Today, as we celebrate the 54th anniversary of Tibetan Democracy Day, the Kashag extends its warm greetings to all fellow Tibetans in and outside Tibet. On this joyous occasion, we express our heartfelt gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for granting the Tibetan people the precious gift of democracy.
His Holiness’ vision of democracy has been a transformative experience for Tibetans. It fundamentally changed how we Tibetans in exile live our lives and is an inspiration for those in Tibet who live under repression on a daily basis. This historic change is second in importance in its transformation of Tibet. The first having taken place more than 1,000 years ago when Buddhism was introduced to Tibet from India. Buddhism became rooted in Tibet from the 7th to the 11th century thus deeply influencing Tibetan worldview and the social order of the time. Monasteries established during that period made Tibet a centre of learning for High Asia and beyond, as well as a wellspring for Tibetan Buddhist civilization.
The gift of democracy given to us by His Holiness the Dalai Lama has provided us with a voice and the power to influence our own future. We must ensure our compatriots in Tibet enjoy the similar rights to live in freedom and with dignity. In this struggle, we will never lose hope and will continue our non-violent struggle till His Holiness the Dalai Lama can be once again reunited with our brothers and sisters in Tibet.
While we strive to realize freedom for our fellow Tibetans in Tibet, we must strengthen our democratic institutions in exile to effectively support our political struggle. One way to nurture and promote Tibetan democracy is to cherish and practice and not by abusing the rights granted. The hallmark of democracy is unity in diversity in its various forms. Unity does not necessarily mean uniformity but basic civility is a must. As a young democracy, Tibetan community in exile must tread carefully and be all the more mindful of ensuring that public discourse is constructive and conducted with civility. It should enhance unity and not create further division within our society. As Tibetans hold their political leaders accountable, they are entitled to exercise this right by questioning but with civility. The Tibetan political leadership is entrusted by the people to make decisions and take a firm position on a range of issues varying in complexity and sensitivity for the greater common good.
Having said this, I draw your attention to the grim and worsening situation in Tibet. Last month, the Chinese police fired upon peaceful protestors in a village in Karze, Eastern Tibet. The demonstrators were calling for the release of their village leader who had been arrested for criticizing Chinese authorities’ mistreatment and harassment of Tibetans. Two Tibetans died in the police shooting. According to reports, apart from children and the elderly, the majority of the 700 inhabitants of Shugpa village were detained by the local Chinese authorities.
Clearly, the recently held “2014 Forum on the Development of Tibet, China” and its so-called “Lhasa Consensus” were a premeditated or orchestrated Chinese Government propaganda to paint an extremely pleasant and peaceful picture of Tibet, and yet again, a shot at concealing the reality of ongoing Chinese political repression on the larger number of Tibetans at the grass-roots level in Tibet. The dreadful events such as Chinese police firing on a group of Tibetan demonstrators in Shugpa Village voice the denial of basic human rights, and that the statements in the consensus were misrepresented and inaccurate.
In the face of such brutality, we cannot remain silent. The police brutality in Karze is only a fragment of the repression imposed on the people of Tibet. To express their outright rejection of such repressive policies, 130 Tibetans have set themselves on fire and 112 of them sadly passed away, in an attempt to draw attention of the international community on the suffering of the Tibetan people under Beijing’s rule. To our brothers and sisters in Tibet, particularly the families and friends of the self- immolators, the sacrifice of their lives is forever imprinted in our collective memory and history for future generations to know. We will galvanize our efforts, carry forth and echo your aspirations until they are realized – restoration of freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his homeland. That is our sacred goal.
We, Tibetans are not alone in our freedom struggle. 25 years ago, the whole of China shook when millions of Chinese in over 100 cities throughout China called for freedom and democracy. That yearning for freedom has not died with the tragedy on 4 June 1989. This spirit is most aptly represented by Liu Xiaobo, China’s imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate. Sooner or later, Beijing must listen to the voice of its people.
Another important responsibility, which we call upon China to shoulder diligently and with urgency, is the protection of Tibet’s fragile ecosystem. This responsibility should not be perceived as a concession to the Tibetan people, but a duty owed to the Chinese people and the rest of Asia given the strategic environmental importance of the Tibetan plateau. Nowadays, global scientists including many leading Chinese environmentalists, refer to Tibet as the Third Pole, the repository of the largest concentration of ice and glaciers outside of the Arctic and Antartica. These glaciers feed the ten river systems in Asia which flow all the way to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. The Yellow and Yangtse rivers which flow to China both originate in Tibet and bring fresh water to more than a billion people in China, South-East Asia, and South Asia.
Clearly, what happens to Tibet’s environment has become a critical question impacting populations well beyond the Plateau. It will affect the existence of millions of people downstream whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture and fishing. Scientists also predict that the global climate change impact on the Tibetan plateau will lead to millions of forced migrations in the downstream countries. On this score, we feel that it is in the interest of all Asian countries to persuade the leadership in Beijing to adopt policies integrating local traditional knowledge of the Plateau. For thousands of years, Tibetans have successfully served as the natural stewards of the fragile Tibetan ecosystem. Beijing must acknowledge and respect this.
The Middle Way Approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the only way forward to resolve Tibet issue and it is a win-win proposition to both sides. The 14th Kashag once again reiterates its firm commitment towards the Middle Way Approach. In this regard, we have successfully completed visits by Kalons and Secretaries to Tibetan settlements to educate and raise awareness of the Middle Way Approach among general public at the grass-roots level.
In dedication of 2014 as the year of His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama by the 14th Kashag, we have invited Nobel Peace Laureates to Dharamsala to observe the 25th anniversary of conferment of Nobel Peace Prize to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The event will be held on October 2, 2014 – the day on which, champion of peace and father of India, Mahatma Gandhi was born.
To conclude, on this 54th anniversary of Tibetan Democracy Day, the Central Tibetan Administration re-affirms its resolve to fulfill the aspirations of Tibetans inside Tibet. We call upon all Tibetans to join us in this effort. On behalf of the 14th Kashag, we thank all our friends across the world for their unwavering support particularly the great land of India and it’s generous people.
Together, we carry forth with resolve and hope. Long live His Holiness the Great Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
The Kashag September 2, 2014