Join our Mailing List

"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 Middle-Way Approach: A Framework for Resolving the Issue of Tibet

October 29, 2008

Tibet.net
October 28, 2008

Introduction

The Middle-Way Approach is proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to
peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet and to bring about stability
and co-existence between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples based on
equality and mutual co-operation. It is also a policy adopted
democratically by the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan
people through a series of discussions held over a long time. This
brief introduction to the Middle-Way policy and its history is
intended for the Tibetan people inside and outside Tibet-and all
those interested-to have a better understanding of the issues involved.

A. Meaning of the Middle-Way Approach

The Tibetan people do not accept the present status of Tibet under
the People?s Republic of China. At the same time, they do not seek
independence for Tibet, which is a historical fact. Treading a middle
path in between these two lies the policy and means to achieve a
genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional
provinces of Tibet within the framework of the People?s Republic of
China. This is called the Middle-Way Approach, a non-partisan and
moderate position that safeguards the vital interests of all
concerned parties-for Tibetans: the protection and preservation of
their culture, religion and national identity; for the Chinese: the
security and territorial integrity of the motherland; and for
neighbours and other third parties: peaceful borders and
international relations.

B. History of the Middle-Way Approach

Although the 17-Point Agreement between the Tibetan government and
the People?s Republic of China was not reached on an equal footing or
through mutual consent, His Holiness the Dalai Lama-for the sake of
the mutual benefit of the Tibetan and Chinese peoples-made all
possible efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement with the Chinese
government for eight years since 1951. Even after His Holiness the
Dalai Lama and the Kashag arrived in the Lokha region from Lhasa in
1959, he continued his efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement
with the Chinese military officials. His attempts to abide by the
terms of the 17-Point Agreement are analogous to the Middle-Way
Approach. Unfortunately, the Chinese army unleashed a harsh military
crackdown in Lhasa, Tibet?s capital, and this convinced His Holiness
the Dalai Lama that his hope for co-existence with the Chinese
government was no longer possible. Under the circumstances, he had no
other option but to seek refuge in India and work in exile for the
freedom and happiness of all the Tibetan people.

Soon after his arrival in Tezpur, India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
issued a statement on 18 April 1959, explaining that the 17-Point
Agreement was signed under duress and that the Chinese government had
deliberately violated the terms of the Agreement. Thus from that day
onwards, he declared that the agreement would be considered null and
void, and he would strive for the restoration of Tibet?s
independence. Since then until 1979, the Central Tibetan
Administration and the Tibetan people adopted a policy of seeking
independence for Tibet. However, the world in general has become
increasingly interdependent politically, militarily and economically.
Consequently, great changes have been taking place in the independent
status of countries and nationalities. In China also, changes will
certainly take place and a time will come for both sides to engage in
actual negotiations. Therefore, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
believed for a long time that in order to resolve the Tibetan issue
through negotiations, it is more beneficial to change the policy of
restoring Tibetan independence to an approach that offers mutual
benefits to China as well as to Tibet.

C. The Middle-Way Approach was not Formulated Suddenly

Although this approach occurred to His Holiness the Dalai Lama a long
time ago, he did not decide it arbitrarily or thrust it upon others.
Since the early 1970s, he held a series of discussions on this issue
with, and solicited suggestions from, the Chairperson and
Vice-Chairperson of the Assembly of Tibetan People?s Deputies, the
Kashag and many scholarly and experienced people. Particularly in
1979, the late Chinese paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping?s proposal to
His Holiness the Dalai Lama that "except independence, all other
issues can be resolved through negotiations", was very much in
agreement with His Holiness the Dalai Lama?s long-held belief of
finding a mutually-beneficial solution. Immediately, His Holiness the
Dalai Lama gave a favourable response by agreeing to undertake
negotiations and decided to change the policy of restoring Tibet?s
independence to that of the Middle-Way Approach. This decision was
again taken after a due process of consultations with the then
Assembly of Tibetan People?s Deputies, the Kashag and many scholarly
and experienced people. Therefore, this Approach is not something
that has emerged all of a sudden; it has a definite history of evolution.

D. The Middle-Way Approach was Adopted Democratically

Since the decision to pursue the Middle-Way Approach, and before His
Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a statement in the European parliament
in Strasbourg on 15 June 1988-which formed the basis of our
negotiations as to what kind of autonomy was needed by the Tibetan
people-a four-day special conference was organised in Dharamsala from
6 June 1988. This conference was attended by the members of the
Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies and the Kashag, public
servants, all the Tibetan settlement officers and the members of the
local Tibetan Assemblies, representatives from the Tibetan NGOs,
newly-arrived Tibetans and special invitees. They held extensive
discussions on the text of the proposal and finally endorsed it unanimously.

Since the Chinese government did not respond positively to the
proposal, His Holiness the Dalai Lama again proposed in 1996 and 1997
that the Tibetan people should decide on the best possible way of
realizing the cause of Tibet through a referendum. Accordingly, a
preliminary opinion poll was conducted in which more than 64% of the
total opinion letters received expressed that there was no need to
hold a referendum, and that they would support the Middle-Way
Approach, or whatever decisions His Holiness the Dalai Lama takes
from time to time, in accordance with the changing political
situation in China and the world at large. To this effect, the
Assembly of Tibetan People?s Deputies adopted a unanimous resolution
(see Appendix 1) on 18 September 1997 and informed His Holiness the
Dalai Lama. Responding to this, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said in
his 10 March statement of 1998: "...Last year, we conducted an
opinion poll of the Tibetans in exile and collected suggestions from
Tibet wherever possible on the proposed referendum, by which the
Tibetan people were to determine the future course of our freedom
struggle to their full satisfaction. Based on the outcome of this
poll and suggestions from Tibet, the Assembly of Tibetan People?s
Deputies, our parliament in exile, passed a resolution empowering me
to continue to use my discretion on the matter without seeking
recourse to a referendum. I wish to thank the people of Tibet for the
tremendous trust, confidence and hope they place in me. I continue to
believe that my ?Middle-Way Approach? is the most realistic and
pragmatic course to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully. This
approach meets the vital needs of the Tibetan people while ensuring
the unity and stability of the People?s Republic of China. I will,
therefore, continue to pursue this course of approach with full
commitment and make earnest efforts to reach out to the Chinese
leadership..." This policy was, hence, adopted taking into account
the opinion of the Tibetan people and a unanimous resolution passed
by the Assembly of Tibetan People?s Deputies.

E. Important Components of the Middle-Way Approach

    1. Without seeking independence for Tibet, the Central Tibetan
Administration strives for the creation of a political entity
comprising the three traditional provinces of Tibet;
    2. Such an entity should enjoy a status of genuine national
regional autonomy;
    3. This autonomy should be governed by the popularly-elected
legislature and executive through a democratic process and should
have an independent judicial system;
    4. As soon as the above status is agreed upon by the Chinese
government, Tibet would not seek separation from, and remain within,
the People?s Republic of China;
    5. Until the time Tibet is transformed into a zone of peace and
non-violence, the Chinese government can keep a limited number of
armed forces in Tibet for its protection;
    6. The Central Government of the People?s Republic of China has
the responsibility for the political aspects of Tibet?s international
relations and defence, whereas the Tibetan people should manage all
other affairs pertaining to Tibet, such as religion and culture,
education, economy, health, ecological and environmental protection;
    7. The Chinese government should stop its policy of human rights
violations in Tibet and the transfer of Chinese population into Tibetan areas;
    8. To resolve the issue of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
shall take the main responsibility of sincerely pursuing negotiations
and reconciliation with the Chinese government.

F. Special Characteristics of the Middle-Way Approach

Considering the fact that the unity and co-existence between the
Tibetan and Chinese peoples is more important than the political
requirements of the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
pursued a mutually-beneficial Middle-Way policy, which is a great
political step forward. Irrespective of population size, economy or
military strength, the equality of nationalities means that all
nationalities can co-exist on an equal footing, without any
discrimination based on one nationality being superior or better than
the other. As such, it is an indispensable criterion for ensuring
unity among the nationalities. If the Tibetan and Chinese peoples can
co-exist on an equal footing, this will serve as the basis for
guaranteeing the unity of nationalities, social stability and
territorial integrity of the People?s Republic of China, which are of
paramount importance to China. Therefore, the special characteristic
of the Middle-Way Approach is that it can achieve peace through
non-violence, mutual benefit, unity of nationalities and social stability.

Conclusion

It is hoped that this brief introduction to the Middle-Way policy and
its history, adopted by the Central Tibetan Administration and the
Tibetan people, will receive due attention from all quarters and will
help in better understanding this approach. We would like to take
this opportunity to thank all the peoples of the world in general-and
in particular the Tibetan leaders, officials and scholars in
Tibet-who support and endorse the Middle-Way Approach.

-Issued by the Department of Information and
International Relations (DIIR), updated August 2006
Appendix 1:

An Excerpt from the Official Resolution No. 12/4/97/46
Passed by the Assembly of Tibetan People?s Deputies

Be it unanimously Resolved that-

1. Following the announcement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his
10 March statement of 1995 that a referendum be conducted to decide
on the policy with regard to the future cause of Tibet and the means
to achieve that, suggestions were solicited from all the Tibetan
people, within and without Tibet, on the procedure and options of the
referendum from 2 September 1995 to 31 July 1997. Based on the
overwhelming majority of the suggestions received, the Assembly of
Tibetan People?s Deputies implores His Holiness the Dalai Lama to
withdraw his call for a referendum, and use his wisdom to decide from
time to time the future cause of Tibet and the means to achieve that;
2. Whatever decisions His Holiness the Dalai Lama takes, from time to
time by using his wisdom, will be regarded by all the Tibetan people
as no different from having the force of a decision made through referendum.

The above resolution is adopted unanimously by the 4th session of the
12th Assembly of Tibetan People?s Deputies on 18 September 1997.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank