TAR Chairman delivers speech to the Tibetan people on Third Serfs Emancipation Day

LHASA - Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet autonomous region, delivered a speech on Sunday to the Tibetan people in celebration of the Third Serfs Emancipation Day and promised more efforts for a new Tibet that is stable, united, democratic and well-developed.

During the past 52 years since the end of the serfdom, the autonomous region has seen great achievements in economic and social development, the chairman said.

Tibet's GDP increased to 50.75 billion yuan ($7.8 billion) in 2010, up by 12.4 percent annually since 2005. The net income of farmers and herdsman per capital rose to 4,318 yuan, almost double that of 2005. And more than 1.43 million people benefited from a government-funded housing project for farmers and herdsmen.

At the end of last year, Tibet's population had increased to 2.93 million. And the life expectancy of Tibetan people reached 67 years, almost double the 35.5 years that it was prior to the liberation of Tibet.

Padma Choling also said the livelihood of urban and rural residents has improved because Tibet was one of the first parts of the country to provide free compulsory education.

The autonomous region has almost eliminated illiteracy among juveniles and was one of the first areas to establish the new rural social endowment insurance system and the minimum living security system for urban and rural residents.

"All the achievements should be attributed to the socialist system and the leadership of the Communist Party," said the chairman.

In 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama and his supporters staged a rebellion. The central government foiled it and initiated a democratic reform to end the slavery system in Tibet.

"The democratic reform conducted 52 years ago abolished the cruel and brutal serfdom that existed to exploit the Tibetan people for thousands of years. The reform freed 1 million serfs and allowed the Tibetan people to enjoy legal rights and interests," Padma Choling said.

"Tibet belongs to China. But the Dalai Lama and his supporters have been attempting to separate Tibet from China and restore the feudal serfdom. His conspiracy is doomed to failure. The sky in Tibet will forever belong to the Tibetan people and Tibet will always be part of China as it has been."

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.
He also sent his greetings and thanks to all people who have been supporting the development of Tibet in the speech.

Tibetan legislators endorsed a bill in 2009 to designate March 28 as Serfs Emancipation Day, marking the date on which about 1 million serfs in the region were freed half century ago.

In 1959, the central government dissolved the aristocratic local government of Tibet and replaced it with a preparatory committee for establishing the Tibet autonomous region.

By Hu Yongqi and Dachiog, China Daily 03/28/2011


C100 Committee member Robert Thurman explains the Dalai Lama's retirement

Yesterday it was announced that the Dalai Lama was retiring, more specifically, stepping down as Tibet's political leader. We talked to Robert Thurman, president of the Tibet House here in New York, about what this really means. This is a unique situation and Thurman tells us to keep in mind there is a difference between "succession" of a political leadership role moving from a spiritual leader to an elected leader, and "succession" of a reincarnating lama by dying and being found again after subsequent rebirth in another family.

I was wondering if you could explain what this retirement means for the Tibetan people. It makes them very anxious, though they are aware that he wants them to take responsibility for the democratic exercise of their citizen's duties. He is only giving up political decision making—he is still there in a moral leadership role, and in spiritual role.

Who will now succeed him? The government in exile has a constitution that vests authority in elected representatives. An elected prime minister will take ultimate responsibility for political decisions, in consultation with cabinet and assembly.

And is this the first time a Buddhist leader has stepped down? He was a unique case of a Buddhist spiritual leader also being a head of state, since the founding of the Dalai Lama government in 1642. So there is no spiritual leader succeeding him, since the Tibetans have created a secular democratic state in exile, to be imported back into Tibet when the time comes.

I read that China maintained that it was not for the Dalai Lama to decide about his own successor, including any possible abolition of the institution. This has to do with the reincarnation of the spiritual teacher line of enlightened Dalai Lamas. Dalai Lama's 1 through 4 had no political power, were merely reincarnate lamas who served as heads of monastic universities and spiritual teachers. The Chinese communists, who do not believe in reincarnation, insisted that they would recognize reincarnations. They began this with the Panchen Lama, who was recognized by the Dalai Lama in the 90s, after which the PRC government abducted and imprisoned him and his family, and then they appointed the child of a party official as the Panchen Lama. Almost none of the Tibetans respect that appointed Lama and he is clearly just a puppet of the state.

Is it possible he will not be able to retire? It is possible that in the future, after the 14th Dalai Lama passes and the Fifteenth is found in exile or by the proper Tibetan religious authorities, that the Tibetan people will make an effort to ask him to sertve as the ceremonial head of state, though it is doubtful the reincarnation will agree, as he will remember (or learn about) his previous incarnation's determination to develop Tibetan democracy and a secular Tibetan government.

In sum, this announcement by the Dalai Lama is not new news, in that he has made the statement about retiring from politics and the Tibetans' need for democratic decision making, often in recent years, beginning in the 60s. What is perhaps new is the formality of this statement at the time of the election of the new Prime Minister.

By Jen Carlson (Gothamist.com) March 11, 2011

Contact the author of this article or email tips@gothamist.com with further questions, comments or tips.

Dalai Lama to Hand Over Political Leader Role (WSJ Article)

BEIJING—The Dalai Lama said he plans to formally step down as political leader of the India-based Tibetan government-in-exile in an effort to further democratize the Tibetan refugee community and combat potential efforts by China to hijack the succession process.

The 76-year-old monk, who fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule in 1959, has for several years declared himself unofficially "semiretired" from political leadership, while retaining his more significant role as the Himalayan region's spiritual leader. The Chinese government sees him as a separatist.

Having ruled his homeland as a god-king, he established a parliament-in-exile in the northern Indian hill station of Dharamsala in 1960, introduced a draft constitution three years later, and in 2001 oversaw the first direct election of a prime minister, known as the Kalon Tripa.

But the Kalon Tripa's status among Tibetans and their international supporters continues to be eclipsed by the Dalai Lama—the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner—raising concerns among some of them about who will take over his peaceful campaign for greater autonomy within China after his death.

Tibet's parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala has urged the Dalai Lama not to retire, but he appears determined to enhance the authority of the next Kalon Tripa, who is due to be elected this month, both to govern the 145,000-strong refugee community and, if necessary, to negotiate with China.

"As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power," the Dalai Lama said Thursday in an annual speech marking the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising.

"Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect," he said, adding that he would propose a formal amendment to the constitution at a meeting of the parliament-in-exile on Monday.

"My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened."

Beijing denounced the Dalai Lama's move. "For years he has been expressing his intention to retire. We think these are tricks to deceive the international community," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

The Dalai Lama's remarks came three days after one senior Chinese official disputed his right to choose his own successor, and another confirmed that Tibet would be closed to foreign tourists during the coming anniversary of violent anti-Chinese riots in March 2008.

Behind the statements from both sides lies a historic struggle for the future of Tibet, which Beijing considers to have been an integral part of its territory for hundreds of years, but which the Dalai Lama says had been a de facto independent state for centuries until the Chinese Communist takeover.

Since Mao Zedong's forces took control of the region in 1951, Beijing has tried in vain to crush Tibetans' reverence of the Dalai Lama with a series of brutal political campaigns, and massive state investment into the region in recent years.

Although the Dalai Lama appears to be in good health, both sides are now preparing for his death, which some experts fear could cause the Tibetan movement to fragment, with some splinter groups advocating the use of violence.

Tradition dictates that the Dalai Lama should be replaced by his own reincarnation—identified by senior lamas who interpret signs after the last incumbent's death and then search for promising boys and give them a number of tests.

The current Dalai Lama—who is the 14th—was born into a farming family in eastern Tibet and was identified at the age of two after he passed certain tests, including identifying his predecessor's rosary.

However, many exiled Tibetans fear that this process would leave them leaderless while the next reincarnation grows up, and open the door for the Chinese government to appoint its own rival Dalai Lama.

In 1995, when the Dalai Lama recognized a young boy in Tibet as the new Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese authorities detained the child and appointed their own candidate.

The Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama is dismissed as a fake by many Tibetans but is often quoted in China's state-controlled media praising Chinese policies in Tibet.

"The Tibetan people now enjoy religious freedom and are much better off," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency this week, during a meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body of which he is a member. "People can freely choose to start a business, study or become a Buddhist monk. They are free to do whatever they aspire to, which was impossible in old Tibet. The peaceful liberation of Tibet has made people the real master of Tibet."

The Dalai Lama has proposed several alternative succession models, including holding a referendum on whether he should be reincarnated at all among the world's 13 million to 14 million Tibetan Buddhists. He has also suggested he could identify his own reincarnation—who he says could be a foreigner, or a woman—while he is alive, even though no Dalai Lama has done so before.

Another proposal is for him to appoint the Karmapa Lama—the third-highest in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy—as a regent to lead the movement until his successor is old enough to take over.

But the Chinese government also appears determined to control the succession process, claiming repeatedly that it alone has the power to certify reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, although Communist Party members are supposed to be atheists.

Padma Choling, the ethnic Tibetan appointed by Beijing as governor of Tibet, said Monday that the Dalai Lama had no right to abolish the institution of reincarnation.

"I don't think this is appropriate. It's impossible, that's what I think," the former soldier said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's parliament, the National People's Congress. "We must respect the historical institutions and religious rituals of Tibetan Buddhism," he said.

Zhang Qingli, Tibet's Communist Party chief, also confirmed Monday that foreign tourists were temporarily blocked from visiting Tibet, although he said that was due to the "cold winter," a slew of religious activities and the limited number of hotels.

Write to Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com


Statement of the Dalai Lama on the 52nd Tibetan National Uprising anniversary

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising of 1959 against Communist China’s repression in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, and the third anniversary of the non-violent demonstrations that took place across Tibet in 2008. On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to and pray for those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for the just cause of Tibet. I express my solidarity with those who continue to suffer repression and pray for the well-being of all sentient beings.

For more than sixty years, Tibetans, despite being deprived of freedom and living in fear and insecurity, have been able to maintain their unique Tibetan identity and cultural values. More consequentially, successive new generations, who have no experience of free Tibet, have courageously taken responsibility in advancing the cause of Tibet. This is admirable, for they exemplify the strength of Tibetan resilience.

This Earth belongs to humanity and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) belongs to its 1.3 billion citizens, who have the right to know the truth about the state of affairs in their country and the world at large. If citizens are fully informed, they have the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Censorship and the restriction of information violate basic human decency. For instance, China’s leaders consider the communist ideology and its policies to be correct. If this were so, these policies should be made public with confidence and open to scrutiny.

China, with the world’s largest population, is an emerging world power and I admire the economic development it has made. It also has huge potential to contribute to human progress and world peace. But to do that, China must earn the international community’s respect and trust. In order to earn such respect China’s leaders must develop greater transparency, their actions corresponding to their words. To ensure this, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are essential. Similarly, transparency in governance can help check corruption. In recent years, China has seen an increasing number of intellectuals calling for political reform and greater openness. Premier Wen Jiabao has also expressed support for these concerns. These are significant indications and I welcome them.

The PRC is a country comprising many nationalities, enriched by a diversity of languages and cultures. Protection of the language and culture of each nationality is a policy of the PRC, which is clearly spelt out in its constitution. Tibetan is the only language to preserve the entire range of the Buddha’s teachings, including the texts on logic and theories of knowledge (epistemology), which we inherited from India’s Nalanda University. This is a system of knowledge governed by reason and logic that has the potential to contribute to the peace and happiness of all beings. Therefore, the policy of undermining such a culture, instead of protecting and developing it, will in the long run amount to the destruction of humanity’s common heritage.

The Chinese government frequently states that stability and development in Tibet is the foundation for its long-term well-being. However, the authorities still station large numbers of troops all across Tibet, increasing restrictions on the Tibetan people. Tibetans live in constant fear and anxiety. More recently, many Tibetan intellectuals, public figures and environmentalists have been punished for articulating the Tibetan people’s basic aspirations. They have been imprisoned allegedly for “subverting state power” when actually they have been giving voice to the Tibetan identity and cultural heritage. Such repressive measures undermine unity and stability. Likewise, in China, lawyers defending people’s rights, independent writers and human rights activists have been arrested. I strongly urge the Chinese leaders to review these developments and release these prisoners of conscience forthwith.

The Chinese government claims there is no problem in Tibet other than the personal privileges and status of the Dalai Lama. The reality is that the ongoing oppression of the Tibetan people has provoked widespread, deep resentment against current official policies. People from all walks of life frequently express their discontentment. That there is a problem in Tibet is reflected in the Chinese authorities’ failure to trust Tibetans or win their loyalty. Instead, the Tibetan people live under constant suspicion and surveillance. Chinese and foreign visitors to Tibet corroborate this grim reality.

Therefore, just as we were able to send fact-finding delegations to Tibet in the late 1970s and early 1980s from among Tibetans in exile, we propose similar visits again. At the same time we would encourage the sending of representatives of independent international bodies, including parliamentarians. If they were to find that Tibetans in Tibet are happy, we would readily accept it.

The spirit of realism that prevailed under Mao’s leadership in the early 1950s led China to sign the 17-point agreement with Tibet. A similar spirit of realism prevailed once more during Hu Yaobang’s time in the early 1980s. If there had been a continuation of such realism the Tibetan issue, as well as several other problems, could easily have been solved. Unfortunately, conservative views derailed these policies. The result is that after more than six decades, the problem has become more intractable.

The Tibetan Plateau is the source of the major rivers of Asia. Because it has the largest concentration of glaciers apart from the two Poles, it is considered to be the Third Pole. Environmental degradation in Tibet will have a detrimental impact on large parts of Asia, particularly on China and the Indian subcontinent. Both the central and local governments, as well as the Chinese public, should realise the degradation of the Tibetan environment and develop sustainable measures to safeguard it. I appeal to China to take into account the survival of people affected by what happens environmentally on the Tibetan Plateau.

In our efforts to solve the issue of Tibet, we have consistently pursued the mutually beneficial Middle-Way Approach, which seeks genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the PRC. In our talks with officials of the Chinese government’s United Front Work Department we have clearly explained in detail the Tibetan people’s hopes and aspirations. The lack of any positive response to our reasonable proposals makes us wonder whether these were fully and accurately conveyed to the higher authorities.

Since ancient times, Tibetan and Chinese peoples have lived as neighbours. It would be a mistake if our unresolved differences were to affect this age-old friendship. Special efforts are being made to promote good relations between Tibetans and Chinese living abroad and I am happy that this has contributed to better understanding and friendship between us. Tibetans inside Tibet should also cultivate good relations with our Chinese brothers and sisters.

In recent weeks we have witnessed remarkable non-violent struggles for freedom and democracy in various parts of North Africa and elsewhere. I am a firm believer in non-violence and people-power and these events have shown once again that determined non-violent action can indeed bring about positive change. We must all hope that these inspiring changes lead to genuine freedom, happiness and prosperity for the peoples in these countries.

One of the aspirations I have cherished since childhood is the reform of Tibet’s political and social structure, and in the few years when I held effective power in Tibet, I managed to make some fundamental changes. Although I was unable to take this further in Tibet, I have made every effort to do so since we came into exile. Today, within the framework of the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, the Kalon Tripa, the political leadership, and the people’s representatives are directly elected by the people. We have been able to implement democracy in exile that is in keeping with the standards of an open society.

As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.

Since I made my intention clear I have received repeated and earnest requests both from within Tibet and outside, to continue to provide political leadership. My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened. Tibetans have placed such faith and trust in me that as one among them I am committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet. I trust that gradually people will come to understand my intention, will support my decision and accordingly let it take effect.

I would like to take this opportunity to remember the kindness of the leaders of various nations that cherish justice, members of parliaments, intellectuals and Tibet Support Groups, who have been steadfast in their support for the Tibetan people. In particular, we will always remember the kindness and consistent support of the people and Government of India and State Governments for generously helping Tibetans preserve and promote their religion and culture and ensuring the welfare of Tibetans in exile. To all of them I offer my heartfelt gratitude.

With my prayers for the welfare and happiness of all sentient beings.

Dharamsala, 10 March 2011

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi statement on Tibetan Uprising Day

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today to mark the 52nd anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day:

“Today, on the 52nd Anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, we honor the many brave Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom.  We remember the Tibetan people who peacefully assembled to call for an end to harsh Chinese rule – and we recall the ensuing crackdown that devastated Tibet and forced His Holiness the Dalai Lama into exile.

“The Tibetan people have accumulated legitimate grievances from decades of heavy-handed Chinese government policies in Tibet.  Tibetans have been economically marginalized in their own land, imprisoned for peaceful expression, and barred from the free practice of their faith.  So powerful is the image of the Dalai Lama that Tibetans are imprisoned for simply owning pictures of him.

“It is a tribute to his extraordinary commitment to democracy that His Holiness the Dalai Lama recently announced that he will voluntarily hand over his last governmental responsibilities to the democratically-elected leadership of the Tibetan Government In Exile.  The bond between the Dalai Lama and Tibetans is unbreakable, and attempts by the Chinese government to dictate Tibetan Buddhist teachings and drive a wedge between the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people will continue to be counterproductive.

“We continue to call for the release of Tibetan political prisoners of conscience including Gedun Choekyi Nyima (the 11th Panchen Lama), Dhondup Wangchen, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Norzin Wangmo, Runggye Adak, and many others who are imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression.

“On this anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, we must heed the Dalai Lama’s transcendent message of peace.  And we must stand with the people of Tibet in their ongoing struggle.”

March 10, 2011


Tibetans in Exile Consider Choice for Prime Minister

Tibetans living in exile around the world will go to the polls later this month to choose a new Prime Minister - for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Northern India.

There are three candidates for the post - and all three faced off this week [Tuesday, March 1] in Washington for an internationally-televised debate. [Watch a video of the debate here.] 

Three candidates for prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Northern India - Tenzin Tethong (l), Lobsang Sangay (c) and Tashi Wangdi (r) - face off in Washington for an internationally-televised debate, March 1, 2011. Photo: VOA
The Dalai Lama escaped from Chinese-ruled Tibet to Dharamsala, in northern India, in 1959. Since then, Dharamsala has been the site of the Tibetan government-in exile. Over the years, the Dalai Lama has worked to hand over more and more of his political role to a democratically-elected prime minister.  

On March 20, Tibetans in exile will directly elect a prime minister for the third time, along with members of the 15th Parliament-in-Exile.

In October, 60 percent of Tibetan exile communities voted in primaries, resulting in three runoff candidates for prime minister.

Those three candidates held the first-ever televised debate before an audience of exiled Tibetans. The broadcast will be seen in Tibet and worldwide on the Internet.

The leading candidate is a Tibetan-American affiliated with Harvard University. Lobsang Sangay grew up in a Tibetan settlement. He is a Fulbright Scholar with a law degree from Harvard.  

“The number one problem obviously is how to solve the issue of Tibet so that we can regain our freedom and then the divided family members from inside and outside Tibet can be united in Tibet,” said Sangay.

Tenzin Tethong is a former representative of the Dalai Lama in New York and Washington. Currently, he is a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University.

“The most important responsibility for the exile government is to work for the cause of a free Tibet and for the rights of the Tibetan people,” said Tethong.

Tashi Wangdi has run a half-dozen of  the government-in exile’s departments over the years. Most recently he represented the Dalai Lama in Europe.

“It’s very important for us to see what we can do to survive as a Tibetan people in exile and be able to maintain our identity and continue the struggle until we find a solution,” said Wangdi.

By August, Tibetans-in-exile will have a new prime minister. It’s a choice than many are considering very seriously.

Voice of America, Susan Jackson, March 03, 2011