From the time of its founding, commonly placed in the early 2nd Century BC, Tibet has existed as a sovereign nation for almost its entire history. When the Great Fifth Dalai Lama assumed the supreme spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet in 1642, the Gaden Phodrang government he established became the legitimate government of the whole Tibetan people in the three regions of Tibet. Since then successive Dalai Lamas maintained the spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet in this manner.
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama assumed the political leadership of Tibet, thus becoming both its spiritual and temporal leader, in 1950. The People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet and coerced its government into signing the 17-Point Agreement in 1951, in which the Gaden Podrang government was designated as the “Local Government of Tibet.” However, its legitimacy as the government of Tibet was maintained and under the terms of the said Agreement the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama were guaranteed to remain unaltered.
When the People’s Republic of China’s authorities in Tibet violated the Agreement and resorted to the use of brute violence and repression against Tibetans, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Kashag (council of ministers) were compelled to escape from Tibet into exile. Immediately upon arriving in India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama repudiated the 17 Point Agreement on 18 April 1959.
Whereas the Tibetan people recognise and look to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his Kashag as their legitimate government regardless of where it may be, His Holiness established the new seat of the central Tibetan administration in India to safeguard, represent and pursue the interests of the Tibetan nation and its people without interruption.
Soon thereafter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama acted upon his long cherished desire to democratise the Tibetan governance system and institutions, and in 1960 created the Commission of Tibetan People’s Deputies as the elected representative assembly of the people. The Eleventh Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies adopted the Charter of Tibetans in Exile, ratified by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 28 June 1991, to be the constitutional law governing the Central Tibetan Administration in conformity with modern norms of democracy.
The Charter provided that the successive Dalai Lamas shall exercise their responsibilities as head of the Tibetan nation and as chief executive of the Tibetan administration. To complete the democratisation process and ensure that the future of the Tibetan people not be unduly dependent on one individual, and in full consideration of the challenges and goals before the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 14 March 2011 formally announced to the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies his intention to transfer all his administrative and political powers and responsibilities to the elected leaders of the Central Tibetan Administration.
In deference to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s irrevocable decision to relinquish his administrative and political roles and in the face of His Holiness’ rejection of pleas to reconsider that decision, the Fourteenth Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, in its additional session, adopted necessary amendments to the Charter to give effect to His Holiness’ directive to appropriately amend the Charter while safeguarding the continuity of the Central Tibetan Administration as the legitimate governing body and representative of the whole Tibetan people, in whom sovereignty resides.
By the act of ratification of the said amendments on [29 May 2011] in accordance with the present Chapter 11 of the Charter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama fully vests the Central Tibetan Administration and in particular its democratic leadership organs with the powers and responsibilities formerly held jointly by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration to represent and serve the whole people of Tibet.
The thus amended Charter, ratified by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, enters into force on this [29th day of May] 2011.
ARTICLE 1: PROTECTOR AND SYMBOL OF THE NATION
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, human manifestation of Avaloketeshvara, is the guardian and protector of the Tibetan nation. He is the guide illuminating the path, the supreme leader, the symbol of the Tibetan identity and unity, and the voice of the whole Tibetan people. His authority is derived from centuries old history and heritage and, above all, from the will of the people in whom sovereignty is vested and therefore comprises the following inherent rights and responsibilities:
1. To provide advice and encouragement with respect to the protection and promotion of the physical, spiritual, ethical and cultural wellbeing of the Tibetan people, to remain engaged in the efforts to reach a satisfactory solution to the question of Tibet and to accomplish the cherished goals of the Tibetan people;
2. To provide guidance in various forms to the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and Kashag in matters of importance to the Tibetan people, including the community and its institutions in exile, at His Holiness’ own initiative or at the request of those bodies;
3. To meet with world leaders and other important individuals and bodies to speak on behalf of the Tibetan people, to explain and discuss their concerns and needs as well as to appoint representatives and envoys to serve the interests of the Tibetan people in any part of the world.