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21 september 2012 002Dharamsala: The fourth conference of the Tibetan Writers Abroad PEN Center began on September 21 at the Norbulingka cultural institute near Dharamsala, northern India, the heart of Tibet in Exile. The opening session was attended by around 40 people, including chief guest Kirti Rinpoche Lobsang Tenzin and other PEN Center members.

The Rinpoche lit butter lamps and the crowd observed a minute's silence for those who have died for the Tibetan cause, including those who have self-immolated in Tibet.

Buidha Kyab, external relations secretary of the PEN Center, gave a short talk on PEN, and general secretary Gangsi reported on the center's last three years of activity.

Lhamo Kyab, the center's president, explained that the conference would include the election of its fourth executive committee and discussion of the Tibet issue.

On the subject of self-immolation, he said it is enacted in the name of peacefully saving other Tibetans from harm, and that it places higher importance on others than on the self. He continued that self-immolations are carried out in protest against the People's Republic of China (PRC) and its policies, that many Tibetans dislike the Han Chinese because they comprise the majority of the military and the communist party, and because many Chinese officials regard Tibetans as simply being there for their own 'use'.

Mr Kyab added that many Han Chinese belittle Tibetans and rarely support their struggle.

In his speech, Rinpoche Lobsang Tenzin said that Tibetan writers should be ambitious but also consider whether what they write is helpful to the community and society, just as journalists should, and that their discourses are powerful tools in influencing people's opinions which, unlike some other political activities, will remain powerful into the future.

The Rinpoche continued that the more than 51 Tibetan who have self-immolated since 2009, and the many Tibetan writers, singers and environmental activists who have died, have all taken responsibility for the Tibet cause, and that Tibetan writers have a duty to further that cause by explaining why people self-immolate.

Those people who criticise the act of self-immolation, he added, do not understand that the enactors have no choice - that it is the Chinese communist party that pushes them in that direction, and that if it continues to do so violence may result.

90% of Tibetans support His Holiness the Dalai Lama's middle-way approach, he said, but if the PRC does not engage with it, one day Tibetans may support independence instead.

The Rinpoche concluded that, in reality, under Chinese rule Tibetans do not own their own land, culture, traditions or even lives.

The conference will continue until September 23.

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