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Note on the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People

February 21, 2010

Note on the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People which was formally presented by the Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to their Chinese counterparts during the ninth round of dialogue in Beijing, PRC.

Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)
February 19, 2010

Translated from the Tibetan original

Note on the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People


This Note addresses the principal concerns and
objections raised by the Chinese Central
Government regarding the substance of the
Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan
People (hereinafter ‘the Memorandum’) which was
presented to the Government of the People’s
Republic of China (PRC) on October 31, 2008 at
the eighth round of talks in Beijing.

Having carefully studied the responses and
reactions of Minister Du Qinglin and Executive
Vice-Minister Zhu Weiqun conveyed during the
talks, including the written Note, and in
statements made by the Chinese Central Government
following the talks, it seems that some issues
raised in the Memorandum may have been
misunderstood, while others appear to have not
been understood by the Chinese Central Government.

The Chinese Central Government maintains that the
Memorandum contravenes the Constitution of the
PRC as well as the ‘three adherences’[1]. The
Tibetan side believes that the Tibetan people’s
needs, as set out in the Memorandum, can be met
within the framework and spirit of the
Constitution and its principles on autonomy and
that these proposals do not contravene or
conflict with the ‘three adherences’. We believe
that the present Note will help to clarify this.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama started internal
discussions, as early as in 1974, to find ways to
resolve the future status of Tibet through an
autonomy arrangement instead of seeking
independence. In 1979 Chinese leader Deng
Xiaoping expressed willingness to discuss and
resolve all issues except the independence of
Tibet. Since then His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
taken numerous initiatives to bring about a
mutually acceptable negotiated solution to the
question of Tibet. In doing so His Holiness the
Dalai Lama has steadfastly followed the
Middle-Way approach, which means the pursuit of a
mutually acceptable and mutually beneficial
solution through negotiations, in the spirit of
reconciliation and compromise. The Five-Point
Peace Plan and the Strasbourg Proposal were
presented in this spirit. With the failure to
elicit any positive response from the Chinese
Central Government to these initiatives, along
with the imposition of martial law in March 1989
and the deterioration of the situation in Tibet,
His Holiness the Dalai Lama felt compelled to
state in 1991 that his Strasbourg Proposal had
become ineffectual. His Holiness the Dalai Lama
nevertheless maintained his commitment to the Middle-Way approach.

The re-establishment of a dialogue process
between the Chinese Central Government and
representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in
2002 provided the opportunity for each side to
explain their positions and to gain a better
understanding of the concerns, needs and
interests of the other side.  Moreover, taking
into consideration the Chinese Central
Government’s real concerns, needs and interests,
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given much
thought with due consideration to the reality of
the situation. This reflects His Holiness the
Dalai Lama’s flexibility, openness and pragmatism
and, above all, sincerity and determination to
seek a mutually beneficial solution.

The Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the
Tibetan People was prepared in response to the
suggestion from the Chinese Central Government
made at the seventh round of talks in July 2008.
However, the Chinese Central Government’s
reactions and main criticisms of the Memorandum
appear to be based not on the merits of that
proposal which was officially presented to it,
but on earlier proposals that were made public as
well as other statements made at different times and contexts.

The Memorandum and the present Note strongly
reemphasise that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is
not seeking independence or separation but a
solution within the framework of the Constitution
and its principles on autonomy as reiterated many times in the past.

The Special General Meeting of the Tibetans in
Diaspora held in November 2008 in Dharamsala
reconfirmed for the time being the mandate for
the continuation of the dialogue process with the
PRC on the basis of the Middle-Way approach. On
their part, members of the international
community urged both sides to return to the
talks. A number of them expressed the opinion
that the Memorandum can form a good basis for discussion.

1. Respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the PRC

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly stated
that he is not seeking separation of Tibet from
the People’s Republic of China, and that he is
not seeking independence for Tibet. He seeks a
sustainable solution within the PRC. This
position is stated unambiguously in the Memorandum.

The Memorandum calls for the exercise of genuine
autonomy, not for independence,
‘semi-independence’ or ‘independence in disguised
form’. The substance of the Memorandum, which
explains what is meant by genuine autonomy, makes
this unambiguously clear. The form and degree of
autonomy proposed in the Memorandum is consistent
with the principles on autonomy in the
Constitution of the PRC. Autonomous regions in
different parts of the world exercise the kind of
self-governance that is proposed in the
Memorandum, without thereby challenging or
threatening the sovereignty and unity of the
state of which they are a part. This is true of
autonomous regions within unitary states as well
as those with federal characteristics. Observers
of the situation, including unbiased political
leaders and scholars in the international
community, have also acknowledged that the
Memorandum is a call for autonomy within the PRC
and not for independence or separation from the PRC.

The Chinese government's viewpoint on the history
of Tibet is different from that held by Tibetans
and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is fully aware
that Tibetans cannot agree to it. History is a
past event and it cannot be altered. However, His
Holiness the Dalai Lama’s position is
forward-looking, not backward grasping. He does
not wish to make this difference on history to be
an obstacle in seeking a mutually beneficial common future within the PRC.

The Chinese Central Government’s responses to the
Memorandum reveal a persistent suspicion on its
part that His Holiness’ proposals are tactical
initiatives to advance the hidden agenda of
independence. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is
aware of the PRC’s concerns and sensitivities
with regard to the legitimacy of the present
situation in Tibet. For this reason His Holiness
the Dalai Lama has conveyed through his Envoys
and publicly stated that he stands ready to lend
his moral authority to endow an autonomy
agreement, once reached, with the legitimacy it
will need to gain the support of the people and to be properly implemented.

2. Respecting the Constitution of the PRC

The Memorandum explicitly states that the genuine
autonomy sought by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
for the Tibetan people is to be accommodated
within the framework of the Constitution and its
principles on autonomy, not outside of it.

The fundamental principle underlying the concept
of national regional autonomy is to preserve and
protect a minority nationality’s identity,
language, custom, tradition and culture in a
multi-national state based on equality and
cooperation. The Constitution provides for the
establishment of organs of self-government where
the national minorities live in concentrated
communities in order for them to exercise the
power of autonomy. In conformity with this
principle, the White Paper on Regional Ethnic
Autonomy in Tibet (May 2004), states that
minority nationalities are “arbiters of their own
destiny and masters of their own affairs”.

Within the parameters of its underlying
principles, a Constitution needs to be responsive
to the needs of the times and adapt to new or
changed circumstances. The leaders of the PRC
have demonstrated the flexibility of the
Constitution of the PRC in their interpretation
and implementation of it, and have also enacted
modifications and amendments in response to
changing circumstances. If applied to the Tibetan
situation, such flexibility would, as is stated
in the Memorandum, indeed permit the
accommodation of the Tibetan needs within the
framework of the Constitution and its principles on autonomy.

3. Respecting the ‘three adherences’

The position of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as
presented in the Memorandum, in no way challenges
or brings into question the leadership of the
Chinese Communist Party in the PRC. At the same
time, it is reasonable to expect that, in order
to promote unity, stability and a harmonious
society, the Party would change its attitude of
treating Tibetan culture, religion and identity as a threat.

The Memorandum also does not challenge the
socialist system of the PRC. Nothing in it
suggests a demand for a change to this system or
for its exclusion from Tibetan areas.  As for His
Holiness the Dalai Lama’s views on socialism, it
is well known that he has always favoured a
socialist economy and ideology that promotes
equality and benefits to uplift the poorer sections of society.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s call for genuine
autonomy within the PRC recognises the principles
on autonomy for minority nationalities contained
in the Constitution of the PRC and is in line
with the declared intent of those principles.  As
pointed out in the Memorandum, the current
implementation of the provisions on autonomy,
however, effectively results in the denial
of   genuine autonomy to the Tibetan and fails to
provide for the exercise of the right of Tibetans
to govern themselves and to be “masters of their
own affairs.” Today, important decisions
pertaining to the welfare of Tibetans are not
being made by Tibetans. Implementing the proposed
genuine autonomy explained in the Memorandum
would ensure for the Tibetans the ability to
exercise the right to true autonomy and therefore
to become masters of their own affairs, in line
with the Constitutional principles on autonomy.

Thus, the Memorandum for genuine autonomy does
not oppose the ‘three adherences’.

4. Respecting the hierarchy and authority of the Chinese Central Government

The proposals contained in the Memorandum in no
way imply a denial of the authority of the
National People’s Congress (NPC) and other organs
of the Chinese Central Government. As stated in
the Memorandum, the proposal fully respects the
hierarchical differences between the Central
Government and its organs, including the NPC, and
the autonomous government of Tibet.

Any form of genuine autonomy entails a division
and allocation of powers and responsibilities,
including that of making laws and regulations,
between the central and the autonomous local
government. Of course, the power to adopt laws
and regulations is limited to the areas of
competency of the autonomous region. This is true
in unitary states as well as in federal systems.

This principle is also recognised in the
Constitution. The spirit of the Constitutional
provisions on autonomy is to give autonomous
regions broader decision-making authority over
and above that enjoyed by ordinary
provinces.  But today, the requirement for prior
approval by the Standing Committee of the NPC for
all laws and regulations of the autonomous
regions (Art. 116 of the Constitution) is
exercised in a way that in fact leaves the
autonomous regions with much less authority to
make decisions that suit local conditions than
that of the ordinary (not autonomous) provinces of China.

Whenever there is a division and allocation of
decision-making power between different levels of
government (between the Central Government and
the autonomous government), it is important to
have processes in place for consultation and
cooperation. This helps to improve mutual
understanding and to ensure that contradictions
and possible inconsistencies in policies, laws
and regulations are minimised. It also reduces
the chances of disputes arising regarding the
exercise of the powers allocated to these
different organs of government. Such processes
and mechanisms do not put the Central and
autonomous governments on equal footing, nor do
they imply the rejection of the leadership of the Central Government.

The important feature of entrenchment of autonomy
arrangements in the Constitution or in other
appropriate ways also does not imply equality of
status between the central and local government
nor does it restrict or weaken the authority of
the former. The measure is intended to provide
(legal) security to both the autonomous and the
central authorities that neither can unilaterally
change the basic features of the autonomy they
have set up, and that a process of consultation
must take place at least for fundamental changes to be enacted.

5. Concerns raised by the Chinese Central
Government on specific competencies referred to in the Memorandum

a) Public security

Concern was raised over the inclusion of public
security aspects in the package of competencies
allocated to the autonomous region in the
Memorandum because the government apparently
interpreted this to mean defence matters.
National defence and public security are two
different matters. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is
clear on the point that the responsibility for
national defence of the PRC is and should remain
with the Central Government. This is not a
competency to be exercised by the autonomous
region. This is indeed the case in most autonomy
arrangements. The Memorandum in fact refers
specifically to "internal public order and
security," and makes the important point that the
majority of the security personnel should be
Tibetans, because they understand the local
customs and traditions. It also helps to curb
local incidents leading to disharmony among the
nationalities. The Memorandum in this respect is
consistent with the principle enunciated in
Article 120 of the Constitution (reflected also
in Article 24 of the LRNA), which states:

|The organs of self-government of the national
autonomous areas may, in accordance with the
military system of the state and practical local
needs and with approval of the State Council,
organise local public security forces for the maintenance of public order.”

It should also be emphasised in this context that
the Memorandum at no point proposes the
withdrawal of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from Tibetan areas.

b) Language

The protection, use, and development of the
Tibetan language are one of the crucial issues
for the exercise of genuine autonomy by Tibetans.
The emphasis on the need to respect Tibetan as
the main or principal language in the Tibetan
areas is not controversial, since a similar
position is expressed in the Chinese Central
Government’s White Paper on Regional Ethnic
Autonomy in Tibet, where it is stated that
regulations adopted by the Tibet regional
government prescribe that “equal attention be
given to Tibetan and Han-Chinese languages in the
Tibetan Autonomous region, with the Tibetan
language as the major one..." (emphasis added).
Moreover, the very usage of "main language" in
the Memorandum clearly implies the use of other languages, too.

The absence of a demand in the Memorandum that
Chinese should also be used and taught should not
be interpreted as an "exclusion" of this
language, which is the principal and common
language in the PRC as a whole. It should also be
noted in this context that the leadership in
exile has taken steps to encourage Tibetans in exile to learn Chinese.

Tibetan proposal which emphasises the study of
the Tibetan people’s own language should
therefore not be interpreted as being a "separatist view."

c) Regulation of population migration

The Memorandum proposes that the local government
of the autonomous region should have the
competency to regulate the residence, settlement
and employment or economic activities of persons
who wish to move to Tibetan areas from elsewhere.
This is a common feature of autonomy and is
certainly not without precedent in the PRC.

A number of countries have instituted systems or
adopted laws to protect vulnerable regions or
indigenous and minority peoples from excessive
immigration from other parts of the country. The
Memorandum explicitly states that it is not
suggesting the expulsion of non-Tibetans who have
lived in Tibetan areas for years. His Holiness
the Dalai Lama and the Kashag also made this
clear in earlier statements, as did the Envoys in
their discussions with their Chinese
counterparts. In an address to the European
Parliament on December 4, 2008, His Holiness the
Dalai Lama reiterated that "our intention is not
to expel non-Tibetans. Our concern is the induced
mass movement of primarily Han, but also some
other nationalities, into many Tibetan areas,
which in turn marginalises the native Tibetan
population and threatens Tibet’s fragile
environment."  From this it is clear that His
Holiness is not at all suggesting that Tibet be
inhabited by only Tibetans, with other
nationalities not being able to do so. The issue
concerns the appropriate division of powers
regarding the regulation of transient, seasonal
workers and new settlers so as to protect the
vulnerable population indigenous to Tibetan areas.

In responding to the Memorandum the Chinese
Central Government rejected the proposition that
the autonomous authorities would regulate the
entrance and economic activities of persons from
other parts of the PRC in part because “in the
Constitution and the Law on Regional National
Autonomy there are no provisions to restrict
transient population.” In fact, the Law on
Regional National Autonomy, in its Article 43,
explicitly mandates such a regulation:

"In accordance with legal stipulations, the
organs of self-government of national autonomous
areas shall work out measures for control of the transient population.”

Thus, the Tibetan proposal contained in the
Memorandum in this regard is not incompatible with the Constitution.

d) Religion

The point made in the Memorandum, that Tibetans
be free to practice their religion according to
their own beliefs, is entirely consistent with
the principles of religious freedom contained in
the Constitution of the PRC. It is also
consistent with the principle of separation of
religion and polity adopted in many countries of the world.

Article 36 of the Constitution guarantees that no
one can "compel citizens to believe in, or not to
believe in any religion." We endorse this
principle but observe that today the government
authorities do interfere in important ways in the
ability of Tibetans to practice their religion.

The spiritual relationship between master and
student and the giving of religious teachings,
etc. are essential components of the Dharma
practice. Restricting these is a violation of
religious freedom. Similarly, the interference
and direct involvement by the state and its
institutions in matters of recognition of
reincarnated lamas, as provided in the regulation
on the management of reincarnated lamas adopted
by the State on July 18, 2007 is a grave
violation of the freedom of religious belief enshrined in the Constitution.

The practice of religion is widespread and
fundamental to the Tibetan people. Rather than
seeing Buddhist practice as a threat, concerned
authorities should respect it. Traditionally or
historically Buddhism has always been a major
unifying and positive factor between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

e) Single administration

The desire of Tibetans to be governed within one
autonomous region is fully in keeping with the
principles on autonomy of the Constitution. The
rationale for the need to respect the integrity
of the Tibetan nationality is clearly stated in
the Memorandum and does not mean “Greater or
Smaller Tibet”. In fact, as pointed out in the
Memorandum, the Law on Regional National Autonomy
itself allows for this kind of modification of
administrative boundaries if proper procedures
are followed. Thus the proposal in no way violates the Constitution.

As the Envoys pointed out in earlier rounds of
talks, many Chinese leaders, including Premier
Zhou Enlai, Vice Premier Chen Yi and Party
Secretary Hu Yaobang, supported the consideration
of bringing all Tibetan areas under a single
administration. Some of the most senior Tibetan
leaders in the PRC, including the 10th Panchen
Lama, Ngapo Ngawang Jigme and Bapa Phuntsok
Wangyal have also called for this and affirming
that doing so would be in accordance with the
PRC’s Constitution and its laws. In 1956 a
special committee, which included senior
Communist Party member Sangye Yeshi (Tian Bao),
was appointed by the Chinese Central Government
to make a detailed plan for the integration of
the Tibetan areas into a single autonomous
region, but the work was later stopped on account of ultra-leftist elements.

The fundamental reason for the need to integrate
the Tibetan areas under one administrative region
is to address the deeply-felt desire of Tibetans
to exercise their autonomy as a people and to
protect and develop their culture and spiritual
values in this context. This is also the
fundamental premise and purpose of the
Constitutional principles on regional national
autonomy as reflected in Article 4 of the
Constitution. Tibetans are concerned about the
integrity of the Tibetan nationality, which the
proposal respects and which the continuation of
the present system does not. Their common
historical heritage, spiritual and cultural
identity, language and even their particular
affinity to the unique Tibetan plateau
environment is what binds Tibetans as one
nationality. Within the PRC, Tibetans are
recognized as one nationality and not several
nationalities. Those Tibetans presently living in
Tibet autonomous prefectures and counties
incorporated into other provinces also belong to
the same Tibetan nationality. Tibetans, including
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, are primarily
concerned about the protection and development of
Tibetan culture, spiritual values, national
identity and the environment. Tibetans are not
asking for the expansion of Tibetan autonomous
areas. They are only demanding that those areas
already recognised as Tibetan autonomous areas
come under a single administration, as is the
case in the other autonomous regions of the
PRC.  So long as Tibetans do not have the
opportunity to govern themselves under a single
administration, preservation of Tibetan culture
and way of life cannot be done effectively. Today
more than half of the Tibetan population is
subjected to the priorities and interests first
and foremost of different provincial governments
in which they have no significant role.

As explained in the Memorandum, the Tibetan
people can only genuinely exercise regional
national autonomy if they can have their own
autonomous government, people’s congress and
other organs of self-government with jurisdiction
over the Tibetan nationality as a whole. This
principle is reflected in the Constitution, which
recognises the right of minority nationalities to
practice regional autonomy “in areas where they
live in concentrated communities” and to “set up
organs of self-government for the exercise of the
power of autonomy,” (Article 4). If the “state’s
full respect for and guarantee of the right of
the minority nationalities to administer their
internal affairs" solemnly declared in the
preamble of the Law on Regional National Autonomy
is interpreted not to include the right to choose
to form an autonomous region that encompasses the
whole people in the contiguous areas where its
members live in concentrated communities, the
Constitutional principles on autonomy are themselves undermined.

Keeping Tibetans divided and subject to different
laws and regulations denies the people the
exercise of genuine autonomy and makes it
difficult for them to maintain their distinct
cultural identity. It is not impossible for the
Central Government to make the necessary
administrative adjustment when elsewhere in the
PRC, notably in the case of Inner Mongolia,
Ningxia and Guangxi Autonomous Regions, it has done just that.

f) Political, social and economic system

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly and
consistently stated that no one, least of all he,
has any intention to restore the old political,
social and economic system that existed in Tibet
prior to 1959. It would be the intention of a
future autonomous Tibet to further improve the
social, economic and political situation of
Tibetans, not to return to the past. It is
disturbing and puzzling that the Chinese
government persists, despite all evidence to the
contrary, to accuse His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and his Administration of the intention to restore the old system.

All countries and societies in the world,
including China, have had political systems in
the past that would be entirely unacceptable
today. The old Tibetan system is no exception.
The world has evolved socially and politically
and has made enormous strides in terms of the
recognition of human rights and standards of
living. Tibetans in exile have developed their
own modern democratic system as well as education
and health systems and institutions. In this way,
Tibetans have become citizens of the world at par
with those of other countries. It is obvious that
Tibetans in the PRC have also advanced under
Chinese rule and improved their social,
education, health and economic situation.
However, the standard of living of the Tibetan
people remains the most backward in the PRC and
Tibetan human rights are not being respected.

6. Recognising the core issue

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other members of
the exiled leadership have no personal demands to
make. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s concern is
with the rights and welfare of the Tibetan
people. Therefore, the fundamental issue that
needs to be resolved is the faithful
implementation of genuine autonomy that will
enable the Tibetan people to govern themselves in
accordance with their own genius and needs.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks on behalf of
the Tibetan people, with whom he has a deep and
historical relationship and one based on full
trust. In fact, on no issue are Tibetans as
completely in agreement as on their demand for
the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to
Tibet. It cannot be disputed that His Holiness
the Dalai Lama legitimately represents the
Tibetan people, and he is certainly viewed as
their true representative and spokesperson by
them. It is indeed only by means of dialogue with
His Holiness the Dalai Lama that the Tibetan
issue can be resolved. The recognition of this reality is important.

This emphasises the point, often made by His
Holiness the Dalai Lama, that his engagement for
the cause of Tibet is not for the purpose of
claiming certain personal rights or political
position for him, nor attempting to stake claims
for the Tibetan administration in exile. Once an
agreement is reached, the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile will be dissolved and the
Tibetans working in Tibet should carry on the
main responsibility of administering Tibet. His
Holiness the Dalai Lama made it clear on numerous
occasions that he will not hold any political position in Tibet.

7. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s co-operation

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has offered, and
remains prepared, to formally issue a statement
that would serve to allay the Chinese Central
Government’s doubts and concerns as to his
position and intentions on matters that have been identified above.

The formulation of the statement should be done
after ample consultations between representatives
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese
Central Government, respectively, to ensure that
such a statement would satisfy the fundamental
needs of the Chinese Central Government as well as those of the Tibetan people.

It is important that both parties address any
concern directly with their counterparts, and not
use those issues as ways to block the dialogue
process as has occurred in the past.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is taking this
initiative in the belief that it is possible to
find common ground with the People's Republic of
China consistent with the principles on autonomy
contained in PRC's Constitution and with the
interests of the Tibetan people. In that spirit,
it is the expectation and hope of His Holiness
the Dalai Lama that the representatives of the
PRC will use the opportunity presented by the
Memorandum and this Note to deepen discussion and
make substantive progress in order to develop mutual understanding.

* * * * * *
[1] The ‘three adherences’ as stipulated by the Central Government are:
1. the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party;
2. the socialism with Chinese characteristics; and
3. the Regional National Autonomy system.
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