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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Tibetan -- Chinese conference

August 9, 2009

Central Tibetan Authority (CTA)
August 7, 2009

AUGUST 6, 2009

I extend my greetings to the Chair of this
conference, the organizers, the delegates who
have come from many different places, and guests.
I would specially like to commend the
International Fellowship of Reconciliation and
the Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association for
organizing this wide-ranging conference of Chinese and Tibetans.

For over a thousand years, the Tibetan and
Chinese people have co-existed as friendly and
harmonious neighbors with mutually enriching
relations in the social and economic fields as
well as in religion and culture. Occasionally,
there were times when we fought each other.
However, for the most part, relations between
Tibetan and Chinese peoples were peaceful. Since
Buddhism flourished in China before Tibet,
Tibetan Buddhists accord Chinese Buddhists the
respect and deference due to senior spiritual brothers and sisters.

Just as the rest of the world witnessed
tumultuous developments in the twentieth century,
China, too, experienced dramatic changes. Soon
after the Communist Party took over China in
1949, the People’s Liberation Army entered Tibet,
forcefully defeating the small and ill-equipped
Tibetan army in Chamdo. In 1951, the 17-Point
Agreement was signed under duress and all of
Tibet was incorporated into the People’s Republic of China.

Despite all our sincere efforts to abide by the
17-Point Agreement, eventually (in 1959) I, along
with my Cabinet, had to go into exile with around
80,000 Tibetans (both lay and the clergy) who
were able to follow us. Soon after arriving in
exile we began intensive and in-depth discussions
on resolving the Tibetan problem through contact
and discussions with the Chinese authorities. As
a result, around 1974 we adopted the Middle Way
Approach. The guiding spirit of the Middle Way
Approach is the pursuit of a mutually acceptable
and mutually beneficial solution through
negotiations, in the spirit of reconciliation and
compromise. We resolved not to seek the
separation and independence of Tibet but to
strive for a solution within the framework of the
PRC. Thus, in 1979 when the late Chinese leader
Deng Xiaoping signaled willingness for contact
and discussion, we were fully prepared to respond
positively. On establishing direct contact we
sent delegations on fact-finding missions and for
exploratory talks - altogether numbering 20
delegations. However, sadly there was no concrete
outcome. Moreover, all direct contact ceased in
1993. As a result there were an increasing number
of people in the Tibetan community in exile who
did not agree with the Middle Way Approach.

Against this background, in 1997 we conducted an
opinion poll among Tibetans in exile in which
more than 64 per cent supported continuation of
the Middle Way Approach. Consequently, we worked
to re-establish contact with the Chinese Central
Government and succeeded in doing so in 2002.
Since then my envoys have so far had eight formal
rounds of discussions with the concerned leaders
of the Chinese Government and one informal
meeting. Unfortunately, on account of a lack of
political will on the part of the Chinese Central
Government to address the issue of Tibet in a
sincere and realistic way, the talks did not
yield any tangible results. Moreover, the
situation inside Tibet has worsened dramatically
since the crisis in Tibet of March last year.
Beijing has labeled those who peacefully
demonstrated their dissatisfaction with policies
towards minority nationalities, particularly
Tibetans, as being anti-Chinese, thus fanning
racial antagonism and hatred between the Tibetan
and Chinese peoples. This is a most irresponsible
policy. It has resulted in baseless suspicion and
distrust between the two communities. I am deeply
saddened and concerned about this development.

Fortunately, many Chinese intellectuals have not
succumbed to the propaganda of the Central
Government. They have made the effort to
understand the issue objectively. Thus, based on
their own observations and findings, they have
displayed sympathy and support for the Tibetan
people in many articles. This is a source of
great encouragement to the Tibetan people and triumph of truth.

My envoys have clearly conveyed both in writing
and verbally, to the Central Government the
essence of my Middle Way Approach that seeks a
solution to the Tibetan problem within the
framework of the People’s Republic of China and
in accordance with the principles of its
Constitution. The Constitution provides regional
self-rule for minority nationalities. During the
eighth round of talks last year, my envoys
presented the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for
the Tibetan People. Based on provisions in the
Constitution of the People's Republic of China
and the Law on Regional National Autonomy, this
Memorandum explains in detail how the Tibetan
people could exercise meaningful national
regional autonomy. However, to our great
disappointment our initiative was unabashedly
labeled as disguised independence or a demand for
semi-independence, and our Memorandum was
categorically rejected and no effort was made to
present a counter-proposal. As a result today, my
faith in the good will of the present Chinese leadership is shaken.

In view of this sad state of affairs, I called a
Special General Meeting of the Tibetan people.
Last November around 600 delegates representing
all Tibetans in exile gathered in Dharamsala for
a six-day conference. The meeting discussed at
length the situation inside Tibet and
developments in China as well as the future
course of the Tibetan freedom struggle. It also
considered whatever views we were able to gather
from a cross-section of Tibetans inside Tibet.
Similarly, a special meeting was held by the
Tibet Support Groups from all over the world.

In both meetings, even though there were strong
voices calling for a change of the Middle Way
Approach and an end to our contact with the
present Chinese government, most of the
participants endorsed continuation of the Middle
Way Approach as well as the Tibetan-Chinese
dialogue process. With this public affirmation of
our Middle Way Approach, we stand ready to engage
in earnest and sincere discussions as soon as
there is a clear signal from Beijing that the
Central Government is willing to address the real
issues facing the six million Tibetans inside Tibet.

I have two appeals to our Chinese brothers and
sisters who are participating in this conference.
First, I seek your advice and frank opinions on
what steps to take in future to solve the Tibetan
problem. Secondly, I request your help in
carrying a message to the Chinese people that we
Tibetans harbor no hatred against our Chinese
brothers and sisters, and that we Tibetans are
neither anti-Chinese nor anti-China. I seek your
help and cooperation in preventing the issue of
Tibet being turned into an issue of racial
prejudice and antagonism between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

I would like to conclude by expressing my
gratitude to all participants who have come from
distant places, as well as to the organizers. I
pray that this conference will mark an important
step towards a common future based on genuine
trust, friendship, mutual respect and benefit.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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