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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Kalon Tripa's Statement on 'Future Prospects for Tibet'

June 22, 2008

Central Tibetan Administration
June 20, 2008

Dharamshala -- Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, head of the
Kashag of the Central Tibetan Administration delivered a keynote
address on the 'Future Prospects for Tibet' at the India
International Centre in New Delhi on 16 June.

The lecture was convened by Dalip Mehta, the former ambassador of
India to Bhutan and Trustee of the Foundation for Universal
Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Around thirty people, including officials serving in the Indian
government, retired officials and senior correspondents attended the lecture.

The full text of the statement follows:

Outline of Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche's Talk on Middle-Way
Approach to Indian Dignitaries at the India International Centre
New Delhi
June 16, 2008


Tibet, widely known as a "land surrounded by snow mountains," is
situated on the roof of the world surrounded from all directions by
snow mountains such as the Himalayan ranges. Whether the Sanskrit
word "Bhota" is derived from Tibetan word "Bhod" or vice versa, both
has a similarity of pronunciation. In the Buddha's teachings Tibet
was referred as "land of snow in the north" (Uttara Himpradesh).
Vedic Rishis also called it "Trivishtab". Whatever the case, Tibet is
situated on a high plateau with clean air and is a source of major
rivers of Asia. Tibet has a vast land with small population and
remained economically self-reliant on the basis of need.

Archeological surveys revealed the evidence of human existence in
Tibet since the primitive age. However, Tibetan civilisation received
added strength in the 6th century and reached its peak in the 8th
century. Tibet also emerged as a powerful nation with a strong
military in Asia.

Tibetan ethnicity is distinct compared to other people in the region.
Tibetan features resemble a mix of Aryan and Mongolian races.

All Tibetans use the same language. Though there are different local
dialects, but after the invention of the script and grammar in the
7th century, all Tibetans use one language that is based on four
vowels and thirty consonants. It is a rich language with the capacity
to convey all Sanskrit terms accurately. Considering the time
duration and population, the Tibetan language has richest and highest
quality of literary output in the world both in terms of translation
and original composition. A large number of ancient Indian texts are
now available only in the Tibetan language. Since the Tibetan script
and grammar are invented based on Sanskrit it belongs to the Indian
language family.

After the advent of Buddhism in the 7th century, Tibetan culture and
civilisation flourished widely and quickly. These originate from the
Buddhist culture of India of the time.

Although Tibet emerged as strong and powerful nation until the
mid-9th century, it gradually disintegrated and remained without a
common ruler or central government for nearly three centuries.
However, there was no major obstacle in the advancement of religion
and culture. By the start of 13th century Tibet was invaded by
Genghis Khan and remained under Mongol control for more than 50
years. Gradually China also came under Mongol rule.

In 1260s Mongol emperor Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty of China
offered three Cholkas (provinces) to Drogon Choegyal Phagpa, which
restored Tibetan sovereignty to the Tibetans. Since then to 1640,
though Sakya, Phagdru, Ringpung and Tsangpa fought each other to rule
Tibet, there was no foreign invasion. In 1640s Mongol tribal leader
Gushri Khan invaded whole of Tibet and offered it to the Great Fifth
Dalai Lama to rule in 1642. Thus was founded the Gaden Phodrang
Government of Tibet. Since then it has now been 366 years. Later on
the Gaden Phodrang Government could not protect its Eastern borders.
As a result China gradually started encroaching and finally divided
it into "inner Tibet" and "outer Tibet".

Since the commencement of Priest-Patron relationship between China
and Tibet starting from Choegyal Phagpa, though there were many ups
and downs in the relationship but the outer structure of the
Priest-Patron relationship remained unchanged. After the founding of
the Gaden Phodrang Government, the Manchu Emperor invited the Fifth
Dalai Lama to China. This enhanced the Priest-Patron relationship
between the two. At first, it was purely a religious relationship
between the Priest, the teacher and the Patron, the student. This
relationship was devoid of any political overtones. However, in the
passage of time, this relationship was misinterpreted in many
different ways in order to achieve political advantage. During the
Sixth and Seventh Dalai Lamas, due to internal rivalry within Tibetan
leaders, coupled with Mongol interference etc, Tibetans were
compelled to seek help from the Manchu Emperors. In particular,
during the Gorkha War by the end of 17th century Tibetans were forced
to seek military help from the Manchus, which gradually paved the way
for many unpleasant incidents such as involvement of political
interference in the Priest-Patron relationship.


In the 19th century, British government tried several times to reach
out to Tibet through China under various pretexts. However none of
these endeavors were successful. Finally, in 1904 the British army
entered Tibet and signed a ceasefire treaty with the Tibetans.
Similarly, later Chinese attacks on Tibet were repulsed by the
Tibetans on their own. At the Shimla Convention and the Agreement of
1913/14 and during the subsequent events thereafter, the British
government engaged directly with Tibet to sign treaty when it served
their purpose and they accepted Chinese suzerainty over Tibet when
dealing directly with Tibet did not serve their interests. Due to
these self-contradictory positions of British government, the status
of Tibet remained unclear on the international level. However, the
demarcation of the present Indo-Tibetan border, which is at present
followed by the government of India, was made between the British and
Tibetans and there was no Chinese participation.

It was the weakness of the Tibetan leadership of not being able to
assert Tibetan sovereignty and the failure to be a member of the
League of Nations and subsequently the United Nations. Nevertheless,
both the Chinese and British had collectively tried to create
confusion at international level. In order to dispel these doubts,
the great Thirteenth Dalai Lama reiterated the status of Tibetan
independence in 1913.


Soon after the establishment of Communist rule in China in 1949,
Chinese army started invading Tibetan territories. The PRC considered
the 'liberation' of Tibet and Taiwan of the utmost urgency. Within a
year Chinese invasion reached Chamdo. It was termed as "forceful
liberation". Later on, Tibet was brought under Chinese rule when the
Tibetan delegation, consisting of Ngapoi, the Governor of Chamdo who
was held as prisoner of war together with his aides, and the others
who were sent from Tibet to China, were forced to sign the 17-Point
Agreement on 23 May 1951 under the pretext of negotiations. It was
termed as "peaceful liberation". This is quite similar to the
occupation of India by the British as explained by Mahatma Gandhi in
Hind Swaraj, Chapter 7.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government has sincerely
tried to implement the agreement since under the given national and
international situation there was no other options available at that
point of time. Moreover, His Holiness the Dalai Lama returned Lhasa
with confidence trusting the words of senior Chinese leaders of
Party, State and the Army, including Mao, when he met them during his
visit to China in 1954/55. However, unrest started unfolding in the
Eastern Tibetan regions of Kham and Amdo around 1956. In addition,
after the completion of road connection between Beijing-Lhasa
facilitating faster mobilisation of army and military equipments,
local Chinese officials deliberately violated the agreement by making
the situation even more critical. His Holiness the Dalai Lama's
appeal to the central leadership, including Mao, were left
unanswered. Finally there was a threat to the life of His Holiness
the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in Lhasa were compelled to carry out
peaceful uprising on 10 March 1959. On the night of 17 March, His
Holiness the Dalai Lama disguised as a common man escaped from
Norbulingka and eventually sought asylum in India.

On 31 March 1959, after reaching the Indian border, the Government of
India received His Holiness the Dalai Lama by offering him asylum. On
17 April 1959 at Tezpur, during his first meeting with the
international media, His Holiness the Dalai Lama renounced the
17-Point Agreement based on two reasons. The two reasons were that
the agreement was signed under duress and that the Chinese central
government themselves had deliberately violated all the clauses of
the agreement. Since then His Holiness the Dalai Lama declared to
strive for the revival of the Tibetan independence. This policy was
followed till 1979.


Since 1959, after seeking asylum in India, His Holiness the Dalai
Lama has been striving hard to resolve the Tibetan issue by
implementing wide-ranging programmes. However, different people see
the nature of Tibetan struggle differently.

a) Not a political ideological conflict
Some people think Tibetan struggle is a struggle between different
political ideologies and interprets Tibetan uprisings of the early
1950s and 60s as an uprising against Communism. Some people extend
their support to Tibet based on this reason. However, this is not the
truth. As long as the Tibetans are happy and contented, ideologies do
not matter to them. Moreover, certain aspects of Marxism appeal to
His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

b) Not an ethnic conflict
Some identify our struggle as an ethnic conflict between the Tibetans
and Han Chinese. Many even attempt to make it into an ethnic
conflict. But the Tibetans and Chinese have lived together as
neighbors since time immemorial by helping each other like brothers.
Especially after the commencement of the Priest-Patron relationship
in the 13th century, most of the Chinese Buddhists became followers
of Tibetan lineage of Buddhism. There were times when the two sides
fought wars. But these wars were few and scattered and for short
periods. For most of the time the two sides remained amicably and
even today there is no hatred between the Tibetans and Chinese.

c) Not a power struggle
Some suspect the Tibetan struggle is one of power struggle. The
Chinese side has unleashed a massive propaganda campaign to
misinterpret the Tibetan struggle as an attempt to revive the old
system of governance. Nothing is farther from truth. His Holiness the
Dalai Lama and the exile administration have never thought of holding
power in future Tibet. Not even in our dreams.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has declared time and again that He will
not hold any political or institutional position the moment Tibetan
issue is resolved for once and all. The officials of the exile
administration will also not aspire for political authority in Tibet.
They will lead the life of the common people. Therefore, the issue
between us is how to rule the people and not who will rule.

d) True nature of Tibetan struggle
Then, what is the true nature of Tibetan issue? It is an issue
between truth and false, justice and injustice. In other words, it is
an issue of difference in approach to fulfill one's duty. Tibetans
are not struggling for their rights but to perform their special duty
towards universal responsibility. The precious Buddhist tradition of
all the yanas, including vajra-yana, originated from the great land
of India is today not available in any other part of the world.
Preservation of this tradition, which is of immense value to all
living beings, is the true nature of our struggle. If we read
carefully the definition of "civilisation" as explained in Hind
Swaraj by Mahatma Gandhi, then one can exactly identify the true
nature of the Tibetan struggle.

Community that preserves Buddhist tradition should be a non-violent
society and there is a need to create non-violent environment for
such society. Therefore the broad vision to transform Tibet into a
zone of non-violence was suggested. Need for consistency between
means and ends is not only highlighted in Buddhist philosophy, but
Mahatma Gandhi also emphasised on this point. To conform our means
and ends we strive to adopt only non-violent means. As a result the
Tibetan movement at present is free from violence.

There are opposite ways of looking to our struggle from the two
sides. The Chinese consider us their enemy and our struggle as
struggle for victory and defeat and life and death. But we view the
authorities of People's Republic of China (PRC) as our potential
friends and our struggle as win-win to both sides. We do not struggle
for the victory of oneself and defeat of the opponent.

Undoubtedly, the Tibet problem is a direct result of a larger scheme
of modern power struggle among the nations, continents and
civilisations. Therefore, it is difficult to keep our movement away
from the larger conflict. But we are happy that under the leadership
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama we are able to protect ourselves until
now from becoming tools of the bigger powers.


The Lord Buddha first used the word "middle-way" in his first sermon.
It refers to the middle which avoids two extremes. At first it was
used in reference to ethics but later on it was more commonly used in
reference to philosophy. Going to extremes is divergence from the
truth and there is a need to have middle-way in every field.

In this case when we use the word "middle-way" in reference to
policy, the two extremes are 1) to seek separation from China and 2)
to remain within China under present condition. The essence of the
Middle-Way Approach is to seek meaningful national regional autonomy
status to all Tibetans as provided under the constitution of PRC by
avoiding these two extremes.


Since Tibet is a country which has remained independent for a long
period, what are the reasons for upholding the Middle-Way Approach
instead of restoring independence?

a) Given the realities of the present global scenario, it is
absolutely necessary for us to be pragmatic and realistic in
formulating any policy to conform to these realities.

b) Even if Tibet became independent and lived as a neighbour of
China, it will face unavoidable encroachment in the fields of
politics, economy and social matters.

c) Since Tibet is land-locked and situated on a high plateau, it has
to rely on others to meet its needs.

d) On the positive side if we remain with the PRC, this will be
helpful for our modern material development.

e) Under the present global scenario when there is a loosening of the
nation-state ideology, there is a trend towards greater unions, like
the European Union.

f) This will make it less inconvenient for friendly nations like
India to extent their support.

g) Since the PRC's constitution sufficiently provides national
regional autonomy provisions, this aspiration is legitimate and
within the Chinese constitution and it can be achieved.

i) Many areas of Kham and Amdo were gradually separated from Tibetan
sovereignty. In 1951 when Tibet lost its independence, Tibetan
territory was already reduced to the size of the present day
so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). Even if we managed to
restore independence, it is unlikely to extent beyond the territory
of the present so-called TAR. Since more than fifty percent of
Tibetan population lives outside of this area, it is impossible to
achieve the unification of all Tibetans. There are many other such reasons.

The reason why His Holiness the Dalai Lama chose autonomy as the
objective of the Tibetan struggle is quite similar to Gandhi's choice
of "self-rule; Swaraj'' instead of "independence". Gandhi's article
"Independence versus Swaraj" published on 12 January 1928 has been
the supreme guiding light for us in our path.

Detractors of Middle-Way Approach may think this as surrendering of
the Tibetan people's legitimate right. If we look at Chapter 4 of
Gandhi's Hind Swaraj titled "What is Swaraj?" then one can clearly
see our aspiration. To safe time I will not quote here.


Around 1968, under changing national and international situation, it
was clear to us that restoring Tibetan independence was difficult and
the means to resolve the Tibetan issue through autonomy was
suggested. Since then series of discussions and consultations were
held. Especially after internal consultations with the Kashag,
Speaker and Deputy Speaker in mid-1970s, the basis for the Middle-Way
Approach was established by formulating a new policy to seek
meaningful autonomy instead of independence when an opportunity for
negotiation arose.

In China, the turmoil of the Great Leap Forward and Cultural
Revolution came to an end. Post - Mao China witnessed major political
changes. Deng Xiaoping informed His Holiness the Dalai Lama through
his elder brother Mr. Gyalo Thondup, who was stationed in Hong Kong,
to consider returning home and declared that "except independence"
all other issues can be resolved through negotiation. This has paved
the way for new era of relationship between the Tibetans and Chinese.
Since His Holiness the Dalai Lama has already formulated a policy of
Middle-Way Approach it was easy for Him to respond immediately.

However, during the course of contacts substantial negotiations were
delayed without any concrete result. Similarly there was a shift in
the views of Chinese leaders. Therefore, in order to clarify the
background and framework of negotiation, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
issued the Five-Point Peace Plan in 1987. In his Strasbourg Proposal
of 1988, His Holiness the Dalai Lama outlined the detailed framework
for autonomy. But the Chinese termed it as semi-independence or
independence in disguise. Since China has rejected these proposals,
there was no further discussion on this and gradually the documents
became somewhat like ineffective. Contacts between the two sides
broke off in 1994.


Since the renewal of direct contacts in 2002, the Chinese side has
expressed deep suspicions and doubts concerning the Five-Point Peace
Plan and Strasbourg Proposal. In order to dispel these suspicions it
was explained that Five-Point Peace Plan is a future vision for the
benefit of entire humanity, including Chinese and Tibetans,
irrespective of the resolution to the Tibetan issue. The Preamble and
other explanations of the Strasbourg proposal are not a part of the
discussion agenda. The framework for autonomy that was outlined in
the text is only a proposal and not an ultimate decision. To avoid
suspicion from both sides on the proposal for negotiations, envoys
have, in a nutshell, explained our aspiration for implementation of
the provision of national regional autonomy enshrined in the PRC
constitution in its entirety in both letter and spirit. His Holiness
the Dalai Lama has also explained it several times. In his address to
the 4th World Parliamentarians' Convention on Tibet, 18 November
2005, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said,

"Basically, we are not seeking independence and everybody knows that.
What we are seeking is genuine, meaningful autonomy within the
framework of the constitution of the People's Republic of China."

Similarly on 10 March Statement of 2006, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said,

"I have stated time and again that I do not wish to seek Tibet's
separation from China, but that I will seek its future within the
framework of the Chinese constitution. Anyone who has heard this
statement would realise, unless his or her view of reality is clouded
by suspicion, that my demand for genuine self-rule does not amount to
a demand for separation."


Since China is a multi-national state, the reason behind adopting
provisions of national regional autonomy in the constitution of the
PRC is because it was impossible to achieve equality and unity among
nationalities without abandoning both Han chauvinism and local
nationalism. It was said, to ensure equality and unity among
nationalities the policy of national regional autonomy was formulated
based on nationality policy of Marxist-Leninism by criticising
exploitation of minority nationals in the past by previous Emperors
and the nationalist government, which caused the separation of nationalities.

Preamble of the PRC constitution states,

"The People's Republic of China is a unitary multi-national State
created jointly by the people of all its nationalities. Socialist
relations of equality, unity and mutual assistance have been
established among the nationalities and will continue to be
strengthened. In the struggle to safeguard the unity of the
nationalities, it is necessary to combat big-nation chauvinism,
mainly Han chauvinism, and to combat local national chauvinism. The
State will do its utmost to promote the common prosperity of all the

Similarly article 4 of the Chapter 1 states,

"All nationalities in the People's Republic of China are equal. The
State protects the lawful rights and interests of the minority
nationalities and upholds and develops a relationship of equality,
unity and mutual assistance among all of China's nationalities.
Discrimination against and oppression of any nationality are
prohibited; any act which undermines the unity of the nationalities
or instigates division is prohibited.

The State assists areas inhabited by minority nationalities in
accelerating their economic and cultural development according to the
characteristic and needs of the various minority nationalities.

Regional autonomy is practised in areas where people of minority
nationalities live in concentrated communities; in these areas organs
of self-government are established to exercise the power of autonomy.
All national autonomy areas are integral parts of the People's
Republic of China.

All nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own
spoken and written language and to preserve or reform their own
folkways and customs."

Article 112 to 122 of Section 6 of the constitution explains in
detail organs of national regional autonomy.

Article 116 empowers local people's congress of the national regional
autonomy areas to enact regulations in accordance with the need of the areas.

Article 117 and 118 explains provisions of autonomy in the field of
economy and financial development.

Article 119 provides autonomous provisions in educational,
scientific, cultural, public health and physical culture affairs.

Article 120 explains provision of autonomy to organise local public
security forces for the maintenance of public order.

Article 121 explains provision to use local language of the area as
an official language. Similarly article 134 of Section 7 on Judiciary
provides provisions to use local language in judicial proceedings.

Preamble of National Regional Autonomy Law (NRA Law) states,

"Regional national autonomy means that the minority nationalities,
under unified state leadership, practise regional autonomy in areas
where they live in concentrated communities and set up organs of
self-government for the exercise of power of autonomy. Regional
national autonomy embodies the state's full respect for and guarantee
of the right of the minority nationalities to administer their
internal affairs and its adherence to the principle of equality,
unity and common prosperity for all its nationalities."

Article 10 of Chapter 1 on General Principles of NRA Law guarantees
the freedom to use and develop one's own spoken and written language
and to preserve one's own folkways and customs.

Article 11 clearly guarantees freedom of religion.

Similarly ariticle 19 of Chapter 3 provides provision to adopt
autonomy regulations.

Article 20 provides rights to not to implement resolution, decision,
order or instruction of a state organ at a higher level if it does
not suit the conditions of the autonomous areas.

Article 43 provides provision to work out measures for control of the
transient population.

Likewise there are sufficient provisions to ensure self-rule and
autonomy in terms of culture, economy, usage of natural resources,
taxation, trade, health, public security and education.

Moreover article 31 of the constitution provides provision to
establish special administrative regions when necessary. This
essentially provides that accept foreign relations and national
defence, all other affairs are left under the domain of the
administration of regional autonomy.

If these provisions of constitution and autonomy law are implemented
in true spirit it will ensure the welfare of Tibetan people and the
protection of Tibet's unique culture, religion, tradition and
language. It will further enable Tibetans to perform their universal
responsibility. However, at present, unfortunately it is a universal
fact that none of these provisions are implemented in all Tibetan
autonomous region, prefectures and counties.

All Tibetans lived together on the Tibetan plateau since time
immemorial, sharing the same religion, culture, language, customs,
geographical location and livelihood, and if the PRC truly accepts
Tibetan nationality as one of the 55 minority nationalities of China
as they already claim, one cannot divide them into different parts or
designate them into inner or outer region and smaller or greater. It
is essential to implement self-rule provided under the provisions of
national regional autonomy to all Tibetans.

PRC's Concerns and Differences in Opinion

Since 2002 six rounds of meetings were held. Though we have time and
again clearly explained our aspirations of Middle-Way Approach, they
still do not understand or prefer not to understand. Though there are
many differences in opinion, it comes down to two main points.
Firstly difference on history and secondly regarding the unification
of Tibetans.

The Chinese side insists that His Holiness the Dalai Lama accept
Tibet was part of China from a historical point of view. Tibetan side
has explained that is not true. Therefore, His Holiness the Dalai
Lama is not in a position to accept it. Chinese concern is that if we
do not accept Tibet as a part of China from past history, then
liberation of 1951 will be considered as invasion and the present
Chinese rule of Tibet will be viewed as illegal occupation. His
Holiness the Dalai Lama sees that no nation today has remained the
same as its past history and this will never make the present status
illegitimate. Tibet will naturally become a legitimate part of China
the moment Tibetans have voluntarily decided to remain as a part of
the PRC. For such a thing to happen, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
repeatedly agreed to work on this.

Similarly the Chinese side supports their position by saying that
united Tibet has never happened in history and it will be impossible
to change the boundaries of the present provinces. To this we
explained that since time immemorial the Tibetans lived together in
concentrated and compacted groups and not scattered. For larger
period of the history, all the Tibetan were ruled by the early Kings
as well as during the early period of Sakya reign. Moreover, PRC
considers Tibetan nationality as one of the 55 minority
nationalities, it is imperative that Tibetans come under one single
administration. If Tibetan nationality does not come under one single
administration then this will be tantamount to a policy of ''Divide
and Rule" as practiced by the past imperialist regimes. Especially,
this aspiration is not a new aspiration. During the signing of
17-Point Agreement, the Tibetan delegation raised the unification of
the Tibetan nationality. The Chinese side responded by saying that
the time was not yet ripe but the idea of unification of the Tibetan
nationality was appropriate. This was again discussed during the
meeting on the establishment of the Preparatory Committee of the TAR
and a special committee to make a detailed plan was appointed under
the leadership of senior Communist Party cadre, Sangye Yeshi (Tian
Bao). However, due to ultra-leftist policy this could not
materialise. Similarly there are many incidents where the boundaries
of the provinces are altered according to the needs of the time. In
the future too boundaries can be altered.

Though Chinese side has unleashed massive propaganda to project that
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is demanding a "greater Tibet" and "high
degree autonomy", but in reality Tibetans are one single nationality
and it cannot be divided into greater or smaller parts. Our
aspiration is to implement the provisions of national regional
autonomy as enshrined in the PRC constitution. Apart from that we
have never talked about high degree or low degree autonomy. We see
that these differences can be resolved if PRC leadership possesses
political will.
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