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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

"Tibet at a Crossroads"

October 13, 2008

Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari - Special Envoy of the Dalai Lama makes a speech
at Harvard University.
October 10, 2008

Remarks by Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari Special Envoy of H.H. the Dalai Lama
at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University,
October 8, 2008

Tibet at a Crossroads
The Current Status of Discussions Between His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and the Government of the People's Republic of China

I would like to thank the Institute of Politics of the Kennedy School
of Government for providing this opportunity to discuss the current
status of discussions between envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and the Chinese government.  I also want to thank the Harvard
University Asia Center, The Belfer Center for Science and
International Affairs, and The Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
for co-sponsoring this event.

In my capacity as Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I
have been entrusted by him to serve as the lead interlocutor to
engage the Chinese leadership in finding a mutually satisfactory
solution to the issue of Tibet.

Current Status of our Dialogue Process

Since 2002, my delegation has held seven rounds of meetings with our
Chinese counterparts, the latest one in July this year. Our two sides
have agreed to meet later this month for the eighth round. Through
these talks, for the first time after decades of being in and out of
contact, we have been able to convey to the Chinese leadership in an
unambiguous manner the position of His Holiness and the steps that
need to be taken in order for the Tibetan problem to be resolved. Our
talks have enabled us to understand better the Chinese government's
position and concerns regarding the future of Tibet.

As I speak to you, we are preparing for the next round of talks in
earnest as we want to see some forward movement to the Tibetan issue,
which is certainly at a crossroads.  In the course of our discussions
during the sixth (held in June/July 2007) and the seventh (held in
July 2008) rounds we candidly conveyed to the Chinese leadership that
in the absence of serious and sincere commitment on their part the
continuation of the present dialogue process would serve no purpose.
If during this upcoming round there is no perceptible change in the
attitude of the Chinese leadership, then, as I have already made it
clear to my counterparts, we may be compelled to conclude that this
is a confirmation of their lack of seriousness and sincerity in the
dialogue process.

After the fourth round in 2005 we believed our talks reached a
critical stage when our discussions touched real, substantive points.
However, around and during the sixth round in June-July 2007 the
Chinese position changed and became hardened. We felt the Chinese
authorities trying to change the very framework of our discussions by
saying there was no Tibet issue and that the only issue was that of
the personal welfare of the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama had
categorically said that there was nothing to discuss about his
personal matters and that we were there to talk about the problems
that the Tibetan people were facing. The issue at hand is the welfare
of the Tibetan people and is not about the personal status and
affairs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama or that of the Tibetans in
exile.  Around the same time the Chinese officials also began
clamping down on the Tibetan people in Tibet and increasing their
negative rhetoric against the Dalai Lama.

Thus, following the sixth round in 2007 we had basically made it
clear that we would not go forward on the process unless the Chinese
side showed a readiness to talk about the Tibetan issue.

However, the political climate altered drastically following the
widespread Tibetan demonstrations in March this year throughout the
Tibetan plateau, the area that we call Tibet. These protests clearly
demonstrated the Tibetan people's genuine and deep-rooted
discontentment with the People's Republic of China's policies. China
resorted to repression and persecution to respond to this situation.
The urgent need for serious and sincere efforts to address this issue
with courage and vision in the interest of stability, unity and
harmony of all nationalities of the PRC became obvious.  The Chinese
leadership's shortsighted policy of resorting to fueling
nationalistic sentiments among ethnic Chinese against Tibetans, as
part of their effort to clamp down on the Tibetans, vitiated the
atmosphere. It appeared as if the Chinese leadership was treating the
Tibetan people as a community outside the family of the People's
Republic of China. His Holiness thus felt that we needed to do
something to calm the situation. Accordingly, we sought an emergency
informal meeting with my Chinese counterparts and my colleague Envoy
Kelsang Gyaltsen and I met them in Shenzhen in May.

Our main purpose of seeking this urgent informal meeting was to
discuss the critical situation in Tibet. We rejected categorically
the accusation made against His Holiness the Dalai Lama of
instigating the demonstrations and unrest in Tibet. Instead we made
it clear that the events in Tibet are the inescapable consequences of
wrong policies of the authorities towards the Tibetans, which goes
back several decades. The recent crisis in Tibet is a clear symptom
of deeply felt grievances and resentment of the Tibetans with these
policies. We said the task at hand is to address the legitimate
concerns of the Tibetan people in a realistic and constructive way.

We urged the Chinese leadership to end repression throughout Tibet.
We also called for the release of prisoners, to allow those injured
to be given proper medical treatment and give unfettered access to
visitors, including the media.

I felt that despite major differences on important issues both sides
demonstrated a willingness to seek common approaches in addressing
the issues at hand. As a result both sides reached an understanding
in Shenzhen to continue the formal round of discussions. We thus
ended up meeting in July in Beijing for our seventh round of talks.

Given the developments we had hoped that the Chinese leadership would
reciprocate our efforts by taking tangible steps during this seventh
round. We had suggested some possible initiatives, including the
issuance of a joint statement confirming the commitment of both sides
to the dialogue process. May be influenced by their excessive concern
about legitimacy the Chinese side even failed to agree to our
proposal of issuing a joint statement. Similarly, they also resorted
to raising issues relating to Tibetan history.  As we have repeatedly
conveyed, revisiting history will not serve any useful purpose, as
the Tibetans and Chinese sides have different viewpoints of their
past relations.  We have therefore chosen to base our approach on
Tibet's future, not on the past.  Debates over Tibet's history,
before we have reached mutual trust and confidence, are counter
productive, making it more difficult for the Tibetans and Chinese
alone to untangle this issue.

While the Chinese side seems to have realized that their allegations
against His Holiness for instigating the recent events in Tibet have
become untenable, during the seventh round, they wanted His Holiness
not to support violence, terrorism, and sabotaging the Olympics. They
specifically identified the Tibetan Youth Congress, an organization
of Tibetans in exile, as being a terrorist organization. We stated in
the strongest possible terms that no one needs to urge us on this as
His Holiness and the Tibetan struggle are universally acknowledged
and appreciated for consistently rejecting and opposing violence.  As
for the Tibetan Youth Congress, while it was a fact that it stood for
independence of Tibet we rejected the Chinese Government's charge of
it being a terrorist or indulging in violence.

Since we have been consistently calling for the full implementation
of all autonomous provisions for the Tibetan people, one constructive
outcome during our seventh round was the willingness of the Chinese
Central Government to receive suggestions from us on matters relating
to the stability and development of Tibet and specific ideas on all
aspects of regional autonomy within the framework of the Constitution
of the People's Republic of China. We are taking this up seriously
and have been working on formulating our suggestions, based on the
provisions of the Chinese Constitution and the relevant statutes, on
the principal issues concerning the Tibetan people.  While we have
had the opportunity to convey our views to the Chinese leadership on
such matters in the past, too, we feel that the coming round will
certainly be a test to see how serious they are on this.

The Dalai Lama is the most patient of a leader, but he, too, is
beginning to feel concerned that his efforts are leading
nowhere.  Over the years the Dalai Lama has encouraged the
democratization of the Tibetan leadership in exile and must function
within this democratic system.  In September, the Dalai Lama
suggested to the Tibetan Parliament in Exile that a Special Meeting
of the Tibetan community be convened to discuss the status of the
Tibetan issue, the situation inside Tibet and the Tibet movement
internationally.  This meeting is now being convened in November and
already a public discussion has begun on the possible outcome of this
meeting and its impact on our dialogue process.

The Tibetan issue is, indeed at a crossroads.

In 1979 Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping reached out to the personal
emissary of the Dalai Lama and laid down the framework for resolving
the issue of Tibet by stating that other than the issue of Tibetan
independence anything else could be discussed and resolved.  1The
Dalai Lama on his part had, since the 1970's, taken the difficult but
courageous position to find a mutually beneficial solution for the
future of Tibet within the People's Republic of China. This approach
came to be known subsequently as his Middle Way approach. He thus
responded positively to Deng Xiaoping.

The Dalai Lama's Middle Way approach also embodies his deep concern
for the survival of the Tibetan identity, culture, religion, and way
of life.  It was adopted by His Holiness after deliberating at length
with Tibetan leaders in exile over many years.  It is now fully
endorsed by the democratically established institutions in exile,
including the Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies and the popularly
elected Chairman of the Cabinet, Professor Samdhong
Rinpoche.  Rinpoche's role in this effort has been crucial. Because
of prevailing conditions His Holiness is not in a position to openly
seek the endorsement of the Tibetans inside Tibet.   Nevertheless, he
has used every opportunity to explain his approach and has received
favorable reactions from all levels of Tibetan society. He has also
been encouraged by the strong support expressed by a number of
Chinese intellectuals and scholars.

The Middle Way approach represents the Dalai Lama's commitment to
look to the future, instead of the past, to find a solution that will
provide maximum autonomy for the Tibetan people and bring peace and
stability to the People's Republic of China and the entire region.

Single Administration for the Tibetan People

Allow me to share with you briefly our position on the Tibetan issue.

Since His Holiness the Dalai Lama has addressed the fundamental
concern of the Chinese government about the status of Tibet, it is
our expectation that they should reciprocate by acknowledging the
legitimate needs of the Tibetan people.

Today, less than half of the Tibetan people reside in the Tibet
Autonomous Region.  The rest reside in Tibetan autonomous counties
and prefectures in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. All
Tibetans residing in these Tibetan areas share the same language,
ethnicity, culture, and tradition.2   Furthermore, just as the
Chinese nation has sought to unify many different regions into one
nation, the Tibetan people, too, yearn to be under one administrative
entity so that their way of life, tradition, and religion can be more
effectively and peacefully maintained.

Historically the division of a nationality area into many
administrative units contributed to the weakening and erosion of that
nationality's unique characteristics, as well as its ability to grow
and develop.  This can also hinder or even undermine the nation's
peace, stability and development.  Such a situation is in
contradiction to the founding goals of the People's Republic of
China, namely the recognition of the equality of all
nationalities.   Thus in order to thrive, the Tibetan people cannot
remain divided, but must be accorded the equality and respect
befitting a distinct people.

The Chinese side makes the argument that the present-day Tibet
Autonomous Region parallels the area under the former Tibetan
government.  Thus, their argument continues, our position that the
entire Tibetan people need to live under a single administrative
entity is unreasonable.  This question will lead us inevitably to the
examination of Tibet's historical legal status under the Tibetan
government and will not help in reaching a common ground on which to
build a common future.  The Chinese Government has redrawn internal
boundaries when it has suited its needs3 and could do so again in the
case of Tibet to foster stability and to help ensure Tibet's
characteristics remain intact.  The point here is not about
territorial division, but how to best promote Tibet's culture and way of life.

The Chinese side is also characterizing our position as a demand for
the separation of one-fourth the territory of the People's Republic
of China. First of all, since the Tibetans are not asking for the
separation of Tibet from China, there should be no concern on this
front. More importantly, it is a reality that the landmass inhabited
by Tibetans constitutes roughly one-fourth the territory of the
People's Republic of China.  Actually, the Chinese government has
already designated almost all Tibetan areas as Tibet autonomous
entities: the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibet Autonomous Prefectures
or Tibet Autonomous Counties.4   Thus, our positions on what
constitutes Tibet are really not so divergent.

Having the Tibetan people under a single administrative entity should
not be seen as an effort to create a "greater" Tibet, nor is it a
cover for a separatist plot.  It is a question of recognizing,
restoring and respecting the integrity of the Tibetans as a people
and distinct nationality within the People's Republic of
China.  Furthermore, this is not a new or revolutionary idea.  From
the beginning, the Tibetans have raised this issue and
representatives of the Chinese government have recognized it as one
that must be addressed.  In fact during the signing of the 17 Point
Agreement in 1951, Premier Zhou Enlai acknowledged that the idea of
unification of the Tibetan nationalities was
appropriate.5   Similarly, in 1956 Vice Premier Chen Yi was in Lhasa
and said that it would be good for Tibet's development as well as for
the friendship of Tibetans and Chinese if in the future the Tibet
Autonomous Region included all ethnic Tibetan areas, including those
now in other provinces.6

The Tibetan people are striving for the right of a distinct people to
be able to preserve that very distinctiveness through a single
administrative entity.  This would give the Tibetans a genuine sense
of having benefited by being part of the People's Republic of China
and would embody the respect for the integrity of the Tibetans as a
distinct people.

The Chinese leadership is clearly aware that this aspiration of the
Tibetan people is voiced not just by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
the Tibetans in exile, but by Tibetans inside Tibet, including
prominent members of the Communist Party. This was clearly
demonstrated earlier this year when there was the spontaneous public
display by Tibetans throughout the Tibetan plateau of their common
feeling of resentment against Chinese policies.  This development was
also an indication of the need to find a comprehensive solution to
the issue that encompasses all Tibetans.

Meaningful Autonomy for the Tibetan People

According to the Chinese Constitution, the law on Regional Ethnic
Autonomy7  as well as the White Paper on Regional Ethnic Autonomy in
Tibet,8 the Tibetan people are entitled to the following rights: full
political right of autonomy; full decision-making power in economic
and social development undertakings; freedom to inherit and develop
their traditional culture and to practice their religious belief; and
freedom to administer, protect and be the first to utilize their
natural resources, to independently develop their educational and
cultural undertakings.

Similarly, the Chinese Constitution says:

"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 the relationship of equality,
unity and mutual assistance among all of China's nationalities...
Regional autonomy is practiced in areas where people of minority
nationalities live in compact communities, in these areas organs of
self-government are established for the exercise of the right of autonomy. "9

In treating the Tibetan people with respect and dignity through
genuine autonomy, the Chinese leadership has the opportunity to
create a truly multi-ethnic, harmonious nation without a tremendous
cost in human suffering.  As Hu Yaobang, then General Secretary of
the Chinese Communist Party, said:

"It is not possible to achieve a genuine unity amongst the
nationalities of the country as long as complete autonomy is not
implemented in the areas of the minority nationalities..." 10

Some detractors in the Chinese Government allege that our proposal
for a single administrative entity for the Tibetan people and the
implementation of genuine regional autonomy as provided in the
Constitution is really an effort to restore Tibet's former system of
government in Tibet today, or an effort by His Holiness the Dalai
Lama to personally regain power over all of Tibet.  Nothing is
farther from the truth. In his March 10, 2005 statement His Holiness
reiterated his position saying,

"My involvement in the affairs of Tibet is not for the purpose of
claiming certain personal rights or political position for myself nor
attempting to stake claims for the Tibetan administration in exile.
In 1992 in a formal announcement I stated clearly that when we return
to Tibet with a certain degree of freedom I will not hold any office
in the Tibetan government or any other political position and that
the present Tibetan administration in exile will be dissolved.
Moreover, the Tibetans working in Tibet should carry on the main
responsibility of administering Tibet."11

The task at hand is to develop a system that would grant the kind of
autonomy required for the Tibetans to be able to survive as a
distinct and prosperous people within the People's Republic of China.
So far in our discussions with our Chinese counterparts we have not
proposed specific labels for how Tibetan areas would be designated,
such as a special administrative region, although it should be noted
that the Chinese-authored 17 Point Agreement12 does propose a similar
arrangement for Tibet. Nor have we specifically proposed formulas
that ask for higher or lower levels of autonomy than Hong Kong and
Macao.  Each of these areas has its unique characteristics, and in
order to succeed, their solutions must reflect the needs and
qualities of the region.  We have specifically conveyed to our
counterparts that we place more importance on discussing the
substance than on the label.

The Tibetans have the legitimate right to seek special status, as can
be seen in the following quote by Ngapo Ngawang Jigme.  He is the
most senior Tibetan in China's hierarchy who, by virtue of his
position, has endorsed many of China's views on Tibet.  In 1988 he said,

"It is because of the special situation in Tibet that in 1951 the
Seventeen Point Agreement on the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet,
between the central people's government and the local Tibetan
government, came about.  Such an agreement has never existed between
the central government and any other minority regions.  We have to
consider the special situation in Tibetan history while drafting
policies for Tibet in order to realize its long-term stability.  We
must give Tibet more autonomous power than other minority regions. In
my view, at present, Tibetan Autonomous Region has relatively less
power of autonomy compared with other autonomous regions, let alone
compared with provinces.  Therefore Tibet must have some special
treatment and have more autonomy like those special economic
zones.  We must employ special policies to resolve the special
characteristics which have pertained throughout history." 13

Other important Tibetan leaders, including the late Panchen
Lama14  and Bapa Phuntsok Wangyal,15  have strongly advocated the
legitimacy of Tibet's special status. Similarly, the former General
Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Hu Yaobang, had
acknowledged that Tibet is unique from other autonomous regions and
provinces and has argued that the validity of Tibet's special status
must not be contested.

Other Issues Needing Clarity

There are some issues, which are based on misperceptions of His
Holiness's views by detractors in the Chinese side, including the
allegation that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is asking for all Tibetan
areas to be populated solely by Tibetans and to be rid of the
People's Liberation Army.   The detractors in the Chinese government
have deliberately misinterpreted His Holiness' concerns in these
areas, just as they denounce any effort to manifest the Tibetan
identity as separatist.  His Holiness has very honestly expressed the
need for the Tibetan people to maintain their distinctive way of life
and protect Tibet's fragile environment. He has had this in mind when
he raises concerns about the large influx of people from other parts
of the People's Republic of China and the extensive militarization of
Tibetan areas.  We are fully aware that these are issues of concern
to the Chinese government as these matters have been extensively
discussed during our meetings.  I am confident that through the
negotiations process we will be able to dispel these concerns.

Benefits of Resolving the Tibet Issue Now

Providing genuine autonomy to the Tibetan people is in China's
interest as it makes efforts to create a peaceful, stable and
harmonious society.  But resolving the Tibetan issue is also
important to the international community, particularly to our
region.  The historically volatile Central Asian region has revived
and has already become an area of conflict.  Here Tibet can play a
stabilizing role, which is important to the countries in the region
such as India, China, and Russia, as well as to the United States and
other countries.  Tibet, which for centuries played the vital role as
a buffer in the region, can help create a more cohesive and stable
region by serving as a valuable bridge.  A number of political
observers from the region also acknowledge that resolving the Tibet
issue is an important factor in the normalization of India-China
relations.16  Understanding the great mutual benefit for all
concerned, His Holiness has consistently supported closer India-China

There is also increased awareness of the vital importance of the
Tibetan plateau from the environmental perspective.  Just on the
issue of water alone, it is an undeniable fact that over the next few
decades water may become as scarce a commodity as oil. Tibet is
literally the life-source of the region, serving as the source of
most of Asia's major rivers.   Therefore, protecting Tibet's fragile
environment should be accorded the highest priority.

The Dalai Lama is widely recognized and admired for his honesty and
integrity.  He has been pragmatic and flexible in wanting to
negotiate with the leadership in Beijing on the kind of status Tibet
should enjoy in the future and has held steadfast to his commitment
to non-violence and dialogue as the only logical means of resolving
the issue of Tibet.

Every Tibetan, including communist cadres as well as independence
advocates, reveres His Holiness.  It is a reality today that in spite
of their tremendous suffering resulting from some of China's
policies, the Tibetans have not resorted to non-peaceful means to
respond to this injustice.  This is largely because of the unwavering
insistence on peace and reconciliation by the Dalai Lama and the hope
he provides to his people.

Some detractors in the Chinese Government seem to believe that the
aspirations of the Tibetan people will fizzle out once the Dalai Lama
passes away. This is a most dangerous and myopic approach. Certainly,
the absence of the Dalai Lama would be devastating for the Tibetan
people. But more importantly his absence would mean that China would
be left to handle the problem without the presence of a leader who
enjoys the loyalty of the entire community and who remains firmly
committed to non-violence.  It is certain that the Tibetan position
would become more intractable in his absence, and that having had
their beloved leader pass away in exile would create deep and
irreparable wounds in the hearts of the Tibetan people.

In the absence of the Dalai Lama, there is no way that the entire
population would be able to contain their resentment and anger. If we
go by some of the reports that came out of Tibet in the aftermath of
the Spring uprisings one of them quoted a Tibetan from Amdo as saying
that if the issue remains unresolved and the Dalai Lama passes away,
there would be a volcano-type eruption of the sentiments in Tibet.
And it only takes a few desperate individuals or groups to create
major instability. This is not a threat, but a statement of fact.

The Dalai Lama's world view, his special bond with the Tibetan people
and the respect he enjoys in the international community all make the
person of the Dalai Lama key both to achieving a negotiated solution
to the Tibetan issue and to peacefully implementing any agreement
that is reached.  This is why we have consistently conveyed to our
Chinese counterparts that far from being the problem, His Holiness
the Dalai Lama is the solution.

To date, the Chinese authorities have resorted to political and
military pressure, and intimidation to stifle the Tibetan
people.  This is clearly demonstrated by their action against the
Tibetan demonstrators early this year, including the encouragement of
nationalistic feelings against Tibetans, and their subsequent
clampdown in all Tibetan areas. These actions can not only harm the
sincere efforts by both sides for a mutually beneficial
reconciliation, but also create embarrassment and difficulty to the
Chinese leadership; they will do substantial damage to China's
efforts to be a peaceful and responsible power internationally and
the creation of a harmonious society at home.

As my colleague, Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen, and I have conveyed to our
Chinese counterparts during our meetings, the task before us is not
impossible.  The seemingly insurmountable gaps between us can be
diminished through honest discourse and hard work. With His Holiness'
unambiguous commitment to the integrity and sovereignty of the
People's Republic of China, China's leaders must recognize the
aspirations of the Tibetans to survive as a distinct people, a
commitment that is already enshrined in China's laws.

Today's Chinese leadership under President Hu Jintao calls for a
"harmonious society" within China and "peaceful rise"
internationally. President Hu himself is perceived by many as being a
hardliner, particularly on account of developments in Tibet
Autonomous Region during his tenure there as the Party Secretary in
the mid 1980s, and he has not taken any visible steps to alter this
perception.  However, if his public statement in May this year about
wanting a positive outcome in our dialogue process on Tibet was not
motivated by other considerations, it is our belief that President Hu
could take a courageous stand on resolving the Tibetan
issue.  Philosophically, His Holiness the Dalai Lama's
forward-looking approach to Tibet's future shares a common vision
with his call for harmonious society and peaceful development.
Similarly, Premier Wen Jiabao has also made some references to the
Tibetan issue, the most recent one during an interview to CNN in
September.  In addition to the usual rhetoric he seems to acknowledge
an understanding of the importance of the institution of the Dalai Lama.

I hope the Chinese leadership seizes this opportunity. His Holiness
is widely recognized and admired for his honesty and integrity. He
has been pragmatic and flexible in wanting to negotiate with the
leadership in Beijing on the kind of status Tibet should enjoy in the
future, and has held steadfast to his commitment to non-violence and
dialogue as the only means of resolving the issue of Tibet.

Before I conclude, I want to mention that the present dialogue
process was initiated during the time of President Jiang Zemin. He
even intervened personally a number of times to ensure that our
dialogue process was not hampered.

We have no illusions that coming to a negotiated solution will be
easy.  Having identified each others' position and differences, it is
now our sincere hope that both sides can start making serious efforts
to find a common ground and to build trust. As I have our two sides
have agreed to meet later this month during which the Chinese side
has agreed to receive suggestions from us on matters relating to the
stability and development of Tibet and specific ideas on all aspects
of regional autonomy within the framework of the Constitution of the
People's Republic of China. We will be presenting them with our
suggestions during this upcoming round and feel that this will
certainly be a test to see how serious the Chinese leadership is in
resolving the Tibetan issue.

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