Significance of CTA President’s first ever official meetings and visit to the White House: An Interview
Posted by TIBET TV on Sunday, 22 November 2020
Dharamshala: President Dr Lobsang Sangay on Friday created history as the first political head of CTA to formally enter the White House. This historic development comes a month after the US State Department officially invited the CTA President for official meetings in the State dept building.
Tenzin Chemey of Tibet TV speaks with President Dr Lobsang Sangay on his meetings in the White House and the historic significance of the visit.
Below is the transcript of the interview:
Tenzin Chemey: Tashi Delek, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay. Could you share with us whom you met in the United States White House and what you discussed?
President Dr Sangay: I met officials at the White House on Asia-related issues, so staff members from both the President and the Vice-President’s Office were present. It was a great honour for me because after six decades now, the President of CTA is formally invited to and allowed to enter the White House. For the last nine years, I have been going to Washington DC; they always say that as the representative of the Tibetan government in exile, them allowing me to enter either the State Department or White House amounts to recognising the Tibetan government in exile.
Last month, we made a breakthrough with the State Department with the consent of the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and yesterday to the White House, with the consent of the highest official of the White House. So it is a big deal because we have been in exile for the last six decades and wherever we go, we look for recognition and acceptance that CTA does reflect and represent the aspirations and wishes of Tibetans inside Tibet and CTA is a democratically elected body and reflects the democratic values. To have that recognition is a big deal.
We have been making a bit of noise and efforts; finally, it happened. I feel this is a message of hope and solidarity for the six million Tibetans inside Tibet all the way from the White House.
Tenzin Chemey: What are the implications and significance of the meetings and invitations taking place lately? Why were you or any other officials of the Central Tibetan Administration not allowed in the White House in official capacity earlier?
President Dr Sangay: I think there are a couple of factors. One, globally, there is a general understanding, if not consensus, that the Chinese government is too aggressive, manipulating the international system, violating democratic norms and human rights. So the Communist Party of China [CCP] is not adhering to the international norms and the practices that we had for so many decades. Even in Washington DC, they are moving from a mindset of cooperation to competition, and I would urge them to have confrontation on human rights of Tibetan people and others in China and Hong Kong, including East Turkestan [Ch: Xinjiang].
In that context, under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetans have been practising democracy which ought to be acknowledged; also at a personal level as I have been to DC more than a dozen times and met so many officials with whom I have personal relationships. Since they know me very well, they agreed to go out of their ways to have me invited to the State Department and the White House.
It takes a bit of a discussion even within a department, inter-agencies, and a lot of debates and discussions, consent and agreement from different agencies to come to this conclusion. It took us some time, but finally, CTA is here in Washington DC and the White House.
Tenzin Chemey: So last week the US House passed a resolution affirming the significance of the advocacy for genuine autonomy for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China and the work His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has done to promote global peace, harmony and understanding. What does the resolution mean for Tibet’s freedom struggle and tell us about one of the points in the resolution that calls for inviting His Holiness the Dalai Lama to a bipartisan, bicameral forum?
President Dr Sangay: There has been discussion at Washington DC that His Holiness should be invited to address the US Congress. More than a year ago, Representative Ngodup Tsering and I met Congressman Ted Yoho. He was very supportive, and he also spoke strongly against the CCP. During our second meeting, he proposed to invite His Holiness at the US Congress and asked whether His Holiness would come or not. I told that we would seek His Holiness’ blessings. Later upon my return to Dharamsala, His Holiness kindly consented to address the Congress. Congressman Yoho then said he would move a resolution to that effect, and here we are.
A few days ago, there was unanimous consent on the resolution; both the Democrats and Republicans came together on the Tibet issue; which is a big deal. Even though the two parties do not get along, the Tibet issue has always and continues to enjoy bipartisan support. For Tibetans, it is crucial to remember that we must keep the Tibet issue a bipartisan issue. So, all the members of the Congress voted to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama, recognising his leadership and contribution to world peace.
In addition to that, for the first time, the US Congress passed a resolution endorsing Middle Way Approach as a policy and genuine autonomy as the solution. Previously, the resolutions stated that there should be dialogue, but then the dialogue is not the end, it is the means.
In the last 7-8 years, CTA has changed the strategy to say that the governments should endorse the policy and the result is, what we seek is genuine autonomy, so that has been our approach and efforts. There is a bill at the Parliament of Canada and 90-plus members of the Japanese Parliament have also passed the internal resolution endorsing Middle Way Approach. MPs in around 14 countries have raised issues or debated on the Middle Way Approach.
We are thrilled that the US Congress led the way and passed the resolution, recognising the great leadership of his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Middle Way as a policy.
Tenzin Chemey: Talking about recognition, the recent report of the US State Department Office of Policy Planning described Tibet as militarily occupied land. How significant is this recognition of the state Tibet is currently under?
President Dr Sangay: It is a big deal to say that Tibet is under military occupation. Seven to eight years ago, our friend Michael Van Walt and I had this discussion when he asked me whether I noticed how the Tibetan narrative had shifted to our detriment. For the last two or three decades, the Chinese government has kept alleging that Tibetans seek independence to which we responded by saying, no, we don’t seek independence, but genuine autonomy. Then, the Chinese government added that Tibet has always been a part of China, but they seek independence. We responded similarly. In that process, the whole discourse on Tibet has shifted to ‘Tibet was never an independent nation and still, they are seeking independence’, making us appear unreasonable plus there was also the argument that we are seeking genuine autonomy for one-fourth of China. Therefore, we changed our strategy and changed the narrative, hence the Department of Information and International Relations under CTA has published the report titled ‘Tibet was never a part of China but Middle Way remains a viable solution’. The first chapter of the report clearly establishes that Tibet was an independent country and it is under illegal occupation of China now and all kinds of human rights violations are going on, but Middle Way is a viable solution.
Hence, the report of the State Department amounts to endorsing our strategy that Tibet is under military occupation, which means Tibet was independent and is under military occupation. Next, based on the Middle Way approach and as per His Holiness’ wishes, we want to have a win-win solution – win for China and win for Tibetans, i.e., to grant us genuine autonomy. In that context, we are reasonable and very moderate because Tibet was historically independent, and we are entitled to have independence, and there are all kinds of violations taking place under Chinese occupation. However, still, we are very reasonable to seek genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people. So, we are trying to change that narrative, and the report of the State Department helps us support that narrative. This is the narrative we want to take to different parts of the world.
Ultimately we don’t want to compromise on three things: firstly, Tibet was independent, and we are entitled to have independence; secondly, Tibet is currently under military occupation; and third, all kinds of human rights violations are taking place including political repression, cultural assimilation, economic marginalization, and environmental destruction but for the sake of six million Tibetans in Tibet, we are willing to compromise if genuine autonomy is granted to Tibetans.
That’s the narrative we want to establish, and this will strengthen the argument for the Middle Way Approach and genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people.
Tenzin Chemey: Thank you so much, Dr Sangay, for appearing on this interview with us.
President Dr Sangay: Thank you.