Dec 01, 2011

Tibet: EU Envoy Gyaltsen Addresses European Parliament

Kelsang Gyaltsen has addressed the European Parliament in a conference organized by the Tibet Inter-Group on 29 November 2011, highlighting the ongoing plight that Tibetans endure, comparing Tibet to a ‘large prison’ that draws comparisons to Europe’s own recent repressive past under Communist regimes.

Below is a statement by Kelsang Gyaltsen, Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

First of all let me express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament for organizing this timely conference on Tibet.  This conference sends an inspiring and strong message of deep concern and solidarity to the Tibetan people inside Tibet who are presently living in a state of constant fear and terror.

Presently, Tibet has become a large prison – sealed off from the rest of the world, where Chinese security and military authorities exercise free reign with impunity. A little over 20 years ago people here in Europe were still experiencing living under repressive and totalitarian regimes. Those of you who are from what we called ‘Eastern Europe’ may still have vivid memories of life under Communist rule. You will know from your own experience the immense importance of sending the message to the oppressed people that the outside world has not forgotten them, that it cares about their plight and that it stands with them in their struggle for freedom, justice and human dignity.  Those of you will also know and understand how important and crucial these expressions of concern, solidarity and support have been in sustaining the spirit and hope of the oppressed.

Today by holding this conference the European Parliament is once again sending the message to the Tibetan people that people in Europe care about their suffering and tragic fate and that you stand with them in their enduring hardship and struggle for freedom and justice. This is a great source of encouragement and inspiration for the people of Tibet. I thank you very much for this gesture of deep concern, support and solidarity.

My task at this conference is to update you on the present state of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue and its prospects.

Let me begin by briefly outlining the guiding spirit and principle of the Tibetan leadership on which the Tibetan approach in the Sino-Tibetan dialogue is based on.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has always believed that most human conflicts can be solved through genuine dialogue conducted with a spirit of openness and reconciliation. He has therefore consistently sought a resolution of the issue of Tibet through non-violence and dialogue. With this spirit in 1988 in Strasbourg at this Parliament His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented a formal proposal for negotiations. The choice of the European Parliament as the venue to present his thoughts 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.

With this proposal, His Holiness the Dalai Lama demonstrated his willingness not to seek the independence in resolving the issue of Tibet. The guiding spirit of the Strasbourg Proposal is the pursuit of a mutually acceptable solution through negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise. This spirit has come to be known as the “Middle Way Approach” of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership took the courageous decision to seek genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the framework of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Constitution contains fundamental principles on autonomy and self-government whose objectives are compatible with the needs and aspirations of the Tibetans. On this basis the Tibetan leadership is confident of the ability to ensure the basic needs of the Tibetan people in safeguarding their distinct culture, language, religion and identity and the delicate natural environment of the Tibetan plateau.

In 2002, when direct contact with the Chinese leadership was re-established, the Tibetan leadership in exile had already formulated a clear policy on our approach in the dialogue process. The Tibetan side had a single agenda: To seek genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people under a single self-governing organ within the framework of the Constitution of the PRC.

I have the honour to serve as one of the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama entrusted with the task of conducting the talks. We engaged in nine formal rounds of discussion and one informal meeting with our Chinese counterparts since 2002.

Realizing fully the complex and difficult challenges ahead in the dialogue process, the Tibetan leadership’s instructions to the Tibetan delegation have been as follows:

- To create the necessary conducive atmosphere and conditions for maintaining and deepening the contact;

- To use every opportunity to dispel misunderstanding and misconceptions about the position and views of the exiled Tibetan leadership;

- To reiterate and explain the fact that His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership in exile are not seeking separation and independence of Tibet;

- To state clearly our demand for genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the framework of the PRC;

- To propose confidence building measures in areas of mutual interests;

- To stabilize the dialogue process by increasing the number of the meetings with an agreed upon agenda and timeframe.

In accordance with these directives, right from the first round of discussions in 2002, we proposed that both sides initiate measures that help building trust and confidence in our relationship. On our part we initiated immediately a number of confidence-building measures. We also requested the Chinese leadership to make a good-will gesture by stopping the denunciation and lifting the ban on the possessions of the photographs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We also proposed to expand our contact by allowing visits between Tibetans living in exile and in Tibet and to arrange exchange visits by scholars and experts to academic, cultural and religious institutions in the PRC and as well to institutes of the Tibetan refugee community. When it became obvious that there were major differences on a number of issues between the two parties, including some fundamental ones, we proposed to first concentrate on issues where both sides have common interest in cooperating and to increase the number of meetings to two or three times per year. Moreover, right at the beginning of our contact we had written to President Jiang Zemin, explaining, that our mission was to bring about a face-to-face meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership. Such a summit has the potential to achieve a breakthrough in opening a new chapter in the relationship between the Tibetan and the Chinese peoples. Consequently, in all the rounds of discussion we raised it again and again.

To our deep disappointment, none of our suggestions and proposals were taken up or accepted by the Chinese side. Nor has the Chinese side reciprocated any of our confidence-building initiatives or presented their own suggestions or proposals for a way forward. Since the start of this dialogue in 2002, the Chinese side has been adopting a position of no recognition, no reciprocity, no commitment, no concession and no compromise. This lack of political will on the part of the Chinese leadership was clearly demonstrated at the 8th round of discussions that took place in November 2008.

In July 2008 during the seventh round the Chinese side explicitly invited us to present our views on the degree or form of autonomy we are seeking. Accordingly, on October 31, 2008, we presented our Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the Chinese leadership. Our memorandum puts forth in detail how the specific needs of the Tibetan people for self-government can be met through the application of the principles on autonomy contained in the Constitution of the PRC.

Unfortunately, the Chinese side rejected categorically our memorandum in its entirety labeling it a demand for “semi-independence” and “disguised independence”.  They even went as far as to state that “even the title of your memorandum is unacceptable. How many times do we need to say that the Dalai Lama has no right to speak about the situation in Tibet or in the name of the Tibetan people?”

The last round of meeting was held in January 2010 in Beijing.  Since then we have repeatedly urged our Chinese counterparts to meet as soon as possible.  As recently as about two weeks ago in view of the tragic cases of self-immolations and the overall deteriorating situation in Tibet we urged our counterparts in Beijing to meet as soon as possible in order to explore ways and means to diffuse and calm down the situation in Tibet. We are, however, still waiting for a positive reply from Beijing.

Despite the recent historic changes in the political leadership of the Tibetan people, our new democratically elected political leader, Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay, has made clear that the central task of the Tibetan movement, to restore basic freedoms and dignity of the Tibetan people, remains unchanged. In a statement on October 12, 2011, he outlined his position on the Sino-Tibetan dialogue as follow: “… I have consistently stated that one of my foremost priorities as the Kalon Tripa is to make every possible effort to find a peaceful and negotiated resolution to the issue of Tibet. Even during my election campaign I made clear my commitment to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach and to the ongoing dialogue process re-started in 2002. In recent times I have stated on a number of occasions our deep concern over the situation in Tibet. The incidents are a clear indication of the genuine grievances of the Tibetans and their sense of deep resentment and despair over the prevailing conditions in Tibet. It is therefore of the utmost urgency that every possible effort be made to address the underlying root causes of Tibetan grievances and resentment. Consequently, I wish to reiterate my firm commitment in finding a mutually acceptable solution in the spirit of the Middle-Way Approach. I have therefore asked the two envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to make efforts to resume the dialogue at the earliest convenience.”

The Sino-Tibetan dialogue since 2002 demonstrates clearly that we Tibetans do not have as of yet a sincere and willing partner for an honest dialogue. We cannot move forward when only one of us is fully committed and fully engaged. It is in this context that this conference is so important. 

We Tibetans need your help. First and foremost in opening up Tibet to the rest of the world so that the Chinese authorities and security forces no longer have a free hand in Tibet. International presence will a have a restraining influence on the authorities and the security forces and will thus provide some form of protection to the captive Tibetans inside Tibet.

Ultimately, we Tibetans need on the other side of the negotiating table a partner who is willing to engage in an honest dialogue with the aim of finding a fair, just and mutually acceptable solution. In today’s heavily interdependent world it is not in the hands of the Chinese leaders alone whether the Tibetan people will be able to enjoy a life in freedom and dignity in future or be compelled to live under continued brutal repression. The policies of the European Union towards the cause of Tibet and China have just as much a bearing on the outcome of this tragedy. The Chinese leadership must be made to realize that the issue of Tibet cannot be suppressed and silenced unless it is properly addressed and resolved. What is needed is a strong and unified message by members of the international community with regard to the issue of Tibet. World opinion is of great importance and of great concern for the Chinese leadership. It is in this context that I wish to express once again our deep appreciation to the European Parliament for consistently taking the lead in promoting a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet.