June, 2012

Mr Jenkins (Scullin): Over the last couple of days the Kalon Tripa of the Central Tibetan Administration — that is, the Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration — has been in Parliament House. Dr Lobsang Sangay, a 43-year-old Tibetan who was born in India of parents who had fled Tibet earlier, is a very well-educated gentleman. He has been Harvard trained and spent 16 years in the United States before deciding to stand for the election—the first election—of a Kalon Tripa. He has succeeded the Dalai Lama as the political head of the Tibetan movement. He is a very impressive advocate on behalf of the cause of Tibetans in exile. When we talk about displaced people in the context of other debates, there can be no more striking example of displaced people than the Tibetan people.

It has been quite a while since I have spoken in the parliament about affairs to do with Tibet, and I was reflecting on some of the things that I had highlighted in the past. I wish to go back to a statement made 25 years ago by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bill Hayden. He said:
Australia condemns abuses of human rights wherever and whenever they occur. While Australia acknowledges that Tibet is part of China, the Government and people of Australia remain deeply concerned that ethnic Tibetans should be treated according to internationally accepted standards of human rights. The concern of the Australian Government in all these aspects has been registered with the Chinese Government.

Now we find ourselves in the same position 25 years later. That is a disappointment. It is a disappointment in the context that the dialogues that had been set in place between representatives of the then Dalai Lama as not only the spiritual head of the Tibetan people but the political head of those in exile have not proceeded with Chinese PRC officials.

In April this year at the Sixth World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet, the Ottawa Declaration on Tibet was adopted. I wish to refer to some of the conclusions in that declaration. It was agreed that the participants:

Dispel the false accusation that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration is seeking separation from the PRC since the Tibetan proposals expressly formulate a solution within the constitutional framework of the PRC and therefore call upon the government of the PRC to cease to propagate such misinformation.
I think this is a very important point, because continually the PRC seem to want to adopt an argumentative stance that this is all about the separation of Tibet. This is not the middle way, as the Dalai Lama has been pushing. It is not the middle way that Lobsang Sangay used as his platform in being elected as the Kalon Tripa. Definitely, they are supportive of adopting an approach in which Tibet gets true autonomy within the constitution of the PRC and that ethnic Tibetans are given all the human rights that they should expect.

The Ottawa declaration also says it will:
Call upon the Government of the PRC to end the repression in Tibet, provide access to all Tibetan areas in the PRC, schedule the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ mission to China and especially to Tibet, and to resume the dialogue with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the same positive spirit—
that is talked about earlier in the declaration. This is an approach to the People’s Republic of China in the way that friends would approach problems. This is not something where, because we have a different approach, it means we do not have a continuing special relationship with the People’s Republic of China. But within that special relationship we have an expectation that they will return to the dialogue that is necessary. I know that there is a small political hiatus as we await the new leadership in the PRC, and that is appropriate, but I hope that the PRC leadership does make sure that it is in a position to continue to discuss these matters.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank the member for Mallee for his assistance. This is an issue that I do have some concerns about. As I have said, I would hope that our many friends in China understand that we approach this problem from wanting to see a proper solution within the constitution of the People’s Republic of China that adequately means that an autonomous state of Tibet that meets the aspirations of the Tibetan people can be achieved. In talking about meeting the aspirations of the Tibetan people, we cannot not mention the numerous self-immolations that have occurred over recent months. This is an extraordinarily testing phenomenon. The fact that young Tibetans have been so moved to indicate their concern about the way that they have been treated that they have suicided in such a ghastly way should be recognised. This should not merely be described as the act of a terrorist. The only person that is involved is the actual person that self-immolates. This is not an act of a terrorist. This is an expression of protest, and I regret, and it should be emphasised, that all of these people are of an age that they have only lived under the Chinese rule in Tibet. They have only known the conditions that have been given to them by the PRC. It is their reaction to those conditions—we cannot avoid that. It is not something that anybody wishes to encourage. It is not something that the leadership of the central Tibetan administration encourages. It is a phenomenon that is occurring and we cannot ignore it.

It is in that sense that I would hope that the incoming leadership in the People’s Republic of China would look within their heart and say, as one of the acts of their leadership and their control, ‘We must sit down to talk these issues through.’ One of the great challenges for a nation of the size of the People’s Republic of China—and we see this with some of our other neighbours—is that it is so big that, even when the central government might be very positive for change and might have the right ideas for change, they have to be able to get that right out to the extremes and into the provinces. I hope that they are able to establish a renewed effort to continue into dialogue with people—like Lobsang Sangay—who have made a great sacrifice. He left the world of academia—in Boston at Harvard—to go to Dharamsala to devote his time as the leader of the Tibetans in exile and enable the representatives of that administration, including himself as the continuing spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, to sit down, to look at the proposals that have been put to China by the Tibetans. This is under the umbrella of the description of the middle way, and you can see that this is not a threat to the territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China. It actually has the potential of emphasising the diversity of China. When you go to China, they are proud to indicate the numerous ethnicities that make up the Chinese population. This has the potential to ensure that China can showcase that diversity and say to the rest of the world, ‘We understand that in the past there has been a perception about the way that we have treated the Tibetan people. In a new China, what we are doing is coming to grips with that as a problem. We celebrate the diversity that the Tibetan people can give to us, and we showcase it to the world.’ I hope, as I have said, that the new leadership does re-enter into dialogue with people like the Kalon Tripa or the representative of the Central Tibetan Administration in a way that sees a sustainable, autonomic Tibet as part of the People’s Republic.

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