Today, 10 March 2009, is the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan people's peaceful uprising against the repression and occupation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China. On this important anniversary, the Kashag pays its tribute and respect to those brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives for the national, religious and political cause of the Tibetan people in general, and, particularly, to those who have lost their lives during the non-violent protests carried out in the three traditional provinces of Tibet since last 10 March. We also express our solidarity with those Tibetans who continue to suffer hardships, torture and repression. The Kashag also extends its heartfelt sentiments and regards to all the Tibetans in and outside Tibet.
Looking back on the good and bad times experienced by the Tibetan people during the past 50 years, one witnesses numerous unimaginable changes that have taken place. Since the occupation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese government unleashed a series of coercive and repressive campaigns under different forms and names, such as “suppression of reactionaries, democratic reform, class struggle, Cultural Revolution”, communes, imposition of martial law, infrastructure development and Western Development Programmes. All these were aimed at sinicising Tibet and eliminating the Tibetan identity. That the Tibetan people endured such depths of untold physical and mental hardships and sufferings under these campaigns are clearly indelible in the minds of all Tibetans and, therefore, need no repetition.
Whatever numerous methods, such as oppression, torture, deception, propaganda and brainwashing the Chinese government adopted, these, however, failed to change, even slightly, the mentality and inner strength of the Tibetan people. This is evident by the fact that people's faith in religion, pride in Tibetan identity, and, especially their faith in His Holiness the Dalai Lama have remained unshakeable for three generations. This strength of the Tibetan people is not only cherished in their hearts but is also openly expressed and continued to be expressed, regardless of the danger it poses to their lives, through non-violent protests such as the ones that swept Tibet since last March. This has attracted the interest and support from the international community, which gives new hope and faith to the Tibetan people. These protests also constitute the most effective response to the massive propaganda that says China has “liberated” the Tibetan people who were ignorant and backward, that it has brought modern development, and that, except a few separatists, most Tibetans regard the Chinese government and the Communist Party as the Buddha. The Kashag admires and appreciates the courage and determination of the Tibetans in Tibet. We believe that they will continue to keep their courage and determination.
When nearly a hundred thousand Tibetans came into exile in 1959, they not only faced severe problems of climatic change, language barrier and difficulty in earning livelihood, but also became strangers without a friend. As everything was so strange that Tibetans recalled the old Tibetan saying; “except the sky and earth, everything else was unfamiliar.” However, soon after, many settlements, monastic and educational institutions were established in the host countries. Presently in India, Nepal and Bhutan, there are total of 49 Tibetan settlements, 223 monasteries including the great monastic institutions, nunneries, and tantric monasteries, 77 educational institutions in which modern education blended with the traditional values are taught, 54 community health centres and hospitals, 14 aged people home. All the facilities are in place for the Tibetans to fulfil their individual wishes and earn their livelihood. In addition, there are 11 Offices of Tibet around the world. The Tibetans living around the world have successfully formed associations in their respective countries and have been contributing towards the cause of Tibet. There are a large number of Tibetan Buddhist centres as a result of the widespread flourishing of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. These Buddhist centres have helped not only in providing immediate and long-term happiness and benefits to many people, but also in further gaining the goodwill and support of the international people for Tibet and the Tibetans. There is also an increasing number of the Tibet Support Groups.
Because of the goodwill and support of the international people and the Tibet Support Groups for the Tibetans and their culture, their democratic governments are obliged to support the Tibetan cause. As a result, the level of understanding of and support for the Tibetan cause has grown considerably in the international community. This could not, however, be accomplished with the hard work of Tibetan exiles alone. That this was accomplished by the grace of His Holiness the Dalai Lama indicates the depth and purity of spiritual bond between the Tibetan people and the lineage of the Dalai Lama institution. The kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in appearing in human life at this crucial period in Tibet’s history and winning the hearts of the people throughout the world as well as his great work and his teachings on interdependence, non-violence, and universal responsibility given to the people of the world have received high recognition and numerous prizes and awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, from individuals and organisations, governments, parliaments, universities, municipal councils, and NGOs in numerous countries. This has contributed to the happiness and benefit of human beings and has been beneficial to the Tibetan cause. The Kashag feels that this is the appropriate occasion to remember all this.
Transformation of the Tibetan polity into a full functioning democratic system and our just struggle into a non-violent one are outstanding achievements. Because of this, the People’s Republic of China is not able to ignore the issue of Tibet and the world is compelled to take an interest in and express support for the issue of Tibet.
As the framework of the Tibetan polity has now been transformed into a genuine and full functioning democratic system, it has created a firm basis for future popularly-elected political leaders to carry on the Tibetan struggle for generations to come until the issue of Tibet is resolved. The Central Tibetan Administration has enough resource to meet its administrative expenses through the voluntary tax payment from the exile Tibetans and the Corpus Fund.
Similarly, with the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, thousands of Tibetans, generation after generation, received the opportunity to undergo traditional and modern education. Hundreds among them have become professionals such as scholars, technicians, engineers, administrators, businessmen, doctors, and nurses. Efforts are being made, more than ever before, to keep producing more professionals in the future. The foundation of human resource is being built for continuing the struggle for the just cause of Tibet as well as undertaking the development activities for future Tibet.
His Holiness’ long association with eminent modern scientists through continued interaction has resulted in a series of dialogue and exchange of ideas between Buddhism and modern science, which has provided a basis for forging a strong bond between the two.
Viewing Tibetan religion and culture and the Tibetan language, which is the foundation of the above, as a threat, the leaders of the People’s Republic of China have been putting every effort to wipe these out completely. However, Tibetan religion and culture as well as language is thriving and spreading just not in the Tibetan community but in the world also. The above accomplishments that can be termed extraordinary were achieved only due to the grace of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We cannot repay the kindness of His Holiness in our lifetime. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising, the Kashag would like to take this opportunity to express on behalf of all Tibetans in and outside Tibet our gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and beseech him to live long.
The Kashag pays its tribute and appreciation to those public servants who have, while overcoming all the challenges, rendered, and continue to render sincere service under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama during this crucial period.
The Kashag, while briefly commemorating these achievements, express our gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Kashag would like to reiterate to the leadership of the People’s Republic of China that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the supreme leader and the sole spokesperson of the six million Tibetans.
According to civilized behaviour, it is the public who choose their representatives instead of being forced to accept one. If the Tibetans in Tibet are given opportunity to speak up freely without fear of retribution, the Chinese authorities would certainly get a clear picture as to who is the leader who can represent the six million Tibetans. Although, Tibetans from all the parts of Tibet have made, despite having no freedom, this very clear since March last year, the Chinese leaders have been insensitive and foolishly stubborn to accept this. This cannot fool the public.
It is evident that the baseless accusation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, severe harassment of the monks, nuns and the lay people with the imposition of repressive campaigns such as “patriotic re-education” and strike hard, celebration of the “emancipation” of millions of Tibetan people as “Serfs Emancipation Day,” a move that offends the collective sentiments of the Tibetans, on 28 March are all aimed at destabilising and creating chaos in Tibet by a few individuals with overriding self-interest. If the Tibetans, losing their patience, took to streets in protest, the Chinese leaders will have the excuse to use overwhelming force to crackdown.
In the early mid-20th century, there was no big gap between the peasants in Tibet and China. Moreover, the Tibetan peasants enjoyed more freedom and better living conditions. Telling the international community that the traditional Tibetan society was similar to serfdom and feudalism as that which prevailed in medieval China and Europe is a big lie. The Tibetans, who were largely engaged in handicrafts, agriculture and pastoralism as means of livelihood, had to pay some tax and were required to perform collective community work. Apart from that, no undue demand and pressure was on them. Tibetans enjoyed sustainable livelihood without being extremely rich or extremely poor. The Tibetan peasants belonged to three categories: state, individual and monastic estates. Each of the estate holders, in turn, looked after the interest of its peasants. Since the existence of Tibet until 1959, there had not been a time when the Tibetan peasants lost their freedom to live in fear and intimidation. Nor did they face starvation.
Most of the Tibetan exiles and those who have escaped into exile risking their lives during the past two decades are peasants, nomads, craftsmen and petty business people. Only few are the feudal lords. The participants of last year’s non-violent protests that took place across Tibet were peasants and nomads. There was almost no one who was the descendant of the feudal lords. If the Tibetan “serfs” are leading a happy life after their so-called emancipation, and if it is worth commemorating the “Serf Emancipation Day”, then why those who escape into exile and who participated in the massive protests were peasants and nomads?
We are concerned about the preservation and promotion of the valuable Tibetan religion and culture, which has the potential of bringing benefit and happiness to all sentient beings. We acknowledge the fact that not all aspects of our traditional Tibetan society are good. Far from restoring, there is no trace of the obsolete social and political system in the exile Tibetan community.
As a part of their mass propaganda, the Chinese government has been organising an exhibition of Tibetan prisons and the punishment meted out. However, the reality is that the size of Nangze Shar Prison in Lhasa, heavily used in the Chinese propaganda, could accommodate not more than a score of prisoners. In fact, the total number of prisoners in the whole of Tibet before 1959 hardly crossed hundred. After the so-called “liberation” and “emancipation” of the Tibetan “serfs”, prisons have come up in every part of Tibet. Looking at the size of prisons and the number of prisoners in Lhasa only, it is clear which period in Tibetan history is the most oppressed and darkest. In this 21st century of information revolution, the ideology that one-lie-told-hundred-times-will-become-truth can no longer be sustained.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama laid down, after much consideration and deliberation, a mutually beneficial Middle-Way policy in the early 1970s that takes into consideration the peaceful co-existence of the Tibetan and the Chinese people and the achievement of future aspirations of the Tibetan people within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. This policy was endorsed, after holding a series of extensive discussions, by the representatives of the general public, including the then Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile and the Kashag. In 1979, when the late Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping proposed that “except independence, all other issues can be resolved through negotiations”, the Tibetan side was ready with a response.
Since then with the establishment of contacts, several rounds of talks were held and fact-finding delegations were despatched. However, these did not bear any concrete results, and the contact eventually broke off for over eight years. Since the restoration of contacts in 2002, we have engaged in eight formal rounds of talks and one informal round of talks, following the policy of one official channel and one agenda. These talks and contacts not only helped in clarifying the suspicions and broadening the understanding of our respective views and positions, but also provided an opportunity to clearly explain the essence of the Middle-Way policy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
After knowing the concerns and problems the Chinese government expressed on the Strasbourg Proposal, we addressed their concerns by giving a new document. This proposal as requested by the Chinese side during the 7th round of talks is called Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, which is within the scope of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. This document was given to the Chinese government on 31 October 2008 during the eighth round of talks. This Memorandum, which has now been made public by both sides, is the ultimate demand by the Tibetan side, after due consideration and accommodation of Chinese concerns. Not even a single part of the demands mentioned in the Memorandum can be compromised, and there is no need to do so either as the articles of the Memorandum were prepared exactly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and its Law on National Regional Autonomy. There is no single demand that is not a legal.
If the Chinese side does not abide by its Constitution and the laws, we can do nothing. However, if the current government of the People’s Republic of China respects its Constitution and other related laws and regulations, it must accept the Memorandum we proposed. Calling the Memorandum a demand for “half-independence” and “disguised independence” or “covert independence”, without providing legal and rational explanations, is not a statement made by a right-thinking people.
Because of the political upheaval that shook Tibet last year and we being not able to achieve any concrete result in the Sino-Tibetan dialogue process, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in order to again solicit public opinion in a democratic way as to what future course of action we should take, convened a Special Meeting of the Tibetans in Diaspora in last November under the provision of Article 59 of the Charter of the exile Tibetans. About 600 representatives of the Tibetans in exile participated in the meeting and held extensive discussions for six days. In addition to collecting written suggestions from the exile Tibetans, efforts were made to collect suggestions, as far as possible, from the Tibetans in Tibet as well.
The outcome of this process was that over 80 percent of the suggestions advocated the continuation of the Middle-Way policy. Similarly, a majority of the Tibet Support Groups supported the Middle-Way Approach. As we have received public mandate, we will now pursue this policy with great confidence. We are, therefore, ready to continue our contact and talk on the Memorandum we proposed to the Chinese government. We will provide clarification on the Memorandum whenever required by the Chinese side, and continue our efforts towards achieving a meaningful national regional autonomy for all the Tibetans. The continuation of contact solely depends upon the action of the People’s Republic of China, and they should assume full responsibility for it.
We will further carry out our activities of keeping direct contacts with the Chinese people in order for them to clearly understand the issue of Tibet and not to be misled by the massive propaganda of the Chinese government.
Looking at the suffering that the Tibetan people undergo as a result of the repressive measures implemented by the authorities of the People’s Republic of China during the last few months, the Kashag, concerned about the likely occurrence of fresh protests, issued statements of appeal on 29 January and 21 February 2009 to the international community, the Chinese authorites, and the Tibetans in and outside Tibet to maintain peace and stability. His Holiness the Dalai Lama also reiterated the same in his message to the Tibetans in and outside Tibet during this Tibetan New Year. While appealing to all Tibetans to maintain peace and stability with utmost tolerance, the Kashag urge the Chinese authorities to immediately stop the harassment and torture of the Tibetan people. The Kashag request the peace-loving people of the world to pay attention to the situation in Tibet and persuade the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint.
As per the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that “we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst”, all the Tibetan people in Tibet and in exile should, while taking lessons from our experience of past 50 years, come up with strategies and prepare ourselves with firm commitment in treading the path of non-violence until the truth of the issue of Tibet is resolved.
While taking this opportunity, the Kashag would like to express its heartfelt appreciation to the governments and the peoples across the world, particularly India, for supporting the Tibetans. Finally, the Kashag prays for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the spontaneous fulfilment of all his wishes. The Kashag also prays that the day may dawn soon when the Tibetans in and outside Tibet will celebrate their re-unification.
10 March 2009
N.B. Translated from the Tibetan original. If there are discrepancies between the Tibetan and English, please consider the Tibetan version as final and authoritative.