DIIR Kalon on current status of negotiations on the issue of Tibet
Monday, 20 November 2006, 10:00 a.m.
Dharamshala: Kalon Tempa Tsering, Kalon for the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Central Tibetan Administration, gave a broad outline of the current status of negotiations on the issue of Tibet yesterday at the beginning of the two-day International Conference of Autonomous Region for Tibet.
The conference is organised by the Delhi-based Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Center and is being held at New Delhi.
Present at the conference are 13-member delegation from 10 different autonomous regions across the world, Kalon Tempa Tsering, Penpa Tsering, president of the TPPRC and also a member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile, Thubten Samphel, Information Secretary, DIIR, Sonam N Dagpo, International Relations Secretary, DIIR, Sonam Damdul, Ngawang Lhamo, Pema Jungney and Gyalrong Dawa Tsering, members of the Tibetan exile parliament.
Following is the full text of Kalon Tempa Tsering’s speech
I am delighted to be given this opportunity to discuss the current status of our dialogue with the Chinese leadership on the future status of Tibet. Since we renewed our contacts with Beijing in 2002, the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama have had five rounds of substantive discussions with the concerned Chinese officials, the latest being in February this year. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration put a lot in store in these contacts, which we hope will eventually lead to negotiations that will fulfill the reasonable aspirations of the Tibetan people and meet the concerns and interests of the People’s Republic of China.
During these five rounds of discussions we have had with the Chinese leaders, we had the opportunity to explain to them in great detail the Middle-Way Approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in resolving the issue of Tibet. We have explained to the Chinese leaders that the Middle-Way Approach, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly said so many times publicly, does not seek independence for Tibet. The Middle-Way Approach works towards the whole of Tibet, inhabited by six million Tibetans, enjoying meaningful autonomy under one administrative unit within the constitutional framework of the People’s Republic of China.
We have informed the Chinese leaders that these core demands of the Tibetan people, the whole of Tibet coming together under one administrative entity freely exercising meaningful autonomy has been positively considered by successive Chinese leaders from the time of Mao. All Chinese leaders when approached with the Tibetan demand for one administrative entity for the whole of Tibet said that this issue could be discussed later. In 1979, when Deng invited Mr. Gyalo Thondup to Beijing, the paramount Chinese leader told His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s elder brother that except independence, everything else could be discussed and resolved.
It was in this spirit that His Holiness the Dalai Lama in subsequent years made public his solution to the issue of Tibet. The Middle-Way Approach is outlined in two documents. One is the Five-Point Peace Plan announced at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington, DC in 1987. The other is the Strasbourg Proposal announced before the European Parliament in 1988.
The principal idea behind both these documents is the desire of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that the Tibetan people must be empowered to preserve and expand upon Tibet’s precious spiritual traditions, which is of benefit to the whole of humankind, including the Chinese people. In order to do this, the Tibetan people, inhabiting the whole of the Tibetan plateau, which is one geographic and composite ecological unit, must be given sufficient political freedom to ensure the continued survival and integrity of a unique civilization.
This is the spirit of the Middle-Way Approach, which works towards the cultural survival of the Tibetan people. However, in order to survive as a distinct culture, the Tibetan people must be given sufficient political freedoms to perform this responsibility.
Brief History and the 17-Point Agreement
In order to understand the evolution of the thinking behind the Middle-Way Approach, let me very briefly dwell on Tibet’s recent and sad history.
The status of the Tibetan people as a distinct population, with their own language, religion and culture is undisputed, even from the Chinese point of view. In fact, the Tibetan struggle over the past half a century has been, in a way, a struggle to preserve our way of life, our rich spiritual tradition and our cultural and ethnic identity.
In 1950, when the People’s Liberation Army stepped up military aggression over Tibet, the Tibetan government agreed to resolve the crisis through negotiation, leading to the 17-Point Peaceful Agreement of 23 May 1951.
The 17 clauses of the Agreement”which was in essence, “the first historical case of one-country, two systems””declared that Tibet would become a part of Chinese territory and that Beijing would handle the defense and foreign affairs of Tibet. On the other hand, in addition to guaranteeing Tibetan people’s freedom of religion and culture, the Agreement pledged that China “will not alter the existing political system in Tibet” or “the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama”.
Although the 17-Point Agreement was not reached on an equal footing or through mutual consent, His Holiness the Dalai Lama continued to abide by the terms of the Agreement, and made all possible efforts to achieve a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Chinese government for eight years since 1951. However, after the Chinese army unleashed a harsh military crackdown on the popular Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama was compelled to seek refuge in India and work in exile.
Deng Xiaoping’s New Approach to the Issue of Tibet
A degree of optimism was generated after the death of Mao Zedong and the downfall of the Gang of Four, as Deng Xiaoping took over the reigns of Chinese leadership, and ushered a period of political reform. In 1979, Deng initiated a proposal to the exile Tibetan Administration, saying that “except independence, all other issues can be resolved through negotiations.” Deng also invited the exile Tibetans to visit their homeland and see the actual situation for themselves.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama responded positively to this gesture by sending four fact-finding delegations to Tibet and two exploratory teams to China. The Tibetan people’s overwhelming response to the delegates left China in no doubt that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the spirit of Tibet. On the other hand, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Administration continued to make sincere efforts to develop closer contact and better understanding with the Chinese government, by taking several confidence-building steps and initiatives, such as wanting to send qualified young teachers to teach in schools to improve the educational standard of schools in Tibet.
Beijing’s response, unfortunately, came in the form of a “Five-point Policy towards the Dalai Lama”, which asked the Dalai Lama and members of the exile Tibetan Administration to return home. The Dalai Lama, it said, should live in China, and was promised the “same political status and living conditions as he had before 1959”. Similarly, the members of the exile government were promised jobs and living conditions that were “better than before”. In brief, the issue of Tibet was reduced merely to that of the personal status of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the exile Tibetans.
Despite Beijing’s reluctance to resolve the issue through dialogue, His Holiness the Dalai Lama remained steadfast in seeking a peaceful resolution on the basis of what Deng proposed and his own Middle-Way Approach. But, the viable option now was to turn to the support of the international community. Speaking at the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus, on 21 September 1987, His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced his Five-point Peace Plan for Tibet. In which, he asked for:
- Transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace;
- Abandonment of China’s population transfer policy;
- Respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights and democratic
- Restoration and protection of Tibet’s natural environment and the abandonment of China’s use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste; and
- Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and on relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.
The Middle-Way Approach
Addressing members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on 15 June 1988, His Holiness declared that he was willing to forego the idea of restoration of an independent Tibet in return for meaningful and genuine autonomy for a reunified Tibet.
The essence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach is that it does not seek independence. Nor does it accept the present status of Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s approach seeks to resolve the issue of Tibet within the constitutional framework of the PRC.
Some salient components of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach are:
- Without seeking independence for Tibet, the Tibetan Administration strives for the creation of a political entity comprising the three traditional provinces of Tibet;
- Such an entity should enjoy a status of genuine national regional autonomy;
- This autonomy should be governed by the popularly-elected legislature and executive through a democratic process and should have an independent judicial system;
- As soon as the above status is agreed upon by the Chinese government, Tibet would not seek separation from, and remain within, the People’s Republic of China;
- Until the time Tibet is transformed into a zone of peace and non-violence, the Chinese government can keep a limited number of armed forces in Tibet for its protection;
- The Central Government of the People’s Republic of China has the responsibility for the political aspects of Tibet’s international relations and defence, whereas the Tibetan people should manage all other affairs pertaining to Tibet, such as religion and culture, education, economy, health, ecological and environmental protection;
- The Chinese government should stop its policy of human rights violations in Tibet and the transfer of Chinese population into Tibetan areas;
- To resolve the issue of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shall take the main responsibility of sincerely pursuing negotiations and reconciliation with the Chinese government.
Unfortunately, China took strong exceptions to the Dalai Lama’s proposal, saying that its government would not accept “independence, semi-independence or disguised form of independence” for Tibet. And by the end of 1993, the Chinese authorities had closed down all channels of communication with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Direct relation was resumed after a decade-long deadlock, when the Chinese government agreed to receive His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s envoys charged with the responsibilities of renewing contact and dialogue with the Chinese leadership. Thus, in September 2002, two envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with two senior assistants, were able to visit Beijing. Since then, five rounds of dialogue have been held between the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. In fact, the fifth round of meeting took place from 15 to 23 February this year.
The recent talks further reinforced the fact that apart from lack of trust and misconception prevailing on both sides, major differences continue to remain on a number of issues. Some differences are on fundamental issues, like the definition of Tibet. Since the historical status of Tibet is complex, His Holiness the Dalai Lama believes that it is better not to get bogged down in history and the different interpretations of history. The Tibetan people’s demand for the status of genuine regional national autonomy to all the Tibetan-inhabited areas is based not on Tibet’s history but the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. In other words, it is based on the principle of self-governance and equality for all nationalities, as guaranteed in the constitution of the PRC. The administration of all the Tibetan people in a single autonomous unit is uncompromisable and indispensable for the preservation of Tibetan identity, since all Tibetans, in and outside of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, share a common language, religion and culture. Such an arrangement will also help realize peaceful co-existence and harmony between Tibetans and all other nationalities. It is not a question of greater or smaller Tibet, but the implementation of the principle of the regional national autonomy as enshrined in the constitution of the PRC.
Apart from preserving the Tibetan identity, a unified autonomous region for the entire Tibetan people, we believe, will also enable the Tibetan people to achieve economic self-sufficiency. This in fact is not a new proposition. Prominent Tibetans who have worked under the Chinese authorities have mooted the compelling need for a single and united Tibetan administrative unit. Prominent Chinese leaders have also endorsed the unification of Tibetan people into a single administrative unit.
In our considered judgment, the Chinese leaders must have the confidence to realize the wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach. The Tibetan people enjoying the fruits of China’s dazzling economic development in an atmosphere of freedom and tolerance will go a long way in bringing social stability and peace to China, which is in accord with President Hu Jintao’s efforts to construct a “harmonious society” in China.
Chinese People’s Reaction
Many Chinese scholars and writers in the Mainland and outside have urged the Chinese leaders to positively review the Middle-Way Approach proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and make this the basis for a negotiated status for the future of Tibet. The most articulate of these commentators is Wang Lixiong, a writer based in Beijing, who has a deep understanding of the issue of Tibet. He has written several books on the issue of Tibet, including Tibet: The Soft Underbelly of China, Unlocking Tibet and many essays, all which point to his perception that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the key to unlock the issue of Tibet.
Wei Jingsheng, considered the father of Chinese democracy for advocating that democracy will be the answer to many of China’s ills and jailed for many years for his pains, has pointed out to successive Chinese leaders for the need to resolve the issue of Tibet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was followed by a succession of Chinese writers and scholars on the Mainland, who either individually or in groups, have petitioned Chinese leaders on the need to resolve the issue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The new interest in Tibet among Chinese on the Mainland and their growing appreciation of the value of Tibet’s spiritual heritage is an indicative that any settlement of the issue of Tibet based on His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach will enjoy the broad support and the goodwill of the Chinese people.
Although we are disappointed by the lack of positive response from the Chinese side to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s conciliatory approach to resolving the issue of Tibet, but we are encouraged by the growing international interest and support in the resolution of the Tibetan issue as consistently proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the past almost three decades. We hope that the experts on different autonomous arrangements who are gathered here will come up with imaginative ideas for an autonomous Tibet for the six million Tibetan people that fulfill the just aspirations of the Tibetan people and also be able to convey to the Chinese leadership that genuine autonomy works and greatly benefit all the concerned if it is put into practice with all sincerity and honesty by all the concerned.
November 19, 2006