Canberra: Sikyong Penpa Tsering addressed the Australian National Press Club on “Resolving Sino-Tibet conflict and securing peace in the region” today on 21 June 2023.
During the hour-long talk, Sikyong spoke about the Chinese government’s ongoing repression inside Tibet, the grid-lock system, Order No. 5 under which the Chinese government is authorised to recognise reincarnated lamas, surveillance in monasteries, and compared Tibet to a prison system from which movement outside as well as inside is restricted. He also highlighted the historically independent status of Tibet, and urged international governments not to parrot Chinese government’s lines saying “Tibet is part of China” without proper knowledge of the history of Tibet.
Assuring commitment of the Central Tibetan Administration to resolving the Sino-Tibet conflict through the Middle Way Approach, he said that while historically Tibet was independent, the CTA seeks genuine autonomy for Tibetans like that experienced in Scotland. Unless the historical independent status of Tibet is recognised, “where is the reason for China to come and talk to us,” he asserted.
Sikyong pointed out that the Chinese government’s interference in the succession matters of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is purely a strategy to control and influence the 15th Dalai Lama through whom it seeks to control the Tibetan people and Buddhist countries. However, he referred to the Chinese appointed Panchen Lama to share an example of how it had failed to secure legitimacy among Tibetans.
He also took questions from the press club members, explaining what he meant by an autonomy citing the example of Scotland and South Tyrol. “If those kinds of autonomies are granted to the Tibetans they will be happy to live under the framework of the People’s Republic of China’s constitution.” He added, “It is not a matter of who rules it is the quality of the rule.”
Andrew Tillet from Australian Financial Review, raised the question of whether the popularity of the Tibet cause has waned in the international media. Sikyong responded that peaceful resistance gets less media coverage as compared to violent conflicts and added that it should not be the case. He further spoke about the restriction on information flow and how lack of news on Tibet does not mean lack of problems inside Tibet.
Stephen Dziedzic from ABC asked Sikyong about noticing a shift in India’s approach to the Tibet cause since the border clashes with China. Sikyong said that India was standing up for itself in the wake of the border clashes with China and maintained that the Central Tibetan Administration has a very transparent relationship with the Indian government.”We work very closely at every level just like India is working very closely with Australia and Japan with new formation like Aukus and Quad. India is taking a much more stronger position saying that if there is no disengagement from all sectors there won’t be normalisation of relations. I really appreciate India’s strong position.”
Matthew Knott from The Sydney Morning Herald, asked the Sikyong if calling for Australia to impose sanctions on China for its human rights abuses would not be damaging to the bilateral relations between the two trading partners. Sikyong answered that Australian government must have a uniform policy towards all countries and not impose sanctions on smaller countries where its more convenient to do so while bigger countries like China get away with everything.
Pablo Vinales from SBS, asked the Sikyong if the stabilization of relationship between China and Australia came at the expense of Tibet cause. Sikyong responded to that by saying that he understood the sensitivities involved when it comes to China, particularly as it concerns national interests. However, he noted that Australia is part of the Aukus and Quad formation because of China’s assertiveness in the region and Australia needs to be protected as well. Hence, he made the suggestion of strategically working with partners to take China in the right direction.
Sikyong also answered questions on the last talks between Tibetan representatives and Chinese officials and outlook on future talks. He shared that back-channel discussions were happening but could not say more beyond that due to sensitivity of the matter.
Justin Bassi, Executive Director of ASPI welcomed the Sikyong and the delegation and spoke of the hope for increased engagement and knowledge sharing going forward.
Sikyong Penpa Tsering gave a broad introduction to the core concerns of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and then continued to drill down on more detailed discussions on topics relating to Indo-Tibet border disputes and China’s problematic DNA profiling of Tibetans in Tibet. Subject matter experts from ASPI also took the opportunity to ask questions to the Sikyong on wide ranging topics, the Sikyong shared the Tibetan perspective and knowledge. Sikyong Penpa Tsering concluded the meeting by acknowledging the important work of ASPI, and expressed his optimism for on-going multilateral partnerships such as AUKUS (a trilateral partnership between Australia, UK and US) and Quad (diplomatic partnership between Australia, India, Japan and US) in collectively working for a common goal and for further engagement between ASPI and the CTA.
Sikyong Penpa Tsering concluded official engagements in the Australian capital of Canberra with a meeting with MP Shayne Neumann, Senator Dean Smith, Co-Chair of the Australian All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, MP Luke Gosling and MP Susan Templeman at the Australian parliament this afternoon. Sikyong left for the Australian city of Melbourne this evening.