Dharamshala: In his recent visit to Jerusalem, Israel, the President of the Central Tibetan Administration, Dr Lobsang Sangay was featured in a special interview with host Yaakov Ahimeir of Israel Broadcasting Corporation, a statutory public corporation.
From the Chinese authorities’ view of Dr Lobsang Sangay to current situation in Tibet, the interview dwelled on key issues such as the Middle Way Approach and why the state of Israel shouldn’t hesitate to voice its opinion on the Tibet issue to opening of Tibet to tourism and Dr Sangay’s word of advice to Israelis planning to visit Tibet.
Below is the transcript of the interview:
The President: Jewish history of 2000 years in diaspora and Tibetans in exile has many similarities. So we are just 60 years in exile, but I was born and brought up in exile. And I was not allowed to visit Tibet.
Yaakov Ahimeir: Why?
The President: They didn’t allow me, they said they didn’t have enough people to receive me in Lhasa and I said you have 1.3 billion people and that cannot be the the excuse. They didn’t allow.
Yaakov Ahimeir: What was the other reasons that you wanted to visit Tibet?
The President: Obviously that’s where my parents came from, that’s our homeland and that’s where I belong to. Now I am in this freedom struggle where I want to restore basic freedom of the Tibetan people so that I can fulfil the aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet, six million of them. And I want to fulfil my late father’s wish to visit his own homeland.
Yaakov Ahimeir: What is your function within the Tibetans?
The President: In 2011, His Holiness the Dalai Lama separated the church and the state. So His Holiness is the most revered spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and I am the person responsible for all the political and administrative matters.
Yaakov Ahimeir: How would you describe the present function of the Dalai Lama?
The President: He is a monk so he gets up anywhere from 2:30 to 3:30 a.m.
Yaakov Ahimeir : too early?
The President: Yes, and then he meditates and prays for four hours, then he has a public blessing where hundreds of people come every morning to see him then he has private audience for few people where he interacts on a one on one basis and blesses them, advices them and discuss with them foreign affairs. That’s how he maintains his schedule on a daily basis.
Yaakov Ahimeir: I can assume that official Chinese authorities consider you as an enemy of China.
The President : Yes, definitely. They label me lots of things, separatist and troublemaker. I think the spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry said I have never done anything good for Tibetan people in my lifetime, but many Tibetans in Tibet disagree, they do think my work is something good for the Tibetan cause and Tibetan people. It is a challenge, definitely. Specially from outside, but nonetheless you have to reflect the aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet and you have to do the best you can to magnify the voices, highlight their suffering and fight for the right cause.
Yaakov Ahimeir: Are you trying to achieve an independence for Tibet?
The President: If repression of the Tibetan people ends and we are granted genuine autonomy as per Chinese laws then we will not seek separation from China or independence from China.
Yaakov Ahimeir: What can you tell us about the situation in Tibet?
The President: It is more difficult to go to Tibet than to North Korea. Now everybody knows about North Korea, but not many people know about Tibet. At the last, since 2009 we have 152 Tibetans who have burnt themselves. Committed self-immolation, now that is violent form of death but that is also a protest by the Tibetan people. It’s an act of desperation, but also determination. So you can clearly see the human rights violation is so severe, environmental destruction is so bad that Tibetans are resorting to burning themselves. And that is the reality, a tragic reality ongoing in Tibet now.
Yaakov Ahimeir: Do you believe sir that the Chinese authorities conducted the so called cultural genocide in Tibet?
The President: Absolutely. 98 percent of Tibetan monasteries and nunneries were destroyed, 99.9 percent of monks and nuns were disrobed. Practice of religion was banned. So you can clearly see that was designed for cultural assimilation. Even now the Tibetan language as medium of instruction is not allowed at university level, high school level and middle school level.
Yaakov Ahimeir: You understand of course that for the state of Israel it’s very difficult and complicated to express sympathy to your cause because of the relation of Israel with People’s Republic of China.
The President: What we pursue is a non-violent process and what we ask for genuine autonomy, it’s legal as per the constitution of China. So the Israeli leaders should not have any hesitation in supporting Middle Way Approach, and a non-violent approach.
Yaakov Ahimeir: I understand that the Chinese authorities are trying to develop Tibet and to open Tibet to tourist. What can you advice the Israeli tourist before he goes to Tibet?
The President: If you go through a Chinese travel agency, if you are taken around by a Chinese tour guide, if you stay in Chinese hotel and if you eat in Chinese restaurant then you wouldn’t see anything. Might as well stay in Israel. But if you stay in a Tibetan hotel, eat in Tibetan restaurant and if you are shown around by Tibetan tour guides, then maybe you will see something about Tibet. So that’s how we encourage tourist to go to Tibet, but be careful that you would not be shown around by a Chinese tour guide, but be shown around by Tibetan tour guide.
Yaakov Ahimeir: What is wrong with Chinese tour guide?
The President: They will say Tibetans are so happy, Tibet is a socialist paradise, Tibetans are masters of their own region. They will say all that, but in reality it’s not true.
Yaakov Ahimeir: Do you believe that in your lifetime you’ll see an independent Tibet?
The President: That is our aspiration, so not only within my lifetime, very soon we believe that Tibetans inside and outside Tibet will be reunited with basic freedom and His Holiness the Dalai Lama will return back to Tibet, where he belongs.
– Interview Transcribed by Tenzin Lhakmon, Communication Officer, Sikyong’s office