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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

The Statement of Kalon Tripa, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, at the 6th International Tibet Support Group Conference

November 5, 2010

 

It is my great honour and privilege to welcome you to the 6th International Tibet Support Group Conference.  On behalf of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan community in exile and the long-suffering people of Tibet, I thank you for setting aside your precious time to attend this important conference. 

First of all, I would like to pay the Kashag's sincere tribute to the Tibet Support Group (TSG) movement and its outstanding work. The worldwide Tibet movement is one of the longest running, most sustained and widespread movements in the world. This movement is propelled forward by the energy and enthusiasm of all of you involved in advancing the just cause of the Tibetan people. Your sustained and concerted campaigns over the years have resulted in promoting the awareness of the Tibetan issue all over the world and kept it as a burning topic and mobilised governments and parliaments around the world to speak up for the people of Tibet. 

The efforts and dedication of TSGs have inspired a new generation of committed Tibetans in Tibet. They are risking their lives to preserve Tibet's spiritual and cultural heritage by their non-violent resistance.

For these reasons, the Tibetan people are blessed by the expanding network of friends and supporters around the world. No other cause, however just, no other struggle, however long, has been blessed as the Tibetan people are by the commitment of the Tibet Support Groups for the political cause of Tibet and the Tibetan Buddhist and cultural centres for the preservation and promotion of Tibet's rich cultural and spiritual heritage.

Here I feel it is important to say a few words on the nature and composition of the worldwide Tibet movement. The nature of the entire Tibet Support Group movement is voluntary participation, inspired by love for justice, by using your own time, resources and energy with full awareness that no personal, political or material benefit, whatsoever, could be gained for your tireless and unceasing effort. Therefore, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama always says that Tibet Support Groups should not be considered as pro-Tibet or anti-China. They are rather pro-justice and anti-injustice. The Tibet Support Groups consist of multi-faceted groups of experts and professionals in the fields of human rights, environment, development, culture and religion and so forth. 

Some TSGs work for the overall improvement of the human rights situation in Tibet. These include efforts to highlight cases of individual prisoners of conscience and their eventual release and documenting the atrocities committed on them. Other TSGs produce a constant stream of high quality research work on the negative impact of ill-conceived development works in Tibet, and on its culture and people. Some focus on the expanding railway line, rampant mining, indiscriminate deforestation, forced resettlement of nomads in permanent structures on the grasslands and the growing expansion of Chinese settlement on the Tibetan plateau and their negative impact on the fragile environment of Tibet. 

There is another aspect of the Tibet Support movement. This aspect is the Tibetan Buddhist centres, academic institutions for Tibetan studies and Tibetan cultural centres. These Tibetan cultural centres attract an ever-expanding circle of devout friends for Tibet in every corner of the globe, every year.  This component is important for us because the activities of these centres ensure that Tibet's spiritual and cultural heritage can and will survive outside of Tibet. These centres also reflect the abiding relevance of the values of Tibetan culture and spirituality. That an expanding international civil society, beholden to no one, no government, no sovereign, flourishes is an eloquent message of the international community's recognition of the universal values of compassion and non-violence inherited by the Tibetan people from ancient India. This I feel gives us the confidence to say that with or without the Tibetan people, their culture and the values that underpin it will be cherished by the world. This is because Tibetan culture speaks not just the language of the Tibetan people. It speaks the universal language of humanity.

The Tibetan people's movement for our cultural survival is invigorated by the fact that an increasing number of our Chinese brothers and sisters are embracing it. This appreciation of the values of Tibetan culture is growing amongst Chinese both in and outside of Mainland China. We are deeply grateful to many brave Chinese individuals and organisations in China for speaking up for the Tibetan people in the aftermath of the brutal crackdown on the widespread and peaceful protests in 2008 that called for freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his homeland. Many of these individuals organised an open letter expressing their support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Middle-Way policy and called on the Chinese government to stop its propaganda against Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  

In this context, a conference was held between Tibetans and Chinese in Geneva in the first week of August 2009. The final document drawn by the Chinese participants at the conference identified Tibetan culture as “a precious treasure among the many cultures of humanity... The extinction of Tibetan culture would not only be a tragedy for the Tibetan people, but ... an irreplaceable loss for the whole of humanity.”  

To our Chinese brothers and sisters who are participating in this conference, I would like to express the Tibetan people's gratitude for your support. Your continued support is strength of the Tibetan people's non-violent movement. Your presence here is a clear message that the Tibetan people's movement is not anti-China.
  
We Tibetans were overwhelmed with pride and joy when Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. On the day the announcement was made, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said to the world, “I would like to offer my heart-felt congratulations to Mr. Liu Xiaobo for being awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Awarding the Peace Prize to him is the international community’s recognition of the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reforms.” 

On that day, the Kashag too issued a statement of welcome, saying that whole of China should be proud of the singular honour bestowed on Liu Xiaobo. 
 
We Tibetans are greatly encouraged by the surprisingly positive comments occasionally made by the Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Mr. Wen Jiabao.  There must be millions of Chinese in and outside China who are equally encouraged by their Prime Minister's comments. Premier Wen Jiabao said freedom of speech is indispensable for any country.  He also said that the Chinese people's wish for freedom and democracy is irresistible. This gives us much hope. 

Regardless of what these comments portend for the future of China and their consequences for the Tibetan people, at the moment the situation in Tibet is grim and getting worse. The policy pursued by Beijing with ruthlessness in Tibet is called “grasping with both hands.” On one hand, the Chinese authorities pursue rapid and relentless economic activities in Tibet and on the other hand exercise an unprecedented political repression on even the mildest form of dissent. The logic here is that increasing economic prosperity in Tibet will drown any attempt to assert Tibet's separate and distinct cultural identity.

However, these attempts to throw money to solve Beijing's Tibet problem have been a spectacular failure. This is because most of Beijing's investment in Tibet has gone to infrastructure building of roads, airports, and railway network that will connect Lhasa with Shigatse and then extend to Tibet's border with Nepal. There is another extension plan to connect Dromo, Tibet's border with Bhutan and the Indian. Though the construction of roads, airports and a network of railway lines have a distinct military implications for Tibet's neighbours, for the Tibetan people the result of easier travel to and within Tibet is devastating. There is an onrush of settlers and migrant workers to the Tibetan plateau to take advantage of the greater job opportunities in Tibet. It is these new migrant Chinese workers who are the real beneficiaries of Beijing's financial generosity to Tibet. 

Tibet's greater connectivity with China has also resulted in a burst of mining activities. A hungry mining industry has come to Tibet, devouring Tibet's rich mineral resources like copper, oil and natural gas, iron ore, chromite, aluminum, potash, calcium, magnesium, lithium, gold, diamond and uranium and host of other mineral resources. Although, there is an official ban on logging, rampant deforestation is going on in eastern Tibet. These resources are carted away to feed coastal China's dynamic economic growth. All these mining activities are done by Chinese miners, contributing to Chinese population transfer onto the Tibetan plateau. 
 
Apart from this, Tibet has the most precious resources: water, which is getting scarcer by the day. Chinese scientists refer to Tibet as the Third Pole, because the region contains the largest deposit of glaciers in the world outside of Arctic and Antarctica. Chinese also refer to Tibet as Asia's Water Tower because these glaciers feed Asia's ten river systems that have their origins on the Tibetan plateau. China's construction of numerous dams along these rivers, including the Mekong and Brahmaputra, and its south-north water diversion plan is a cause of concern to all its neighbors. 

For this reason, what China does or does not do in Tibet affects not just the Tibetan people. China's actions in Tibet affect the livelihood of millions of people downstream in Asia who depend on the river waters flowing from Tibet for their day-to-day survival.
 
All these activities in Tibet come under Beijing's major policy called the Western China Development Programme. The policy of exporting China's excess population to the minority regions in the west and importing the region's vast natural resources was first formulated in China's seventh five-year plan (1986-1991). This is in fact China's master plan for the minorities: to use the natural resources of minority regions to fuel coastal China economic development while pressing down the minorities by exporting China's excess population to these regions.

These days Tibetans in Tibet see their traditional way of life washed away in a flood of so-called development activities that do not meet their real needs. They see their jobs taken away by an ever increasing number of migrant Chinese workers and their future and religion held hostage by an overbearing government. They see their environment disrespected and polluted by mining and ever more dams. Politically, the government has become increasingly intrusive in the personal lives of the people of Tibet. Even the mildest expression of devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama lands individual Tibetans in prison. Recently, a string of Tibetan writers, singers, film-makers, environmentalists and businessmen, all of whom are perceived as pro-Chinese establishment and some of whom have been honoured as model workers by the Chinese government, have been arrested and imprisoned for their alleged links with Tibetans in the free world. Even school children are hauled into prison for their expression of devotion to Tibet's separate cultural identity. 

Although the constitution and autonomy law of the PRC provides the freedom to use and develop spoken and written languages of all nationalities, but these were never implemented for minority nationalities. In TAR a regulation for usage of Tibetan language was adopted in 1987, which was intentionally not implemented and gradually amended in 2002. Recently there are again indications of substituting minority language by common Chinese language that have created lot of concern and resentment among many Tibetans. We fear that this move will not only undermine the usage of Tibetan language in the long term but it may create unrest and repression. Recently another unconstitutional regulation for how to control the monasteries in Tibet was proclaimed, which is again a gross violation of religious freedom and cause of resentment and unrest.

For these reasons, the belief among Tibetans that Beijing wants Tibet but not the Tibetans is re-strengthened.

This deep resentment of the Chinese authorities' unrelenting assault on Tibet's spiritual and cultural heritage forced the Tibetan people to burst out into widespread and sustained protests throughout Tibet in 2008. As far as we know, there were 344 instances of protests all over Tibet that year alone.  All were peaceful. Beijing's reaction to this peaceful protest was brutal. 

Despite all this, we Tibetans remain committed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Middle-Way Policy of reconciliation to resolve the vexed and protracted issue of Tibet. Our determination to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully with Beijing is reflected in the fact that in 2008 alone His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Special Envoy, Mr. Lodi Gyari, and Envoy, Mr. Kelsang Gyaltsen, met with their Chinese counterparts three times. As desired by the Chinese authorities, the two envoys handed them a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People. Our basic demand as spelled out in the Memorandum is that all Tibetans should come under one administration that enjoys genuine autonomy. This demand is based on the rights given to the minorities as enshrined in the constitution and autonomy law of the PRC. Unfortunately, this reasonable demand was indiscriminately rejected by Beijing. In January this year, the two envoys handed to the Chinese authorities a Note that addressed the concerns, objections and misinterpretations made by the PRC authorities on the substance of our Memorandum. 

Regardless of the current attitude of the Chinese government to our reasonable and legitimate demands, we remain committed to the dialogue process and is willing to meet the concerned PRC's officials any time, anywhere.

On this matter, I take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the Tibetan people to all the governments around the world for encouraging China to resolve the issue of Tibet through discussions with the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Your support for the dialogue process remains a source of hope and encouragement to the people of Tibet.

It is because of the support of the people and governments around the world and the guidance and leadership provided by His Holiness the Dalai Lama that in exile we have managed to re-built and maintain a productive and cohesive community. We have managed to preserve and promote our spiritual and cultural heritage and all the institutions that underpin this heritage. We have also established an education system that is able to educate successive generations of young Tibetans who will carry forward the non-violent movement of the Tibetan people. 
 
In exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given his people the gift of democracy. The Central Tibetan Administration is now a functioning democracy, fully transparent and its elected leadership totally accountable to the elected representatives and to the people. I am also happy to report that the Tibetan community in exile is served by an increasing number of NGOs, which form the basis of a strong and growing civil society. 
 
For me, it was a privilege to serve His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people as the first elected Kalon Tripa since 2001. I wish the next Kalon Tripa every success. 

These accomplishments of the Tibetan refugees would not have been possible without the hospitality and generosity of the government and people of India. The Tibetan people owe India the survival of Tibet outside of Tibet. I take this opportunity to express the sincere gratitude of the Tibetan people to the government and people of India. 

At each International Tibet Support Group Conference, you always had meaningful and in-depth discussion on the Tibet problem, exchange of useful information and ideas, strategizing the future course of action and drawing of comprehensive programmes for collective and individual actions. Therefore, all the conferences have been immensely productive and useful. Considering the fact that Tibet Support Groups are always independent of CTA, we refrain from making any proposal or suggestion. We only cooperate with the conveners of the conference. But this time, as an exception, I would like to offer some of my personal views for your consideration. During India's independent struggle Mahatma Gandhi advised his people that constructive programmes are more important than protest or agitation. This seems to be great advice for any movement and is very much applicable for our movement as well. I wonder whether this conference can consider some constructive programmes commonly acceptable and workable by all TSGs in our movement. 

I would also like to suggest all the Tibet Support Groups and dharma centres to observe one day fasting and prayer every year on one specific day all over world from 2011 onward to symbolise our solidarity and commitment to non-violence. These are only a suggestion.

Apart from the Tibet Support Groups, we also have All -Party Parliamentary Groups for Tibet that exist in various national, regional and provincial parliaments. The general conference of All-Party Parliamentary Groups for Tibet is called the World Parliamentarians' Convention on Tibet (WPCT) which has met five times. Recently they have set up an International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet (INPat) with secretarial assistance from ICT Europe in the Netherlands. Therefore, you should also discuss how to establish close collaboration and networking among the Tibet Support Groups and Parliamentary Groups.
 
Dear friends, I would like to urge you all sincerely that the coming five years will be most crucial and critical period for the future of Tibet. Therefore, it is not a time to feel fatigue and resign. Each one of us who care for the just cause of Tibet must revitalise ourselves, sharpen our focus, consolidate our action, repackage the whole movement and a final and forceful push be given to achieve the desired result for which you all have dedicated yourselves for over five decades.  
 
I would also like to inform you that this will be my last address as the Kalon Tripa at an international Tibet Support Group Conference. I have been able to attend all Tibet Support Group Conferences since the second TSG conference held at Bonn in 1996. The energy and enthusiasm generated by these conferences is a source of great hope. I would like to express my personal appreciation to all individuals who are involved in this great international movement for the survival of Tibet. Once again I would like to express the sincere appreciation of the Kasahg to all Tibet supporters, old and new and those who are no longer with us. The Tibet Support Group movement will remain a lasting legacy of their tireless work for the people of Tibet.

On 3 October, the Tibetan exiles throughout the world cast their votes in the preliminary round to elect their next Kalon Tripa and Chithue that can only be called a democracy without borders. The final vote will take place in March 2011. Whoever the next Kalon Tripa will be, I trust you will extend the same cooperation to him or her.

I am immensely grateful to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for gracing this conference by His divine presence. I am also immensely grateful to respected Shri Advani-ji, the former Deputy Prime Minister and a great leader of India, who has agreed to be the chief guest at the inaugural function of this conference. Their presence has elevated this conference to the highest level. I also take this opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Core Group of the Indian Tibet Support Groups and its chairman Dr. N.K. Trikha-ji and his team for their tireless hard work in convening this conference. We attach great significance for holding this conference in India, the second home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and majority of the Tibetan refugees.
 
I conclude by praying for the continued good health and long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. May all His wishes be fulfilled. 

Thank you.

 

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