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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."

When Chinese Wanted Tibetan Leader Samdhong Rinpoche to Be the Premier

August 21, 2009

ICT Blog
August 17, 2009

More than 100 Chinese and Tibetans checked into
their rooms at the Intercontinental Hotel in
Geneva, Switzerland. The hotel was an 18-storied,
big building, and its capacity was far more than
holding this group of people. However, this group
added a lot of commotion to the dining rooms and
the hallways of the hotel. These people were
scholars, educators, writers, and human rights
advocates. They came from more than 12 countries
across the globe to attend a Sino-Tibetan
conference called “Finding Common Ground”.

The conference was held for three days from
August 6th to 8th. It was organized jointly by
the International Fellowship of Reconciliation
and the Swiss-Tibetan Friendship Association.
What were the aims of the conference? What common
positions did the conference reach? The good
thing is that the conference produced a document
called the "Final Document of the 2009
Sino-Tibetan Conference ‘Finding Common Ground’."

You can read the document here:

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you
about one of the most talked about topics by the
Chinese participants at the dining table, at the
group discussions, at the all-group sessions, in
the hotel bar, and at the tea breaks for the last
two days during the conference. What could that
be? Guess. It was the "wisdom of Samdhong Rinpoche."

The conference started at 2:00 pm. His Holiness
the Dalai Lama attended the opening session and
gave a wonderful speech. Prime Minister Samdhong
Rinpoche, Chinese Scholar Yan Jiaqi, and two
representatives from the two organizing groups
gave their speeches at the opening session as well.

After the opening session, Samdhong Rinpoche, the
Premier of Tibetan Government in Exile, spent two
hours answering questions on a wide range of
issues from the Chinese participants. Some
questions were extremely hard. Some people not
only criticized the policy of Tibetan Government
in Exile toward the Chinese government, but also
suggested giving up the “Middle Way Approach."
Questions were pumped out one after another, but
they all were answered one after another by
Samdhong Rinpoche in a calm and peaceful manner.
"Samdhong Rinpoche’s voice was gentle, but every
word of his was sparkling wisdom." That was what
I thought at that time. Even though I was so
impressed, I did not show any visible expression.
I had no idea what the Chinese participants,
especially those questioners, thought about Samdhong Rinpoche and his answers.

A Chinese participant asked, "The representatives
of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government
officials had eight round of talks. At the end,
the Chinese government rejected the Memorandum of
Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People. Do you
realize that you have been fooled by the Chinese government?"

"Having the dialogues, we have lost nothing. On
the other hand, we got the opportunity to let the
Chinese government know the positions of His
Holiness and our government in exile, as well as
the will of Tibetan people. Now they clearly know
what we are seeking. We now know about the
Chinese government much better than what we knew
eight years ago," Samdhong Rinpoche answered.

"The communist government won’t give you genuine
autonomy. Negotiations with a communist
government are useless. Only when China becomes a
country of democracy, Tibet will have the chance
to get real autonomy. Do you realize that?"

To this question, Samdhong Rinpoche answered, "We
wish China was a country of democracy, but we
know it is not currently. I believe China is
going to be a country of democracy some day in
the future, and I also believe that things like
Tibet issue could have greater chance to be
settled in a democratic China. However, the
issues of survival of Tibetan identity, culture,
religion and environment are issues to be solved
today. What we are asking is the Chinese
government to implement the autonomous policies
that are written in the Constitution of People’s
Republic of China and related laws on regional
autonomy for minorities. Therefore, it is not
impossible to realize genuine autonomy for
Tibetan people before China becomes a democratic state.”

The session of questioning (by Chinese
participants) and answering (by Samdhong Rinpoche only) lasted two hours.

At the dinner, several Chinese, who sat the same
table with me, talked about how great Samdhong
Rinpoche was. At the group discussion the next
morning, almost every Chinese in my group
expressed his or her impression of Samdhong
Rinpoche. A participant from China even said,
"Samdhong Rinpoche is the Premier. He is a person
with great wisdom. He is one hundred times better than Wen Jiabao."

At the conference, someone even said, "His
Holiness the Dalai Lama should be the President
of China, and Samdhong Rinpoche the Premier."

Samdhong Rinpoche was called "the Premier." Now
you know who did that, right? The Chinese scholars did.
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