Today is the day we commemorate with gratitude, His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama’s bestowal on the Tibetan people, the gift of the democratic system of governance. It is, therefore, a day of great importance in the history of Tibet. In this connection, His Holiness had, from a tender age, discerned the urgency for the Tibetan state system to be reformed in keeping with requirements of the trend of the time. Accordingly, after assuming the temporal and spiritual leadership of Tibet, His Holiness, in 1952, newly established a reform bureau. Thereafter, by the end of the year 1954, His Holiness especially established a branch in the Tibetan judicial system to resolve civil disputes in Lhasa. Through a series of highly admirable initiatives of profound implications such as these, inspired by nobility of intentions to properly reform the traditional Tibetan system of governance, His Holiness, through sheer strength of his personal majesty, put himself to the task of establishing for the Tibetan subjects a society marked by an era of happiness, tranquility, and prosperity. Unfortunately, this was not to be, for while he was fully immersed in these efforts, the newly established communist-ruled China started to exert pressure and violent repression on Tibet in 1949. These kept growing in strength and finally reached across the whole of the country. Eventually, the whole of the religiously endowed land of Tibet was occupied by the invading neighboring communist-ruled China, with the result that in 1959 His Holiness the Dalai Lama was compelled to escape his homeland and enter neighboring India to seek asylum. More than 80,000 Tibetans followed in his footsteps to escape the persecution and seek asylum. Forthwith upon His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s arrival in India, with great concern and responsibility, he established the foundational basis of Tibetan administration to represent the whole of Tibetans, both inside and outside Tibet. Thereafter, bringing about gradual transformative reforms with the then polity of Tibetan administration in par with the modern democratic ethos and entrusting his utmost confidence in the Tibetan people, he endowed them with the gift of Democracy. It was, thus, on 2nd September 1960 that the first Commission of Tibetan People’s Deputies from religious and provincial constituencies, took their oath before His Holiness the Dalai Lama, thereby, formally inaugurating the Tibetan democratic system of governance.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, pioneering the establishment of the nature of Tibetan governance system with democratic values and characteristics, has, likewise, always adhered to guiding the essence of Tibetan freedom struggle with non-violence. As a result, the Tibetan people and their just cause have continued to receive support from all parts of the world. Not only that, the Tibetan people’s cause has also received support from intellectuals in Mainland China as well as from a large number of other impartial Chinese people. Especially under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetans uniting together as one entity, has worked as equal in different institutions and furnished in unison, their energy and capabilities towards the common struggle of their freedom, irrespective of their provincial or sectarian considerations. That this remains a continuing trend is a matter worthy of joy and pride among us all. Hence, taking the opportunity provided by this occasion, we offer our incomparable gratitude to His Holiness the Great Fourteenth Dalai Lama from the depth of our hearts on behalf of all the Tibetan people.
Tibetan democratic system of governance in exile is a unique system, which incorporates the best characteristics of both the presidential and parliamentary system without any political factions. It is a special kind of democracy, in which, the parliament is placed in the very heart of it all. In 1963, the constitution of Tibet was promulgated and later in 1991, the 11th Tibetan Parliament-in-exile adopted the Charter of the Tibetans in exile, which was duly assented to by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since then the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile has been able to proceed to function as a lawmaking body in full keeping with the functioning of such a constitutional authority. In 1992, the Supreme Justice Commission of the exile Tibetans was established. In 2001, the system of direct election of Kalon Tripa, the head of administration by the Tibetan public was instituted. In a more momentous event, which took place in the year 2011, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, keeping in view the multitude of pros and cons underlying the issue of Tibet, both at that time and for the enduring future, abdicated to devolve all his historical political and administrative authority and responsibility to the elected leadership of the Tibetan people in exile. In keeping with this act of truly great broadminded approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Central Tibetan Administration has adhered to upholding of fundamental importance the laws as well as the rules and regulations passed by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile. This is the basis on which the Central Tibetan Administration has administered its affairs under the democratic approach of the system of rule of law. As a result, the practices of the Central Tibetan Administration today, with its fully endowed three pillars of democracy, are such that we can justly take pride in it.
To the Tibetan people left behind in their occupied homeland, democratic freedom continues to remain a distant dream. On the contrary, over the past more than 60 years since the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese government, there has been a move to obliterate without trace the Tibetan language, religious heritage, culture, and customs and traditions, which represent the defining characters of the Tibetan nationhood, as well as to ravage the natural environment of Tibet. For these purposes, the government of China, to begin with, implemented in Tibet what it called democratic reforms, which was nothing but a euphemism for Chinese communist totalitarian rule. Within the framework of this authoritarian rule, China has, for many decades since its invasion of Tibet, from the period of the Cultural Revolution, continued to implement without any break various types of campaigns under different policies one after another. Our brethren in Tibet have, starting from the year 1980, continued to stage peaceful protests on successive occasions. These have included the great Earth-Mouse Year uprising of 2008, and since from the year 2009, a total of 152 protest self-immolations has been verified and confirmed to have carried out by Tibetans. By these peaceful protests, Tibetans in Tibet have sought to express their disagreement with and rejection of the kind of policies as well as the kind of system of political education campaigns they were being subjected to by the government of China. Under criminal charges brought against them for political reasons, many Tibetans have been arrested, put behind bars, and put on trial. Even to this day, China continues to expand its policies on the large-scale transfer of its population into Tibetan territories. In particular, it clings to a policy of unmitigated ethnic discrimination, so that when it comes to the demands and aspirations of the Tibetan people on the one hand and of the Chinese people, on the other hand, the latter keeps on being given the top priority. The Tibetan language activist Tashi Wangchuk was charged with inciting separatism and was tried in January this year. The trial concluded in May with a guilty verdict, imposing him with imprisonment of 5 years. Recently, in July, Tashi Wangchuk’s lawyer appealed his conviction before the Qinghai Provincial Higher People’s Court. However, the appellate court simply rejected the appeal rather than entertaining and deciding it on the basis of a legally fair hearing. This is a matter of shame for the Government of China. Developments such as these show that the government of China continues to implement its erroneous policies in Tibet.
Recently, in July, China announced that Tibetans who were yet to attain 18 years of age represented a loss to their ethnic group if they enrolled in monasteries for the purpose of pursuing religious study. In gross disregard of the Tibetan people’s historical habits and traditions, many young monks who were already enrolled in the Dza Sershul Monastery, the regional principal monastery at Lithang and others in Sichuan Province were forcibly taken away by the government of China. They were banned from being registered in monasteries. Rather, a coercive order was issued saying those young monks should be enrolled in schools for secular education set up by the government of China. Likewise, a general order was issued by the Chinese government in Tibet’s capital Lhasa, saying children in schools in the city were prohibited from taking part in religious activities during their summer vacation. With orders such as these, the government of China continues to grossly trample on the Tibetan people’s basic human rights, including their political rights, their right to freedom of speech and expression, and their freedom of religious belief etc.,
The State Department of the United States government organized this year in Washington, DC, a three-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, which began on the 24th of July. During that conference, Vice President Michael Pence of the United States of America explained to the gathering that the Administration of President Donald Trump was seriously concerned about and paid great attention to the issue of religious freedom across the world while speaking on other related issues as well. He said that for nearly 70 years, the Tibetan people have been brutally repressed, of their freedom of religious belief and practice, by the Chinese government and thereby, expressed criticism of the government of China. He further said that the government and the people of the United States of America stood in solidarity with all people suffering under such repression. In addition, the Vice President also noted that the US State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom report had labeled the People’s Republic of China as a religious freedom violator every year since 1999, while also pointing out Beijing’s guilt in numerous other kinds of violations as well.
More recently, the All Party Indian Parliamentarians’ Forum for Tibet (APIPFT) in August, expressed condemnation and also called for an end to the ongoing repressive policies by the Chinese government, under which the human rights of Tibetan people inside Tibet continues to be infringed and trampled upon. Besides, the forum’s resolution called for global support for the efforts to resolve the Sino-Tibetan dispute. Likewise, in efforts directed at saving the Tibetan people in Tibet from their current critical situation, and, likewise, for the purpose of the resolution of the Sino-Tibetan issue, and towards overcoming other related problems, the Central Tibetan Administration, the Tibetan people settled in various countries, and supporters of the Tibetan freedom struggle have lobbied with governments, parliaments, human rights bodies and etc., in a continuing basis. As a result, they have succeeded in having the Tibet issue being taken up for discussion, and also follow-up resolutions being adopted, on numerous occasions in the United Nations Human Rights Council; by the government and the Congress of the United States of America; in the European Union; as well as by numerous other governments and parliaments of the world.
Likewise, thanks to the appeals made on successive occasions by the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet and other groups, the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives approved on the 25th of July this year, a bill for Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which had earlier been introduced in the House in 2017. The bill provides that United States government officials, journalists, and its common citizens be given the same level of access to the People’s Republic of China, especially throughout Tibet, as was already being given by the United States government to officials of the Chinese government, journalists, and its ordinary citizens. This draft legislation, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, was unanimously approved by the United States House Judiciary Committee. In order for this bill to become law, we solicit and hope that the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States Congress will render their full support, for, through this bill, people of the world will then know the real situation inside Tibet and pave way for approaches to resolve the adversities and hardship of the Tibetans inside Tibet.
Over the last more than 40 years, in keeping with the vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and in accordance with the decisions finalized by the parliament in exile of the Central Tibetan Administration, we have resolutely adhered to the Middle Way policy, which is mutually beneficial to both Tibet and China. We have continued to hope and believe, as we still do, that the Sino-Tibetan dispute could be solved through discussions based on this approach. We deem it inevitable that the government of China too will, over a course of time, be compelled by forces of evolving times and societal changes to take the responsibility to change its stand in a positive direction. We, therefore, deem it necessary to reiterate our call on the leadership of the government of the People’s Republic of China to give up its existing hardline position and instead enter into dialogue at the earliest possible moment on the basis of this approach, which is mutually beneficial to Tibet as well as China.
As aspired by His Holiness the Dalai Lama from the very beginning, for the sake of the institutional stability of the Central Tibetan Administration and for the preservation and perpetuation of the Tibetan script, language and culture and so on, we should, on the basis of the tenets of non-violence, make use of the value and power of democracy to strive to achieve the just cause of the Tibetan people. This remains an important goal, both immediate and long-term, for all the Tibetan people. An indispensable attribute to this is the coherent unison of every Tibetan of the three provinces, akin to the complete cohesion of milk and water mixed. This is the core of all our important purposes. So, to every Tibetan, with a firm pledge to abstain from creating any contradictions amongst the Tibetan people and keeping in heart, the beneficence and hopes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we earnestly request, to never waver in your enthusiasm towards the realization of our common future aspirations. Surmounting the daunting hardship present before our paths, we all must strive towards our common goal of the fraternal reunion of all the Tibetans in Tibet.
This year the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile launched a major initiative to solicit support for the issue of Tibet in different states across India and this remains an ongoing effort. Our aspiration is that through this solicitation, prominent figures throughout the country, especially members of parliament and state legislative assemblies, will gain a good grasp of the real situation in Tibet and accordingly render their strong support for the issue of Tibet.
The people and government of India have and continue to facilitate the Tibetans with exceptional succor for over nearly 60 years of exile in India as well as the rendering of innumerable political supports by various nations all around the world, to achieve a fair solution to the just cause of Tibet. To such concerned public and governments, we, on behalf of all the Tibetan people, offer our heartfelt gratitude on this opportune occasion.
Finally, we pray with great ferventness that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Omniscient Conquering Spiritual Lord, the Incomparable Saviour of all sentient beings, the Most Benevolent One, may keep his two feet firmly planted on this earth until the very end of our times, with his great wishes being seen fulfilled with all its spontaneity, and the just cause of the Tibetan people accomplished in all speediness.
By the Tibetan Parliament in Exile
2 September 2018
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* In case of any discrepancy between this English translation and its Tibetan original, the latter should be considered authoritative and final for all purposes.