[Editors' note: the EC's August 26 reply is below, in Tibetan]
1 September 2015
Dear Mr. Chief Election Commissioner Sonam Choephel Shosur la:
Thank you for your August 26 reply to the Tibetan National Congress’s (TNC) letter to the Election Commission (EC) dated August 21. Although we sincerely appreciate your reply, unfortunately your letter did not fully respond to our inquiry.
In our letter, we requested official recognition for TNC, a new Tibetan political party. We noted that under the EC’s new rule, only officially-recognized organizations now have an unrestricted right to free speech in Tibetan elections. The rule conditions the right to free speech on official recognition, and sets up a two-tier system that treats organizations differently.
In your reply, you stated that the EC has no jurisdiction over recognition. You suggested that, per the Tibetan Charter, we should write to the Kashag for recognition.
Our original letter asked: “If the power to recognize an organization rests with a different CTA body entirely, please advise on the steps the EC will take to ensure that the effects of this this new rule are fair, impartial, and depoliticized.” We respectfully await your response to this vital question.
While the Kashag apparently has the power to recognize groups, it is the EC that has issued the rule that treats organizations differently depending on whether they have this recognition by a political body. The EC’s rule has effectively given the Kashag the power to grant (or withhold) free speech rights to Tibetan organizations. Until now, the Kashag did not have this power over Tibetan civil society. This could be viewed as problematic for the EC’s mandate as a non-politicized protector of Tibetan democracy. This is merely to recognize that it is unfair to burden any political body with a decision that should be nonpolitical.
The unintended effects of the EC’s rule also risks harming the image of Tibetan democracy, considering that at least two of the “recognized” groups are actively supporting the Sikyong candidacies of the current Sikyong and Speaker. These two groups are free to speak and spend without restriction, which benefits the campaigns of these incumbents. Will the world see it as fair that those two groups have preferential treatment, while other groups like TNC are constrained? <1>
We are asking the Kashag for recognition. However, in case there are undue delays, we ask the EC for a temporary exemption from your recognition rule. We ask this for several reasons:
Therefore, we respectfully suggest that for the sake of the legitimacy and fairness of Tibetan democracy, the EC has a responsibility to ensure that the effects of its rule are fair and non-politicized. We ask for a temporary exemption to the EC’s rule on official recognition until such time as (i) the Kashag grants us recognition, or (ii) if the Kashag refuses us recognition, the Supreme Justice Commission rules on our appeal of such decision.
Again, given the fast-approaching election dates, we respectfully ask that you please inform us of your decision within two weeks.
Thank you for your assistance and your continued guardianship of the Tibetan democratic process.
President, Tibetan National Congress
Footnote 1: This unequal treatment, and any unreasonable violation of the right to free speech, might not be consistent with the Tibetan Charter. As you know, the Charter states that all regulations, etc. of the CTA shall conform to the generally accepted principles of international law, which includes the internationally-recognized rights to free speech and free association.