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“The victims of the Tibetan genocide are regaining some of their hope and dignity”

posted Jan 7, 2015, 5:24 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jan 8, 2015, 6:06 AM ]

INTERVIEW             Alan Cantos, president of the Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet (CAT)



“The victims of the Tibetan genocide are regaining some of their hope and dignity”


This Madrid native living in Ibiza has managed, together with José Elías Esteve, to spread the word about the situation in Tibet, raise funds for social projects in exile and lodge two lawsuits against Chinese leaders for international crimes committed in Tibet.

Manu Gon 

The name Alan Cantos is very closely linked to that of Tibet. And also to China.  Born in Madrid but resident in Eivissa, Cantos, who studied physics at Madrid’s Complutense University “until the blows from the grises [grey-uniformed police] and a serious illness” forced him to continue his studies abroad, is an oceanographer by profession and the current president of the Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet (CAT).  Together with the lawyer José Elías Esteve, he has managed to denounce for the first time in history the genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, state terrorism and war crimes committed in Tibet, to name those responsible within the Chinese Government, to investigate in depth the acts committed, and to enable victims, witnesses and international experts to explain and prove what happened.


Photo: Alan Cantos second from the right, with the Valencian lawyer José Esteve and Tibetan former polticial prisoners, from left to right Takna Jigme Sango and Palden Gyatso. (Photo Ángel López-Soto)


- Elvissa and Tibet are many miles apart, but thanks to your work they are closer…

- Justice and reparation to the victims should always be close, regardless of where a crime is committed or judged. Justice doesn’t understand about distance.


- Many people think Tibet is a poor country, but that is not the case.  Is there a lot of ignorance about that country?

- Yes, tremendous ignorance regarding political, social, environmental and spiritual [matters].  Tibet is large and very rich in things like water in its rivers, minerals, areas in which to install missile platforms or to colonise.  Perhaps what people talk about most is Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama because they represent values that are rapidly lost in the West, but such talk hides a narrative that is just as huge: namely, the impunity of the Chinese Communist Government and the future of the Tibetans and their culture under Chinese occupation.  Also, we must not forget the danger to the sovereignty of modern democracies when they submit to so-called business and China’s economic threats.


- Why did you both decide to become involved with Tibet’s cause?

- The CAT has been trying to help in whatever way it can for over 20 years.  This was our own personal choice, mainly motivated by the injustice that has been committed and is still being committed against the Tibetans, but also influenced by the example offered by their non-violent resistance in the face of genocide and the occupation they endure.


- What does your work entail?

- From the very start it has been helping Tibet in every possible way: spreading the word about their situation, raising funds for social projects in exile, and, since 2001, preparing and lodging the two lawsuits against former Chinese presidents for international crimes committed in that country.  CAT is the main plaintiff representing the victims in both lawsuits, while Thubten Wanchen is the private accusation and co-plaintiff, together with Barcelona’s Casa Fundación del Tíbet, in both lawsuits.  These lawsuits are the result of nearly a decade of brave and groundbreaking work by José Elías Esteve Moltó, professor of international law at Valencia University, and others in the CAT’s legal team which includes two of the best lawyers of international criminal justice: Manuel Ollé Sesé and Maite Parejo Sousa.


- What have you achieved?

- To denounce for the first time in a court of law in history the genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, state terrorism and war crimes committed, to name those considered responsible, to investigate in depth the acts committed, and to enable victims, witnesses and international experts to explain and prove all that took place.


- And now, what lawsuits are open?

- Although the ruling is not final, both Tibetan lawsuits against former presidents Jiang Zhemin and Hu Jintao are currently shelved due to the Chinese Government’s threats to the Spanish Government, which has twice modified a Constitutional Law in order to limit universal justice and bar the way to justice in Tibet and in other areas that inconvenience superpowers like the United States, China and Israel.  Even so, both cases are under appeal; the former at the Constitutional Court, and the latter, after the second modification in 2014, at the Supreme Court.


- It has recently been reported that the Pope did not wish to receive the Dalai Lama for fear of Chinese reprisals. Do the Asian giant’s tentacles reach that far?

- China uses “economic repercussions and the loss of friendly relations” to threaten all governments in which it has interests, if they do not behave themselves.  China acts on the world stage like the thug cousin [in a reference to well-known Spanish TV advert] but with no humour when it comes to human and international rights.  They all obey.  For example, the South African Government and heir to Mandela refused to grant the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a meeting of Nobel Peace laureates.  With help from the international Tibet movement, a campaign by a brilliant young leader of a small Tibetan organisation asked the organisers to change the venue of the meeting to another country, considering the shame of not granting the Dalai Lama entry, and the organisers chose Rome.  However, the new Pope gave in to the usual pressure and excuses, and refused to greet a Nobel laureate who has mediated between religions and beliefs.  Yet another kowtow to China!


- So why doesn’t anyone dare to do anything about it?

- Because we have created a system of production and consumption that is based on greed, and China is the temporal power that keeps it going.  The multinationals rule, governments obey, and they sell a mirage of cheap production and millionaire sales that is going to shatter sooner of later into a thousand pieces.


- And the Spanish Government?

- With its recent reform of universal justice, killing judicial independence while obeying China’s orders, the government of the Partido Popular (PP) with their present absolute majority  has committed one of the most serious and shameful attacks on Spanish democracy.  They will pay for it with their already weak democratic credibility, like the PSOE did, who also played their part but are now trying to redeem themselves.


- And what about the media? Have they too been bought?

- It has been very hard to get a mention in the press despite the relevance of Tibet and the advance of the Chinese empire.  In Spain if Ronaldo scratches his hair, it´s all over, so to speak.  It’s also obvious that the media depend economically on political and business groups and need to sell newspapers and attract the public with popular headlines and bait.  Which is something the Tibet struggle rarely is, because it inconveniences both left and right-wing parties.


- Why?

- Because we are blind to the importance of this matter.  Which is not helped by ignorance, fear of China and fear of looking a fool on such a complex matter that no one seems to understand.  It is much easier to talk about the crisis, Ronaldo’s gestures, Artur Mas or Rajoy.


- Yet despite your bravery, your efforts are just a grain of sand in the desert.

- We’re all a grain in the cosmos, but that doesn’t stop us from feeling or acting.  Over the last 15 years José Elías’ work with CAT’s help has produced enormous results.  China’s impunity for its abuse against the Tibetan people has begun to crumble.  The victims and their families have regained some of their hope and dignity.  Oblivion, which is what hurts the victims most, has been prevented.  Fortunately, the Chinese Government lashes out at us and does nothing but issue threats and dodge the issue.  These are important drops in the ocean.


- So, how can one fight against something so huge?

- By cloning José Elías and all the brave international lawyers who help us!  But at a more practical level, with patience, rigour and infinite perseverance, and always with the bravery and permanent support of the victims.  And if one had to choose a logo for a campaign, it could be, for example: Say NO to China!  As simple as that.  By doing so, we would be saving fundamental principles, business would still be as usual, and the world would not come to an end.


 (Click photo to enlarge)



“The best way is self-determination with a referendum”

Asked about the future, Cantos felt sure that [the Tibetan people] “will endure with their exemplary non violent resistance with or without the Dalai Lama” and that China “should sooner or later change its intransigence”.  With regard to the latest declaration by the Tibetan Prime Minister in Exile, Lobsang Sangay, in which he expressed himself in favour of Tibet being an autonomous community within China, Cantos expressed respect “for the Tibetans’ decisions” and always “tried to understand them, in view of the pressure they are under”, although he was convinced that the way forward was “self-determination with a referendum; an international right that is recognized by the United Nations.”


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