On this special occasion of the 57th anniversary of Tibetan Democracy Day, the Kashag pays its highest obeisance and bow in deep gratitude to Tibet’s supreme leader and the pioneer of Tibetan democracy, His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama. The Kashag extends its warmest greetings to all Tibetans, and to our friends around the world.
In accordance with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s great vision, Tibetan democracy came to light on this day, 57 years ago. Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, even at a young age, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama set up a Reform Committee in an attempt to bring reform in the Tibetan social system. However, with the worsening situation, His Holiness had to take refuge in India and soon after his arrival in India, His Holiness followed his vision by making the political system of exile Tibetans into a democratic institution.
In exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made groundbreaking efforts in preserving Tibet’s unique religion, culture, language and identity. Hence, in India, the base of Tibetan Administration was established; schools, settlements, health centres, monasteries, and institutes of learning and culture were also built. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has over the years overcame many trials and tribulations and has through his visionary leadership continued to steer the Tibetans through the right trajectory.
His Holiness established and steered the democratic system of Tibetans in exile through timely administrative and legislative reforms. Tibetan democracy was greatly strengthened with the election of deputies representing all the provinces of Tibet and religious schools in the Tibetan parliament. In an effort towards ensuring equal gender representation, seats for women were reserved in the parliament. Taking stock of the increasing number of Tibetans in diaspora, reserved seats were provided to represent Tibetans in almost 40 different countries. The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile is now a full-fledged and a vibrant legislative body both in terms of representation as well as its constitution.
Similarly, the Kashag was re-established in exile and procedures of appointing the Kalons were improved. In 2001, His Holiness announced his status as semi-retired and called for the first direct election of the Kalon Tripa, the executive head of Central Tibetan Administration. A decade later His Holiness made a historic change with the announcement of devolution of his political responsibilities to the elected leader. His Holiness declared on August 08, 2011 at the swearing-in-ceremony of Kalon Tripa that he has fulfilled his ‘long cherished goal’ of bringing democracy to the Tibetan people. An amendment to the charter in 2012 changed the title to Sikyong which is now referred as the President of Central Tibetan Administration in English.
Despite the many hardships faced by an exile community including an increasingly scattered Tibetan population, the Tibetan community has over the last five decades successfully transformed into a fully functioning democracy that is lauded by many and has become a paragon of virtue for other exile communities. His Holiness’ farsighted and visionary leadership made this possible. We therefore take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to our most esteemed leader.
The establishment of a full-fledged democratic polity in exile and the foundations of the freedom struggle, which is based on the principles of non-violence, have won many supporters and allies, in particular that of many Chinese intellectuals and democracy activists. The pinnacle of unity among Tibetans that was once pertinent during the reign of the three great kings of Tibet has once again been revived under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
However, unfortunate incidents of internal bickering and regional discord have in recent past negatively impacted Tibetan unity. It is incumbent upon a democratic polity to champion the cause of diversity of opinion but when infested with vested interests, it not only weakens the fabric of the community but also sows the seeds of discord and disharmony. Therefore, we once again urge every Tibetan to keep in their heart the wise counsel of His Holiness the Dalai Lama calling on Tibetans to be united for the common cause of Tibet.
Since the invasion of Tibet by communist China in 1949, over a million lives have been lost. The Chinese government continues to deny basic freedom for Tibetans and their failed policies in Tibet have exacerbated the human rights situation in Tibet. Consequently, 149 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest since 2009. They have clearly expressed the aspirations of the Tibetans—restoration of freedom for Tibetans and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
The Chinese government, instead of addressing the legitimate aspiration of the Tibetan people has resorted to greater repression and in worse case, the criminalization of self-immolation. This is an abject disregard for basic human rights and a violation of the basic principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In recent months we have also witnessed two cases of self-immolations in exile. While the Kashag empathizes with the intention of the self-immolators, but we believe that the life of every Tibetan is precious and that we must be alive to fight for our cause. Therefore, the Kashag appeals to every Tibetan inside and outside Tibet to refrain from resorting to drastic actions such as self-immolation. Specifically, the Kashag not only discourages self-immolation protests in exile but we urge the exile Tibetans to pursue more powerful means by honing one’s educational, professional and personal competency to substantially contribute to the Tibetan cause.
Although the Constitution of PRC as well as the National Regional Autonomy Law provides for the right to preserve and promote one’s language and religion, however reality suggest otherwise. Tibetans in Tibet are denied this right and face impediments in practicing their language and religious faith. The systematic clampdown on religious institutes and members of the monastic community are akin to the days of the Cultural Revolution. Since last month, demolition and eviction of residents at Yachen Gar have begun. The large scale demolition and forced eviction of monks and nuns at Larung Gar that began in July last year evinces the attempt of Chinese Government to control Tibetan culture and religious life and is an act of trampling on the basic religious freedom and fundamental rights of the people in Tibet.
Another example is the case of Sabriye Tenberken, a German lady’s school for the blinds established 19 years ago in Lhasa. The Chinese government lauded her accomplishments and even gave awards to her several times. However, the Chinese government recently ordered the closure of the school on the pretext of the school being under western influence. This school had hugely benefitted Tibetan students. This action by the Chinese government has shocked many especially those concerned with children’s education.
Starting from March of this year in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region, a propaganda campaign called the “Four emphases and four love” was started. Under the banner of “Love the motherland by emphasising unity” fight against separatism and defamation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been amplified. We call upon the Chinese government to immediately cease defaming His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If the Chinese government is genuine in their approach to resolving the long-standing issue of Tibet, it is expected of them of refrain from shifting the blame on His Holiness and instead benefit from His Holiness’ wise leadership.
As recognized by many intellectuals and world leaders alike, the Chinese government should accept the fact that His Holiness the Dalai Lama presents the best opportunity and solution to resolving the issue of Tibet. While we remain committed to constructively engage with the Chinese leadership, we call on them to resume dialogue with the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In autumn this year, we will witness an important change in the composition of the Chinese leadership during the 19th Party Plenum. With this change in leadership, we hope for a lasting resolution to the issue of Tibet through the Middle Way Approach. The Kashag reaffirms its commitment to the Middle Way Approach as envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in gaining genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the framework of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
On this special occasion, we extend our deepest gratitude to the citizens and successive Government of India for their continued hospitality and steadfast support for the Tibetan people for the past 58 years in exile. We also express our sincere thanks to all the friends of Tibet and freedom loving people across the globe who have continued to champion the cause of Tibet.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to Botswana had to be called off last month solely due to exhaustion following a series of travel and public engagements. He has been advised rest. We would like to reassure everyone that His Holiness is in good health.
Lastly, we pray for the long life of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. May all his wishes be fulfilled and may the non-violent cause of Tibet prevail.
September 2, 2017
Note: This is a translation of the Tibetan statement. Should any discrepancies arise, please treat the Tibetan version as final and authoritative.