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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

European Parliament: Hearing on Tibet -- Statement

April 1, 2009

by Kelsang Gyaltsen
European Parliament
March 31, 2009

HEARING ON TIBET: An Update on the Current
Situation after the Breakdown Of Negotiations with China
Statement as prepared for delivery by Kelsang Gyaltsen,
Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

The European Parliament  -  Committee on Foreign Affairs
31 March 2009 - Brussels

Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the
Committee, at this critical time for Tibet, I
wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to
the European Parliament for its consistent and
principled support for His Holiness the Dalai
Lama and his efforts to find a peaceful solution
for Tibet. I thank you for convening this timely and important hearing.

Undeclared martial-law in Tibet

This hearing is taking place at a time, when
Tibetan areas in the PRC are completely sealed
off from the rest of the world. No foreigners can
enter Tibetan areas. Communication lines – such
as internet and mobile phone services - are cut
off. There is a huge presence of security and
military forces. Political campaigns are being
conducted with rigor at monasteries, work places
and schools to intimidate and coerce the people.
On daily basis Tibetans are being arrested
resulting in brutal beatings and torture during
interrogations and detention. An undeclared
martial-law has been imposed on Tibetan areas. At
this very moment the Tibetan people inside Tibet
are experiencing the second military occupation
of their homeland and the harshest wave of
repression since the days of the Cultural Revolution.

China’s misguided Tibet policy

China’s Tibet policy has been consistently
misguided, because of lack of understanding,
appreciation and respect for Tibet’s distinct
culture, history and identity. In occupied Tibet
there is little room for truth. The use of force
and coercion as the principal means to rule and
administer Tibet compel Tibetans to lie out of
fear and local officials to hide the truth and
create false facts in order to suit and please
Beijing. As a result China’s treatment of Tibet
continues to evade the realities in Tibet. These
policies reveal the ugly face of racial and
cultural arrogance, chauvinism and a deep sense
of political insecurity. This approach is, of
course, short-sighted and counter-productive.

The Strasbourg Proposal

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has led the Tibetan
freedom struggle on a path of non-violence and
has consistently sought a mutually agreeable
solution of the Tibetan issue through
negotiations in a spirit of reconciliation and
compromise with China. With this spirit in 1988
in Strasbourg at this Parliament His Holiness the
Dalai Lama presented a formal proposal for
negotiations. The choice of the European
Parliament as the venue to present his thoughts
for a framework for negotiations was on purpose
in order to underline the point that a genuine
union can only come about voluntarily when there
are mutual respect and satisfactory benefits to
all the parties concerned. His Holiness the Dalai
Lama sees the European Union as a clear and
inspiring example of this. On the other hand,
even one country or community can break into two
or more entities when there is a lack of trust
and benefit, and when force is used as the principal means of rule.

The Middle-Way Approach

This proposal, which later became known as the
"Strasbourg Proposal," envisages that the whole
of Tibet should become a self-governing
democratic political entity in association with
the PRC.  With this formal statement His Holiness
demonstrated his willingness not to seek the
independence of Tibet. The guiding spirit of the
Strasbourg Proposal is the pursuit of a mutually
acceptable solution of the issue of Tibet through
negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and
compromise. This spirit has come to be known as
the “Middle Way Approach” of His Holiness the
Dalai Lama. In March 1989 China imposed
martial-law in Tibet which lasted for one year.
The worsening situation in Tibet and the failure
to elicit any positive response from the Chinese
government since the formal presentation of his
proposal in Strasbourg compelled His Holiness to
state in 1991 that his “Strasbourg Proposal” has
become ineffectual. However, he left no doubt
about his continued commitment in seeking a
resolution to the Tibetan problem in the spirit of the “Middle Way Approach”.

Meanwhile, in Tibet a most alarming trend
emerged: The flood of Chinese settlers who come
to Tibet to take advantage of Tibet’s opening to
market capitalism. Every year, the Chinese
population inside Tibet has been increasing at an
alarming rate leading to economic, political and
social marginalization of the Tibetan people in
their own homeland. New measures of restriction
in the fields of culture, religion and education
coupled with the unabated influx of Chinese
immigrants have been presenting a constant
assault on the integral core of the Tibetan civilization and identity.

Obviously, if these concerns are not addressed
soon the very purpose of trying to reach a
negotiated solution becomes meaningless, because
the Chinese government would have then created
facts in Tibet, which would make the situation
inside Tibet irreversible. Some of our Western
friends call this Chinese policy “the final solution” to the issue of Tibet.

Against this background His Holiness the Dalai
Lama left no stone unturned to reach out to the
Chinese government. Moreover, the Tibetan
leadership in exile redefined the concrete
features of the "Middle-Way Approach”" A number
of components of the "Strasbourg Proposal" were
dropped to conform to existing political
realities in the PRC. His Holiness the Dalai Lama
and the Tibetan leadership in exile took the
courageous decision to seek genuine autonomy for
the Tibetan people within the framework of the
Constitution of the PRC in a way that would
ensure the basic needs of the Tibetan people in
safeguarding their distinct culture, language,
religion and identity and the delicate natural
environment of the Tibetan plateau.

Sino-Tibetan dialogue

In 2002, when direct contact with the Chinese
leadership was re-established, the Tibetan
leadership in exile had already formulated a
clear policy on our approach in the dialogue
process. The Kashag, the Cabinet of the Tibetan
Government in exile, with the approval of His
Holiness, had determined that there will be only
one official channel and one single agenda in our
talks with Chinese leadership. The single agenda
has been to seek genuine or meaningful autonomy
for the Tibetan people under a single
administration within the framework of the
Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

I have the honour to serve as one of the envoys
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama entrusted with the
task of conducting the talks with the
representatives of the Chinese leadership. With
my senior colleague, Mr. Lodi G. Gyari and three
senior Tibetan assistants, we engaged in eight
formal rounds of discussion and one informal
meeting with our Chinese counterparts since 2002.

The mission of our delegation was two fold:
First, to re-establish direct contact with the
leadership in Beijing and to create a conducive
atmosphere enabling direct face-to-face meetings
on a regular basis in future. Secondly, to
explain His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way
Approach with the aim of bringing about earnest
negotiations in resolving the issue of Tibet
peacefully. Throughout our contact we focussed
our energy and efforts towards building
confidence by dispelling misconceptions and distrust.

With this spirit after our first visit to China
and to Lhasa in September 2002, Kalon Tripa,
Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, the chairman of the
Kashag, appealed to Tibetan communities in exile
and to our international supporters to abstain
from holding demonstrations during visits of
Chinese dignitaries abroad and to help creating a
constructive atmosphere for the dialogue process.
Within our limited possibilities, the Tibetan
leadership in exile initiated a number of such confidence-building measures.

Tibetan suggestions and proposals

Right from the first round of discussions in
2002, we proposed that both sides initiate
measures that help building trust and confidence
in our relationship. We requested the Chinese
leadership to make a good-will gesture by
stopping the denunciation and lifting of the ban
on the possessions of the photographs of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama. This would send a
psychologically important positive message to the
Tibetan people and help to create the right kind
of environment. We also proposed to expand our
contact by allowing visits between Tibetans
living in exile and in Tibet and to arrange
exchange visits by scholars and experts to
academic, cultural and religious institutions in
the PRC and as well to institutes of the Tibetan
refugee community. When it became obvious in our
discussions that there were major differences on
a number of issues between the two parties,
including some fundamental ones, we proposed to
first concentrate on issues where both sides have
common interest in cooperating and to increase
the number of meetings to two or three times per
year. In 2005 we requested the Chinese government
to allow a small number of 5 – 10 monks to visit
various sacred sites in Tibet to perform prayers
for a long life on the occasion of 70th birthday
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

A major difference between the two sides has been
the conflicting perspectives on the current
situation inside Tibet. So in order to have a
common understanding of the real situation, we
proposed in 2007 that we be given an opportunity
to send study groups to look at the actual
reality on the ground, in the spirit of “seeking
truth from facts”. We explained that this could
help both sides to move beyond each other’s
contentions. In 2008 after the wide-spread
demonstrations throughout Tibet and the ensuing
events during the Olympic torch relay, it was
appropriate and necessary to send a strong and
clear signal to the Tibetan and Chinese people as
well as to the international community that His
Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese
leadership are determined to engage in serious
discussions on all issues concerning the Tibetan
people with the aim of finding a mutually
acceptable solution. We, therefore, proposed in
July 2008 to issue a joint statement to that
effect at the conclusion of the seventh round of
discussions (a copy of the draft joint statement
is submitted for the record). Moreover, right at
the beginning of our contact on April 18, 2002,
we had written to President Jiang Zemin
explaining, among other things, that our mission
was to bring about a face-to-face meeting between
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese
leadership. Such a summit has the potential to
achieve a breakthrough in opening a new chapter
in the relationship between the Tibetan and the
Chinese peoples. Consequently, in all the rounds
of discussion we raised it again and again. His
Holiness the Dalai Lama reiterated publicly in
2006 his wish to visit China on a pilgrimage.

Chinese attitude and positions

To our deep disappointment, none of our
suggestions and proposals were entertained or
accepted by the Chinese side. Nor has the Chinese
side reciprocated any of our confidence-building
initiatives or presented their own suggestions or
proposals for a way forward. Since the start of
this dialogue in 2002, the Chinese side has been
adopting a position of no recognition, no
reciprocity, no commitment and no concession and
no compromise. Although they continue to profess
even to these days that the door to dialogue is
open, however, so far they have been pursuing a
strategy of avoiding any progress, decision and
commitment. This lack of political will on the
part of the Chinese leadership was clearly
demonstrated at the last round of discussions
that took place in November last year.

In July last year during the seventh round the
Chinese side explicitly invited suggestions from
His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the stability and
development of Tibet and emphasised the fact that
they would like to hear our views on the degree
or form of autonomy we are seeking. Accordingly,
on October 31, 2008, we presented our Memorandum
on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the
Chinese leadership. (A copy of the memorandum is
submitted for the record). Our memorandum puts
forth how the specific needs of the Tibetan
people for self-government can be met through the
application of the principles on autonomy
contained in the Constitution of the PRC. The
Constitution gives significant discretionary
powers to state organs in the decision-making and
on the operation of the system of autonomy. These
discretionary powers can be exercised to
facilitate genuine autonomy in ways that would
respond to the uniqueness of the Tibetan
situation. On this basis, His Holiness the Dalai
Lama has been confident that the basic needs of
the Tibetan people can be met through genuine autonomy within the PRC.

Unfortunately, the Chinese side rejected
categorically our memorandum in its entirety. At
one point of our discussion the Chinese Executive
Vice-Minister Zhu Weiqun stated: “Even the title
of your memorandum is unacceptable. How many
times do we need to say that the Dalai Lama has
no right to speak about the situation in Tibet or
in the name of the Tibetan people?” When we asked
him why in the first place he had invited us to
present our views on autonomy, his answer was:
“This was a test to see how far you have come
understand the position and the policy of the
Central Government. And you have failed the
examination miserably”. (The press release of
Chinese side rejecting the Tibetan memorandum is
submitted here for the record).

The basic Chinese position on the issue of Tibet

During the sixth round of talks from June 29 to
July 5, 2007, the Chinese side outlined their basic position as follow:

"Firstly, the Dalai Lama must accept the
political basis for maintaining contact with
Central Government. The political basis for it is
the recognition that Tibet has always been an
integral part of China. This is not an
academic-historical issue. It is a matter of political standpoint.

Secondly, you have to have a correct
understanding of the nature of the contact
between the Central Government and the Dalai
Lama. It is a contact that concerns the Dalai
Lama and a handful of people around him. There
cannot be any discussions going beyond this
scope. There is no such a thing as the issue of
Tibet. The Tibetan people in Tibet are happy.

(At the eighth round of talks the Chinese side
further clarified this position.)
The Dalai Lama has no right to talk about the
situation inside Tibet or in the name of the
Tibetan people. The discussion can be only about
the personal matters of the Dalai Lama and the people around him.

Thirdly, it is necessary to correctly understand
with whom you are in contact. You have to
correctly discern who we are and who you are. You
have to give due recognition to this fact. Our
contact is between the Central Government and the
private representatives of the Dalai Lama. There
will be no contact and talks between the Central
Government and the so-called Tibetan government in exile.”

Since the last round of talks in November 2008,
the Chinese government has been undertaking
massive propaganda efforts to whitewash their
brutal subjugation of the Tibetan people and to
justify their rejection of the Tibetan initiative
for genuine autonomy by distorting our positions.
We have clarified repeatedly verbally as well as
in writing our positions on a range of issues in
the talks. However, the Chinese side has chosen
to continue to distort our positions and to
mislead the world on a number of issues.

Historical status of Tibet

The Tibetan people and the Chinese government
have their own version of Tibet’s historical
status. The Chinese government asserts that Tibet
has always been an inalienable part of China.
They demand that His Holiness the Dalai Lama
publicly acknowledges it. This is a precondition
for negotiations. For Tibetans Tibet has been an
independent nation. Against this background, we
have repeatedly stated to our Chinese
counterparts that history is best left aside.
Revisiting history will not serve any useful
purpose but complicate only the quest for a
mutually acceptable solution. Concerning the
present and the future we are committed in
seeking a solution within the framework of the Chinese Constitution.

Chinese military presence in Tibet

Our position on this is clear and unambiguous.
Our consistent position has always been that
defence and foreign policy are prerogatives of
the Central Government in Beijing. In the
Five-Point Peace Plan (1987) and the Strasbourg
Proposal (1988) His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
expressed his personal hope and vision that
eventually the Tibetan plateau will be
transformed into a demilitarized zone of peace.
This will greatly contribute in building trust
and confidence between India and China and in
bringing about stability and peace in that part
of the world. It is the hope and vision for the
future by a man of peace and not a condition to a
solution of the issue of Tibet. This has been
explained repeatedly to our Chinese counterparts.

Moreover, as stated earlier since the formal
presentation of the Strasbourg Proposal the
concrete features of the “Middle-Way Approach”
have evolved. In the course of the talks we
conveyed to our Chinese counterparts that His
Holiness the Dalai Lama was willing to clarify
the misunderstandings or misinterpretations of
some of his positions. We offered to engage in
consultations with the Chinese side on such a
statement by His Holiness in order to ensure that
a new statement by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on
the resolution of the Tibetan issue is acceptable
to the Chinese leadership. However, the Chinese
side never responded to our offer.

Expulsion of non-Tibetans from Tibetan areas

The fundamental objective of national regional
autonomy and self-government is the preservation
of the identity, culture, language and so forth
of the minority people. However, the very
principle and purpose of national regional
autonomy is disregarded if large scale migration
and settlement of the majority Han nationality
and other nationalities is encouraged and
allowed. Major demographic changes that result
from such migration will have the effect of
assimilating rather than integrating the Tibetan
nationality into the state and gradually
extinguishing the distinct culture and identity of the Tibetan people.

There is precedence in the PRC for restriction on
the movement or residence of citizens. To
Tibetans it would be vital that the autonomous
organs of self-government have the authority to
regulate the residence, settlement and employment
or economic activities of persons who wish to
move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC.

It is not our intention to expel the non-Tibetans
who have permanently settled in Tibet and have
lived and grown up there for a considerable time.

Restoring the old socio-political system in Tibet

Such a notion is unfounded and untrue. No
Tibetan, whether in exile or in Tibet, has any
desire to restore the old system. In exile, we
have democratized our political system and
adopted a democratic charter that set guidelines
for our Government-in-Exile. Even our political
leadership is now directly elected by the people.

In 2005 His Holiness the Dalai Lama reiterated
his position on this matter as follow: "My
involvement in the affairs of Tibet is neither
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 local 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."

We neither desire to restore the old
socio-political system nor do we aim to replace
the present socialist system. Our aim is as we
have stated the exercise of genuine autonomy.

The issue of "Greater Tibet"

There is no such thing as "Greater Tibet" or
"Minor Tibet." In literature we find the
distinction "Political Tibet" or “Cultural or
Ethnographic Tibet”. Political Tibet has never
been part of the Chinese state until 1951.
Cultural or ethnographic Tibet is by definition
entitled to regional national autonomy according
to the principles of the Constitution of the PRC.
The term “Greater Tibet” has, therefore, no basis.

The Chinese side is labelling our position as a
demand for the separation of one-fourth the
territory of China. First of all, since we
Tibetans are not asking for the separation of
Tibet from China, there should be no concern on
this front. More importantly, it is a fact both
of history and geography that the landmass
inhabited by Tibetans constitutes roughly
one-fourth the territory of the PRC. 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. Therefore, the positions on what
constitutes cultural or ethnographic Tibet are not so divergent.

Our demand that the Tibetan people should live in
a single autonomous entity within the PRC is not
based on history. This aspiration is based on the
right to regional national self-governance and
equality of all nationalities, both principles
contained in the Constitution of the PRC.

The current partition of Tibetan areas, by which
Tibetan communities are ruled and administered
under different provinces and regions foments
fragmentation, promotes unequal development, and
weakens the ability of the Tibetan nationality to
protect and promote its common cultural,
spiritual and ethnic identity. Whereas the other
major minority nationalities such as the Uyghur
and Mongols govern themselves almost entirely
within their respective single autonomous
regions, Tibetans remain fragmented as if they
were several different minority nationalities.

It is clear that the Tibetan nationality within
the PRC will be able to exercise its right to
govern itself and administer its internal affairs
effectively only once it can do so through an
organ of self-government that has jurisdiction
over the Tibetan nationality as a whole. The Law
on Regional National Autonomy recognises the
principle that boundaries of national autonomous
areas may need to be modified. There are several
precedents where this has actually been done.

Unifying the Tibetan people should not be seen as
a cover for a separatist plot. It is basically a
question of recognizing, restoring and respecting
the integrity of the Tibetans as a people and
distinct nationality of the PRC. This unification
would give the Tibetans a genuine collective
sense of having benefited by being part of the
PRC and would embody the respect for the
integrity of the Tibetans as a distinct people.

Tibetan commitment to dialogue

On issues of national importance and during major
crises it has always been the natural inclination
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama since his youth to
consult with a wide range of people representing
the Tibetan society before deciding on a course
of action. In exile a democratic system ensures
the full participation of the people in the
decision-making. On the vital issue of our
relationship with the Chinese government His
Holiness has called a Special Meeting of the
Tibetan people to discuss the course of our
policy. Last November after the demonstrations
across the Tibetan plateau and the ensuing brutal
crack-down of the Chinese authorities and
securities as well as the failure of the eight
formal rounds of talks with the Chinese side, a
Special Meeting of Tibetan People was convened.
Around 600 delegates from all over the world
representing the entire spectrum of the Tibetan
society in exile participated in it. Special
efforts were also made to solicit the opinions of Tibetans inside Tibet.

Despite a deep sense of bitterness and urgency
that every participant displayed, after six days
of intense and passionate discussions the
majority of the delegates supported the
continuation of the “Middle-Way Approach” of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama for the time being. A
vocal and strong minority, whose supporters are
increasing in recent time, pleaded passionately
for changing the goal of our freedom struggle to
the complete rightful independence of Tibet by
arguing that the Chinese Communist government
will never engage in serious talks on genuine
autonomy for the Tibetan people. On the issue of
non-violence there was unanimity in the
commitment not deviate from the path of non-violence in our freedom struggle.

Following of the Special Meeting of the Tibetan
People, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
emphasised in his statement on March 10 this year
that “we are pursuing this policy (of “Middle-Way
Approach”) with greater confidence and will
continue our efforts towards achieving a
meaningful regional national autonomy for all
Tibetans”. Today, we Tibetans stand ready to
engage in honest and earnest discussions with the
Chinese government on autonomy for the Tibetan
people anytime, anywhere. It is now for the
Chinese government to show sincerity and
seriousness in addressing the real problems and
issues of the Tibetan people in Tibet.

While we remain ready to engage with Chinese
government anytime, anywhere when there is a
clear and serious signal from Beijing, we will
make determined efforts in reaching out to the
Chinese people. Since the demonstrations in Tibet
last year and the protests during the Olympic
torch rally, the Chinese government has fanned
nationalism among the Chinese and called for a
“people’s war against the separatists” thereby
inciting hatred against the Tibetans. Nonetheless
the trend in China is that a growing number of
educated and informed Chinese people are becoming
critical of their government’s policy with regard
to Tibet. Chinese intellectuals and lawyers have
publicly expressed their concerns about the
Chinese government’s handling of the Tibetan
problem. This development is inspiring.

The role and responsibility of the international community

The crux of the problem in finding a mutually
acceptable solution to the issue of Tibet is that
we Tibetans do not have a partner for an honest
dialogue. It is in this context that this hearing
so important. The Chinese leadership must be made
to realize that the issue of Tibet cannot be
suppressed and silenced unless it is properly
addressed and resolved. World opinion is far from
being immaterial to the Chinese leadership.
Obviously, the pursuit of international
recognition and respect is priority of China.
What is, therefore, needed is a strong and
unified message with regard to the issue of Tibet.

We Tibetans need your help. First and foremost in
opening up Tibet to the rest of the world so that
the Chinese authorities and security forces no
longer have a free hand in Tibet. International
presence will a have restraining influence on the
authorities and the security forces and will thus
provide some form of protection to the captive
Tibetans inside Tibet. Ultimately, we Tibetans
need on the other side of the negotiating table a
partner who is willing to engage in an honest
dialogue with the aim of finding a fair, just and
mutually acceptable solution to the issue of
Tibet. In today’s heavily interdependent world,
it is not in the hands of the Chinese leaders
alone whether the Tibetan people will be able to
enjoy a life in freedom and dignity in future or
be compelled to live under continued brutal
repression. The policies of the European Union
towards the cause of Tibet and China will have
just as much a bearing on the outcome of this
tragedy. In this context, once again I wish to
express our deep appreciation to the European
Parliament for consistently taking the lead in
building a consensus and common approach in
promoting a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet.

Thank you very much.
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