HHDL presents Light of Truth award to Chinese writer Wang Lixiong

The Dalai Lama presents the Light of Truth award to Chinese writer Wang Lixiong in Washington this week. The award is an ornate Tibetan butter-lamp.

On behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), His Holiness the Dalai Lama yesterday presented the Light of Truth award to two recipients, the late Julia Taft, who was appointed Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues in 1999 as well as serving on the board of ICT from 2002; and to Wang Lixiong, the Chinese writer who co-authored and disseminated a petition calling on the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint and caution in their response to the wave of protests that swept Tibet in March 2008. Wang received the award on behalf of all of the signatories to the petition “Twelve Suggestion for Handling the Tibetan Situation.” Julia Taft passed away in 2008, and her award was received by her husband, William H. Taft IV.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was presented on stage by Speaker of the United States Congress, Nancy Pelosi.

In his acceptance speech before an audience of several hundred people attending the ceremony at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, DC, Wang Lixiong expressed concern for a co-author of the petition Liu Xiaobo, who was detained by police in December 2008 after writing a manifesto for democratic reforms in China. “Charter 08” was also widely circulated in China as a petition, and several of its signatories were present in the auditorium yesterday. Liu was formally charged in June 2009 with the crime of “incitement to subvert state power,” and faces a maximum term of life imprisonment if convicted.

Wang Lixiong was careful to stress in his speech that he was not “taking sides” by offering criticism of the Chinese government, and that his stance should not be regarded as “anti-China” – sentiments later echoed by the Dalai Lama. Instead, Wang insisted it was the pursuit of truth which put him and other signatories of the petition on Tibet in opposition with the Chinese government. “Daring to criticize the government is done for the good of China, but a government that cannot accept criticism can only bring harm to China,” he said to applause.

Wang Lixiong was introduced by former US ambassador to China, Winston Lord, who praised the “valor and significance” of the petition “Twelve Suggestion for Handling the Tibetan Situation.” He also spoke of his hope that the official verdict of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Massacre would in future be overturned “so that ‘hooligans’ will become heroes and ‘black hands’ will become harbingers of history,” adding that Wang Lixiong and the other signatories of the petition are also “true heroes and harbingers of history.”

Ambassador Paula Dobriansky, former Special Coordinator on Tibetan Issues, introduced the late Julia Taft, describing the energy, drive and humor she brought to all of her posts throughout a long and distinguished career. However, she added that the issue of Tibet and the plight of Tibetan refugees had always been one of the closest to her heart, not least because of her personal friendship with the Dalai Lama.

In the Dalai Lama’s comments closing the award ceremony, he talked about his admiration for Julia Taft and Wang Lixiong, adding that the label of being “pro-Tibet” does not and should not make someone automatically “anti-China”, and that rather people who are “pro-Tibet” are in fact “pro-justice”.

The Light of Truth award was first presented in 1996, and is bestowed upon individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the public understanding of Tibet and the plight of the Tibetan people. Previous recipients include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Vaclev Havel, and Martin Scorsese.

Watch the Light of Truth Awards on YouTube »

Transcripts of speeches, including a transcript of the Dalai Lama’s comments, will be added as they become available.

Wang Lixiong’s acceptance speech for the Light of Truth Award

“Your Holiness the Dalai Lama; honorable Ladies and Gentlemen.

“We are very grateful to ICT for bestowing this group of us with the Light of Truth Award.

“At this moment of honor, I remain deeply worried for Mr Liu Xiaobo who participated in the drafting of “Twelve suggestions for dealing with the Tibetan situation,” and who at this time is being held in a prison in China for the crime of “incitement to subvert state power”.

“I must also add that there are 308 public signatories; the volunteers who were responsible for collecting the signatures were threatened by police, they were hounded out of their jobs, and their email accounts were attacked by hackers, leading to the ruin of an un-counted number of signatories. And so there was no way of collecting the names of later signatories. Even though we will never know their names, they should be included among those receiving this award today.

“Most of the 308 signatories are from the Chinese mainland, along with overseas Chinese and people from other countries. Most of them are Han, although there are people of other ethnicities; and there are many intellectuals but also workers, farmers, scholars and urbanites. If such a diverse group of people were to be epitomized by a single common feature, it would be “of the people”.

“This group of people is in no way what the Chinese police or the Great-Han nationalists profess us to be: anti-China. The opposite: we dearly love China. But loving China does not amount to loving the government. Daring to criticize the government is done for the good of China, but a government that cannot accept criticism can only bring harm to China.

“Neither is this group what some critics have accused us being: standing on the side of Tibet. Our position did not arise from choosing camps, it arose from a pursuit of the truth. Just as it is unthinkable that a ship sailing the ocean through the black of night would not seek a beacon of light, so the truth is a light in the darkness for us. And the name of this award, “The Light of Truth”, conveys this meaning exactly.

“The fake propaganda and information blackouts by the totalitarian power has made it difficult for the majority of the Chinese people to understand the truth about Tibet, and they have no way of knowing about the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way. This is the major long-term obstacle to resolving the Tibet Question. Removing this obstacle should be the mission of China’s intellectuals, for there is no greater knowledge than the truth.

“The Tibetan uprising still hadn’t subsided when the turmoil in Urumchi rocked China once more. The ferocity of the conflict between Han and Uyghurs in Urumchi presents a most worrying prospect: that ethnic contradictions in China have now become inter-racial. This disastrous consequence is a creation of totalitarianism, and yet it could completely explode during a period of democratic transition. Totalitarianism uses suppression, whereas suppression is weakened by democracy.

“This is an emphatic warning to us: we cannot rely solely on a change of systems to resolve ethnic problems, and we cannot assume that everything will be naturally resolved with the coming of democracy. If we cannot eradicate racial hatred beforehand and achieve peace among peoples, then even if the government changes and even if democracy arises, there will still be animosities between the people, and there will be the possibility of civil wars and massacres alike.

“The racial hatred created by totalitarianism has perversely become a reason used by the totalitarians to reject democracy, one which is virulently supported by Great-Han nationalists. This logic of kidnapper and hostage living or dying together is a difficult obstacle to remove along the path to democracy.

“Overcoming this difficulty requires promoting the start of dialog between the nationalities. It is only when people of all nationalities resolve hatred and realize unity that the totalitarians’ reason of ethnic conflict for rejecting democracy can be dismissed.

“Such civic spaces referred to here need to have sufficient popular scale, with sufficient randomness and coverage, and they need to gain their legitimacy from the operation and expression of the mechanisms of democracy. There is a rare paradox in this: in order to guard against the disastrous consequences of totalitarianism which would manifest with the coming of democracy, democratic groupings and channels of communication first need to be founded under the totalitarian system. Although this is a great challenge to our bravery and our wisdom, all we can do is rise to meet it. For aside from this, there is no other way.

“In the face of obstacles placed by totalitarian powers, channels of communication between nationalities within civic spaces will need to rely on new technologies such as the Internet; unprecedented democratic forms need to be discovered and greater organizational structures need to be created. And to this end, we are joining hands. The hardships will be many and there is a lot of work to do. Fortunately, in today’s era of globalization, such just undertakings can seek support from all over the world. Our gathering in this place today is a portrait of these wonderful times.

“Thank you, Your Holiness, for your unrelenting search for common understanding with the Chinese people, and for your struggle to find a future where the Han and Tibetan peoples both win; and thank you all of you here for the support you have granted in the past, and for the support you will grant in the future.

“Thank you.”

Comments by Speaker of the United States Congress, Nancy Pelosi, on introducing His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“Thank you, Richard Gere, for your warm welcome and for your leadership on behalf of the people of Tibet as Chair of the International Campaign for Tibet. Congratulations to the Light of Truth Award winners: Wang Lixiong and the late Julia Taft. They exemplify leadership in the fight for the human rights and democratic freedom of the Tibetan people.

“Today I am honored to be called upon to introduce His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Two years ago, in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol, President Bush and bipartisan leaders of Congress honored the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal. In accepting, His Holiness brought luster to the award.

“Yesterday, in the United States Capitol, His Holiness was honored with the inaugural Lantos Human Rights Prize. Inscribed on this medal are the stirring words of Tom Lantos: ‘The rights of one are the rights of all.’ Ensuring rights for all people is the life work of His Holiness.

“American presidents and the American people have been inspired by His Holiness, who describes himself as a ‘simple monk, no more, no less.’ To Tibetan Buddhists, he is the earthly manifestation of the living Buddha. To them and the international community, he is the leader of the Tibetan people. To millions of believers and admirers, he is a source of wisdom and compassion. To young people, His Holiness is a positive example of how to make the world a better place.

“The Tibetan culture, religion, environment, and people are a source of inspiration to people the world over. So too is His Holiness the Dalai Lama a source inspiration for all people.

“It is an honor to be in His Holiness’s presence today. Please join me in welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

Remarks by Winston Lord, former US ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, on introducing Wang Lixiong

“I am deeply honored and moved to take part in this assembly. It is always inspiring to be in the presence of a luminary who personifies the destiny of the Tibetan people and the design for a more humane world – His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

“To join in the tribute to Julia Taft who championed similar causes is both melancholy and uplifting. As a colleague on the issues of Tibet and refugees, I witnessed firsthand her gusto and grit, sense of justice and sense of humor.

“Introducing Wang Lixiong ignites passion and compassion. He will accept the Light of Truth Award on behalf of 330 brave, mostly Han, Chinese citizens. For decades the Chinese government has sought to keep the world and its own people in the dark about Tibet. The more the Dalai Lama offers a middle way of peace and reconciliation, the more Beijing has vilified him and successfully bullied other governments. Especially pernicious is its campaign to incite Chinese youth and breed nationalistic hostility toward Tibetans.

“Thus what crowning valor and significance it is for Wang Lixiong and these eminent writers, scholars and artists to shed the light of truth on Tibet, as they did in their March 2008 petition. In this remarkable document they advocate non-violence and peaceful concord in Tibet. They attack official censorship and propaganda. They unmask those who hide behind “national unity.” They urge dialogue between Chinese leaders and the Dalai Lama. They call on Beijing to make fundamental changes in nationality policies and to “display a style of government that conforms to the standards of modern civilization.”

“Ever since last March these intrepid individuals continue to seek to bridge the divide between Han and Tibetans with words and deeds. In so doing they risk their careers, their very freedom.

“Wang Lixiong, a distinguished author and scholar, symbolizes the quest for inter-ethnic harmony through his marriage to Woeser, the world’s best known contemporary Tibetan writer. Like so many who question authority, she cannot travel to join us today. This daunting couple has been indefatigable in highlighting the plight of Tibetans and revealing the way to a brighter future. Even more impressive than the breadth of their writings is the depth of their courage.

“This award is presented in a year replete with resonating anniversaries in China: Sixty years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, fifty years since the Dalai Lama was forced to flee his land, thirty years since the establishment of Sino-American diplomatic relations and twenty years since the Tiananmen Square massacre.

“Those whom we honor today, and countless others, are striving to fashion happier anniversaries in the future.

“Let us hope that:

“The Chinese government, which has done so much to lift the prosperity of its people, will one day also lift the horizons of freedom.

  • The Dalai Lama may return to his home and Tibetans and all Chinese live in harmony.
  • The Sino-American relationship, which I continue to promote, will be anchored not only on shared interests but shared values.
  • And the official verdict concerning June 4, 1989 will be overturned so that “hooligans” will become heroes and “black hands” will become harbingers of history.

“It is my distinct privilege to introduce true heroes and harbingers of history, Wang Lixiong and his fellow recipients of the Light of Truth Award.”

Comments by Mary Beth Markey, ICT Vice President, on opening the 2009 Light of Truth Award ceremony

“Good Afternoon. I’m Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet.

“This is an extraordinary time for Tibet.

“What has happened over the past 18 months has raised the stakes for each of us who hold the conviction that Tibet matters, and it must raise the stakes for our political leaders in how Tibet is counted within the U.S.-Chinese relationship.

“Tibetan solidarity is stronger than ever, despite a determined Chinese government suppression.

“As the Tibetan poet and essayist, Woeser, has written from Beijing: “Tibetans living under the Chinese political system are breaking through the silence, and there are more and more instances of these voices being bravely raised, and this is encouraging ever more Tibetans.”

“There are Chinese, too, who are raising their voices for Tibet, and we are privileged to have many of them with us this afternoon.

“From among the strongest voices for tolerance, compassion and human dignity, the Board of Directors of the International Campaign for Tibet has chosen the 2009 Light of Truth Award recipients.

“Our Ceremony is ready to begin. Please join me in welcoming to the stage:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Speaker of the House or Representatives Nancy Pelosi

Light of Truth Award recipient Wang Lixiong and Ambassador Winston Lord

Ambassador William Howard Taft IV and Ambassador Paula Dobriansky

Our translators for the evening: Dr. Thubten Jimpa and Segyum Ngapa

And, the Chairman of the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet, Mr. Richard Gere.”