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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."

Experts discuss human rights in Tibet, Mongolia

September 9, 2007

President Chen Shui-bian said yesterday that Taiwan will support the Tibetan people's struggle for basic human rights and self-determination.

Chen made the remarks at the opening of the International Symposium on Human Rights in Tibet in Taipei yesterday. The two-day symposium is hosted by the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission.

Chen also issued an invitation to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan.

A number of speakers at the symposium condemned Beijing over human rights violations and the repression of religious freedom in Tibet.

European Parliament Vice President Edward McMillan-Scott voiced his concern over the "rights of religious and ethnic minorities, including Tibetan Buddhists, the forced labor camps and allegations of organ harvesting" in China.

Phunchok Stobdan, a professor at India's University of Jammu and Kashmir, said that for quite some time Beijing had controlled the selection process of reincarnated major Tibetan Lamas. "Chinese have shown not only willingness to perpetuate such institutions, but also asserted their rights in the selection process ... As such, irrespective of the Dalai Lama's decision, China [will decide on the] next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama," Stobdan said.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that Lamas reincarnate after death. The reincarnation of a Lama is accompanied by signs that religious leaders confirm through a complicated process.

"The system of reincarnation is one of the core beliefs of Tibetan religious tradition. China's ... imposition of its own candidate is nothing less than a violation of this core belief system," said Willy Fautre, president of Human Rights without Borders, quoting Lodi Gyaltsen, a special envoy of the Dalai Lama.

"[China's imposition of lama incarnation candidates] is a source of deep resentment among Tibetans, [in] that an atheist state has claimed the legitimacy to preside over a centuries-old religious practice," Fautre told the symposium.

Ross Terrill, an East Asian studies professor at Harvard University, called China's rule over non-Chinese regions of its territory "semi-colonial rule." Participants also attempted to find a solution to the Tibet issue.

Adjunct senior East Asian research scholar James Seymour suggested that the "Hong Kong model" -- "one country, two systems" -- was an option.

Seymour reminded the audience that "even for partial democracy a la Hong Kong to work in Tibet, there would also have to emerge a new political culture there. Unlike Hong Kongers, the Tibetan people have no experience with rule of law and electoral politics."

Ming Chu-cheng, a professor of political science at National Taiwan University, said that "a federal system would likely become the mainstream option for future Sino-Tibetan relations."

Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission Chairman Hsu Chih-hsiung protested China's repression of the symposium.

"Many internationally renowned academics who originally planned to come to the symposium were not able to, because Chinese officials made contact with them, [passing themselves off as Taiwanese] officials and provided false information," Hsu said.

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