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19 september 2012 001Dharamshala: On the morning of September 16, the Tibetan People's Movement for the Middle Way Approach held a ceremony for Middle Way Day, beside the statues of Tibetan heroes and heroines in front of the Tibet Musuem in McLeodganj, Dharamsala, northern India.

In the afternoon, the Central Executive Committee Of Dhomay (which represents Tibet's Amdo region) held a public forum to discuss His Holiness the Dalai Lama's recent speeches in Ladakh and Italy.

The event was attended by around 500 people, including Penpa Tsering, speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, Dolma Gyari, minister of the Tibetan home department, Thupten Lungrig MP, former minister of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), together with other Tibetan MPs, students and members of the public.

The middle-way movement presented an award to the Tibetan family who in March attempted to peacefully march from Dharamshala to Tibet. The mother of the family, Dhonpo Kyi, accepted the award. Her son, Tseten Dorje, remains in prison in Nepal.

Lobsang Choejor, assistant director of the movement, gave a presentation on its evolution and achievements. He said the movement is opposed to those people who justify critcism of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by citing their right to do so in a democracy, but who are unprepared to listen to other points of view which are also expressed as a democratic right.

Thupten Lungrig said that the last Kashag (cabinet) of the CTA decided not to attend events held by NGOs, in order to remain impartial to differing political views. However, he said, he was attending the middle-way movement's event because it reflected the beliefs of the Tibetan people and the resolutions of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile.

Mr Lungrig said the middle-way policy is best because it connects the Tibet issue with the rest of Asia and the world. "The middle-way policy was devised by His Holiness The Dalai lama, and stands to benefit Tibet, China and the rest of the world," he said. "It is very important [for the policy] to have the respect and support of governments, NGOs and groups, as well as the general public, as it was approved by the majority of Tibetan MPs and has the high-level support of the Tibetan people.

"There has been chaos, [with the community] saying the middle-way policy has produced no results. We must think carefully before we decide whether seeking independence, or taking some other approach, will produce fruitful results. Otherwise...a day of regret may arise if we make a decision without being properly informed, or just follow the seductive words of some people."

Mr Lungrig criticised those Tibetans who write and post articles in newspapers and on websites under pseudonyms, saying, "Some people are afraid to show their faces, because there is no truth [to their words]. They cannot bravely and proudly...express [themselves], so they post this misleading information under false names." He did not, however, name any newspapers or websites.

"If there is truth [in these articles, the authors] must come out with their real names," he continued. "We can talk face to face, [and they can] tell us what is wrong with middle-way approach, [and explain] how His Holiness the Dalai Lama has 'withdrawn' the government. Hiding and using false names, saying things like His Holiness has 'withdrawn' the government - these are the activities of the Chinese, not Tibetans."

Mr Lungrig also strongly urged the Tibetan media and website onwers to carefully and thoroughly investigate content that may harm the Tibetan community. "If newspapers and websites distribute all the information they receive," he said, "this may create controversy or conflict within our community. Reporters and newspapers do not want controversy, but may benefit those who do. Many our young people follow the content [of newspapers and websites] without thorough research. This harms our society and its stability."

Mr Lungrig concluded by urging Tibetan journalists to be careful in their reporting, saying they must also think of themselves as refugees, and so have more responsibility than other international media.

"Reporters have and need freedom. However, who are Tibetan reporters? They are refugees who have escaped from Chinese oppression. Therefore, I would ask them, don't we have more responsibility than rest of the world's media? Of course, hiding information cannot help. It is the responsiblity of  reporters to let the general public know about the government, and to let the government know about the general public."

Numerous MPs had raised the same issues as Mr Lungrig at the first day of fourth session of the 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. However, none of them have so far pinpointed which websites or newspapers, or which reporters, have issued misleading infornation.

Speaking after Mr Lungrig, home minister Dolma Gyari said that historically Tibet and China were separate nations but that nowadays "our country is under Chinese occupation".

"In these times," Ms Dolma continued, "living under His Holiness' blessing [in India], we have an administration - whatever vocabulary we decide to use to describe it - which includes the historical Kashag (cabinet) and parliament. So should we or should we not accept whatever policies are decided upon by the government, which democratically represents the Tibetan people, at this critical time?"

"Democratic society should accommodate different viewpoints but, if the Tibetan administration goes one way and we go another way...what is the benefit, and to whom?

"We can discuss whether our current policies need changes," said Ms Dolma, "but...it seems that some actions appear like those of an opposition party which wants to destroy the authority of our current addministration, and we we must carefully consider, who stands to benefit from that?"

The home minister also urged Tibetans to think carefully about the Tibet struggle, and to consider themselves not only as refugees but as representatives of Tibetans inside Tibet who do not have freedom of speech, human rights and religious freedom.

Ms Penpa concluded the speeches by citing Jawaharla Nehru's assertion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama that, if Tibetans were ever to struggle for independence, the Indian government could not support them.

"Those who wish to struggle for independence have the right to do so," Mr Tsering said, "but they should consider that they should not damage our unity. If we become divided in our struggle now that His Holiness has devolved his political power - as we can learn from the lessons of China and Burma here - then the hard work of the last 60 years could be undone in the next five to ten years, and it will be hard to maintain the Tibetan cause on an international platform.

"When His Holiness held political power, some people said there was not a complete democratic system. But after His Holiness devolved political power to an elected leadership, they said he had left them stranded. So the criticism is piled on whether he's 'standing' or 'sitting'.

"We must carefully research and analyse His Holiness' views and thoughts," Mr Tsering continued, "even if they don't appear immediately relevant to us. We should think, there might be great meaning behind his thoughts, and try to build our belief and trust."

Mr Penpa added that some people in the Tibetan community follow behind such persons [who criticise His Holiness] without using their own intelligence. "Many problems arise from failing to examine the details. If one concludes that one person's words seem good, or another's seem better, without knowing the full facts, one can easily be led to believe what anyone says, and have one's own opinion buffeted around as if in a storm.

During Dhomay's afternoon session, which was held at the Tibetan Day School in McLeodganj and attended by over 200 people, the two invited speakers, Penpa Tsering and Pema Jungney MP (former speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile), expounded on His Holiness' recent speeches in Ladakh and Italy, in which he expressed his disappointment at the Tibetan Youth Congress' and certain individuals' claim that he had 'withdrawn' the Tibetan government.

Pema Jungney emphasised his Holiness' statement that all Tibetan people should know that, between the ages of 16 and 76, he has worked very hard for them, that his critics should check their facts and if, upon doing so, they maintain their criticisms, he wants nothing to do with them.

Mr Jungney added that, in his view, it would be very difficult to find a Tibetan who had not received the Kalachakra initiation from His Holiness. Upon receipt of the initiation, Buddhists are required to trust and follow His Holiness's guidance. Mr Pema continued that, since the age of 16, His Holiness has worked hard in the fields of Tibetan politics and religion, and that if the Tibetan people disappoint him, they stand to hurt the Tibetan cause.

He also referred to the controversy over the CTA changing its Tibetan name from 'government' to 'administration', saying, "I have a sister who became ill and changed her name, but in reality it was only her name that changed." In Tibet, following an illness, lamas sometimes confer a new name on patients to aid their recovery. Mr Pema said that, despite the CTA's change of name, nothing else has changed.

In his speech, Penpa Tsering said that, in a democracy, everyone has the right to free speech but that we should be thoughtful and avoid damaging the Tibetan cause.

"...In 1959," he added, "the Indian government heard that the Tibetan people had lost their country and were coming the India, and planned to withdraw the registration certificates of Tibetans who moved to India before 1959 and send them back to Tibet.

"But when His Holiness reached the Tibet-India border, prime minister Jawaharla Nehru sent a telegram saying, 'You are our guests and we must take care of your followers.' From this message we can understand that, if His Holiness had not come to India, other Tibetans would not have been able to enter the country, and those Tibetans already here would have been expelled. It's very important to understand this."

During the subsequent discussion, 16 individuals asked questions about and expressed their views on issues raised during the day. A few audience members specifically named around five alleged critics of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

One audience member said that the Tibetan parliament has one policy - to follow the middle-way approach - but that some individual MPs attend talks organised by the Tibetan Youth Congress. He added that all MPs should take the same stance.

Another attendee, Bu Yunten, said that ten MPs attended a talk held by the Regional TYC, and asked whether they attended as individuals or as representatives of the Tibetan parliament. He added that the public trusts parliament and follows what it says, that the Tibetan public should not contradict His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and that the public also trusts him.

Several Regional Dhomay associations plan to hold further discussions on the issued raised at the meeting.