Keynote Address of Mr. Pema Jungney, Chairman of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, at the European Parliament Forum on Tibet, on EU response to Sino-Tibetan Dialogue at the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, 12 November 2003

Tibetan Government in Exile’s Policy Towards China Honourable EPP-ED Chairman Mr. Hans-Gert Poeterring; Honourable President of the European Parliament Tibet Intergroup, Mr. Thomas Mann; Honourable Chairman of the EP committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, Mr. Elmar Brok, Honourable President of the Italian Parliamentary Group for Tibet, Mr. Gianni Vernetti; Executive Director of Laogai Research Foundation, our Chinese friend, Mr. Harry Wu; Former Ambassador and Secretary of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Mr. Dalip Mehta; Former Education Minister and President of SOS Tibetan Children’s Village, Mrs. Jetsun Pema la; Envoy of His Holiness in Europe, Mr. Kalsang Gyaltsen; the Honourable members of EP and the distinguished guests.

At the outset I would like to thank the European Parliament’s Tibet Inter-group, European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defense Policy, European Parliament’s China delegation for organising this timely European Parliament Forum on Tibet: European Union’s Response to Sino-Tibetan Dialogue. On behalf of all my colleagues and the people of Tibet, I would like to convey our appreciation and warm wishes to the organisers and participants at this important conference.

The European Parliament has taken several important initiatives on the issue of Tibet, especially the 1998 resolution which calls for the appointment of an EU Special Representative for Tibet and the 2000 resolution calling for the governments of the member states to seriously consider the possibility of recognising the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile as the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people if the Beijing authorities and Dharamsala have not signed an agreement on a new statute on Tibet within three years. We have expressed our appreciation for these important steps and I take this opportunity to personally convey the gratitude of the Tibetan people outside and inside Tibet.

Though these are important steps that we hope will contribute to mitigating the appalling human rights situation in Tibet, we still feel that especially in the field of human rights the European Union should be more assertive and consistent in urging China to uphold the principles of civil liberties and individual freedoms. In this
connection we express our disappointment over the failure to mention Tibet and the ongoing human rights abuses there in the joint press statement issued after the conclusion of the sixth EU-China Summit held in Beijing on 30 October 2003. We appeal to the European Union through this forum that the values that you so cherish like individual freedom, democracy and human rights should be raised while bilaterally engaging China.

Coming to my presentation on Tibetan Government in Exile’s Policy Towards China, we had consistently supported His Holiness’ 5-Point Peace Plan and the Strasbourg Proposal. His Holiness in 1994, proposed a referendum by the Tibetan people to decide on the future course of the Tibetan struggle. Tibetan people expressed their complete faith in His Holiness’ leadership and decided not to have a referendum and to follow whatever His Holiness decides on the future course of Tibet,
considering the changes and developments in the global political scenario. Based on the overwhelming peoples’ aspirations, the Parliament passed a unanimous decision to this effect by bestowing full powers to His Holiness. Consequent to the Tibetan people and parliament’s decision, His Holiness in his 1998 10th March Statement said ” I wish to thank the people of Tibet for the tremendous trust, confidence and hope they placed in me. I continue to believe that my middle way approach is the most realistic and pragmatic course to resolve the issue of Tibet peacefully. This approach meets the vital needs of the Tibetan people while ensuring the unity and the stability of the People’s Republic of China. I will therefore, continue to pursue this course of approach with full commitment and make earnest efforts to reach out to the Chinese leadership” and the same approach continues today. With this, I hope the Tibetan government’s policy towards PRC is crystal clear.

For this reason we have decided to seek a negotiated, peaceful, mutually beneficial settlement with China and since we have already rebuilt contacts with the Chinese leadership, the focus of the movement should be on urging, pressurising, lobbying and facilitating by all non-violent means in our common effort to expedite the process of negotiations. We dont have much time. The very identity of the Tibetans is at stake, leave alone their unique culture, religion and language. If no solution is found as soon as possible, the coming decades will turn Tibetans into something like native Indians in America and aborigines in Australia. That will be very sad because the Tibetans have a lot to offer to global peace and harmony.

The Tibetan Government-in-Exile has taken all measures to create conducive atmosphere for dialogue. We do not feel that a lot of time is needed to understand our  proposal. We have climbed down from our historical right of complete independence to genuine autonomy, the most important part of which is to turn the whole of Tibet into a zone of Ahimsa, where human and nature can coexist in harmony. Tibet should be totally demilitarized and it should be the centre of learning and for
the promotion of peace throughout the world. The PRC should stop the sinofication of Tibet. It is now the turn of the Peoples Republic of China to reciprocate our goodwill because we are not seeking separation from China. Many fear that PRC might use delaying tactics to avoid international criticism. If such is the case, it will not bode well for the future of China. It will prove to be a historic mistake for the Chinese leadership.

Despite rebuilding contacts and an attitudinal change in the new Chinese leadership, there is no visible change for the better, in the situation of Tibetans inside Tibet. Our concern on the appalling human rights situation in Tibet have been expressed so many times and once again I use this forum to urge the European Parliament and the Union to impress upon China the importance of releasing all prisoners of conscience, including Tulku Tenzin Delek who faces a death sentence and the young Panchen Lama who has not been seen since he and his parents were put under house arrest in 1995.

Besides our huge concern on the continued violations by the Chinese authorities of the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people, including and especially their rights to freedom of speech and worship, there are two areas of enormous concern to us. They are Beijing’s overall Western China Development Programme and the ongoing railway line construction to connect Lhasa and Central Tibet with China’s vast network of rail lines. These development projects when completed will facilitate the immigration of China’ excess population onto the Tibetan plateau and this will further erode the ability of the Tibetan people to hold on to their distinct cultural heritage and ethnic identity.

The Western China Development Programme is aimed to create the infrastructure to facilitate the exploitation of the vast natural resources and to encourage the millions of unemployed Chinese workers to migrate to the Tibetan inhabited areas. This policy has the advantage of solving the growing unemployment in China’s coastal areas
and other big Chinese cities and integrating the minority regions more firmly under the control of Beijing by flooding them with Chinese settlers.

And the signs of what the new railway line portent for Tibet are everywhere. On 29 October this year, the Los Angeles Times published a report from Tibet called Tibetans fear strangulation by Rail. The report says, “Lhasa already has the look and feel of a Chinese city, with Chinese-style buildings and Chinese billboards proliferating across town. More than half the 200,000 residents here are believed to be Chinese. Even the main boulevard in front of the Dalai Lama’s holy Potala Palace is named Beijing Road. Most of the people flocking to the palace are Chinese tourists. Officials hope the new train will bring more of them to boost the local economy.” Roads and Railways, building and mining policies, which work against the natural environment and the interest of the Tibetan people are being enforced with impunity. This would accelerate wiping out anything Tibetan in Tibet in the coming decades, there would be nothing left to save Tibet.

I am sure the European Union and member states must certainly be tired of our repeated attempts to dwell on human rights and the need for China to respect these rights. But we on our part have no alternative except to turn to the free and industrialised world to persuade China to respect these rights. We feel that it is the responsibility of the West, which has so much leverage on China to see that the rights of the downtrodden are protected and safeguarded. If the free world fails to speak up for the downtrodden, who will speak on their behalf? Who will see that the dispossessed and the repressed people of the earth are given back their dignity and rights? If the free and powerful do not speak up on behalf of the oppressed, who do the weak to turn for justice and fairness? If the West believes that its core values of individual freedoms and human dignity are universal and the rest of the world has the same right to enjoy these freedoms, then the West must pursue this with uncompromising persistence.

We are forced to make this appeal because the manner and the vigour in which China is pursuing its policies in Tibet makes it distressingly clear that Tibet with its unique cultural heritage and civilisation will not survive the next several decades. Along with continued trampling upon the human rights of the Tibetan people, China is stepping up its economic development policies that not only marginalise the Tibetan people but will do irreversible and fundamental damage to the heritage of the Tibetan people and the eco-system that has sustained them.

We feel that the European Union’s consistent efforts to lighten the burden of the Tibetan people are especially vital and much needed because the Tibetan struggle led by His Holiness the Dalai Lam is a non-violent one. At a time when international community is facing the danger of terrorism, we Tibetans like to remind the international community that the best way to tackle global terrorism to support non-violent struggles. Successful non-violent struggles will become a model for effective conflict resolutions.

Two concrete steps the European Union could take is to appoint a Special EU Representative for Tibet, whose mandate would be to network within the EU leadership and facilitate meaningful and substantive negotiations between Dharamsala and Beijing so that the issue of Tibet could be solved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. If the Chinese leadership tries delaying tactics in the guise of building contacts, then the Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies call upon the European Union to implement its parliament resolution which calls upon member states to recognise the Tibetan Government-in-Exile as the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people if the Beijing authorities and Dharamsala have not signed an agreement on a new statute on Tibet within three years.

Here I would like to say that the issue of Tibet is not an issue whether the Tibetans in exile can return to our homeland. The reason why we are involved in the struggle for Tibet is to ensure that China ends the present appalling human rights situation and improves the condition to the satisfaction of the Tibetan people.

Once again I would like to thank the organisers and the participants for organising and attending this conference. I sincerely hope that this conference will enable to forge a more effective strategy that will end the suffering of the Tibetan people.

Thank you.

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