March 10, 2003: In his annual 'March 10th Statement', the Dalai Lama has reiterated his commitment to a 'Middle Path Approach' to the Tibet issue, confirming that he does not advocate political independence from China. Instead he describes a 'middle path' solution that will provide genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people, allowing them 'to preserve their distinctive identity, to promote their religious and cultural heritage' and to protect the delicate environment of the Tibetan plateau'.
The remarks are seen as reassurances to China's new leadership in the wake of re-established contact between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Chinese authorities. Last September, two special envoys of the Dalai Lama traveled to Beijing and Lhasa in what Tibetans hoped would signal a move towards concrete negotiations through dialogue.
In his statement, which marks the 1959 Lhasa Uprising against China's occupation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama went on to state that he would not play any political role in an autonomous Tibet and that he would dissolve the exile government should a suitable solution for Tibet be achieved. 'The Tibetan freedom struggle is not about my personal position or well being', he said adding that Tibet should be administered by a secular and democratic system of government. 'No Tibetan, whether in exile or in Tibet, has any desire to restore old Tibet's outdated social order'.
Opponents of Dharmsala's engagement policy remain skeptical. They point to the recent execution of Lobsang Dhondup, the continued detention of the child prisoner Gendhun Choekyi Nyima (the Panchen Lama) and discriminatory development programs as evidence that Beijing is no where near contemplating a better deal for Tibet.
'The facts speak for themselves', said Thubten Samdup, National President of the Canada Tibet Committee. 'The situation for Tibetans in Tibet is getting worse not better'. Samdup points out that the ongoing dialogues with China, whether between western nations such as Canada or with the Tibetan government in exile, have not produced any positive change on the ground.
'Western governments must exert political pressure on China so that the negotiation position of the Dalai Lama's representatives is strengthened by international support', Samdup said. 'Unfortunately, the Canadian government appears far from exerting such pressure, despite a request by more than 80 members of parliament to do so'.
Demonstrations will mark the March 10 commemoration in cities around the world and across Canada. In Ottawa, a rally on parliament hill and march to the Chinese Embassy will be jointly coordinated by the Canada Tibet Committee, the Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Cultural Association of Quebec, the Students for Free Tibet, Ottawa Friends of Tibet and the Tibetan Women's Association.
See www.tibet.ca for the following:
* Full text of Dalai Lama's March 10, 2003 statement
* Time and location of March 10 demonstrations in Canada
* A backgrounder on the events of March 10, 1959
* A backgrounder on the history of negotiations between China and Tibet