7-10 May 2019, Riga, Latvia
- The Riga Declaration 7th World Parliamentary Convention on Tibet
- Video Message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama
- Address by Honorable Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay
- Address by Honorable Speaker Pema Jungney
- Press Release,7th World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet
We, the delegations to the 7th World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet meeting in Riga, Latvia, from 7-10 May 2019;
Recalling the findings and statements of the previous six Conventions held in New Delhi,Vilnius, Washington D.C., Edinburgh, Rome and Ottawa, and having reviewed the activities and programs that resulted from these meetings and their impact;
Appreciating the strong participation from countries all over the world at the Convention,
Thankful for the participation of those members of Parliament who came to Riga despite having been pressured by the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) not to attend, and deeply concerned at the PRC’s attempt to stop them;
Deeply concerned about the reluctance of the PRC to resume the dialogue with representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama since 2010;
Recognizing the urgency of resolving the international Sino-Tibetan conflict caused by the invasion of Tibet by the PRC in 1949/50 and its illegal annexation in 1951;
Having reviewed the grave situation in Tibet as well as the policies of the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in relation to the Tibetan people;
Recognizing the critical role played by parliamentarians and parliamentary bodies in raising awareness of the grave situation in Tibet with governments and international institutions and in formulating policies in support of the cause of the Tibetan people;
Recognizing that respect for international law is a precondition for peaceful relation between States;
Expressing solidarity with all others suffering oppression under the rule of the Government of the PRC;
Reiterate our firm conviction that the Sino-Tibetan conflict can be resolved peacefully through negotiations between the government of the PRC and envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama;
Reaffirm that Tibet has historically never been part of China, that it was invaded in violation of international law and has since been under illegal occupation by the PRC, and that consequently Tibet has not lost its Statehood under international law;
Reject the false claim of the Government of the PRC that Tibet has been a part of China since ancient times and reject as unacceptable its demand that His Holiness publicly accept this claim as a precondition to substantive talks;
Recall that it has been 60 years since HH the Dalai Lama fled into exile to India where he reconstituted the Tibetan government, the Central Tibetan Administration, which is currently democratically elected and is the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people;
Acknowledge that it has been 60 years since His Holiness the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India where he set up a democratic government representing the Tibetan people;
Express solidarity with the Tibetan people in their non-violent struggle for their rights including their right to self-determination;
Deplore the assaults on the Tibetan culture, language, religious practice and way of life of Tibetans, as well as the continued population transfer of Chinese into Tibet, which gravely impacts these and other aspects of the Tibetan identity;
Recognise the critical role of the Tibetan Plateau with respect to world climate and
climate change, as well as the importance of the Tibetan rivers as the source of water for much of Asia’s population;
Express concern about the environmental degradation on the Tibetan Plateau, which led to an unprecedented number of natural disasters since 2016, primarily caused by excessive resource extraction and dam construction, as well as the accumulation of waste and dumping of toxic waste on the Plateau and in Tibet’s waters;
Express concern at the dire situation of nomads who have been forcibly resettled into new towns and who are deprived of the basic necessities of life;
Are deeply concerned and saddened by the 153 Tibetans who have set fire to themselves in protest against Chinese rule in Tibet and while calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet;
Express concern at the increasing security measures taken in Tibet that curtail the freedom of expression, religion and movement of the Tibetans;
Express concern at the PRC government’s harassment of Tibetans living in exile and its in situation of disharmony within Tibetan communities in exile;
Recognize that the Middle Way Approach is the most viable approach to peacefully resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict; and endorse the principles set out in the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, which provide the basis for a realistic and sustainable political solution to the issue of Tibet;
Affirm that the Buddhist practice of identifying and recognising the reincarnation of Dalai Lamas and Tulkus is a religious matter that should not be subject to external political interference by the government of the PRC;
Call on parliaments and governments to challenge and impede the PRC Government’s use of sharp power to manipulate and divide societies and its abuse of cyber space;
Welcome the adoption of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (RATA) by the United States in December 2018 as well as the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and urge other countries to speedily adopt such legislation;
Urge governments to act in ways that more truthfully reflects the sentiments of the people in their country towards Tibet and its people;
Urge parliaments and governments to receive leaders and other representatives of the Central Tibetan Administration to discuss all issues pertaining to improving the situation in Tibet and resolving the Sino-Tibetan conflict;
Call upon the Government of the PRC:
To end the repression of Tibetans, the violation of their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
To end its control of the cultural, religious and social life of Tibetans and to release the Panchen Lama, who has been held captive for the past 24 years.
To give unimpeded access to Tibet to foreign journalists, scholars and researchers, diplomats and other foreign citizens, including those of Tibetan origin.
To cease its policies and practices that harm the natural environment of the Tibetan Plateau.
And to resume the dialogue with envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama without preconditions.
Respected friends and of course our supporters, I always describe Tibetan supporters as not mere pro-Tibetan but pro-justice. Because our struggle-Tibetan struggle is very much based on moral principle and thoroughly committed to non-violent way. So more and more people including many Chinese now showing deeper understanding about the Tibetan problem. So such occasion at this gathering very very helpful, very useful.
Since 2001, I retired and on political matter, the elected political leadership, carry full responsibility. My main commitment regarding Tibet is firstly Tibet’s environment. Usually people call Tibet, “The Roof of the World.” It is true. And all major rivers which cover whole Asia -from China to Pakistan-all these major rivers come from Tibet. So one of my Chinese friends, an expert about ecology. He described the Tibetan Plateau as the ‘Third Pole’. Because effects of global warming from the Tibetan Plateau is as much as South Pole and North Pole. So he described the Tibetan Plateau as the ‘Third Pole’. So taking special care about environment in Tibet, I feel is very important. Some of my Indian friends, ecologists, they say Tibet, high altitude, dry climate. So once ecology damaged, recovery would take longer period. Quite delicate. Therefore we really need special care about environment inside Tibet.
Now I realize Tibetan language is the best language to describe about ancient Indian knowledge-psychology, philosophy, particularly quantum physics. Tibetans- we have fuller knowledge because we study these things, come our knowledge. 8th century Tibetan emperor invited Nalanda, at that time 8th century top most scholar Shantarakshita. He was invited. So he introduced Buddhism according to Nalanda tradition and he also advised since 7th century Tibet already developed our own script copied from Devnagari. So he suggested, “You Tibetans, instead of studying Sanskrit or Pali, you should translate these texts, important texts”. So eventually more than 300 volumes of translation mainly from Sanskrit. And also from Pali. Therefore Tibetan language, you see, when translation started new words developed. So as a result now today Tibetan language is the closest language to Sanskrit. So therefore, I noticed when we discuss about psychology, about philosophy and you see these logical things, I found the Tibetan language is the best language.Therefore it is really worthwhile to preserve it in order to study Nalanda tradition. These Nalanda tradition- not just religious matters. I consider them as academic subjects like logic – academic and psychology – academic. Therefore the preservation of Tibetan language is, I think in whole Buddhist world particularly like China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam – same Buddhist tradition from Nalanda. Tibetan language is the most useful language to study these things.
And then now today 21st century, I think previously non-Buddhist countries like Europe and America –mainly these two continents. So Tibetan language now I realize, you see, if these sophisticated ancient Indian knowledge now today the Tibetan language is the best language to explain these things. So even as a sort of non-Buddhist countries now including many scientists are really showing interest to learn from ancient Indian psychology, Indian philosophy purely on academic level. So therefore I consider Tibetan language something very important to preserve. In future in terms of global level I think, these subjects are related with humanity. So on global level, Tibetan language I think, something useful, something important. These are my main concerns and my commitments since I retired from political responsibility. So my friends, you please think of these things- environment and preservation of Tibetan language. So, you are the source of our hope and our determination.
In 1959, when we came to India, felt there is a Tibetan saying – the sky suppressed the earth. So almost you see, helpless and hopeless. Since we have moral principle and certain sort of just issue, so decade by decade, more and more people showing interest. Now today the number of Chinese Buddhists and more realistic Chinese also showing genuine interest. Their last 70 years of their policy is not realistic. After 70 years Tibetan problem still remain there. So they also now thinking in order to solve the Tibetan problem a more realistic approach is needed.
So from our side we are not seeking independence. We since 1974 we are committed to remain within the People’s Republic of China. So there is no problem. In China, you see, Mongolia and Uighyur people and some other few different people are given autonomous sort of rights. The Chinese constitution mentions certain rights. Now these things, they should implement. So, therefore, my friends please think of these things and then support continuously.
Thank you very much.
It is a great privilege to be here at the 7th WPCT. Under the leadership of Hon’ble Speaker Pema Jungney and Deputy Speaker Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, we have 13 Tibetan Members of Parliament. We also have representatives from the Office of Tibet from around the world. And I see many Members of Parliament have come from far and wide. I just met Hon’ble Member of Parliament from New Zealand. He changed four planes and travelled 40 hours to get here. An act that aptly conforms to the term support and determination.
I would like to mention the parliamentary Tibet Support Groups. The Czech Republic is the largest parliamentary Tibet Support Group in Europe with over 50 members. Though Members of Japan Parliament couldn’t be here due to prior engagements, Japan has the world’s largest parliamentarian Tibet Support Group with 92 members, 70 per cent from the ruling party. It shows that parliamentarians around the world are supportive of the Tibet cause.
I also like to acknowledge representatives from the US Congress, especially the Congressional-Executive Commission. Congressman Jim McGovern has been instrumental in passing the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act. The video message for the Congressmen and the very supportive letter from Hon’ble Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the 7th WPCT shows the support from the US Congress.
I think what we intend to get out of the 7th WPCT is that there be strong support and resolution on the Middle Way Approach (MWA), and especially the dialogue between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. Yesterday, we got the translation in the Latvian language, the book CTA published, which clearly says Tibet was never part of China, but Middle Way is a viable option. Hence, we want to make it very clear historically, as per International Law Tibet was an independent country. But if granted genuine autonomy, we will not seek independence. Hence, a dialogue is very important between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.
Another very important issue is the reincarnation. The Communist Party of China which doesn’t believe in religion, or as Mao Zedong said religion is poison, wants to interfere in religious matters and on reincarnation. I think the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all the Tibetan lamas are the business and the sole authority of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Lamas. The Chinese government should not interfere at all. That is the crux of the religious freedom that we are advocating.
Generally, this gathering in the larger context is also defending democracy and human rights. Universal values, human rights and democracy are under attack. China is trying to create a new global order and redefine human rights. So if you support Tibet, you are supporting democracy, you are supporting human rights, you are supporting justice and freedom. It’s not just simply an issue of six million Tibetans. We have been saying if you want to understand China, you must understand the Tibetan cause. Unless you understand what is happening in Tibet, you will not understand China. Tibet is the test for the whole world. It is a test for whether you are for non-violence, dialogue and democracy. And if you are for these values, speak for Tibet and Tibetan people.
This year we commemorated the 60th anniversary of the March 10, the Tibetan National Uprising Day. It has been 60 years since His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been in exile. Despite the power, pressure and efforts of the Chinese government to undermine us, dilute us, destroy us, we are still standing. It is mainly because of the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, partly because of the Tibetan people’s resilience, and primarily because of friends like you around the world.
Last year was also marked as the Gratitude Year. We wanted to thank all the supporters of Tibet around the world and travelled to various countries to express our gratitude. Some of you are from the places we haven’t been able to travel to. Taking this opportunity, I formally thank you for being with us for decades. The strong support is why we are still standing today, and why we have the 7th WPCT here in Riga, Latvia.
I think it is fitting that we had the 7th WPCT here in the Baltic State, Latvia. This is the region where resistance took place many times in history and succeeded in restoring democracy and independence. I say this, particularly because I want to acknowledge the hospitality of Riga, Latvia and the Latvian Members of Parliament. I was in Vilnius, Lithuania for 36 hours. In that 36 hour, because of the efforts and contributions of the Lithuanian supporters, we were able to create a bit of a small wave through events and media coverage. The Chinese embassy issued a long press release condemning the press conference organized by our friend Andrew Navickas, who is here with us today.
The press release of the Chinese embassy explicitly said the presence of the Members of Parliament, such as the prominent Vytautas Landsbergis, the first president of the Lithuanian Parliament who is considered as one of the founding father and head of the nation, at the conference was prejudice, hostile and totally unacceptable. And they mentioned my name Lobsang Sangay, head of the Dalai separatist forces, who wants to split China.
The press release said, Lobsang Sangay, who has never been to Tibet. However, the press release forgot to add that the Chinese government never allowed me to go to Tibet. I want to visit Tibet tomorrow if they allow me. Another allegation was that Lobsang’s statement is full of lies. We are Middle Way, and what we do is seek truth and speak honestly, but, we are labelled as all lies.
There is political repression, economic marginalization, environmental destruction, cultural assimilation is going on in Tibet. All these are facts. Our book states that and so do the experts, but the Chinese embassy says it’s full of lies. It claims that Tibet is prosperous, and Tibetans are happy, but they forgot to mention that Tibet is listed as the least free region in the world after Syria for three years in a row in the annual reports of the Freedom House.
We all know about Syria, but how many people know that Tibet is the second least free region. Journalists are not allowed to go to Tibet. Reporters Without Borders, in a statement based on a quote from the journalists in Beijing, states that for journalists in Beijing, it is easier to go to North Korea than to Tibet. Now we all know how restrictive North Korea is and yet, it is more difficult for journalists to go to Tibet. That’s why Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is very important. If the Chinese government allows all these journalists, reporters, diplomats and academics to Tibet then they will see the truth about what is really happening in Tibet.
These kinds of press statements by the Chinese embassy in Lithuania is not new. I was in South Africa when they issued another press release. They sent hundred-plus Chinese and labor migrants, who were hired and paid to stomp the University, stomp the auditorium, stomp the stage where I was going to speak.
In Canada at the University of Toronto, around fifty Chinese students carrying Chinese national flag protested outside the place where I was going to speak. In Madrid, Spain, the City Mayor invited the Tibetan delegation and the Chinese delegation pulled out. The Mayor was under so much pressure because they warned that the President of China’s visit to Spain could be cancelled if he went ahead with the project.
In October, I was in Prague, Czech Republic. The Mayor of Prague invited Sikyong as per the protocol that they extended to Xi Jinping a few years ago. The Chinese government retaliated by cancelling all cultural exchanges between Prague and China. The Prague cultural troop were not allowed to go to China. Thankfully, the Mayor is strong enough to say, Okay, then we will send them to Taiwan.
These kinds of steps taken the Chinese government and Chinese embassies is an act of impunity. How long and how far can we go on tolerating this? All we can say is that these acts are based on insecurity. The fact that they are trying to isolate us and act the way they do demonstrates their insecurity. So these are the things we should be aware of, and we must unite in a multilateral approach to deal with China in defense of democracy and human rights.
When the Chinese army first came to Tibet, we were promised one road connecting China to Tibet. We were told that once Tibet was connected to China through this road and an airport, it will bring prosperity for Tibetans. The Belt and Road Initiative says the same thing. We will connect the railway line, road and seaport to all these European countries and around the world, and it will bring prosperity. We also believed that party slogan, and we helped build the road.
While the road was being built, Tibetans were paid in silver coins for their labor. The Tibetans started singing a song, saying, the Communist Party acts like a kind parent figure, it showers us with silver coins. Once the road was completed, the Chinese army came in, guns came, and tanks came, and took over our country. Soon trucks came for the forest, for the minerals, and for the last 60 years extraction of minerals is taking place, even now.
One road led to the occupation of our country. Now the same blueprint is being used in various parts of the world by China. I was giving a talk in South India, and two South African students asked me a question. What do you make of all these Chinese investments in South Africa? I asked them if China built good roads, railway lines, entertainment centers, and football stadiums? I asked if the ruling elites were speaking for the Chinese government. While answering with a yes to all my questions, they asked, how did you know about our continent? I said I have never been to Africa, but that’s what happened in Tibet 60 years ago. And the same blueprint is being used in Africa, in Latin America, and they want to use it in Europe through this Belt and Road Initiative.
There is a song promoting Belt and Road Initiative. In that video, lots of children sing that song, and it goes like this I quote “the belt connects the land, the road moves on the sea, together what they promise is join prosperity.” This song is somewhat similar to what we sang in Tibet as well. In another song, young leaders participating in the International Youth Forum, a UNESCO event, sings, “I would like to build the world a road and furnish it with love. I would like to see the world for once, all standing hand in hand and hear the echo through the belt of peace throughout the land. A community of shared future for mankind coming true. It is the Belt and Road, what the world wants today.” However, the song is a rip-off of the 1970s classic Co-Cola advertisement, “I would like to buy the world a coke.” Even the song promoting Belt and Road Initiative is a rip-off.
Co-optation of the elite is another thing China did in Tibet. I was visiting Australia around 8 years ago and the media was speculating whether Bob Carl, the then former Foreign Minister of Australia, would meet me or not. Obviously, he would not meet with me. During my next visit, I found out that Bob Carl has become a consultant for the Chinese government. Trade Minister of Australia is providing service to the Chinese government. So I went to Oslo, Norway, a few times. And the talk at that time was Beijing froze its relationship with Norway because it gave the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. Then Foreign Minister of Norway wanted to normalize the relationship and signed an agreement. In return of the normal ties, His Holiness was not to be received by the king, Prime Minister, and the speaker, during his visit to Norway. Talks about democracy, human rights, and Tiananmen was not to be made. Then Foreign Minister of Norway is now the President of the World Economic Forum supported by the Chinese government. He is in charge of Davos, and it is not surprising that Davos rolled out the red carpet for President Xi Jinping, when he made a rare visit to Davos.
So you can see that it is not just Tibet, and it is not just Australia, Africa, Latin America, but right here in Europe. Ministers after ministers providing service to the Chinese government. So these are things we should be very careful about. I know a country right here in Europe where a Chinese businessman was the advisor to the President with his office right next to the President’s Office. Though he was fired due to a major scandal, it is important to know that elite grab is the biggest threat to human rights, democracy and to the global order as we know it.
Today, that one road has become a hundred roads. Most of them leading to our minerals; gold, borax, lithium, uranium and many more. One airport has become thirty airports and six military airfields. One railway line is becoming two-three railway lines connecting to gold, copper, and uranium mines. According to some environmentalists 70 per cent of the lithium comes from Tibet. China uses Tibetan-lithium made batteries for the phone and sell their phone at a cheap rate around the world. Similarly, at one time, 90 per cent of the rare earth in the whole world came from Inner Mongolia. For a foreign company to buy rare earth from China, they have to pay ten times its original amount. Hence, the Chinese-made phones are cheaper than foreign-made.
Belt and Road Initiative is a big thing in Europe, in the Baltic States as well. And I hope media and others pay attention and understand what’s going on in Tibet so that you will be aware and be careful when dealing with China. We are not asking you to not engage with China. What we ask of is standing up for your morals and principles when you engage with China. We are, after all, a human being with emotions and feelings. We cannot all become a commodity by proving services in exchange for money only.
Having said all these things, there has been a backlash. Even in Australia, the ruling party has proposed to pass a bill restricting foreign influence in Australian politics, restricting campaign finance in the Australian election. Such debates are also taking place in Czech Republic, Slovakia, and even in Germany. Many think tanks are coming out with reports saying China poses a threat or challenge to democracy, human rights, and universal norms.
The European Union and many American think tanks have come out with similar reports. We must equip ourselves with the findings of these researches and learn how to deal with China. Even at the United Nations, we are seeing China redefining human rights and restructuring the United Nation. Socialism with Chinese characteristics, one-party rule with no freedom of speech or universal suffrage, is being promoted as the new norm. These basic rights, which we take for granted, are all at stake. We cannot be complacent. Though China’s presence and power are strong, we must prepare ourselves to deal with it together.
Today is the 7th WPCT meeting, hopefully, we will have the 8th in Lhasa, Tibet. Under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the resilience of the Tibetan people, we are still standing strong, and we are still relevant to the whole world.
In the 1950s and 60s, the first thing the Chinese army did was destroyed 98 per cent of Tibetan monasteries and nunneries. 99 per cent of Tibetans monks and nuns were disrobed. We had only a 2 per cent chance of survival and revival, and we took that 2 per cent chance and we rebuilt monasteries and nunneries in exile. We built Buddhist centers around the world, including in Latvia. We revived the Buddhist civilization in the whole of the Himalayan belt of South Asia, including Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, and Arunachal. And most importantly we have revived Buddhism back in Tibet. Despite the ongoing repression of religious freedom in Tibet, we have revived Buddhism in private and social spaces. And in the last 60 years what has changed is China has become the largest Buddhist country in the world with 300 to 400 million Chinese practicing Buddhism. So spiritually, we have already prevailed or won against the Communist Party of China.
I am often asked about the chances of Tibetans getting succeed. It always reminds of my meeting with Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland. I asked him about how he succeeded and how he kept himself so positive. Lay Volusia shared about his meeting and conversation with the then Foreign Minister of Germany, who said to Lay Volusia that the Berlin Wall was not coming down in his lifetime. Few months after that meeting, the Berlin Wall came down. Sometimes you never know what is going to happen even in your backyard. If you have read the news coverage in the 1980s, obituaries were written about Nelson Mandela. But he got released and restored democracy in South Africa. We all know about Aung San Suu Kyi, the historic Good Friday Agreement and Vaclav Havel’s Charter 77.
We have come to Riga, Latvia to have the 7th WPCT because Latvia and the Baltic States fought for their democracy against all odds. Three small countries with 2.5, 2 million and 1.5 million population stood against the Soviet Union. So we are sending a loud and clear message from Riga, Latvia to Beijing, to Lhasa, that one day our day will come too. And one day His Holiness the Dalai Lama will return to Tibet. One day soon, freedom will be restored for Tibetans. If Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian can do it despite being smaller countries in size and population, we Tibetans can do it too.
On behalf of Tibetans in and outside Tibet, I would like to extend my heartiest gratitude to all the honorable delegates attending this WPCT and confirming your solidarity with us at this critical era of Tibet’s history.
Tibet occupies a vast area of plateaus and high snow capped mountains in Central Asia. It shares its border with India, China, Nepal, Burma, Bhutan and Turkistan. It is considered the highest plateau in the world and thus called the Roof of the World. It has a population of 6 million and land rich in minerals and the varieties of vegetation and wildlife animals. It is also a source of many great rivers to the Asian countries such as Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), Senge Khaba (Indus), Drichu (Yangtze), Zachu (Mekong), Machu (Yellow river), Gyalmo Ngulchu (Salween). Tibet, thus commands the most strategic position in Central Asia. It has been a closed society with no relations to the outside world. It enjoys its own government, written and spoken Tibetan language, culture and religion.
In 1949, People’s Republic of China started their journey of invasion into Tibet from the eastern Tibet. On 23 May 1951, a Tibetan delegation, who had gone to Beijing to hold talks on the invasion, was forced to sign the so-called “17 point Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation on Tibet”- with threats of more military action in Tibet and by forging the official seals of Tibet. The Chinese then used this document to carry out their plans to turn Tibet into a colony of China disregarding the strong resistance by the Tibetan people. The Chinese violated every article of this unequal ‘treaty’ which they had dictated on the Tibetans and gradually invaded whole of Tibet in 1959. The Chinese authorities levied forceful occupation on Tibetans through destruction of monasteries, suppression of religion, denial of political freedom, widespread arrest, imprisonment, massacre of innocent Tibetan people of all age, etc. The treacherous and illegitimate domination of PRC in Tibet and against His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama compelled His Holiness to flee from His own country with around 85,000 Tibetans and took refuge in India. The people and the government of India had and still has been extremely grateful for giving us a asylum for decades and this year, it marks the 60th year of our exile to India.
During these 60 years, we Tibetans have managed to preserve our own culture, religion and language under the privileged guidance of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Simultaneously, Tibetans inside Tibet, despite enduring the repressive and inhumane torture of Chinese government against them have and are still struggling hard to preserve it.
Up untill 1979, the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan people adopted a policy of seeking independence for Tibet. But then, His Holiness the 14th Dalai lama from early 1970s has a different vision of having a middle way approach to resolve the issue of Tibet with the Chinese, as great changes are taking place in the independent status of countries and nationalities in the world, making it more sensible to solve a conflict through negotiations. Despite these vision of His Holiness being very pragmatic in real terms, His Holiness the 14th Dalai lama didn’t force or push it on Tibetan people to follow this policy. On the contrary, His Holiness held a series of discussion with the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies (the then Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile), the Kashag (Cabinet) and many scholarly and experienced people. Particularly in 1979, the late Chinese paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping’s proposal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama that “except independence, all other issues can be resolved through negotiations”, held a belief in resolving the issue of Tibet on a mutually beneficial solution. Above that the opinions of Tibetans and the suggestions from Tibet, paved a way towards the unanimous adoption of this policy- Middle Way Approach, in the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies on 18 September 1997. Therefore, this Approach is not something that has emerged all of a sudden but it has a definite history of evolution and was adopted democratically. This approach meets the realistic interest of both Tibetan and Chinese people and clearly implies of not seeking independence, but a genuine autonomy within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Furthermore, yet again after the majority support from Tibetan people during the 2008 Special Meeting, Tibetan Parliament in Exile adopted a unanimous resolution to this policy on 20 March, 2010.
Up until now, we have had 9 rounds of dialogue with the Chinese government. That last 9th round of negotiation was held in year 2010. During the eight round of talk in 2008, the two envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented the Chinese counterparts at their request, a copy of the Memorandum for Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People. This memorandum states for the importance of the middle way approach for both China and Tibet but this modest proposal was rejected on account of violating the Chinese constitution. Then during the ninth round of discussions, the two envoys presented to the Central United Front Work Department a note on the memorandum which explained how the demands of the Tibetan people, as articulated in the memorandum, did not violate the Chinese constitution. After that, despite every effort made from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and CTA, the Chinese government didn’t give any positive response for further dialogues. The CTA has made every effort within its power to create a conducive atmosphere for negotiations and taken a series of confidence-building measures. Even after the devolution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s political authority to the then elected Political Leader in 2011, the greatest landmark in Tibet’s history, the CTA and the Tibetan people remain genuinely committed to take these steps till the issue of Tibet is resolved through a negotiated settlement in the best interest of both the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.
Even, Chinese scholars, activists, policy experts, journalists and individuals in and outside China have expressed their full support through letters, poems and voices for this approach of the Central Tibetan Administration and called on the Chinese government to resume dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Even Nobel Peace Laureate, late Liu Xiaobo supported this policy. The liberal thinkers of the Chinese section consider this approach a valuable proposal for solving the long-standing issue of Sino-Tibet, promoting reconciliation between China and Tibet.
Various parliaments, parliamentarians, organisations, intellectuals, individuals showed enormous support to this policy of Middle Way Approach. The coming up of World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet (WPCT) is one such kind of efforts made by different Parliamentary Support Groups for Tibet in order to sustain and strengthen the Tibetan struggle to make aware and to support the truthful cause of Tibet. The first WPCT was held in New Delhi, India in 1994 with the efforts and aegis of All Party Parliamentary Forum for Tibet initiated by some great leaders of Indian parliamentarians who are ardent believer in just cause of Tibet. Followed by Second in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1995 with the support of Lithuanian Parliamentary Tibet Support Group, Third in Washington D.C. USA in 1997 with US Congressional Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet and International Campaign for Tibet, Fourth in Edinburg, Scotland in 2005 with UK All Parliamentary Group for Tibet, Fifth in Rome, Italy in 2009 with the support of Italian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet and International Campaign for Tibet and the Sixth in Ottawa, Canada in 2012 with the close association of Canadian Parliamentary Group for Tibet and International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet. And now the 7th WPCT with the assistance of Latvian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet and International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet.
On behalf of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, I would like to sincerely express my thanks to Latvian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet under the leadership of Hon. Artuss Kaimins and his team, Mr. Janis Martins Skuja who had extended their support to hold such an important convention despite having their own hectic schedules.
Latvia has been very benevolent towards our issue and has always raised their voice against the illegal treatment of Chinese government on Tibetans inside Tibet. On December 2005, Members of Latvian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet sent a letter to Mr. Li Zhaoxing, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Guangya Wang, China’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Wu Bangguo, President of the National People’s Congress of the Chinese People’s Republic, Mr. Zhang Fusen, Minister of Justice and Mr. Zhang Limin, Ambassador of China in Latvia, expressing their concern on the crackdown of one of Tibet’s oldest monastic institution-Drepung Monastery on 16th December, 2018. Then, on September of 2003 in Riga, a group of Latvian Parliamentarians met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and expressed their strong support for Tibetans in preserving Tibetan culture and identity. Besides that, on March 2016, a Joint Statement was made by Members of Parliament of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania together with Tibetan supporters from three Baltic States showing their deep concern and anguish for the increasing wave of self-immolations in and outside Tibet since 2009, which clearly indicates about the repressive policies of Chinese government on Tibetans. Then, on January 2018, Latvian Parliamentarians including Members of Latvian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet issued a joint statement on the case of Tashi Wangchuk, Tibetan language advocate, to ensure him a fair and transparent trail urging China to implement judgement process that is constant with international legal standards, with the presence of observers at his trial. Above that Latvia has warmly welcomed His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama several times in their country, thus Latvian and Tibetans share a strong bond of friendship.
Today we are gathered here together and able to hold this important Convention all because of your consistent support and encouragement, which reconfirmed and encouraged us to organize such a big event. This convention is being held after quite a long time but then the number of parliamentarians gathered here is encouraging despite having major elections in their respective countries. Many of the parliamentarians and our old friends sent their messages of regret for not being able to attend this convention due to sudden emergencies and many other things but they conveyed their best wishes to all of us and extended their support to this important convention.
At this crucial time of Tibet’s history, the support and the interest with which you all have shown by attending this convention will remain indebted to us. Simultaneously, the passing of Reciprocal Access to Tibet into Law by the US President and US Congress, the recent adoption of resolution of European Parliament on the increasingly repressive regime on Tibetans and minority groups in China and various other resolutions and statements by different Parliaments and its Parliamentarians all over the world, will remain indebted to us forever. Above that, the very recent statement of US Congressman Jim McGovern on His Eminence Panchen Lama’s 30th Birthday stating “The 24-year-long enforced disappearance of the Panchen Lama is one of the most egregious examples of China’s violation of the religious freedom rights of the Tibetan people. In honor of his 30th birthday, I again call on the Chinese government to free the true Panchen Lama immediately and without conditions.” is highly appreciative and it is indeed a hour of need, thereby, I would like to request all those truth loving countries to call upon Chinese governments to stop their interference in Tibetan reincarnation system through statements and resolutions.
Your presence firmly validates our commitment towards solving the long standing issue of Tibet through a middle way approach with Chinese government. The number of Self-immolations inside Tibet is accelerating and has reached 153. Time is really running out and we urge each one of you to call upon Chinese government to resume the dialogue process with the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama or Central Tibetan Administration, which got stagnant since from 2010 and accept this Middle Way Approach as the most viable means of solving the long standing issue of Tibet.
From this platform, we want to reaffirm and reconfirm the Chinese government that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Central Tibetan Administration and Tibetan people are still committed towards Middle Way Approach without seeking independence for Tibet. We ensure again that this policy will benefit the interest of both the Chinese people and Tibetan people. This approach is not a sole wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but an aspiration of majority of Tibetan people.
Thank you all for your active participation and hope your continuous support will be there with us.
Today, the 7th World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet (WPCT) concluded in Riga, Latvia.
The Convention was hosted by the Latvian Parliamentary Support Group for Tibet and supported by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile (TPiE), in close association with the International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet (INPaT). The Convention had strong participation of parliamentarians from all over the world, including members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
The WPCT expresses solidarity with the people of Tibet and their cause. Notwithstanding pressure from the Government of the PRC not to attend, Members of Parliaments (MP) from all over the world attended the 7th WPCT.
The WPCT expresses grave concern about the continuing unacceptable situation in Tibet, particularly the ongoing destruction of Tibet’s culture and language and persistent violations of human rights. The parliamentarians are alarmed at the environmental degradation of the Tibetan Plateau, which impacts the whole world.
The WPCT is also very concerned about the self-immolation of more than 150 Tibetans in protest at China’s repressive rule and who called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.
The conference participants urge the Chinese government to resume talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, which they have refused to do since 2010, despite urgings from the international community. They also insist that Beijing’s precondition, namely that the Dalai Lama publicly accept China’s claim that “Tibet has been a part of China since ancient times,” is entirely unacceptable. In its Riga Declaration adopted today, the Convention affirms that in fact Tibet has never been part of China and rejects Beijing’s self-serving historical narrative.
The significance of holding the Convention in Riga was particularly noted by everyone, since the Baltic States suffered the same fate as Tibet when they were occupied by the Soviet Union until the recovery of their independence in 1991. Tibet was invaded by Communist China a decade after the invasion of the Baltic States, but still remains under illegal occupation.
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi sent a message of solidarity and urged that Chinese officials be held accountable for their repressive campaign in Tibet. She encouraged MPs from all over the world to adopt their own versions of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, an important piece of legislation adopted by the US Congress and signed into law by the US President in December 2018. The Act will result in restrictions on travel of Chinese officials and others in the US unless Beijing lifts restrictions on access to Tibet by US citizens, including diplomats, journalists and parliamentarians.
The Convention found it totally unacceptable for the Chinese Communist Government to interfere in the centuries old religious tradition of selecting the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama sent a video message in which he emphasised the importance of saving Tibet’s environment and culture and urged MPs to continue to support a negotiated solution for Tibet.
The WPCT recognises in its Declaration that the Middle Way Approach, a compromise proposal which calls for genuine autonomy within the PRC and which the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile) have been pursuing for many years, remains the most viable solution to resolve the Sino-Tibetan conflict.