Sikyong and Tibetan activists among recipients of the NED 2024 Democracy Award

Sikyong Penpa Tsering, Tibetan activists Lhadon Tethong and Dr Gyal Lo received the 2024 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), on June 13, 2024. (Photo:file)

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

Washington, D.C — A group of Tibetans serving various organizations, including the Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), were among the recipients of the 2024 Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). They were honored for their efforts in defending democracy and human rights, as well as for exposing the Chinese Communist Party's attempts to erase Tibetan identity.

Sikyong Penpa Tsering of the CTA received the Democracy Service Medal from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) on June 13, 2024, in Washington DC, USA, for his leadership in "defending democracy and human rights on behalf of all Tibetans". Tibet Action Institute received the 2024 Democracy Award from the NED, for documenting the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to erase Tibetan children’s identity.

Other prominent recipients of NED's the 2024 Democracy Service Medal, including Vladimir Kara-Murza, imprisoned Russian opposition leader, for his support for truth and democracy in Russia and his courage to continue to speak out against Russia’s war in Ukraine even from behind bars. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, for his distinguished leadership in support of freedom and defense of democracy champions around the world, from Burma to Ukraine. Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, for her outspoken support for democracy advocates around the world, especially those who took great risks, and for democratic allies including Taiwan and Ukraine. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of Free Belarus, for her unparalleled leadership and personal sacrifice to defend democracy over authoritarianism.

Other organisations recieving the NED's 2024 Democracy Award are Regional Center for Human Rights, for ground-breaking work seeking accountability for forcibly abducted Ukrainian children. Waey Organization, for empowering young Sudanese leaders to advance peace and democracy amidst violent conflict.

The Democracy Award is given annually by NED’s Board of Directors to recognize the courageous and creative work of individuals and organizations advancing the cause of human rights and democracy around the world. The award is a replica of the Goddess of Democracy erected during China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

The Democracy Service Medal is awarded to individuals who have demonstrated, through personal commitment, their dedication to the advancement of freedom and human rights, and to the building of democratic institutions. Past awardees include Senator John McCain, Secretary Madeline Albright, Bishop Silvio Báez, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Václav Havel, and President Tsai Ing-Wen of Taiwan.

“The 2024 Democracy Awards honor the remarkable achievements of our partners and leaders who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of democracy worldwide,” said Kenneth Wollack, NED’s Board Chair. "The 2024 Democracy Awards will recognize NED partners who have defended the rights of vulnerable children, sought accountability for human rights abuses, and empowered young leaders," NED said.

Representative Joaquin Castro, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, presented the Democracy Service Medal to Sikyong Penpa Tsering during the the award ceremony hosted by NED in Washington DC, USA,on June 13, 2024. After recieving the award, Sikyong said, "I am a very ordinary person; I just try to follow His Holiness the Dalai Lama's wisdom and accredited everything Tibetans have today to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His Holiness is the architect; he is the spirit behind everything that we are now or what we have today. I personally have not contributed as much as you would have hoped. I had is just 30 years of my service for the Tibetan people, and this award is for the people I serve, for the Tibetan people, and for the Central Tibetan Administration."

Sikyong also spoke of the cultural genocide in Tibet, fuelled by China's promotion of uniculturalism at the expense of diverse identities, and the repression of the Tibetan people by various means. "There are many other issues that you take for granted in the United States and other countries of the free world, but which do not exist in Tibet. I also say to those countries which, on the one hand, say that Tibet is part of the PRC, and on the other hand, say that we support the negotiations between the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, that you are suppressing the very ground for negotiation", said Sikyong.

"We were born into this world as free people, all human beings are born to be free and not to be enslaved, physically or mentally, and this is exactly what is happening in Tibet and we need your support more than ever", concluded Sikyong.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Emeritus of the House of Representatives, received the 2024 Democracy Service Medal of NED from Sikyong Penpa Tsering. At the award ceremony, she spoke about her relationship with Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. She said: "In 2008, when I was in Dharamshala with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetans came out of Tibet and told His Holiness what had happened in Tibet during the 2008 mass protest against the Chinese government, prostrating themselves before his legs and crying. What is happening in Tibet is horrible, terrible and intolerable, and that's why I am telling you this, because when it comes to the issue of Tibet, bipartisans support Tibet and the Tibetan people. After the Dharamshala meeting, I told people: "If we don't speak up for human rights in China for economic reasons, we lose all moral authority to speak up for human rights anywhere in the world". But His Holiness said to the assembly: "Let's pray that Nancy's negative attitudes disappear," that's what happened, that's why His Holiness has gained so much respect throughout the world."

Lhadon Tethong, a Tibetan activist representing the Tibet Action Institute, said at the awards ceremony, "We accept this award as a recognition of the heroic resistance that generation after generation of Tibetans has waged under the leadership of His Holiness the great 14th Dalai Lama against China's illegal occupation of our homeland."

"Chinese government's treatment of Tibet, has always been a sign or a warning for the rest of the world of the dangers ahead invasion in 1949-50, re-writing of history redrawing of maps, we see the earliest signs of the threat the PRC would one day to peace and Security in our world. In the position of Martial law in March of 1989, we see foreshadowing of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and brutal Crackdown on the 2008 Tibetan Uprising and the subsequent ceiling off of the entire Tibetan plateau, we saw signals even in the 21st century, life in China too could be restricted and controlled to the point of being effectively closed to the rest of the world," she added.

"Today, we are here, because PRC continues it's on slaughter in Tibet, we say at least 1 million children are now separated from their parents and made to live in the genocidal boarding school system, we are speaking of 80% of all Tibetan school age children from as young as age four. I have four year old twins, many of you have children grandchildren, nieces and nephews, we can imagine how unbearable it must be to send such tiny little ones to live apart from the care and protection of their families," she told the gathering.