On the second day of the Special Meeting in Dharamsala, bringing together Tibetans from the diaspora worldwide and including new arrivals from Tibet, the Prime Minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Tibetan government in exile clarified the process of the meeting and its possible outcome. He said that the first day had been very “emotionally charged”, with each of the 15 sub-committees discussing a wide range of issues relating to the current situation in Tibet and strategies for the future.

In answer to a question about whether the government in exile would change its policy from the current Middle Way approach of genuine autonomy under the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Kalon Tripa said today: “We are totally following the democratic principle, which is that the people’s opinion is supreme.” He said that once the findings of the meeting were presented to the Dalai Lama, they would also be discussed by the Tibetan Parliament, which “has the final decision-making power” to adopt new strategies or not. He said: “One of the purposes of the meeting is to give different voices an official channel or platform.”

The importance of non-violence

“The danger for Tibet is not whether we get independence or autonomy, but whether we manage to keep our culture alive”

A young, educated Tibetan who returned to eastern Tibet after studying in exile sent the following letter to ICT about the Special Meeting. An English translation from the original Tibetan is enclosed below. Details of the identity of the writer have been withheld at their request and for their safety.

“I am a Tibetan who was educated in India as a youngster but who returned to Tibet. I worked for various companies in Tibet, and visited different countries in the West. Tibetans inside Tibet can be quite successful in setting up businesses and finding jobs. This is important because we have to take part in the new economy and in all walks of life, and we have to make ourselves less dependent on the Chinese.

This year our businesses were of course hit hard, as we were affected in all spheres of life by everything that happened since March. The situation inside Tibet is desperate. Even in an anonymous letter I am afraid to fully speak out. The names of friends that are in prison can’t be mentioned because while they are not yet sentenced, any evidence of a link with the outside world will further jeopardize their situation. Even though things have normalized a little since the end of the Olympic Games, the Chinese authorities use all efforts to silence people inside Tibet and also to create distrust and antagonism between the nationalities. Because of the terrible propaganda on TV and in other media, Chinese people these days are either afraid of or angry at any Tibetan they meet, while we are left furious when we see the propaganda that is being broadcast on television.

Let me start by saying how great it was to see the demonstrations during the torch relay and during the Olympic Games itself. After all that happened in March, it gave people in Tibet hope. It showed us that Tibet is not forgotten. The Tibetans living outside Tibet did a great job. They keep the cause alive. I really support all of you involved in that, and hope that you become even more effective in the future. China is always concerned about their good reputation. This year they were very embarrassed because of the demonstrations during the torch relay. As a super power they need a good reputation and losing face is a very big thing in Chinese culture. So for the future of Tibet, it is very important that China is reminded of the unacceptable situation inside Tibet.

I myself and others like me did not take part in demonstrations because we think we can contribute to the improvement of Tibet by focusing on our work and business. We believe that we can strengthen the Tibetan nationality in that way. But at the same time we support the demonstrations, even if it makes us suffer as well. That is okay, because we know it is for the good of our people. In terms of our struggle at large we must stay non-violent at any cost. China will be happy if Tibetans become more violent because it will give them an opportunity to portray Tibetans in a negative way. They are always eager to show that Tibetans in India instigate violence. It emphasizes how important the non-violent Middle Way approach is.

Even Tibetans who work for the government inside Tibet feel strongly about their nationality. I hear how Tibetan police officers in Lhasa and Tibetans working for the army were really very upset when they saw how the army responded to demonstrations this year. But they could not do anything. They were very angry when a Tibetan lady gave the names of several protesters to the authorities. They called her a whore and told her not to hand in Tibetan protesters. Also well-educated young Tibetans who went to school in China are often deeply patriotic. When they return to Tibet to work for the Chinese government they see the difference in how people are ruled in China and how they are controlled in Tibetan areas, and in particular how people are ruled in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). But inside Tibet, it is very difficult to receive good information. We can never open Tibetan websites such as http://www.phayul.com/ and websites of Tibet organizations. Some movies on YouTube also can’t be opened. The foreign companies that provide the search engines in China have no business ethics; they help the Chinese government to block information.

For the important meeting taking place in Dharamsala this week, there are two main things I would like to say.

As a Tibetan inside Tibet who has also seen places outside my country, including Western countries, I think that the danger for Tibet is not whether we achieve independence or autonomy, but whether we manage to keep our culture alive. I don’t think an agreement will be reached with regards to full autonomy or independence. Perhaps in the future [there will be] some sort of autonomy. But the main issue is how we preserve and develop our culture. The main issue is the survival of our race and our way of life. People in Tibet, people who are part of our country, they are losing their culture. They prefer to communicate in Chinese and take on Chinese lifestyles. But in India you see the same. People talk to each other in English or Hindi. Tibetans lose their affinity with the Tibetan ways of life. When we look at the border areas in eastern Tibet, we see what will happen in central Tibet in the future. Our culture and our race will be completely assimilated and swallowed up by Chinese culture.

In order to keep the Tibetan cause alive, the most important thing is to keep the culture of Tibet alive. In India the Tibetans are supposed to keep the culture alive, but you see where it is happening. Are they staying together as a community? People are moving around the globe. The new generation of Tibetans around the world won’t want to return to Tibet. So who is going to keep the cause alive? My point is that as part of any sort of negotiations of initial agreement, a priority should be given to the possibilities of exile Tibetans traveling to Tibet. It is very important that Tibetans outside Tibet take an interest in visiting Tibet, and if possible working in Tibet, setting up projects or businesses inside Tibet. In particular in the areas close to the Chinese areas, the climate is more relaxed and Tibetans can achieve a lot. Because Tibetans from outside Tibet are generally well educated, are well informed and are very broad-minded, they have a tremendously positive impact on the community inside Tibet. They can influence local people, not engage in politics. In this way they can keep the cause alive.

In line with this, there is a need to thoroughly rethink the strategy. The dialogue with the Chinese is not likely to yield any result soon. On the question of independence or autonomy there is not much choice; it is certain that full independence will never be debatable. In the meantime, time is running out for Tibet and Tibet’s culture. I am from a Tibetan area that does not fall under the TAR. But I myself have come to the conclusion that perhaps it is important to consider that [if it is offered], whether we should accept full autonomy for [just] the TAR… [This is a controversial viewpoint, as it implies the exclusion of Tibetan areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces.] .You see that in Lhasa and some other major cities, as well as areas close to mainland China, 60 to 80% of businesses belong to Han [Chinese] immigrants [and] the situation is urgent.

I would like to express the wish that we keep up our strong desires, and our spirit to fight for freedom, dignity and peace for our people. I pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and I pray for those who gave up their lives for Tibet and those that are still in prison.”

Tibet, 15 November 2008

The importance of unity

“The galloping of Tibetan horses still resonates through our veins”

The following posting was left on a popular Tibetan blog beneath an article about the Special Meeting, and is by an anonymous contributor who describes him or herself as a “Tibetan intellectual”.

“Thank you for your posting, and thank you very much indeed for telling us about this meeting which is to be convened on the Tibet question. As a Tibetan intellectual, even though I’m an old Tibetan who has become sinicized, even though our language is becoming sinicized and our clothes sinicized, and although in our work we have to serve the Han people, the galloping of Tibetan horses still resonates through our veins, our hearts are bursting with our yak-hair tent homes and we ride the world on the back of our Snow Lion. The world is in our hands, and we are an indomitable people and we have a duty to rise to the historical destiny of the Tibetan people. Wherever there is repression there is resistance. Do not die in silence but explode after the silence: even if only one person remains the struggle will continue to the end. We will not be overthrown. Even if only one person remains the struggle will continue to the end.

I once wrote: ‘Warm congratulations on the successful convening of the ‘First European Tibetan Congress,’ [a new grouping of Tibetans in Europe] which is the first time in 50 years that a ‘European Tibetan Union Congress’ has been established. At last, there is a global organizational structure, a central guide most needed by Tibetans in the world, and it is hoped that you can take on this onerous historical duty along with the wish of all Tibetans for freedom, and draw up a just and moral Tibetan political program, an organized, planned and incremental program which uses material and human strengths, and which takes as its lead Gandhi’s indomitable spirit of struggle and the Jewish people’s struggle for unity. I believe that Hitler’s fall was the fall of all tyrants, and that the Jewish people’s today is the Tibetan people’s tomorrow.’

I hope that these Chinese postings will be translated into English as soon as possible to let people all over the world see that we have not been silenced by fear. On the contrary, we are only increasing in our anger and hope. Below are my own personal hopes and I believe they also represent the hopes of other Tibetans on the inside.

One, I hope that the ‘European Tibetan Union Organization Congress’ will be changed into the ‘International Tibetan Union Congress,’ thereby unifying the intellect and benevolence of the Tibetan people and those who support the Tibetan people the world over.

Two, we hope that this meeting will formally establish a ‘theocratic’ and ‘International Tibetan Union Congress,’ and we hope that the Dalai Lama will continue to be our political and religious leader.

Three, with regard to the ‘International Tibetan Union Congress’ needed as a structure and centre of guidance by the Tibetan people around the world, it is hoped that you can take on this onerous historical duty as well as the wish of all Tibetans for freedom, and draw up a just and moral Tibetan political program, an organized, planned and incremental program which uses material and human strengths.

Four, we must join with the world’s ‘Friendly, peace-loving unions seeking democratic freedoms’ in order to realize everyone’s common goals.

Five, we hope that everyone will pray for the long life of Kundun [an honorific for the Dalai Lama, literally meaning ‘The Presence’], because Kundun’s life is no longer his own, but is that of the leader of we several million Tibetans; and we hope that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will continue, as this is an important tradition in the Tibetan people’s religious history and culture.

This has been a presentation of some historical materials on the struggle of a people who were once almost exterminated but who finally attained the victory of freedom; it is hoped that all Tibetans, particularly young Tibetans, will see that while we have the lessons and experiences of yesterday, it is even more important to bear the arduous struggles of today and the responsibility for tomorrow.

Sincere congratulations on the victorious convening of the first meeting of Tibetan representatives in 50 years’

With all devotion to the Tibetan people, November 13, 2008.”