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

A way forward: perspectives from inside Tibet

November 19, 2008

International Campaign for Tibet
November 17, 2008

Dharmasala, November 17. This morning, Tibetan government ministers,
parliamentarians, activists, representatives of Tibetan
non-governmental and community organizations and independent
intellectuals met in Dharamsala, India, in the opening session of a
Special Meeting convened by the Dalai Lama to discuss Tibet's future.
It is a historic juncture for the Tibetan people at a moment of
crisis in Tibet, after a wave of protests against Chinese rule swept
across the plateau from March 10 for several months.

Opening the meeting, the Tibetan exile Prime Minister Samdhong
Rinpoche, the Kalon Tripa, said: "We believe this meeting will be
considered an important event in our history." He stated that the
main objectives of the Special Meeting are as follows: (i) to have
open and frank discussions on the issue of Tibet at a critical time
(ii) to invite views and comments on the Tibetan government in
exile's policies and strategies (iii) and to ensure that whatever
position is taken on Tibet, it has the clear mandate of the people
and is communicated internationally. The full text of the opening
statement is online at http://www.tibet.net/.

Woeser, Tibet's best-known writer, described the meeting in her blog
as follows: "There may never in history have been another gathering
that so stirred the hearts of Tibetans at home and abroad. This is
primarily because Tibetans have never before been separated for so
long. To the more than one hundred thousand Tibetans in exile, the
Tibet on this side of the Himalayas is their homeland. To the almost
six million Tibetans within the borders, on the far side of the
Himalayas lies another Tibet which, though very small, contains Tibet's soul."

In the opening address today, the Kalon Tripa made it clear that the
views of Tibetans inside Tibet would be taken into account during the
meeting, saying: "Many Tibetans from Tibet have sent in their
opinions for this Special Meeting for which the Kashag [Tibetan
Cabinet] expresses its heartfelt gratitude." The Dalai Lama has
stated that these views are vitally important and matter most at this
time. Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile, Karma Choephel,
revealed today that the views of roughly 17,000 Tibetans in Tibet had
been presented to the government as follows: more than 8,000 said
they would follow the Dalai Lama's policies whatever he decided; more
than 5,000 said the present Middle Way policy (seeking genuine
autonomy under the People's Republic of China) should change to one
of independence, and some 2,000 Tibetans said the government in exile
should continue the Middle Way approach. No information was given as
to the methodology of the poll, which was conducted clandestinely in Tibet.

In a statement on November 14, the Tibetan leader said: "Taking into
account the inspiring courage being shown by people all over Tibet
this year, the current world situation, and the present intransigent
stance of the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC), all
the participants, as Tibetan citizens should discuss in a spirit of
equality, cooperation and collective responsibility the best possible
future course of action to advance the Tibetan cause. This meeting
should take place in an atmosphere of openness, putting aside
partisan debate. Rather, it should focus on the aspirations and views
of the Tibetan people."

To mark the Special Meeting, every day this week the International
Campaign for Tibet will publish translations in English of articles
and perspectives by Tibetans in Tibet, allowing views that would
otherwise be hidden or inaccessible to reach an international audience.

Tibet's future: the need to be resolute

In an authoritative article about the issues under discussion at the
Special Meeting, published by the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia
(http://www.rfa.org/) and also on a Chinese-language blog, Tibet's
famous contemporary writer Woeser presents the differing strategies
that face the Tibetan people in confronting an increasingly
intransigent Chinese leadership.

She writes: "If I may offer a composite of the opinions of several
contemporary intellectuals who live within the PRC, they think that
the decision of His Holiness was exactly right (even though it seems
to have been forced on him by events), because it will lead to better
preparations for the future. Whatever path is chosen in the future
will not be immutable." Woeser writes about monks tortured after the
demonstrations in March, some still scarred after their wrists were
tied by police with steel wire, who still believe in the Dalai Lama's
policy of the 'Middle Way' of genuine autonomy, and others who feel
that independence is the only way forward. Commenting on the view of
some that the situation in Tibet is too bleak and desperate to hope
for change, Woeser says: "But young Tibetans retort that this view
overlooks the numerous crises that lie hidden behind Communist
China's facade of power and greatness, and it also overlooks the
vitality and creativity of Tibetans and Tibetan culture."

Comments on Woeser's article and the Special Meeting are translated
from Chinese into English below. One anonymous Tibetan comments that
the meeting is not likely to result in establishing a 'path' for the
future of Tibet but rather marks a new sense of responsibility and
maturity of the Tibetan people and government in exile. The
commentator writes: "I don't think this meeting will decide upon a
clear path, but the significance of this meeting does not lie in
choosing a path. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has made it clear
recently that no matter what path Tibetans take China will put an
"independence" hat on it! The CCP has absolutely no intention of
discussing the Tibetan people's suffering. And seeing as this is so,
there's no need for us to decide upon a path. The true significance
of this meeting lies in the Tibetan people starting to unravel the
ties that bind politics to religion. Tibetans have taken the first
step of responsibility for their people and country. If the past 50
years has been about Tibetans being like children and passing on
their responsibilities onto His Holiness, then this meeting today is
the ceremony for this child becoming an adult!"
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