SAMDHONG RINPOCHE SPEAKS AT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
18 November, 2002
Mr. Chairman, Honourable members of Parliament and dear friends of Tibet,
This conference is a timely initiative by the Tibet Inter-Group of the European Parliament, the International Campaign for Tibet, Europe, and our small Office here in Brussels. I wish to express our heart-felt thanks to the members of the Tibet Inter-Group of the European Parliament, its President Mr. Thomas Mann as well as to the staff of the International Campaign for Tibet, Europe, and to our officials in Brussels for organising this conference.
It is a great honour for me to address this conference on Tibet by members of the European Parliament and by national parliamentarians and representatives of non-governmental organisations from a many European countries. I am grateful to the organisers and you all for giving me this honour and opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. As a democratically elected servant of the Tibetan people, my Kashag and I have a tremendous responsibility to tackle the grave situation of Tibet, which appears to be an almost impossible task. Yet we are trying to shoulder this responsibility with courage, unshakeable faith and total commitment to the truth, the non-violence and the genuine democratic system. We draw strength and inspiration from the enlightened leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and selfless and unceasing sincere support of the international community. I need not dwell in the present situation of Tibet and the Tibetan people as you all are well aware of our situation. The Tibetan cause has a strong base of support in Europe. In almost every European country there exist Tibet support groups. People throughout Europe feel deeply committed to the Tibetan cause as a matter of moral principle. They welcome their governments taking initiatives to promote a just and peaceful solution to the Tibetan problem. Consequently, the European Parliament and most national parliaments in Europe consistently express deep concern for the plight of the Tibetan people and call for negotiations between the government of the Peoples Republic of China and His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives to resolve the issue of Tibet. The European Parliament and other national parliaments in Europe have adopted a number of significant resolutions to that effect. Together, the widespread sympathy for Tibet of the European public and the large number of resolutions on Tibet passed by parliaments in Europe present a clear mandate to the European governments as well as to the European Council and Commission to take the initiative on Tibet. I believe this is a crucial moment to help resolve the long-standing problem of Tibet peacefully. A number of major political factors are coming together in China promising the coming years to be a period of historic change. It is, therefore, also a time to act on Tibet.
The present Chinese hard-line policy on Tibet is counterproductive and only exacerbates the Tibet problem. This hard-line policy consists of increasing political and religious repression, unleashing the forces of the market economy that attract hundreds of thousands of unemployed Chinese workers to Tibet who contribute to cementing Chinese rule and initiating a huge public relations campaign to white-wash human rights abuses in Tibet. The premises of this policy is based on the mistaken assumption that economic riches will undermine the Tibetans’ Buddhist faith and their devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The effect of this policy is the marginalization of the Tibetans and Tibetan way of life at an alarming pace. Thus, in Tibet “development” is designed to assimilate Tibet into the Chinese society and culture and to overwhelm Tibetans demographically by transferring large number of Chinese to Tibet.
This deteriorating situation in Tibet and the lack of any movement and progress until recently in the efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to enter into a dialogue with the Chinese government have been deepening the sense of frustration and alienation among Tibetans. Tension, restlessness and bitterness have been on the increase among Tibetans. Critics question the wisdom of the non-violent pursuit of our freedom struggle and of our seeking genuine self-rule instead of independence. The intransigence of the Chinese government on the issue of Tibet and the absence of any effective and concrete support for Tibet by the international community are fuelling radicalism among Tibetans.
Against this gloomy background, we welcome very much the recent positive developments in our relation with the Government of People’s Republic of China. It is creating a breathing space in a tense and volatile situation. Beijing has released several Tibetan prisoners of conscience, including Takna Jigme Sangpo and Ngawang Sangdrol. In September a four-member delegation from Dharamsala visited Beijing and Lhasa among other places and established renewed direct contact with the Chinese Government. Our envoys, Kasur Lodi G. Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, met face-to-face with Mr. Wang Zhaoguo, Vice Chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and Head of the Central United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party and Mr. Li De Zhu, Minister for Nationalities Affairs and Deputy Head of the Central United Front Work Department. Our envoys engaged in frank exchanges of views in Beijing in a very cordial atmosphere.
Our delegation came back with the impression that it is worthwhile to do our best to create a conducive political atmosphere for direct face-to-face meetings on a regular basis in future. This will enable us to dispel distrust and misconceptions and to build mutual confidence and trust. Our envoys have been instructed to make every effort to develop this contact into a process of rapprochement, dialogue and reconciliation. With this spirit immediately on return of our delegation to Dharamsala I have appealed to Tibetans in exile and to our friends throughout the world to cooperate with us and help us in creating a favourable political atmosphere for the continuation of the present contact with the Chinese government. I asked Tibetans and our friends to test the sincerity of Beijing in wanting to engage in an earnest dialogue with us by refraining from staging protests and demonstrations until June 2003.
I wish to take this opportunity to publicly thank my fellow countrymen and women in America and our American and Mexican friends of whom a overwhelming majority has chosen to heed my call and refrained from participating in rallies during the recent visit of President Jiang Zemin to the United States and Mexico. We have been able to demonstrate that the worldwide Tibet movement is able to pull its acts together and to adopt a unified position on vital issues. However, I understand that many people entertain strong doubts about the wisdom of my appeal for restraint. Because many believe and are concerned that the Tibetan leadership is giving a hand to a Chinese public relations exercise aimed merely at deflating and evading international criticism of their abusive policy in Tibet. Nonetheless, irrespective of whether there is a new thinking on the part of the Chinese government or not, I strongly believe that it has been the right thing for us to act in a constructive, responsible, conciliatory and sincere manner. Our strength is truthfulness, sincerity and the spirit of dialogue and reconciliation. The Kashag under my leadership will continue to adhere and uphold these principles. Last but not least, we are retaining the option to redouble our efforts in highlighting the human rights violations in Tibet and in seeking international condemnation of China’s brutal and repressive policies in Tibet, if within the period stipulated it becomes obvious that the Chinese government has no intentions whatsoever to continue the process of rapprochement and dialogue.
However, the recent steps taken by China give us a glimmer of hope. We welcome these new steps. China is changing rapidly and is in transition from the third to fourth generation of leaders. The Chinese Communist Party just concluded its 16th Party Congress. A new generation of Chinese has been appointed to the leadership of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Next March this change in the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party will also be reflected in the Chinese government. Times of changes are also often times of opportunities. We believe it is of crucial importance now to increase our efforts, with the support and encouragement of the international community, to bring about a positive change in the situation of Tibet.
For a change to take place, China must understand clearly that Europe and the US and others are serious and committed to finding a solution to the issue of Tibet. Without a concerted and effective effort on the part of the international community, it is unlikely that the hard-liners within the new Chinese leadership will consent to entering into any meaningful and serious dialogue with the Tibetans. In China’s foreign policy strategy Europe is assuming a very important position. It is said that the new Chinese leaders see Europe as offering a diplomatic bright spot because they share with the European Union countries an interest in checking American unilateralism. Consequently, they see great prospects for advantage in their relations with Europe. Reflecting this assessment the Chinese leaders seem more disposed to make concessions to human rights concerns emanating from Europe than from America. They see European criticism of China’s human rights record resulting naturally from “cultural differences”, while American criticism is considered as an instrument of the US containment strategy towards China. Obviously, Europe and the European Union have a crucial role to play in resolving the Tibet issue. The European Union is ideally suited to champion the peaceful resolution of the Tibetan problem through dialogue and negotiations. The Union has political weight and enjoys high international standing. The European Parliament has called in numerous resolutions for strong and effective actions by the Union to ensure respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people and to promote negotiations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.
However, unfortunately so far the initiatives on Tibet taken by the European Council and Commission have been few and seem to lack a clear and sustained policy. Consequently, in 1998 the European Parliament adopted resolutions calling on the Council and Commission to appoint an EU Special Representative for Tibetan Issues. In 1997 a US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues was created within the State Department. The creation of this position has provided a focus for engaging with the US Administration on breath of issues ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âhumanitarian assistance, diplomatic support, multi-lateral strategies, sharing information and, ultimately shaping policy. It has ensured a significant level of attention to Tibet at the highest level of political interaction between the US and China. Most importantly, the Office of the Tibet Coordinator within the US State Department provides the necessary impetus within the US Administration for a consistent US policy in promoting dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government.
The central objective of the EU Special Representative for Tibetan Issues should be to promote substantive dialogue and negotiations between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives. Towards this aim he or she should develop a sustained and effective policy. The EU Special Representative should maintain close contact with leaders of the Tibetan people and make efforts to travel to India, Tibet and to China. The Special Representative should promote the EU policy of pressing for respect for human rights and encouraging the preservation of and respect for the distinct culture, religion, language and identity of Tibet people. The Office of the EU Special Representative should also provide a focus for engaging with Council, Commission, Parliament and the member states’ governments of the Union on a wide range of issues concerning the Tibetan people ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âfrom humanitarian assistance, cultural preservation to information sharing, diplomatic support and multi-lateral strategies to shaping policy.
Watching the world around us we are witnessing how unattended conflicts can erupt in ways that make them virtually impossible to solve. It is in everyone’s interest not to let that happen in Tibet. While a brutal policy of ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬Ãƒâ€¹Ã…â€œmerciless repression’ of the slightest political dissent during the past years seems to have created a situation of superficial quiet in Tibet, it is clearly perceptible to any open-eyed and alerts observer that among Tibetans deep-seated resentment remains pervasive. According to Orville Schell “these resentments could easily lead to yet another overt conflicts” and he is concerned that “should that happen, it might then be too late for the kind of peaceful reconciliation that now offers itself as a real possibility”.
Western diplomats and analysts are stating, “Chinese foreign policy is maturing”. They observe that the “curious mixture of insecurity and arrogance with which China’s government used to view the world has been replaced by a sense of possibility”. China is changing the way it deals with the world. It now sees itself as a major player with the confidence and perspective that comes from that. It is, therefore, of crucial importance that the important actors of the international community ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â such as Europe and the European Union – make it clear to China that a creative, new solution to the long-unsettled issue of Tibet would serve as a very convincing sign that China was changing, maturing and becoming more receptive to assuming a greater role on the global stage as a constructive, reliable and forward-looking power.
I strongly believe that the appointment of an EU Special Representative for Tibetan Issues is a crucial step for a sustained and effective role for the European Union to help Tibet and China to resolve the Tibetan problem peacefully. It will enable the EU not only to help promote a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue in a more sustained, creative and effective way but also provide support for the other legitimate needs of the Tibetan people, including ways and means to preserve our distinct identity. This initiative will send the message to Beijing that the European Union is seriously committed in encouraging and promoting a negotiated solution of the Tibetan problem. I have no doubt that the European Union’s commitment to a peaceful and just resolution of the issue of Tibet will definitely impact positively and help create the appropriate conducive political environment for a constructive dialogue on the issue of Tibet.
During this time of deep anxiety over political terrorism, it is important that the international community give strong and effective support to non-violent movements committed to peaceful changes in the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue. A peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue will not only bring great benefit to Tibet and China and enhance stability and peace in the region but will have great consequences for the global political culture, too. The Tibetan freedom struggle has gained international fame in championing non-violence approach. Consequently, the success or failure of the non-violent freedom struggle of the Tibetan people will directly impact the outcome of international efforts to promote a global political culture of non-violence and dialogue. I thank you for your attention and ask you for your continued support during this critical time of our non-violent freedom struggle.
Professor Samdhong Rinpoche
Brussels, 14th November 2002