Dharamshala: - Calling Václav Havel a “moral warrior”, the democratically elected leader of Tibet Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay said Tibetan people want basic freedoms and they expect moral supporters from around the world.
Speaking at the 18th annual international conference Forum 2000, in Prague, Czech Republic on Monday, Dr Lobsang Sangay underscored that given a choice nations should choose morality and democracy over money as the cornerstones of their policies.
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay participated in a panel discussion on "The Significance of Václav Havel's Value-Based Foreign Policy" on the second day of the Forum. The panellists included Andrew Schapiro, Ambassador of US to Czech Republic, Carl Gershman, the President of National Endowment for Democracy, US, Ales Bialiatski, President, Viasna Human Rights Centre, Belarus and Yoani Sanchez, Blogger and Activist from Cuba.
Dr Lobsang Sangay praised Mr Havel's bravery in defending moral values and his vision in forging a new democratic system. He said when he considers the enormity of Tibet’s struggle with China he is inspired by Havel’s example,“one seemingly impossible action can be possible in the long run.”
Dr Lobsang Sangay noted that no one had imagined non-violent, democratic movements like Charter 77 and the Velvet Revolution, led by Mr Vaclav Havel and other European leaders, would lead to the end of 41 years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. These movements preceded the disintegration of Soviet Union and the fall of Berlin Wall.
Václav Havel became the first world leader to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his nation as a visiting head of state soon after he became President in 1990. Sikyong said Havel took a “pioneering step” in support of Tibet and his actions inspired other Western countries, including the United States and England, to receive His Holiness the Dalai Lama as head of a nation.
Speaking on the Tibetan democracy and freedom struggle, Sikyong said, "what we need is basic freedom; what we expect is moral supporters from around the world."
In response to queries on the reluctance of government representatives of European countries from meeting the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sikyong said that European countries appear to have chosen money over morals.
In May this year His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended a Nobel Peace institute event in Oslo but the representatives of the Norwegian government decided not to meet during his visit. Sikyong said despite Norway being one of the most self-sufficient countries in Europe, “the power of money and China is so enormous that even the Norwegian government buckled under pressure” adding such action comes from the same country that awarded His Holiness with the Nobel Peace Prize.
Sikyong spoke about the aberration in view of the Czech Republic's growing ties with the Chinese government for economic interests which, he said, does not conform to the principles which late president Havel fought for, morality, democracy and human rights.
He spoke on the resurgence of democratic movements in the form of Arab Spring across the Middle East and North Africa triggered by the self-immolation by a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia in 2010 in protest against the authoritarian rule.
The Tibetan political leader said since 2009 over 132 Tibetans have set themselves on fire as a non-violent campaign to protest against the repressive policies of the Chinese government. "The Chinese government's continued occupation of Tibet and policies of political repression, cultural assimilation, economic marginalisation, environmental destruction are solely responsible for pushing Tibetans to take drastic forms of protests, including self-immolations," he added.
"The Central Tibetan Administration has consistently urged Tibetans not to resort to drastic actions, including self-immolations. However, the vicious cycle of self-immolation protests have taken place in Tibet because Tibetans are denied basic human rights," he said.
The panel moderator and President of central European university in Budapest, John Shadduck, said Dr Lobsang Sangay summarised the panel by questioning nations which have become overwhelmed by other interests, particularly material interests. “If that’s what humanity is all about,” Sikyong said, ”I think we are betraying the aspirations of all those people who led the struggle in the Czech republic, in eastern European countries, in the Arab world now, we are betraying their belief and aspirations and then you almost force people to take up guns to get attention, to gain support.”
He also spoke on the importance of rule of law, fight against corruption and education to further democracy.Around 200 global leaders from the areas of politics, academia, civil society, media, business and religion are attending the conference. They reflect on the last 20–30 years of democratic transitions, assess the current state of democracy, and explore aspirations for the future of democracy.
The four day conference (12 to 15 October) in accordance with the wishes of the late Václav Havel, focused on "Democracy and Its Discontents: A Quarter-Century After the Iron Curtain and Tiananmen." The Forum 2000 was founded in 1996 as a joint initiative of the late Czech President Václav Havel, Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel.
The Forum 2000 Foundation pursues the legacy of Václav Havel by supporting the values of democracy and respect for human rights, assisting in the development of civil society, and encouraging religious, cultural and ethnic tolerance. It provides a platform for global leaders, as well as thinkers and courageous individuals from every field of endeavour, to openly debate and share these critical issues.
Early Monday morning, Sikyong briefly met Mr Marek Benda, a member of Czech Parliament, on his arrival at the airport in Prague. He then gave interviews to the Czech language Magazine Respekt and Czech news agency.
Later in the evening, Sikyong launched "We Tibetans", the Czech edition of book written by Rinchen Lhamo, the first Tibetan woman who came to the West at the beginning of the 20th century as wife of a British diplomat. He spoke on the need to preserve Tibet language, culture, religion and way of life.
Sikyong also expressed gratitude to government and people of the Czech Republic for their long-standing support for the Tibet issue and asked for their continued support.