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Dalai Lama turns 73 as Tibet issue lingers on

July 8, 2008

By Phurbu Thinley
July 6, 2008

Dharamsala, July 6 -- Tibetan exiles on Sunday celebrated the 73rd
birthday of their revered leader His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama,
but with no customary song and dance performances.

Hundreds of Tibetans and visiting tourists packed the Tsuglag-khang
(Main Tibetan Temple) courtyard to join the official function,
attended by top officials of the Tibetan government-in-Exile,
including Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister) Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche,
Chairman of the Tibetan Parliament Mr Karma Choephel and other senior
officials of the Central Tibetan Administration.

The Dalai Lama's birthday celebration, which is otherwise a joyous
moment for Tibetans, was kept moderate this year due to sad and
worsening situation inside Tibet since the March unrest. Tibetan
people here honoured their leader's birthday by offering prayers and
planting trees for his long life and continued wellbeing.

Some 200 people from the Trans Himalayan region of India bordering
Tibet, including Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Kalimpong, Darjeeling,
Uttranchal, Utrakhand, Lahaul Spiti, Kinour, Kullu, Manali, and
Ladhak, also joined the celebration this morning. The members were
led by prominent social and political leaders of the communities.
According to a press statement by the Trans Himalayan Parliamentary
forum, the members on Saturday had a private audience with the Dalai
Lama to wish him "long life and to express solidarity with Holiness'
peaceful struggle for the Tibetan cause". They also organized a
candle light peace march for Tibet later in the evening to convey
their continued support for the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom.

Speaking at today's function on behalf of the people of Himalayan
region, Ven Tsona Rinpoche, MLA and former Minister of Arunachal
Pradesh urged Tibetan people to remain determined in their struggle
for freedom and just cause, and assured that people of the Himalayan
regions in India are always committed to be on their side.

"We share common language, culture and identity with Tibetan people.
We are all followers of Dalai Lama. It is in our interest and for our
own security to support and struggle for the cause of Tibetan
people," Ven Tsona told a huge public gathering.

The exiled Tibetan leader did not show up during the public function.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso was born
Lhamo Dhondub to a peasant family in a small village called Takser in
Amdo (Ch: Qinghai) Province, north-eastern Tibet on 6 July 1935.

In 1959, after an aborted uprising in Lhasa against the Communist
Chinese regime, thousands of Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama into
exile and re-established Tibetan Government in Exile in the northern
Indian town of Dharamsala where he now resides.

 From Dharamsala he travels extensively around the world and
occasionally meets with world leaders to present the case of Tibet
and, also to promote human values and religious harmony, describing
them as three main commitments in his life.

Lately, the Dalai Lama has advocated a "middle way approach" calling
for a "real and meaningful" autonomy for Tibet within the framework
of Chinese Constitution and an end to what he has said are widespread
human rights violations against his people.

Six rounds of talks between his envoys and the Beijing government
since the direct contact between the two sides was re-established in
year 2002, after it turned into a complete deadlock way back in 1994,
did not make any significant breakthrough. In fact, the talks were
briefly stalled after the sixth round of talks took place in Beijing last year.

The two sides agreed to meet again this year after widespread unrest
in Tibet followed by China's violent crackdown, which faced strong
international diplomatic pressure calling on China to hold a
result-orientated dialogue with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Following March crackdown on protests against Chinese rule in Tibet,
the two sides, earlier in May, held an "informal meeting" mainly to
discuss and ease the "critical situation in Tibet." During the meet,
the two sides agreed to continue their formal round of talks at a
convenient time.

However, the latest formal talks, held from July 1-2 in Beijing,
aimed to mend fences with the exiled Tibetan leader, were as usual
marked by an aggressive reiteration of the Chinese government's
allegation that the Dalai Lama instigated the March unrest in Tibet.
The talks made no headway on the status of Tibet as expected by the
Tibetan leadership, forcing a senior Tibetan envoy to describe the
outcome as "disappointing".

But both sides have agreed to at least hold one more round of talks
in October, after Beijing hosts the Olympics in August. Dalai Lama's
Special Envoy Mr Lodi Gyari told reporters here yesterday that the
next talks would help measure China's level of commitment in
resolving concerns over Tibet.

Addressing today's function, the Tibetan Prime Minister Prof.
Rinpoche outlined that the latest seventh round of talks last week
did not make any progress as expected by his administration.

"It is disappointing that the seventh round of talks did not come out
as per our expectation," he said. "Our doubts over the Chinese
leaders' commitment and sincerity to resolve the issue of Tibet has
further widened," he added and called on the Chinese leadership to
reciprocate the "positive efforts" made by the Dalai Lama and the
Tibetan Government-in-Exile by taking tangible steps.

He, however, described the decision "to hold eighth round of talks in
October and to discuss the need to implement in Tibet the provisions
of national regional autonomy as laid down in the Constitution of the
People's Republic of China," which he said were mutually agreed
during the seventh round of talks, as a positive signal for the time being.

Young Tibetans have become increasingly restless and are skeptical
that this kind of dialogue process with Chinese leadership will bring
about any solid results.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his
relentless non-violent movement for the peaceful resolution of
Tibet's issue through dialogue with the Chinese leadership.

Although the Tibetan leader has repeatedly and publicly stated he is
not seeking separation and independence of Tibet, China has not
stopped vilifying him as a "separatist" seeking Tibet's independence.
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