of Buddhism. Our tradition is not only very much alive intellectually, at the level of intelligence, but also at the living experience level. Buddhism is certainly one of the important world religions. Nowadays people usually have the impression that Buddha is something like a symbol of peace, a symbol of non-violence, a symbol of compassion. All the major world religious traditions teach us the importance of love, compassion and forgiveness, they are the foundations of non-violence, the foundations of peace. But you see, Buddha has a special sort of significance. Tibetan Buddhism is one of the richest Buddhisms, but today it is facing a great threat. So therefore, you see, it is something worthwhile to preserve.
Turning now to the Tibetan environment. Of course, when I was still in Tibet I was not aware of the environment issue. However, after meeting some specialists in this field I realised that it is really a very critical issue. Because of the Tibetan location the major rivers of the Asian continent originally come from Tibet. In a few thousand years entire snow covered mountains may melt, then it will be different, that is out of our control. But until then, because of human behaviour, our environment is being damaged unnecessarily. We must consider this very carefully. At this very moment the damaging of the Tibetan environment is already taking place in the form of exploitation of our natural resources, for example deforestation. According to some information, forests in China are being protected following some new instructions by the government, so in China these instructions are implemented properly. I was informed that this is not the case in the Tibetan interior but deforestation still persists there. This is a very serious matter. Additionally the environment of the Tibet plateau, due to the high altitude and the aridity is extremely delicate. Once it has been severely damaged, it takes a long time to recover. For this reason the environment issue requires special attention and special care.
Another aspect to be considered is the geographical location of Tibet. Tibet, you see, is between China and India. So in the past independent Tibet has had no big sort of military establishment there. If I recall my memory, I think in 1955 or around there, that period, on one protocol occasion at a new trade mission in Lhasa an official from the Chinese foreign affairs told his Indian counterpart: We, India and China never fought one another. At that moment I felt no real fear. Since then we’ve seen large Chinese military operations in Tibet and according to some source of information including nuclear weapons. So the relation between India and China has become more delicate, more difficult, and more suspicious. After all, India and China are the most populated two nations. So therefore genuine friendship on the basis of mutual trust and mutual respect is very essential. Therefore my proposal I mentioned earlier: Tibet should eventually be zone of peace, be demilitarised. In the Chinese eyes this is typical for ‘the movement of spiritists’. But actually my intention, my aim is that the whole of Tibet eventually becomes demilitarised on the basis of a genuine agreement with the concerned governments. This could indeed be a good contribution for peace in that part of the world.
So these are the aspects of the Tibet issue. The Tibet issue, you see, is not only about politics or human rights. Of course, there are many freedom fighters, many struggles for freedom on this planet. However, the Tibetan freedom struggle is not just one of them but there are larger and significant consequences at stake. As Dalai Lama or as a Buddhist monk who practises the welfare of all human beings, then naturally it is impossible to forget about humanity, neglect humanity on this planet. So therefore the Tibetan issue is not just a political sort of matter but also something of a greater benefit. Certainly one aspect of the struggle for Tibet is the struggle for the survival of Buddha Dharma. So I felt, this is part of my spiritual practice, so I got involved in this struggle.
There is one thing I would like to mention to our delegates and supporters. This meeting here should be a meeting where new ideas, new plans, new proposals are formed and formulated. This is not an occasion just to make a presentation of what has been achieved and to express satisfaction. Since 1956 I have been telling: Those of us who have the responsibility for Tibet, the development of Tibet, should discuss the weaknesses, the mistakes that have been made, the drawbacks. It is useless to talk about great achievements and successes. Let others talk about success and positive points. Those people that have the responsibility must discuss the weaknesses and shortcomings. In India I am telling that, and here I also want us to concentrate on the weaker points. Success, it doesn’t matter, it is already there. We should not follow the Chinese. They always show the positive side, the negative side is always hidden. That is a mistake. That is a sign of weakness. After all, I think it is wrong. The leadership control information, that means fooling their own people, misleading them. And certainly this is a sign of weakness. If the Communist Party has full confidence of her ideology, of the system, than let the public know what is capitalism, what is western democracy and let people examine. Through centuries in India Buddhist philosophy it is all like that: Make everything understood, then let people, especially intelligent people, let them study, what the Buddhist idea is, what those other ancient Indian thoughts are. There is no need to hide anything, if you have confidence. All those totalitarian systems, you see, they control information and this is a sign of weakness.
So our pattern for this meeting should concentrate on the weaker side, identify them, identify the causes, and find ways to work on that. That, I think, is useful because we are passing through a critical period. We are gathered here not for some kind of celebration or enjoyment, no, one nation with unique cultural heritage is now dying. So that is the situation. And the whole environment is also dying. This is not a pleasant occasion. Therefore serious discussion is very essential.
How to solve this problem, this is really critical and difficult. Quite a number of the people, friends and supporters fully agree with my middle way of approach. Yet inside as well as outside there are different views, very critical views about my approach. But be it as it may, I still feel the middle way approach is the best way to find a solution.
Obviously the Chinese government always accuses us of being anti-Chinese. No, we are certainly not! We respect the Chinese culture. With our Chinese friends we already had various discussions and exchange. So now more and more Chinese become clearly aware that we have deep respect for the Chinese people.
It is in the nature of the political struggle that if we are aiming at complete separation from China, no matter for what motivation or good reason, the other side may say, may accuse: They are trying to secede one portion of their body. But this is not the case. Because of the economic development and for many other reasons the world is becoming smaller today. Under those circumstances the concept of complete independence is not very meaningful. When I was in Taiwan I also mentioned publicly when I had a meeting with DDP, the party who are trying to get their independence, that as far as Tibet is concerned I’m not saying independence. According to my opinion at least in the field of economy, in the field of defence, Taiwan also should have some unique, very close relationship with China. So complete independence, this is something old-fashioned. I also share this belief with the Taiwan independence movement.
Tibet is materially backward. Of course, spiritually we are quite rich, but materially we are backward. But spirituality cannot fill our stomachs, it may fill our brains or our warm hearts, but still the stomach needs some other things. So for that reason, you see, the material development is very essential. And here I want to make something clear: No single Tibetan wants or wishes to return to our old system or our old way of life. No single Tibetan. So if we really wanted to restore the old way of life, then there would be no need for modern technology and no need for modern roads. But nobody is thinking that way. Tibet is a landlocked country. So if we join with another big nation, on voluntary basis with mutual benefit, there is nothing wrong. As early as 1955 as a member of the People’s Deputies, Liu Shaoqiin told me: Oh, you Tibetans have a big land, a great land, we Chinese have a big population. So since Tibetan land cannot move to China, more Chinese come to Tibet. If that happens on a voluntary basis, for mutual benefit, OK, it doesn’t matter. As long as those who come to Tibet respect the Tibetan environment, respect the Tibetan culture and remain in genuine human brotherhood, sisterhood, no problem. But this is not the case.
That is my fundamental way of looking at it. Therefore I feel, let us try to have some kind of mutual agreed solution. If that fails completely, then we still have every right to new ideas, new proposals. In early 1973 we talked, we discussed in a very small circle: sooner or later we have to talk with the Chinese government. Therefore the question of complete independence is very difficult. Consequently the very idea of the middle way of approach was then finalised. So then in 79 when the actual contact developed we, our side, already, had made up our mind. So in 79 our first delegation visited China. Before that time we had serious discussions. Then some of our people suggested to us, to me: better demand independence then eventually go down through negotiation. But my sort of feeling is: This is not right. This is dishonest. I think it is better to say clearly what you want. If this is not acceptable then we have to go back to our basic right and that is always our right. So that’s my sort of thinking, my way of approach, the middle way of approach. I feel, if the Chinese government thinks carefully and honestly, sensibly, my approach is the best way to achieve genuine stability and unity. The current Chinese policy is actually counterproductive. Sometimes I do feel I’m indirectly helping to achieve Chinese government’s goal. So in any way that’s my middle way of approach. As far as meaningful dialogue with the Chinese government is concerned it was a failure. Still this does not mean complete failure even in the future, that we cannot say. Things are always moving, always changing. So on my part, you see, in spite of very ugly policies inside Tibet: repression, a lot of negative things, in spite of that, my position has not changed. I am fully committed to the middle way of approach on the basis of strict non-violence.
So if some positive response or indication comes from China then I’m ready anywhere, anytime to talk. But here I also want to make clear: The Tibet issue is the issue of 6 million Tibetan people, not the Dalai Lama’s issue, not the issue of one elder generation. Sometimes the Chinese describe it like that. This is not the case. In the early 80s the Chinese government made a five-point proposal about my return, that I will get all the privileges and status and these things. But I told the Chinese government: This is not the issue; the issue is 6 million people’s right, their welfare, that’s the issue. Not just my sort of future. As a Buddhist monk I can manage my own future, no problem. As a Buddhist monk aged 66 I have no desire, no wish to gain some sort of political status or these things. In 1992 I made clear, as soon as the day of our return comes, I will hand over all my legitimate authority to the local Tibetan government. That local government should eventually be elected democratically. That I made clear. After that I’m just an ordinary citizen, an ordinary Buddhist monk. There is a Tibetan saying that whenever the place is good that you can consider it as your own motherland. So it is quite simple, theoretically speaking, when we are ordained, when we become a monk, then, you see, it has no longer anything to do with your family, nothing to do with your country. Nothing. We reach another world, maybe Messiah’s world, I don’t know. Theoretically speaking, monk means completely cut out from society. That is the Buddhist tradition, isn’t it? So in Thailand that tradition is very much alive. I had discussions there about the monks’ involvement in social services. So regarding my own future, there is no problem. I have nothing to ask the Chinese government about my own future.
What matters is 6 million Tibetan people’s right, their welfare. So as soon as the Chinese government is ready to address these real issues, then my side is always open. So that is my sort of stand. Then, lastly, I want to appeal to our supporters: Your support is very, very helpful and still we need your help. A final solution must be found between the Chinese and Tibetans. But in the meantime the outside world, the world community can help immensely to materialise that sort of crucial understanding between Chinese and Tibetans. So, these were the main points, which I wanted to mention to you.
I think that is now completed, thank you.
It is an honor and privilege to address this distinguished gathering. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Third International Conference of Tibet Support Groups (TSGs), which we host together with our Tibetan friends of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR).
We all know Tibet was an independent country till the time of the illegal invasion and occupation by China in 1950. This brutal invasion under the garb of “liberating Tibetans” has not only brought about undue suffering to the Tibetan people but also, more significantly, Tibetans have lost their homeland. Tibetans have not become refugees willingly; harsh circumstances forced them to leave their country. The ‘World Refugee Survey’ of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace states that hundreds of Tibetans are yearly fleeing Chinese repression. The right to self-determination and the right to practice their own religion are denied by China.
During the last four years, since the time we met in Bonn, Tibet supporters gathered here have had substantial achievements to their credit in promoting, protecting and highlighting the cause of Tibet and the plight of her people. In spite of all our efforts, the life and situation in Tibet continue to deteriorate. Reminiscent of the days of the Cultural Revolution, intimidation, coercion and fear dominate the lives of Tibetans in Tibet. In 1999 alone, there have been thousands of people who have died from torture in prison cells, and monks and nuns have been expelled from their places of worship and study. Most alarming is, however, the flood of Chinese settlers into Tibet. As a result of this migration endorsed by Chinese officials, Tibetans, as we are all too aware, are reduced to a minority in their own homeland. Traditional social norms and moral values are systematically being undermined. The fragile ecology and the environment have been plundered and destroyed.
The deep desire and longing to be free from oppression has gained further strength and the longing for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has become intense. An oppressive situation gives rise to unrest and impatience, but is never a solution to the problem. If China is serious about unity, serious about keeping all the occupied areas of Tibet including Kham and Amdo, and serious about the welfare of people in this region, she would not impose her harsh and unwelcome will on the people of Tibet. Instead, China should, in my view, follow a pattern which decentralizes all authority and encourages decentralized and federal structures.
The Friedrich-Naumann Foundation has in the last two years presented three studies on the State and necessary changes in federal structures in Germany. These initiated a broad and heated discussion on federalism in Germany. We envisage a federal structure that is based much more on competition. Our experience in this field could be of interest to China. We know that there is already an ongoing discussion on federal structures in China. I am pleased to offer our expertise at this time and place.
The task of government is to establish and ensure a legal framework for a life in freedom and responsibility for all its citizens. Government is based on its citizens and has to provide services to them. Only a government that respects human rights will find in the long run the necessary acceptance for its policy and implementation. If we pause to look back over the past 50 years, the issue of Tibet is stronger than ever before in the minds and hearts of people, and indeed with responsible governments all over the world.
Compare this movement now to what it was fifteen years ago and you will notice the changes and the involvement for Tibet. We must, however approach the issue of Tibet as being more than just a human rights case or the return of one hundred thousand Tibetans to their homeland. The issue of Tibet is much larger and deeper than that. The issue of Tibet is also geo-political as well as an economic one.
The Friedrich-Naumann Foundation is foremost in supporting human rights issue. While formulating our plans and strategies one must keep the above-mentioned entire spectrum in consideration. Ladies and gentlemen, the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation supports His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his efforts to enter into a constructive dialogue with China. We have to strive to find a solution which is in line with what the Dalai Lama has proposed – the one that will serve not only the interest of the Tibetan people, but also the wider interest of the region and the world; a solution which will ultimately bring peace and understanding to all people.
We have to increase our efforts to make use of every available opportunity to us, for instance, using the electronic media to inform the world of the present situation inside Tibet. Europe – and here I address the countries of the European Union – has to play a more active role in the struggle of Tibet. I think the European Parliament has to consider the formation of a European Coordinator for Tibet. Any move in this direction will get full encouragement.
There seems to be no early end to the stalemate over negotiations with China. Therefore, we will have to find ways and means to make it absolutely compelling for Chinese authorities to agree to negotiations.
We have to urge the UN to follow the recommendations of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to hold a referendum or a plebiscite inside Tibet. The result of this action might compel China to extend its hand towards a meaningful negotiation.
At this juncture, allow me to say that the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre, a joint project of the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation and the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, has done commendable work in supporting the political cause of the Tibetans. Here I would like to thank Professor Samdong Rinpoche, the Chairman of the Tibetan Parliament as well as the chairman of our project and the Executive Director of the Centre, Mrs. Tsering Tsomo, for their outstanding contribution. The Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre’s approach has been to sharpen the political perceptions of the Tibetans in exile, to train and qualify future leadership, further strengthen the democratisation process in the exile establishment and to further highlight the Tibetan cause internationally. This conference is an important vehicle towards this end. I am pleased to note the presence of many Chinese supporters. Your support will go a long way in enhancing the movement for Tibet. Your support will also allow us all a deeper insight into the Chinese society that will enable us to better understand the developments in China.
The future is not rosy. Our path is riddled with difficulties. I know your dedication and your commitment to the cause of Tibet as well as to justice. You can and will surmount all the difficulties that may be placed in the way to a better future for Tibet. The Friedrich-Naumann Foundation is the Foundation for liberal policy and as such believes in the freedom of the individual that includes the right to self-determination. Based on this the Friedrich Naumann Foundation supports the Tibetan cause.
We are happy and consider it a privilege that we could be of assistance to our Tibetan friends and the Tibet Support Groups.
Keynote Address by Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Chairman of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile) at the Third International Conference of TSGs held in Berlin from 11-14 May 2000
It is my privilege to welcome the representatives of Tibet Support Groups from various nations, who have taken the trouble to gather here in Berlin. This is the third global meet of Tibet Support Groups. The last meeting was also held in Germany, at Bonn, four years ago. Thus, Germany has, in a way, become the centre of convergence for the world community of upholders of the Tibetan cause. It is difficult for me to find words to express my deep sense of appreciation to our German friends, the organizers, and particularly the hosts of this conference, the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation who have time and again demonstrated their commitment to the ideals of freedom, peace, justice, democracy and human dignity.
The Tibet Support Groups occupy a unique place in the ongoing struggle for the freedom of Tibet. By and large, these groups have sprung up spontaneously in the last forty years. Such groups comprise mostly of thoughtful young people, intellectuals, writers, artists, scholars, human rights activists, environmental activists, peace activists and such other public-spirited souls who care for the oppressed and unfortunate people.
It is largely because of the persistent efforts on the part of these support groups during the past years that the question of Tibet is today recognized by the international community as an important human, cultural and political issue. The ever-increasing goodwill and sympathy for the Tibetan people and our cause found everywhere among the people of the world, is the result of the selfless efforts of these groups. This is not an ordinary achievement. The efforts of our supporters must be termed as “selfless” because no economic or political gain is involved in it. They are not serving their own interests. By raising their voice against violence, oppression, torture and wanton destruction, they are securing the noble cause of justice, and non-violence. They stand for truth and goodness, which are today being rendered feebler and feebler by the onslaught of the force of untruth and evil. The rising goodwill for the oppressed people of Tibet is not only a matter of satisfaction for the Tibetans but also a positive sign for humanity as a whole. This is so because the entire modern world is being madly driven exclusively by the twin considerations of economic gain and political power. Cultural, moral, spiritual, aesthetic and human considerations are being thrown to the winds by the ruling establishment everywhere.
I may also draw your attention to another aspect of the support groups, namely, they have never engaged themselves in any activity which can be termed as an activity against the Chinese people. Our movement is not directed against any particular people, nation or society. It is out and out a non-violent peaceful movement directed against the evil actions committed by the present ruling elite of China to destroy forcibly the civilization, culture and the very identity of the Tibetan people. It is not just a matter between China and Tibet. The Chinese people are a part of the same humanity to which the Tibetans belong. Who does not know that the Chinese civilization is one of the older and greater civilization on earth and that the Chinese people are inheritors of a great culture? It is a tragedy that the Chinese people have also fallen victims to the same force of violence and oppression. Thus, the support groups are upholding a cause far above the considerations of race, nationality, political ideology or power politics.
Although certain actions of these support groups may have sometimes acquired political overtones, it is a well-known fact that they cannot be categorized as politically motivated groups. Neither can they be called fringe groups exclusively focusing on issues like human rights, environment, or disarmament. There is no denying the fact that such issues are very important aspects of the larger Tibetan problem. No one can deny that there has been constant gross violation of human rights and of environmental norms in Tibet, which must be condemned vehemently and stopped immediately. But the question of Tibet is much more than the foregoing questions. It is primarily a question of a culture and civilization, which occupies great importance for the future of humanity. Most of the members of our support groups are aware of the real issues involved in the Tibetan movement and they know that the movement is based on the principles of truth and non-violence.
Why do we insist on truth and non-violence? The answer to this question need not be searched anywhere else beyond the parameters of the Tibetan culture. Our adherence to the principles of truth and non-violence owes its origin to the foundation of ethics of the Tibetan civilization. The people of Tibet have, by and large, honestly undertaken the responsibility of preserving and promoting a unique non-violent culture and society. As the inheritors of this cultural tradition, it is the sacred duty of the present and future generations of Tibetans to exert their utmost to preserve it, even in face of the heaviest odds.
In this context, our friends and supporters are playing a crucial role. Their support encourages and helps us in our noble endeavor. Without their support, we cannot think of making any notable progress. In fact, they are playing a historic role, which in a way is more crucial than the role played by the Tibetans, because without being Tibetans they care as much about the fate of Tibet as the Tibetans do.
Tibet’s freedom struggle since its inception has primarily been a non-violent struggle. His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, the fountainhead of our inspiration, under whose noble and peerless guidance the Tibetans have all along been carrying on the struggle has never, even under the most trying circumstances, encouraged violence as a means to liberate Tibet. After the Chinese occupation, when His Holiness was practically divested of all authority and a foreign rule under the shadow of machine gun fire and booming cannons was forcefully established in Tibet, the sense of dignity and national pride of the Tibetan people was so hurt that in various parts of the country people spontaneously rose in rebellion. In several areas sporadic violence erupted. In certain regions, armed resistance became more and more organized and widespread. As time passed, the Chinese red army spread out far and wide with full force inside Tibet. Consequently, the armed resistance started petering out. Thus, whatever limited violence, spontaneous or deliberate, that was associated with the Tibetan freedom movement came to an end in 1968. It must have come as a great relief to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who as a true Buddhist monk was always praying and waiting for conditions to improve so that the movement could be developed into a genuinely pure non-violent peaceful struggle. Guided by the teachings of the Buddha and inspired by the example of Mahatma Gandhi, His Holiness was able to realize his cherished dream of carrying on the struggle in a truthful and non-violent manner in 1968, and from then on the movement entered a new phase.
Now our non-violent movement has come of age. For the last thirty years or so, the Tibetan people in Tibet have carried on their struggle without resorting to violence in any overt or covert form. Like true Gandhians, they have stood up bare handed and braved bullets, batons and all forms of repression and torture. They have peacefully opposed all sorts of discrimination and injustice. They have held peaceful demonstrations, protests, and fasts and have also resorted to non-cooperation. We are proud of them. Their sufferings and sacrifices will continue to inspire all of us and future generations. As things stand today, our movement has developed into one of the most significant and unique non-violent liberation movements of recent times.
In spite of this, in my opinion, our non-violent practices are not yet mature enough and have not taken deep roots, in our minds. Therefore, let me touch upon the most important and basic issues which need to be dealt with utmost seriousness and in depth. I can tell you with absolute confidence that His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s commitment to truth and non-violence is perfectly genuine. It has not been adopted as a so-called “strategy”. The choice of the non-violent path by the Tibetans is not a compulsion or because there is no other alternative. If Tibetans, however much smaller in number compared with China’s large population and mighty military force, choose to resort to violent struggle, I am sure we can create instability, inconvenience, irritation and much harm to the Chinese rulers in Tibet, in China, and in the international scenario. This has been quite clearly demonstrated by the Tibetan warriors during 1956-68. Today with the proliferation of crooked methods of violence and destructive weapons, the numerical size of people does not have much significance. Thus, the people of Tibet, in Tibet as well as in exile, are adhering to the non-violent movement only because of the influence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings. Therefore, our choice is voluntary and not a result of compulsion. In spite of that, the people of Tibet by and large have still not been able to cultivate a clear perception of truth and non-violence as a moral and spiritual reality. We are still not able to generate natural love and compassion for all sentient beings in general and in particular for the Chinese authorities we are dealing with. Unless and until we can generate a natural compassionate mind for sentient beings, and particularly for those people with whom we are struggling for justice, our non-violent action cannot bear any result. The deep-rooted hurt, anger and revenge in our mind against our oppressors prevent our imposed non-violent action from becoming effective. As followers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and as followers of truth and non-violence, our first and foremost requirement is to transform our own inner-self into a non-violent and a compassionate person. Mahatma Gandhi on many occasions mentioned, “If a small percentage of Indian agitators could qualify as ‘Satyagrahis’ the British rule over India could be driven away within 24 hours”. I am in 100% agreement with Mahatma Gandhi. I personally believe that if a reasonable percentage of Tibetan people become genuinely non-violent from their inner-self, we can achieve our objectives without any difficulties and we can show a new alternative way of settling disputes to the world at large.
Today, the basic obstacles in our path are neither the mighty strength of China nor the insensitivity of the world powers. It is our own immature non-violent mind that makes our action ineffective and weak. Similar problems have been faced in the process of democratization for Tibetans in-exile. In spite of His Holiness’s vigorous pushes and our best efforts, the culture of democracy has been difficult to cultivate in the minds of the Tibetans within a short spell of time. We the people of Tibet, as a people, as a nation, resolved to commit ourselves to truth, non-violence, long ago under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. But still we are not in a position to generate a deep-rooted non-violent mind and a democratic temperament.
You might recall that during the second conference of Tibet Support Groups in Bonn, I mentioned that time is running out for the Tibetans and called for “do and die” actions. The urgency is even more acute today. The situation in Tibet has been deteriorating in every respect since then. No positive changes have taken place during the last four years. But I personally have not been able to do anything because the more I try to assert myself in non-violent action, the more I realize how weak our non-violent mind is. At this important conference I, therefore, call upon all of you to ponder deeply over the ways and means of developing quickly and effectively the compassionate non-violent mind within the Tibetan people, living inside or outside Tibet. I consider this as the key of the whole matter.
I hope this conference will consider this point seriously and chalk out an effective plan to be implemented by the community and by individuals to acquire the basic qualification to become a true non-violent activist.
Secondly, non-violence must not be understood just as an absence of violence. It must be an active dynamic action to oppose universal violence as a whole. For this, a comprehensive and well-organized skilful plan should be prepared. In this direction the Tibetans in-exile have sought the guidance of experts from the Albert Einstein Institution and particularly its senior research scholar Prof. Gene Sharp. Several in-depth workshops have been conducted for our younger activists. We are still looking at possibilities of preparing a grand action-plan for non-violent struggle in collaboration with the Albert Einstein Institution. I invite constructive suggestions and contributions from all the participants in this regard.
Our commitment to truth and non-violence is irreversible and uncompromisable. It is a matter of our faith and not a ‘strategy’. Therefore, we must not forget this basic principle while planning for our future action. Our words and deeds must go together in consonance with each other.
To conclude, I feel the following four-point program for Tibetans and Tibet supporters is important:
- To successfully generate a culture of non- violence within ourselves;
- To be prepared to struggle for the Tibet problem, even if it takes many generations before we succeed. Younger and new generations of Tibetans should be ever ready to carry on the responsibilities until we regain our freedom;
- At the same time, should the Tibet problem be resolved in the near future, to be prepared to shoulder the responsibilities of developing and sustaining a non-violent Tibetan society; and
- In all circumstances to maintain the sacred traditions and identity of Tibet.
Thanking you all for your kind attention.
Welcome Address by Kalon T.C. Tethong, Kalon for the Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration, at the Third International Conference of TSGs held in Berlin from 11-14 May 2000
It is my honor to speak at this important gathering of Tibet supporters. Four years ago, when we met in Bonn, we unanimously adopted a common strategic objective of achieving substantive negotiations without preconditions between Dharamsala and Beijing. This resolution has allowed us to lobby at regional, national and international levels with a single-minded purpose, and it has brought significant results. A number of countries have in the past sent their government delegations to Tibet. Several world leaders have raised the issue of Tibet with Beijing and have impressed upon it the need to re-start talks with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet. As a result, the 1998 summit meeting between President Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin and also the meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji aroused hopes that progress on the Tibetan issue would be at hand. However, this hope was short-lived. The meetings did not lead to any dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership. In fact, Beijing has lately hardened its policy on Tibet and the situation in Tibet continues to deteriorate.
Over the past four years, re-education campaigns in Tibet have been intensified and extended to cover both monastic and lay communities. Not only have the Chinese authorities banned the hanging of portraits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama in monasteries and nunneries, but also banned these in private homes. Regulations have been passed and put up on the walls of monasteries and nunneries that whoever is caught possessing a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama or writing the slogan of “Free Tibet”, would be given a seven-year prison sentence. Senior Tibetan monks have been forced to retire from their religious responsibilities, posing a serious threat to the survival of Tibetan culture and tradition, as senior monks have a crucial role in the transmission of religious teaching. Similarly, new directives were issued, banning party cadres from possessing alters, religious objects and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s photographs in their homes and warning them to withdraw their children from schools in India. These directives came from the highest levels in Beijing. Since the introduction of re-education campaigns, over 5,000 nuns and monks were expelled from monasteries and 200 were arrested. Such harsh measures have led to a ten-fold increase in the influx of refugees from Tibet. The increased repression in Tibet is also reflected by the recent escape of Agya Rinpoche and Karmapa Rinpoche. For the Tibetan people the present situation in Tibet brings back chilling memories of the Cultural Revolution and the repressive measures applied when socialist reforms were first introduced in the 1950s. It is most unfortunate that all these developments have taken place when the outside world places high hopes on the start of a dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing, following the June 1998 summit meeting between President Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin. With this background, we are compelled to wonder whether the Chinese leadership is seriously interested in engaging in a dialogue to resolve the Tibetan issue. Despite His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s repeated public assurance that he is not seeking independence for Tibet, the precondition Deng Xiaoping had made in 1979 for a dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing, China’s leaders never positively responded to His Holiness’s overtures. Instead, Beijing has frequently accused His Holiness of insincerity in his dealings with Beijing and kept on adding new preconditions to avoid any possible dialogue.
The preconditions now include that His Holiness must make public announcements to recognize Tibet is an inalienable part of China, that Taiwan is a province of the PRC, and the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole government representing the whole of China, and that His Holiness must give up the idea of Tibetan independence and stop activities to split the ‘motherland’. Moreover, the Chinese authorities have constantly and deliberately tried to distort His Holiness’s positions. Never ever in the past 25 years did His Holiness seek independence for Tibet. He has always asked for a genuine self-rule in Tibet. On the other hand, it is absolutely unreasonable and ridiculous on the part of China’s leaders to put Taiwan’s case as a precondition. The Taiwanese people have the right to decide their future.
Beijing’s unwillingness is also clearly reflected in the statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC on 17 July 1998, just a month after the Summit meeting between President Bill Clinton and the Chinese President Jiang Zemin. The statement accused His Holiness the Dalai Lama of “seeking the restoration of feudal serfdom of old Tibet”. More importantly, it is evident from the recent confidential document published in one of the Tibetan language newspapers in which a senior Chinese official was quoted as saying: “We have no need to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama’s return to China will bring a great risk of instability. We will then not be able to control Tibet. The Dalai Lama is now fairly old. At the most, it will be 10 years before he dies. When he dies, the issue of Tibet is resolved forever. We, therefore, have to use skilful means to prevent his return”.
This statement clearly indicates that Beijing looks upon His Holiness the Dalai Lama as an obstacle rather than a solution to the situation in Tibet, which is most unfortunate. On the other hand, the recent statement of “TAR” Party Secretary, Chen Kuiyuan, to the senior party members in Tibet indicates that Beijing regards Tibetan culture and identity as a serious threat to the stability to the PRC. Some of China’s hard-line leaders in Tibet and Beijing are even determined to wipe out the very name of Tibet.
Beijing’s policy to undermine the influence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the integrity of this institution is doomed to failure and will in fact prove counterproductive. The influence of this institution is not confined only to Tibet but throughout the Buddhist Himalayas, from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, from Kalymkia to Mongolia. This is the extent of the traditional spiritual domain of Tibet’s Dalai Lamas. These days the influence and persuasiveness of the Dalai Lama institution has become global and is growing.
The Chinese Government’s policy of seeing His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a threat is not only self-deceptive but will prove costly to China. The myopic madness of a few hard-line Chinese leaders should not be allowed to hold hostages the future of China and that of the Tibetan people. They must be persuaded to look to His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the best answer to China’s Tibet problem and not its worst nightmare. This is because His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the only Tibetan leader who is in a position to turn around the majority of the Tibetan people to his line of thinking. The solution which His Holiness the Dalai Lama has offered is in line with and complements the ‘one country, two systems’ formula that is now being applied in Hong Kong and Macau. This is backed by the undisputed moral authority he exercises over his people.
The other issue of great concern to us is the decision by China to shift the focus of its economic development from the coastal areas to what the authorities term as ‘Western China’, which includes Tibet and other provinces. On the issue of “Western China large-scale development programme”, the Party Secretary of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, Chen Kuiyuan, said, “We must broaden our vision. While considering acquiring state investment to help us run infrastructure projects, we should also consider other policies and measures, seeking lateral association with all sectors and encouraging and attracting enterprises from other parts of the country and from abroad to invest in resource development projects in this region.”
As we hold this conference, the independent inspection panel of the World Bank has submitted its report on the controversial project in the northeastern Tibet. We hope the project will be cancelled. The campaign against this Dulan project has shown the effectiveness of a coordinated action between the Tibet support groups and the Tibetan leadership. I would like to commend all those friends of Tibet who contributed to this campaign. We encourage much-needed development projects in Tibet whether by governments or international agencies. However, the proposed projects should be beneficial to the Tibetan people and should take into consideration social, cultural, environmental and economic conditions of the Tibetan people. In this regard, we are closely monitoring the proposed construction of oil and gas pipelines in Tibetan areas in Amdo and the involvement of multinationals, including B.P. Amoco.
As in the past, this year the Chinese Government was forced to seek recourse to unprincipled means to shy away from international scrutiny at the UN Commission on Human Rights session. The Chinese cold-shouldering of the proposed resolution against its human rights practices is a challenge to all of us human rights supporters as well as governments throughout the free world. Nevertheless, the Chinese leadership has been made aware, once again, that the international community is determined to see that China respects human rights and democratic freedom of the people of Tibet and China.
Ever since China’s invasion and subsequent occupation of Tibet, it has faced the problem of how to integrate Tibet economically with the mainland. Through much of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Tibet was forced to remain militarily and politically a part of China, but economically it was treated as a separate entity. Before the Chinese invasion and occupation, Tibet was self-sufficient in all its basic economic needs. Now China is changing this by a massive outlay of capital investment in its continuing attempt to further integrate Tibet economically with China. Investment in Tibet attracts Chinese settlers onto the Tibetan plateau and this cements Chinese rule in Tibet.
This policy too is fraught with danger. The economic boom on the roof of the world is not benefiting the Tibetan people. On the contrary, they are increasingly marginalized and alienated from the spurts of prosperity confined to the urban centers in Tibet. Their alienation from the economic development is fuelling increasing resentment and anger not only against the Chinese authorities but also against the Chinese settlers whom the Tibetans see as opportunists snatching away their livelihood and their future. And this tense situation is exacerbated by the fact that the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to the floods of Chinese migrants sweeping across Tibet. In China itself rural migrants camping out in cities like Beijing, Shanghai and others are routinely rounded up by the police and sent back to their villages. The fact that this is not done in Tibet clearly confirms the Tibetan suspicion that there is a political motive to the Chinese authority’s tacit encouragement of Chinese settlers into the Tibetan plateau.
These two harsh realities of economic prosperity bypassing the Tibetans, and their jobs and opportunities being snatched away by Chinese settlers, are making the Tibetans target their anger at ordinary Chinese. Unless this policy is checked, halted and reversed, there is a potential of ethnic strife engulfing Tibet, resulting in unpredictable consequences for both China and Tibet.
Despite the Chinese policy of nibbling away the dreams and future of the Tibetan people, we have not digressed from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach. At the same time it must be stated clearly that if the Chinese Government continues with its current policy of repression in Tibet, and hoping for the advancing age of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to take its toll then there is no alternative for the Tibetan Government but to explore different policies and different goals. We say this solemnly, seriously and in all earnestness.
We are compelled to say this because of China’s intransigence and its totally mistaken perception that the issue of Tibet boils down to just one person. The issue of Tibet concerns the well being and happiness of six million Tibetans. As long as they are not given a fair and honorable deal by the Chinese authorities, the Tibetan struggle will go on with renewed vigor and determination
On the other hand, China has the option and the luxury of enhancing its greatness by dealing honestly and fairly with the Tibetan people. However, if that greatness has to be realized it must be made in an environment where the non-Chinese peoples find their true voice and personality, and in an environment where diversity is not seen as a weakness but rather as a foundation of a truly progressive, harmonious and stable China. The main focus of this conference is increasing the effectiveness of our co-ordination and developing future campaigns. I am glad that these two items are the focus of this third conference.
The Bonn conference mandated the Department of Information and International Relations to appoint a TSG coordinator, which we have done, but as everyone here knows the coordinator was not as effective as we would have liked. At the same time, we have received suggestions from many quarters that someone senior should be appointed to the post. I am, therefore, pleased to inform you that we have appointed Mrs. Kesang Y. Takla, the International Relations Secretary of my department as the chief liaison to the TSGs. Three officials will assist her in this task.
In conclusion, I would like to thank all the participants for their presence here and the Friedrich-Naumann Stiftung for hosting this important Third International Support Group Conference here in Berlin, the site of the Berlin Wall, which once divided the world into two opposite and antagonistic camps. I sincerely feel that the very fact that the Third International Tibet Support Group Conference is held here in this historic city, is a portent of happier things to come for the people of Tibet.
TSGS and the Struggle of the Tibetan People – A Report by Kesang Y. Takla, Secretary, Department of Information and International Relations, at the Third International Conference of TSGs held in Berlin from 11-14 May 2000
It is my pleasure and privilege to address this third gathering of Tibet supporters from around the world. On behalf of Tibetan refugees and Tibetans in Tibet, I extend my warmest greetings to you. As part of book-keeping exercise I would like to quickly present some statistics. At the first International Tibet Support Group Conference held in Dharamsala in 1990, we had delegates from twenty-six countries. At the second International Tibet Support Group Conference held in Bonn in 1996, we had delegates from over fifty countries. At this conference we have 300 delegates from fifty-two countries. Unfortunately, because of financial constraints we could not include more delegates at this conference. I have cited these figures to show to you the extent to which the Tibet movement has grown. But these figures do not tell the real story of the exponential growth of the Tibet Support Groups around the world, and especially not the extent to which the Students for Free Tibet movement has taken off with over 400 chapters in many countries.
The Expansion of the Tibet Support Group Movement
His Holiness the Dalai Lama once said that traditionally when we Tibetans prayed, we prayed to the three refuges: the Buddha, his teachings, and the community of monks who preserve and hand down his teachings. Now, because of Tibet’s tragic political fate and our non-violent struggle, we pray to a fourth refuge, that of the international community. The inclusion of the international community and the Tibet supporters around the world in Tibet’s political pantheon is a measure of faith we put in your ability to help ease conditions in Tibet for the benefit of the Tibetan people.
When we look back at the history of our struggle, right from the year of communist China’s invasion of Tibet, and our early years in exile, we come to the conclusion that the Tibetan struggle has transformed itself from being specifically a Tibetan people’s lonely struggle to a global struggle in which people of conscience everywhere fight to help ensure that the rights and freedoms so brutally snatched from the Tibetan people are restored to them. The Tibetan struggle resonates with the yearnings of all peoples for justice, peace and freedom, and encompasses within its vision, as defined by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, principles which are constructive, forward-looking, enduring and universal. Above all, we are all fighting for the same idea and belief. The idea and belief are that, a people can successfully wage a non-violent struggle for the restoration of their freedom, that ideas and beliefs are stronger than military might, and that the human spirit is capable of surviving the brutality of a totalitarian regime.
These principles of truth and justice in the Tibetan struggle make our movement universal in scope, and continues to attract a growing number of people from all over the world, who think that their participation in ensuring the success of the Tibetan people’s struggle for freedom is worth their time, energy and talent. This also shows that the Tibetan struggle is neither pro-Tibet nor anti-China. It is simply pro-justice.
Because of this, I feel more confident in saying that no other people’s struggle has attracted greater sympathy and support than the Tibetan people’s struggle, and that no other people’s struggle is considered as the litmus test of whether the human spirit, after all, is able to survive the unrelenting cruelty of a totalitarian system.
Chinese Intellectuals’ view on Tibet
I mentioned that the Tibetan struggle has become global. But this is not the only measure of the greatness of the Tibetan struggle. I am convinced that the true measure of the greatness of the Tibetan struggle can also be gauged when the Tibetan people’s freedom struggle becomes the Chinese people’s struggle as well. And I do not see this as far-fetched or an unrealistic proposition. His Holiness the Dalai Lama said repeatedly that he is working towards a solution to the issue of Tibet, which allows the Tibetan people to live in freedom and dignity in a federated China. And there is no reason why this eminently sensible, and reasonable solution, should not be acceptable to the majority of the Chinese people. I am convinced that as more Chinese learn about the real history of Tibet, and the Tibetan people’s struggle, they will find deep resonance of China’s own struggle for freedom and democracy since the turn of the last century. The Chinese people’s increasingly supportive and sympathetic attitude to and their active participation in the Tibetan freedom struggle will also affect and change the political character of China for the benefit of the Chinese people. The present Chinese leadership thinks freedom, prosperity and stability are mutually incompatible. The success of the Tibetan struggle will prove to the leadership that both the Tibetans and the Chinese can have freedom, prosperity and stability without sacrificing one for the sake of the other.
This is confirmed by brave voices within China, who at the cost of imprisonment, disruption of family life and torture, have urged the Chinese leaders to open negotiations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and to give greater autonomy to the Tibetan people. On the 9th of October 1996 Beijing condemned Liu Xiabo to three years of hard labour because he and his colleague Wang Xizhe wrote a critical piece on President Jiang Zemin, and urged him to re-start talks on the issue of Tibet.
In 1998 Fang Jue, a former Deputy Director of the Planning Commission of Fuzhou, co-wrote and distributed an essay advocating elections for all levels of government, including the presidency, freedom of press and religion, and an end to the party control of the military. The essay advocated flexible approach to dealing with Hong Kong, Tibet and Taiwan. It urged wide autonomy, though not independence, for Tibet. It urged the Chinese leadership to re-start negotiations with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. These are the voices of courage and their demand for freedom cannot be muffled within prison walls or silenced by a burst of gunfire. These voices will grow until the cries of protest and outrage, initially shouted from the world’s rooftop by the Tibetans in 1959, then in 1987, and in subsequent years, and joined loudly and clearly in 1989 by the Chinese students at the Tian’ammen Square, will be heard by the Chinese people. I hope that one day soon the Chinese people, they themselves the victims of so much suffering and unhappiness, will understand the real reasons behind our outrage and our suffering.
In fact, the greatest fear of the present Chinese leadership is the possibility of the pro-democracy Chinese movement and the Tibetan struggle merging and joining forces. This is a sentiment articulated by a growing number of voices in China. Jiang Peikun and Ding Zilin are respectively professor and assistant professor at the People’s University of China in Beijing; at least they were before the publication of the essay from which I will be quoting to you. Their only son was killed in the 4 June 1989 massacre. They authored an essay entitled Tibetans’ Right and Chinese Intellectuals’ Responsibility in a book called “Tibet Through Dissident Chinese Eyes”, edited by Cao Chang-Ching and James Seymour and published in 1998 in New York.
The husband and wife team said, “The Dalai Lama’s principles of a peaceful and non-violent struggle should especially receive the world’s approval and praise. As to Tibet’s future, we have no reason to be pessimistic. But Tibet’s future will depend on the Tibetans’ continued struggle, as well as on the support of the Chinese people and the world community. As Chinese, we should not forget that in 1989, Tibetans and Chinese waged similar struggles for freedom and dignity; their blood was shed on this same earth. If they remember this, the Chinese people will understand that the gun that is aimed at the Tibetans is also aimed at the Chinese.”
They conclude their article with this poem and prayer.
“May the Chinese people cast away past pride; May the Chinese people forget yesterday’s numbness; May the Chinese people and the Tibetans walk hand in hand For China’s tomorrow; For Tibet’s tomorrow.”
In this connection I am heartened by the fact that, today, we see more Chinese presence at this conference than before. Your presence here is a tribute to the magnanimity of the Chinese heart and your own individual courage. It also reflects the universality of the Tibetan struggle and its message of peace, non-violence and the will never to give up. I have dwelled at length on the Chinese component of the Tibet movement because the changing attitude of the Chinese people to the issue of Tibet and the Tibetan struggle will profoundly affect the future of Tibet.
Some Major Events since Bonn
I will not give a progress report of the activities and achievements of the Tibet Support Group movement since the Bonn conference. This is because all of you present here are active members of the worldwide Tibet movement and are fully informed of the TSG activities since 1996. However, I would like to mention some of the events, which continue to shape our movement and which attract media and international attention on the issue of Tibet.
The Free Tibet concerts, the campaigns to obtain the release of the Panchen Lama, the several Hollywood movies on Tibet, Tibet: 2000 campaign, the presence of Tibet supporters at the APEC conference in Seattle, the peace marches done on behalf of Tibet, the Tibet demonstrations which have dogged senior Chinese leaders’ visits abroad, the various parliaments’ resolutions on Tibet and the annual human rights debate in Geneva, have all focused international attention on the issue of Tibet and to the sad fact that even after half a century, the Tibetan people’s condition remains tragic and unchanged.
I would also like to mention three events which raised international visibility of the issue of Tibet and which also reflect on the grassroots strength and effective co-ordination of the Tibet movement and the desperation of the Tibetan people. First, is the tragic and fiery death of Thupten Ngodup during the Tibetan Youth Congress-organised fast unto death hunger strike in April 1998 in New Delhi. I mention Thupten Ngodup not because I want to encourage others to follow his example, but because his death, by fire, shows the desperation of the Tibetan people as their conditions worsen while freedom bells ring for the more fortunate ones around the world. Somehow his sacrifice, no matter how violent, deserves mention.
The second event, which galvanised the Tibet world, was the World Bank’s financial involvement in the Dulan project, which aims to transfer about 60,000 Chinese settlers, from elsewhere, to the nomadic area of Dulan. Tibetans and Tibet supporters around the world, and especially the Students for Free Tibet, waged a worldwide campaign which, according to media commentators, brought the worst public relations disaster to the World Bank. The World Bank eventually constituted an inspection panel to assess the project’s feasibility and to examine whether the project would contribute to diluting Tibet’s distinct culture and the Bank’s unwitting involvement in Chinese population transfer policy, as strongly stated by Tibetans and their supporters.
Regardless of the final outcome and the report submitted by the inspection panel, the World Bank will be wary of any further involvement with the Chinese authorities regarding any project on the Tibetan plateau.
The third is the growing support for Tibet among the urban population in India. Our Indian friends, who are present at the conference, will vouch for me that the Indian public has started taking a renewed interest in the issue of Tibet. In fact, when Tibet was invaded, Indians were the first ones to start associations to collectively look at what India could do for Tibet. The 1959 uprising and the subsequent exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees in India triggered the formation of some of the oldest Tibet Support Groups.
I have dwelled at length on the changing Chinese and Indian attitude to the issue of Tibet, because the fate of Tibet, by geography and history, is intimately tied to these two great civilisations. The attitude the public in India and China adopt to the cause of Tibet will affect the political fate of the Tibetan people. Looking upon the renewed sympathy shown by the people of India, and also by an increasing number of Chinese intellectuals to the issue of Tibet, it seems that more and more people of the two nations wish to see Tibet restored to its traditional role – as a bridge between two civilisations and neighbours, and not its current role, which precipitated a war, and continued hostility between the two Asian giants.
CTA and TSGs
Allow me say a few words on the worldwide Tibet Support Group movement. If we examine the history of liberation movements in the world, from the dismantling of Western colonialism in the second half of the last century, to the acquisition of nationhood by East Timor, we see that more than any other movement, the Tibetan struggle is now dependent on, and animated by a movement consisting of a cluster of loosely associated NGOs, united by their passion for Tibet, and connected to each other by the power of the modern communication technology. Elsewhere and in the past, movements for liberation were led by a band of soldiers armed with guns. The Tibet movement consists of an army of NGOs equipped with belief in truth and justice. Therefore, sooner or later, our movement will succeed. Moreover, other movements in the future will follow the example we have set, and this will change the character and nature of future freedom movements.
Having said this, we still need to improve co-ordination among the TSGs, and the TGIE, and during this conference, time will be devoted to this issue and the issue of developing future campaign ideas and conducting them on a worldwide basis.
Our Minister has already presented you with our views, on the importance of good co-ordination and close consultation with the TGIE, as well as amongst the TSGs. Since we are all here for a common cause, a workable solution should be the outcome of all the discussions that we all will have during this conference.
During my tenure in England and Taiwan, I have had the pleasure of knowing many of you. We have shared the teething problems of organising ourselves and also the joys of success. Those experiences, which were based on friendship and understanding of all the different constraints that we all encounter, have been most encouraging and valuable. Now, as the Secretary at the Department of Information and International Relations, I look forward to working with you once again, and also to get to know many of you whom I have not yet met.
All the support and work that you are carrying out for Tibet calls for voluntary commitment of your time, energy and money. We appreciate that you are giving all of these and that you continue to work hard. We thank each one of you and your family members for making it possible for you to keep on working for the Tibetan people’s rights.
You all will agree that conferences like the one we are attending now are most valuable in organising our efforts to improve our co-ordination. This brings us to the thought that this and the previous conference in Bonn could not have been possible without the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation’s support. I would like to acknowledge their valuable contribution and thank the Foundation and all their functionaries.
Last, but not least, I would like to thank you all for being with us at this conference. Your presence and active participation is a source of additional encouragement and inspiration to us.
Kasur Lodi Gyari: Since we last met, there has been substantial progress in our relations with overseas Chinese. Reaching out to this target group is an important part of our struggle and we all therefore have to vigorously reach out to this group.
Tibet is physically placed between two great Asian giants India and China. Therefore our Tibetan people, the people of China and the people of India have all to live together. It is, therefore, very important to reach out to these two groups. It is of relevance that Mrs. Takla singled out and made reference to India. This is again an important point, not only because of our ancient religious and cultural ties with that great nation, but the fact is that the true Tibet, the ethos of Tibet, is unfortunately not in Tibet but in exile, in India. From this point of view, we do believe, given the opportunity, that Tibet can become a constructive element, a bridge between these two Asian giants. I very often tell my Indian friends that any possibility of a truly genuine normal relations between China and India will not be possible and will be unrealistic unless and until the issue of Tibet is resolved. I am therefore happy that the secretary of the DIIR singled out this important aspect. A conference such as this is so very important that we need to spend more time to discuss the core issues of Tibet. Both from the Minister’s and the Secretary’s remarks it becomes clear that the policy of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile continues to one which is consistent. This again is very important because I think one of the reasons why there is so much of respect and credibility not only for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, but especially for the person of His Holiness is because of His consistency.
At the same time, those who are friends of Tibet, those of us who have dedicated the best part of our lives in helping Tibet, must also be able to bear the larger picture in mind. The Transnational Radical Party representative mentioned that should there be no solution within three years, then they would support complete independence of Tibet. On the one hand while it is important to be consistent, at the same time we must in a realistic manner begin exploring such alternatives as stated by the Radical Party. If the current impasse does not change, then we most definitely have to get out this vicious circle. Although, the final decision rests with His Holiness, the Tibetan Government and the Tibetan people, I however think it is timely to throw up such issues for discussion.
Recently I had the opportunity to testify at the Committee of International Relations at the US Congress. I expressed my views as an individual and not as a representative of the government, and I categorically stated that there has to be a way out of the present situation. The Chinese Government has failed to respond to find a negotiated settlement, and if they continue to insist that the Tibetan people inside Tibet are very happy and contended, then the best way for us to ascertain this fact is perhaps through a free and a fair referendum. And if the answer by the majority of the Tibetan people inside Tibet is that they are genuinely happy, then His Holiness will be the happiest person because his primary concern has always been the happiness of his people.
With regard to the current Taiwan issue, the Chinese have always linked the two, especially after His Holiness made the historic visit to Taiwan a few years ago. In fact, the new condition imposed by the Chinese Government on His Holiness and on the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, is that before any talks can materialise, not only must His Holiness accept Tibet to be a part of China, but he must also make a statement with regard to the status of Taiwan. That is an interesting stand taken by the Chinese Government. First of all I believe that it is the responsibility of His Holiness to speak for the Tibetan people, for the status of Tibet, which he has always consistently done, and it is entirely for the people of Taiwan to speak their voice. We should, however, be supportive of the voice of the people of Taiwan. On the other hand, we should bear in mind that if the Chinese Government continues to insist that Tibet and Taiwan are two inseparable issues, then we should creatively think of making this an inseparable issue.
We should not hesitate to discuss every possible situation in order to strengthen the hands of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, whilst keeping in mind the clear understanding that the ultimate decision has to be that of the Tibetan Government, which we all agree, is the only legitimate government that speaks for the Tibetan people.
The Right to Self-determination – the Legal Cornerstone to Tibet’s Future by Eva Herzer, International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet (now Tibet Justice Center), at the Third International Conference of TSGs held in Berlin from 11-14 May 2000
The legal case of Tibet rests on two distinct pillars. First, the right to territorial integrity and second the right to self-determination. Both of these rights, separately, give the Tibetan people the choice to determine their future political, economic, social and cultural status. The options as to a future political status include independence, an autonomous arrangement or theoretically total integration into the Chinese state.
The right to territorial integrity is the right of a sovereign nation to retain control over its territory. In other words, this is what we sometimes refer to as Tibet’s historical right or claim. Thus if Tibet can show that she was sovereign prior to the Chinese invasion, then she is entitled to continued and future sovereignty, which means she has the right to decide on her future political, social, cultural and economic status. While Chinese and Tibetan history is intertwined in several significant ways, many scholars, including the International Commission of Jurists, have come to the conclusion that Tibet’s historical claim to sovereignty is valid and that Tibet, if it so chooses, is entitled to have its sovereign status restored. Other scholars, many politicians and of course China, disagree with that conclusion. My own conclusion is that Tibet was a sovereign nation, minimally, from 1913 until 1949 when it was invaded by the People’s Republic of China. This alone is sufficient to conclude that China’s military annexation was unlawful. Additionally, China’s theory that Tibet became a part of China during the Mongol period in the 13th century is blatantly absurd, since under this type of argument China could claim most of Asia, which was under Mongol rule as well, and India could claim most of its neighbors, who were also under British rule. While Manchu influence on Tibet was substantial, it was not unlike that of many protectorate relationships between sovereign nations today and, in any event, that influence had faded away by the end of the 19th century. A detailed discussion of this history is not within the scope of my topic today, but I recommend to you “The Case of Tibet”, a study published by the TPPRC. It addresses Tibet’s historical claim and provides a detailed discussion of Tibetans’ right to self-determination and was written by lCLT’s Dennis Cusack, who is here with us today, and Dr. Michael van Walt.
The problem with historical arguments is that history can be interpreted in many different ways. Nations and peoples sometimes become interdependent, and instead of a historical picture emerging in clear blacks and whites, it comes out in shades of gray, which are subjects of interpretation. China rests her case against Tibet solely on her historical interpretation that Tibet has always been a part of China and therefore concludes that Tibet has no right to determine its future. Interestingly, and for good reasons, China has been mostly silent on Tibet’s right to self -determination.
Tibet’s second legal pillar is the right to self-determination. This right is separate and independent of Tibet’s territorial or historical claim. In other words, even if Tibet was a legitimate part of China in the past, Tibetans today have the right to self-determination. The right to self-determination is a cornerstone of the UN Charter which in Chapter 1, Article 1 (2) states: “The purposes of the United Nations are: …To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples…”
In 1970, the UN General Assembly passed a declaration, which elaborates on the right to self-determination (Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cupertino among States in Accordance with the Charter of the UN) as follows:
“… All peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development, and every State has the duty to respect this right in accordance with provisions of the Charter”.
It is important to note that the right to self-determination is the right of peoples, not the right of just any group of individuals. However, there is no genuine dispute that Tibetans are a people, which under international law is defined as a group of people with a common historical tradition, a racial identity, a shared culture, linguistic unity, religious affinity, a territorial connection and a common economic life.
Given that Tibetans are a distinct people, there is no legal dispute that they have the right to self-determination. Even the United Nations General Assembly, repeatedly, in 1961 and 1965, explicitly recognized the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination and called on China to respect this right. Tibetans thus stand on firm legal ground when they insist on the exercise of their right to self-determination. At the same time, because the Tibetan case is based on this internationally recognized right, China is legally incorrect when it claims that all matters concerning Tibet are Chinese domestic affairs. The advantage of using the right to self-determination as the basis for Tibet’s case thus is manifold. It avoids the slippery slope of historical interpretation. By removing the historical debate, it makes the deeply ingrained beliefs of many Chinese people that Tibet always was a part of China irrelevant and has the benefit of a face saving solution. Further, it internationalizes the Tibetan issue and legitimizes the requests of internationals that China complies with its international legal obligations vis-?-vis Tibet.
The potential problem with the right to self-determination is that the law is not settled as to the scope of its implementation. When a people wishes to implement its right to self-determination by seeking full independence and a state does not want to give up control over the territory, claiming the right to territorial integrity, a tension is created, which must be resolved. Some scholars argue that a people who have the right to self-determination may choose any option, including independence or complete secession. Others argue that the right only extends to self-determination within the framework of the state. However, this dichotomy can be resolved by looking to the underlying principles of international law and by balancing the legitimacy of the state’s assertion of its territorial integrity claim and the people’s request for independence or secession.
A careful analysis of the tension between the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination, including the right to choose independence, and China’s claim to territorial integrity leads to the conclusions that this tension must be resolved in favour of Tibet for several reasons:
- The Vienna Declaration of 1993 states that territorial integrity can only be invoked by legitimate governments conducting themselves in compliance with the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. A state’s legitimacy derives from satisfaction of its duties to its citizens.These duties are:
- to protect the population,
- to promote the economic, cultural, social and spiritual welfare of the people it governs,
- to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and
- to promote self-determination and equal rights.
When a state does not promote these interests but instead represses the people, destroys their culture and economically exploits them, it loses legitimacy as a government and cannot prevail on its claim of territorial integrity.
- The tension between Tibet’s right to self-determination and China’s claim to territorial integrity must also be resolved in favour of Tibet because China, in violation of the norms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), deprives the Tibetan people of their right to democratically elect its political representatives. In particular the UDHR provides for the right to:”… to take part in the government of one’s country directly or through freely chosen representatives” and “the will of the people shall be the basis of that authority of the government.”
- Lastly, the Tibetans’ right to self-determination should be enforced as against China’s claim to territorial integrity and when doing so it will advance the fundamental values of the international community. Affording Tibetans the broadest latitude in exercising their right to self-determination, i.e. allowing for the choice of independence, would promote the fundamental interests of the international community in a number of ways.It would:
enhance international peace by creating a demilitarized buffer zone between China and India, the world’s most populous states.
This potential benefit is enhanced by the fact that Tibet is very unlikely to become an aggressor since its culture promotes tolerance and respect.
Promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Tibetan independence would result in a democratically governed Tibetan state based on international law and it would preserve and save from assimilation and extinction a unique people and culture.
Therefore, from a legal point of view, Tibetans should be allowed, by virtue of their right to self-determination, to freely choose their future political status, including independence. This conclusion is based, if I may summarize, on the following grounds:
- Tibetans are a distinct people;
- As a people, they have the right to self-determination and
- This right should trump China’s conflicting claim to territorial integrity because:
- China, by repressing Tibet, has not conducted itself as the legitimate government of the Tibet people,
- China has not allowed Tibetans to freely select their political representatives and
- Allowing Tibet the broadest latitude in exercising its right to self-determination will promote the international values of peace and adherence to human rights.
Having said that Tibetans legally are entitled to fully exercise their right to self-determination, let us explore for a few minutes what options this entails.There are three basic options:
- Independence, on one extreme,
- Total integration into the Chinese state, on the other extreme, or
- Autonomy or self-governance within the Chinese state (“the Middle Way”)
The major obstacles to independence are not legal but political. I will not elaborate on this point, though I know that many Tibetans favour this option, since I believe we are all too aware of the formidable political problems which this approach faces. Since I have not yet met a Tibetan who favours a total integration into the Chinese state, “I will not take time to discuss that option either. The third option for self-determination is an autonomous arrangement between the Tibetan people and China, or in His Holiness’s words, an arrangement for genuine self-governance. As you all know, “His Holiness proposed negotiating such an arrangement in Strasbourg in 1988. The executive and legislative branches of the TGIE are currently in the process of discussing the terms of a possible autonomous arrangement which could meet the needs of the Tibetan people.
In an autonomous arrangement, governmental powers would be divided between a Tibetan autonomous government and the Chinese state. The powers to be divided include the powers to determine, administer and control matters of:
- Cultural affairs
- Postal and telecommunications systems
- Official language
- Law and order
- National symbols
- Administration of justice
- Health and social services
- Currency and monetary policy
- Determination of citizenship
- Foreign policy
- Natural resources
- Environmental policy
- Customs, border control, immigration
The term autonomy by itself is vague and rather meaningless. It makes therefore little sense to support or reject the notion of an autonomous Tibet, unless the autonomy is defined as a particular distribution of governmental powers. Depending on how these powers are divided, an autonomous arrangement either results in negligible self-governance or substantial self-governance. The current Tibet Autonomous Region is an example of negligible self-rule. The only governmental power, which theoretically lies in the Tibetan autonomous government’s hands, is the power over cultural affairs. However, since the Communist Party controls that government, even that one power does not, in practice, lie in Tibetan hands. Examples of substantial self-governance include Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marina, Tatarstan, Catalonia and Greenland. Another example is His Holiness’s Strasbourg proposal, which allocates most governmental powers to Tibetans and would give to China only defense and some foreign affairs powers.Negotiation for an autonomous arrangement must also include careful consideration of post- agreement implementation, enforcement and conflict resolution provisions and allow Tibetans to void the agreement if it is not honored by China. A detailed analysis of autonomy is not within the scope of this talk but I would like to refer you to a 700-page study conducted by ICLT and UNPO on this issue, which you can order from ICLT and a 30-page summary of which I would be glad to mail to you.
In conclusion, Tibetans, as a people, have the right to self-determination and therefore have the right to determine their future political, economic, social and cultural status. This status could take the form of independence or of an autonomous arrangement for self-governance within the framework of the Chinese state. The decision of which option to pursue is that of the Tibetan people. It is for this reason that many Tibet supporters and I advocate for the Tibetans’ right to self-determination, rather than for independence, autonomy or any other option for implementation of this right. The Tibetan people can reach this decision either by delegating their authority to His Holiness, or to their elected exile government, or by calling for a referendum to be carried out in Tibet, which of course involves a host of political problems.
I hope this short explanation of the right to self-determination and the options it provides has been helpful to your understanding of the legal framework of the case of Tibet. It is our job as Tibet support groups to build the political pressure necessary for the creation of an international political environment in which the Tibetan people will be free to exercise their right to self-determination.
In closing, I would like to say that I think the time is ripe for this Tibet support movement to elevate its effectiveness to the next level. If we are efficiently organized, put strategic action plans in place and co-ordinate ourselves, we have the potential to activate hundreds of thousands of people in support of Tibet. In this spirit, I hope that we will leave Berlin with a new Tibet Support Group Network in place and with an elected steering committee to help us translate our ideas and good intentions into an effective and coordinated action in support of the Tibetan people.
- Legal Basis for the Case of Tibet to Determine its Future Political Status: and/or
- Territorial Integrity, based on past sovereignty
- Right to self-determination
- Options as to Future Political Status under A or B:
- Some from of Autonomy (Distribution of governmental powers between Chinese and Tibetan Governments)
- Full Integration into Chinese State
- Methods for Deciding on which Option to Choose:
- Delegate Power to His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Delegate Power to Elected Exile Government
- Referendum in Tibet and/or Exile
- A Combination of the above
I would like to pay my respects to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and extend my greetings to the Tibet Support Groups around the world and to others who are here in this hall. My name is Kunchok Tendar. I was born in Tibet in 1938 in the Dayab region of Kham. I escaped to India in April 1998 when I realised the Chinese authorities in Tibet were going to re-arrest me for my political activities. I escaped with the hope that I would be able to tell the Tibetan people’s story to the international community. I therefore thank you for having made my wish come true. I was captured in 1961 and was subjected to five days of torture sessions during which they tortured me with brutal savagery. On the first of December 1961 they locked me up in Dayab prison where I was fed once a day and let out twice to go to the toilet. The prisoners from 1959 were still held in commune. They had no idea whether their near and dear ones were alive or dead. Later, the prisoners were told that they could write to their families, but no stationary was allotted to them. So they had to write on scraps of cloth torn from their shirts. They had to use broomsticks as pens and blood from their gums as ink.
I was tortured many times and my hands and legs were always in shackles. Sometimes I was stripped naked, bound with wet jute ropes and suspended above the ground. The pain was so excruciating that I fell unconscious during each of these torture sessions. Then they let me down and splashed cold water on my face. As I regained my consciousness, they once more pulled me up.
All the prisoners were put to hard labour. During the initial period of our labour, we had to take up partially dried human excrement from the prison toilet and grind them with our bear hands. We then had to put a handful or two of the powdered human excrement on the roots of each vegetable plant. But the kitchen did not provide enough water to wash our hands before the meal. What is more, there was absolutely no soap, which meant we had to knead and eat our Tsampa meal with our stinking hands.
In 1962 I was sent to life imprisonment and taken to the Chamdo prison. In the early period of my imprisonment in Chamdo, authorities on two occasions extracted large quantities of blood from my body. This made me feel dizzy and weak.
For several years our diet consisted of a meagre amount of Tsampa and hot water. This monotonous meal was served three times a day. It did not fill our stomachs even by half. One day we were taken to work in the military pigsty. There we helped ourselves to left over army food meant for pigs. We also fished out scraps from the basin in the army scullery. These were real treats. One inmate Phui Yeshi was beaten mercilessly when the soldiers caught him steeling pig food.
Many prison inmates died from hunger and exhaustion. Later it transpired that the death toll was equally high in other prisons. To cite an example, I was told that in the Tsawa Ponda prison in TAR 1600 prisoners perished in one year out of the total prison population of 1800.
The most agonising exercise was the regular political meetings in the evenings during which the prisoners were asked to denounce Buddhism and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Apart from this, we had to criticise ourselves as well as others. We also had to learn Mao’s red book by heart and recite from it. A slight mistake during these meetings would lead to death by a firing squad, blinding or other forms of torture. Many prisoners were driven to suicide as a result of having made mistakes in the meeting. On one day fourteen prisoners including Terke Penche Arkar were executed. Earlier on the same day we were forced to witness the execution of eight prisoners. Four condemned men had their fathers and relatives among those forced to witness their execution. Not a single condemned man was frightened or subdued before the firing. And since their throats were tightly bound they could not even utter a cry of defiance. I remember a Sera Monk by the name of Lodi Gyahwa Yungdrung, being a leper, his throat was bound loosely at the time of his execution. He took advantage of this to shout, ‘Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama! Death to the Communist Party!’.
On March 10th 1979, I was released as a part of the new official policy to set free all the remaining political prisoners. By then I had spent 19 years in prison followed by one year in a labour unit. The immense physical and mental agony suffered during those years has left me sick and weak for the rest of my life.
Now I talk about the situation in Tibet. Over the past five decades our once independent nation has suffered increasing brutality under Chinese occupation. In recent years the Chinese authorities have unleashed a fresh campaign of repression. People are forced to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the extent that one must refer to him as the ‘Dalai splitist ‘ rather than the Dalai Lama. No one is allowed to accept the Panchen Lama recognised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Instead, Tibetans are told to support the boy selected by the Chinese Government. People are ordered to regard religion as poison and Buddhism as blind faith. Of the 160 monks at the monastery, except for 30, all others have recently been expelled from the monastery for their refusal to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Today, no family is allowed to have more than two children. In Chamdo town of Dayab 210 women were coerced into sterilisation in 1996. Daughters and brides had to have their babies forcibly aborted.
The number of Chinese settlers in Tibet is increasing with each passing day. The settlers cut trees and buy up Tibetan agricultural land. They monopolise the development projects, the restaurants and business enterprises in Tibet. With the active connivance of the authorities, the settlers have opened up an unaccountable number of beer bars, gambling houses and brothels, all of which have the effect of ruining the life of young Tibetans’. Amongst other things, the influx of Chinese settlers is reducing Tibetans into a minority in their own country.
This, then, is my brief testimony. I request the international community to send a fact-finding delegation to Tibet to establish the truth of what I have said. I would like to end my statement by making a plea. I believe that only complete independence for Tibet can now satisfy the aspirations of the Tibetan people. I say this because the Chinese Government has failed to respond positively to the open-minded efforts made by his Holiness the Dalai Lama over the past twenty years, to peacefully resolve the problem of Tibet through negotiations. I, therefore, humbly request the international community to support the cause of Tibet’s independence. Thank you.
Kunchok Tender: Since the last two years he has been living in exile in India. In his younger days he was actively engaged in Tibet’s freedom movement, especially in 1958. He fought not only for his personal liberty, but also for the freedom of his country. His active political participation led to his imprisonment in 1961. He has spent 19 years of his life in prison. After release from prison he took up farming and subsequently he took up a teaching job in Chamdo in Eastern Tibet. However his political activities forced him to flee Tibet and seek refuge in India.
I thank you for hosting this conference in this beautiful city. I thank the people of Tibet including Kunchok Tendar who has just told us of the harrowing circumstances for Tibetans. I am standing here because I am not just an Australian, I am a world citizen, and that means I am a Tibetan. And until Tibet is free I am not free, none of us is free, and I will work towards the freedom of Tibet so long as I draw breath.
Your Holiness, I am excited, and many Australians are excited that you are visiting us in Australia next year again. But your visit worries us a little as well. We read in the newspaper that, shortly after you visited Taiwan, Beijing insisted that you must say Taiwan should come under Beijing control. So if you come to Australia we are worried they might extend a similar condition to us as well.
Before I made my visit to Tibet, I was at a protest outside the Chinese Embassy on March 10th last year, when a man came up and took a picture of me for the Chinese Government. I thought: ‘there goes my visa!’ I was secretly planning with others, to go to Lhasa unannounced. The trip was preceded by something that is very important. I think all parliamentarians who go on official visits are not allowed contact with Tibetans. That is why it is so important that they speak to Tibetans in their own country before they begin their journey. I spoke with three Tibetans in Sydney prior to my departure to Tibet. These Tibetans had been in jail and tortured, before they made their way across the Himalayas, and finally to our lucky country. That harrowing recount of their experience went with me through-out my trip. This is something to which other parliamentarians must be exposed before they commence their visits.
We flew to Hong Kong and then to Siling in northeast Tibet. We then visited by bus the Tibetan plateau on the south east extremity of the Gobi desert at Dulan, the site of the World Bank proposal for an irrigation scheme. I have read the first report on the environmental impact by the World Bank. I am a green environmentalist, and therefore I always look to see what damage will occur from a project to the environment. I have never read before a report on the environmental impact which says, because of dust blowing in from the desert, the environment threatens this irrigation scheme to resettle some 200.000 Chinese onto the Tibetan plateau. Incidentally, that river diversion will dry up a huge wet-land which is a bird-breeding paradise in northern Tibet, and with it one of the great nesting sights of the black-necked crane, threatened as endangered.
We flew to Lhasa. At the airport we saw a squadron of fighter-jets next to the civilian runway and a large number of military transport conveying materials into a row of trucks. Behind the airport, there is the blue and white striped tower, which says ‘this is a military installation’. On our way from the airport to Lhasa the first building of note I saw was on a hilltop to the left. When asked about it I was told it was a large monastery, which was dynamited by the Beijing authorities, a fate you know that befell thousands of Tibetan temples, monasteries, nunneries of world heritage and ancient significance, many of which predate the great cathedrals of Europe. On the bridge before Lhasa there were guards with machine-guns at front and at back and in centre as there were “in many buildings like banks and specified hotels” in Lhasa.
I do not know why parliamentary colleagues who officially visit Tibet do not see these things. One condemned me for my report when I got back and said it was rude of you to go to Lhasa without asking Beijing first. Another said he had seen more guns and military in the suburbs of Melbourne than he had seen in Lhasa. So presumably when officials go to Tibet, as guests of the Chinese occupiers, the military has a day off. They do not see, for example, the 49 military transport trucks I counted on the 105 km stretch between the airport and Lhasa, half of which were full of troops.
On our first day in Lhasa we asked our People’s Liberation Army guest, that is the official tour agency, to give us a quick drive around Lhasa. They said we could not as there was a lot of military in town for a concert. So we said, “OK, we’ll have a rest.” As soon as they left, we walked down to the Potala Square, in front of this magnificent building, famous around the world. Here were thousands of military personnel. Along them was the central television crew from Beijing, filming this concert. Large banners were draped from the front of this great centre of Tibetan culture, the Potala, proclaiming 40 years of freedom for Tibet, in Chinese. A series of army, navy and other military choirs were performing. This went on for eight hours. Very often the welcoming scarves or the Khatas of the Tibetans were used as part of a song and dance routine. There were a tiny sprinkling of Tibetan performers to give a modicum of authenticity to this disgusting propaganda exercise. The concert went on the air the following week for the 1.2 billion Chinese people who have no access to the truth, as a one and a half hour Tibetan special on Tibetans celebrating freedom.
In Lhasa I was not looking for the extensible beauty, I was looking for evidence of how the people felt. Quite frequently young Tibetans came up and spoke with me when they saw me – a middle aged westerner, standing alone in the street or in the temples. Here I applaud their courage. Because, as you know on the Potala, as in the Jokhang, the magnificent central temple in Lhasa, there are video cameras mounted on the walls surveying everything. So it takes courage for a Tibetan to speak to a westerner, because everything is being recorded. I was aware of this. And when a young man came up in the Jokhang and spoke to me and showed me where His Holiness would be if he were rightfully back in Lhasa, I had to break off the conversation because I told him it was dangerous to be talking to me. I knew the secret police would trace my steps after I left the country. He told me how he and three of his friends were going to walk across the Himalayas in this winter to breathe the air of freedom and to meet His Holiness. The young man told me how seven young Tibetans, two of them were Chinese and five Tibetans, were crossing the bridge of so-called freedom into Nepal last year when they were stopped by the police. The two Chinese were sent home, the five Tibetan boys were arrested and their whereabouts are not known. And as with all people I spoke to, or who spoke to me in Tibet, they have two things they want us to fight for. One is for the return of His Holiness to Lhasa; the other is for freedom for Tibet. These two are part and parcel of the same.
I was able to bring out from Lhasa a picture of two young monks who in March last year protested next to the Jokhang Temple. One is 15 years of age and the other 21. For simply holding a sign saying ‘Free Tibet’ and calling for the Chinese people to go home and leave Tibet in freedom, while I was in Lhasa, one was sentenced to three years in jail, and you know what that means, and the other was sentenced to four years. They are in prison now as we sit here in freedom. Each night, as my head hit the pillow in the Chinese owned hotel I was aware, that up the road, there are 600 or maybe even 1.000 or more young people, monks and nuns, who are imprisoned in appalling conditions. I did not stop in Tibetan places because they would be closed down afterwards. We went to the Gari nunnery on the mountain side behind Lhasa, from where so many young women have gone to prison for calling for freedom. On the last day in Lhasa I stood next to the flagpole in the Potala Square where I nudged my companion, and said it would be easy to take down the flag of the Beijing regime and put up the Tibetan flag. But, you know, three months later a Tibetan man, a carpenter aged 39, a father of two, did just that. He climbed the flagpole, he brought down the Chinese flag and he was about to unfurl the Tibetan flag when he was grabbed by the police and beaten to death.
We returned to Beijing, where I held a press conference. I asked my Ambassador to have the foreign affairs department of China speak with me, because I wanted to recount our experiences in Lhasa. They never came. I am aware that the Australian authorities said: Do not go near him, he will be out of the country in two days. It is much quieter if we do not cause a disturbance. I spoke with the Australian ambassador and he said he had been to the Drapchi Prison, the prison where, many of you will know, in March last year 114 people were shot or beaten to death before and after a visit of European ambassadors because they protested. Unfortunately the ambassadors missed it. My ambassador had taken tea in the garden of that prison with the governor, and said he saw a model block. He supposed he was being given a false impression but he saw nothing untoward. I said, “Ambassador, you took tea with the criminal while the innocents are behind the wall.”
We flew back to Australia. As I said earlier the Chinese Embassy had been angry and said Bob Brown should get back to Australia and mind his own business, and look after human rights back in Australia. When asked what human rights are, the Chinese officials said: I do not know that, you are Australian, you should know what they are’. However, after I arrived back in Canberra, Jiang Zemin, the president of China, visited our city and came to dinner at the Parliament House with thousand guests. I was given a ticket and asked to attend. So I asked a Tibetan patriot from Sydney to come with me. We went to the dinner and sat at a table. We immediately had two members of the Australian Secret Service Agents sitting at our table as well. We got up shortly after Jiang Zemin arrived and walked quickly towards him to hand over a letter calling for freedom for Tibet but were quickly suppressed by six or seven agents each. The media were expelled from that room, because they did not want the embarrassment of a protest on Tibet to the leader of China being covered in a free and open democracy like ours. So when Jiang Zemin gave his speech my companion and I, and she in full Tibetan costume stood in silent protest right in front of him, in front of the crowd, for the duration of that speech.
I heard in Beijing, that the Chinese authority is waiting for His Holiness to die, because they think, quite falsely, quite absurdly, that this would end the pursuit of freedom for the Tibetans. All I can say is having seen some of the Chinese leadership, they look much older, having seen His Holiness, he looks much healthier. I think he is going to win.
Your Holiness, everyone from Tibet, you have given so much to the world. It is our job to give back to you, and it is an honour to be part of the quest for freedom for Tibet. May it come rapidly, may it come without conditions, and may we then all be able to breathe the air of freedom with you as you return to your beautiful country.