- The Edinburgh Declaration
- Address of Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche
- Address of Mr. Kelsang Gyaltsen, Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Address of Mr. Pema Jungney, the Chairman of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies
19 November 2005
We, the 133 delegates to the 4th World Parliamentarian’s Convention on Tibet, held in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 18 and 19 November 2005, members of 30 parliaments and associates from countries spanning all the world’s continents, on behalf of ourselves and our respective parliamentary groups, have gathered to review and discuss the developments with respect to Tibet since the 3rd World Parliamentarians’ Conference on Tibet (WPCT)(Washington D.C. 1997).
The Convention thanks the people of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Tibet and the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet as well as the City of Edinburgh for their hospitality in hosting this convention. It notes the appropriateness of holding this meeting in Scotland, given the many similarities between the genuine autonomy Tibet seeks within the People’s Republic of China and the autonomous status Scotland has achieved within the United Kingdom and the UK’s current Presidency of the European Union.
The Convention recalls the urgent call by the IIlrd WPCT for negotiations between the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), on the one hand and His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile, on the other, as the Dalai Lama has proposed for decades. We reiterate our strong support for the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way approach to resolve the issue through negotiations in the spirit of non-violence and reconciliation. We commend the Chinese government for heeding this call by inviting the Dalai Lama’s special envoys for four rounds of high-level meetings in Beijing and Berne between September 2002 and June 2005. This is a very important, encouraging and necessary development for the resolution of the question of Tibet.
However, the Convention is surprised that these meetings have been so infrequent and is concerned that the dialogue has not been accompanied by any positive changes in China’s governance in Tibet, nor by any discernible improvement in the human rights conditions of Tibetans. This is especially disturbing in view of the Tibetan government’s considerable efforts to persuade Tibetans and their supporters to exercise extreme restraint in order to create a conducive atmosphere for talks. In this context, we especially deplore the continued suppression of freedom of expression, culture, religious belief and practice, and the marginalization of the Tibetan language.
The Convention deplores the refusal of the Chinese government to release political prisoners, in particular the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who has been held in a secret location since 1995, when he was only 6 years old.
The Convention is seriously concerned about the continued influx of Chinese settlers into Tibet, which threatens the identity of the Tibetan people.
The Convention is deeply concerned at China’s persistence in implementing the so called ‘Western Development Plan’, in total disregard of the wishes and concerns of the Tibetan people and despite the obvious damage this is causing to them and their environment and the clear threat its continuation poses for the survival of the distinct culture and way of life of Tibetans, including their language and religion.
The Convention is also concerned at the degradation of the natural environment of the Tibetan plateau, including the Himalayan region, exacerbated by the said development policies of China in the region.
The Convention supports the creation of a zone of ahimsa (peace and non-violence) throughout the Tibetan plateau and is convinced this would provide an important example to the rest of the world.
Consequently, the Convention
Emphatically calls on the government of the PRC to demonstrate its sincerity and seriousness in finding a negotiated solution to the question of Tibet by arranging to meet with the Dalai Lama’s representatives much more frequently and to start engaging in substantive negotiations with them, without preconditions and without further delay;
Urges the Chinese government to indicate commitment to the negotiation process by making visible improvements in its policies in Tibet, in particular
- to take effective measures to ensure full respect for the human rights of the Tibetan people;
- to halt the implementation of the ‘Western Development’ program in Tibet until a proper and credible assessment has been made of its impact on the lives of the Tibetan people, their culture, language, spiritual traditions as well as natural environment to the satisfaction of the Tibetan people;
- to take immediate steps to halt the population transfer of Chinese into Tibet, which is transforming the indigenous population into a minority in their own land;
- to release the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and all other Tibetan political prisoners unconditionally;
- to cease the virulent attacks on the Dalai Lama, which cast serious doubt on the sincerity of the Chinese government in negotiating with his representatives;
Calls on President Hu Jintao to demonstrate his own commitment to resolve the issue of Tibet by meeting with the Dalai Lama as soon as possible in a mutually agreed venue;
Calls on both parties to intensify their efforts to achieve tangible results in negotiations before 2008, when the world’s eyes will be turned to China and the situation in Tibet on the occasion of the Olympic Games;
Stresses the importance of worldwide parliamentary support for Tibet and decides to undertake activities to strengthen the role of parliaments and parliamentarians in this respect;
Calls on all governments and parliaments to monitor closely China’s behaviour in Tibet and developments regarding negotiations with the Dalai Lama and his representatives, and to place and keep Tibet firmly on the agenda of bilateral and multilateral discussions with China;
Calls on the EU to appoint a special representative for Tibet to promote, provide assistance for and to follow negotiations between the PRC and the Tibetans, in accordance with the express demands of the European Parliament.
Commends the Tibetan government in exile for the impressive progress it has made in developing democratic institutions and processes;
Finally, the Convention decides to hold the next World Parliamentarian’s Convention on Tibet prior to the 2008 Olympic Games and looks forward to reviewing the progress made at that time.
Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Tibet
UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet
On behalf of the Kashag of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I would like to welcome and thank you all for sparing your precious time to attend this convention.
This convention comes at a critical period in the history of the Tibetan people. His Holiness the Dalai Lama often describes the present period as the one that will make or break the spirit of the Tibetan people and that of Tibet’s spiritual and cultural heritage. This is because the Tibetan people are presented with new opportunities and daunting new challenges.
On the bright side, since 2002 we have managed to re-establish contacts with the Chinese authorities. On our part, we are making every effort to maintain and expand these contacts in our sincere attempt to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully on the basis of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach.
The Middle-Way Approach recommends that the whole of Tibet be granted genuine autonomy. In return the six million Tibetan people will be happy to live within the constitutional framework of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This is the position of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the aspiration of the vast majority of the Tibetan people.
In order to resolve the issue of Tibet on the basis of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach, the Central Tibetan Administration has made every effort within our power to create a conducive atmosphere for negotiations and taken a series of confidence-building measures. We are pleased that the Chinese authorities have taken note of these positive steps. We will continue to take these steps till the issue of Tibet is resolved through a negotiated settlement.
Though Mr. Kelsang Gyaltsen, a senior member of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s delegation engaged with the PRC leaders, will brief you in detail on our contacts with the PRC leadership, I would like to acknowledge the open and frank attitude of the PRC representatives. We especially appreciate the comments made by them during the last round of talks held in Berne in Switzerland in July 2005 that the PRC central leadership attached great importance to the contact with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
On our part, during the talks we have both in writing and verbally explained to the PRC leadership all the concerns raised by them. Much to the anger of the worldwide Tibet movement, the Kashag has taken the extremely unpopular decision of requesting the Tibet Support Groups, the Tibetan people in exile and NGOs to avoid provocative actions and slogans and not to engage in personally confronting the visiting Chinese leaders abroad with agitation. Much to the dismay of a section of the Tibetan, at official functions, we have banned the singing of songs that fuel nationalistic anger and anti-Chinese sentiments. These are some of the measures that we have taken to create a conducive atmosphere for negotiations. They are an indication of both our seriousness and sincerity in peacefully resolving the protracted issue of Tibet and in restoring to the long-suffering people of Tibet the dignity and happiness they so richly deserve.
We believe PRC has an historic opportunity to grasp the hand of friendship extended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The ability of PRC to view His Holiness the Dalai Lama as its most effective ally and a trusted partner in its continuing search for social peace and legitimacy in Tibet will rebound enormously in enhancing China’s international image. This will especially be true in the eyes of those millions in Asia whose lives and the lives of their ancestors have been enriched by Tibetan civilization and now in the eyes of millions around the world who look to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for guidance and inspiration.
We hope to accomplish this with the continuing support, guidance and commitment of our friends in the legislative bodies around the world. The fact that PRC has renewed its contacts with His Holiness the Dalai Lama is due to the counsel offered to the PRC leaders by government and legislative leaders around the world. We hope your support and commitment on this critical area of our contacts with the PRC leaders will continue.
We feel that the aspiration of the Tibetan people as articulated in the Middle-Way Approach are most reasonable and within the constitutional provision of the People’s Republic of China. PRC’s willingness to settle the issue of Tibet on the basis of the Middle-Way Approach will contribute to peace and stability and will enhance the image of PRC.
At this point it is important for us to clarify one fundamental nature of the Tibetan people’s struggle, which is a struggle for the future of the six million Tibetan people. It is not a struggle for the restoration of the lost privileges of His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his traditional government.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated that once he returns to Tibet in a manner that meets the aspirations of the majority of the Tibetan people, he would hand over his inherent powers to a duly elected local government of Tibet. Once this happens, the Central Tibetan Administration in exile would automatically be dissolved and the affairs of Tibetan will be looked after by the same Tibetan officials who are currently working in Tibet.
In his latest interview which appeared in an Indian national daily, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “When the day comes for our return with a certain degree of freedom, then I will hand over all my authority to the local Tibetan government. Hopefully, that local government should eventually be an elected government.”
Friends, I must once again remind you in a nutshell the objectives and the nature of our struggle. We do not perceive the problem of Tibet as an isolated problem for the Tibetan people alone or a struggle between just two nations, namely China and Tibet. The Chinese and Tibetans lived as neighbors since time immemorial. Our relations had been fluctuating all the time, as friends, as relatives, as enemies, but at not time such deep problem as we are facing for the last more than fifty years, had never happened. The present problem, as we see it, is a symptom of a larger human malady which perpetuated in the modern world. It is therefore we shall have to search the remedy also at a larger plan, at the level of all human societies. Our conflict is neither a conflict of political ideology nor for political powers. It is neither fight for territory nor a struggle between nationalities. The Tibetan people do not ask neither separation nor larger share of political or economic p! ower. Our soul objective is to retain the identity of Tibetan people as non-violent society in order to preserve and promote the unique Tibetan cultural and spiritual heritage in order to share it with all human beings. The essence of Middle-Way Approach is to achieve the required basic freedom and human dignity for all the Tibetan nationalities in order to enable them to perform efficiently their universal responsibility which is impossible under the present situation.
If PRC authorities have a political will, our above-mentioned aspiration can be easily fulfilled by implementing the provision enshrined in the Constitution of PRC for National Regional Autonomy with all sincerity. By this the people of Tibet will able to contribute their part for the humanity and emotionally integrated with PRC, by which will make real unity and stability for the PRC.
To achieve this objective, we are fully committed to non-violence means. The present major problems of humanity including problems facing PRC are of ‘Violence’. Unless the violence is eradicated, none of the human problems, national or international, can be resolved on a sustainable basis. Keeping in view the objectives and the methods mentioned above, our struggle is a struggle between truth and falsehood, justice and injustice, violence and non-violence. The world community has well recognized the nature of our movement and therefore supported it voluntarily without any expectations. In spite of that we are not yet able to convince the PRC leadership and they always accuse us and His Holiness for being “Separatist”. In spite of our consistent policy of Middle-Way adopted for last 26 years, PRC continues to accuse us of being “Separatist”. Sometimes, we begin to doubt that the PRC leadership wants us to remain “Separatist” and want us to continue to work for “separation” in order to meet some of their internal political requirements.
My one-pointed request to you all, Ladies and Gentlemen, is that through your legislative bodies, through your government and through the individual friends of PRC leadership, to kindly educate, persuade and encourage to give up the unfounded doubts and suspicion upon His Holiness and his administration. And to begin a meaningful negotiation with His Holiness without losing any time.
The marginalisation of Tibetan inside Tibet, demographically, economically and politically has endangered the very survival of the Tibetan identity. Each passing day, the marginalisation increases by leaps and bounds. Therefore, time is running out. Tibet must be saved before its extinction.
In conclusion, my colleagues in the Kashag join me in expressing our deep appreciation to your presence and participation in this convention. It is an indication of your support to and solidarity with the just and non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people.
I am particulary encouraged by the strong Indian delegation from All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet. In fact, the inception of WPCT is brainchild of the All Parliamentary Group of Indian Parliament in 1994. Today, when I am in your midst, the memory of the late Shri Madhu Limay comes to my mind again and over again. He took great personal interest in organising All Party Parliamentary Group in the Indian Parliament and also in convening the first WPCT in New Delhi. I also remember the hard work done by Shri George Fernandes and Shri Mohan Singh, who were conveners of WPCT at that time.
In fact, the issue of Tibet as well as the cultural heritage of Tibet still survived in exile is mainly due to generous and continued support of government and the people of India. I would urge all the participants of this Convention as well as all the sympathisers of Tibet all over the world to recognise and acknowledge it.
I would also like to thank the Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies for initiating this fourth World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet. The Central Tibetan Administration would like to express our deep appreciation to the Government of United Kingdom for permitting us to hold this convention. We would also like to express our gratitude to both the Scottish Cross Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet and the UK Parliamentary Group for Tibet for stepping in to actually organise this convention at such a short time.
Today, I am asked to brief you on the current status of dialogue with China. First, let me convey to you the sincere apology of my senior colleague, Mr. Lodi Gyari, the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the leader of the Tibetan delegation to China, for his inability to attend this important conference on Tibet. Many of you may be well aware that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has just concluded a very successful visit to the United States during which he had very constructive and encouraging meetings with President Bush, Secretary of the State, Doctor Rice and with leaders and members of the US Congress. Mr. Gyari has some urgent and important follow-up meetings in Washington, DC and he regrets very much to miss the opportunity to meet many old friends again and to address this important gathering.
Our first direct contact with the Chinese leadership after our escape from Tibet in 1959 was established in late 1978. Before going into exile His Holiness the Dalai Lama has tried his best for more than eight years to work out a peaceful co-existence with the Chinese leaders as well as with the Chinese Generals of the People’s Liberation troops in Tibet. When China emerged from the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution and Deng Xiaoping signaled a willingness to have direct contact, His Holiness responded positively without any hesitation. Right from the beginning of the Sino-Tibetan conflict, His Holiness was determined to pursue the path of non-violence and to seek a resolution of the conflict through dialogue. Already in early 1970’s His Holiness and the Tibetan Cabinet had held many discussions and had concluded that sooner or later they would need to enter into direct contact with the Chinese leadership and engage in a dialogue about the future of Tibet. As a result His Holiness and the Tibetan leadership in exile were fully prepared to enter into direct contact with the Chinese leadership when the opportunity presented.
Over many years His Holiness did his best to engage the Chinese leadership in an honest dialogue. Unfortunately, a lack of political will and vision on the part of the Chinese leadership resulted in their failure to reciprocate the numerous initiatives of His Holiness. Finally, in August 1993 our formal contact with the Chinese government came to an end.
Around that time His Holiness the Dalai Lama instructed Lodi Gyari and me to explore informal channels of communication to the Beijing leadership. Through private persons and semi-officials we were able to establish a few channels. Three rounds of meetings were held at secrete locations in the course of time.
In late autumn of 1998, without any obvious reason, all our channels of communication were shut down. This sudden development was accompanied by a hardening of the Chinese position on dialogue, in their attitude towards His Holiness and above all by an intensified new round of repression in Tibet.
Despite this setback His Holiness has encouraged and inspired us to continue our efforts and to explore all available avenues. Our efforts through private and informal channels led finally in January 2002 to a first face-to-face meeting outside of China with Chinese officials responsible for Tibet policy.
This meeting paved the way for the visit of a four-member Tibetan delegation to China and to the Tibetan capital Lhasa in September 2002. It was the first time since 1980 that representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama have been able to visit Lhasa.
Since then the Tibetan delegation has been able to visit China and tour Tibetan areas in 2003 and 2004. This year another round of meetings between the Tibetan and the Chinese delegation was held outside of China. The meeting took place at the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Berne, Switzerland, on 30 June and 1 July 2005.
On our first mission in 2002 the task entrusted to the delegation was two fold: First, to re-establish direct contact with the leadership in Beijing and to create a conducive atmosphere enabling direct face-to-face meetings on a regular basis in future. Secondly, to explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach towards resolving the issue of Tibet.
In Beijing we met with Mr. Wang Zhaoguo, Vice Chair of the CPPCC and the Head of the Central United Front Work Department of the CCP and Mr. Li De Zhu, Minister for Nationalities Affairs and Deputy Head of the United Front Work Department. We had frank exchanges of views with them in a cordial atmosphere. They reiterated the known position of the Chinese government on dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We took the opportunity to explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s thoughts on resolving the issue of Tibet through negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue. The Chinese leaders listened to our explanations with keen interest and engaged in free and spontaneous exchanges.
In 2003 our visit followed the changes in leadership of the Chinese Communist Party as well as of the Chinese government. Consequently, our main objective was to continue the process begun in 2002 and to engage extensively with the new Chinese leaders and officials responsible for Tibet and our relationship. In addition to this main objective we had three specific aims on this visit: i) to broaden our overall understanding of the situation in China through visits to different areas and meeting with officials; ii) to meet with Chinese Buddhist leaders and to visit Buddhist holy sites; and, iii) above all, to visit Tibetan areas and meet Tibetan officials.
On the second visit our new counterparts were Ms. Liu Yangdong, Vice Chairperson of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Head of the Central United Front Work Department of the CCP, Vice-Minister Zhu Weiqun, the deputy head, Mr. Chang Rongjung, Secretary-General and other officials. We were impressed by the attention and candor displayed by the Chinese leaders during our meeting. Both sides agreed that our past relationship had many twists and turns and that many areas of disagreement still exist. Both sides agreed that there was a need for more efforts to overcome the existing problems and bring about mutual understanding and trust.
In 2004, we had so far the most extensive and serious exchange of views on matters relating to Tibet. We had two sessions of discussion in Beijing. The meeting with Minister Liu Yangdong took place in a more formal setting and lasted more than three hours. On the following day, another session was held in a business-like setting lasting more than five hours. Vice Minister Zhu Weiqun led the Chinese delegation in the discussion.
The discussions were held in a frank but cordial atmosphere. The Chinese side presented a long list of criticism of and objections to Tibetan activities, positions and views. It was apparent from the discussions that there are major differences on a number of issues, including some fundamental ones. Both sides acknowledged the need for more substantive discussions in order to narrow down the gaps and reach a common ground.
We stressed the need for both sides to demonstrate flexibility, far-sightedness and vision to bridge the differences.
In 2005 the fourth round of meetings between the Tibetan and Chinese delegations was held in Berne, Switzerland. The discussions were concrete and substantive, and held in a cordial, frank, and business-like atmosphere. The Tibetan side had the opportunity to respond in detail point by point to the criticism, objections and allegations made by the Chinese side during the last round of discussions in Beijing. We also put forward some proposals that will help build trust and confidence and move the ongoing process to a new level of engagement aimed at bringing about substantive negotiations to achieve a mutually acceptable solution to the Tibetan issue. We reiterated our commitment to continue making every effort to create a better environment. At the same time we urged the Chinese side to join in this effort, and highlighted the absence of such gestures from their side.
Both sides had a positive assessment of the ongoing process. Vice Minister Zhu was pleased that our direct contact had now become stable and an “established practice”. He also conveyed to us that the Central leadership of the Chinese Communist Party attaches great importance to the contact with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He stated that we need not be pessimistic about the existing differences and that it was possible to narrow down the gaps through more meetings and exchanges of views.
This is a brief summary of interactions between the Tibetan and Chinese delegations over the recent years.
Obviously, major differences on a number of issues, including on some fundamental ones, continue to remain. From our discussions with our Chinese counterparts it has become clear that the biggest problem we face is the lack of trust. There are deep-rooted misconceptions and strong distrust between the two sides.
Obviously, this distrust and misconception cannot be resolved by a few visits and meetings. However, an important beginning has been made to reduce the level of mutual distrust. The resumption of direct contact provided the opportunity for both sides to extensively share with each other their views and perspectives on core issues. Now it is important to continue this process and for both parties to demonstrate their sincerity and trustworthiness to the other by taking small tangible steps to build trust and confidence. It is a delicate process, requiring both quiet diplomacy and some very public gestures and initiatives.
What is presently most disturbing and of great concern to us is that there have been no positive changes inside Tibet since the opening of direct contact with the Chinese leadership. On the contrary repression inside Tibet has increased recently. Nor has Beijing reciprocated the confidence building measures undertaken by the Tibetan leadership in exile after our first visit. We must face the fact that so far there has been no indication of any change in China’s harsh policies in Tibet nor have been there any clear signs that the Chinese leadership is genuinely interested in beginning an honest dialogue.
I wish to state clearly that this is not to express doubts about our policy of reaching out to the Chinese government. Just a few minutes back Kalon Tripa, the Chief Executive of the Tibetan Government in exile, stressed emphatically our determination and commitment to vigorously pursue the present ongoing process.
Presently, China is undergoing profound changes. This process of transformation can and will be influenced to a large degree by the attitude and policies of the international community towards China. This, in turn, will impact China’s policies on Tibet and towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In this context, it is not solely in the hands of the Chinese leaders alone whether the Tibetan people will be able to enjoy a life in freedom and dignity in future or not. The outcome will be determined just as much by the policies of the governments of the free world towards the Tibet issue and China.
There is no doubt in our mind that the strong international concern for Tibet has been one of the major factors for the Chinese leaders for agreeing to our visits. It is, therefore, necessary that the international community continues to remain engaged with the Chinese government on the issue of Tibet. It is of great importance to continue to demonstrate strong interest in the progress of the ongoing process and to continue to encourage and urge the Chinese leadership to enter into earnest negotiations to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet.
The Honorable Chris Balance, the President of the Scottish Cross Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, the Honorable Harry Cohen, the President of the UK Parliamentary Group for Tibet, respected Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, the Chairman of the Kashag of the Central Tibetan Administration, and respected fellow parliamentarians and friends across the world, on behalf of the Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies, I would like to thank you for your presence here at the 4th World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet.
My colleagues in the Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies and I are delighted that we have been able to organise the fourth World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet here in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. This convention comes after a gap of eight long years. And for this reason, at the very outset, I would like to thank both the Scottish Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet and the UK Parliamentary Group for Tibet for shouldering the heavy responsibility of organising this important convention. Without their support, it would not have been possible to hold this convention.
For the benefit of new participants at this convention, let me briefly go over the first three parliamentarians’ conventions on Tibet. The first convention was held in New Delhi in March 1994. The convention was attended by 69 parliamentarians from 25 countries. It adopted the Delhi Declaration which calls for the formation of all party parliamentary groups for Tibet in respective legislative bodies around the world and to create an international network of parliamentarians to coordinate activities for the cause of the Tibetan people. It also calls upon the parliamentarians to prevail upon their governments to speak up for the rights of the Tibetan people.
The second convention on Tibet was held in May 1995 in Vilnius in Lithuania. This was attended by 88 parliamentarians from 25 countries. It reaffirmed its support for the Delhi declaration and called upon governments around the world to support the efforts of the Tibetan people and His Holiness the Dalai Lama to restore the rights of the people of Tibet through a peaceful settlement.
The third parliamentarians’ convention on Tibet was held in April 1997 in Washington, DC. 63 parliamentarians from 27 countries attended the convention. The convention reaffirmed its support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach of seeking genuine self-rule for the whole of Tibet within the People’s Republic of China.
Since the convention on Tibet in Washington, DC, the number of formally organised parliamentary groups for Tibet has grown to 27, spread across 27 countries, mainly in the West and Latin America and also in countries like India and Japan. In countries like the United States, where they choose not to have formal support group, nevertheless the parliamentarians have been equally active. Along with the Tibet Support Groups, these parliamentary groups for Tibet have been instrumental in highlighting the issue of Tibet in the international forums and bringing the concerns of the Tibetan people to the attention of their respective governments to influence on the People’s Republic of China.
Because of the sustained international pressure brought on China, the authorities in recent years released some high profile political prisoners like Takna Jigme Sangpo, Ngawang Chophel and Ngawang Sangdrol. The sustained expression of international concern on the vexed issue of Tibet has also in part resulted in the Chinese authorities re-establishing ties with Dharamsala and accepting visits by the Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to discuss the concerns of the Tibetan people.
We would like to say emphatically that all these positive developments would not be possible without the efforts of the worldwide Tibet movement and especially the sustained support of the various parliamentary groups for Tibet.
However, there are still issues that are of deep concern to the Tibetan people. For this reason, this convention is designed in such a way that we will have time and opportunity to explore these issues in greater detail. We have prepared a detailed background papers on the four core issues of concern to the Tibetan people and I hope that you have had time to go through them.
The issues of great concern to us are China’s western development programme, the still appalling human rights situation in Tibet, the deteriorating environmental situation, and our own sincere efforts to create the right environment for substantive discussions on the issue of Tibet.
China’s western development programme was launched in 1999 by the then President Jiang Zemin. The economic reason for the western development programme is to bridge the yawning economic disparity between the rich coastal areas of eastern China and the impoverished western regions. The Chinese authorities hope to accomplish this by accelerating the economic development in the poor western regions of the country and thus bringing a measure of economic equality between the east and west.
However, in Tibet much of the development activities pursued there are concentrated in infrastructure, namely improving communications, roads and initiating the ongoing construction of the railroad to Lhasa. The first train, on a trial basis, thundered into the Tibetan capital on 15 October 2005 amidst great official fanfare.
Tibetans in Tibet, however, suspect that the real reason for the development in infrastructure is to enable China easier access to Tibet’s rich mineral and other natural resources. The Tibetan people say that this will make it easier for China to cart away these resources to the mainland to fuel its development and to bring in more Chinese settlers onto the Tibetan plateau to ease the pressure of population on other parts of China’s crowded regions.
Tibetans in Tibet also assert that the vast majority of Tibetans are not benefiting from the economic boom that is going on in Tibet. Chinese settlers, who are attracted to the ongoing boom on the roof of the world, are the main beneficiaries and the common Tibetans are increasingly marginalised and remain as poor as before, if not poorer.
Although Tibetans from Tibet say that they are left pretty much to themselves as long as they don’t involve themselves in what the authorities perceive as political activities, the human rights situation in Tibet continues to remain grim. Compared even to coastal China, the authorities keep a tight lid on normal human activities in Tibet. Dissent of any form in Tibet is still punishable by imprisonment. The whereabouts of the Panchen Lama recognised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama continues to be a matter of deep concern for us.
Authorities permit the free practice of the rituals of Buddhism, so as to give the impression that there is religious freedom in Tibet: being allowed to say prayers, worship at temples and monasteries, make offerings at these places and to take the sacred walk around holy places. But these are the outward form of Buddhism and not its real substance. The essence of Buddhism is for a teacher being freely allowed to teach his wisdom and insight to his students and his students in turn passing this wisdom to their own students, which creates an unbroken lineage of Buddhist knowledge orally transmitted from teacher to students. This is banned in Tibet. This ban on the free teachings of the Buddha undermines the very ability of the Tibetan people to hold on to their spiritual and cultural heritage.
Tibet’s fragile eco-system and the devastating impact of China’s rapid economic development on this system are of particular concern to us. Tibet is Asia’s water tower. 10 of Asia’s major rivers originate from Tibet. According to environmentalists, they feed about 47% of the Earth’s total human population. So what China’s does or does not do in Tibet has a major impact on millions of people downstream. Rumors of China’s plans to divert the Brahmaputra River, which flows downstream to India and Bangladesh, and despite the official ban, the un-official logging of Tibetan forests contribute to the annual devastating flooding in India, Bangladesh and in China itself.
As for the ongoing railway project, Tibetans in Tibet fear this will help China accelerate the migration of its jobless population onto the Tibetan plateau and cart away Tibetan resources. Many Tibetans fear this will inundate Tibetans in a sea of Chinese settlers.
On the bright side is the renewed contacts between Dharamsala and Beijing, which started in 2002. Since then the Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mr. Lodi G. Gyari and Mr. Kelsang Gyaltsen, along with their two senior assistants, made three visits to Beijing, including Tibetan areas, and had a frank and substantive discussions with their counterparts at the Chinese embassy in Berne in Switzerland this summer. It is our sincere hope that these contacts will lead to a peaceful settlement of the protracted issue of Tibet, that satisfies the wishes of the Tibetan people and which meets the genuine security concerns of the Chinese authorities.
We believe that it is in this area that the members of parliaments around the world could be the most effective in prevailing upon the Chinese leadership to settle the issue based on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach.
In conclusion, I would like to once again thank the Scottish Cross Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet and the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet for their involvement in the organisation of this important conference. I would also like to express the appreciation of the Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies to all the members of the organising committee and others who have worked so hard to ensure the smooth running of this conference.