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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibetan exiles back Dalai Lama, challenge talks with China

November 24, 2008

International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)
Press Release
November 22, 2008

The Special Meeting called by the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India
closed today with a strong endorsement of the 'Middle Way' approach,
which seeks a genuine autonomy within the framework of the People's
Republic of China (PRC), but also clearly stated that exile Tibetans
might take a position seeking independence if results of engagement
were not evident "in the near future".

Many delegates had specifically urged for the Dalai Lama's envoys not
to be sent again for talks to China, a position that has been noted
in the final declaration of the meeting. Delegates told ICT that
among most participants, there was a recognition of the importance of
retaining some form of engagement with China, with many urging
increased efforts to reach out to Chinese people, and Beijing was
blamed for the lack of results from the latest round of talks, not
the Middle Way approach or the Dalai Lama.

The Special Meeting also provided a strong endorsement of the Dalai
Lama's leadership. Karma Choephel, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament,
said today: "We re-affirmed that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the
sole representative and leader of the Tibetan people. [Participants
in] the Special Meeting prayed that he is not to talk about
semi-retirement or retirement." Karma Choephel also said that
delegates called upon the Chinese authorities to stop the hostile
criticism of the Dalai Lama, and re-asserted that he is not to blame
for the Spring Uprising, despite Beijing's attempts to do so. He said
that there would be no compromise on the issue of non-violence, and
that no alternative would be considered.

The Dalai Lama did not attend the meeting this week, saying that his
presence might inhibit discussion, but he has been briefed on the
proceedings and will address the delegates and press tomorrow morning.

According to Karma Choephel, "The majority is for the continuation of
the Middle Path policy. But if the policy does not produce any
results in the near future for solving the Tibetan issue, then the
Tibetan people will be forced to change policy to that of [seeking]
independence." Although a specific time-frame was not given,
delegates said that periods of two to three years had been discussed
but not agreed.

"There is no surprise in the endorsement of the Middle Way approach
or strong condemnation of China's anti-Dalai Lama campaign. The
tactics of the Chinese government in undermining the Dalai Lama are
clearly having the opposite effect the Tibetans have asserted once
again that he represents their interests, and not the Chinese state,"
said Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for the International Campaign
for Tibet. "Beijing should find more elucidating and troublesome the
rejection of the current process of dialogue and the trending away
from this approach, including towards a pro-independence alternative.
China could very well lose control of this process."

More than 500 Tibetan exiles attended the six-day meeting, where
there was intense debate on the current round of talks with China,
which began in 2002, the Middle Way approach, independence as an
ideal or strategy, and the impact of the current crackdown in Tibet.
Delegates reported an atmosphere of solidarity and a sense of
urgency, as well as respect among participants for the diverse views
expressed.

After an introductory session on Monday, participants were divided
into sub-committees for a week of discussions. All 15 subcommittees
had submitted their recommendations, which will be made public
tomorrow, according to Karma Choephel.

The Special Meeting stated that "Chinese misrule and bad policies"
were to blame for the uprising across the Tibetan plateau beginning
in March and lasting for several months. It also "rejected outright"
the new Chinese government measures on the need for government
approval of reincarnate lamas.

A Tibetan researcher who participated told ICT: "This is really
democracy in action. I was discussing Tibet's future with the Dalai
Lama's sister and several cabinet ministers, as well as other
Tibetans from different parts of the diaspora. This was an
unprecedented gathering of Tibetans with many perspectives from all
over the world that marks a real step forward for the exiles in
considering new approaches and strategies."

The Dalai Lama's envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen, who is based in Europe and
who attended all of the discussions, said: "There was a strong sense
of responsibility among the participants, as well as a deep sense of
urgency emerging from the difficult situation inside. Everyone has
taken note of the uncompromising stand of the Chinese government but
there is no one way that is so convincing that everyone would agree
without exception. There is a more developed political consciousness;
people are aware that the future of the Tibetan people is dependent
on the development of the situation in Tibet and China and the
international environment."

The meeting took place in the context of a propaganda offensive
against the Dalai Lama and the government in exile by Beijing. In a
bid to pre-empt the conclusion of the meeting, Beijing again accused
the Dalai Lama of covertly campaigning for independence in a
commentary by Xinhua.

The U.S. government reiterated its support for continued dialogue on
November 21. The White House stated that President Bush, in his last
meeting as head of state with Chinese President Hu Jintao, in Lima,
Peru, "encouraged the Chinese to continue their dialogue with the
Dalai Lama" about the fate of his homeland of Tibet and "also
expressed his long standing commitment to religious freedom." These
remarks, suggesting a view that the dialogue should be about the
future of 6 million Tibetans, as Tibetans say, rather than the
personal fate of the Dalai Lama, as the Chinese demand, may indicate
a frustration with the Chinese approach to the talks.

New 'Charter for Engagement' launched

A new 'Charter for Engagement in the Future of Tibet' has been
launched by Tibetan exiles working with Tibetans in Tibet, committing
to "engage directly with the challenges facing Tibetans on the
plateau" and build a new consensus on the future of Tibet. The
initiative, which is sponsored by the Washington, DC and Tibet-based
organization, Machik, is outlined on the website
http://www.charterforengagement.com/ , and reproduced below. It is
signed by prominent Tibetans including the well-known writer, Woeser,
who lives in Beijing.

THIS WE KNOW

We live in uncertain times. As the new millennium unfolds, we find
ourselves caught in the tired politics of the past while our Tibetan
sisters and brothers on the plateau bear the burden of
marginalization and dispossession. Yet in this moment of political
exhaustion, something new is stirring. Guided by a social vision that
places unyielding faith in the promise and decency of humanity, a
collective desire to seek new pathways toward meaningful and
transformative change is now awakening. The change we seek requires a
new political and moral imagination—one that trusts in humanity's
potential to embrace a politics of love over a politics of fear.

THIS WE BELIEVE

In these uncertain times, there is an urgent need to redefine the
collective task that lies ahead. Any meaningful change for Tibet will
require a collective response from the heart—one that transcends
differences of language, culture, region, ethnicity, religion,
history and education. The challenges of our times can only be solved
by working in solidarity and partnership across political, cultural
and linguistic divides. Where there is mistrust and resentment, we
must work to bring confidence and understanding. Where there is
despair and desperation, we must work to inspire hope and
empowerment. Where there is cynicism and hostility, we must build
faith in the possibility of creating a shared stake in transformative
change. And as we seek to breach the gap between the promise of our
ideals and the reality of our times, we must find the courage to
cross uncharted terrain as we re-envision our broken world as one
animated by an abiding human love.

THIS WE RESOLVE

Engagement. As Tibet approaches a new threshold, we commit ourselves
to engaging directly with the challenges facing Tibetans on the
plateau—challenges such as that of language and cultural loss,
economic marginalization, resource distribution, land management and
the delivery of quality education, healthcare and other social services.

Solidarity. We commit ourselves to this direct engagement as an act
of love and solidarity with Tibetans in Tibet. We know the wrongs of
the past, but we choose to look to the future—the future of those who
make their lives on the Tibetan plateau and the future their children
will inherit.

Nonviolence. Our commitment to engagement is firmly rooted in the
principle of nonviolence. Knowing that all life is interdependent and
that we are caught in a web of mutuality, we are determined to become
the change we seek by finding pathways to social change that value
and respect every human life.

Building New Capacity. As we seek to engage directly in helping build
the future of Tibet, our priority should be to invest in Tibetans
themselves. By creating new opportunities for building capacity,
knowledge and experience, we will empower a new generation of
Tibetans to develop the skills and competence necessary to steward
their communities into the future.

Building a New Consensus. In embracing the principle of engagement,
we commit ourselves to forging a new consensus on the future of
Tibet. We will gather and form a new global community around this
consensus—one that includes citizens of China as well as that of the
world—and through these partnerships, synergies and new bonds of
trust, we will find our best hope for meaningful, transformative
change for Tibet.

To add your voice to the Charter for Engagement, go to
http://www.charterforengagement.com/

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

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