Summary of Discussions held at the First International Conference of TSGs in Dharamshala from 8-9 March 1990
On the frequently stated premise that the years 1990-1995 will be critical to the Tibetan freedom movement, and that the struggle is now entering a vital new phase requiring new initiatives, the emphasis during Group Discussions was on strategies to take home from the meeting that could be implemented immediately. These covered both long and short- term goals.
The optimistic consensus was that great political headway could be achieved in immediate years if the efforts of both Tibetans in exile and Friends of Tibet around the world are coordinated, efficient and maximize limited resources and personnel.
A long and ambitious list of new global strategies and initiatives was drawn up as a result of the five Discussion Groups’ brainstorming sessions. Highlight decisions were to work towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama being invited overseas on state visits and to address the United Nations. Further on, it has been decided to establish May 13 as Human Rights Day for China and Tibet, to initiate international Tibetan Flag Days, to set up a computer information network (TIBETNET), to internationally publish the destruction of Tibet’s environment, to campaign more effectively with dissident Chinese students abroad, and finally: to intensify lobbying at the UN or through other governments and non-government bodies.
The group discussing parliamentary initiatives consolidated its thoughts into four areas of action to ensure that Tibet’s plight remains a high profile among world leaders.
Enforcing current law involves applying a strategy that has been initiated in America: international support groups and delegates – with assistance of the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet – would investigate laws in their own countries which can be invoked to bring pressure on China. The International Campaign for Tibet office in Washington DC has been looking into American laws passed to bring the Soviet Union to book for human rights abuses, and which could now be equally well applied to China. Washington is looking to invoke a US law forbidding import of goods manufactured by forced labor: this initiative would be reinforced by an international boycott of Chinese-made goods. Another American law being investigated by the Washington office denies trade benefits to countries inflicting human rights violations.
A second area of action was working towards official recognition of Tibet. To achieve this objective it was decided to consolidate efforts on three or four promising target countries (Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Namibia, Poland and Bulgaria were identified) and establish a Group of 100 for Tibet to lobby and support the initiative. The Group would include former Nobel Prize winners, human rights leaders and world statesmen, and their purpose would be to pressure governments to recognize Tibet’s separateness from China, and extend invitations for official state visits to His Holiness.
Two parliamentary resolutions were outlined which support groups and delegates should work towards raising and passing in parliaments throughout the world. The momentum for declaring May 13 as Human Rights Day for China and Tibet is already underway…spearheaded by Chinese Students for Democracy. The second resolution would commit each government to receive His Holiness on a state visit and to urge the UN to allow to addressing the General Assembly. (The Nobel Peace Price award now makes the latter resolution more tenable.)
The fourth initiative is complementary to the third: to establish an inter-parliamentary network of parliamentarians who are active in raising questions on Tibet. Several Dutch MPs who raised the idea and European members who have offered assistance would spearhead the informal network. A similar caucus of US Congressmen who care about Tibet is currently being formed and an Inter-parliamentary Consultation on Tibet is slated to be held in London in summer 1990.
Parliamentarians involved in the network would be asked to press for the three action areas identified by the Parliamentary Initiative Group.
In addition the Group discussed organizing a petition with a million signatures and researching trade figures between China and Western counteract the misconception – upon which vital political decisions have been based – that the West needs China economically more than China needs the West.
The UN & other international initiatives group generated more than 100 ideas in a rapid-fire brainstorming opening, and then grouped them into UN-focused initiatives, areas for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile to implement, education and research needs, contact, networking and information, ideas aimed at religious communities, the People’s Republic of China and non-UN initiatives.
There was a call for a permanent team to represent Tibet at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, to prepare data for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile negotiation team and keep year-round contact with UN personnel. It was preferred that Tibetans shall be a majority in those teams and an internship was proposed for a young Tibetan at the UN. The Tibetan Government-in-Exile should name a coordinator to work with the UN Team, and the Office of Information and International Relations, Dharamsala, should be taught to prepare data to conform to UN criteria. In addition a prominent Tibetan should be nominated by the Government to attend UN conferences with Michael van Walt, the Ultimate goal being that Tibetans will represent Tibetan issues an the UN in future.
In the area of research and education to bolster UN and other International Initiatives it was suggested that document shall be prepared that are uniform and on appropriate topics; these should include legal areas applying to specific UN laws, with briefs spelling out the Tibetan case under each law. It was also suggested that countries should be identifies which have, or have had, a struggle similar to Tibet’s. A paper should be prepared on the strategic geo-political importance of Tibet.
Concepts generated under contact and networking included the need for each country to have one person linked to the UN who is lobbying effort for Tibet, as well as the need for Tibetans and Tibet supporters to strive to join NGOs, youth leagues and environmental bodies in order to heighten awareness on the Tibet issue. They also included the need to show that Tibet supports other causes and to try to hold office and represent that organization at other forums, including the UN.
It was felt that a map showing Tibet’s true historic boundary would be beneficial. This could illustrate Chinese versus Tibetan population, Chinese military installations, prisons, nuclear waste, deforested regions and mineral resources. An information package of Tibet could be prepared for the UN and other bodies and this should be translated into major languages. Conversely, UN initiatives and the type of material needed to put forward cases should be translated into Tibetan and Chinese for circulation in Tibet.
To maximize the potential support of Tibet sympathizers, a political awareness program was suggested for the world network of Dharma centers. Appropriate activities could be regular pujas and meditations for peace in Tibet and in the world: occasional vigils and pujas staged outside Chinese embassies and walking meditations lead by multi-denominational religious leaders. Special emphasis was placed on building awareness in Southeast Asia to increase spheres of influence.
Military and economic sanction against PRC should be activated by both lobbying governments and by boycotting Chinese goods, and researching corporations dealing with China and supplying data on the situation in Tibet to CEOs of those corporations.
As a more effective liaison with the proliferation of non-UN agencies that can benefit Tibet, it was suggested that more international support groups are needed and that more International Campaign for Tibet offices should be established. These could dovetail efforts with special political committees, the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet and Tibetan environment groups.
On the Tibetan Government-in-Exile’s part, it was suggested that a UN desk should be set up et the Information Office and this should establish strong links with Offices of Tibet and international support groups and supply in-depth documentation to them. It was also recommended that the Dharamsala-based Government should lobby the UN directly and that it should be made possible for recent escapees from Tibet to address the UNHRC and NGOs to drive home the full impact of human rights atrocities.
Both the UN and Outreach groups emphasized the importance of working with the newly politicized Chinese Students for Democracy groups now raising militant voices in Western countries. But first it was felt that a set of guidelines should be issued from Dharamsala and Offices of Tibet to establish common goals and areas of ideological disagreement. In New York, Tibet supporters have already been demonstrating with Mainland Chinese students and the planned boycott of Chinese goods was suggested as another major activity that suited collaboration. The issue of imported goods manufactured by forced labor was seen as another area where Chinese students could lobby jointly with Tibetans.
Outreach members emphasized more effective use of existing organizations to increase support for the Tibet campaign and pressure on human rights organizations to see Tibet as a priority. Other important points were sending information to the tourism industry to establish the true situation in Tibet and developing awareness through cultural and arts and crafts exhibitions, tours by monks acting as goodwill ambassadors and lecture tours by former imprisoned monks, all organized in conjunction with Tibetan Youth Congress.
In the arena of stimulating international awareness, suggestions were put forward for an annual International Day of Tibet, a worldwide Tibetan Flag Day, ongoing Years of Tibet, as in the 1991 American initiative, and producing a world rock concert as well as a world Record for Tibet.
The MEDIA group called for a more cohesive press strategy at this critical period of Tibet’s political evolution. Even today, in the wake of the Nobel Prize, it was felt that the world in general is unfamiliar with the true situation in Tibet, and that includes the Chinese Students for Democracy. Good media coverage supports diplomacy, it was felt, and reminds politicians of the cause and at the same time educates the voting public.
Since Dharamsala is pitted against China’s monolithic Xinhua News Agency, which floods the world’s media with misinformation, it was suggested that the Government-in-Exile should concentrate on building up a more credible and visible media base.
Targeting for His Holiness’ tour of Europe and the USA in September 1990, the group suggested launching a pilot project to establish a new, assertive, high visibility press strategy. This would initially require a Press Team to be set up, comprising a senior Tibetan official and a press advisor with national campaign experience. The task would be to feed the world’s press, quietly and decisively as events break, so that momentum is always sustained.
It was further suggested that a permanent press agency shall be established in Dharamsala to disseminate information on both Tibet and the exile community. Feedind advance information on programs to the media was seen as a priority (the lack of media personnel covering His Holiness’ visit to the Berlin Wall in December 1989 was cited as a lost publicity opportunity). A longer-term suggestion was further journalism scholarships for Tibetans and work placement on either a US presidential or similar high-powered campaign.
Since Dharamsala is now computerized, a proposal has been to establish TIBETNET – a worldwide computer link-up providing instant newsbreaks, events, background data, etc. Further suggestions were for more sophisticated press kits, graphics, database archives and calendars of upcoming events.
An Environment Desk was planned to be established and a suggestion was made for an Environment Ministry to be set up in Dharamsala. The first and immediate activity was to key into Earth Day on April 22, 1990, and request His Holiness to plant a tree and release an official statement on Tibet’s environment. The Tibetan Women’s Association pledged to spearhead a tree-planting campaign and Tibet support groups were committed to contracting environment groups in their countries and enlisting Green Party activists and politicians. Demonstration outside Chinese embassies and sending information packages to countries neighboring Tibet, spelling out imminent environmental dangers, were other areas of immediate action.
Tibet’s newly formed “friends of the environment” will also be locating international environment conferences and arranging for delegates to be sent, as well as looking to join peace and anti-nuclear organizations.
As well as tree planting in exile communities, a campaign to start the reforestation of Tibet was launched. Initially this would involve seeds being provided to persons visiting or returning to Tibet. Lamas visiting Tibet would be briefed to educate Tibetans on the importance of raising new trees and a special kit would be prepared in Tibetan.
Keynote Address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the First International Conference of TSGs held in Dharamshala from 8-9 March 1990
Friends, as you all know the Tibetan people are generally strong believers in peace and we try our best to practice peace. Tibetan people by nature are gentle and the Tibetan people are also profoundly religious. Now there is every danger that these people are swept completely from the face of this earth. Yet we are very encouraged that people who believe in truth, people who support justice, come to the support of the Tibetan people and it is because of this kind of feeling that you have all gathered here.
Generally when a person has passed into a fortunate time it is very likely that he has many friends. It is when a person does not pass through a very fortunate time that he has very few friends. But we are very encouraged that at this very difficult junction in the Tibetan history, when Tibetans are passing through a very difficult period, we see so many of our friends here and we cherish and appreciate the preciousness of you support at this moment.
During the past 31 years we have had many experiences. It seems that these very difficult periods give the best opportunity to go through experiences that are educational or that we can learn from. From my experiences we have learned that there is little value placed on truth and that the powerful take advantage of the weak and poor. Yet we see that in human society people still put value in truth and justice.
In the past 31 years we have seen that some of our friends in the early sixties and seventies felt that the Tibetan issue was in a way a dead issue and that there was no hope. Yet we did not loose our hope. We were determined and we believed that truth would ultimately prevail. Also as a result of the great determination of the Tibetans inside Tibet we have now seen the result of this determination, and as I have sad before it is like the Chinese having swallowed Tibet but not having been able to digest it. Therefore instead of the Tibetan issue diminishing or loosing its prestige, there is some kind of new awareness about and new interest in the Tibetan people.
During the 20th century, the people have had to undergo much suffering and fear and this 20th century has also been a witness to some of the greatest and most dramatic events. I think we can summarize these changes in this way: There have been many external material potential changes as well as our mental sophisticated way of dealing with problems has been cunning and we have been indulging in various negative ways of dealing with the problems we are confronted with. Yet I believe that basically human beings desire peace, freedom, justice and that these basic desires cannot be eradicated. Therefore it seems like the Tibetan saying, that even though a bird can fly, it must land on earth. So no matter how sophisticated our cunning may be, we must go back to our basic values. The past years show that human beings basically desire truth, freedom and democracy and that these desires cannot be eradicated or wiped out by any force on earth.
In the past thirty years (at the beginning of the stage) we felt that when we were struggling for freedom through non-violence that we had practically no support from other people. But today we find that there are many more people who share our views and support the same kind of values we have, and that we have many friends that are struggling for freedom through non-violence like ourselves. Even in China this is happening. These recent changes have been something that we could never imagine till recently and the changes that are taking place are positive and right. Therefore, generally speaking it seems that the 21st century will be more peaceful, that people will be able to live in more harmony and that there will be greater happiness.
Since Tibetans are also part of this world, I am fully confident that we will have a good future. It seems that within the next five to ten years there may be a big change. I have said to you Tibetans that although our freedom struggle has been very difficult, perhaps after we have gained freedom, the effort to maintain, to sustain that freedom may even be more difficult, but the demarcation between Tibet and China is very clear.
But in the future there is s definite danger that there might be internal problems among the Tibetans themselves. If such a thing happens it will be extremely unfortunate. I believe that the best precaution for that is the democratic system, where each person and each community is having the possibility to express their feelings frankly and openly. As a result, whether it is an individual or an organization, all will be able to have some sense of responsibility. Therefore since the early sixties we proclaimed a draft democratic constitution but a lot of time has passed since that draft constitution has been proclaimed. It is very easy to claim obedience to democracy but the important thing is how to put it into practice and how to do this properly and thoroughly. Therefore I had hoped to be able to constitute a committee consisting of Indian experts, particularly in the subjects of law, as well as Western experts; qualified people along with some Tibetans who know the Tibetan situation well, and take even several months to study the whole issue properly. And if the opportunity would be available even to undertake a tour or visit to Tibet. There might be also a possibility of seeking the advice of the Chinese as well. I hope as a result to be able to compile a good document on this matter. This is a very important practical issue and I feel that here it is not a good thing to mix the emotional and cultural aspects of the Tibetan way of thinking with the issue.
Tibetans in exile form only a small fraction of the total 6 million Tibetans and I have said many times in the past that the Tibetans who are inside Tibet are the people who have the responsibility and the right to decide the future of Tibet. Therefore, for the practice of democracy in the future, the main responsibility lies within the Tibetans inside Tibet including the Tibetans who are presently being employed by the Chinese. The Tibetans inside Tibet not do nor have freedom, neither the facilities to try to put into practice this democratic system. Therefore it is our responsibility to be able to present a document about which they can think and which will open their minds to the idea of democracy.
Anyway, coming to the immediate present, the recent changes that have been taking place in the world are positive changes and this is the time when we should try to take advantage of the situation. Yet I am sometimes doubtful whether we will be able to do this. I feel a gathering like this one today is important because we can come together and discuss various issues. Human compassion forms one of the basic qualities of human beings. Secondly we consider it precious that this kind of compassion is shown to a people who are suffering, people who are undergoing great difficulties. As a Buddhist monk I can say that the understanding and compassion you shoe to the Tibetans is in a way the work of Dharma.
As I said before I think if you compare the Tibetans with other people, the Tibetans are by nature kind and they believe in moral ethics and therefore form a good community. Therefore I think that by helping the Tibetans you do not only contribute to the achievement of happiness of the Tibetans but I also think that it is relevant to the happiness of the world at large. And secondly the Tibetan culture is old, profound and it also has benefits in our day to day life. To preserve any culture in the world is the responsibility of all human beings.
I feel that for instance in the Tibetan culture, the medical system is able to contribute towards a good physical health and that the various training we have for the mind, contribute towards mental health. Therefore the Tibetan culture in a way contributes to both physical and mental health. Secondly, in the country of Tibet, in the past, scientists did not have the opportunity to carry out studies or research. Recently some people have been able to carry out some research and studies, yet since they have to work under new regulations, they probably do not have all the facilities or opportunities. Therefore a free Tibet would be able to provide many advantages and if we think carefully, it may also be of benefit to the Chinese themselves.
In the Tibetan mind -although we had to undergo great suffering- because of the Buddhist teachings, particularly the Mahayana teachings, we have learned that there is no value in developing hatred. Those Tibetans who can think and understand these teachings will have nor hatred neither the thought to take revenge on the Chinese. As I have said many times the present situation seems to be a situation where we have some kind of a mutual suffering. For the Tibetans of course there are the tremendous sufferings that we are undergoing and for the Chinese the Tibetan issue is always an embarrassment and they always have difficulties trying to explain the situation. Therefore a free Tibet seems to be of advantage to many others as well as to the Tibetans.
When we are able to gain that freedom we would sincerely like to transform Tibet into a zone of peace. Since some years ago we have proposed such an idea and it is my hope that we will be able to achieve this. Also would I like to request that you all support this idea.