First of all let me thank you for participating in this important conference. We are indeed fortunate to have the presence of both His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Excellency President Vaclav Havel. Both of them are a source of immense inspiration and courage to millions of people around the world.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express the heart-felt appreciation of the Tibetan people to all of you who have gathered here today. I thank you all for your commitment and dedication to the just cause of the six million people of Tibet.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama reminds us constantly that this expression of international support has become the fourth refuge in the political vocabulary of the Tibetan people. To explain what he means, when Buddhists pray, they say, ‘I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha’ and because of your whole-hearted support, you have become the political refuge in our struggle for survival as a people with a distinct culture and ethnic identity.

The worldwide Tibet movement is one of the unique international coalition movements in the world. Devoted to the universal values of truth, justice and freedom and to the spirit of non-violence and reconciliation, this movement continues to attract and inspire the dedication and imagination of thousands of talented individuals across the globe. The talent, dedication and enthusiasm you and others bring to the support of the cause of the Tibetan people makes the worldwide Tibet movement one of the great movements of non-violence in contemporary times.

I have said this before and I would like to say this here once again – soon after the conclusion of the Third International Tibet Support Group Conference held in May 2000 in Berlin, the minister of the Information Office of the State Council of the People?s Republic of China, hosted a meeting of Tibet experts and party officials on 12 June 2000 in Beijing. At the meeting he told the participants, “The Tibet Support Groups Conference, held some time back, openly proposed increasing the Groups? effectiveness in Latin America and Africa. It is possible that they will make every effort to establish Tibet Support Groups in many Asian countries… The action plan of the third Tibet Support Groups Conference was focused 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.”

The seriousness with which the Chinese authorities take the activities of the Tibet Support Groups is indeed a tribute to the tireless efforts of many individuals spread across the globe. It is certainly an indication that the efforts of the worldwide Tibet movement have an impact on the policies of the Chinese authorities, policies that we hope will become increasingly more realistic, flexible and constructive.

One positive outcome of which the Tibet Support Groups have contributed greatly is the two visits of the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Beijing and Lhasa last year. We consider these visits a positive development and we certainly hope that they are the first in a series of visits that will set the stage for the creation of an atmosphere of mutual trust and goodwill for substantive negotiations on the future of the six million people of Tibet. We welcome this new development. The two envoys were pleased with the positive attitude adopted by the Chinese leaders and expressed their commitment to continue pursuing this process with the aim of bringing about substantive negotiations on the issue of Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has instructed his envoys to leave no stone unturned to achieve this goal.

On its part, the administration of the government-in-exile has taken decisive steps to demonstrate its sincerity to this process and to create a constructive political climate for the continuation of the present process of reconciliation. We have been fully aware that our appeal to Tibetan exiles and our supporters around the world to refrain from staging protest demonstrations during visits of Chinese leaders abroad and to adopt a non-confrontational approach would cause a great deal of controversy. Nonetheless, despite the obvious risks and uncertainties inherent in the present process, it has been the assessment and decision of the Tibetan leadership that it was appropriate and timely to initiate these confidence-building measures. These initiatives have been clear and unambiguous demonstrations of our sincerity and honesty in the present engagement. Our appeal provoked some strong criticism among our friends and compatriots. I wish here to assure you of our sincere respect for these critical views expressed out of genuine concern for the Tibetan cause. I also assure you that we have taken note of these views with due seriousness and consideration. On the other hand, we could not – and will not – shy away from our responsibility of doing everything possible to make the Middle-Way Approach succeed. Consequently, we are determined to continue with the present course of promoting the process of dialogue in every way we can.

However, I have no hesitation to say here that the international campaign for the realisation of genuine autonomy for the six million Tibetans must continue. As long as Tibet remains repressed and scarred by political coercion and intimidation and the Tibetans continue to face serious and imminent threat of extinction as a distinct people and culture, the Tibetan people will continue the struggle for fundamental rights and freedoms.

I call here upon our friends throughout the world to continue to help us in our non-violent freedom struggle with renewed vigour and determination. Let us be clear here that the purpose and goal of the Middle-Way Approach is not to appease China. Instead, it is to achieve a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of Tibet that secures the basic rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people while safeguarding the sovereignty of the People?s Republic of China.

We sincerely hope that President Hu Jintao and his colleagues will use the opportunity provided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s policy of reconciliation and dialogue to solve the issue of Tibet. Many world leaders have impressed upon the Chinese authorities that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the key to solving China?s Tibet problem. We once again appeal to the new Chinese leaders to re-start serious negotiations. We believe that President Hu Jintao and his colleagues have the unique opportunity of preserving Tibet?s true personality within a confident, stable and prosperous People?s Republic of China. Such a solution would also generate enormous goodwill for China.

We commend the Chinese authorities on the release of Takna Jigme Sangpo and Ngawang Sangdrol and providing them the opportunity to seek medical treatment in the West. Earlier, in 2001, We had also welcomed the release of Ngawang Chophel. Their release is no doubt a result of the sustained campaigns waged by the Tibet Support Groups, but it also reflects a new sensitivity on the part of the Chinese leadership to international public opinion.

While these actions are highly commendable and praiseworthy, there are still some areas in the overall development strategy that China plans for Tibet which are of deep and abiding concern for the Tibetan people. One is obviously the Western China Development Programme. The Tibet component of this programme consists of 117 projects designed by the central government. Most of the projects are connected to improving infrastructure, laying down of new roads, construction of dams for generating power, improving China?s capacity for information technology and construction of a new railway line connecting Lhasa with Golmud. China plans to lay three more railway lines connecting Lanzhou, Chengdu and Dali with Lhasa.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has repeatedly explained our concerns on this issue. We Tibetans are not opposed to development projects that meet the genuine needs of the Tibetan people. However, all these projects undertaken by the Chinese authorities are not geared towards meeting and fulfilling the genuine needs of the Tibetan people but are primarily designed to serve China?s political goals and purposes.

Besides the big development projects, we have serious concerns about the continued violation and systematic abuse of the fundamental freedoms and rights of the Tibetan people. Big development projects cannot be a substitute for the enjoyment of civil liberties that are taken for granted in the rest of the world as a part and parcel of our very human existence. Suppressing a people, trying to wipe out every trace of their rich spiritual heritage which has defined and sustained their culture for over one thousand years and at the same time to expect loyalty from the very people you are suppressing is not only bad policy but is counter-productive and short-sighted. If the Chinese authorities wish to win the loyalty and the respect of the Tibetan people then they must give the Tibetans the freedoms they have been brutally denied for these many years.

Further, some actions taken by the Chinese authorities in the recent past are a source of deep concern for us. In the summer and autumn of 2001, Chinese authorities demolished one of the leading centres of Buddhist scholarship and practice. This centre was founded and managed by the respected Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok. The Serthar Institute in eastern Tibet attracted nearly 9,000 ordained and lay students, including about 1,000 Chinese students from overseas and from Mainland China. The students were expelled and their dwellings torn down. Likewise, the arrest of Tulku Tenzin Delek and his attendants and the summary execution of Lobsang Dhondup without any attempt at a free and fair trial provoked world-wide outrage. The recent action of the officials of the Chinese embassy in Nepal in actively instigating the deportation of 18 Tibetan refugees to Tibet has been condemned by governments around the world.

Above all, I would like to use this forum to express our deep-seated concern on the fate of the young Panchen Lama who was recognised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the one and only authentic reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. China?s imposition of a false Panchen Lama is not only an affront to the spiritual beliefs of the Tibetan people but also reveals a total lack of respect for the spiritual underpinnings of an ancient culture. We appeal to the Chinese authorities to release Gendun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, and to grant Tashi Lhunpo Monastery the opportunity and freedom to provide the necessary education for the young Panchen Lama to carry out his spiritual responsibilities. In fact, we appeal to the Chinese authorities to release all political prisoners who are in prisons for the simple reason that they dared to exercise their right to freedom of speech.

Our concerns about the environment in Tibet are still enormous. Besides being the world?s highest and largest plateau, Tibet is a fragile, integrated eco-system with abundant natural resources which exerts enormous influence on the weather patterns in Asia. Tibet is also the source of many of Asia?s major rivers which sustain the lives and livelihood of about 47 per cent of the Earth?s total human population. So what China does or does not do in Tibet has a direct impact on the daily lives of a vast majority of people in Asia. And it is our sincere hope that development projects that China carries out in Tibet do not undermine the ability of the Tibetan plateau to sustain and renew itself.

I would also like to inform you that on September 5 this year, on the second anniversary of my swearing-in as the Kalon Tripa, my colleagues and me in the Kashag addressed a press conference where we presented a progress report of the two years of our administration to the Tibetan people. This is the first time I stand before the largest gathering of Tibet Support Groups since I had the privilege of being elected to the post of Kalon Tripa so I would like to take this opportunity to report to you some of the important issues my administration has been dealing with.

The goal of any administration elected through the due process of law is to provide good governance. I take pride in telling you that because of the wise and far-sighted leadership provided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama we, the Tibetan exiles, have been able to establish a cohesive and united community with common aspirations and common goals. We are one of the few visible communities in contemporary times to achieve this and this is no small accomplishment.

We feel that we owe it to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the six million Tibetan people who put their faith in him to strengthen and improve the quality of our administration. It is within our power to do so. We believe that an effective administration serviced by dedicated officers is the best offering we can present to His Holiness the Dalai Lama which will also be of immense benefit to the Tibetan people.

Let me briefly state the central policy and the guiding principles of the Kashag. It believes in truth, non-violence and genuine democracy. Within these parameters the Kashag has tried to introduce some basic reforms and changes in the functioning of the Tibetan administration-in-exile. These reforms include the implementation of the privatisation of Tibetan administration-run businesses. We believe no government has any business doing business. These reforms also include our continued emphasis on improving the quality of Tibetan education. The Kashag believes that an improved educational system which can produce an unlimited pool of committed and highly educated young Tibetans is the best investment that we Tibetan refugees can make for the future of Tibet. We are also strengthening the infrastructure of the Tibetan settlements so that they can attract and retain young and educated Tibetans who can find gainful employment. At the same time we have also started the process of introducing organic farming in the Tibetan settlements. The reforms also include making local co-operatives self-sufficient and independent, empowering the local assemblies and creating an environment conducive for the elections of all settlement officers by local Tibetans.

These in brief are some of the goals that the Kashag has set for itself. Off course, whether we succeed or not, is another matter and the Tibetan community in exile will judge our successes a few years down the road. However, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly said when Tibet is given the freedom that meets with its just aspirations, the entire administration-in-exile will be dismantled in deference to the government that would be freely elected by the majority will of the six million Tibetan people.

At the same time we appeal to the worldwide Tibet movement to support the Middle-Way Approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which is the Kashag?s central policy in its international efforts as unanimously recommended by the Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies. We need your support in the realisation of the Middle-Way Approach which works towards genuine autonomy for Tibet so that the six million Tibetan people can preserve and promote their distinct cultural and spiritual heritage.

In conclusion let me reiterate the deep appreciation of the Tibetan people for all supporters of Tibet. As a measure of our appreciation I take this opportunity to inform you that the agenda of this conference has been shaped entirely on the suggestions expressed by representatives of various Tibet Support Groups during the prepcom meeting held in New Delhi last year. This is your conference and the present involvement of the Central Tibetan Administration is that of mere facilitator. In future if the Tibet Support Groups decide to organise a conference on their own they would be most welcome to do so. The Central Tibetan Administration will be happy to provide whatever assistance such an endeavour requires from us.

Finally, I would like to thank the President and the Vice-President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic for organising this conference under its auspices. This is the first time that a vital component of any legislative body in the world has so publicly and so courageously identified itself with the worldwide Tibet movement. This means a lot to all the supporters of the non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people and will certainly encourage more people to pursue non-violent methods for resolving conflicts. I would also like to express our appreciation to the government of the Czech Republic for allowing us to hold the conference in the historic city of Prague, eevnthough the Chinese embassy here registered strong protests. I would also like to express our deep appreciation to the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung and Forum 2000 Foundation for collaborating in making this conference possible. In particular the Tibetan people owe a great debt of gratitude to the Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung for financing this conference. The Stiftung had already supported and financed the second and third conferences held in Bonn and Berlin in 1996 and 2000 respectively. The support and enthusiasm of the leadership and staff of the Stiftung have enabled us once again to bring together friends and supporters from all over the world to brainstorm on how best we can bring hope and happiness to the long-suffering people of Tibet. For all this, on behalf of the Kashag, I would like to say thank you.