HEARING ON TIBET:
AN UPDATE ON THE CURRENT SITUATION AFTER THE BREAKDOWN OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH CHINA
Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the Committee, at this critical time for Tibet, I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to the European Parliament for its consistent and principled support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his efforts to find a peaceful solution for Tibet. I thank you for convening this timely and important hearing.
Undeclared martial-law in Tibet
This hearing is taking place at a time, when Tibetan areas in the PRC are completely sealed off from the rest of the world. No foreigners can enter Tibetan areas. Communication lines – such as internet and mobile phone services – are cut off. There is a huge presence of security and military forces. Political campaigns are being conducted with rigor at monasteries, work places and schools to intimidate and coerce the people. On daily basis Tibetans are being arrested resulting in brutal beatings and torture during interrogations and detention. An undeclared martial-law has been imposed on Tibetan areas. At this very moment the Tibetan people inside Tibet are experiencing the second military occupation of their homeland and the harshest wave of repression since the days of the Cultural Revolution.
China’s misguided Tibet policy
China’s Tibet policy has been consistently misguided, because of lack of understanding, appreciation and respect for Tibet’s distinct culture, history and identity. In occupied Tibet there is little room for truth. The use of force and coercion as the principal means to rule and administer Tibet compel Tibetans to lie out of fear and local officials to hide the truth and create false facts in order to suit and please Beijing. As a result China’s treatment of Tibet continues to evade the realities in Tibet. These policies reveal the ugly face of racial and cultural arrogance, chauvinism and a deep sense of political insecurity. This approach is, of course, short-sighted and counter-productive.
The Strasbourg Proposal
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has led the Tibetan freedom struggle on a path of non-violence and has consistently sought a mutually agreeable solution of the Tibetan issue through negotiations in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise with China. With this spirit in 1988 in Strasbourg at this Parliament His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented a formal proposal for negotiations. The choice of the European Parliament as the venue to present his thoughts for a framework for negotiations was on purpose in order to underline the point that a genuine union can only come about
voluntarily when there are mutual respect and satisfactory benefits to all the parties concerned. His Holiness the Dalai Lama sees the European Union as a clear and inspiring example of this. On the other hand, even one country or community can break into two or more entities when there is a lack of trust and benefit, and when force is used as the principal means of rule.
The Middle-Way Approach
This proposal, which later became known as the “Strasbourg Proposal”, envisages that the whole of Tibet should become a self-governing democratic political entity in association with the PRC. With this formal statement His Holiness demonstrated his willingness not to seek the independence of Tibet. The guiding spirit of the Strasbourg Proposal is the pursuit of a mutually acceptable solution of the issue of Tibet through negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise. This spirit has come to be known as the “Middle Way Approach” of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In March 1989 China imposed martial-law in Tibet which lasted for one year. The worsening situation in Tibet and the failure to elicit any positive response from the Chinese government since the formal presentation of his proposal in Strasbourg compelled His Holiness to state in 1991 that his “Strasbourg Proposal” has become ineffectual. However, he left no doubt about his continued commitment in seeking a resolution to the Tibetan problem in the spirit of the “Middle Way Approach”.
Meanwhile, in Tibet a most alarming trend emerged: The flood of Chinese settlers who come to Tibet to take advantage of Tibet’s opening to market capitalism. Every year, the Chinese population inside Tibet has been increasing at an alarming rate leading to economic, political and social marginalization of the Tibetan people in their own homeland. New measures of restriction in the fields of culture, religion and education coupled with the unabated influx of Chinese immigrants have been presenting a constant assault on the integral core of the Tibetan civilization and identity.
Obviously, if these concerns are not addressed soon the very purpose of trying to reach a negotiated solution becomes meaningless, because the Chinese government would have then created facts in Tibet, which would make the situation inside Tibet irreversible. Some of our Western friends call this Chinese policy “the final solution” to the issue of Tibet.
Against this background His Holiness the Dalai Lama left no stone unturned to reach out to the Chinese government. Moreover, the Tibetan leadership in exile redefined the concrete features of the “Middle-Way Approach”. A number of components of the “Strasbourg Proposal” were dropped to conform to existing political realities in the PRC. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership in exile took the courageous decision to seek genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the framework of the Constitution of the PRC in a way that would ensure the basic needs of the Tibetan people in safeguarding their distinct culture, language, religion and identity and the delicate natural environment of the Tibetan plateau.
In 2002, when direct contact with the Chinese leadership was re-established, the Tibetan leadership in exile had already formulated a clear policy on our approach in the dialogue process. The Kashag, the Cabinet of the Tibetan Government in exile, with the approval of His Holiness, had determined that there will be only one official channel and one single agenda in our talks with Chinese leadership. The single agenda has been to seek genuine or meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people under a single administration within the framework of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
I have the honour to serve as one of the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama entrusted with the task of conducting the talks with the representatives of the Chinese leadership. With my senior colleague, Mr. Lodi G. Gyari and three senior Tibetan assistants, we engaged in eight formal rounds of discussion and one informal meeting with our Chinese counterparts since 2002.
The mission of our delegation was two fold: First, to re-establish direct contact with the leadership in Beijing and to create a conducive atmosphere enabling direct face-to-face meetings on a regular basis in future. Secondly, to explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach with the aim of bringing about earnest negotiations in resolving the issue of Tibet peacefully. Throughout our contact we focussed our energy and efforts towards building confidence by dispelling misconceptions and distrust.
With this spirit after our first visit to China and to Lhasa in September 2002, Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, the chairman of the Kashag, appealed to Tibetan communities in exile and to our international supporters to abstain from holding demonstrations during visits of Chinese dignitaries abroad and to help creating a constructive atmosphere for the dialogue process. Within our limited possibilities, the Tibetan leadership in exile initiated a number of such confidence-building measures.
Tibetan suggestions and proposals
Right from the first round of discussions in 2002, we proposed that both sides initiate measures that help building trust and confidence in our relationship. We requested the Chinese leadership to make a good-will gesture by stopping the denunciation and lifting of the ban on the possessions of the photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This would send a psychologically important positive message to the Tibetan people and help to create the right kind of environment. We also proposed to expand our contact by allowing visits between Tibetans living in exile and in Tibet and to arrange exchange visits by scholars and experts to academic, cultural and religious institutions in the PRC and as well to institutes of the Tibetan refugee community. When it became obvious in our discussions that there were major differences on a number of issues between the two parties, including some fundamental ones, we proposed to first concentrate on issues where both sides have common interest in cooperating and to increase the number of meetings to two or three times per year. In 2005 we requested the Chinese government to allow a small number of 5 – 10 monks to visit various sacred sites in Tibet to perform prayers for a long life on the occasion of 70th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
A major difference between the two sides has been the conflicting perspectives on the current situation inside Tibet. So in order to have a common understanding of the real situation, we proposed in 2007 that we be given an opportunity to send study groups to look at the actual reality on the ground, in the spirit of “seeking truth from facts”. We explained that this could help both sides to move beyond each other’s contentions. In 2008 after the wide-spread demonstrations throughout Tibet and the ensuing events during the Olympic torch relay, it was appropriate and necessary to send a strong and clear signal to the Tibetan and Chinese people as well as to the international community that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership are determined to engage in serious discussions on all issues concerning the Tibetan people with the aim of finding a mutually acceptable solution. We, therefore, proposed in July 2008 to issue a joint statement to that effect at the conclusion of the seventh round of discussions (a copy of the draft joint statement is submitted for the record). Moreover, right at the beginning of our contact on April 18, 2002, we had written to President Jiang Zemin explaining, among other things, that our mission was to bring about a face-to-face meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership. Such a summit has the potential to achieve a breakthrough i n opening a new chapter in the relationship between the Tibetan and the Chinese peoples. Consequently, in all the rounds of discussion we raised it again and again. His Holiness the Dalai Lama reiterated publicly in 2006 his wish to visit China on a pilgrimage.
Chinese attitude and positions
To our deep disappointment, none of our suggestions and proposals were entertained or accepted by the Chinese side. Nor has the Chinese side reciprocated any of our confidence-building initiatives or presented their own suggestions or proposals for a way forward. Since the start of this dialogue in 2002, the Chinese side has been adopting a position of no recognition, no reciprocity, no commitment and no concession and no compromise. Although they continue to profess even to these days that the door to dialogue is open, however, so far they have been pursuing a strategy of avoiding any progress, decision and commitment. This lack of political will on the part of the Chinese leadership was clearly demonstrated at the last round of discussions that took place in November last year.
In July last year during the seventh round the Chinese side explicitly invited suggestions from His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the stability and development of Tibet and emphasised the fact that they would like to hear our views on the degree or form of autonomy we are seeking. Accordingly, on October 31, 2008, we presented our Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the Chinese leadership. (A copy of the memorandum is submitted for the record). Our memorandum puts forth how the specific needs of the Tibetan people for self-government can be met through the application of the principles on autonomy contained in the Constitution of the PRC. The Constitution gives significant discretionary powers to state organs in the decision-making and on the operation of the system of autonomy. These discretionary powers can be exercised to facilitate genuine autonomy in ways that would respond to the uniqueness of the Tibetan situation. On this basis, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been confident that the basic needs of the Tibetan people can be met through genuine autonomy within the PRC.
Unfortunately, the Chinese side rejected categorically our memorandum in its entirety. At one point of our discussion the Chinese Executive Vice-Minister Zhu Weiqun stated: “Even the title of your memorandum is unacceptable. How many times do we need to say that the Dalai Lama has no right to speak about the situation in Tibet or in the name of the Tibetan people?” When we asked him why in the first place he had invited us to present our views on autonomy, his answer was: “This was a test to see how far you have come understand the position and the policy of the Central Government. And you have failed the examination miserably”. (The press release of Chinese side rejecting the Tibetan memorandum is submitted here for the record).
The basic Chinese position on the issue of Tibet
During the sixth round of talks from June 29 to July 5, 2007, the Chinese side outlined their basic position as follow:
“Firstly, the Dalai Lama must accept the political basis for maintaining contact with Central Government. The political basis for it is the recognition that Tibet has always been an integral part of China. This is not an academic-historical issue. It is a matter of political standpoint.
Secondly, you have to have a correct understanding of the nature of the contact between the Central Government and the Dalai Lama. It is a contact that concerns the Dalai Lama and a handful of people around him. There cannot be any discussions going beyond this scope. There is no such a thing as the issue of Tibet. The Tibetan people in Tibet are happy.
(At the eighth round of talks the Chinese side further clarified this position.) The Dalai Lama has no right to talk about the situation inside Tibet or in the name of the Tibetan people. The discussion can be only about the personal matters of the Dalai Lama and the people around him.
Thirdly, it is necessary to correctly understand with whom you are in contact. You have to correctly discern who we are and who you are. You have to give due recognition to this fact. Our contact is between the Central Government and the private representatives of the Dalai Lama. There will be no contact and talks between the Central Government and the so-called Tibetan government in exile.”
Since the last round of talks in November 2008, the Chinese government has been undertaking massive propaganda efforts to whitewash their brutal subjugation of the Tibetan people and to justify their rejection of the Tibetan initiative for genuine autonomy by distorting our positions. We have clarified repeatedly verbally as well as in writing our positions on a range of issues in the talks. However, the Chinese side has chosen to continue to distort our positions and to mislead the world on a number of issues.
CHINESE DISTORTIONS OF THE TIBETAN POSITIONS
Historical status of Tibet
The Tibetan people and the Chinese government have their own version of Tibet’s historical status. The Chinese government asserts that Tibet has always been an inalienable part of China. They demand that His Holiness the Dalai Lama publicly acknowledges it. This is a precondition for
negotiations. For Tibetans Tibet has been an independent nation. Against this background, we have repeatedly stated to our Chinese counterparts that history is best left aside. Revisiting history will not serve any useful purpose but complicate only the quest for a mutually acceptable solution. Concerning the present and the future we are committed in seeking a solution within the framework of the Chinese Constitution.
Chinese military presence in Tibet
Our position on this is clear and unambiguous. Our consistent position has always been that defence and foreign policy are prerogatives of the Central Government in Beijing. In the Five-Point Peace Plan (1987) and the Strasbourg Proposal (1988) His Holiness the Dalai Lama has expressed his personal hope and vision that eventually the Tibetan plateau will be transformed into a demilitarized zone of peace. This will greatly contribute in building trust and confidence between India and China and in bringing about stability and peace in that part of the world. It is the hope and vision for the future by a man of peace and not a condition to a solution of the issue of Tibet. This has been explained repeatedly to our Chinese counterparts.
Moreover, as stated earlier since the formal presentation of the Strasbourg Proposal the concrete features of the “Middle-Way Approach” have evolved. In the course of the talks we conveyed to our Chinese counterparts that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was willing to clarify the misunderstandings or misinterpretations of some of his positions. We offered to engage in consultations with the Chinese side on such a statement by His Holiness in order to ensure that a new statement by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the resolution of the Tibetan issue is acceptable to the Chinese leadership. However, the Chinese side never responded to our offer.
Expulsion of non-Tibetans from Tibetan areas
The fundamental objective of national regional autonomy and self-government is the preservation of the identity, culture, language and so forth of the minority people. However, the very principle and purpose of national regional autonomy is disregarded if large scale migration and settlement of the majority Han nationality and other nationalities is encouraged and allowed. Major demographic changes that result from such migration will have the effect of assimilating rather than integrating the Tibetan nationality into the state and gradually extinguishing the distinct culture and identity of the Tibetan people.
There is precedence in the PRC for restriction on the movement or residence of citizens. To Tibetans it would be vital that the autonomous organs of self-government have the authority to regulate the residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC. It is not our intention to expel the non-Tibetans who have permanently settled in Tibet and have lived and grown up there for a considerable time.
Restoring the old socio-political system in Tibet
Such a notion is unfounded and untrue. No Tibetan, whether in exile or in Tibet, has any desire to restore the old system. In exile, we have democratized our political system and adopted a democratic charter that set guidelines for our Government-in-Exile. Even our political leadership is now directly elected by the people.
In 2005 His Holiness the Dalai Lama reiterated his position on this matter as follow: “My involvement in the affairs of Tibet is neither for the purpose of claiming certain personal rights or political position for myself nor attempting to stake claims for the Tibetan administration in exile. In 1992 in a formal announcement I stated clearly that when we return to Tibet with a certain degree of freedom, I will not hold any office in the local Tibetan government or any other political position and that the present Tibetan administration in exile will be dissolved. Moreover, the Tibetans working in Tibet should carry on the main responsibility of administering Tibet”.
We neither desire to restore the old socio-political system nor do we aim to replace the present socialist system. Our aim is as we have stated the exercise of genuine autonomy.
The issue of “Greater Tibet”
There is no such thing as “Greater Tibet” or “Minor Tibet”. In literature we find the distinction “Political Tibet” or “Cultural or Ethnographic Tibet”. Political Tibet has never been part of the Chinese state until 1951. Cultural or ethnographic Tibet is by definition entitled to regional national autonomy according to the principles of the Constitution of the PRC. The term “Greater Tibet” has, therefore, no basis.
The Chinese side is labelling our position as a demand for the separation of one-fourth the territory of China. First of all, since we Tibetans are not asking for the separation of Tibet from China, there should be no concern on this front. More importantly, it is a fact both of history and geography that the landmass inhabited by Tibetans constitutes roughly one-fourth the territory of the PRC. Actually, the Chinese government has already designated almost all Tibetan areas as Tibet autonomous entities: The Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibet Autonomous Prefectures or Tibet Autonomous Counties. Therefore, the positions on what constitutes cultural or ethnographic Tibet are not so divergent.
Our demand that the Tibetan people should live in a single autonomous entity within the PRC is not based on history. This aspiration is based on the right to regional national self-governance and equality of all nationalities, both principles contained in the Constitution of the PRC.
The current partition of Tibetan areas, by which Tibetan communities are ruled and administered under different provinces and regions foments fragmentation, promotes unequal development, and weakens the ability of the Tibetan nationality to protect and promote its common cultural, spiritual and ethnic identity. Whereas the other major minority nationalities such as the Uyghur and Mongols govern themselves almost entirely within their respective single autonomous regions, Tibetans remain fragmented as if they were several different minority nationalities.
It is clear that the Tibetan nationality within the PRC will be able to exercise its right to govern itself and administer its internal affairs effectively only once it can do so through an organ of self-government that has jurisdiction over the Tibetan nationality as a whole. The Law on Regional National Autonomy recognises the principle that boundaries of national autonomous areas may need to be modified. There are several precedents where this has actually been done.
Unifying the Tibetan people should not be seen as a cover for a separatist plot. It is basically a question of recognizing, restoring and respecting the integrity of the Tibetans as a people and distinct nationality of the PRC. This unification would give the Tibetans a genuine collective sense of having benefited by being part of the PRC and would embody the respect for the integrity of the Tibetans as a distinct people.
Tibetan commitment to dialogue
On issues of national importance and during major crises it has always been the natural inclination of His Holiness the Dalai Lama since his youth to consult with a wide range of people representing the Tibetan society before deciding on a course of action. In exile a democratic system ensures the full participation of the people in the decision-making. On the vital issue of our relationship with the Chinese government His Holiness has called a Special Meeting of the Tibetan people to discuss the course of our policy. Last November after the demonstrations across the Tibetan plateau and the ensuing brutal crack-down of the Chinese authorities and securities as well as the failure of the eight formal rounds of talks with the Chinese side, a Special Meeting of Tibetan People was convened. Around 600 delegates from all over the world representing the entire spectrum of the Tibetan society in exile participated in it. Special efforts were also made to solicit the opinions of Tibetans inside Tibet.
Despite a deep sense of bitterness and urgency that every participant displayed, after six days of intense and passionate discussions the majority of the delegates supported the continuation of the “Middle-Way Approach” of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the time being. A vocal and strong minority, whose supporters are increasing in recent time, pleaded passionately for changing the goal of our freedom struggle to the complete rightful independence of Tibet by arguing that the Chinese Communist government will never engage in serious talks on genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people. On the issue of non-violence there was unanimity in the commitment not deviate from the path of non-violence in our freedom struggle.
Following of the Special Meeting of the Tibetan People, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has emphasised in his statement on March 10 this year that “we are pursuing this policy (of “Middle-Way Approach”) with greater confidence and will continue our efforts towards achieving a meaningful regional national autonomy for all Tibetans”. Today, we Tibetans stand ready to engage in honest and earnest discussions with the Chinese government on autonomy for the Tibetan people anytime, anywhere. It is now for the Chinese government to show sincerity and seriousness in addressing the real problems and issues of the Tibetan people in Tibet.
While we remain ready to engage with Chinese government anytime, anywhere when there is a clear and serious signal from Beijing, we will make determined efforts in reaching out to the Chinese people. Since the demonstrations in Tibet last year and the protests during the Olympic torch rally, the Chinese government has fanned nationalism among the Chinese and called for a “people’s war against the separatists” thereby inciting hatred against the Tibetans. Nonetheless the trend in China is that a growing number of educated and informed Chinese people are becoming critical of their government’s policy with regard to Tibet. Chinese intellectuals and lawyers have publicly expressed their concerns about the Chinese government’s handling of the Tibetan problem. This development is inspiring.
The role and responsibility of the international community
The crux of the problem in finding a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of Tibet is that we Tibetans do not have a partner for an honest dialogue. It is in this context that this hearing so important. The Chinese leadership must be made to realize that the issue of Tibet cannot be suppressed and silenced unless it is properly addressed and resolved. World opinion is far from being immaterial to the Chinese leadership. Obviously, the pursuit of international recognition and respect is priority of China. What is, therefore, needed is a strong and unified message with regard to the issue of Tibet.
We Tibetans need your help. First and foremost in opening up Tibet to the rest of the world so that the Chinese authorities and security forces no longer have a free hand in Tibet. International presence will a have restraining influence on the authorities and the security forces and will thus provide some form of protection to the captive Tibetans inside Tibet. Ultimately, we Tibetans need on the other side of the negotiating table a partner who is willing to engage in an honest dialogue with the aim of finding a fair, just and mutually acceptable solution to the issue of Tibet. In today’s heavily interdependent world, it is not in the hands of the Chinese leaders alone whether the Tibetan people will be able to enjoy a life in freedom and dignity in future or be compelled to live under continued brutal repression. The policies of the European Union towards the cause of Tibet and China will have just as much a bearing on the outcome of this tragedy. In this context, once again I wish to express our deep appreciation to the European Parliament for consistently taking the lead in building a consensus and common approach in promoting a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet.
Thank you very much.
MEMORANDUM ON GENUINE AUTONOMY FOR THE TIBETAN PEOPLE