Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected head of the Tibetan people. (Phayul file)
DHARAMSHALA, February 26: The head of the exile Tibetan administration has urged Canada to send its newly instated Ambassador for Religious Freedom to Tibet, where 107 Tibetans, including several monks and nuns have self-immolated.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected leader of the Tibetan people, who is currently visiting Canada, said the rising number of self-immolations stems from the repression of political and religious freedoms, and crackdowns on other forms of protest.
“I would really like to see, and request, that the ambassador of religious freedom visit Tibet. Because religious freedom is very much at the core of self-immolation – as well as other issues – in Tibet,” Dr Sangay told reporters. “And now, the office is established, there’s an ambassador. If he could go to Tibet and investigate the situation, that would be a welcome gesture.”
Andrew Bennett, a former civil servant, was appointed the ambassador of the Office of Religious Freedom, created earlier this month to promote freedom of worship around the world
“The cause of self-immolation is clear: political repression, economic marginalisation, environmental destruction, cultural assimilation and denial of religious freedom. It’s very clear. And occupation is the main cause,” the de facto Tibetan prime minister said.
Making the case for Canada to be more assertive on human rights while dealing with China, Sikyong Sangay stressed on the importance of taking a firm stance on core issues.
“I always say, just because you keep quiet, don’t expect the Chinese government to give you a better deal. They’re good business people. And then, if you don’t speak out on these core issues … they’ll take you as weak.”
On Tuesday, the Tibetan leader is scheduled to appear before the Parliamentary Subcommittee on International Human Rights, which is in the midst of a study entitled, “The Human Rights Situation in Tibetan Areas of China.”
In December last, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird had issued a statement urging China to lift restrictions to Tibetan areas for diplomats and journalists while calling for “substantive and meaningful dialogue” between Tibetan and Chinese representatives.
“I am concerned about the escalating number of self-immolations in Tibetan areas of China and the increasingly punitive measures being taken in response, which further exacerbate tensions in the region,” Baird had said.
“Canada supports Tibetans’ freedoms of expression, assembly and association. That anyone should feel such an end is justified by these means is a striking testament to Tibetans’ deep yearning for greater religious, linguistic and cultural rights.”