It is a great honor and a true blessing to be in the presence of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as you all know and agree, is the beacon of hope and a messenger of peace and compassion for the world. For the Tibetans, His Holiness is the life and soul of Tibet. Today is the Tibet Support Group’s seventh meeting and I doubt there is anyone here who has not met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is not touched by his message of compassion and who is not his friend. You all are here because we call you friends of Tibet and the Tibetan people but first and foremost, you all are friends of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
I would also like to thank the Director of St. Louis University for letting us use the auditorium and facilities for the next few days. Thomas Mann, for being always there for Tibet and the Tibetan cause at the European Union. My friend, Henri Malosse for being very courageous in coming to Dharamsala on 10th March, our National Uprising Day when he was an official commissioner of one of the twelfth commission of the European Union. He was ranked fifth in the protocol but he came to Dharamsala and gave us a speech of encouragement and support which means a lot to us. He obviously received some calls afterwards from as we know the embassy and higher ups but he stood up for Tibet and the Tibetan people. I would also like to thank Chirstian Dan Preda for your kind support and for being a staunch supporter of human rights. Your voice for the Tibetan people in this critical time is extremely important and highly appreciated.
After me, Jan Peumans and others will speak to this gathering. I would like to thank all of them on behalf of the Central Tibetan Administration.
I can clearly see that the seventh Tibet Support Groups’ meeting has gathered both our old and new friends. There are some grey hair and some dark hair. I hope this will be a gathering which has the wisdom of the elders and the enthusiasm of the youths. Nonetheless, both the elder and the younger generations have the determination, solidarity and support for the Tibetan people. Combining wisdom and enthusiasm will energize the three days meeting and in these three days, we will have great ideas and great events for the future and we will have a success story in a few years to come. Tibetans are a bit superstitious and seventh is considered lucky number by many around the world. I hope seventh lucky TSG meeting’s recommendations and resolutions will be fully implemented so that Tibetans in Tibet who have been waiting for almost six decades will feel that their aspirations and dreams have finally been fulfilled. We have 250 participants from 50 different countries including friend Richard Gere here and amongst us we have 29 Chinese friends. And Chen Guangchen is of course well known to all of you. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for being here.
I know being a supporter of Tibet is not easy. As I said yesterday, it is unpaid and voluntary. You have to pay from your own pocket and you have to spend your own time and the Chinese Embassy keeps you busy. With the recent rising economic status of China, your own government and the leaders are forgetting the very principles on which the European Union was founded and on which many of the constitutions of democracies around world have been drafted. In that sense, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama always says, you all are not just friends of Tibet and Tibetan people but you are all friends of justice, peace and freedom. I hope you will remind your leaders from time to time to make comments, statements and resolutions to support Tibet and the Tibetan people. The next few years will be critical, especially the next five years. 2017 and 2018 is important. In 2017, there will be changes in the Chinese leadership. Xi Xinping is likely to stay and may be the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as well but other five or six will change. And in the politburo, among twenty to twenty three leaders, major changes are likely. But most importantly in the Central Committee of 300 members, 98 or 99 are already retiring, or have passed away or have to leave. All these leadership changes will happen at the end of 2017. Hence, friends of Tibet and Tibetan people around the world from fifty countries have to send a loud, clear and peaceful message to Beijing that it is time to engage in dialogue with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in order to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully. 2018 is important because it will be the 60th anniversary of Tibetans in exile. 60 years since His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Tibet to exile in India with 80,000 Tibetans. On the one hand, as Thomas Mann and others have testified, CTA under the leadership and vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a story of success. Around the world, there are 60 million or so refugees and Diasporas around the world, from among them, Tibetan diaspora is a story of success. We have a democratic system, we run our own schools, our own hospitals, our own foreign offices. We have 265 monasteries and nunneries where 42,000 monks and nuns are educated. Thousands have gone back and revived Buddhism in Tibet. All those major monasteries destroyed before and during the Cultural Revolution were rebuild and revived in exile. Because of these revival, Buddhism is reviving back in Tibet as well as around the world. Buddhist Centres under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has spread Buddhism around the world. Most importantly, His Holiness the Dalai Lama dissects Buddhism into science, philosophy and religion. Neuro-scientists’ interest in Buddhism are growing. In the next three days, in the Mind and Life conference, many scientists will engage in the Buddhist wisdom of mind and mindfulness. This is the progress we have made. Yet on the other hand, Tibetans are still repressed and Tibet is still under occupation. I am sure you all have read about the recent demolition of Larung Gar, one of the major monastic institutes in Tibet. It was founded in the 1980s by the reverent Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. He wanted a solitary place for meditation but followers from all parts of Tibet including China flocked to the place. The monastery grew up to a capacity of 20,000 monks, nuns and religious-seekers. There were voluntarily built houses and huts. But the Chinese government thought otherwise. In 2001, the Chinese government destroyed a major portion of the monastery and this year yet another major portion of the monastery was destroyed because of which three nuns who found it too unbearable to watch the huts they built destroyed, committed suicide. Rinzin Dolma was 20 some years old, Tsering Dolma was 20 some years old, Sempa was also a very young nun. They went to this place to meditate, to pray, to gain wisdom but the Chinese government thought otherwise. They destroyed this peaceful sanctuary and the nuns committed suicide leaving a note that says that everything they had is being destroyed and it is better to leave this world then stay on. This is the current grim situation in Tibet. 144 Tibetans burned themselves. When someone slaps you, you feel hurt, you feel angry but to burn oneself is not easy. You have to pour petrol and gas over your body, light and then die. It is an act of determination and desperation. No one gives one’s life that easily. Not just one Tibetan in Tibet, or ten, not just fifty or hundred but a total of hundred and forty four. This reflects how repressive the Chinese government’s policies are, how systematic the pains and sufferings are. Hence, Tibetans in Tibet find it unacceptable that nothing is changing for the better. Recently, the so called Tibet Autonomous Region got its new Party Secretary Wu Yingjie. In his first press conference, he said, “we have to criticize the Dalai Lama more strongly. This is better for the world and better for China.” Hardline policies are continuing not just in implementation but also in rhetoric. You might have also read that the status of Nagchu prefecture was promoted to a city status. This is the sixth prefecture. Now there is only one left to be promoted to or levated to a city status. Now from a developmental point of view, you might think that when a prefecture is upgraded to a city, it is a good thing, but for Tibetans, it is not. It is more urbanization, meaning restrictions imposed are lifted, allowing Chinese migrants to come in thousands. We read that through the train and buses every day, two to three thousand Chinese come to Tibet for business and to settle. The Chinese government’s strategy is to make Tibetans a minority in their own region and turn Tibet into China. Hence, there is political repression, cultural assimilation and denial of religious freedom. Environmental destruction is on-going. Social discrimination is taking place. Because of all these, we have to galvanize and energize ourselves. Elders with wisdom and young TSG participants with enthusiasm, all of us together can send a powerful message to Beijing that injustice will not be tolerated, Tibetan deserve our own freedom.
Chinese have also introduced the grid system in Tibet, meaning, every Tibetan has to carry second generation bio metric chip ID card during travel. A nomad from Amdo travelling to Lhasa, have to swipe the ID at all check posts. Chinese officials will know which nomadic village he is from and overtime they will trace his every movement. If a nomad travels three to four different places a year, once they swipe the ids, their movements are known. The imposing of the Grid system means that repression is becoming more systematic. Everyone is followed, everyone is tracked, and everyone is accounted for under the present Chinese system. And they have also introduced neighborhood watch system. Before, whole neighborhood of hundred and two hundred people will have one person who represent the communist party system. Now, divided into five family unit and each of the five family unit have to rotate to be the chief and the policy is to give access and take security which means, you have access to facilities if abide by the security of the system, meaning every neighbor have to be careful because the next door is a potential spy of the Chinese government. And this grid system is making it extremely difficult. Hence, given this grim reality in Tibet, every three year and this being the seventh, we meet together to share ideas, brainstorm, strategize and come out with a plan to make the Middle Way Approach successful. The Middle Way Policy is the right policy envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and unanimously adopted by the Tibetan parliament. We have our honorable speaker in this chamber as well. We have to make dialogue happen between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the representatives of the Chinese government for a peaceful solution to the cause of the Tibetan people.
Let me conclude by saying that I firmly believe that His Holiness’ vision of peace and reconciliation will succeed. I do believe that Tibetans’ dream of returning to Tibet will succeed, I do believe and fervently hope, because I have never been to Tibet, that we will go back to Lhasa, to walk the streets of Jokhang and drink butter tea with Tibetan bread.
And we will walk the streets with chang in the evening. And we will walk the streets of Ramoche Tsuglakhang where we will have lunch, Tibetan momos and Shabaklap. And we will walk in front of the Potala palace where we will all dance to Gorshe, the round circular dance, and look at the Potala palace and witness His Holiness the Dalai Lama giving Kalachakra in the big ground in front of Potala Palace. When Chinese destroyed some of the old architecture in front of Potala Palace and created this big ground, Tibetans in Lhasa aptly named it Dukhor Thangkha- Kalachakra ground. The Chinese have planned something differently but Tibetan interpreted it differently. And hence, when I say His Holiness will be and should be able to give Kalachakra in front of the Potala Palace, it is the wish of Tibetans inside Tibet. They have aptly named the ground. So I hope they will all come and walk to Norbulingkha and enjoy the beautiful garden, and the flowers of Norbulingkha palace. I think millions of nomads will come from all three regions of Tibet to Lhasa and we will have a big celebration. When the day come, which will come, I think hundreds and thousands of elder Tibetans who have left us, the 144 self-immolators, the three nuns who committed suicide and all those brave souls who have sacrificed for the cause of Tibet will look down from heaven and say “Good Job”. And all our TSG supporters who have left us will also say “Job Well Done”. And we all have to work hard to make it happen. And I do believe that will happen. Seventh lucky TSG meet will make it happen because this is Europe, a land where the Berlin wall came down and you are the veterans of the Berlin wall. And in this day and age where nationalism is on the rise and extremism is on the rise, we have to make it happen. With His Holiness’ message of peace we have to give a boost to nationalism and liberalism so that like the Berlin wall came down in Europe, we will make the wall in Tibet come down. With that hope and prayer, I do believe non-violence will prevail over violence, compassion will prevail over war and justice will prevail over injustice. And His Holiness the Dalai Lama will return to Tibet and this will be one of the best stories of the 21st century. This will happen because of our friends around the world who have come from far and wide, who have taken the trouble of coming here and be with us and who have send a clear message to Tibetans in Tibet that we are with you, and to Beijing that it’s time to listen to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. May peace prevail in Tibet and the world. Thank you very much.