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Remarks as prepared for delivery by

Kelsang Gyaltsen
Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

at The European Parliamentarian Conference on Tibet

8 November 2007, Brussels

The Current Status of Discussions between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
the Government of the People's Republic of China

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Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of the Parliament, ladies and gentleman,

I feel honoured to address this important European Parliamentarian Conference on Tibet and would like to extend my gratitude to all involved people in organizing this timely conference. I wish to thank especially the EP Tibet Intergroup and its President Mr. Thomas Mann for taking the lead in convening this forum.

Today, I am asked to brief you on the current status of discussions between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

Ever since the re-establishment of contact between representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership in 2002 up until the present we have resisted giving details about our discussions, knowing that China prefers to operate cautiously and free of scrutiny, particularly on sensitive issues like Tibet, and recognizing that to openly discuss the dialogue could adversely impact the process.

In recent times, however, there have been articles in the Chinese media, detailing our discussions with the Chinese leadership. Similarly, we have learned that our Chinese counterparts have been briefing foreign diplomats based in Beijing about our discussions. These developments have led to the circulation of one-sided and distorted information about some of the important issues at stake. While the Chinese side feels no qualms in briefing governments and using its propaganda machinery to portray a distorted picture of our positions and the dialogue process, when we try to clarify our stand and approach to the international community we are being accused of breaching confidence or internationalization of the issue.

We do not take issue with the Chinese authorities making our discussions public. As a matter of fact, we would have liked our dialogue process to be as transparent as possible from the beginning.

After six rounds of discussion there is a clearer and deeper understanding of each other’s positions and of the fundamental differences separating the two sides. Today I would like to share with you some of the Tibetan experiences and challenges.

The Status of Tibet

China’s lack of trust in His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people is one of the most critical obstacles we currently face. The Chinese side is continuing to accuse His Holiness of pursuing some sort of “hidden agenda” because he has stated that he wants to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past in resolving the issue of Tibet. The Chinese side, however, insists that His Holiness the Dalai Lama makes a public statement that Tibet has always been an integral part of China. This is a precondition for negotiations.

The Tibetan and Chinese sides have different viewpoints of their past relations. Our view is revisiting history will not serve any useful purpose. Debates over Tibet’s history are counterproductive and will make it more difficult and complicated to resolve the issue. Our position is, therefore, to leave history aside and to focus on reaching a mutually acceptable solution for the future.

Conflicting views on the current situation inside Tibet

Another major obstacle in our ongoing dialogue has been the conflicting perspectives on the current situation inside Tibet. The Chinese side insists that there are no problems in Tibet and that the “issue of Tibet” is only a creation of Western anti-China forces. However, thousands of Tibetans from all corners of Tibet and from all walks of life, who manage to come out, tell a totally different story. They are nearly unanimous in reporting about deep resentment and genuine grievances felt by Tibetans all over Tibet as a consequence of a rule that Tibetans experience as alien, colonial, chauvinistic and repressive. Against this background in order to have a common understanding of the real situation inside Tibet, we proposed in July this year at the sixth meeting with our Chinese counterparts that we be given an opportunity to send study groups to look at the actual reality on the ground, in the spirit of “seeking truth from facts”. This could help both sides to move beyond each other’s contentions.

In 1979 Deng Xiaoping laid down the framework for resolving the issue of Tibet by stating that other than the issue of Tibetan independence anything else could be discussed and resolved. Consequently, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has made clear repeatedly that he is prepared to recognize today’s reality that Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China. The Middle Way Approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama seeks to resolve the issue of Tibet within the framework of the PRC, while ensuring the full protection and survival of the Tibetan identity, culture, religion, and way of life.

Restoring the integrity of Tibetan people

With this approach His Holiness the Dalai Lama has addressed the fundamental concern of the Chinese government by expressing his willingness to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China. As a countermove to His Holiness’ courageous decision it is naturally our expectation that the Chinese leadership should reciprocate by acknowledging the legitimate needs of the Tibetan people.

Today, less than half of the Tibetan people reside in the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. The rest lives in Tibetan autonomous counties and prefectures in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. All Tibetans in these areas share the same language, ethnicity, culture, and tradition. The Tibetan people yearn to be united in one administrative entity so that their way of life, tradition, language and religion can be preserved more effectively.

Historically the division of a nationality into many separate units contributed to the weakening and erosion of that nationality’s unique identity and characteristics, as well as its ability to grow and develop.

The Chinese side argues that the present-day Tibet Autonomous Region parallels the territory under the former Tibetan government. As a result they reject our position as unreasonable. The Chinese viewpoint, however, will lead the discussions inevitably to the examination of Tibet’s historical legal status under the Tibetan government before the so-called “peaceful liberation of Tibet” and will not help in reaching a common ground on which to build a common future.

The Chinese government has redrawn internal boundaries when it has suited its needs and could do so again in the case of Tibet.

We are not asking for the separation of these areas from China. More importantly, the Chinese government has already designated almost all of these areas as Tibet autonomous entities: the Tibet Autonomous Region, Tibet Autonomous Prefectures or Tibet Autonomous Counties. Thus, the Tibetan and Chinese views on what constitutes Tibet are really not so divergent.

The aspiration of the six million Tibetans to live in one single autonomous entity in a state of 1.3 billion people is neither an issue of creating a “greater” Tibet nor a cover for a separatist plot but a simple question of survival as a distinct people. In contrast it is rather a question of recognizing, restoring and respecting the integrity of the Tibetans as a distinct nationality within the PRC. Furthermore, this is not a new or revolutionary idea. From the beginning, when in 1951 the 17 Point Agreement was signed, successive Tibetan leaders have raised this issue and representatives of the Chinese government have recognized it as one that must be addressed.

Genuine Autonomy

Some detractors in the Chinese Government allege that His Holiness’ proposal for a single administrative entity for the Tibetan people and the implementation of genuine regional autonomy is really an effort to restore Tibet’s former system of government, or to personally regain power over all of Tibet. Nothing is farther from the truth. In his March 10, 2005 statement His Holiness reiterated his position saying,

“My involvement in the affairs of Tibet is neither for the purpose of claiming certain personal rights or political position for myself nor attempting to stake claims for the Tibetan administration in exile. In 1992 in a formal announcement I stated clearly that when we return to Tibet with a certain degree of freedom I will not hold any office in the Tibetan government or any other political position and that the present Tibetan administration in exile will be dissolved. Moreover, the Tibetans working in Tibet should carry on the main responsibility of administering Tibet.”

The Tibetans have the legitimate right to seek special considerations, as can be seen in the following quote by Ngapo Ngawang Jigme. He is the most senior Tibetan in Chinas’ hierarchy who, by virtue of his position, has endorsed many of China’s views on Tibet. In 1988 he said,

“It is because of the special situation in Tibet that in 1951 the Seventeen Point Agreement on the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, between the central people’s government and the local Tibetan government, came about. Such an agreement has never existed between the central government and any other minority regions. We have to consider the special situation in Tibetan history while drafting policies for Tibet in order to realize its long-term stability. We must give Tibet more autonomous power than other minority regions. In my view, at present, Tibetan Autonomous Region has relatively less power of autonomy compared with other autonomous regions, let alone compared with provinces. Therefore Tibet must have some special treatment and have more autonomy like those special economic zones. We must employ special policies to resolve the special characteristics which have pertained throughout history.”

Benefits of Resolving the Tibet Issue Now

Some detractors in the Chinese Government seem to believe that the aspirations of the Tibetan people will fizzle out once the Dalai Lama passes away. This is a most dangerous fallacy. Certainly, the absence of the Dalai Lama would be devastating for the Tibetan people. But the Tibetan freedom struggle will continue. The question is only whether this freedom struggle will continue remain strictly non-violent or not. It takes only a few desperate individuals or groups to create major instability in the volatile Central Asian region. This is not a threat, but a statement of a fact.


After six rounds of discussion, unfortunately, I have to report to you that the overall picture of our dialogue process is rather sobering and disillusioning. Since the resumption of this dialogue in 2002 the Chinese side has been adopting a position of no recognition, no reciprocity, no commitment and no concession.

Although they profess an interest in continuing the dialogue, however so far they have been pursuing a strategy of avoiding any progress, decision and commitment in the dialogue process. It has now become clear that the Chinese leadership is clearly lacking the political will to address the issue of Tibet in all earnestness.

Moreover in recent time the Chinese authorities have launched a new campaign against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Officials of the Chinese leadership are denouncing His Holiness and his Middle-Way Approach in resolving the issue of Tibet by slandering him as “politically reactionary, religiously treacherous and deceitful in approach”. Chinese officials are defining their policy towards His Holiness and the Tibetan exile leadership as “a struggle between enemies in which one will die and other will survive”. Tibetan cadres and civil servants, monasteries and schools are coerced to join in this campaign. An atmosphere of intimidation and angst reminiscent of the days of Cultural Revolution is returning in Tibetan areas.

Against this gloomy background we Tibetans are compelled to appeal to the international community for help. The Tibetan people – an ancient nation with its distinct and rich cultural and spiritual civilization, language and identity – is disappearing fast from the face of the earth. Members of the international community can play an important role in encouraging, promoting and facilitating earnest dialogue and negotiations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. As a first priority it is of vital importance to make China accountable for her repressive policies in Tibet at appropriate national and international forums and in your bilateral relations. The Chinese leadership must be made to realize that the issue of Tibet cannot be suppressed and silenced unless it is properly addressed and resolved. There are ways and means to exert influence on the Chinese leadership. The emerging world power China is also vulnerable. China’s own ambitions in the world cannot be achieved independently and in a completely self-determined manner. For example, the pursuit of international recognition, respect and admiration is a top priority of the Chinese leadership. Without the cooperation, acceptance and deference of the members of the international community this ambition cannot be achieved. World opinion is far from being immaterial to the Chinese leadership. And the Chinese leadership seems to be willing to pay the price for it. The only question is whether members of the international community will be able to come up with a strong and unified message with regard to the issue of Tibet. In this context I express my deep appreciation to the Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament for taking the lead in building a consensus and common approach in promoting a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet.

The recently concluded 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party has brought some changes at the top of the Chinese leadership. My senior colleague, Mr. Lodi Gyari and I, who have been entrusted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the task of engaging with the Chinese Government, wish to take this opportunity to appeal to the newly composed Chinese leadership to act swiftly and decisively on the issue of Tibet with courage, wisdom and in the spirit of reconciliation. In July this year at the sixth round we have presented some concrete proposals with specific timeframe aimed at moving the dialogue process forward with tangible results. A bold and magnanimous political gesture on the Tibet issue by the new Chinese leadership signalling a rethinking and the opening of a new page in the relationship between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples would bring tremendous relief and hope to the Tibetan people and will be greatly appreciated by people, parliaments and governments throughout the world.

Thank you very much

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