Dharamshala, India—An exclusive interview with Tsetan Norbu, President of National Democratic Party of Tibet (NDPT). He gives an insight about the formation of NDPT under the guidance of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and talks about its contribution to the cause of Tibet. He highlights that Tibet is only a blueprint of what will happen to the rest of the world under China and calls for global support for the Tibetan freedom struggle.
TPI: Can you please give us a brief introduction of yourself?
Interviewee: My name is Tsetan Norbu. I was born in Tibet and completed my elementary education there. I came to India in 1994 and since then I have been involved in various businesses. I have been serving in various Tibetan communities. I am currently the President of National Democratic Party of Tibet. This is my second term as an executive of NDPT and first term as its President.
TPI: What was the idea behind the formation of NDPT and what are it’s goals?
Tsetan Norbu: The formation of NDPT goes way back to 1990 when the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) had a general body meeting in which they discussed the need of political plurality in the Tibetan Diaspora. They emphasized the need for a political change. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama specifically mentioned the need of an inclusive polity where political differences can come together and co-exist. Since then, this issue had been debated many times and on September 2, 1994, NDPT was formed through TYC. Just like any democratic government, we also have Tibetan government elections where we select the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament. One of the main goals of NDPT is to spread awareness among the Tibetan youth about the democratic processes and how they can get involved. We have been initiating various debates between the candidates and conducting outreach programmes in different Tibetan settlements to serve the purpose. We promote democratic discourse among the general public so that they can take role and initiative in the development of Tibetan democracy. The next most important thing for NDPT is to keep a check on the Tibetan polity about what is happening in the Tibetan government and administration. We also have to keep the general public posted about what is happening inside the Tibetan government.
TPI: How has NDPT adapted itself to work amid the corona-virus pandemic?
Tsetan Norbu: We tried to make people aware that the coronavirus pandemic was China’s irresponsibility. NDPT along with the other NGOs collectively tried to make China accountable for the global pandemic. We have been speaking to the general public, holding press releases etc to let the world know that China is responsible for this. To cope-up with the pandemic, we have digitized our campaign and also taken to social media since we were not allowed to move freely and had to follow the social distancing norms. We initiated a digital campaign on democratic discourse where we interviewed various Tibetan activists, politicians, diplomats and even the general public on their thoughts on the corona pandemic as well as the Tibetan polity and elections.
TPI: What are the contributions and achievements of NDPT to Tibet cause in 2020?
Tsetan Norbu: Apart from keeping a check on Tibetan polity and keeping people informed, socially, we take part in activism to bring on people’s commitment to the Tibetan cause. Through all the campaigns that we are doing, one of our biggest achievements is very clear if we see the participation in the current elections. In the past, we had very few people getting involved in politics. With the efforts of NDPT and other NGOs working for the Tibet cause, more people are getting involved in politics and the freedom struggle. We have been able to lobby about 180 countries during the global pandemic. We have written to their respective ambassadors to pressurize the Chinese government to take accountability for the spread of corona-virus pandemic.
TPI: How do you ensure that the freedom struggle remains alive among the young Tibetans and on an international stage?
Tsetan Norbu: As far as Tibetan youths are concerned; it is a must for them to stand up for their cause. We are well aware about what is happening in Tibet. So, being a Tibetan, it is a must for us to be a part of the Tibetan struggle for independence. To keep the Tibetan youths involved, it is very important to keep up with the time. Therefore, we have been campaigning through social media and other digital platforms. We have been advocating about Tibet’s environment, its water resources, human rights conditions in Tibet etc. There have been more than 155 Tibetans who have self-immolated so far. Most of them were young. These drastic actions are of desperation as a protest against China. The International Freedom house ranked Tibet as the second least free country in the world, even worse than countries like North Korea. Tibet plays a very important role globally and why the global population should stand for Tibet is very simple because Tibet is only a blueprint of what will happen to the rest of the world under China. The current happenings are a very clear indication that if China isn’t stopped, what happened with Tibet will ultimately happen with the rest of the world. They are into India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan; they are everywhere. It is a high time for everyone to realize China’s intentions.
TPI: What are the biggest challenges NDPT faces?
Tsetan Norbu: One of the main challenges that we face is financial support. We solemnly depend on donations but we still try our best. Apart from that, within the Indian borders we are neither refugee nor Tibetan. If you look at India’s Tibet Policy or India’s China Policy, they accept One-China Policy according to which we are not considered as Tibetans but Chinese. We are fighting for our own cause by staying in a difficult position.
TPI: Any specific message for the general public?
Tsetan Norbu: The non-Tibetans who take interest in the Tibetan civil societies and stand up for the Tibetan cause give great strength to us. They are the reason that the Tibetan struggle is still alive. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and at the same time I would like to encourage more people to stand up for the cause.