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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."

Policy shift not a focus of exile Tibetans' Meeting

November 18, 2008

By Phurbu Thinley
November 17, 2008

Dharamsala, Nov. 17 -- Tibetan leaders and representatives from all
over the world on Monday began a historic "special meeting" in
Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, to discuss
the future course of action on Tibet as dialogues with Beijing to
address the sufferings of the Tibetan people and improve the current
situation inside the Himalayan region failed to make any progress.

Some 581 Tibetan representatives from all over the world are taking
part in the six-day meeting, making it the largest political meeting
of Tibetan exiles ever held since coming into exile in 1959.

More than 17,000 Tibetans in Tibet have also contributed their say on
the meeting, and a summary of their opinion and views have been
prepared and would be discussed during this important "special meeting".

According to the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Karma
Chophel, the summary of their opinion, procured by the Kashag
(Tibetan Cabinet), showed some 8000 Tibetans willing to follow the
direction and decision taken by the Dalai Lama, more than 5000 of
them opting for "complete independence" and almost 3000 of them
showing support to the middle-way approach.

Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-exile Prof. Samdhong
Rinpoche, however, in his today's speech, ruled out the prospect of
any change in policy from the meeting and said that the meeting
should not turn out into a "debate between political organisations
and rigid political ideologies".

"Any change in policy need not come from this meeting," Prof. Rinpoche said.

Rinpoche argued that the present policy, adopted by his government
that seeks genuine autonomy for Tibetan people within the
constitutional framework of the People's Republic of China, has
public mandate and added that there was no reason to seek further
public support for it.

Rinpoche said his administration's policy was in par with a unanimous
resolution adopted by the Tibetan parliament on 18 Sept. 1997, which
offered His Holiness the Dalai Lama full mandate to decide on the
policy and direction of the Tibetan struggle, from time to time,
keeping the global trend and other factors into consideration.

To carry out any change in basic policy, Rinpoche said, it should be
done in a democratic process with the mandate of the Tibetan people.

While clarifying "many speculations and misunderstandings" about the
purpose of holding the special meeting, the Tibetan PM said his
administration had no "hidden agenda and plan" behind it.

He said his administration had also clearly instructed the CTA
(Central Tibetan Administration) officials attending the meeting to
freely raise their concerns and express their views, irrespective of
the CTA's standpoint and policy.

He said the Kalons (cabinet ministers) even requested that they be
excused from attending the group discussions to avoid overwhelming
the conference with his administration's view and policies, but said
their permission was not granted.

"As such this meeting is an opportunity for the Kalons to listen
rather than voice its thoughts," Rinpoche said.

He emphasized that meeting must instead concentrate on making efforts
"to find a solution to the issue of Tibet" by taking into
consideration the "seriousness of the situation in Tibet and the
unspeakable sufferings of Tibetans in Tibet since March this year."

"At this Meeting, by taking into account the urgent situation in
Tibet, the current world situation and the behavior of the PRC's
leadership, we should be able to understand the views and aspiration
of the common Tibetans on what would be the best course of future
actions beneficial to the Tibetan cause," Prof. Rinpoche said.

"Under such dire circumstances, Tibetans in Tibet pinned all their
hopes on fellow Tibetans in the free world. It is needless for us to
mention that, at such times, we cannot be insensitive to their cries;
we must show solidarity with our brethrens and we must do whatever is
in our means to improve their situation," Rinpoche said.

Rinpoche outlined that the main objectives of the meetings are to
have open and frank discussions on the issues of Tibet by the general
Tibetan masses at this critical point in time, to invite views and
comments on the CTA's policies and strategies that being expressed in
media and on forums, and to provide official platform to receive
critical views and opinions regarding the CTA's policies.

While describing the meeting as being "timely and the need of the
hour" and an important event in the history of the Tibetan movement,
Rinpoche maintained that any stand decided for the future of the
Tibet, should have the clear mandate of the people, and expressed
hope that the united efforts of the Tibetan people should be visible
on the international stage.

Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Karma Chophel, in his
opening speech, said the special meeting was called by the Dalai Lama
in light of the recent upheavals and sufferings of the Tibetan people in Tibet.

"So everybody will discuss Tibetan issue in light of the recent
upheavals in Tibet and the sufferings of the Tibetan people there,
and to suggest what best could be done in future," Chophel said.

Commenting on the Kashag's decision not to influence the course of
meeting, Speaker Chophel said, "They don't want to influence the
genuine feelings and opinions of the Tibetan people from being
expressed during the meeting."

"Even His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) decided not to attend the meeting
for the same reasons," Chophel added, saying "His Holiness wants the
Tibetan representatives to engage in a free and frank discussions on
all possible issues regarding the future actions over Tibet."

Chophel said the meeting was called on to hear from the Tibetan
masses on how to deal with the situation in Tibet in the face of
Chinese government's failure to mitigate the sufferings of the
Tibetan people inside Tibet. Chophel said instead of addressing the
anguishes and resentments expressed by Tibetans in Tibet, China
continues to unleash unprecedented crackdowns on Tibetan expressions.

When asked, if the meetings would have any implications on the policy
of the exiled Government, the Tibetan speaker said it would depend on
the Dalai Lama's consideration on the summary of the outcomes of the meeting.

He said the organising committee of the meeting has formed fifteen
sub-committees to oversee the discussions in the coming days would
come up with written suggestions and opinions of the participants of
the meeting.

Karma said those suggestions and views would then be discussed and
analyzed during a preliminary session on Nov. 21, and on the final
concluding day of the meeting on Nov 22, the suggestions would be
reviewed and consolidated into a final summary to be submitted to the
Dalai Lama for his considerations.

After that the Dalai Lama might redirect the next step depending on
his observation based on the context and contents of the summary, Karma said.

"If His Holiness the Dalai Lama issues direction to discuss the
matter in the parliament, it would be discussed in parliamentary
session and accordingly, based on the subject matter, it could
influence our government's policy," Karma told Phayul.
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