• Forum on the Development of Tibet: Impact Analysis  By Tenzin Norgay*The “Forum on the Development of Tibet, China” organized in Lhasa on 12-13 August 2014 is a significant public relations activity in the Tibet component of ...
    Posted Oct 17, 2014, 6:12 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
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    Posted Oct 10, 2014, 5:44 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
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    Posted Oct 10, 2014, 5:42 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
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  • Self Delusion By Elliot Sperling I have been asked by the editors¹ to prepare an essay that sums up some of the positions I’ve taken on Tibet issues over the years ...
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Forum on the Development of Tibet: Impact Analysis

posted Oct 17, 2014, 6:12 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

 By Tenzin Norgay*

The “Forum on the Development of Tibet, China” organized in Lhasa on 12-13 August 2014 is a significant public relations activity in the Tibet component of Beijing’s goal to build China’s soft power. In her quest to become a super power, the Tibet factor has made significant dent in the country’s soft power metric. The outburst of Tibetan political and human rights grievances in 2008 and the subsequent crackdown made a deep negative impact on the country’s worldwide image despite the successful staging of the Olympics. Beijing’s diplomatic charm offensives around the world have been relatively successful but the Tibet issue creates considerable doubts about the country as a model for others to follow in finding solutions to their domestic issues. 

So far, Beijing’s decades old main policy planks of development and stability in Tibet have turned a hard sell. The 2014 Tibet Development Forum is definitely an escalation in public relations exercise to disingenuously persuade the international audience to adopt its success narrative. However, the results are not guaranteed. Just as there is no international audience for the brittle propaganda started in 2009 in announcing plans to spend billions of dollars to develop global media giants “to use soft power rather than military might to win friends abroad,” positive outcomes from the conference is also uncertain. 

While Beijing did manage to maneuver the current forum on its position by bringing together a good number of qualified professionals on its side, the impact of such a publicity gain remains to be seen in the future. Except for positive reportages by the domestic media and one India based media, the global media took a low level of interest on the forum; and where there were discussions, the associated controversies may have outweighed the public opinion against the conference objectives. 

In fact, the “Lhasa Consensus” which is purely a political statement may have done more harm than good to Beijing’s public relations goals as consumers of international media can smartly distinguish between good and bad publicity. Ill managed publicity can boomerang on the state’s credibility which is a contradiction to its goal in building soft power. For example, the veracity of the statement is easily destroyed with negative impacts through New Zealand’s former Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker’s response to the BBC’s inquiry on his consent to the document. He responded, “I’m aware that the statement was made but I certainly haven’t signed up to it. I think a number of people who were there were a little surprised to hear about that statement…Certainly the conference that I’ve been attending has been focused on sustainable development and there were no real political themes running through it at all.” Similarly, Irish politician Pat Breen in an email response to the Irish Tibet Support Group replied, “I was asked to sign the Lhasa Consensus statement and I refused to do so.” Corroborating this statement was the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade’s response which stated “Your email was considered by the joint committee at its meeting on Wednesday 3rd September 2014. The joint committee directed me to inform you that Chairman Breen did not sign the “Lhasa Consensus”. Similarly, the Rector of University of Vienna stated that “according to Prof. [Richard] Trappl, the Lhasa consensus statement was not a discussion topic for the participants of the conference. The statement was prepared by the organizers of the conference and simply read out at the end of the conference…Prof. Trappl is not responsible for the content of the consensus statement…The consensus statement does not reflect in any way the official position of the University of Vienna.” 

Being the fourth international development forum on Tibet, the central government seemingly is on a hurry to gain leverage from its forum investments beginning from 2007. The controversial “Lhasa Consensus” statement is a calculated political statement under the guise of being a statement on development in Tibet. 

Development is a jargon popularly understood in terms of high GDP and infrastructure. In such a narrow understanding of the term, human well-being is sidelined in pursuit of double digit economic growth to impress the domestic constituency and international audience. While there definitely is a short term gain in such a pursuit, the long term implications of putting under the carpet today’s problems may come to haunt disadvantaged policy makers in the future. This is what is problematic in Tibet’s “development” as the local government is under a massive bad debt to the central government and today’s economic and development gains are not sustainable so long as the human welfare aspect of it is simply sidelined. The forum topics while broadly covered various topics in development studies overlooked the rights based approaches in developmental work and also the local opinion impact resulting from the state’s development programs so far. It falls short of the inclusivity standards needed for any development program to work successfully. 


The “2014 Forum on the Development of Tibet, China”, jointly organized by the State Council Information Office and the People’s Government of Tibet Autonomous Region, saw participation of around 100 delegates. Titled as “The Development of Tibet: Opportunities and Alternatives” with “Sustainable Development”, “Inheritance and Protection of Tibetan Culture” and “Ecological and Environmental Protection” as sub-themes is the fourth international development forum on Tibet. The first three were held in Vienna, Rome and Athens in 2007, 2009 and 2011 respectively. Unlike the previous three forums, the current forum drew the largest number of 41 foreign delegates comprising of academics, politicians and journalists representing 31 countries. 52 Chinese participants also attended the forum. 

Country wise representation of the international delegates are as follows: Austria (2), Belgium (1), Britain (2), Canada (1), Chile (1), Costa Rica(1), Czech Republic (1), Iceland (1), India (2), Ireland (2), Italy (1), France (1), Greece (2), Japan (1), Kenya (1), Malaysia (1), Mexico (1), Mongolia (1), Nepal (1), New Zealand (3), Nigeria (1), Peru (1), Poland (1), Romania (1), Russia (1), Slovenia (1), South Africa (1), Sri Lanka (1), Switzerland (1), Thailand (2), U.S. (3). 

*The writer is a senior fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. 

This article was originally published on on 18 September 2014

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Does China Plan to Do Away with Its Minorities?

posted Oct 10, 2014, 5:50 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Thubten Samphel 

Thubten Samphel, Executive Director of Tibet Policy Institute, a think tank that functions as a research-oriented intellectual platform for the Central Tibetan Administration.                                            Thubten Samphel, Executive Director of Tibet Policy Institute (CTA)

During a visit this week to the Tibetan countryside of Dechen in Yunnan, Yu Zhengsheng, a member of the standing committee of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party and chairman of China’s top advisory body, assured Tibetan Buddhist leaders that the party would fully implement its policy to ensure religious freedom.

We don’t know whether Tibetans buy into such assurances. But we are certain that the majority of Chinese intellectuals who express an opinion on China’s minority policy are not happy with such assurances. In fact, they are busy overturning China’s current minority policy. As far as its minority policy is concerned, China is going through a Hundred -Flowers moment.

Recommendations to changes in China’s minority policy are blooming like so many flowers under a clear sky. Once the preserve of the Chinese Communist Party, China’s minority policy now seems open for debate to the Chinese public. Scholars and officials within and outside the party establishment are seizing the opportunity to voice their concerns on what was once a highly sensitive topic.

Why is the debate on China’s minority policy made public? Is the party gauging public opinion before launching into a new policy towards the minorities?

Whatever it is, the majority view of Chinese intellectuals on the party’s current minority policy is that it is a major failure. The public outburst of such sentiments have been prompted by the 2008 protests that swept Tibet and the 2009 violence in Urumqi in Xinjiang in China’s far west. Last year’s suicide attack in the centre of Beijing, the kniving to death of 29 bystanders while injuring 130 others at the Kunming railway station this March and the recent spate of violence in Xinjiang during and after President Xi Jinping’s visit to the region make these scholars fret over the cohesion of the Chinese state. This concern over the continued cohesion of China compels scholars to recommend policy options that are retrogressive.

The various strands of thinking of some of China’s respected scholars and top officials dealing with minority issues on how to make adjustment to minority policy in order to strengthen national cohesion have been compiled and analysed by James Leibold in his concise and comprehensive study, Ethnic Policy in China: Is Reform Inevitable?

Chinese thinking on a new minority policy could be categorised into the following: thinking of establishment scholars and officials, ultra-nationalists, liberals and the party establishment. The common strand on how China should treat its minorities is the spectre of the break-up of Yugoslavia and the implosion of the Soviet Union. To avoid such a fate, rather than expanding autonomy and minority freedom, scholars and officials alike recommend curtailing autonomy and doing away with preferential treatment to minorities who are considered too “pampered” under the current dispensation.

Leading the charge in “correcting” China’s minority policy are Ma Rong, director and dean of sociology of Peking University, Hu Angang, director of the Institute for Contemporary China Studies at Tsinghua University and Zhu Weiqun, once the executive director of the United Front Work Department, the party’s top office that supervises minority policy. They recommend minority distinctions should be done away with and the minorities fused in the “melting pot” of Chineseness. They cite the melting-pot models of America, India and Brazil as roaring successes.

Some want to go further. General Liu Yazhou, a son-in-law of the late Chinese president Li Xiannian, and the political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defense University, recommends the breaking up of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Xinjiang into smaller units and encouraging more migration of Chinese settlers to these regions to cement Beijing’s rule.

In face of such an onslaught, how do the Chinese liberals view the issue? According to Leibold, the Chinese liberals are on retreat. Or, more to the point, they are in jail. Chinese liberals’ earlier talk of granting self-determination to the minorities finds no place in Charter 08, the document that articulates the highest aspirations of a section of Chinese society on how they want their country to evolve. According to Leibold, Liu Xiaobo’s (the jailed Nobel laureate) argument is that democratization for the whole of China is a pre-condition for any solution to the issue of Tibet. But that is something furthest from the mind of policy-makers who shape minority policy.

Missing from Leibold’s analysis is other voices in the Chinese establishment that suggest a different way of dealing, if not with the minorities, but with the Dalai Lama. Jin Wei of the central party school in Beijing recommends that China invite the Dalai Lama to Hong Kong or even to Tibet to secure his co-operation in deciding his successor.

Missing too from the whole spectrum of China’s clamorous discourse on changes to its minority policy is the voices of the minorities themselves. In what some scholars call the second generation of minority policy there is not even a hint of consulting the minorities of their future status in the country. The consensus is that the minorities need not be told that they are not what they say they are. If these dangerous policy recommendations are carried out, China will be igniting a bigger conflagration than the scattered fires China is busy trying to put off in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The melting-pot system works in America, India and Brazil precisely because these are robust democracies with long-established consultative political cultures. Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians are struggling to survive as distinct ethnic identities because even under China’s current minority policy they have been left out of the decision-making process. 


Originally published on the Huffington Post, May 20, 2014, and republished by TPR from: 

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posted Oct 10, 2014, 5:44 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Thubten Samphel (Director of the Tibetan Policy Institute based in Dharamsala, India)

Zhu Weiqun, director of the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference
                                                                       Zhu Weiqun

What’s happening to our man in Beijing? Zhu Weiqun is on the warpath again. His ramblings on the Middle-Way Policy are getting even more frenzied by the day. Whenever he is in the mood, it seems he consults the oracle of the United Front, comes blue in the face and spits fire and brimstone on what is eminently a reasonable proposal. 

Zhu Weiqun, director of the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference

The Middle-Way Policy was recently made into a very attractive media package by the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration. Zhu Weiqun’s reaction to this innovative presentation of the Tibetan proposal and the international media coverage it received is apoplectic. The director of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference deliberately distorts the Tibetan proposal to make it sound atrocious, ridiculous and downright dangerous to his domestic Chinese audience.

In his latest outburst, Zhu Weiqun says that the Tibetan proposal of the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People was rejected by the Chinese authorities way back in November 2008. Why does he get so worked up about a proposal that has already been rejected?

While hashing and rehashing old documents like the Five-Point Peace Plan and the Strasbourg Proposal, Zhu Weiun makes this claim, “Fifth, it demands that the ‘Han Chinese emigrants in Tibet should return to China’ according to the Dalai Lama’s 1987 report to the US Congress. This would entail an expelling 75 million Han Chinese. Worse still, the expelled population would reach 250 million should the geographical ambition of the ‘Greater Tibet’ scheme be conducted.”

While making this statement, Zhu Weiqun is either deliberately or inadvertently leaking some deadly state secrets of China. To send shivers in the back of every Chinese spine, Zhu Weiqun’s pet phrase to describe the Tibetan proposal to regulate the inflow of Chinese migration to Tibet is “ethnic cleansing.” If Zhu Weiqun’s figures about the number of Chinese living in Tibet are right, then this is downright ethnic swamping. As claimed by Zhu, are some 75 to 250 million Chinese settlers living in Tibet? Or is this some Chinese government plan in the future to settle this amount of Chinese on the Tibetan plateau? Will herding a little more than a quarter of China’s total population of 1.3 billion on the plateau be economically sustainable and environmentally feasible?

What makes Zhu Weiqun so worked up is this proposal. “The Memorandum proposes that the local government of the autonomous region should have the competency to regulate the residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to Tibetan areas from elsewhere. This is a common feature of autonomy and is certainly not without precedent in the PRC.”

There is no talking about “expulsion” of ethnic Chinese. As for regulating population movement from one region to another Hong Kong is the best example.

Stoking fears serve to create ethnic hostility. Zhu Weiqun’s job is to establish inter-ethnic harmony, not to undermine it. But his remarks about “ethnic fusion” and “melting pot” touch a raw nerve amongst China’s minorities. To tell the minorities you are not who you say you are, we the central government will decide who you are is dangerous to the extreme. Instead of a melting pot, Zhu will get a boiling pot.

Republished from:

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Tibet: A Nonviolent History of War

posted Oct 10, 2014, 5:42 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Carole McGranahan 

© Shutterstock.

The history of armed resistance has been controversial for Tibet’s nonviolent narrative.

On April 27, 1998, Thubten Ngodup set himself on fire to protest the Indian government’s forceful ending of a Tibetan hunger strike in New Delhi. Two days later, he died from his burns. Ngodup was 60 years old, a former monk at Tashilhunpo monastery in Tibet, and a former soldier in the Tibetan forces of the Indian army. Since 1988, he had worked as a cowherder and cook at a monastery in Dharamsala, living quietly in a small hut, and participating whenever possible in Tibetan independence protests and marches.

During the 1998 Unto Death Hunger Strike in Delhi, Ngodup volunteered as an assistant, tending to the needs of the six hunger strikers. On the morning of the 49th day of the hunger strike, as Indian police forcibly dragged away the hunger strikers (in line with Indian laws prohibiting suicide) and beat volunteers who protested police actions, Ngodup doused himself with a flammable liquid — shouting pro-Tibet, pro-Dalai Lama slogans — and lit a match. His immolation drew the attention of the world’s media, martyrdom status within the Tibetan community, and the “deeply saddened” criticism of the Dalai Lama, who had earlier spoken against the proclaimed nonviolent hunger strike as a form of violence against one’s self.

International Support

Ngodup was one of thousands of Tibetan veterans who served their country, either in the Indian army or the Tibetan citizens’ army, Chushi Gangdrug. Begun as a series of independent uprisings against increasingly oppressive Chinese reforms in the 1950s, the Chushi Gangdrug army was formally established on June 16, 1958. Resistance troops fought against the Chinese first from within Tibet, and later from a military base in Mustang, a small Tibetan kingdom in Nepal. In 1974, they laid down their arms at the Dalai Lama’s request. For much of this time, the CIA covertly trained and financially supported the resistance army. From 1958-64, Tibetan soldiers flew to the United States in unmarked planes for covert training in guerrilla warfare techniques, including paramilitary operations, bomb-building, map-making, photography, radio operation techniques and intelligence collecting.

From their base in Mustang, the Tibetan army continued weaponry and warfare training, and would rotate guerrilla battalions in and out of Tibet for both military and intelligence operations. Resistance life was plagued by the uncertainties of external support, by internal squabbles and by changing relations with the local Mustang population. The king of Mustang silently supported the resistance army, as did the king of Nepal, albeit with the strong encouragement of the US government. King Birendra himself visited Mustang for discussions with resistance leaders, and Nepali intelligence officers were stationed in Mustang throughout the duration. Just as the Nepali government was aware of the Tibetan presence in Mustang, so too was the Indian government cognizant of Tibetan resistance activities throughout South Asia. The difference was that India was not just aware of these activities, but was often a direct participant in them.

Tibetan guerrilla units entered Tibet on foot from India for intelligence gathering missions. The CIA flew planes into Tibet from which Colorado-trained Tibetans would parachute in on missions. However, unlike in Nepal, Tibetan units in India were incorporated into local militia, not independent of them. Tibetans were trained by the Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB), and after training would either stay with the CIB or go on to a leadership post in a new Tibetan force in the Indian military. The all-Tibetan Special Frontier Force (SFF), popularly known as Establishment 22, was formed during the Sino-Indian War in 1962. Also created at this time under the auspices of the Ministry of Home Affairs was the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBF), which included Tibetans in its ranks. Both forces were stationed in border areas.

Stories of this guerrilla war were secret for many years. Involving multiple governments, and the covert moving of men, money and munitions across international borders, it is perhaps no surprise that information about the resistance was suppressed for several decades.

As understood by the Tibetans in the 1960s, Establishment 22/SFF was the India-based branch of the Chushi Gangdrug army. Based in Dehra Dun, this force was initially trained by both American and Indian officers, but was led by four Tibetan officers — Ratuk Ngawang, Gyatso Dhondup, Jampa Kalden and Jampa Wangdu. When the Americans pulled out of Establishment 22/SFF following political changes in their relationship with India in the 1970s, the KGB moved in, and both trainers and equipment changed from American to Russian. In 1971, the Tibetan force was used in India’s war with East Pakistan (nowBangladesh). Fifty-six Tibetan Establishment 22/SFF soldiers were killed in battle, and 580 Tibetan soldiers were privately decorated with medals for bravery by the Indian government.

Stories of Guerilla War

While the Chushi Gangdrug armies in Nepal, India and Tibet were ultimately no match for the Chinese, they did register some victories, including a major intelligence haul in 1961 and, most importantly for the veterans, the safe escorting of the Dalai Lama to India during his undercover escape from Lhasa in 1959. Stories of this guerrilla war were secret for many years. Involving multiple governments, and the covert moving of men, money and munitions across international borders, it is perhaps no surprise that information about the resistance was suppressed for several decades. Yet one might expect the story of the popular armed struggle for Tibet to be a part of contemporary Tibetan history. However, while veterans widely consider the resistance to be a key part of recent Tibetan history, and their own military service as the defining experience in their lives, histories of the resistance army and their efforts to defend Tibet and Buddhism are not widely known in the Tibetan refugee community. Why is the history of the resistance sidelined in official histories of Tibet? Why has the history of the Chushi Gangdrug history been arrested?

Historical arrest is the apprehension and detaining of particular pasts, with an anticipated eventual release. As such, arrested histories are not so much erased or forgotten, as they are postponed and archived for use in an unspecified time in the future when it will be OK, safe or important to tell them. Chushi Gangdrug history was — and still mostly remains — arrested within the Tibetan refugee community for several reasons: The war effort was not successful in regaining Tibet. The CIA was involved. In seeing their military initiative as political participation in the nation, as well as religious service defending the Dalai Lama and Buddhism, the mostly eastern Tibetan or Khampa resistance force challenged the Central Tibetan status quo in unwelcome ways. And finally, the military resistance troubled practices of nonviolence.

Chushi Gangdrug soldiers saw their army service as both ethically difficult (in that it potentially involved killing) and as ethically important (in that they were defending their religion, religious institutions and religious leaders). Monks disrobed to join the army and, in reverse, some soldiers later became monks to more effectively atone for their wartime transgressions.

The discourse of nonviolence, which circulated among the soldiers in the 1950s and 1960s, was not exactly the same as that which circulates today. Soldiers understood they were taking on violence on behalf of others, specifically the Dalai Lama. Their strategy was a joint violent/nonviolent one, in which the armed struggle was paired with a political, diplomatic effort. Soldiers discussed among themselves how to effectively fight to defend religion, including constantly seeking religious protection and guidance. They dedicated themselves to the Dalai Lama, had specific deities to whom they prayed, and called on the assistance of numerous lamas and rinpoches for special blessings, protective relics and predictions. Religion permeated the army at the same time that fighting violated a fundamental principle of Buddhism — not to create suffering for any sentient being. The allowance of violence in the case of war, as explained to this author by many soldiers, was due to the threat to Buddhism from a communist, anti-religion opponent.

“Nonviolence is not an intrinsic Tibetan trait. It is instead a philosophical component of Buddhism and a political component of state struggle; one the Dalai Lama himself notes is the only “practical” recourse to dealing with the infinitely more populous People’s Republic of China.”

In his 1962 autobiography, My Land and My People, the Dalai Lama directly addressed his personal and political dilemmas regarding violence and the resistance. He explains that he spoke frankly with some of the Khampa leaders during his escape from Tibet:

“In spite of my beliefs, I very much admired their courage and their determination to carry on the grim battle they had started for our freedom, culture, and religion. I thanked them for their strength and bravery, and also, more personally, for the protection they had given me. … By then, I could not in honesty advise them to avoid violence. In order to fight, they had sacrificed their homes and all the comforts and benefits of a peaceful life. Now they could see no alternative but to go on fighting, and I had none to offer. I only asked them not to use violence except in defending their position in the mountains.” As soldiers then and as veterans now, Chushi Gangdrug members consistently confirm his request: Their actions were indefense of Tibet in the face of Chinese aggression.

Implications of Non-Violence

Tibetan writer and veteran Jamyang Norbu argues that the promotion of the Tibetan struggle as wholly nonviolent “ignores the sacrifice and courage of the many thousands of Tibetan freedom fighters, monks and lamas included, who took up arms for the freedom of their country.” What then are the implications of a nonviolent state policy? Norbu contends that “truth has, unfortunately, become the first of casualties.” Nonviolence is not an intrinsic Tibetan trait. It is instead a philosophical component of Buddhism and a political component of state struggle; one the Dalai Lama himself notes is the only “practical” recourse to dealing with the infinitely more populous People’s Republic of China. Tibet has not historically been a nonviolent society. Tibetan history is full of wars and battles, of local-level skirmishes and major disputes with neighboring countries. The Tibetan government had an official army, and monasteries kept arms and engaged in armed disputes. A policy of nonviolence in the present makes it difficult to narrate violence in the past. But narrating past violence does not — and should not — cancel out a contemporary policy of nonviolence. Current Tibetan nonviolence by individuals, as well as by groups such as Tibet Action Institute and Students for a Free Tibet, provides a legitimate and inspiring alternative to violent conflict around the world. Yet it is important to understand the historical contours of this political strategy, in order to acknowledge the realities and complexities of the Tibetan experience, and thus best speak to peoples engaged in similar political struggles.

Since laying down arms in 1974, Tibetans in exile have waged a solely nonviolent political campaign in accordance with the Dalai Lama’s wishes. In 1987, the Dalai Lama articulated nonviolence as the sole Tibetan political strategy in his Five Point Peace Plan presented to the US Congress. Grassroots Tibetan nonviolence consists of a series of protests, media publications and coverage, global community building, hunger strikes and self-immolation. These latter two efforts — hunger strikes and immolations — do not fit the Dalai Lama’s platform of nonviolence in that unlike Gandhi, who advocated fasts as a means of political nonviolence, the Dalai Lama considers them to be violence against one’s own body. Thus, while past histories of the Tibetan resistance army clearly conflict with current commitments to nonviolence as led by the Dalai Lama, so too do contemporary actions such as hunger strikes and immolations.

Reconciling Tibetan beliefs about the need to defend country and religion with the Dalai Lama’s version of nonviolence is not a simple task. The tension between violence and nonviolence is one that Tibetans thus navigate with care, sometimes by opting for a different understanding of nonviolence. It is not a coincidence that Thubten Ngodup was not just a former monk, but a former soldier. What veterans like Ngodup are encouraged to forget, a history of war, is directly correlated to what the world is encouraged to remember — a nonviolent Tibet.

Ngodup’s self-immolation in 1998 was the first in the Tibetan community. For 11 years it was the only one. Then, on February 27, 2009, a young monk named Tapey self-immolated at Kirti Monastery in Tibet on the anniversary of an attack on the local community by Chinese security forces. At present, 138 Tibetans have self-immolated. The majority of self-immolations have been inside Tibet. Tibetans consider these deaths to be sacrifices rather than suicides. Sacrifices in the sense of a religious offering, a political protest and a call to the Tibetan community for unity. Sacrifices in the sense of continuing to defend religion and country.

Tibetans meet the Dalai Lama’s decision that the Tibetan struggle is to be nonviolent with a range of responses — pride, acceptance, frustration, creativity and more. When you are not the Dalai Lama — that is, not an incarnation of a bodhisattva(or even a “simple monk” as he prefers) — living nonviolence is not always easy. And yet Tibetans remain committed to nonviolence, committed to a sense of truth and justice and committed to the goal of returning Tibet to Tibetan rule.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy. 

Republished from: Fair Observer's: 360 Analysis at:

About the Author: Carole McGranahan is a scholar of contemporary Tibet. She holds a PhD in anthropology and history from the University of Michigan, and is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado. She is the author of Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War (Duke University Press, 2010) and is co-editor of "Self Immolation as Protest in Tibet" (special issue of the journal Cultural Anthropology, 2012).

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Hong Kong Crisis Tests China's 'One Country, Two Systems' Model

posted Oct 10, 2014, 5:38 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Parameswaran Ponnudurai 


Former Chinese patriarch Deng Xiaoping would be turning in his grave at the ongoing debate over Beijing's recent decision that effectively ruled out promised open elections for Hong Kong’s chief executive and lawmakers.

Deng's “one country, two systems” model—based on which the former British colony's future would evolve after its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997—is at the heart of the current wrangling between Chinese leaders and the pro-democrats in Hong Kong after Beijing decided it would vet candidates for the first popular elections in Hong Kong in 2017.

Democratic lawmakers in Hong Kong have threatened to veto the plan by China’s main legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC) requiring candidates for Hong Kong’s next leader to be screened by a committee heavy on Beijing backers as well as business leaders—making it unlikely that those opposed to the Chinese leadership will appear on the ballot.

The plan rejects genuine universal suffrage and contradicts the "one country, two systems" model introduced by the late Deng, who had promised that Hong Kong would keep its civil liberties and gradually transition to democracy while the mainland practiced socialism.

The pan-democrat camp comprising political factions in Hong Kong that support increased democracy under the "one country, two systems" is calling for universal suffrage in accordance with "international standards."

But Chinese officials claim there are no such requirements under the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-constitution, which was written following the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong that set out arrangements for the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to China under the 1984-designed "one country, two systems" model.

Is Beijing's decision to restrict electoral reforms in Hong Kong a breach of an international contract based on the terms of Britain's handover?

"Although the Joint Declaration, a bilateral—international—treaty, does not talk about universal suffrage, it can be said that the Basic Law entrenches China's basic policies— including universal suffrage—towards Hong Kong mentioned in the declaration," Surya Deva, Associate Professor at the School of Law in City University of Hong Kong, told RFA.

"If we make a combined reading of the two instruments—Joint Declaration and Basic Law—then the NPC Standing Committee's decision breaches what the Chinese government had promised to the UK government," he said.

University students and lecturers in China's special administrative region, as Hong Kong is now called, have threatened to boycott classes beginning next week, expressing disgust at Beijing's assertion that it has the sole prerogative over choosing the election candidates.

And pro-democracy activists have vowed a civil disobedience campaign to bring Hong Kong's financial hub to a standstill in upcoming protests over what they call "fake Chinese-style democracy."

Why did Beijing pursue this line of action?

Chinese leaders are concerned that any vibrant democracy in Hong Kong could lay the groundwork for similar demands in mainland China that could cause a possible breakup of the country.

“The Chinese in Beijing are making their calculations not only based on what they see in Hong Kong but their own real concerns about the possibility of a color revolution in China,” Jonathan Pollack, a China expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, told RFA.

“These are the things that agitate more than anything else—that may explain in part the decision [on elections in Hong Kong],” he said.

Firm control

China’s President Xi Jinping, haunted by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the "color revolutions" that toppled the regimes in former Soviet republics, looks determined to keep his one-party communist state in firm control of the country.

He has launched a campaign to fight corruption targeting both “tigers and flies” but has locked up anti-graft crusaders and stepped up a crackdown on grassroots political activism and online dissent.

The reversal of the democratization trend in Hong Kong has dented the international credibility of China, already the world’s second largest economy, which has pledged to be a more responsible rising power in the world stage, said George Chen, financial editor for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong, now participating in a fellowship program at Yale University in the United States.

"If Beijing can so easily break its promise for Hong Kong, then the rest of the world must ponder whether the Chinese government will live up to other international commitments," he said In an article on YaleGlobal Online, a university publication.

Chen warned that the one country, two systems scheme "is now at the risk of collapse due largely to increasing interference, directly or indirectly, by Beijing in various aspects from local elections of legislators to freedom of the press, for decades widely considered one of Hong Kong’s core values alongside the rule of law."

He also suggested that China is concerned that any Western-style democracy in Hong Kong could act as "a beacon for supporters of democracy in mainland China, in particular those most-developed cities including Guangzhou and Shanghai where the fast-increasing middle-class has strong desire for social justice and political reform to protect interests of local residents."

“Given the porous nature of communication between Hong Kong and the mainland, freedom granted to Hong Kong people to elect candidates not vetted by Beijing would have a subversive effect on China,” he said.

Beijing's decision on Hong Kong has also doused hopes in Taiwan of maintaining the island's vibrant democracy if it integrates with the mainland.

Deng's “one country, two systems” model is the starting point for any discussions for eventual reunification of Taiwan.

"I think the operative test case, if you will, is whether or not there is a tolerably satisfactory outcome here [in Hong Kong] that would in theory at least over the longer run convince the citizens of Taiwan there is a basis on which they can arrive at a negotiated agreement with the mainland" Pollack of Brookings said.

"But clearly to the degree that there is such dissatisfaction in some circles in Hong Kong, it doesn’t for the moment suggest a very good precedent."

Beijing views Taiwan, which has developed its own democratic, capitalist system since Chinese nationalists fled there from the mainland in 1949, as a province of China that must one day be brought back into the fold.

'Not tolerate reform'

Brad Glosserman, the Executive Director of the Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the ruling Chinese Communist Party "would not tolerate any potential reform that would even open the door to a challenge to its authority and its legitimacy and its ability to maintain control over the country."

"So obviously the degree to which Beijing has drawn a line in [Hong Kong] has demonstrated that there are very definite limits that Beijing is not prepared to cross," he told RFA.

The Hong Kong case has also raised doubts about Beijing easing controls in the restive autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

Deva of City University of Hong Kong believes the push for greater democracy in Hong Kong would increasingly get connected with the struggle of the people of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.

"Since people living in these regions or jurisdictions have a different language, culture, religion, sociopolitical system, and freedoms, they do not wish to buy the 'uniformity' notion sold by the central government," he said.

"But if Beijing continues to impose its wishes on these people, they would react against such homogenous imposition of views, though in different ways, like Taiwan may not wish to unify because of the Hong Kong experience."

"The current Hong Kong universal suffrage saga may also open the possibility of more cooperation and collaboration amongst democracy and freedom-oriented activists across these regions."

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An Unsung Hero’s Mission for Tibet: An Interview with Thubten Samdup

posted Oct 10, 2014, 9:38 AM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Tsering Passang

Thubten Samdup, the Outgoing Dalai Lama’s Representative for Northern Europe based at The Office of Tibet, London speaks about his lifelong commitment for Tibet and the Tibetan people’s non-violent freedom struggle and their challenges. He is a recipient of the 2005 ‘Unsung Heroes of Compassion’ award. 

Early Years

Thubten Samdup (also known as ‘Sam’ among his western friends) was born in Lhasa in central Tibet; both his parents are from Kham. His father was a trader of tea, barley and wool, his mother a farmer. In 1959, Samdup fled the Chinese occupation when he was only 7 years old with his parents and younger brother. They escaped to India, where the family sought refuge in Kalimpong. Later, he was placed in a government reception centre for Tibetan refugee children (Bhuso Khang) in Dharamsala. A year later, he and sixteen other youths were selected and enrolled in the Tibetan Music, Dance and Drama Society, now known as the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA), the first exile organisation established by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

At TIPA, Samdup studied traditional Tibetan music and dance, and later was awarded a John D. Rockefeller III Fund scholarship, under which he studied ethnomusicology at Brown University in Rhode Island. A second JDR III scholarship enabled Samdup to document the oral traditions of Tibetan music. After returning from America in 1976, Samdup was appointed as Director of TIPA. Whilst in Dharamsala, he became involved with the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (RTYC) and later served as its President for three years from 1978.

In 1980, Samdup moved to Montreal, Canada where he settled with his Canadian wife and two children. In Montreal, he served in the local Tibetan association and became its president and served for eight years. He was later elected as the first member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile representing Tibetans living in North America (1991–1996).

Samdup co-founded the Canada Tibet Committee and for seventeen years, he served as its National President (1987–2004). He also created Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Tibet in 1991 – a non-partisan group of Parliament members and Senators working in support of Tibet. In 1992, Samdup started the World Tibet Network Newsalong with three other editors – an electronic news service that publishes daily news on Tibet to global audience to create awareness on the Tibetan situation. In the same year, he also started TSG Email List – an online communication tool which enables enhanced communication and better co-ordination amongst the core Tibet support groups around the world. For the non-English speaking support groups he created separate German, French & Spanish email group lists.

In 2006, Samdup established Drelwa (Online China Outreach) – enabling virtual interactions between Tibetans in exile and Chinese Netizens. In addition to reaching out to the Chinese, the initiative also created employments to Tibetans. He assumed the Chairman’s role of the Dalai Lama Foundation in Canada in 2007.

In Canada, Samdup organised five visits by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as key meetings between His Holiness and leading Canadian political parties and religious leaders, including the then Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin. The 2004 meeting between His Holiness and Prime Minister Paul Martin was regarded as ‘strategic’ from the Tibetan side. This followed after securing almost two-thirds of the Canadian parliamentarians’ support, calling upon the Prime Minister to serve as an honest broker between the leaders of China and the Dalai Lama's representatives.

Thubten Samdup’s prominence in the Tibetan community rose after launching his personal initiative - Kalon Tripa Candidate’s Campaign, which sparked an unprecedented level of interest from the Tibetan populace on the 2011 Kalon Tripa Election.

In 2009, Samdup was headhunted by Dharamsala (despite not being a CTA public servant) from Canada for his dedicated service and pioneering initiatives for Tibet and the Tibetan cause. He was appointed as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Representative for Northern Europe (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the UK). Samdup started his diplomatic mission exactly five years ago in August 2009 based at The Office of Tibet in London.


(Canada Tibet Committee)

Q1: Thubten la, you moved to Canada in 1980 with your Canadian wife, Carol Samdup. I hear that your wife is also a very dedicated Tibet supporter. I understand that with your wife, you founded the Canada Tibet Committee in 1987, and served as its President until 2004. Please share with us your roles - for example, how you started this major Canada-based Tibet NGO and its activities. This includes outreach with the Canadian Government and Parliament that has affected Tibetan people’s freedom struggle.

Thubten Samdup (TS): Yes my wife has played a very important role in everything I have done in my life. Without her unconditional support, I could not have carried on with all my crazy initiatives and ideas.

Canada Tibet Committee was established in 1987 right after the major uprising in Lhasa. Group of teen age Tibetans and some non-Tibetan friends from Montreal started a long March from Montreal to Canada’s national capital Ottawa. It took us five days to get there and we received national coverage since the Chinese soldiers firing on innocent and peaceful Tibetans became international news.

Many Canadian friends came forth and offered to do what they can to support our cause. I felt that we needed to establish a formal organisation and this is how CTC was created. Within two years, we had 11 branches across Canada and the interesting thing about CTC is that almost all branches were headed by Tibetans. I can say this with great pride that we were successful in our mission mainly because the Tibetan communities across Canada supported us.

Q2: I hear that the ongoing Tibetan Re-settlement Project (1000 Tibetan refugees from Tezu, Miao, Bomdilla and Tuting) from Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India to Canada was the result of a humble request made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to some Canadian authorities. I wonder whether there is any link or role that you and/or the Canada Tibet Committee might have played in facilitating this re-settlement project?(a project that will continue to change the lives of thousands of Tibetan refugees, who are from a poorer sections of our community in India). If so, will you please share with us the background?

TS: We had been discussing about the possibility of perhaps trying to bring in more Tibetans into Canada for some years but the final breakthrough came about during His Holiness’ visit to Montreal in September of 2009. Last day of His Holiness’ visit to Montreal, he met with the former Hon. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and the Chair of the Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Tibet, Senator Con Di Nino, in a hotel near the airport. This is where His Holiness made the appeal to Minister Jason Kenney and to his credit, he saw it through.

Once the announcement was made, CTC’s former Director Mr. Dermod Travis and Mr. Nima Dorjee la from Calgary started Project Tibet Society and they have been doing amazing work so far.

(Democracy & Youth Engagement)

Q3: After the launch of the Kalon Tripa Candidate’s Campaign website, almost three years before the Tibetan General Election, this initiative eventually brought forward over 20 candidates (both men and women) to the Tibetan electorates. Many public and private discussions on the 2011 Kalon Tripa election were held in Tibetan communities around the world, along with the need for choosing a strong Kalon Tripa candidate to lead the Tibetan Movement forward. Finally, Harvard legal scholar Dr Lobsang Sangay was elected as the Kalon Tripa (now Sikyong). Did you ever anticipate this level of interest from the Tibetans in Exile particularly amongst the younger generation when you first came up with the notion of this campaign? Are you pleased with the way it rolled out eventually?

TS: I am extremely pleased and proud that I was able to make a small difference in our “Journey to Democracy”. My motivation from the start was to make sure that we find the best possible candidate who can lead us in these difficult times and the only way we will find such a person is if we all start searching for such a person. The way our current system goes, by the time a call for nomination in announcement from Dharamsala, it does not allow a new person who does not have the name recognition in the general public to become a serious contender. That is why I launched the initiative almost 3 years before the election on September 2nd of 2008. Even Sikyong himself today jokingly admits had it not been for the initiative, he may not have been the Sikyong today.

(International Tibet Support Network)

Q4: Whilst serving at the Canada Tibet Committee, I believe you co-founded the International Tibet Network (formerly known as International Tibet Support Network). Please tell us why you saw the need for this global network and how it all began? What are the challenges the Tibet Support Groups today face in their pursuit of supporting the Tibet Movement?

TS: Because I had started the listserv for Tibet Support Groups around the world, I used to receive many queries on Tibet and help for more information. Since I had a full time day job in a major Canadian engineering firm and all the work I did on Tibet are done from my basement on weekends and week night, I felt that we needed to establish an umbrella organisation that can oversee and coordinate the works of TSGs around the globe, I propose the establishment of International Tibet Network in Berlin, Germany and it received unanimous support from all delegation including former Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche.

                                                  Photo Courtesy: Thubten Samdup

(The Office of Tibet – Mission, Roles and Responsibilities)

Q5: Your official position is Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Northern Europe. Do you simply represent His Holiness the Dalai Lama and support with facilitating his visits to the countries of your jurisdiction? Or do you also represent the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in its pursuit of political, cultural and diplomatic relations with those countries? How many people are currently working at The Office of Tibet? There is also an affiliated charitable wing – the Tibet House Trust. Please explain what you as Representative and The Office of Tibet do for Tibet and Tibetan people?

TS: In this role, we do both. His Holiness’ overseas trips are very important part of our job and we all take this responsibility very seriously. We also represent CTA. We meet regularly with officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and members of parliament from the countries under our jurisdictions.

In London office, there are only three people working in the office including the Representative. With our limited resources, we have tried to be strategic and with innovative ideas to further the cause of Tibet. I have always felt as a Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, opportunities are limitless.

Q6: What level of recognition (diplomatic status) does the British Government (and also in other countries of your jurisdiction) give to the Central Tibetan Administration and The Office of Tibet? During His Holiness’ visit to the UK and other countries, what level of security protection and reception do the governments provide through your good offices?

TS: Of course no countries in the world recognize Tibet as an independent country and therefore the Office of Tibet and the Representative do not receive the diplomatic status. However, some of the smaller countries particularly the Baltics States treat us with more respect and they are more sympathetic. I have found that most countries in Northern Europe provide reasonable security during His Holiness’ visit. For instance, Poland and some of Baltic States provide high level security. Whatever the reason the UK government’s security arrangement is minimal.

Q7: I learned that the Tibet House Trust has recently secured 1.5 million Euros for some capacity-building related programmes in the exiled Tibetan community. Can you please explain more about this grant and how it will be best utilised?

TS: Yes we have managed to raise 1.5 million Euros and it is being used for capacity building for human rights defenders.

Q8: In the past whenever His Holiness paid visits to the Houses of Parliament, The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet were involved to organise interaction with the British MPs, who are sympathetic to Tibet and the Tibetan people. However, in the case of the 2012 UK visit by His Holiness, I noted that, unlike your predecessors, you handled it differently. You involved The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Food & Security for His Holiness’s meeting with British MPs. This new approach has attracted the largest numbers of British MPs ever attending His Holiness’s event in parliament. Could you please share with us why you have done it this way?

TS: Yes this is true. It was handled differently in 2012 and the reason for this is simple. Most of the visits of His Holiness abroad, he meets politicians who are already supporters of Tibet and people knowledgeable about Tibet. I felt it is very important to be more strategic to invite and facilitate His Holiness to meet with new audience. For instance, many parliamentarians find it difficult to attend meeting with His Holiness when the invitation is extended from a Tibet friendly parliamentarian group like the APPG for Tibet for instance. That is why I decided to go with All Party Parliamentarian Group for Food & Security. There are 650 members of parliament in the British parliament, we must try and get those parliamentarians who may not necessarily have an interest in Tibet but interested in seeing His Holiness. This is the only opportunity when we can attract these politicians and diplomats alike.

Q9: In August 2009, you said that your London appointment was four-year term but you stayed on for five! What extra things have you achieved in the fifth year that you did not achieve during the original four-year mission?

TS: The reason we extended one more year is to finish off some of the work I had started for next year (2015) when His Holiness turns 80. I wanted to make sure all loose ends are tied and my successor can follow up.

Q10: I hear that after leaving The Office of Tibet next month, you have plans to work on a youth employment initiative in the Tibetan settlements. Is this true? If so, please tell us what is this all about? Do you have funds available to kick-off your initiative?

TS: Yes it is true. I find it very important that we must come up with a strategic plan to help those young Tibetans who may choose to live in the community and raise their children in the Tibetan culture and also look after their aged parents. We must provide them with an option. Of course I have no magical solution but I am positive we can come up with something interesting to provide decent paying employment opportunities.

I had visited all the major Tibetan settlements in Karnataka State in 2006. During the visit, I felt something had to be done. Unfortunately, I had no time to devote to this project in the last 5 years in London. Now with little more time on hand and with cooperation with CTA, I want to try something innovative and sustainable project to help achieve this stated goal.

(Sino-Tibetan Dialogue)

Q11: There has been no dialogue between Beijing and Dharamsala since 2010. What do you think should be done to convince the Chinese side that dialogue is necessary for mutually benefit? Dharamsala has yet to appoint new Tibetan Envoys, following the resignation of Special Envoy, Lodi Gyari, and Envoy, Kelsang Gyaltsen, who were responsible for holding talks with the Chinese representatives. Would you be interested if Dharamsala appoints you as one of the interlocutors to conduct talks with the Chinese counterparts?

TS: It is true that there has been no official dialogue between Beijing and Dharamsala since 2010. However, His Holiness regularly meets with prominent Chinese business and intellectuals and during his foreign visits, His Holiness always make an effort to reach out to Chinese. Sikyong also believes China outreach is very important.

In private capacity, there is nothing stopping anyone of us from doing the outreach work. In fact, all Tibetans and supporters must do the outreach especially in the West. There are over 100,000 Chinese students studying in the UK alone and what an opportunity to do the outreach work. These students when they return, most of them will be holding very important positions in the government and corporate world.

Me as an interlocutor is laughable. I know my limits. This is something beyond me and I know I don’t have what it takes to be an effective envoy. Of course, I can always do China outreach myself and also assist in perhaps facilitating meetings between Dharamsala and people I come into contact with.

Q12: Is there anything else you would like to add in relation to your personal commitment for Tibet and the Tibetan people’s non-violent freedom struggle before I move onto the theme of arts & music?

TS: Well the time has come for me to slow down a bit but I still do have some things in the pipeline. I will never completely give up my work for Tibet. It has become very much part of my life and I believe we can all make contributions in our own private capacity.

(Tibetan Arts & Music)

Q13: You spent your early years at TIPA, learning Tibetan performing arts. Your debut song, ‘Rinzin Wangmo’ is probably the best solo Tibetan love-song to this day, which has been sung by so many Tibetan singers, not only in exile but even inside Tibet, including the well-known singer, Yadong. Even the native singers from the Himalayan region of Nepal (Raju Lama) and Ladakh (Phuntsok) have sung your song! Who composed the lyrics and the melody? Who was Rinzin Wangmo in the song? Was she yours sweet-heart at the time or just a dream girl?

TS: Yes this song was written many years ago and today more Tibetans know me from this song than anything else I have done in my life. I am very flattered and humbled by so many great singers to day have sung this song both inside and outside Tibet. To me, it seems like another lifetime! No there was no sweet heart or a dream girl by that name.

Q14: It is said that music has no boundaries and it brings people together. In the case of the Tibetan situation, musicians and artistes from Tibet cannot visit Tibetan settlements in India and perform. Similarly, the exiled Tibetan musicians and artistes cannot visit and perform in Tibet. How do you feel about that? Do you have any advice and words of encouragement to share with Tibetan musicians and artists who could play important roles to bring Tibetans together through music?

TS: I have always believed that every single person can make a difference. I am thrilled that so many young Tibetans today are using the medium of music for advocacy and awareness raising. This is fantastic. One can never tell how this current gridlock can break.


(The interview was conducted by Tsering Passang, who works for Tibet Relief Fund. A Tibetan version of this interview, co-ordinated by LondonNey, is available at 

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Response to the “Status and position of the TYC when it was initially established, and some issues pertaining to the just cause of Tibetan struggle” by Kasur Lodi Gyari

posted Oct 5, 2014, 3:03 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Oct 6, 2014, 7:02 AM ]

By Migmar Dolma and Tenzin Kelden*

We have read the article by Kasur Lodi Gyari with great interest. Since his article is an appeal to the younger generation, we, as two young Tibetans, not only feel encouraged but see it as our duty to actively take part in this discussion. We thank Lodi Gyari for publicly sharing his point of view with us and highlighting the importance of active involvement in this political discourse.

From the beginning we would like to make clear that we respect and acknowledge the work that has been done and the efforts that have been made by the previous generations to lay the basis for our community in exile to evolve. We, as former board members of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe (TYAE), which was founded in March 1970 in Switzerland, are very aware of the hardships faced by the founders and our elder generation. When we spend evenings with them talking about Tibet, we always feel inspired and have a sense of deep respect and gratitude.

At the same time, we appreciate the confidence placed in us, as the younger generation, regarding our thoughts and ideas for Tibet. We always felt that there is a genuine mutual respect and appreciation regardless of any kind of differences.

Last but not least we would like to stress that we, like Lodi Gyari, are deeply grateful for the guidance and leadership of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It is very clear to us that His Holiness’ tireless efforts have brought great achievements for the Tibetan Movement and our community in exile.

With that in mind, we would like to comment on four subjects raised in the article “Status and position of the Tibetan Youth Congress when it was initially established, and some issues pertaining to the just cause of Tibetan struggle” by Kasur Lodi Gyari in October, 2014.

Youth Organisations, an independent platform

“To sustain the organisation having long institutional records without disintegration, it is important to remain firm by not subscribing to hearsay or becoming the tools of others (p. 5)”.

The youth have always been a great force of change in a society. Therefore, we think, that the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) offers an extremely important platform to act independently as the voice of the youth in exile. TYC, being a non-governmental organisation, has not only the right but is obliged to remain independent from established institutions. If we understand this paragraph by Lodi Gyari correctly, it contradicts the above mentioned duty of an NGO.

On the one hand, we often hear Tibetans saying that the youth play a key role regarding the future of Tibet and that we are the ones who need to carry on the Tibetan struggle. On the other hand, we feel that active political participation of Tibetan youth is only wanted as long as it doesn’t challenge the status quo.

We often hear words like “preservation” or “continuation”. Of course, we preserve what has been given to us. But that does not mean that we cannot bring in new ideas, new forms of cultural or ideological expressions that are reflections of present circumstances. In this process, there needs to be an exchange between generations at eye level and without patronisation. This kind of exchange can only be beneficial for every society.

The following statement by Kelsang Gyaltsen, written for the 40-year anniversary of the TYAE, makes our point clear. He says: “The youth constitute in many societies the force for renewal. In order to be able to unfold this force, it needs to take the liberty to represent positions that differ from the majority opinion. In other words: The youth can provoke and must criticise. The youth must encourage people to re-think the established conditions and practices. This is especially relevant to the Tibetan youth. As sad as the 50 years in exile might make us, we can be proud when we look at the Tibetan youth. The modern education joined with their rootedness in Buddhist ideas as well as their idealism are our capital for the freedom struggle of our people.” Kelsang Gyaltsen, EU Special Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and former President of the TYAE from 1978-1980 (translated from the original German).

The Usage of Unity

In the following paragraph, we want to talk about unity. It is a word that has been said and used very often in the past few years. Lodi Gyari mentions unity several times in his statement as well. We ask ourselves: what does unity mean? Or is there even a definite meaning of this word at all?

Different opinions can and should occur on any topic. Having had the opportunity to enjoy education in the West, we grew up learning to form our own opinions. Whether it was reading a book or scientific papers - we were always challenged by our teachers and professors to analyse and then comment on what we had in front of us. Active individual participation was always required by our teachers.

True unity of people is when there is room for acceptance of difference for different opinions and an open discussion.

Without doubt, unity is important in these hard times of national struggle. But it cannot be misused to silence others or make them feel that they are endangering Tibetan unity if they do otherwise. We both have had the experience that we would sit in an audience and hear the word unity on the stage: We all should be united. We felt that there was an anti-democratic tone to the usage of this word. We would ask ourselves: Are we not united? Or is it just a rhetorical strategy to make sure everyone is following the official policy? We were never quite sure.

There are many reasons as to why Tibetans today feel a special sense of unity. One main reason is the visionary leadership of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and his successful efforts to bring the Tibet issue to an international level. Every time we are in His Holiness' presence we feel the sadness of being in exile but also our unwavering resistance against Chinese oppression. He is the symbol of Tibet.

Like every other nation, we Tibetans are also united because of our own language, our own culture and history. The traumatic experience of the Chinese occupation has unified Tibetans like never before. The protests of 1959, 1987/88/89 and 2008 have been momentums of national consciousness in our recent history. These uprisings and the courage of our own people have inspired not only generations of Tibetans in Tibet and in exile but also kept the struggle alive in each and every one of us. These aspects have not been mentioned in Lodi Gyari’s article.

Middle Way Policy, Geopolitical Realities and The Pursuit of Rangzen

From p.6 on, Lodi Gyari talks about the Middle Way Policy and the circumstances in which this policy has been created. As the leader of the Tibetan people His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was called upon to assume full political power at the age of 15 and carried this responsibility until 2011. We are fully aware that His Holiness proposed the Middle Way Policy out of great responsibility and urge to resolve the Tibet issue.

When discussing the Middle Way Policy, it is also important to take the historic context of China’s reform-oriented politics under Deng Xiaoping into account.

We - as ordinary Tibetans - have a right and a responsibility to form our own opinion on the Middle Way Policy and the future of Tibet. Therefore, we want to express our thoughts on this issue.

From the Chinese we often hear that there is no Tibetan issue as such and it is quite clear that they consider the Tibet problem to be resolved after the passing away of His Holiness. We all know that this is not the case. The Tibetan issue is a nation’s struggle for freedom and it will continue until the day Tibet is free from China’s occupation. This is a critical time and we think that all Tibetans need to reflect on the current situation and build their own political opinions. Everyone needs to care about Tibet’s future and participate in the political debate and activities. It cannot be that only one person is responsible for a nation’s struggle. It needs to be carried by the people themselves.

He continues stating that: “Internationally, many governments, parliaments and politically influential personalities around the world have not only supported but also personally involved themselves for the success of this policy recognizing the pragmatic aspect of this approach.”

It might be correct that this policy has gained support on an international level. But we feel obliged to be honest to ourselves and look at the actual support we have gained and what clear results have been achieved. Except for symbolic gestures, there is no real support for Tibet when it comes to Western governments. Dr. Tsering Topgyal stated on 22 November 2013 during a conference held in London: “ There is a perception that the West has been a great champion of the Tibetan cause. [...] I n a formal sense, throughout the life of the Tibet cause [or] Tibet issue, the Western governments have been more pro-China than pro-Tibetan.[...]”

We think that our political aim should not depend on the symbolic support of Western countries which has to date not resulted in any improvement of the situation inside Tibet. We must struggle for something that we believe in and stand behind as a nation. International support changes according to political circumstances. And when our time comes, the international community will support Tibet’s independence.

Looking at Tibet we see the following: Chinese policies have become more tight-fisted, more restrictive and oppressive. The self-immolations are a clear sign of that development. At the same time we observe that governments look after their own interests, which seems logical. Switzerland for example, had signed a free trade agreement with China which became effective this year in July. The economic benefits are clear and they also undermine the violated human rights made by Beijing. The day this trade agreement was signed, was a sad day, especially looking at the history of Tibetans in Switzerland. Today governments strictly separate human rights from economic questions in their foreign policy which makes it impossible to pressure China to follow international law. We might get little favours here and there from Western governments whenever it serves their national interests but they will never be the ones actively pushing for autonomy or independence for Tibet. It is only we Tibetans who can fight this battle.

Lodi Gyari mentions Chinese support as an argument for the Middle Way Policy: “At the same time, increasing number of Chinese people, particularly the intellectuals and younger generations who know the actual situation of Tibet, express their support and sympathy for the Tibetan cause.” (p. 7)

Increasing support by Chinese intellectuals for Tibet does not mean that we should only follow one policy. Why should we Tibetans adapt our core demands to Chinese people’s support? This is a paradox situation because history has shown us that a national movement is in its core about the empowerment of a nation to stand up for itself. It is not about another nation’s perception of what Tibet ought to be or not. The focus should lie on the demands of the majority of Tibetan people inside Tibet. Just few days ago six monks in Driru in the town of Wathang were detained. They took down the Chinese flag which was put on their monastery and burnt it (Phayul, 2014). This is a very clear act of defiance against China’s presence in Tibet.

Even if one day the majority of Chinese people - from which we are very far away now - would support the Middle Way Policy, it would have no impact on the Chinese government since their legitimacy and decision-making is not based on the Chinese people’s consent.

Looking at some of the few brave Chinese intellectuals and at younger generations we see that they want and need basic democratic rights. Why else did they stand up and protest in 1989 in Beijing? The recent developments in Hong Kong clearly show the dictatorial nature of the regime of the Chinese Communist Party. A “free” Hong Kong is being more and more controlled. This is not being accepted by the Hong Kong people who fear if “Hong Kong is the next Tibet?” (Epoch Times 2014). It shows us that the Chinese Communist Party is a controlling organ that will never allow democratic rights. Hong Kong is an autonomous political entity and if we look at the present situation it shows a clear picture of how restrictively autonomy is implemented by China.

Taking all this into consideration, at present we do not believe that any solution can be achieved for us Tibetans through the Middle Way Policy. Dialogue with a dictatorial regime that does not want mutual benefit is clearly impossible and wishful thinking on our part. The CCP has ruled over China and Tibet not through compromises but through repression and use of force. We would also like to make clear that we don’t believe that the CCP will give us independence - that would be ignorant. Independence is not something that will be given to us by someone. It is something that we have to actively fight for until there is a political transition in China.

We hope that our thoughts show that we are not “irresponsibly criticising” (p. 9). We make up our own mind and opinions looking at different aspects. If there are people who are irresponsibly criticising as Lodi Gyari mentions, then, this is of course a false approach. But every voice that differs from the Middle Way Policy cannot be described as an irresponsible criticism - this also, is a misuse of democratic rights. We should stop blaming each at a personal level if we talk about different policies - this is no basis for an fruitful discussion. Having an open discussion is what we need.

We do believe in Rangzen not because we are guided by pure emotions and dreams and create a “beautiful and blissful image” (p. 8) of our history but because we have seen in the past and present that nations can gain independence. Rangzen is our right as Tibetans and looking at the unwavering resistance of Tibetans inside Tibet, it is very clear that this struggle will lead to a victory. It is only a matter of geopolitical change and therefore time. If all Tibetans give up the demand for independence, we will end up losing our determination to resist China.

Lodi Gyari tries to prove that we do not have the historic basis to claim independence for the greater Tibet (U-Tsang, Kham, Amdo). We do not agree here. Throughout history, all states have gone through political changes in which their geographical territory has changed but this does not mean that there is no right to claim independence for greater Tibet. The many border disputes around the world prove that there is never an absolute geographical border for a state. In 2008, Tibetans rose up all over the three provinces of Tibet and called for independence. One of our friends once said: “If we would draw a line around Tibet and look at where the independence protests have happened, it gives us a very clear picture of what a free and independent Tibet would look like geographically.” We claim independence because of the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination. An independent country is based on consent and on the willingness to live together as a community in an independent political entity. Why else were the Scottish people granted the referendum and voted in the past month on whether they want to remain in the United Kingdom or not?

No Democracy for Tibet?

“These days some people opine that to achieve genuine democratic system is our ultimate goal. I do not believe this point of view is valid” (page 4). Here we do not quite understand what Lodi Gyari is saying and we ask him to be more specific. What is then your ultimate goal? Lodi Gyari writes that people sacrificed their lives not for a democratic system but for “the preservation and protection of unique Tibetan identity and characteristics, which are at the verge of extinction”. With what political system does he want to ensure the preservation of our identity? With an authoritarian one-party system?

As Tibetans, living in free countries, enjoying all kinds of freedoms, saying that Tibetans in Tibet do not need democratic rights is unjust and out of place.

As mentioned before he continues saying that all the sacrifices that have been made by Tibetans inside were not because of their struggle for democratic rights: “It is clear that these sacrifices were not made to struggle for their democratic rights but rather for the preservation and protection of unique Tibetan identity and characteristics, which are at the verge of extinction.”

Here we absolutely disagree with the above quoted statement. Democracy is not just a form of government. It is an ideology that is based on human dignity. Meaning, to live a self-determined life where individual rights are guaranteed.

In 2008 three young Tibetan writers from Amdo, including Tashi Rabten (also known as: Theurang), were imprisoned by the Chinese government. They were young intellectuals involved in the publication of the literary magazine ཤར་དུང་རི་ (Eastern Snow Mountain) which was banned for their articles about the 2008 Uprisings. The following is the principal declaration of ཤར་དུང་རི་ published in 2007: “I possess nothing but an independent nature and an independent mind. Therefore, I’m not going to be in awe of those who call themselves ‘great scholars,’ nor can I to bow in reverence to big lamas and Tulkus. I am striving for a value – the value of liberty and equality. I am striving for courage – the courage to think critically and discover.” (translated from the original Tibetan). These are clearly democratic values they are describing. They are, for us, not only patriotic and brave Tibetans but they represent the new generation inside Tibet who are leading the freedom struggle today intellectually and on the ground.

Closing words

In general, it seems that in Lodi Gyari’s view of the world there are two types of people: Middle Way vs. Rangzen advocates. We do not share this kind of dual worldview because it provides a breeding ground for simplistic discourse where people are reduced to their support for Rangzen or Middle Way. Individual people should not be stigmatised because of their political stance.

Although we have made some critical points, we have also benefited from Lodi Gyari’s historical excursus. We might not agree with the conclusions that he draws from them but they are still important as part of our history. Living in the present we look at our future, a future that is as yet untold.

The vision of an independent Tibet gives us hope. We have a country and we are a strong nation. There are six million Tibetans in the world. As long as we exist, we will stay true to our identity and fight for our land.
Resistance is continuing. It may ache at some times, but it shall never be broken.

In times where Tibetans are scattered around the world and our country is occupied by China, it gives room to re-consider who we want to be as a nation and what our values are.

For us, the question of independence is not merely political but a moral one. Finally, there is one fundamental question left to be answered for us as a nation: Can our moral principles be upheld if we remain within the People’s Republic of China?

[All views expressed here are solely of the authors)

* Tenzin Kelden, Former President and Board Member of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, Masters in Media and Communications and Film Studies, University of Zurich

Migmar Dolma, Former Board Member of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, Member of Tibetan National Congress, Student in International Relations, University of Geneva

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Status and position of the Tibetan Youth Congress when it was initially established, and some issues pertaining to the just cause of Tibetan struggle

posted Oct 5, 2014, 2:49 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Oct 5, 2014, 2:55 PM ]

By Lodi Gyari

Originally published at:

Last year in 2013, the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey invited me to speak on the founding day of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) which I could not attend. Later in 2014 on the 16th March they have invited me again to participate in a panel discussion; I could not attend this also due to prior engagement. Therefore, I have decided to present in writing the things that I wanted to share during these two meetings and add some background information.

In general, it is the prerogative of the TYC’s leadership and its members to decide what stand it will take at present and in the future. However, being one of the founding members of the TYC who was among those taking the main responsibility during its inception, I thought it will be beneficial if I explain how and why TYC was established and the adoption of its aims and objectives in light of the ground realities and situations prevailing then. I consider this my earnest duty to explain.

It is important to know one’s history whether it is of individual, organization or a nation. History may have elements of happiness and pride as well as regrets. Whatever it may be, one should not interpret history based on delusion and preconceived notions because such an act will not hold in the long run. Instead it should be based on factual occurrence. In the case of our society, I have a feeling that we do not know or care to know the history of recent decades let alone past centuries. Therefore, I appeal everyone to pay attention to our history. I especially appeal to the younger generation to know the ground realities of history.

TYC was not founded overnight. Rather it was the result of prolonged discussions, deliberations and brainstorming. I still clearly remember that from 1963 onwards Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and I met many times and had many discussions.

The four founding members of the TYC were, Kasur (and former Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama) Tenzin Geyche Tethong, Kalon Trisur late Sonam Topgyal Dzachutsang, Kalon Trisur Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and myself. However, during the actual establishment, many individuals were involved and everybody contributed their best and thus the movement began.

The underlying source of motivation and reason behind establishment of the TYC movement was that Tibetans throughout the Tibetan plateau have equally suffered under the Chinese Communist invasion and occupation irrespective of whether they are under the direct administration of Gaden Phodrang government or outside of its administration. As a result, tens of thousands of Tibetans were murdered, injured and imprisoned and several thousands were forced to flee into exile. Under such an upheaval, Tibetans have united under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to struggle against the Communist Chinese occupation. This is the main basis on which the TYC movement was started.

I. Oath of Allegiance (Na-gan Thuwoche) affirming the unity of all the Tibetans

On 3rd February 1960, high ranking personnel and spiritual masters from across the Tibetan areas, civil servants of the Tibetan government and leaders of Chushi Gangdruk who had fled into exile assembled at Bodh Gaya and took the Oath of Allegiance called “Na-gan Thuwoche” affirming the unity of all the Tibetans under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama which says: -

Recognizing that the inability to pool together the potential of the Tibetan people in the past several centuries has made the situation like this now. Learning from the past experience, all the Tibetans will eschew parochialism and sectarianism and personal differences, and vow to unite and stand together solid like an iron ball. Henceforth, we unanimously decide to make every effort under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to struggle for the just cause of the Tibetan people and enthusiastically reached on taking this Oath of Allegiance.

Following this taking of oath the Gaden Phodrang government which came into exile with His Holiness the Dalai Lama saw continuity while undergoing a major political transformation representing all three provinces of Tibet.

This is one of the most significant achievements in our recent past history, which has enabled a revival of a powerful political awareness, after several centuries, among all Tibetans who share common religion, culture, language and tradition. Promptly implementing the spirit of the Oath of Allegiance, His Holiness the Dalai Lama when establishing the Commission of Tibetan People’s Deputies in the same year, 1960, had three representations from each traditional region of Tibet, and a representative from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism comprising of 13 members in total. This farsighted vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to establish democratic administration was aimed to represent all Tibetans from three regions of Tibet in the long run rather than to represent a handful of Tibetans in India.

In order to materialize the Oath of Allegiance to unite all the Tibetans, it is necessary to respect the unique characteristics of each of the three regions of Tibet on equal basis. Respecting and recognizing everyone equally is the most important condition that will sustain the unity of the Tibetans as one people. Whether it is co-existence between Tibetans and Chinese or to sustain the unity among the Tibetans, it would not be possible if there is inequality. This is same in the case of promoting unity amongst the different religious traditions and sects.

It is surprising to note that these days nobody even discusses the process of this historic achievement, let alone commemorate it. As a matter of fact, whether one speaks about the Middle Way Approach or independence or self-determination, it will be practically impossible to explain the ground reality if we ignore the process under which this great historical transformation took place.

The sense of unity among the Tibetan people that exists today is solely because of the farsighted guidance and leadership of His Holiness the great 14th Dalai Lama. This achievement alone makes His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama the most benevolent to the Tibetan people among the successive Dalai Lamas. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the one to whom the elder generation, including my father, who came into exile, took the Oath of Allegiance in 1960 and it is clear that the solidarity and unity among the Tibetan people from all three regions of Tibet is sustained mainly because of our devotion and unwavering faith in Him.

From my perspective, I personally believe that the Oath of Unity was offered to the His Holiness the Dalai Lama and not amongst us Tibetans. Therefore, some like-minded people including myself always felt it important to continue the relationship between the Gaden Phodrang institution and the Tibetan polity. As an aside perhaps, this concern could be because of lack of courage and short sightedness.

II. The reasons why Tibetan Youth Congress was founded

Although there was no one who spoke out against this major historic transformation, it wasn’t without some feeling of reservations. These reservations/suspicions were not just limited to regional or religious feelings alone. But some have concerns based on ground reality and historical reasons and it is natural to have reservations for some people. However, these reservations existed mainly during the time of our parent’s generation.

As mentioned earlier, as the Tibetans in exile remain engaged in extensive discussion to promote unity among all the Tibetans, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, almost in all his speeches during that period, has strongly emphasized all Tibetans to remain united, by leaving aside regionalism and religious differences, as that is the need of the hour.

Therefore, we the younger generation felt it necessary to launch the TYC movement to inculcate the unity among Tibetans so that the present and the coming generations do not carry the baggage of historical differences. The primary aim of the TYC was to promote and protect national unity and integrity by giving up all distinctions based on religion, regionalism or status. Upholding this basic objective, TYC has continuously and successfully served since its inception.

For example, let me explain the reasons why TYC’s logo and flag both have a map of Tibet. The map was deliberately chosen to symbolize and support the historical transformation and be a reminder of the oath of unwavering unity. It was also so that the very logo and flag of organization would be clear in projecting the objectives of the TYC.

Similarly, another important reason to launch TYC movement was to nurture the energy and resource of increasing number of youths studying in different universities and graduates from the Tibetan schools run by the exile administration. It is aimed to ensure that their energy is not wasted but used for the service of the community and the administration.

Also, the TYC has made meaningful contribution to strengthen the democratic process in the Tibetan exile community. Since its inception, the TYC has functioned as an organization upholding the democratic practices. As the TYC has been able to continue the democratic process, both in theory and practice, it has been of concrete help in establishing a democratic system in our community.

These days some people opine that to achieve genuine democratic system is our ultimate goal. I do not believe this point of view is valid. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have sacrificed their lives; hundreds of thousands had to come into exile; and millions are still suffering under the occupation. Especially since 2008 Chinese authorities tightened their grips on Tibetans with unprecedented repressions throughout Tibet. Therefore, Tibetans were forced to display their indomitable spirit, some resorting to self-immolation since 2009. It is clear that these sacrifices were not made to struggle for their democratic rights but rather for the preservation and protection of unique Tibetan identity and characteristics, which are at the verge of extinction. However, as mentioned before, in order to promote and sustain Tibetan unity we must ensure equal respect to all three Cholkas and different religious traditions of Tibet and the best way to achieve this is through the path of democracy.

III. TYC’s stand of complete independence or Rangzen

Some people believe that the movement of TYC was launched solely to advocate the stance of independence. This view does not confirm to reality. When TYC movement was started, there was no division between people supporting independence and autonomy. The Middle Way Approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama was made public much later.

When nearly 100,000 Tibetans initially arrived in exile, the immediate challenge was meeting the people’s welfare needs, education for the younger generations, establishing settlements and schools for the preservation and promotion of unique Tibetan religion and culture and the re-establishment of the monasteries.

Similarly, China was also engulfed in the era of the “Great Leap Forward” and “Cultural Revolution” etc. All of China, including occupied Tibet, was in the midst of a power struggle and extreme activities for a long time. Everyone knew that there was no space in putting forth any kind of reasonable discussion. Since the opportunity and situation for formulating a definite policy to resolve the Tibetan issue had not arisen yet, the objective to restore independence naturally remained.

Therefore, it is under such circumstances that independence became included as one of TYC’s objectives. TYC was not established solely to advocate the stance of Tibetan independence and everyone must know this fact.

IV. Importance of the existence of the TYC

The TYC is an important organization in exile having long history and at present also it is indispensable for the just cause of the Tibetan struggle. Therefore, it is important that TYC should continue functioning as before for the larger interest of the Tibetan struggle.

To sustain the organization having long institutional records without disintegration, it is important to remain firm by not subscribing to hearsay or becoming the tools of others. Moreover, when enrolling the general members and electing the Central and Regional Executives, the basic requirement one must have is a strong belief in the aims and objectives of the TYC. I would like to bring up the established aims and objectives of the TYC to recall them;

1) To dedicate oneself to the task of serving one’s country and people under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Spiritual and Temporal Ruler of Tibet. 
2) To promote and protect national unity and integrity by giving up all distinctions based on religion, regionalism or status. 
3) To work for the preservation and promotion of religion and Tibet’s unique culture and traditions. 
4) To struggle for the total independence of Tibet even at the cost of one’s life.

These days there is great debate regarding the position of the TYC. Although basically, till now there is no change in TYC’s stand on independence on 17 September 1988, after His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented the Strasbourg proposal, TYC passed a resolution stating that, “fundamentally there is no change in the TYC’s stand on independence, but on the ultimate decision on the Tibetan issue [it] will follow the guidance and leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama”.

Hence, if TYC functions as per the resolution mentioned above and particularly bear in mind its established aims and objectives and serves the Tibetan people, our religion and polity, it will help avoid disagreement within the TYC and will also enable it to maintain the significance and continuation of the organization.

V. His Holiness’s vision of Middle Way Approach

Taking into consideration the changing geopolitical situation around the world in general and particularly in Tibet and China, His Holiness the Dalai Lama felt the need to frame a policy for the solution to Tibet’s problem. Around 1974, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had an internal discussion on the mutually beneficial Middle Way Approach with the then Kashag and Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies. Later on, this policy was discussed publicly following the democratic process and finally adopted as official stand of the Administration (Central Tibetan Administration). It also received wide circulation and strong support from the international community.

I am a supporter of the Middle Way Approach and this is not based on blind faith. I have done thorough research and learned from my own experience how the world thinks and particularly the long-term benefits for all the Tibetan people. Thus through a logical reasoning I have come to my conviction. Apart from ensuring the unity of the Tibetan people, the Middle Way Approach seeks to preserve and promote the unique identity of the Tibetan people. This being the most brilliant and creative approach in resolving the Tibetan issue, I am always impressed by the wisdom behind this approach and wholeheartedly respect it. Neither His Holiness the Dalai Lama nor we the supporters of the Middle Way Approach have ever asked to support this policy because His Holiness the Dalai Lama propounded it.

However, some who claim themselves to be advocates of independence say that now it has been cut, sold, compromised, etc., sometimes directly mentioning His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s name in this. When “compromised” is said to have been made, other than an empty talk about Tibetan independence it is clear that leave alone knowing the history of the nation and people for thousands of years, they do not know or do not care about the history of the past 100 years or so.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama took the responsibility of temporal and spiritual leadership from Sikyong Tagdrak Rinpoche at age of 16. In the official documents it was described a grand and pompous show as if a huge power has been transferred. As a matter of fact, the political situation in Tibet had already reached a very critical situation and was becoming unmanageable from all sides. Therefore, there was no option but to request His Holiness the Dalai Lama to take over the responsibility.

At that time, people in the streets started singing:

“The country, which is tattered from all side 
Is handed over to His Holiness”.

This expression of the public is fairly true.

Whatever it is, frankly to those who have said, “It has been cut”, “It has been sold” I want to ask, “What has been cut?” “What has been sold?” The situation is that these have been cut and sold from way back.

As far as the Middle Way Approach is concerned, its essence is clear. The primary objective is to seek genuine autonomy in order to preserve and promote unique Tibetan identity while maintaining the unity of all Tibetans from three Cholkas as pledged in the Oath of Allegiance.

Before adopting any policy based on history and international law, first of all we must take into consideration whether the majority of the Tibetan people support it or not, would it gain international support? Would the initiative succeed? Finally whether we can rationally argue with Chinese government when meeting with them face to face?

Therefore, we all know how much support the Middle Way Approach enjoys at the international stage. I have been involved in shouldering responsibility on this. Internationally, many governments, parliaments and politically influential personalities around the world have not only supported but also personally involved themselves for the success of this policy recognizing the pragmatic aspect of this approach. For example, the United States has supported this policy for a long time and particularly in 2011, after the meeting between Holiness the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama, the White House has publicly supported the Middle Way Approach by applauding and highlighting it in its official statement.

There are some who say that the Middle Way Approach is a failure since the Chinese government has so far not accepted our demand for autonomy. Nobody believes that the issue will be resolved within a few months or years through dialogue with the Chinese government and it will be politically naïve to think so. Sino-Tibetan problem is centuries old and historically a complex and deep problem.

Moreover, since the Chinese government could not logically challenge the Middle Way Approach, they are attempting to misrepresent the issue and make false accusations. Internationally, there is no one who feels the Chinese objection to the Middle Way Approach has any justification. At the same time, increasing number of Chinese people, particularly the intellectuals and younger generations who know the actual situation of Tibet, express their support and sympathy for the Tibetan cause.

I am not criticizing those who advocate independence. Most of them are dedicated and equally working for the common cause. They are also equally devoted to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and do not go against him. Hence, it will not only be improper and unrealistic but also immoral and undemocratic if I start criticizing all of them under the pretext of being supporter of the Middle Way Approach. Those who advocate independence would presumably be doing so in the interest of all Tibetans belonging to three Cholkas. And it also appears so while listening to them. Yet, so far I haven’t seen anyone explaining the scope of support at international stage, how and with whom did they discuss with and what argument has been used. If there is anyone then I would like to apologize. These are very important matters.

If, for example, there are some people who believe that it will be reasonable, both legally and historically, if we strive for the area that was directly ruled by the then Gaden Phodrang government, which is equal to present day “Tibet Autonomous Region” (TAR). If they believe that there is space to strive for that, then they must be clear. There is nothing that says one cannot express such view. By merely expressing such opinion they can’t be considered as being opposed to the unity of Tibetan people and integrity of Tibetan areas.

Today, due to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s unwavering guidance and leadership there is a great sense of solidarity amongst Tibetans and we are united. It is not a question of benefit for one and the other side experiencing loss.

Some think that “TAR” enjoys more autonomy rights and therefore, Tibetan areas outside of “TAR” are trying to incorporate into it. This is not the case. Although most of the Tibetan areas outside the “TAR” also have namesake autonomy, however, due to geographical situation, capability of the Tibetan authorities in these areas and style of governance, the situation is much better in many of these areas than the “TAR”.

The geographical boundary of Tibet under the erstwhile Gaden Phodranggovernment was not as the same the one we have created in our imagination. Some even believe, including many of our supporters, that prior to the 1940s all the three regions of Tibet were under a united independent nation. However, this is not really the case.

As stated earlier, our biggest problem is that we do not pay attention to history and create a beautiful and a blissful image. If we continue based on this situation we will face difficulty in reality. Since, eventually we have to make effort at the international level and also engage with Chinese government, the important thing is that we must have something concrete to show to the Tibetan people. We cannot effort to entertain the general public under pretension.

For example, I have heard this explanation by advocates of independence. Why are we not seeking independence since the United Nations has passed three resolutions on Tibet in which there is reference to right to self-determination. It is true that there were three resolutions and especially the second resolution mentions about the right to self-determination. However, if they argue independence based on that resolution, then it naturally creates suspicion and doubts; one, whether they are aware of the historical boundary of Tibet; secondly by using such an explanation, could the objective of struggle be a different one. The reason is because the Tibet in the UN resolution is not same as the Tibet that is in our objectives; it is only those areas that was administered by the Gaden Phodrang government before the Chinese invasion. In area, it approximately corresponds to the areas of present day “TAR”. This is because the UN resolution was passed as a result of efforts made by the officials of the then Tibetan government and not adopted by the UN on its own. At that time, those who made appeal on behalf of Tibet were not referring to the Tibet that we aspire today. The memorandum submitted to the UN General Assembly on the 7th of November 1950, from Shakabpa House, Kalimpong clearly says, “Chinese troops crossed from many areas of the Drichu River. Drichu has for long been the boundary between China and Tibet.” The then Tibetan government was talking only about the Tibet under the political control of the Gaden Phodrang government and not about the Tibet which we have in our mind today. This was not done intentionally, but was the political reality prevailing then.

Some people further argue that the existing international recognition of Tibet as an independent country has been destroyed. International legal experts and strong Tibet supporters could not clearly establish the legality of an existence of an unquestionable independent sovereign state of Tibet according to international law in the past few centuries. Nevertheless, some recognize Tibet as a state of de-facto independence for 40 years from the time when the great 13th Dalai Lama reaffirmed Tibet’s independence in the year 1913 till the signing of the so-called 17-Point Agreement in 1951. This means that even though diplomatic relations could not be established with the United Nations and even with the neighbouring countries, yet Tibet existed independently by itself and was not under the subjugation of any foreign force. This therefore, recognized Tibet as de-facto independent country; yet again Tibet here refers to the one which is ruled by the then Gaden Phodrang government. Therefore if the argument for independence is based on such reasoning there is a suspicion that the Tibet being referred to be the one ruled by then Gaden Phodrang government only.

VI. Conclusion

A free and democratic society not only allows discussion but such discussions must also occur. For example, there are ongoing discussions between proponents of the Middle Way Approach and independence in our society. Both sides are putting forward their arguments in writing and exchange ideas. Since each Tibetan has to shoulder the responsibility of the Tibetan cause, thorough public discussion is inevitably necessary. Yet, I believe and expect that such discussions must be based on historical facts, with dignity and particularly upholding the pride of Tibetan people. Discussions without an iota of responsibility, claiming to be exercising democratic right and irresponsibly criticizing others are the misuse of democratic rights. Sometimes it is unfortunate to see the act of some people who can hardly utter a single word against the Communist China but has the capacity to criticize His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration in volumes. This is a shameful act. Instead of looking at what one could sincerely contribute without regret, always criticizing others is not just irresponsible but also clearly not having pride in one’s own people.

We must know the reasons why we Tibetans enjoy sympathy and unparalleled support and concern for the just cause of Tibet at international stage. In the world, we Tibetans are not the only one fighting for a just cause. There are many more and some are even more serious and urgent than ours. But unlike others we have a special feature in our case. That is we have an unparalleled leadership that nobody has and our struggle is based on morally just issue, non-violence and justice and therefore there is a greater appreciation and support. If we lose this basic moral character then we lose Tibetan identity itself and this loss is more grave than the argument between the Middle Way Approach and independence among us. Therefore, I firmly believe that the authorities both religious and lay personnel must, through personal conduct, stress more on morality to the society when they address them.

As mentioned above, because of various external conditions and especially the leadership and guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, after many decades, all the Tibetans of three regions are now enjoying unprecedented unity and solidarity which is the greatest achievement of the Tibetan people worthy to be written in golden letter in the annals of history. It is particularly evident that, even though the generation has changed and the conditions are grave, yet Tibetan in Tibet’s commitment to unity, solidarity and will power is growing ever stronger by years.

Achievement of the long-term dream of unity of Tibetan people geographically and emotionally primarily rests with the brothers and sisters back in Tibet. At present, unity and oneness of the Tibetans throughout the Tibetan plateau is becoming ever stronger and visible and which cannot easily be wished away. It is also evident from the wordings of the songs and poem they compose in Tibet. I will illustrate two examples of songs below:

“On this the Land of Snows! 
Where Padmasambhava transmitted dharma 
Where Sambodha composed the script 
And the land where King Gesar was born

From the west of Ngari, Lhasa and to the east of Dartsedo 
The Tibetans from the three provinces 
Must have the same purpose of thought 
Must go united hand in hand 
And seek future aspirations together 
Aro! Tibetans! 
Aro! Let’s go together!”

And again...

“If we have love for unity 
Brethren in and outside of Tibet 
Should wait for the day of reunion 
To own our fatherland; the three Cholkas”

I believe that the present generation has the historical responsibility to maintain this unity of Tibetans and pass it on to the coming generations. It is utmost important to strive to achieve this without failure.

In short, I sincerely believe that I have a moral responsibility to explain about the origin of TYC’s stand and its aims and objectives, and also the aims and objectives of the Middle Way Approach. Since I have had the golden opportunity to serve His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people for about 50 years and gained some experience, my sole aim is to help clarify some issues and beyond that I have no other motives. Whatever I have stated are my true feelings to explain the reality and does not mean to support or criticize any particular group. I sincerely apologize if one gets such an impression from my writings.

I finally conclude by reciting a song composed by one of our brothers in Tibet:

“Have pride (Tib: lagya), brothers and sisters 
Have pride if you care for the forefathers’ achievements 
Have pride, brothers and sisters 
If you care for the future path of happiness 
Have pride 
Pride is the life essence of a people 
And the gateway of thousands of the past

Have pride, brothers and sisters 
Have pride if you care for the lineage of the past emperors 
Have pride, brothers and sisters 
If you care for the honour of both the sun and moon 
The Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama 
Have pride 
Pride is the confidence of prevailing truth 
And the adornment of learned people

Have pride, brothers and sisters 
Have pride if you care for the bloody footprints 
Have pride, brothers and sisters 
If you care for the enemy’s humiliation 
Have pride 
Pride is the strength of a people 
And the guide for future happiness”.

Note: I have purposely avoided the names of the writers of these songs and singers.

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Tibetan Independence is the Only Path Forward: Fifteen Basic Questions and Answers

posted Oct 5, 2014, 2:42 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Oct 5, 2014, 2:43 PM ]

By Tibetan National Congress

> Download PDF English | Tibetan

1. Why is the CTA’s new policy being called the “Partial Middle Way”? Isn’t it the same as the Middle Way?

Under His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s previous Middle Way proposal, an autonomous Tibet would be “democratic” and have its own “government institutions and processes.” By contrast, the new Partial Middle Way renounces democracy, accepts the current structures of Communist Party rule in Tibet, and agrees to China’s unlimited right to militarize Tibet. Under the Partial Middle Way, the only significant change compared to the current governance in Tibet would be more ethnic Tibetans installed in the current Beijing-controlled structure.

The Middle Way was a compromise between occupation and independence. Now, the Partial Middle Way is a compromise between occupation and the Middle Way.

2. Wait. How can there be real autonomy in Tibet if the Communist Party stays in charge? The Party controls everything and is above the law. There are even Party cells in every office and monastery. If this structure stays in place, what would actually change?

Exactly. This is not change, and this is not autonomy.

3. Some people say that the Partial Middle Way is no different than what’s in the 2008 Memorandum and 2010 Note. Is this right?


These Partial Middle Way policies are nowhere in the text of the Memorandum and Note. But let’s just assume for the sake of argument that you could find an ambiguous phrase in the Memorandum that might somehow be consistent with the Partial Middle Way. The fact is: when the Memorandum and Note came out, no one understood the Middle Way to mean abandoning all hope for democracy and embracing Communist rule.

So whether this policy change came about in 2008 or 2013, the official goal has now drastically changed. When the Sikyong talks about his policies toward China, he is no longer describing what was once understood as the Middle Way.

4. Don’t we have an obligation to do something now to alleviate the crisis in Tibet?

Our first obligation is to listen to what Tibetans in Tibet are saying. Many self-immolators have called for independence (rangzen) or freedom (rangwang), but none have called for autonomy (rangkyong). Certainly none have called for continued Communist rule. The same is true of the 2008 uprising. Isn’t it wrong for Tibetans on the outside to use the crisis to justify imposing a policy that not a single self-immolator has actually called for, and which actually betrays what most of them are calling for?

5. Isn’t supporting Rangzen going against His Holiness?

His Holiness has said many times that He encourages all Tibetans to make their own decision on this question. In fact He has publicly encouraged Rangzen supporters to present their case to the Tibetan people. Furthermore, the Middle Way actually depends on the existence of a viable Rangzen alternative, or else there is nothing to be in the “middle” of. There is no antagonism, since the Middle Way depends on Rangzen for its very definition.

6. Aside from those Tibetans who support autonomy because they think His Holiness wants them to, how many actually want to be part of China?

His Holiness openly supported Rangzen for decades. How many Tibetans advocated being part of China — or embraced Communist rule — before then?

If His Holiness reverted back to His previous decades-long support for Rangzen for whatever reason, how many Tibetans would still support being part of China? Think about it.

7. Wasn’t the Middle Way already adopted through referendum?

No it wasn’t. Even if it were, any democratically-adopted policy can always be discussed and changed later. That’s democracy.

There was a proposed referendum in 1995. Of some initial responses (almost exclusively among Tibetan exiles, due to obvious restrictions inside Tibet), a large majority refused to participate in the referendum, because they felt conflicted between voting for Rangzen and going against His Holiness or voting for the Middle Way and rejecting the hitherto sacred goal of independence. Officially, this impasse was interpreted as meaning that 64% of exile Tibetans had declared that a referendum was unnecessary, as they would support whatever His Holiness said. So no referendum was ever held.

Later in 1997, the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile adopted resolution number 12/4/97/46, accepting “whatever decisions His Holiness the Dalai Lama takes.” In 2011, His Holiness retired from politics and devolved His political authority.

Ultimately, the Partial Middle Way is now so far from the substance of the Middle Way that even this tenuous connection is irreparably broken.

8. Doesn’t supporting Rangzen condemn the Middle Way as a failure?

Not at all. Thanks to a quarter-century of the Middle Way, Tibetans can now irrefutably prove “we tried”. Under international law, the right of self-determination can include independence if autonomy is unworkable through no fault of the people seeking self-determination. The quarter-century of the Middle Way lets Tibetans prove they tried their utmost, and this gives legitimacy to a renewed demand for Rangzen.

9. Sometimes there are rumors that the “dialogue” with China is nearing a breakthrough, for example that His Holiness may be allowed back to Tibet. Would supporting Rangzen undermine this?

China has been holding out similar promises since 1979. This is part of a cynical policy of delay, a strategy known in Chinese as tuõ yán zhèng cè. It has had the additional effect of dividing and confusing the Tibetan movement. How many times will we Tibetans fall for the same tactic?

Even if there were some truth to these recurring rumors (which there haven’t been for over 35 years), China would only likely be forced into this by the threat of a strong Rangzen movement.

10. Won’t going back to Rangzen alienate India and other free countries?

Tibetans and the CTA had good relations with India for many years when Rangzen was the official CTA policy.

Today India is recognizing China as its number-one strategic threat: far better for Tibetans to nonviolently advocate Rangzen, with the renewed possibility of Tibet as a buffer zone, rather than the Partial Middle Way’s embrace of the Chinese Communist Party and China’s unlimited right to militarize Tibet. In fact it is the Partial Middle Way that risks alienating India.

As for other free countries, let’s be clear on the limits of foreign support: others will not deliver Tibet on a silver platter regardless. With a shift to Rangzen, Western support for Tibetan human rights and refugees will continue, given deep Western sympathy for Tibetans. Some foreign politicians may become more afraid of engaging on political matters, while others will maintain their principles. Others will decide that their interests are actually more aligned, now that Tibetans are standing up to a Chinese government that increasingly threatens the West and other countries in Asia.

11. Isn’t autonomy the more realistic solution?

First, the new Partial Middle Way doesn’t even promise autonomy. It just seeks a Communist Party- controlled Tibet with more ethnic Tibetans in the government, which at the higher levels could mean just more Party hacks like Ragdi, Legchok, and Pema Choling.

Second, there is no realistic hope for autonomy given the nature of the Chinese government. If independence is 90% unrealistic, then autonomy is 100% unrealistic. Let’s be serious: China rejects even the almost-meaningless Partial Middle Way. The Chinese government has no desire to compromise, and the Partial Middle Way depends on China’s desire to compromise for its entire premise. All the power is ceded to Beijing, and the Tibetan side is left permanently waiting and waiting. It’s said that it “takes two to tango” — and the Partial Middle Way leaves Tibetans stuck without a partner.

12. Isn’t autonomy the only way to ensure the unity of the three Tibetan provinces (Cholka Sum)?

First, there’s absolutely no reason to believe that the Chinese government is open to uniting all Tibetan areas under a theoretical autonomy deal. In fact, Beijing has repeatedly rejected this. So the Partial Middle Way cannot deliver the unity of Cholka Sum, since it depends on Beijing’s good will.

Second, the legitimacy of independence is based on the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination under international law. Self-determination is a right held by peoples, not territory. Even China recognizes all of Cholka Sum as Tibetan (as Tibetan regions, prefectures, and counties), so even China doesn’t deny that this territory is Tibetan. The entire Tibetan people have the right to assert their independence. An independent Tibet can extend to the entire Cholka Sum.

13. Isn’t it impossible to achieve independence without violence?

The Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi proved this wrong. Lithuania’s nonviolent independence from the Soviet Union was another dramatic example. In fact, a recent study about nonviolent resistance movements shows that they tend to be more successful in achieving their goals, even against authoritarian regimes.

14. If I support Rangzen, shouldn’t I take that advocacy to the international community and China, and leave the CTA to pursue its Partial Middle Way?

No. All Tibetans have the right — and duty — to constructively participate in Tibetan democracy. That means lobbying our elected representatives and voting our consciences. The point of democracy is that government reflects the will of the people, and the Tibetan people have the right and duty to shape our government’s policies.

The Tibetan exile community is small in number, but thanks to His Holiness’s vision, we are a strong, passionate, and active community. We must work constructively together to collectively determine what is the best strategy and goal for Tibet and Tibetans.

15. Okay, so what should be done differently?

There are four simple truths that will drive a renewed Tibetan Freedom Struggle:

  1. The ancient Tibetan nation is proud, strong, and enduring. The Tibetan people in Tibet are more united and determined than ever in the wake of the 2008 uprising and self-immolations.
  2. As Buddhists, we believe in impermanence. We recognize that great powers rise and fall — and every empire ends. Other captive nations like Lithuania and East Timor have broken free of seemingly hopeless occupation, and Tibet will be no different.
  3. China’s fracturing politics, endemic corruption, environmental destruction, ethnic conflict, militant nationalism, and unsustainable economy will inevitable lead the Chinese empire to stumble, which will be Tibet’s moment to use the nonviolent “Lithuania model” to break free (see here and here).
  4. Tibetans must prepare for and hasten that moment. We must strengthen our internal capacity, lay the groundwork to make our legitimate case for independence, and relentlessly and nonviolently push back against the Chinese empire in the same way that countless other formerly colonized nations have broken free.

In our hearts, we Tibetans know that Rangzen is Tibet’s right, and that only Rangzen can guarantee Tibet’s future. The time to stand for the truth of Rangzen is now.


Originally published at:

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Umaylam – The Middle Way Approach

posted Oct 5, 2014, 2:37 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Oct 5, 2014, 2:43 PM ]

By Kelsang Gyaltsen, Special Representative of H. H. the Dalai Lama for Europe

September 29, 2014 5:47 pm
Kelsang Gyaltsen, Special Representative of H. H. the Dalai Lama to Europe

Kelsang Gyaltsen, Special Representative of H. H. the Dalai Lama to Europe

The Dalai Lama’s Conflict Resolution in 21st Century

Looking around the world today one cannot fail to notice how unattended conflicts with strong ethnic and religious undercurrents can erupt into devastating violence and bloodshed that make them virtually impossible to solve. A case in point for such conflict represents the long-standing simmering tensions between the minorities and the government of the People’s Republic of China.

In Tibet and Xinjiang, home to two major ethnic groups in China, we are witnessing in recent time the return of a climate of intimidation, fear and repression reminiscent of the days of the Cultural Revolution. Intensified repression and persecution by Chinese authorities are resulting in an unprecedented radicalisation of Tibetan and Uighur resistance. Since 2011, 129 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in series of drastic protest against unjust Chinese policies in Tibet. In Xinjiang, in an atmosphere of merciless repression by Chinese authorities, Uighurs are resorting to indiscriminate violence against Chinese government personnel as well as civilians. This is the tragic result of a minority policy of the Chinese communist government that relies primarily on the use of force, intimidation and coercion as principal means to rule.

In the case of Tibet the Chinese government continues to view Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan distinct culture, language and identity as a threat to the stability of the Chinese rule in Tibet. The lack of true autonomous rights and freedoms in Tibetan areas in China, enabling Tibetans to protect and develop their unique and distinct culture, religion, language and identity, poses a serious threat to the very survival of Tibetans as a distinct people. The forced transformation of Tibet in China’s own image is uncovering the existing autonomy in Tibet as empty and meaningless. This is at the heart of the problems that Tibetans are facing today.

Today, when we look towards China it is obvious that the cycle of repression by the Chinese government on one hand and resistance by Tibetans and Uighurs on the other is spiralling dangerously out of control. The sad fact is that presently the relationship between Tibetans and Uighurs and the Chinese Central Government is sliding towards a human and political catastrophe.

Against this alarming background it is, today, a political imperative for members of the international community to engage in a concerted effort to encourage and urge the Chinese leadership to enter into an earnest dialogue with the representatives of the Tibetan and Uighur people with the aim of finding a peaceful and mutually acceptable solution.

The policy of the Tibetan leadership in exile on a mutually acceptable solution is straightforward. We are not seeking separation and independence. What we are seeking is genuine self-rule for the Tibetan people within the framework of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Our main concern is to ensure the survival of the Tibetan people with our distinct Buddhist cultural heritage and language and the natural environment of the Tibetan plateau. This approach is called “Umay-Lam” – the Middle Way Approach – and was conceived by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the spirit of non-violence, dialogue and reconciliation.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama started internal discussions, as early as in 1974, to find ways to resolve the issue of Tibet through an autonomy arrangement instead of seeking independence. In 1979 the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping expressed willingness to discuss and resolve all issues except the independence of Tibet. Since then His Holiness the Dalai Lama has taken numerous initiatives to bring about a mutually acceptable negotiated solution to the question of Tibet.

In the spirit of „Umaylam“His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented in 1988 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg a formal proposal for negotiations. The choice of the European Parliament as the venue 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.

The basic features and guiding thoughts of the “Umaylam” approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama are:

  • A fundamental belief in non-violent approach as the only human, sensible and intelligent way to overcome clashes of interests and conflicts in the 21stcentury;
  • The pursuit of dialogue and negotiations as the principal means to resolve conflicts and the exercise of political moderation and restraint from adopting maximalist positions in the process of negotiations;
  • The conduct of dialogue and negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation aiming for mutual agreement and mutual benefit;
  • The belief in the political necessity of peaceful co-existence of different cultures, religions and ethnic groups without separation and segregation in today’s highly interconnected and interdependent world. This requires the spirit of pluralism and cooperation and of solutions with no victor and no vanquished.

In the course of time His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership in exile adjusted some components of the Strasbourg proposal in order to conform to existing political realities of China. Moreover, the Tibetan leadership took the courageous decision to seek genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the Constitution of the PRC. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership in exile are confident that the basic needs of the Tibetan nationality can be met through genuine autonomy within the PRC.

The PRC is a multi-national state, and as in many other parts of the world, it seeks to resolve the nationality question through autonomy and the self-government of the minority nationalities.  The Constitution of the PRC contains fundamental principles on autonomy and self-government whose objectives are compatible with the needs and aspirations of the Tibetans.  Regional national autonomy is aimed at opposing both the oppression and the separation of nationalities by rejecting both Han Chauvinism and local nationalism. It is intended to ensure the protection of the culture and the identity of minority nationalities by empowering them to become masters of their own affairs.

To a very considerable extent Tibetan needs can be met within the constitutional principles on autonomy. On several points, 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 for Tibetans in ways that would respond to the uniqueness of the Tibetan situation. In implementing these principles, legislation relevant to autonomy may consequently need to be reviewed or amended to respond to the specific characteristics and needs of the Tibetan nationality. Given good will on both sides, outstanding problems can be resolved within the constitutional principles on autonomy. In this way national unity and stability and harmonious relations between the Tibetan and other nationalities in China will be established.

In October 2008 the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the Chinese leadership and in January 2010 an explanatory Note on the memorandum on genuine autonomy. These documents put forth in detail how the basic 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 and the Note clarifies and dispels misunderstandings and concerns that the Chinese side had expressed with regard to the Tibetan memorandum on genuine autonomy.

Unfortunately, the Chinese government rejected the Tibetan proposal for genuine autonomy “as demands for semi-independence and disguised independence”.Obviously, the then Chinese leadership lacked the political will to address the issue of Tibet in earnest. As a result of the Chinese intransigence the talks between the envoys of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government are stalled since January 2010.

There is no dispute among independent experts and unbiased politicians and scholars that the Tibetan Memorandum calls for the exercise of genuine autonomy, not for independence, ‘semi-independence’ or ‘independence in disguised form’. The substance of the Memorandum, which explains what is meant by genuine autonomy, makes this unambiguously clear. The form and degree of autonomy proposed in the Memorandum is consistent with the principles on autonomy in the Constitution of the PRC. Autonomous regions in different parts of the world exercise the kind of self-governance that is proposed in the Memorandum, without thereby challenging or threatening the sovereignty and unity of the state of which they are a part. This is true of autonomous regions within unitary states as well as those with federal characteristics.

In view of the absence of official contact and dialogue since January 2010, in June this year the democratically elected Tibetan political leader Dr.LobsangSangay launched the international awareness campaign of “Umaylam”. On this occasion Dr.LobsangSangayreaffirmed his Administration’s commitment to abide by the path of non-violence and to strive for genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people. He also reiterated that the representatives of the Dalai Lama stand ready to engage in a dialogue anytime anywhere.

In light ofthe alarming developments in Tibet we Tibetans are compelled to appeal to the international community for help. The Tibetan people – an ancient nation with its distinct and rich cultural and spiritual civilization, language and identity – is disappearing fast from the face of the earth as a result of the Chinese government’s policies in Tibet. Members of the international community can play an important role in encouraging, promoting and facilitating a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict in Tibet.

Despite the very grim current situation in Tibet I believe there are grounds to entertain a degree of hope and optimism for some movements on the issue of Tibet in the near future.

First of all the spirit of resistance of the Tibetan people in Tibet has never been stronger than today. Tibetans in Tibet have never been more united and determined in reasserting and defending their distinct culture, religion, language and identity. The majority of Tibetans in the frontline of the protest are under 30 years of age. This is a clear indication that this popular resistance is to stay on for a long time to come.

Furthermore, with little notice taken outside of China a vigorous internal debate has been going on in China on policies towards the minorities. Such a national debate on minorities has been non-existent in China a few years ago. This is a clear indication of the increasing awareness and importance of issues related with minorities in China.

Moreover, there is a new leadership in China and this new Chinese leadership is yet to formulate and announce its thinking and policy on Tibet.

Consequently, this represents a unique window of opportunity to act on Tibet and to engage the Chinese government on the issue of Tibet. This is a time for concerted international efforts to urge the Chinese leadership to enter into a result-oriented dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama. The European Union can play a leading role in promoting and urging for dialogue and in opening a new page in Tibetan-Chinese relations under the new leadership in China. Such a EU initiative will send a powerful message all over the world that Europe supports and stands in solidarity with people and movements embracing the spirit and culture of non-violence, dialogue and reconciliation. It is this spirit and culture advocated by the Dalai Lama for resolving conflicts in the 21st century.

The world needs Europe to play a leading role in the promotion, defence, and protection of human rights. At the core of Europe’s spirit is a fundamental belief in the inherent equality and dignity of all peoples and are the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.It is important that this spirit of Europe does not halt at the borders of Europe out of political expediency or because of commercial interests. The oppressed people around the world need Europe’s commitment to these values beyond the shores of Europe.

(The article appeared in EP Today, the monthly newspaper for European Parliament, and was also posted at

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