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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

International conference on Tibet may lack Tibetan presence

August 7, 2010

By Matthew Burrows
August 5, 2010

The schedule of a Lhasa-born UBC professor’s
upcoming conference on Tibet runs an impressive 106 pages.

However, Tsering Shakya -- a Canada Research
Chair in Religion and Contemporary Society in
Asia -- has one major problem ahead of the
weeklong 12th Seminar of the International
Association for Tibetan Studies, running August 15 to 20 at UBC.

"We’re organizing a conference about Tibetan
studies, and we’ll end up without Tibetans," Shakya told the Straight by phone.

The event, held every three years in cities
around the world, was delayed a year due to the
2008 unrest in Tibet, Shakya added. He said the
upcoming seminar will attract 400 scholars from
21 countries. The problem, however, is that about
100 ethnic Tibetans from India, Nepal, and Bhutan
have not been granted travel visas to Canada,
Shakya said. This includes scholars from the
Indian state of Sikkim as well as other Indian
scholars scattered across that country, Shakya added.

"Canada is a fortress," he said. "People don’t
realize it’s so difficult travelling to Canada from developing countries."

Shakya has raised $100,000 for the event costs,
including paying for flights for 10 delegates
from India and 30 from China, whose authorities
have so far allowed 40 Tibetans to come here on
Chinese passports. Shakya wrote a letter to
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney on July 6 to
request “assistance” and to ask that the minister
contact the visa office in New Delhi requesting
them to "reconsider their decision."

In a June 30 letter to the Canadian high
commission in the same city, Shakya wrote that
participants have been told by visa officers to
present income-tax statements and proof of
employment as well as proof that the hosts have sufficient funds.

Kenney refused to grant the Straight an
interview. The Straight contacted former Liberal
MP Stephen Owen, now UBC’s vice president of
external, legal, and community relations, but he did not respond by deadline.

"The majority are participants from North America
and Europe, and that’s fine," Shakya said of the
delegates who will be able to come to the
conference. "But the main thing is, it is
supposed to be an international conference about
Tibet, and there will hardly be any Tibetans."

Shakya said representation of scholars from
developing countries is important for the success of the event.
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