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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?"

Perspectives from inside Tibet

November 21, 2008

A series by ICT to mark the Special Meeting in Dharamsala, India,
November 17-22, 2008
ICT Report
November 18, 2008

On the second day of the Special Meeting in Dharamsala, bringing
together Tibetans from the diaspora worldwide and including new
arrivals from Tibet, the Prime Minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Tibetan
government in exile clarified the process of the meeting and its
possible outcome. He said that the first day had been very
"emotionally charged", with each of the 15 sub-committees discussing
a wide range of issues relating to the current situation in Tibet and
strategies for the future.

In answer to a question about whether the government in exile would
change its policy from the current Middle Way approach of genuine
autonomy under the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China
(PRC), the Kalon Tripa said today: "We are totally following the
democratic principle, which is that the people's opinion is supreme."
He said that once the findings of the meeting were presented to the
Dalai Lama, they would also be discussed by the Tibetan Parliament,
which "has the final decision-making power" to adopt new strategies
or not. He said: "One of the purposes of the meeting is to give
different voices an official channel or platform."

The importance of non-violence

"The danger for Tibet is not whether we get independence or autonomy,
but whether we manage to keep our culture alive"

A young, educated Tibetan who returned to eastern Tibet after
studying in exile sent the following letter to ICT about the Special
Meeting. An English translation from the original Tibetan is enclosed
below. Details of the identity of the writer have been withheld at
their request and for their safety.

"I am a Tibetan who was educated in India as a youngster but who
returned to Tibet. I worked for various companies in Tibet, and
visited different countries in the West. Tibetans inside Tibet can be
quite successful in setting up businesses and finding jobs. This is
important because we have to take part in the new economy and in all
walks of life, and we have to make ourselves less dependent on the Chinese.

This year our businesses were of course hit hard, as we were affected
in all spheres of life by everything that happened since March. The
situation inside Tibet is desperate. Even in an anonymous letter I am
afraid to fully speak out. The names of friends that are in prison
can't be mentioned because while they are not yet sentenced, any
evidence of a link with the outside world will further jeopardize
their situation. Even though things have normalized a little since
the end of the Olympic Games, the Chinese authorities use all efforts
to silence people inside Tibet and also to create distrust and
antagonism between the nationalities. Because of the terrible
propaganda on TV and in other media, Chinese people these days are
either afraid of or angry at any Tibetan they meet, while we are left
furious when we see the propaganda that is being broadcast on television.

Let me start by saying how great it was to see the demonstrations
during the torch relay and during the Olympic Games itself. After all
that happened in March, it gave people in Tibet hope. It showed us
that Tibet is not forgotten. The Tibetans living outside Tibet did a
great job. They keep the cause alive. I really support all of you
involved in that, and hope that you become even more effective in the
future. China is always concerned about their good reputation. This
year they were very embarrassed because of the demonstrations during
the torch relay. As a super power they need a good reputation and
losing face is a very big thing in Chinese culture. So for the future
of Tibet, it is very important that China is reminded of the
unacceptable situation inside Tibet.

I myself and others like me did not take part in demonstrations
because we think we can contribute to the improvement of Tibet by
focusing on our work and business. We believe that we can strengthen
the Tibetan nationality in that way. But at the same time we support
the demonstrations, even if it makes us suffer as well. That is okay,
because we know it is for the good of our people. In terms of our
struggle at large we must stay non-violent at any cost. China will be
happy if Tibetans become more violent because it will give them an
opportunity to portray Tibetans in a negative way. They are always
eager to show that Tibetans in India instigate violence. It
emphasizes how important the non-violent Middle Way approach is.

Even Tibetans who work for the government inside Tibet feel strongly
about their nationality. I hear how Tibetan police officers in Lhasa
and Tibetans working for the army were really very upset when they
saw how the army responded to demonstrations this year. But they
could not do anything. They were very angry when a Tibetan lady gave
the names of several protesters to the authorities. They called her a
whore and told her not to hand in Tibetan protesters. Also
well-educated young Tibetans who went to school in China are often
deeply patriotic. When they return to Tibet to work for the Chinese
government they see the difference in how people are ruled in China
and how they are controlled in Tibetan areas, and in particular how
people are ruled in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). But inside
Tibet, it is very difficult to receive good information. We can never
open Tibetan websites such as http://www.phayul.com/ and websites of
Tibet organizations. Some movies on YouTube also can't be opened. The
foreign companies that provide the search engines in China have no
business ethics; they help the Chinese government to block information.

For the important meeting taking place in Dharamsala this week, there
are two main things I would like to say.

As a Tibetan inside Tibet who has also seen places outside my
country, including Western countries, I think that the danger for
Tibet is not whether we achieve independence or autonomy, but whether
we manage to keep our culture alive. I don't think an agreement will
be reached with regards to full autonomy or independence. Perhaps in
the future [there will be] some sort of autonomy. But the main issue
is how we preserve and develop our culture. The main issue is the
survival of our race and our way of life. People in Tibet, people who
are part of our country, they are losing their culture. They prefer
to communicate in Chinese and take on Chinese lifestyles. But in
India you see the same. People talk to each other in English or
Hindi. Tibetans lose their affinity with the Tibetan ways of life.
When we look at the border areas in eastern Tibet, we see what will
happen in central Tibet in the future. Our culture and our race will
be completely assimilated and swallowed up by Chinese culture.

In order to keep the Tibetan cause alive, the most important thing is
to keep the culture of Tibet alive. In India the Tibetans are
supposed to keep the culture alive, but you see where it is
happening. Are they staying together as a community? People are
moving around the globe. The new generation of Tibetans around the
world won't want to return to Tibet. So who is going to keep the
cause alive? My point is that as part of any sort of negotiations of
initial agreement, a priority should be given to the possibilities of
exile Tibetans traveling to Tibet. It is very important that Tibetans
outside Tibet take an interest in visiting Tibet, and if possible
working in Tibet, setting up projects or businesses inside Tibet. In
particular in the areas close to the Chinese areas, the climate is
more relaxed and Tibetans can achieve a lot. Because Tibetans from
outside Tibet are generally well educated, are well informed and are
very broad-minded, they have a tremendously positive impact on the
community inside Tibet. They can influence local people, not engage
in politics. In this way they can keep the cause alive.

In line with this, there is a need to thoroughly rethink the
strategy. The dialogue with the Chinese is not likely to yield any
result soon. On the question of independence or autonomy there is not
much choice; it is certain that full independence will never be
debatable. In the meantime, time is running out for Tibet and Tibet's
culture. I am from a Tibetan area that does not fall under the TAR.
But I myself have come to the conclusion that perhaps it is important
to consider that [if it is offered], whether we should accept full
autonomy for [just] the TAR… [This is a controversial viewpoint, as
it implies the exclusion of Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan
and Gansu provinces.] .You see that in Lhasa and some other major
cities, as well as areas close to mainland China, 60 to 80% of
businesses belong to Han [Chinese] immigrants [and] the situation is urgent.

I would like to express the wish that we keep up our strong desires,
and our spirit to fight for freedom, dignity and peace for our
people. I pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and
I pray for those who gave up their lives for Tibet and those that are
still in prison."

Tibet, 15 November 2008

The importance of unity

"The galloping of Tibetan horses still resonates through our veins"

The following posting was left on a popular Tibetan blog beneath an
article about the Special Meeting, and is by an anonymous contributor
who describes him or herself as a 'Tibetan intellectual'.

"Thank you for your posting, and thank you very much indeed for
telling us about this meeting which is to be convened on the Tibet
question. As a Tibetan intellectual, even though I'm an old Tibetan
who has become Sinicized, even though our language is becoming
Sinicized and our clothes Sinicized, and although in our work we have
to serve the Han people, the galloping of Tibetan horses still
resonates through our veins, our hearts are bursting with our
yak-hair tent homes and we ride the world on the back of our Snow
Lion. The world is in our hands, and we are an indomitable people and
we have a duty to rise to the historical destiny of the Tibetan
people. Wherever there is repression there is resistance. Do not die
in silence but explode after the silence: even if only one person
remains the struggle will continue to the end. We will not be
overthrown. Even if only one person remains the struggle will
continue to the end.

I once wrote: 'Warm congratulations on the successful convening of
the 'First European Tibetan Congress,' [a new grouping of Tibetans in
Europe] which is the first time in 50 years that a 'European Tibetan
Union Congress' has been established. At last, there is a global
organizational structure, a central guide most needed by Tibetans in
the world, and it is hoped that you can take on this onerous
historical duty along with the wish of all Tibetans for freedom, and
draw up a just and moral Tibetan political program, an organized,
planned and incremental program which uses material and human
strengths, and which takes as its lead Gandhi's indomitable spirit of
struggle and the Jewish people's struggle for unity. I believe that
Hitler's fall was the fall of all tyrants, and that the Jewish
people's today is the Tibetan people's tomorrow.'

I hope that these Chinese postings will be translated into English as
soon as possible to let people all over the world see that we have
not been silenced by fear. On the contrary, we are only increasing in
our anger and hope. Below are my own personal hopes and I believe
they also represent the hopes of other Tibetans on the inside.

One, I hope that the 'European Tibetan Union Organization Congress'
will be changed into the 'International Tibetan Union Congress,'
thereby unifying the intellect and benevolence of the Tibetan people
and those who support the Tibetan people the world over.

Two, we hope that this meeting will formally establish a 'theocratic'
and 'International Tibetan Union Congress,' and we hope that the
Dalai Lama will continue to be our political and religious leader.

Three, with regard to the 'International Tibetan Union Congress'
needed as a structure and centre of guidance by the Tibetan people
around the world, it is hoped that you can take on this onerous
historical duty as well as the wish of all Tibetans for freedom, and
draw up a just and moral Tibetan political program, an organized,
planned and incremental program which uses material and human strengths.

Four, we must join with the world's 'Friendly, peace-loving unions
seeking democratic freedoms' in order to realize everyone's common goals.

Five, we hope that everyone will pray for the long life of Kundun [an
honorific for the Dalai Lama, literally meaning 'The Presence'],
because Kundun's life is no longer his own, but is that of the leader
of we several million Tibetans; and we hope that the reincarnation of
the Dalai Lama will continue, as this is an important tradition in
the Tibetan people's religious history and culture.

This has been a presentation of some historical materials on the
struggle of a people who were once almost exterminated but who
finally attained the victory of freedom; it is hoped that all
Tibetans, particularly young Tibetans, will see that while we have
the lessons and experiences of yesterday, it is even more important
to bear the arduous struggles of today and the responsibility for tomorrow.

Sincere congratulations on the victorious convening of the first
meeting of Tibetan representatives in 50 years…

With all devotion to the Tibetan people, November 13, 2008."

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, ICT
In India during the Special Meeting
Tel: +91 97 1768 7756
Tel: +44 7947 138612
email: press@savetibet.org
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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