Tibet Press Watch: Winter 2008
Letter from the President
Strong Support Expected for Tibet from Next U.S. President
Tibetan Exiles Back Dalai Lama, Challenge Talks with China
No Progress in Eighth Round of Dialogue as Chinese Reject Autonomy Proposal
Dalai Lama's Faith in Chinese Government Grows Thinner
More Tibet News from Around the World
ICT and Tibet Timeline 1988-2008
Dear Members and Supporters of ICT,
As ICT celebrates our 20th anniversary, we are thankful for all the tangible assistance that, together, we have been able to secure for Tibetans. And we take this moment to reflect on the tremendous challenges ahead. The election of Senator Obama as the President of the United States brings profound hope and expectation of change, domestically and internationally. ICT is already at work to ensure that the Obama Administration continues and broadens current U.S. support for Tibet, and takes new initiatives for the freedom of Tibetans.
One proposal for President Obama from the renowned author Alice Walker touched me immensely because it brought what I consider a Buddhist perspective to the Presidency, and referenced the Dalai Lama:
“A primary responsibility that you [President-elect Obama] do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life…From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want…A good model of how to ‘work with the enemy’ internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader.”
In the human rights community, we have high hopes for Obama’s Administration. We want a President who puts human rights in the forefront of foreign policy. We want torture by U.S. security forces and contractors unequivocally outlawed. With an Obama Administration, we can now envision and work toward this change. Senator Obama’s victory builds on the civil rights movement and the personal courage of many who came before him. It is a tremendous step forward for our country and it should give hope and inspiration to oppressed minorities everywhere. It should also challenge those in majority populations to rethink possibilities for healing, and for justice and equality that has eluded many countries.
Many Americans did not expect to see an African American elected to the highest office in their lifetime. Similarly, many Tibetans probably do not expect to see a Tibetan elected—or appointed—to one of the highest offices in China, but many may begin to envisage a Tibetan in the highest position in Tibet—which hasn’t happened since the Dalai Lama was forced to flee to exile nearly 50 years ago.
Racism is widespread in China, yet China’s leaders usually deny the existence of racism and use the sanitized term “Han chauvinism.” Senator Obama’s victory was a sign that once racism is acknowledged and addressed to some extent, it can diminish in extraordinary ways.We have a long way to go, of course, but
we can now hope that all countries will now move faster down this road of justice.
The road to Obama’s victory was paved partially by those who believed in non-violence and showed that non-violence can change the history of the United States. President-elect Obama is part of that legacy and demonstrates that change can extend well beyond our borders.
The news of this election has already reached inside prison cells in Tibet, and to the furthest corners of the Tibetan plateau. Tibetans know that someone from a minority that was once viciously oppressed will soon be the president of one of the most powerful countries on earth.
I had originally intended to leave ICT at the end of this year but the Board has asked me to stay through the spring to facilitate a thoughtful and unrushed search for ICT’s next president. I gladly agreed. I look forward to sharing with you the news of who is chosen as ICT’s next President in the next issue of the Tibet Press Watch.
During this holiday season, I hope, in the words of Alice Walker, that you will be a good caretaker of your soul, so that you can also be a positive leader for change in your community—and to help the people of Tibet.
With warmest regards,
ICT—The International Campaign for Tibet welcomes the November 4, 2008, election of Senator Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States and anticipates strong support from the Obama Administration for Tibetan issues.
“The Tibetan people will have a friend and strong supporter in President-elect Obama,” said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet. “This is a critical time for the Tibetan issue and we are confident that the Obama Administration will continue the existing support for Tibet and provide new energy for the efforts of the Dalai Lama to engage with the Chinese government. If we build on what Senator Obama has said about Tibet in the past, then we can expect even stronger initiatives from the Untied States in the future,” Ackerly concluded.
Senator Obama has a strong record of support for Tibet and has met with the Dalai Lama to discuss human rights issues. Senator Obama attended a private Senate Foreign Relations Committee briefing with the Dalai Lama in November 2005 and has featured a photograph of himself with the Dalai Lama from that briefing in the media section of his presidential campaign website. Senator Obama has personally urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to resolve the situation in Tibet through dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and this spring,when demonstrations spread across the Tibetan plateau, Senator Obama telephoned the Dalai Lama in India to discuss the situation. The Senator subsequently called on the Chinese to show restraint in dealing with the protests. Comments by the Senator on his phone call are available on the ICT website at www.savetibet.org. Senator Obama was also a Senate sponsor of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama Congressional Gold Medal Act, which awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor to the Dalai Lama in October 2007.
The Obama-Biden campaign has pledged to actively engage China on a number of issues, including human rights in Tibet and China’s crackdown on democracy and religious freedom activists. The campaign has pledged to “be frank with the Chinese about such failings and will press them to respect human rights.”
Among the senior foreign policy advisors to the Obama campaign is Gregory B.Craig, the first U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, appointed by then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1996.
November 22, 2008
ICT—The Special Meeting called by the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India closed today with a strong endorsement of the ‘Middle Way’ approach, which seeks a genuine autonomy within the framework of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but also clearly stated that exile Tibetans might take a position seeking independence if results of engagement were not evident “in the near future”.
Many delegates had specifically urged for the Dalai Lama’s envoys not to be sent again for talks to China, a position that has been noted in the final declaration of the meeting. Delegates told ICT that among most participants, there was a recognition of the importance of retaining some form of engagement with China, with many urging increased efforts to reach out to Chinese people, and Beijing was blamed for the lack of results from the latest round of talks, not the Middle Way approach or the Dalai Lama.
The Special Meeting also provided a strong endorsement of the Dalai Lama’s leadership. Karma Choephel, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, said today: “We re-affirmed that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the sole representative and leader of the Tibetan people. [Participants in] the Special Meeting prayed that he is not to talk about semi-retirement or retirement.” Karma Choephel also said that delegates called upon the Chinese authorities to stop the hostile criticism of the Dalai Lama, and re-asserted that he is not to blame for the Spring Uprising, despite Beijing’s attempts to do so.He said that there would be no compromise on the issue of non-violence, and that no alternative would be considered.
November 10, 2008
ICT—Chinese official Zhu Weiqun today categorically denounced an autonomy proposal presented by the Dalai Lama’s envoys during the eighth round of dialogue last week in an uncompromising stance that counters the hopes of Tibetans for genuine autonomy in their homeland.
In the most recent round of the Tibetan-Chinese dialogue (October 31–November 5), the Tibetan side presented the most detailed and substantive document offered by either side in six years of talks: a memorandum that articulated a concept of genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the People’s Republic of China. The proposal was specifically requested by the Chinese side in the May 2008 round.
Rather than use the proposal as a starting point for earnest negotiations, the Chinese side summarily rejected it and resorted to well-worn anti-Dalai Lama rhetoric. In an unprecedented press conference in Beijing, Zhu declared that “We will never make a concession” on the Tibet question while simultaneously asserting that Tibetans should “shoulder full responsibility” for “lack of progress.”
ICT Translation of the Dalai Lama’s
Statement on Tibet’s Future
October 26, 2008, Dharamsala, India
ICT—“We have a truly unique culture of kindness and compassion that can benefit the whole world. Tibet’s struggle for truth is not just for the benefit of the Tibetans alone but it will benefit the whole world and it has the potential to improve the lives of the Chinese people as well. The destruction of Tibet’s religion and culture will be a huge loss to everyone. Therefore, our struggle is a struggle to benefit the people of both sides.
“The Tibet issue is an issue of the Tibetan people and the Tibetan people need to decide. So on September 14, I said that this responsibility is becoming too difficult and there is no use in continuing it. If I were dealing with someone who was speaking honestly, then I would have no problem, as I can speak and understand reason. But we are not dealing with honesty here.
“I have not lost faith in the people of China but my faith in the present Chinese government is thinning and it’s becoming very difficult.”
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