In an interesting development, the Chinese authorities announced on June 21, 2004 that they had established an organization, Association for the Protection and Development of Tibetan Culture.
Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Vice Chairman, Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal made this announcement at a function in the Great Hall of the People. CPPCC Vice Chair and head of the United Front Work Department Liu Yandong addressed the gathering. Prominent Tibetan leaders Ngapo Ngawang Jigme and Ragdi have also expressed their appreciation at the establishment of the Association.
According to a Xinhua report of June 22, 2004, “The association aims to carry researches into the history, status quo and development trend of Tibetan culture, advise the government and other organizations on how to protect and develop Tibetan culture, sponsor exhibitions and symposiums on Tibetan culture in the world, and engage in international exchanges so as to enable the world to know Tibet better and raise funds for the protection of fine traditional culture in Tibet.”
Jia Qinglin, Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), addressed members of the newly-established association on June 22 saying, “the Tibetan culture, enjoying a long history, reflects Tibetan people’s characteristics of bravery and wisdom as well as the fact that Tibet is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”
The preservation and promotion of Tibetan culture has been one of the main concerns of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. During the two meetings that his envoys had with the Chinese leadership in 2002 and 2003, this issue was raised directly with them. In their statement following the September 2002 visit, the envoys said, “we drew their attention to the importance of paying equal attention to preserving Tibet’s distinct cultural, religious and linguistic heritage.” Similarly, following the May-June 2003 visit, the envoys said, “we emphasized to the officials the importance of maintaining Tibetan religious, cultural and linguistic identity along with the material development. Our visit was too short for us to assess in an adequate manner how effectively the Tibetan language, culture, religion and identity are being preserved, protected and promoted in this Tibetan area.”
More than 100 people, including some from abroad, attended the first meeting of the Association in Beijing.