The forthcoming summit offers a timely opportunity for the European Union to address the issue of Tibet with their Chinese counterparts. The situation inside Tibet is compelling and urgent. Presently, the Tibetans in Tibet are undergoing the harshest wave of repression since the days of the Cultural Revolution. The increasing number of death sentences passed on Tibetans in recent months is a clear indication of the grave and tense situation in Tibet.
On October 31, 2008 the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the Government of the People’s Republic of China. This memorandum puts forth the Tibetan position on genuine autonomy and how the specific needs of the Tibetan people for autonomy and self-government can be met through application of the principle on autonomy of the Constitution of the PRC.
Unfortunately, the Chinese government rejected the Tibetan proposal without presenting their own views on a way forward.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has steadfastly followed the Middle Way approach, which means the pursuit of a mutually acceptable and mutually beneficial solution through negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s thinking on the issue has evolved in the course of time since presenting his “Five Point Peace Plan” in 1987 and “the Strasbourg Proposal” in 1988. He has adjusted and refined his position on a number of issues in light of changing realities on the ground and in consideration of the Chinese government’s legitimate concerns, needs and interests. This reflects His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s flexibility, openness and pragmatism.
The Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People and not earlier proposals and other statements, authoritatively represents His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s position today with respect to an acceptable solution to the Tibetan issue. Although it differs in significant aspects from earlier proposals, it remains true to the fundamental approach known as the Middle Way of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Despite the categorical rejection of the memorandum by the Chinese side, the Special Meeting of the Tibetans in Diaspora held in November 2008 in Dharamsala, India, reconfirmed the mandate for the dialogue process with the PRC on the basis of the Middle Way approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As a result the Tibetan leadership in exile reiterated its commitment to the dialogue process. Today, the Tibetan side stands ready to engage in honest and earnest discussions on autonomy for the Tibetan people anytime and anywhere. It is now for the Chinese governments to show sincerity and seriousness in addressing the real problems and issues of the Tibetan people in Tibet.
Against the background of a current policy of merciless repression of the slightest dissent by the Chinese authorities, which is resulting in grave and wide-spread violations of human rights throughout the Tibetan plateau, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s consistent and unwavering commitment to non-violence and to dialogue in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise, it would be befitting the European Union to take the lead in promoting a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet. In today’s heavily interdependent world no country and no government is immune to world opinion and to outside influence. There is no doubt that the European Union could play a much more proactive and constructive role in bringing about a honest dialogue and negotiations on the issue of Tibet between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership
We Tibetans are in dire need of international help. First and foremost in opening up Tibet to the rest of the world so that the Chinese authorities and security forces no longer have a free hand in Tibet. International presence will have a restraining influence on the authorities and the security forces and will thus provide some measures of protection to the captive Tibetans inside Tibet. Sending government and parliamentarian delegations to Tibet is a way to ensure this. Moreover, the Chinese government must be encouraged to open up Tibet to international press, aid organisations, other non-governmental organisations and to tourism. Immediate interventions for the suspension of the death sentences passed on to Tibetans recently are a matter of great urgency.
Moreover, it is important to leave no doubt that the current aggressive pressure politic of the Chinese government in attempting to isolate His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to silence the issue of Tibet, has no chance of succeeding. The message of the European Union to the Chinese leadership must be that the issue of Tibet will continue to be an important agenda in the EU-China bilateral relationship unless it is properly addressed and resolved through dialogue in a mutually acceptable way for the parties concerned. Evading the issue of Tibet during the EU-China Summit will only increase the suspicion and distrust in the minds of the Chinese counterpart in the light of the wide-spread sympathy and support for the cause of Tibet and for His Holiness the Dalai Lama by the people and the public across Europe.
Above all, such a consideration of the political sensitivity of the issue of Tibet for the Chinese government would only encourage and strengthen the hardliners within the Chinese leadership. Consequently, it is the Tibetan position and appeal that the issue of Tibet be judged by the universally recognized principles and norms and dealt with accordingly. It is unacceptable and can only undermine the international system based on agreed upon principles and international legal covenants, when the political sensitivity of the Chinese government is made the primary criteria in dealing with the cause of the Tibetan people instead of judging it in terms of the gravity of the violations of human rights, injustice and oppression taken place in Tibet. It is a fact that Tibet today belongs to the most restricted and least free places and the Tibetans to the most repressed and threatened peoples in the world.
Ultimately, we Tibetans need on the other side of the negotiating table a sincere partner for an honest dialogue. Last year after the wide-spread demonstrations throughout the Tibetan plateau, the EU Foreign Ministers called on March 29, 2008 “for substantive and constructive dialogue which addresses core issues like preservation of the Tibetan language, culture, religion and traditions”. The Tibetan side has answered the call of the EU Foreign Ministers and presented the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People. On account of the Chinese rejection of the Tibetan memorandum, the Sino-Tibetan dialogue process has now reached an impasse. Consequently, failing to address the issue of Tibet at the forthcoming EU-China Summit would greatly undermine the credibility of the EU position on the issue of Tibet in particular and on human rights in China in general.
This is a very critical and crucial time for the Tibetan people and the issue of Tibet. The EU-China Summit will be watched closely by millions of Tibetan and Chinese peoples. The Tibetan people need a message of hope, sympathy and solidarity - not only not to give in to despair and bitterness but also to strengthen their faith in the path of non-violence, dialogue and reconciliation as advocated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.