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Sikyong-Democracy-Tibet-2014Dharamshala: - Democracy is essential that provides not only a voice and the power to influence Tibetan people, it is also a "precious gift" bestowed upon the Tibetans by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay said while thousands of Tibetans in Dharamshala came out to celebrate the 54th Tibetan Democracy Day.

Tibetans across the world Tuesday celebrated their 54th 'Democracy Day' and the Tibetan leadership reiterated their commitment towards the "middle-way approach" for resolving the Tibet issue with China, underlined the need to strengthen democratic institutions in exile and ensure that compatriots in Tibet enjoy the similar rights to live in freedom and with dignity.

"On this joyous occasion, we express our heartfelt gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for granting the Tibetan people the precious gift of democracy," Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, democratically elected political leader of Tibetans said while addressing thousands of people gathered to celebrate the 54th Tibetan Democracy Day at the main Tibetan temple, amid hope for positive change in Tibet.

"His Holiness' vision of democracy has been a transformative experience for Tibetans, Sikyong said, adding "it fundamentally changed how we Tibetans in exile live our lives and is an inspiration for those in Tibet who live under repression on a daily basis."

"The gift of democracy given to us by His Holiness the Dalai Lama has provided us with a voice and the power to influence our own future. We must ensure our compatriots in Tibet enjoy the similar rights to live in freedom and with dignity. In this struggle, we will never lose hope and will continue our non-violent struggle till His Holiness the Dalai Lama can be once again reunited with our brothers and sisters in Tibet," he said.

Observing 2014 as the “Year of His Holiness the Dalai Lama” to express deep gratitude to his remarkable achievements for the cause of Tibet, Sikyong said: "We must strengthen our democratic institutions in exile to effectively support our political struggle. One way to nurture and promote Tibetan democracy is to cherish and practice and not by abusing the rights granted."

"As a young democracy, Tibetan community in exile must tread carefully and be all the more mindful of ensuring that public discourse is constructive and conducted with civility. It should enhance unity and not create further division within our society. As Tibetans hold their political leaders accountable, they are entitled to exercise this right by questioning but with civility. The Tibetan political leadership is entrusted by the people to make decisions and take a firm position on a range of issues varying in complexity and sensitivity for the greater common good," Sikyong added.

Sikyong said the "2014 Forum on the Development of Tibet, China" organised by the Chinese government in Tibet's capital Lhasa and the so-called "Lhasa Consensus" conceals the real situation in Tibet.

"The recently held "2014 Forum on the Development of Tibet, China" and its so-called "Lhasa Consensus" were a premeditated or orchestrated Chinese Government propaganda to paint an extremely pleasant and peaceful picture of Tibet, and yet again, a shot at concealing the reality of ongoing Chinese political repression on the larger number of Tibetans at the grass-roots level in Tibet. The dreadful events such as Chinese police firing on a group of Tibetan demonstrators in Shugpa Village in Karze in eastern Tibet voice the denial of basic human rights, and that the statements in the consensus were misrepresented and inaccurate," Sikyong said.

"We, Tibetans are not alone in our freedom struggle. 25 years ago, the whole of China shook when millions of Chinese in over 100 cities throughout China called for freedom and democracy. That yearning for freedom has not died with the tragedy on 4 June 1989. This spirit is most aptly represented by Liu Xiaobo, China's imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate. Sooner or later, Beijing must listen to the voice of its people," he said.

The Central Tibetan Administration urged China to shoulder the responsibility to protect Tibet's fragile ecosystem. "This responsibility should not be perceived as a concession to the Tibetan people, but a duty owed to the Chinese people and the rest of Asia given the strategic environmental importance of the Tibetan plateau," Sikyong said.

"Global scientists including many leading Chinese environmentalists, refer to Tibet as the Third Pole, the repository of the largest concentration of ice and glaciers outside of the Arctic and Antartica. These glaciers feed the ten river systems in Asia which flow all the way to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. The Yellow and Yangtse rivers which flow to China both originate in Tibet and bring fresh water to more than a billion people in China, South-East Asia, and South Asia," he said.

"Clearly, what happens to Tibet's environment has become a critical question impacting populations well beyond the Plateau. It will affect the existence of millions of people downstream whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture and fishing. Scientists also predict that the global climate change impact on the Tibetan plateau will lead to millions of forced migrations in the downstream countries. On this score, we feel that it is in the interest of all Asian countries to persuade the leadership in Beijing to adopt policies integrating local traditional knowledge of the Plateau. For thousands of years, Tibetans have successfully served as the natural stewards of the fragile Tibetan ecosystem. Beijing must acknowledge and respect this," Sikyong said.

"The Middle Way Approach of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the only way forward to resolve Tibet issue and it is a win-win proposition to both sides. The 14th Kashag once again reiterates its firm commitment towards the Middle Way Approach. In this regard, we have successfully completed visits by Kalons and Secretaries to Tibetan settlements to educate and raise awareness of the Middle Way Approach among general public at the grass-roots level," Sikyong said.

Drawing his speech to a close, he told the thousands gathered: "The Central Tibetan Administration re-affirms its resolve to fulfill the aspirations of Tibetans inside Tibet. We call upon all Tibetans to join us in this effort. On behalf of the 14th Kashag, we thank all our friends across the world for their unwavering support particularly the great land of India and it's generous people."

The chief guest of the occasion, Mr Ravi Thakur, the Member of the Legislative Assembly and Chairman of the Government of India's National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, conveyed greetings from the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh on the momentous occasion of the 54th Tibetan Democracy Day.

"It is an inspiration for the world to note the Tibetan people's journey towards building a very successful and robust democracy under the remarkable leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the face of challenging circumstances in exile,"he said.

"Today, Tibetans in exile have become a very successful and vibrant democratic community and serve as a role model for the whole world. They have earned the recognition of the most successful refugee community in the world," he said.

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