December 1, 2008

The Special International Tibet Support Groups Meeting was held in India, the second home of the Tibetan people, from 29th November to 1st December 2008 – a week after the Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People held in Dharamsala, base of the Tibetan government in exile, that was called by the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama asked Tibet supporters attending the Special International TSG Meeting to “provide suggestions to our elected leadership on the best possible course for the realization of the Tibetan people’s fundamental aspirations”.

The meeting opened with one minute’s silence for those who have died in Tibet, particularly since the uprising from 10 March 2008 onwards, and delegates paid tribute to those killed or injured in the recent atrocities in Mumbai. This violent tragedy underlines the urgent need for the international community to take meaningful action in support of those who pursue non-violent struggles, including the Tibetan people.

The meeting re-affirmed the delegates’ commitment to a non-violent approach on Tibet, and also their support for the Dalai Lama’s and Tibetan government in exile’s emphasis on engagement and reconciliation. Delegates also highlighted the 21st century relevance to the world of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual tradition and culture, especially in terms of offering alternative ways forward for conflict resolution.

The meeting welcomed the recent Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People from the diaspora in Dharamsala, India, which provided opportunities for diverse opinions from the Tibetan community worldwide to be openly expressed and discussed. This was an important democratic forum that should be continued in order to strengthen Tibetan institutions and civil society in exile. Delegates noted that while the meeting was held in exile, efforts were made to ascertain the views of Tibetans in Tibet, despite an intense climate of fear and Chinese government restrictions. The Special General Meeting re-affirmed the solidarity of Tibetans from across the Tibetan plateau, just as Tibetans in Tibet from all three provinces (U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo) have demonstrated strong unity in their assertions of Tibetan cultural and religious identity.

The uprising in Tibet and the disproportionate responses by the PRC authorities have created a crisis of extreme urgency in Tibet that demand swift and positive action from the international community. Delegates expressed concern about the Chinese government’s representation of these protests as only violent riots in Lhasa, despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of numerous incidents of dissent over a period of more than six months across all three provinces, and resolved to counter this false representation.

The meeting expressed profound concern over the continuing suffering of the Tibetan people, now under de facto martial law, and the delegates’ solidarity with political prisoners and the families of the hundreds of disappeared.

Delegates to the Special International TSG Meeting reaffirmed their commitment to putting the needs and wishes of Tibetans in Tibet first. The delegates regard the protests in Tibet as a rejection by the Tibetan people of Chinese misrule in Tibet, expressing a resentment that has built up over more than 50 years and reached a breaking point. Through their dissent, Tibetans are conveying the message that the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile represent their interests, and not the Chinese government.

The meeting welcomed the fact that the Memorandum of Genuine Autonomy had been made public by the Dalai Lama’s representatives prior to the Special Meeting, and appreciated this clear outline of the Tibetan government in exile’s position. There was general agreement that engagement is a means for securing positive change, but differing views about a framework for engagement were expressed.

The meeting noted that the Chinese authorities have failed to create genuine stability in Tibet and that its political campaigns have, indeed, led to further unrest and increased tensions between Chinese and Tibetans. There is a risk that this could intensify further, particularly in the build-up to the 50th anniversary of the 10th March uprising in 2009. Delegates stressed the importance of stepping up targeted outreach to the Chinese people, particularly given the upsurge in anti-Tibetan sentiment and Chinese nationalism as a result of distorted representations of the situation in Tibet by the Chinese government.

The meeting acknowledged the importance of Tibet to the world – specifically in geopolitical terms, due to its location between India and China, and environmentally, as the earth’s ‘third pole’ and a watershed of Asia’s great rivers affecting millions of people. A more strategic approach to communications was encouraged in order to ensure that the reality of Tibet’s situation today is conveyed to the global media and to strengthen advocacy.

Specific recommendations on advocacy, monitoring, campaign action, Chinese outreach and the dialogue process will be presented to the Tibetan government in exile following the meeting, in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s request.