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2 march 2012 001DUBLIN, 1 March: Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay, was awarded the Gold Medal of the College Historical Society of Trinity College Dublin for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse by the Auditor of the Society, Ms Ursula Ni Choill.

Addressing a packed audience in Ireland's capital city university campus, Dr Sangay said: "It is an honour and a privilege for me to be here in Trinity College Dublin and to accept this award with deep humility on behalf of the Tibetan people, inside and outside Tibet. Thank you for giving this recognition to the Tibetan struggle. Any such recognition of support is very much appreciated and gives voice to the voiceless inside Tibet."

After giving an amusing and well received account of his upbringing in India, his 16 years spent in the United States of America, and his election last year as the Kalon Tripa, he summarised it all with: "From my parents selling one of their three cows for 500 rupees to send me to school to my becoming Kalon Tripa has been my destiny, my karma, and I will do the best I can. Ultimately, it will be the Tibetan spirit, the Tibetan pride that will carry our struggle forward, and it is a privilege and honour to serve the Tibetan people."

Self-Immolations

Referring to the recent and growing number of self-immolations by Tibetans inside Tibet, he said: "Since 2009, 24 Tibetans have self-immolated - including 12 already in 2012 - and 14 have died, others have been badly injured and some have disappeared. Given a choice, anyone would live rather than die, to spend time with their parents, family and friends. But Tibetans are doing so because they have no other means of calling for freedom and for the return of the Dalai Lama. When you cannot have a peaceful demonstration, or paste up posters, or have a rally - when there is no possibility for protest without the likelihood of being arrested or shot, then their only way is self-immolation."

"In Tunisia, one led to the Arab Spring. Our biggest worry is that self-immolators will become numbers, rather than human beings with lives and families, just like us."

"His Holiness the Dalai Lama has always discouraged them and I also have appealed for them to refrain - but they continue to choose this method to send a message to the world: ‘We want our dignity'. The Chinese government, instead of responding positively and peacefully, has sent hundreds of truckloads of armed forces with guns into Tibet, journalists have been banned, and even Chinese people have been forbidden from visiting Tibet.

"We are concerned that many Tibetans will gather on the forthcoming 10th March and that they will be shot at. But we are still, after 50 years, committed to non-violence. This is one of our four principles. We seek genuine autonomy with the People's Republic of China in accordance with the Chinese Constitution. Yet still the hard-liners in Beijing respond with guns and violence."

"Tibet is also of global environmental importance - Asia's rivers begin in Tibet, which also has the world's third largest supply if ice - Tibet is the Earth's Third Pole. Already half of our pristine forests have been cut down and are lost for ever.

"The Tibetan struggle is real, it is tragic, and we are fighting against all odds. My job description is extremely difficult, but for thousands of year Tibetans have survived at the highest part of the world. Genetically we are strong and our identity is strong and we will remain strong until our Dalai Lama returns to Tibet.

"In many ways our struggle is similar to the Irish experience. When the Good Friday Agreement was signed it was an inspiration to us. It proves that, step by step, reconciliation is possible where many people think it is impossible. In that sense it is fitting that I am being recognised here in Ireland as a representative of the Tibetan people."

Universal Human Rights

Asked to comment on Ireland's developing trade links with China, Dr Sangay said: "It is for the leaders of an individual country to decide how you want to define and determine your identity. We do not want a negative relationship with any country, including China. If developing trade between Ireland and China helps people get out of poverty that is a good thing.

"But Ireland is also an example that human rights are universal. Ireland is founded on the principle of freedom and many fought and died for that principle. The question for Irish people is: how much do you treasure that principle?

"Human rights should be equally important to economic rights and profits. Bread, butter and shelter are not all we ask for as human beings - because being human is more than that. What did Irish people fight and die for? Tibetans have the same aspirations as you."

Then asked: "What is the Chinese Government afraid of?" Dr Sangay replied: "That is a good question for Xi Jinping! There is nothing for them to be afraid of - the Chinese authorities have 2.5 million soldiers in Tibet, 3.0 million including paramilitary forces with automatic machine guns, for 6.0 million Tibetans, or one to every two Tibetans. "We Tibetans are absolutely confident that our day will come - just as Ireland had its day, and Northern Ireland had its day."

Report by Tibet Support Group Ireland

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