Most venerable monks, the right honorable Mr. Karma Chophel, the speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, Professor Dr. Nand Kishore Trikha, the convener of the Core Group for the Tibetan Cause in India, Shri K.B.Bakshi, the founder of the International Bharat-Tibbat Sayog Samiti, Shri Vijay Kranti, a man of iron as His Holiness remarked and a long-term and constant friend of Tibet, my colleagues in Kashag – Kalon Tempa Tsering and Kalon Chope Paljor, Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, the special envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, honorable members of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, various delegates of the Tibet Support Groups from all over the world, Lama Chosphel Zotpa, the honorable member of the National Commission for Minorities of the Government of India and journalist friends. It is really a great privilege for me to be with you this morning for the important Special Meeting of the Tibet Support Groups from all over the world which was convened very hurriedly and at such a short notice. In spite of your busy schedule and various obligations you have chosen to come all the way to attend this meeting; this gives us strength and inspiration. I welcome you all.
I would particularly like to thank Professor Trikha and his colleagues in the Core Group. They have very gladly and readily accepted our request to convene this conference because His Holiness very much wanted to take the Tibet Support Groups in confidence just after the Special Meeting of the Tibetans in Diaspora. We were reluctant to convene this conference at such a short notice. Yet His Holiness insisted that this should not be left long after this Special Meeting. Therefore, we scheduled it just after the week of the conclusion of the Special Meeting.
Without the initiative of the Core Group, this conference would not have happened. This is because the Central Tibetan Administration would not like to interfere in the activities of the NGOs, particularly the Tibet Support Groups (TSGs). The Tibetan NGOs and the Tibet Support Groups are not creations of the Central Tibetan Administration. The Tibetan NGOs and TSGs have all been voluntarily formed by yourselves, organized using your own resources, spending your own time and also using your own wisdom. Therefore, this conference must be convened by one of the Tibet Support Groups so that it should not appear that this conference is a kind of instrument used by the Central Tibetan Administration. We were bit worried that at such a short notice, many might not be able to attend. But we are overwhelmed by the comprehensive representation from all the continents of the world. This shows how much you care for the cause of Tibet and how sincerely committed you are to this cause. So, I see this as really encouraging.
The previous speakers have mentioned how important and challenging this conference is. And I need not dwell on all this again but I wanted to say one thing. The Special Meeting of the Tibetans in Diaspora and this conference were not due to a failure of our ongoing dialogue. It was also not due to the successful conclusion of Olympic Games in Beijing and thereafter the PRC’s leadership’s arrogance.
This conference, same as the Special Meeting of Tibetan Diaspora, is being convened to respond to the sacrifices made by the people in Tibet this year after March. Hundreds of people have laid down their lives for the cause of Tibet and still many thousands are experiencing untold suffering, unbearable torture in jails in various parts of Tibet & China. In view of such courageous action and sacrifice, we, the people in the free world, cannot remain insensitive. We must respond to their suffering and think about what we can do our best for them. For that purpose His Holiness directed us to convene the Special Meeting of Tibetans in Diaspora under the provision of the charter at the earliest possible time after the conclusion of Beijing Olympic Games on 24 August, 2008. This was immediately followed by one-day fasting and prayer by the Tibetans in Diaspora, including His Holiness himself, to mark that now we are free to do everything for our cause, without being accused of sabotaging the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games were supported by His Holiness sincerely right from the beginning and before the conclusion of the Games any action in Diaspora might be considered a kind of sabotage of the Games.
The Tibetan Parliament sat in session early September and a Special Meeting needed 45 days of notice, so mid November was the earliest possible time to convene such a meeting. We all wanted to have your input for finalizing the future course of action by the Central Tibetan Administration under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dr. Trikha has very rightly mentioned that last Sunday when His Holiness met the press, he very categorically said, “I will decide what we should do next after hearing the suggestions of our Support Groups which are going to meet next week.” Your suggestions, your input, will be of tremendous importance for His Holiness and for my Kashag to make a substantive and clear decision and programme for the future course of action.
At this moment we are crystal clear that the Tibetan people inside and outside with overwhelming majority supports the Middle-Way Approach which has been clearly demonstrated during the recent Special Meeting in Dharamsala. The right honorable Speaker has briefed you in detail on the outcome of the Special Meeting and explained to you on what kind of deliberation and what kind of feedback we have got, particularly in favor of Middle-Way Approach policy during the deliberation.
The 560 delegates were divided into 15 sub-committees in order to give everybody a chance to speak at full length and the office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker has given direction to all the participants in the sub-committees that their recommendations must be clearly put in words unanimously or majority, or whatever the case might be. It should be mentioned that this instruction was not followed by all the sub-committees. Some of the sub-committees have followed this instruction while few sub- committees did not.
The sub-committee number one had 36 participants because there are two Kalons. The Kalons choose not to speak. So out of 38, only 36 people were effective. In this group, 21 supported the Middle-Way Approach and nine opted for different ways, independence or self-determination, or whatever the case might be.
The sub-committee number two had 40 members, out of which 25 supported the Middle-Way Approach and 11 wanted to change it.
The sub-committee number three did not mention the details but it recommended that we continue with the Middle-Way Approach.
The sub-committee number four had 38 people all of whom unanimously supported the Middle-Way Approach.
The sub-committee number 5 had 36 people who unanimously supported to follow the leadership of His Holiness and any decision made by him.
The sub-committee number six had 38 people. 28 supported the Middle-Way Approach.7 supported other means.
The sub-committee number seven had 36 people who had supported to follow any decision under His Holiness leadership, unanimously, and also supported Middle Way Approach by majority.
The sub-committee number eight said the majority supported the Middle-Way Approach.
The sub-committee number nine had 39 participants. 31 supported the Middle -Way Approach and 6 disagreed.
The sub-committee number ten didn’t give numbers. It said the majority was for the Middle-Way Approach.
The sub-committee number eleven said, by majority vote, it would follow whatever decision His Holiness made. It did not mention about the Middle -Way Approach or independence.
The sub-committee number twelve had all kinds of recommendations. It did not say anything about majority or minority.
The sub-committee number thirteen had 36 participants. It said the Middle-Way Approach should be continued.
The sub-committee number fourteen did not mention numbers. It said the majority was for the Middle-Way Approach and a few for independence.
The sub-committee number fifteen had 33 participants. It said majority would follow whatever decision His Holiness will make.
These are the positions of the 15 sub-committees or group discussions. Apart from that, the delegates have also brought with them the people’s opinions in writing to the Special Meeting. They had discussed with their respective people and their suggestions were set down in written recommendations. Opinions were sought from 50 Tibetan settlement camps in India, Nepal and Bhutan, 20 different monasteries and 44 educational institutions, largely schools, also from the university in Varanasi, and the 22 NGOs and 25 Tibetan associations in and outside of India, Nepal and Bhutan. So we had 161 different reports. Out of 161 reports, Middle Way Approach has received unanimous support from 103 reports, support by majority from 28 reports and 5 reports have supported Middle-Way Approach but with some conditions. For Independence, 6 reports have supported it unanimously, while 2 reports by majority support. 1 report has called for Self-determination. Rest of the reports has no clear recommendations. Apart from that, 40 reports had also mentioned unanimous support for any decision under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On the issue of dialogue process, 48 reports have favored the continuation of talks between His Holiness’s Envoys with the PRC, while 7 reports are against it and 10 reports mentioned some conditions for dialogue process before it is re-started. The other reports did not mention anything on dialogue.
So, this is the overall picture of the opinions. Due to uncertainty of the number of the people in the various settlements and groups, we are unable to ascertain a correct percentage. We cannot say so much percentage is for Middle-Way Approach. But overall more than 85 percent of people who took part in this process supported the Middle-Way Approach and the rest were divided between complete independence and self-determination. So this is very moderate assumption and we are still working on finding a reliable percentage, so that the Central Tibetan Administration would have the confidence that what policy we pursue has overwhelming and majority support of the people.
His Holiness’ commitment to a democratic system is unshakable. Therefore each step we take must be ascertained through an open, sincere and democratic process, so that the real public opinion must come out. In modern democracy public opinions are rather imposed by the political parties through their various campaigns, persuasions, explanations, so on and so forth. But His Holiness always wants to see that public opinion must be real public opinion, uninfluenced by any external or internal forces. Therefore since the Special Meeting was announced, His Holiness stopped making any comments on the policy matters and my Kashag also stopped making comments on policy matters, so that this may not affect people’s thinking or that they are not carried away. So we are proud, we are happy that through this Special Meeting we got the opinion of the grassroots people who are not very visible. We respect people at the grassroots, we respect their wisdom. Their political awareness must be respected and must come out with their opinions, for which His Holiness has provided a platform for both the critics and those who are supportive. They must have a genuine channel or platform for their mind, their aspirations, their feelings and their emotions can be openly and frankly expressed.
This is just a brief report for you. This does not mean that you should be influenced by this outcome. I again request each one of you to use your own independent wisdom to guide us. I am telling these details because His Holiness has mentioned this in his message to this conference. His Holiness also instructed me that the outcome should be immediately analyzed and people should have a correct picture. So therefore I am submitting the outcome of the Special Meeting.
At this moment His Holiness and his Central Tibetan Administration are hoping to make programmes for the future. We think that the Middle-Way Approach has never failed at anytime, but the process of dialogue with the PRC has been a total failure, and this is not due to us. You all know that the Middle-Way Approach was adopted in the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s. This policy was not formed as a reaction to Deng Xiaoping’s offer. As far as I remember His Holiness mentioned autonomy instead of independence as early as 1968. At that time I was the principal of the Tibetan school in Dalhousie and His Holiness visited Dalhousie for eight days. At that time His Holiness was not as busy as he is today. We used to have ample time to discuss any matter and during that period he told me that instead of working for the independence of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, why we shouldn’t work for the autonomy for the entire sixmillion Tibetan people? At that time I was a quite staunch supporter of full independence and I was not convinced by this idea. Then thereafter in early 70’s, His Holiness discussed this matter with the then Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and the members of the Kashag. His Holiness said if a time came when we had an opportunity to talk with the PRC, we should choose genuine autonomy for the entirety of Tibet, instead of restoration of independence for less than half of the Tibetan people. The unification of Tibet in its entirety, this kind of thinking, this vision, I believe is the legacy, the great contribution to the Tibetan cause by the 14th Dalai Lama.
During the last seven years, we have had eight rounds of talks. And it become very clear that unification of Tibetan people is one of the most challenging and difficult issues for the PRC leadership to accept. On our side, right from day one, the Kashag instructed the two Envoys about two uncompromising points: the historical status of Tibet and the unification of the Tibetan people.
So, we consider this as immensely important for the future of Tibet and therefore these two positions have become the major obstacles to advance the dialogue and negotiation process. And as far as the essence of the Middle-Way Approach is concerned, His Holiness has given the Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet in 1987 and the Strasbourg Proposal in 1988, which were already rejected by the PRC. Then finally the ninth Kashag stated that the Strasbourg Proposal was no longer binding and had become ineffectual. It had no value anymore, but the dialogue started in 2002 and went on till this year. The Envoys discussed about genuine autonomy for all the Tibetan people and we thought we must accommodate the PRC leadership. The entirety of the demands identified in the Strasbourg Proposal may not be fulfilled under the present given situation of the PRC and also that of the international geopolitics. And gradually we have to find out what kind of accommodation we could think of so that the PRC leadership finds it possible to agree to our proposal. So we come to the conclusion that our perception of genuine autonomy is the total implementation of autonomy provisions enshrined in the PRC constitution. During the 7th round the Chinese side explicitly said that His Holiness sometime says genuine autonomy and sometime says meaningful autonomy and Kalon Tripa is saying something else. Now they would like to know, what we mean by genuine or meaningful autonomy. To respond to this question, we thought it is a good opportunity to explain what His Holiness means by genuine autonomy. We prepared a comprehensive and detailed memorandum referring to each provision of the autonomy for the minority nationalities in the PRC constitution as well as the autonomy law and we made suggestions on how to implement them for the entirety of the Tibetan people. At that time we were afraid that they would respond by saying that all the autonomy provisions are already being implemented. If this was the Chinese response we would be involved in a rather lengthy and difficult session to explain to them which provisions are not being implemented. But their response, as all you know, was total rejection. Therefore, now it is absolutely clear to the world what His Holiness is asking for and what they are not agreeing to. A leadership of a nation who defies the constitution provisions yet claiming a legitimate government is very funny. We should have to look at it and not only the Tibetan people. The entirety of the 55 minority nationalities in PRC shall have to re-think their position, how much the constitution provisions are applicable and why they are not being implemented and how much loss, not only loss of political rights, but loss of culture, loss of heritage and loss of language and identity of each nation due to no implementation of the constitution provisions.
So, I think this is a very serious question for everyone and we need to point out this situation and how to take steps in the future. As far as the Central Tibetan Administration in exile is concerned, we have to make it very clear to the Chinese side that we will not discuss anything about the personal welfare of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We did not discuss his personal welfare in the past and we will not discuss it in the future as well. If there is a positive response and a willingness to discuss the future of the six million people of Tibet, we are always open. Our door is always open in the real sense, unlike theirs. We are sincerely open and we are ready to respond to them. We are ready to talk to them any number of times until the desired result, the aspiration of the Tibetan people, is achieved. Of course, we need to talk and we need to open to them. It is absolutely baseless that His Holiness and Tibetan side are unwilling to continue the dialogue. We are absolutely willing to continue, but we don’t want to waste our time to repeat old things without any result. That is quite clear. If there is any opening, if there is any possibility of progress, we are always open. This is our present position and which will be reviewed based on the inputs of the Special Meeting recommendations and your recommendations for the coming three days of deliberations. Thereafter His Holiness will be able to make a positive decision and programme for the future.
Once again I express my gratitude to each one of you for taking all the trouble with all seriousness to join this important Special Conference of the Tibet Support Groups. I think this is one of the milestones in the history of the Tibetan cause and the worldwide Tibet Support Movement.