Dharamshala — As Tibetans in exile mark Democracy on Friday, Tibetans around the world have been urged to embrace democracy progress— balancing their rights and responsibilities, and to exercise respect with the Tibetan administration blessed by the spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Hundreds of Tibetans and supporters gathered at Tsug-lak-khang, the main Tibetan temple in Dharamshala, September 2, for the celebration and enjoyed cultural dance and songs performed by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. The chief guest was Mr Mukuth Mithi, former Chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh and current member of Rajya Sabha and Dr Arun Kumar, a member of the Indian parliament in the Lok Sabha was the special guest at the official function.
In his message to mark 56th Anniversary of Tibetan Democracy Day, the democratically elected leader of the Tibetan people Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay said: "Likewise as citizens of a democratic institution we need to be mindful of the fact that while democracy bestows us with the rights it also expects us to shoulder our responsibilities. Like two sides of the same coin, rights and responsibility are closely entwined."
Sikyong said: "We vehemently condemn the fringe group of extremists who bear the name of Shugden and have been making concerted efforts to denigrate the work and accomplishments of His Holiness. While we deplore the planned demonstrations against His Holiness, orchestrated by the Chinese government, we vow to confront these matters."
According to him, "Democracy confers you with the right to speech and freedom of expression and in a democracy diversity of opinion should be respected. But these rights and privileges shouldn't be misused. As much as democracy gives you the right and freedom, it also demands accountability, ownership and agency. Engaging in acts of defaming His Holiness the Dalai Lama and leveling unfounded criticism against the CTA is an affront to the gift and tenets of Tibetan democracy."
"Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama set up a reform committee in an attempt to make structural changes in the Tibetan political and administrative system and transform them into a modern democratic institution," he said, added: "But owing to many formidable challenges the changes weren't implemented. However, soon after his arrival in India, His Holiness followed his vision by making the political system of exile Tibetans a democratic institution."
The Tibetan political leader said the Tibetan freedom movement based in exile follows a democratic system and noted this is unique and to be celebrated. "There is a growing global recognition of the accomplishments of our democracy. Recently on June 15, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) presented a citation to Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay to recognise and honour the democratic accomplishments of the Central Tibetan Administration, as envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama."
Sikyong said that the Tibetan electorate took active part in the election process and the voter turnout in the general elections increased dramatically overtime – from 35,184 voters in 2001, to 49,184 in 2011 to 58,742 in 2016. "Yet the recently concluded election witnessed some unfortunate incidents of internal bickering and regional discord that negatively impacted Tibetan unity and caused disappointment for His Holiness."
"I would like to reminisce the statement of Kashag made on the occasion of His Holiness' 81st birth anniversary and reiterate our steadfast commitment to foster unity among Tibetan people and make electoral reforms to complement the ideals of our unique democracy," he added.
Extending his greeting to his fellow Tibetans inside and outside Tibet, the Tibet supporters all over the world, Sikyong Dr Sangay strongly praised His Holiness the Dalai Lama for establishing and steering this democratic system of Central Tibetan Administration. "In 2001, His Holiness declared his status as semi-retired and called for the first direct election of the Kalon Tripa, the executive head of Central Tibetan Administration," he said.
"A decade later His Holiness made a historic change with the announcement of devolution of his political responsibilities to the elected political leader. His Holiness declared on August 08, 2011 at the swearing-in-ceremony of Tibetan political leader that he has fulfilled his' long cherished goal' of bringing democracy to the Tibetan people," said Sikyong.
Sikyong said that the situation continue to remain grim after the Chinese occupation of Tibet with an abysmal human rights situation, crackdown on religious freedom and with the Chinese policies in Tibet leading to the obliteration of Tibetan identity and sinicization of Tibet. "Till date 144 Tibetans in Tibet have self-immolated in protest against the Chinese policies. Tibetans working for the welfare of Tibetans inside Tibet are arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges. In 2015, respected Tibetan Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in custody after serving 13 years in prison on trumped-up criminal charges."
The Communist Party of China that ruled Tibet with an iron fist for more than five decades, Sikyong also noted the growing danger of water insecurity in Tibet. "China's fast-paced large hydropower and water diversion projects on the Tibetan Plateau have already started impacting water quality and freshwater fish in Tibet. If these dam projects continue operation or are implemented at the current rate, the water security of nearly 1.4 billion people downstream will be heavily compromised."
Sikyong also stressed his administration's concerns about the extreme levels of environmental degradation in Tibet. "China's policies of infrastructure development, mining and rapid urbanization have aggravated environmental degradation across Tibet impacting the quantity and quality of water resources which affect multiple downstream nations," h said.
Dr Sanday also expressed great concern about the decline in justice in China, where forced confessions are increasingly used to justify jailing lawyers and activists and all those critical of the Chinese Communist Party. "In China, crackdown on civil society groups, lawyers and democracy activists and their arbitrary arrests and disappearances is rampant. Independent human rights groups and many governments, including the United States and Congressmen have deplored the situation in China and the Chinese government controlled regions.
Speaking on the recent appointment of Wu Yingjie as the new party secretary for TAR, Sikyong said it needs to be complemented by a review of China's failed policies in Tibet and a commitment to heed to the true aspirations of people inside Tibet. "The recent spate of global events point to China's adeptness at obfuscating issues of global and shirking of its responsibility as a global stakeholder. China's abject rejection of International law has led to the creation of conflict and disturbances in its neighboring countries and substantiates China's growing arrogance in Asia," he said.
"China continues to assert pressure to the world leaders and religious heads against hosting His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is undoubtedly the most revered Buddhist leader in today's world," he added and continued by saying: "We vehemently oppose such authoritarian acts and bullying tactics of the Chinese government and call on them to be a responsible stakeholder in the global affairs."
Sikyong expressed his concern over the missing the Panchen Lama and expressed his strong disapproval of the recent Beijing''s move— using the party-appointed Panchen Lama as a political tool. "While the Panchen Lama His Holiness the Gendun Chokyi Nyima continue to be abducted since 1995, the Chinese government appointed Gyaltsen Norbu recently conferred the Kalachakra teachings in Shigatse, Tibet. Tibetans in the region were mandated to attend the teachings. Such parochial measures testify the lack of religious freedom in Tibet."
He also pointed out that the ongoing demolition of monastic dwellings by Chinese authories — a case concerned a typical example of religious freedom violations in Tibet. "The demolition of Larung Gar is an attempt to control Tibetan culture and religious life and is an act of trampling on the basic religious freedom and democratic rights of the people in Tibet," he said.
"Larung Gar, which is the largest Buddhist academy on the planet voluntarily built by devotees from all over the world including China, is today facing demolition on the hands of Chinese officials. The institute houses over 10,000 devotees and official orders restrict the number to 5000 after the demolitions," he said, adding: "Saddened by the destruction of the institute and unable to bear the sight of the government-ordered demolition, three nuns (Rinzin Dolma, Tsering Dolma, 20 and Semgha) committed suicide since July this year."
Sikyong also touched on the spate of self-immolations in Tibet, the Middle Way Policy, democracy and environment, and the continued support from governments around the world. "Recent reports suggest that the Chinese government is taking measures to make self-immolations a separatist-related crime. Monks in Tibet are being forced to learn legal texts that highlight such offences," he said.
"In the past the government has resorted to criminalization of the self-immolator's family members. Such tyrannical measures will only exacerbate the situation inside Tibet and only validates the reputation of Chinese government as a repressive regime," he said, addin: "Instead, heeding to the legitimate grievances of Tibetan people inside Tibet and according them the rights they are entitled to will address the aspirations of the Tibetans."
The Tibetan political leader also reiterated his administration's commitment to resolve the Tibet issue through the Middle Way Approach. "The issue of Tibet requires a political solution and the Middle Way Policy offers a mutually beneficial solution. CTA remain firmly committed to the Middle Way Policy and we are convinced that only dialogue can bring about a peaceful solution to the long-standing issue of Tibet," he said.
And he added, saying: "As we iterated in the press release held after the Tibetan Task Force on Negotiations meeting held in July this year, we believe that dialogue between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government should take place. Kashag will continue with its efforts to carry forward the vision of His Holiness by strengthening the foundations of our democracy and ensuring an effective functioning of the CTA."
Finally, Sikyong expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the international community, especially the Tibet support groups, individuals and organizations for supporting the just and non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people. "While we wish India on its 70th year of independence, we express our profound gratitude to the people and government of India for according highest respect to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for generously hosting the Tibetan people," he added.