We, the 70 representatives of Tibet Support Group organizations from 9 countries, gathered here at Rewari (Haryana), India, from 7th and 8th February 2002 to develop strategies to effectively support the struggle of the Tibetan people for freedom and justice, express our 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 representative of the Tibetan people.1
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 proposal he has made for substantive negotiation without any preconditions with Chinese leaders. We commend His Holiness? consistency of his position in this regard.
In order to support most effectively the Tibetans struggle for freedom, justice and human dignity, we decide the following actions to be undertaken by Asian Tibet Support Groups:
In order to improve communication and awareness of the Tibetan issue, each Asian TSG will develop a country specific media strategy towards this end, TSGs request the TGIE to prioritize publicity materials for use by TSGs during their media campaign. These materials will be made available in different languages of the Asian region.
A list of Tibet friendly media persons will be drawn up by TSGs. Strong networking between these media persons and the TSGs will be maintained. TSGs will provide the members of the media with current Tibet information. TSGs will request these media persons to write from time to time on Tibet related specific subjects like environment, religion, human rights, etc.
Boycott of ?Made in China? goods
TSGs will initiate a selective BOYCOTT campaign. Towards this end, TGIE or TPPRC will initiate a comprehensive time bound research program to clearly identify those products made in China, for example, a toy made in China to launch a toycott campaign, by inviting citizens not to buy ?Made in China? toys. This campaign program will be carried out by using appropriate material which would help make public aware of the plight of children in Tibet and China, which would discourage them from buying toys manufactured under such conditions.
Awareness of the situation inside Tibet and China will also be made by building functional coalitions with other appropriate NGOs, Rotary International, Lions Club, trade unions, industry chambers, CEOs of companies, as well as those merchants importing and selling Chinese goods to discourage doing business in ?Made in China? toys.
Campaign for the release of the Panchen Rinpoche
Coordinated campaigns will be conducted for the release of the youngest prisoner in the world ? the Panchen Rinpoche. This campaign could also tie up with the TOYCOTT campaign against ?Made in China? toys by highlighting the plight of this youngest political prisoner in the world.
Olympic 2008 Games
International Tibet Campaigns should immediately commission a task force to devise appropriate campaign strategies for the 2008 Olympic games to be held in People?s Republic of China. All TSGs will concentrate on this campaign. Should there be no improvement in the situation of human rights in Tibet by the time the games are held, then TSGs will launch a campaign to have the games boycotted by appealing to individual athletes and support federations around the world to boycott the games.
Railway project and river water diversion
TSGs will undertake on a priority basis the campaign against the railway project in Tibet as well as a campaign to condemn and oppose Chinese attempts to divert and regulate the river system of the Tibetan plateau.
TSGs will initiate campaigns for the preservation of the Tibetan culture inside Tibet. Appropriate material will be used to highlight the need and importance to preserve Tibetan culture inside Tibet.
Building new supports
TGIE and TSGs will make efforts to establish new TSGs in the Asian region. This will be done by first examining the possibilities of establishing TSGs in those countries which enjoy civil liberties.
On the other hand, existing and strong TSGs of the Asian region will strengthen nascent TSGs of the region.
In addition, TSGs will also identify all sub communities settled in different Asian countries for possible individual support from them should it not be possible to establish a functional TSG there.
TSG Coordination and Networking
A steering committee for Asian TSGs will be formed which will be non-government in nature.
A larger Council of Asian TSGs will be formed, which will be entrusted with main responsibility of forming guidelines for Asian TSGs with the view to bring about a greater degree of transparency and accountability.
Also, an Asian TSG discussion list as developed by the Canada Tibet Committee for TSGs in general, will be developed for all TSGs in the Asian region. E-mail and a collective website for the Asian TSGs and internet broadcasting could be some of the other methods used for better networking amongst the Asian TSGs.
Building of political network
To develop a stronger network with the political parties and politicians on Tibet related issues, TSGs will publish a forth-nightly or a monthly news bulletin for distribution amongst this target group to keep them fully informed of the current situation inside Tibet.
In addition, this news bulletin will be useful for other opinion makers, TSGs and individual friends of Tibet. Accurate, concise and timely information appearing in the form of a forth-nightly or a monthly bulletin will serve to counter Chinese propaganda on Tibet.
Parliamentary group for Tibet should be formed in as many countries of the Asian region as possible.
Individual members of parliament should be invited to visit the Tibetan parliament based in Dharamsala.
TSGs will lobby their political parties and individual leaders to convince them to include Tibet in their political agenda and election manifesto.
UNCHR and other international bodies
Asian TSGs will undertake coordinated lobbying of their respective governments, who are members of the UNCHR, to support the Tibet resolution at the 58th session of the Human Rights Commission.
TSGs will undertake outreach programs to international bodies like the ILO, WHO, UNICEF, etc., on Tibet issue.
Given the special links with the peoples of Asia, TSGs in the region will enlist support of spiritual leaders from various faiths.
Attempts will be made to celebrate Budh Poornima in various Asian countries. TSGs and TGIE will request His Holiness the Dalai Lama to visit Lumbini – the birth place of Lord a prayer for world peace.
TSGs will observe the Tibetan National Uprising Day of 10th March and International Human Rights Day falling on 10th December by organizing protests, marches and other forms of peaceful actions.
Training programs for Tibetan youth
TSGs will collaborate with TGIE and other Tibetan NGOs to organize leadership training camps for the Tibetan youth.
Meeting with international leaders
To help strengthen the Tibetan movement and to solicit support, it is imperative that Tibetan leaders meet with as many international leaders as possible. In this regard, TSGs will help provide as many opportunities as possible for Tibetan leaders, other than His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to interact with international leaders.
The importance of reaching out to the Overseas Chinese was emphasized, especially to the members of the Overseas Chinese Democratic Movement to sensitize them on the situation inside Tibet.
TSGs will also organize Tibet festivals. These festivals will not only dwell on the cultural aspect, but would also contain talks and discussion on the prevailing situation inside Tibet and the dangers that lie in not preserving its culture, religion and Tibetan way of life. Through these festivals, TSGs will bring about more awareness on the Tibetan issue, which would encourage citizens to support the cause.
All India Students for Free Tibet expressed the desire to have an international students? conference organized outside India to bring together students in support of Tibet.
All the TSGs present at this conference agree to write to the Government of Nepal appreciating their consistency on the policy on Tibet, but at the same time requesting them to look into the present problems facing recent arrivals from Tibet.
All the TSGs present at this conference also agree to pass a resolution appreciating the healthy growing democracy in Taiwan and request the Taiwanese Government for the abolition of the Mongolian-Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC).
The first Asian TSG Statement and Action plan is based on the discussed and amended draft conference action plan emitting from the working groups. The Asian TSGs will undertake all or parts of the action plan as suitable to each group. The review of the action plan will be taken up during the next meeting of the Asian TSG. However, no time frame for the regularity of this meeting has been agreed upon.
1The Secretary General of BISIG Youth, 27-A, Matapat St., Barangay Pinyahan Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, opposes this section and requests to endorse the words ?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 the legitimate representative and government of Tibet as mandated by the Tibetan people?.
ILO : International Labor Organization
UNICEF : United Nations International Children?s Educational Fund
UNCHR : United Nations Commission on Human Rights
WHO : World Health Organization
TGIE : Tibetan Government-in-exile
TPPRC : Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Center
TSG : Tibet Support Group
We the 54 representatives of Tibet Support Groups (TSGs) organisations in India gathered here at Rewari Haryana, India from 9th to 10th February 2002 to develop strategies to effectively support the struggle of the Tibetan people for freedom and justice, express our 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 recognised right to self-determination and recognise His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-exile to be the sole legitimate representative of the Tibetan people.
We support His Holiness? call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which is caused by China?s occupation of Tibet and for the proposal he has made for substantive negotiation with Chinese leaders and the aspirations of the Tibetan people. We commend His Holiness? consistency of his position in this regard.
In order to support most effectively the Tibetans struggle for freedom, justice and human dignity, we decide the following actions to be undertaken by Indian Tibet Support Groups:
All Indian TSGs have agreed to implement as far as possible activities emanating from the Asian TSG Action Plan. In addition, all Indian TSGs will undertake the following India specific action plan as per their capabilities and priorities.
- TSGs will focus on developing more grass root support amongst Indians and Tibetans by forming new support chapters/groups. Towards this end all groups will continue their efforts to enhance awareness for greater support for the Tibetan cause amongst Indians through variety of awareness programmes, especially in the Himalayan region along the Tibetan border. Side by side TSGs will also continue strengthen their leadership with Tibetans through various welfare activities, in this regard medical camps could be one such activity which could be organised in various places.
- TSGs will lobby with local MPs and MLAs and leaders of political parties by inviting them to their local functions. Here information on Tibet, pamphlets as well as video cassettes on Tibet should be produced for distribution.
- A Satyagraha programme will be organized in Dharchula Uttaranchal in May or June 2002.
- TSGs will organize essay or quiz competition on Tibet issue for students.
- TSGs may produce and sell on no profit basis Tibetan calendar with brief information on Tibet in which message related to Tibet will be published.
- Organise workshops to selected member of each TSG on public relations with media persons and other issues related to Tibet.
- Literature will be distributed during religious festivals or any place where mass gathering takes place.
- Specific programmes and actions relating to Parliamentary action:8.1: To strengthen further political support, TSGs will contact MLAs/MPs. This target group will be made aware of problems of common interest to India and Tibet such as the Railway project in Tibet, the environment fallout of the railway project as well as the problems that India will face one the river waters in Tibet are diverted by China. The other common topics will also include the difficulties related to carrying out a pilgrimage to Kailash and Mansarovar and Shakyamuni in Lhasa for the Buddhists, as well as impact of Chinese goods entering the Indian market. For all these meetings appropriate and up to date information will be made available to TSGs by DIIR, India Desk and TPPRC. Such contacts will also facilitate the revival of the All Party Parliamentary Forum for Free Tibet.8.2: In addition to MPs and MLAs, TSGs will also contact bureaucrats from related Ministries for periodical briefings on Tibet. Invitation to all of them will be extended for a visit to Dharamshala.8.3: TSGs should create a conducive environment, which will ensure that His Holiness can be invited to address State Assemblies.
- With regard to the railway project, TSGs will contact interest groups such as industry chambers of comers, women groups, environment groups, trade unions, human rights groups to explain the implications the railway project will have on India vis-?-vis security, environment, impact on business, security of jobs, etc. Selective boycott of Chinese goods may be encouraged. Letters of objections will be addresses to any foreign agency/industrial agency offering technical support to the railway project. Environmental destruction will be highlighted.
- TSGs should lobby and convince Indian government to support or to abstain from voting with China during the 58th UNCHR held between March to April. This can be done via a letter campaign to the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Home Minister and members of India?s human rights groups.
- TSGs will launch intensive campaigns in favour of Tibet on 7th (when China invaded Tibet) to 20th October (when China attacked India) ? such as press conferences, taking out procession, seminars, festivals, as well as sending articles on Tibet to the press.
- TSGs will approach journalists on the issue of Tibet, for example, by inviting media persons from regions to visit Dharamshala for creating awareness of the movement as well as the functioning of the TGIE. At the same time TSGs must not forget to contradict false propaganda by sending out timely articles to the press.
- For a better understanding of the situation inside Tibet, TSGs must be encouraged to visit Tibet.
- TSGs will voluntarily help DIIR in translating or getting documents translated into various regional languages.
- Support amongst students should be strengthened by forming new Students for Free Tibet chapters. During such initial meetings, specialists may be invited to give talks to students for a better understanding of the common interest between India and Tibet. Local TSGs will assist by contacting various universities and colleges.
- Seven regional conferences of TSGs will be organised with the help of the Core Group, India Desk and TPPRC.
- TSGs will organise cultural programmes in collaboration with TIPA and other appropriate organisations to generate awareness on Tibet?s cultural heritage, history, politics, etc. A photograph exhibition may be held at the same time with the help of DIIR, TPPRC and India Desk.
- The TSG concerned will lobby to have the Bhoti language of the Himalayan region recognised by the government a san official language of India for the sake of survival of the Himalayan culture.
- 2004 will be dedicated to Tibet and will be observed as the Year of Tibet.
- TSGs will seek the help of Himalayan people and coordination of Himalayan Parivar and other like-minded organisations to include the issue of Tibet during their Himalayan Year 2002 celebrations.
- The participants present here have decided to form a Core Group for Tibetan Cause with the following structure:
CORE GROUP FOR TIBETAN CAUSE
The Core Group shall function mainly as a central coordination body of Tibet Support Groups active in India. It will be an informal and democratic body, which shall have the following functions:
- Function as a think-tank from amongst its members. This think-tank shall draw the benefit of expert advice of individuals as well as a panel of experts on issues of immediate concern. The panel will be comprised of experts and leading thinkers who are sympathetic to Tibet?s cause but they need not be members of any TSG.
- Planning: The Core Group (CG) shall be responsible for identifying issues and planning short term as well as long term campaigns for TSGs.
- Coordination and Networking: The CG shall coordinate and liaise between various TSGs.
- Advice: The CG shall provide all possible expert advice to TSGs in their functioning on strategic projects.
- Information collection and dissemination: All relevant information including current developments and news about activities undertaken by various TSG will be circulated among all TSGs.
- Liaison and Lobbying: The CG shall also undertake lobbying among opinion makers in government, parliament, etc., for the cause of Tibet.
- Membership: All individual units of Indian TSGs shall be members of the general body of CG. Membership is Rs.100 per year per unit.
- Organisation: 1) General Body; 2) Steering Committee (SC): as mentioned in point (g), total members 15 to start with. Each umbrella TSG shall nominate one member as well as some un-attached senior members for the first year. More members to be incorporated with mutual understanding later. The steering committee will be headed by a convenor who will be assisted by two co-convenors. The members of co-convenors can be expanded in due course with increasing activity.For all practical purposes, the members of the SC in Delhi will share information with other members of the SC outside Delhi. The term of the first steering committee will be for one year.Execution of ideas and plans of CG: India Desk shall be responsible for providing all required facilities and services to CG and TSGs. These include:
- Liaisoning with CG
- Coordination with TSGs for action and implementation
- Secretarial services to CG
- Office space to CG
- Media service for media coverage, etc.
As empowered by all the participants, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche nominated the following members of the Core Group. They will function from today, February 10, 2002 till February 9, 2003 after which this composition and structure will be reviewed by the General Body of the Core Group for Tibetan Cause.
Steering Committee (2002-2003)
- Dr. N.K. Trikha
- Mr. Vijay Kranti, Delhi
- Dr. Anand Kumar, Delhi
- Mr. P.K. Devaiah, Bylakuppe (South)
- Mr. Arvind Nikose, Wardha (West)
- Mr. Surendra Kumar, Bihar (East)
- Dr. Kuldeep Chand Agnihotri, Himachal (North)
- Mr. Anto V., Chennai
- Mr. K.B. Bakshi, Meerut
- Dr. Chaman Lal Gupta, Dharamshala
- Mr. Khogen Singh, Manipur
- Ven. Lama Chosphel Zotpa, Ladakh
- Mr. Satish Chauhan, Delhi
- Mr. P.G. Jyotikar, Ahmedabad
The meeting concluded successfully by a concluding speech by Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, Kalon Tripa, and Mr. Karma Chophell, Chairman of ATPD and TPPRC.
Thank you so much for setting aside these few days from your busy schedules to focus your attention on the issue of Tibet. On behalf of the Kashag, I would like to express our deep appreciation to the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation for making this conference possible. On the international scene we Tibetans and our friends and supporters have achieved a great deal in trying to focus the international community?s attention on the issue of Tibet because of the support of the Friedrich- Naumann Foundation. I would also like to thank the Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre for organising this important conference.
The Worldwide Tibet Movement
I take this opportunity to express the heart-felt appreciation of all Tibetans to all of you who have gathered here today. I thank you for your commitment and dedication to the cause of the six million people of Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama keeps reminding us that this expression of international support for Tibet has become the fourth refuge in the political vocabulary of the Tibetan people.
The worldwide Tibet movement we have been able to develop through the years is one of the unique international coalition movements in the world. Devoted to one issue, it has fired the dedication of thousands of talented individuals across the globe, across political boundaries and religious divides. The talent, dedication and enthusiasm you and others bring to support the cause of the Tibetan people makes the worldwide Tibet movement one of the great movements of non-violence in our contemporary times.
We need not look too far to see that this movement is taken seriously by those in power and those who matter. Soon after the conclusion of the Third International Tibet Support Group Conference held in May 2000 in Berlin, Zhao Qizheng, the minister of the Information Office of the State Council of the People?s Republic of China, hosted a meeting consisting of Tibet specialists, scholars and party cadres on 12 June 2000 in Beijing. At the meeting he told the gathering, ?The action plan of the third Tibet Support Group Conference, organised not very long ago, was focussed on strategy. It openly proposed international campaigns to obstruct or completely stop the Chinese government projects and joint-venture foreign investments that do not benefit the people of the Tibet Autonomous Region.?
Zhao Qizheng further stated, ?Therefore, there are numerous reasons why we cannot afford to take lightly our struggle against the Dalai clique and our external propaganda work on the Tibet issue. We must take this work very seriously. The coming period will be very crucial for our struggle against the Dalai clique. In a short time, it is difficult to reverse the present situation where the enemy?s fortune on the international scene is running high and ours low.?
Further down in his address, Zhao Qizheng, in an off-hand tribute to the efforts of the Tibet Support Groups admitted, ?The external propaganda on Tibet issue is a very complicated matter. The Dalai clique and hostile western forces have a history of several decades of anti-China activities and propaganda. As well as having complete experience and expertise, they command an army of specialists in this field. They have also developed a complete network of cooperation between nations, between organizations, between parliaments and governments, between governments and peoples, between grassroot organizations, between media and governments, between NGOs and media, etc… In the struggle for public opinion our adversary is an organised international anti-China force.?
That China takes the international Tibet movement and the Central Tibetan Administration seriously is noted by hard-nosed magazines like the Economist, the bible of all seasoned reporters. In its 31 December 2001 issue the Economist examines the comparative effectiveness of the world?s two dozen or so governments in exile. It has this to say about the Central Tibetan Administration. ?By far the most serious is the India-based Tibetan government in exile, headed by the Dalai Lama. The best proof that it matters is that China, the occupying power in Tibet since 1949, detests it.? The Economist article is dismissive of other governments in exile but concludes the article by saying, ?The only exceptions are those outfits with some sort of military and security arm, like the Palestine Liberation Organisation, or those lucky enough to have a leader like the Dalai Lama, whose moral stature lends the whole organisation weight.?
I have cited these quotes to simply to give you an idea of how far the Tibet movement has travelled because in the 1960?s and 1970?s even the most sympathetic friends of Tibet said that the Tibetan people?s efforts to struggle for the freedom of Tibet was like beating a dead yak to life.
These days the worldwide Tibet movement is taken seriously by the international community and above all by China. This enormous change in international perception of the issue of Tibet is due to the quality of leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, determination of the people of Tibet and the hard work, energy and dynamism of the friends of Tibet spread across the globe.
Worsening Conditions in Tibet
Having said this, I am sorry to report that despite our best efforts, we have not been able to improve the conditions for the people of Tibet. On the contrary, the conditions have worsened in the last several years. The worsening conditions arise because of the change in China?s Tibet policy. In order to ?solve? China?s Tibet problem, Beijing is unleashing the forces of market economy to both dilute Tibet?s cultural heritage and divert the attention of the people of Tibet from their tragic political fate. On the other hand, China is launching a massive external propaganda to whitewash the Chinese communist atrocities in Tibet.
This two-pronged strategy is making it that much difficult for us to counter Chinese actions in Tibet. We are not against economic development projects in Tibet as long as these serve the interests of the majority of the Tibetan people. But the developmental activities that China is initiating in Tibet are geared towards facilitating Chinese exploitation of Tibet?s natural resources and speeding up of Chinese colonial settlement of Tibet. These two trends strike at the heart of the Tibetan ability to survive and operate as a distinct culture. They constitute China?s Final Solution to its Tibet problem.
China?s new policy of looking at Tibet as a source of abundant resources and as a place for dumping its excess population is having a devastating effect on the Tibetan people, who, unable to compete with more skilled Chinese settlers, are becoming increasingly marginalised by the forces of globalisation. Having already lost their country, Tibetans are losing their jobs to Chinese settlers streaming into Tibet to take advantage of the economic boom.
Official Chinese encouragement to unemployed workers and farmers to migrate west is part of Beijing?s western China development programme, a programme designed to relieve the coastal Chinese provinces of the burden of hosting millions of unemployed workers. Already, according to official Chinese figures there are 6.9 million workers who were listed as unemployed in the urban areas at the end of 2001. About 150 million are unemployed in the rural areas. These figures of unemployment are alarming the Beijing leadership who fear that disgruntled workers and farmers might stage copycat demonstrations that have triggered the recent political crisis in Argentina. For this reason, from the day one of the Argentine riots, the standing committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party ordered the media to play down coverage of the violent scenes, particularly how the first President and his cabinet buckled under the wrath of the masses. Beijing feels that packing off these jobless workers to the sparsely-populated regions in the west, including Tibet, might stave off a potentially dangerous unrest.
This policy is accompanied in Tibet by renewed political and religious persecution. Last summer thousands of monks and nuns, including nearly one thousand Chinese students, were expelled from the monastic institute and nunnery of Serthar in eastern Tibet. They were expelled for refusing to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Even their living quarters were demolished to prevent the expelled monks and nuns from returning.
Implications of ?Modernisation? of Tibet for Neighbours
One component of Beijing?s western China development programme which has a direct bearing on Tibet?s neighbours, particularly India, is the present construction of a railway line linking Tibet with Golmud and by default with China. That there is a clear political agenda behind the Lhasa-Golmud railway line was clearly spelled out by President Jiang Zemin in an interview he gave to the New York Times and which appeared in its 10 August 2001 edition. President Jiang Zemin said, ?Recently a project has been launched to build a railway railroad from Golmud to Lhasa. It will be built through permafrost area at 4,000 to 5,000 metres elevation. Some people advised me not to go ahead with this project because it is not commercially viable. I said this is a political decision, we will make this project succeed at all costs, even if there is a commercial loss.?
This statement clearly reveals that China is intent on using the new railway line to speed up Tibet?s economic integration with China. The other dimension of the new railway line in Tibet once it becomes functional in 2006 is military. We believe that the military dimension of the new railway line in Tibet will have an adverse effect on India?s security along the whole length of the Indo-Tibetan border. Experts estimate that the PLA troops stationed along the Indo-Tibetan border have at present rations to last only for six months. Once the railway line becomes operational, the PLA troops stationed along the one of the longest borders in the world will have year-round supply of rations. At the same time the speed of China?s troop deployment in Tibet will become greatly enhanced which will weigh heavily on India. The railway will also facilitate China?s ability to transport its cheap goods across the Tibetan plateau and dump them in Nepal and areas where India and China do occasional cross border trade. The inroads made by cheap Chinese goods into India by sea has made several Indian industries, especially those that manufacture battery cells and toys, go out of business. The completion of the new railway line will only exacerbate the problem and will have a negative impact on the livelihood of many Indian workers.
China?s commercial penetration of the Himalayas will be greatly enhanced once China completes the three other proposed railway lines. The three are the Lhasa-Lanzhou, Lhasa-Chengdu and Lhasa-Dali railway lines. The Lhasa-Dali railway line when completed will link Tibet to the Malayan Peninsula.
What China Does in Tibet Matters to Asia
It is not only what China is doing militarily in Tibet but what impact its development policies has on the Tibetan environment that matters hugely to the people of Asia. The Environment and Development Desk of the Department of Information and International Relations brought out a report on the state of Tibet?s environment in 2000. The report states, ?The most political commodity of the 20th century was oil. With environmentalists identifying water as the resource that will lead to wars in this century, Tibet?s pivotal importance in sustaining life on earth will spiral. The Tibetan Plateau is the source to the world?s ten great river systems which flow downstream to feed the most populous region on earth. China, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, Lao and Thailand all depend upon Tibetan watersheds and rivers for their survival. That adds up to 47% of the world?s population.?
So what China does in Tibet has an impact, in many cases negative impact on the lives of millions who live downstream. One negative impact of China?s rampant exploitation of Tibet?s forest resources is the annual floods that devastate parts of India, Bangladesh and China itself. Four years ago, the worst flooding of the Yangtse in 40 years left between 3,656 and 10,000 dead in August 1998 and a year later 66 million were affected and over 400 dead in a second deluge.?
The Need for Greater Asian Support for Tibet as a Peace Zone
Despite the fact that what China does in Tibet invariably has an enormous negative impact on the lives of millions in Asia, the glaring fact is that there is poor understanding of the issue of Tibet and the Tibetan freedom struggle in Asia as compared to the West. This is a Tibetan failing as well as a reflection of the dominance of China throughout much of Asia. One reason for calling this conference of Asian Tibet Support Groups is for us to brainstorm how this can be rectified and how we can together inject new energy and dynamism in the Tibet movement in Asia.
And there are compelling reasons for people in Asia to make the Tibet movement succeed. The Tibet movement is one of the oldest non-violent movements in Asia, led by a leader who has consistently shown that he has the interests of the whole world at heart. And the goal of the Tibetan freedom struggle is the restoration of Tibet as a zone of peace, as proposed in His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Five-Point Peace Plan in 1987. In the peace plan, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, ?The establishment of such a peace zone would be in keeping with Tibet?s historical role as a peaceful and neutral Buddhist nation and buffer separating the continent?s great powers… Historically, relations between China and India were never strained. It was only when Chinese armies marched into Tibet, creating for the first time a common border, that tensions arose between these two powers, ultimately leading to the 1962 war.?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama proposed in the plan the complete de-militarisation of Tibet. His Holiness said, ?This would be achieved under an international agreement which would satisfy China?s legitimate security needs and build trust among the Tibetan, Indian, Chinese and other peoples of the region. This is in everyone?s best interest, particularly that of China and India, as it would enhance their security, while reducing the economic burden of maintaining high troop concentrations on the disputed Himalayan border.? In his Strasbourg proposal and since then repeatedly His Holiness the Dalai Lama said he is not seeking independence for Tibet but working towards genuine self-rule for the Tibetan people in the overall political framework of the People?s Republic of China.
This Middle-Way Approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama remains the central policy and the guiding light of the new Tibetan administration.
Especially in the aftermath of the 11 September tragedy in the United States, there is an urgent need for Asia and the international community to support His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s Middle-Way Approach and the non-violent freedom movement of the Tibetan people. His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s proposal for a future of dignity and freedom for the people of Tibet can only enhance peace and security in Asia and not substract from it. The 11 September tragedy of the last year teaches us yet again the importance of preventing violent conflicts, before it is too late. We believe that it is a mistake for the international community to focus its attention only on regions already beset by open violence. We believe that this promotes further violence, since those that desist from its use are largely ignored, regardless of the legitimacy of their cause. We believe the promotion of a global culture of non-violence should be an essential, even central, component of any international strategy to fight and prevent terrorism.
The New Kashag?s Central Policy
I would like to end here by conveying to you the greetings and felicitations of the new Kashag. I also have the privilege and honour of being the first Tibetan in Tibet?s history to be directly elected to the post of Kalon Tripa. This mandate carries enormous responsibility during the most difficult period in Tibetan history. One primary responsibility of the new Kashag is to help fulfil the reasonable and just aspirations of the six million Tibetan people. In pursuit of this, I take this opportunity to inform you of the central policy of the new Kashag to realise genuine autonomy for Tibet through a negotiated settlement and honour its commitment to the principles of truth, non-violence and democracy in our freedom struggle.