|[14 September 2016] The Seventh International Tibet Support Groups Conference, held in Brussels and opened by the Dalai Lama, concluded on 10 September with delegates resolving to strengthen their efforts help find a peaceful resolution to the Tibet issue. President Norman Baker and Campaigns Coordinator Paul Golding attended the conference on behalf of Tibet Society.
The three-day conference was held in Brussels on 8-10 September and was attended by over 250 delegates from Tibet groups based in 50 countries. The conference examined the current situation in Tibet, with a particular focus on recent political, human rights and environmental developments.
The opening ceremony included speeches by special guests, the Dalai Lama, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay (the Sikyong is effectively the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile), Thomas Mann, President of the Tibet Interest Group in the European Parliament, and Richard Gere, Chairman of International Campaign for Tibet.
The Dalai Lama in his keynote address said, “I believe all 7 billion human beings have a responsibility to make an effort to create a more compassionate world… if we start now we may see positive change within this century.”
The Dalai Lama added that as we are all equal human beings, “we have to think of the welfare of all.” He called on friends and supporters of Tibet to take a broader view; to work to promote human happiness and encourage inter-religious harmony.
The Dalai Lama also noted the importance of Tibet’s environment on not only Tibetans and Chinese but the world at large and called for the expansion of work with the Chinese population to ensure they understand the truth of the Tibetan issue.
Thomas Mann said in his speech, “We must never forget to mention human rights, civil rights and political freedom for everyone. When the EU is tough on small countries about these issues, why does it go easy on China? The Tibet issue affects us all because our response to it reflects our values.”
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay suggested that what is required was the combining of the wisdom of elders and the enthusiasm of youth. He said, with those “we will succeed,” and added, “We will fulfil the aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet.”
Richard Gere noted, “We are all just human beings on this planet looking for happiness and we need to include the Chinese people in that. My hope for this conference is that we can figure out how we can view the Chinese people as brothers and sisters in this enterprise.”
Throughout the conference, delegates met in workshops, plenary sessions and in side-meetings to discuss the relevant issues, to build upon existing campaigns and to consider new actions to help bring a peaceful resolution to the ongoing Tibet crisis.
Issues discussed and considered included political prisoners, universal jurisdiction, language rights, China’s Confucius Institutes, joint government actions, damming of Tibet’s rivers, forced relocation of Tibetan nomads and China’s control over Tibetan Buddhism, to name just a few.
The conference sessions and workshops concluded with the adoption of a Conference Statement which stated, “Conference participants reaffirm their commitment to supporting the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom and for respect of their human rights and protect the plateau’s environment. They fully support… (the) call for earnest dialogue to resolve the Tibetan issue and will strengthen their efforts to press the international community to persuade the Chinese leadership to do so.”
The chief guest at the final ceremony was Ms Claudia Roth, Vice President of German Bundestag. She concluded the conference saying, “Let the people in Tibet live in freedom, give them the power to decide upon their own destinies and give Tibetan culture the opportunity to thrive and flourish.”
Seventh International Conference of Tibet Support Groups, 8-10 September 2016
The Seventh International Conference of Tibet Support Groups (TSGs) was convened in Brussels by the Tibet Interest Group in the European Parliament, and co-hosted by the International Campaign for Tibet, Lights on Tibet, les Amis du Tibet and the Tibetan Community in Belgium and facilitated by the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration. Over 250 delegates representing support groups from 50 countries and all continents, members of other NGOs and special guests participated in the conference.
The Conference drew inspiration and strategic benefit from the diverse skills and perspectives and from the sense of common purpose of TSGs from around the world. It examined the current situation in occupied Tibet, especially the political, human rights and environmental developments there, assessed the state of the Tibet freedom movement, and drew up plans for coordinated action.
During the inaugural ceremony on September 8, 2016, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who addressed the Conference as the Guest of Honour, explained his three commitments, in view of his recent devolution of political authority. Other speakers at the inaugural session included members of the European Parliament, Thomas Mann and Cristian Dan Preda, and the Speaker of the Flemish Parliament, Jan Peumans, as well as the former President of the European Economic and Social Committee, Henri Malosse, and the Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, Richard Gere. Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay reiterated the Tibetan leadership’s commitment to resolve the issue of Tibet through the Middle Way approach and called on the international community to support these efforts. The Conference was graced by the participation of the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, the Vice President of the German Parliament, Claudia Roth, and member of the European Parliament, Csaba Sogor, who addressed the closing session.
The Conference welcomes the strong participation of Chinese lawyers, scholars and human rights activists in its deliberations and regards their engagement as an expression of the growing solidarity between the Chinese people and the Tibetan people.
The Conference notes with great concern the worsening of the human rights situation in Tibet, including the repression of religious freedom and the suppression of the Tibetan national identity and language under the increasingly authoritarian regime. It expresses solidarity with all Political Prisoners in Tibet. In this context, the Conference welcomes recent joint actions by concerned governments on China and, building on this, urges increased action on Tibet.
The Conference is dismayed at the hardening of the positions of the Chinese Communist Party and the government authorities towards His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration and their refusal to engage in dialogue with them to resolve the issue of Tibet. It is deeply saddened by the many Tibetan men and women who have chosen the ultimate sacrifice – of taking their own lives – to express their yearning for freedom and determination to save the Tibetan identity and religion, to protest the destruction of both by the PRC, and call for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s return.
The Conference is profoundly concerned about the devastating impact of China’s policies on Tibet’s fragile and globally vital environment, notably the damming of Asia’s rivers, destructive mining practices and coercive settlement of nomads, all of which exacerbates the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction on the Tibetan Plateau and the surrounding regions.
The Conference expresses its complete and continuing solidarity with the non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people for freedom and for a restoration of their fundamental human rights. It commends the initiatives of parliamentarians and government officials of many countries who persist in pressing the PRC to respect the rights of the Tibetan people and who urge its leadership to resume dialogue with representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to respond positively to his efforts to pursue a mutually beneficial solution through the Middle Way approach, which calls for genuine autonomy for the whole Tibetan people.
The Conference considers the Chinese government’s demand that His Holiness declare that Tibet has been a part of China since antiquity entirely unacceptable both because of the falseness of this historical claim and because this precondition forms an obstacle to earnest negotiations. It reaffirms its conviction that Tibet has not historically been a part of China and that the Tibetan people have the right to determine their own destiny. The Conference emphasizes that the PRC cannot obtain legitimacy for its rule over Tibet by attempting to force His Holiness and members of the international community to endorse its untruthful claims. It can only gain legitimacy for a role in Tibet from the Tibetan people themselves, through a mutually beneficial agreement and by implementing real changes in its policies and behaviour towards the Tibetans in accordance with the latter’s needs and aspirations. The conference consequently calls on the Chinese government to unconditionally resume dialogue and on other governments to resist Chinese government pressure to endorse China’s claim to Tibet, and to persuade China’s leaders to abandon the shameless precondition.
The Conference commends the Tibetan community in exile and individual Tibetans for exercising their democratic rights in electing the leadership of the Central Tibetan Administration, the legitimate representative of the Tibetan nation and people.
Conference participants reaffirm their commitment to supporting the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom and for respect of their human rights and protect the plateau’s environment. They fully support His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration leadership’s persistent call for earnest dialogue to resolve the Tibetan issue and will strengthen their efforts to press the international community to persuade the Chinese leadership to do so. The Tibet Support Groups will continue their dedication until a satisfactory solution has been achieved.
Accordingly, the conference has outlined the following proposals for Action Plans to be carefully considered and developed:
Human Rights action
Reclaiming the truth
The participants commit themselves to the above action plans and engage to work collaboratively with one another.
Tibet Society, the world’s first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. Annual membership £24; Family £36; Life £500.