Wednesday, 4th February 2009
Thomas Mann opened the meeting and introduced the new representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Brussels, Mr. Tashi Wangdi.
Mr.Tashi Wangdi expressed his great pleasure in being able to work with the European Parliament Tibet Intergroup, and was very grateful for its support. There were now four offices representing the Tibetan government in exile in Europe, namely London, Geneva, Paris and Brussels. The Brussels office used to depend on Paris but has now been upgraded.
Mr. Tashi Wangdi had formerly worked in the United States, where there was much support for the Tibet issue from the National political parties, and the US administration. It had been hoped that the Olympic Games would have enabled the Chinese government to be more politically open, more relaxed, and in that context, to negotiate a settlement concerning Tibet. But unfortunately since last March things have got worse and the situation is extremely tense in Tibet. Just recently there have been over 6000 arrests, houses raided at midnight, and confiscation of documents and other items. Possession of photos of and books on the Dalai Lama is regarded as a crime. People were rounded up and arrested.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has for the last twenty years has made concerted and continuous efforts to find a solution using his Middle Way approach. It has been made abundantly clear to the Chinese leadership. His Holiness has appealed to world leaders to start a debate and to reassure the Chinese government that he does not seek independence, indeed that his solution would be good for China. Just before a visit to China, George Bush had a meeting with the Dalai Lama, who said: “Please when you meet the Chinese government representatives, pleased tell them that I am not seeking independence, but a solution within Chinese laws for a real autonomy.” Unfortunately there had been no response from the Chinese government.
Last November, the Tibetan government in exile published a detailed outline of what they meant by autonomy, within the framework of the Chinese constitution, and the assurances given to them over the last 50 years. The document is referred to as the “Memorandum”. It was thought to be a basis for development. Unfortunately the Chinese government decided to arrange a Press Conference, during which they rejected the Memorandum, accused the Dalai Lama of having a hidden agenda, and called it a game plan for independence. It would have been proper for the Chinese side to discuss it. If there was disagreement, the matter should have been discussed and counter proposals put forward. As the Chinese went public, so did the Tibetan administration and the Memorandum was made available to the public. It has been translated into nine languages.
The main thrust of the Tibetan government in exile’s approach has been to protect ethnic identity, culture, language, etc – all provided for, in principle, in the Chinese Constitution. The reality is the opposite.
Since then, Chinese officials have been travelling to the United States and Europe explaining their side. But repression in Tibet has been getting worse and worse and the situation is volatile and explosive. It is impossible for Tibetans in Tibet to express their views, and the true situation is not being divulged. So all the Tibetans can do is to demonstrate, with negative results. There is a vicious circle of demonstrations and repression.
Just recently the Tibetan leadership made an approach to the Chinese government, requesting restraint, and appealing to people inside Tibet to avoid violent actions.
The Tibetan government in exile had grave concerns for the safety of the Tibetan people in Tibet, and the only hope in this dark period was for international support.
Mr. Tashi Wangdi referred to those who lived in Eastern Europe and had similar experiences. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had visited the former Czechoslovakia, and was the first international guest of President Havel. At that time he met many officials and shared experiences. If people are locked up, but hear of support from the free world, it keeps hope alive.
The support of the European Union was very important for the Tibetan administration, as for example Resolutions, public statements, and enlisting the support of the European Commission. The forthcoming Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing would also be extremely important, and would include the lack of response to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s proposals.
It was hoped that the Memorandum published by the Tibetan government-in-exile last November would be looked at very carefully by world leaders, and notice taken that the reflections therein do not undermine the sovereignty of China.
Mr. Tashi Wangdi said that he had brought this Memorandum to the attention of the President of the European Parliament, who had been kind enough to discuss the matter with him.
Mr. Marco Cappato said that the present legislation was coming to an end, but the 10 March, an important date in Tibetan history, would not go unnoticed; there would be a Hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee and the date proposed was 31 March. The Chinese authorities have been invited but there is as yet no reply!
Gabriela said that she has ordered a quantity of small Tibetan flags, which could be put on tables and used in the Hemicycle on 10 March.