Monika Sharma reports: The Special International Tibet Support Groups Meeting, held in Gurgaon of Haryana, concluded today with a strong call to action, condemnation of the PRC’s intransigent approach on Tibet, and an expression of solidarity with the Tibetan people at a time of crisis.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama had asked Tibet supporters attending the Special International TSG Meeting, called by the Core Group for Tibetan Cause, India, to “provide suggestions to our elected leadership on the best possible course for the realisation of the Tibetan people’s fundamental aspirations”. The gathering followed the Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People held in Dharamsala, base of the Tibetan government in exile, from 17-22 November.
The Special TSG meeting opened with one minute’s silence for those who have died in Tibet, particularly since the uprising from 10 March 2008 onwards, and for those killed in the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
More than 100 delegates from over 30 countries expressed a sense of urgency due to the brutal crackdown in Tibet and the Chinese government’s recent propaganda offensive following talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. Continued commitment to a non-violent approach and support for the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination was agreed.
Outrage was expressed at the Chinese government’s hard line stance against the Dalai Lama, with particular reference to lack of progress in talks with Chinese officials. Participants pledged to support Tibetans in seeking a new framework for engagement. They welcomed the fact that the Memorandum of Genuine Autonomy had been made public by the Dalai Lama’s representatives prior to the Special Meeting in Dharamsala in November.
During lively and intense debate, many delegates pressed for the Tibetan government in exile to reassess the Middle Way approach (which currently seeks genuine autonomy within the framework of the PRC) in favour of independence if there is no substantive improvement in the Tibetans’ situation in the near future and sincere engagement from the Chinese side.
Delegates to the Special International TSG Meeting reaffirmed their commitment to putting the needs and wishes of Tibetans in Tibet first. They expressed heartfelt admiration for the great courage of the Tibetan people in their peaceful resistance across the plateau since March. The protests are a rejection by the Tibetan people of Chinese rule in Tibet, expressing a resentment that has built up over nearly 60 years since China’s invasion and reached a breaking point. Through their dissent, Tibetans are conveying the message that the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile represent their interests, and not the Chinese government. The meeting expressed profound concern over the continuing suffering of the Tibetan people, now under de facto martial law, and the delegates’ solidarity with political prisoners and the families of the hundreds of disappeared.
The meeting welcomed the recent Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People, which provided opportunities for diverse opinions from the Tibetan community to be openly expressed and discussed. This was an important democratic forum that should be continued in order to strengthen Tibetan institutions and civil society in exile. Delegates noted that while the meeting was held in exile, efforts were made to ascertain the views of Tibetans in Tibet, despite an intense climate of fear and Chinese government restrictions. The Special General Meeting re-affirmed the solidarity of Tibetans from across the Tibetan plateau, just as Tibetans in Tibet from all three provinces (U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo) have demonstrated strong unity in their assertions of Tibetan national, cultural and religious identity.
Delegates highlighted the 21st century relevance to the world of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual tradition and culture, especially in terms of offering alternative ways forward for conflict resolution.
The meeting re-affirmed TSG recognition of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile as the pre-eminent and legitimate representatives of the Tibetan people. Delegates agreed to continue to work to achieve formal recognition of the Tibetan government in exile in the international community.
Delegates recognised the importance of preserving the institution of the Dalai Lama, and acknowledged that the Dalai Lama’s leadership extends to millions of Buddhists worldwide and peoples of many different countries in the Himalayas, Mongolia and beyond.
Delegates agreed to intensify their efforts in order to bring an end to the injustices in Tibet. Advocacy work with stake-holder governments in the region was discussed, including protection of vulnerable Tibetans in Nepal at a time when the Chinese government has stepped up its influence in the region. Tibet is of tremendous geopolitical significance. Delegates also agreed that awareness must be raised, particularly in Asia as a matter of urgency, about Tibet’s critical importance as the earth’s ‘third pole’ and a watershed of Asia’s great rivers affecting millions of people.
It was noted that the Chinese political campaigns have led to further unrest and increased tensions between Chinese and Tibetans. There is a risk that this could intensify further in the build-up to the 50th anniversary of the 10th March uprising in 2009. There was particular commitment at the meeting for developing new strategies for targeted outreach to the Chinese people, particularly given the upsurge in anti-Tibetan sentiment and Chinese nationalism as a result of distorted representations of the situation in Tibet by the Chinese government.
Specific suggestions and recommendations on advocacy, monitoring, campaign action, Chinese outreach and the dialogue process will be presented to the Tibetan government in exile following the meeting.