Address by his holiness the dalai lama to members of the european parliament, strasbourg, france.

Di Maffezzoli Giulietta - 23 ottobre 1996


Published by World Tibet Network News - Thursday, October 24, 1996

23 OCTOBER 1996

Honourable Members of the Parliament and dear friends,

In June 1988 I presented at this distinguished place a framework for negotiations between us Tibetans and the Chinese Government. Inspired by the spirit of your Union I formally and publicly stated my willingness to enter into negotiations with the Government of the People’s Republic of China on an agenda that does not call for the separation and independence of Tibet. I appealed to the Chinese leadership to realize that political Union, peaceful co existence and genuine co-operation can only come about voluntarily, when, there is satisfactory benefit to all parties concerned.

I stated that the European Union is a clear example of this. On the other hand, I also pointed out that even one country or community can break into two or more entities when there is a lack of trust or benefit and when force is used as the principal means of rule. Since the presentation of my Strasbourg proposal, the issue of Tibet has received much international attention and concern. Especially, the European Parliament has continued to take keen interest in the situation of Tibet and adopted a number of resolutions expressing its grave concerns about the violations of human rights in Tibet. Reflecting the increasing concern of the European Parliament the EU has been raising the violations of human rights in Tibet at successive sessions of the UN Commission on Human Rights and expressed its concerns at the UN General Assemblies. On a more practical and humanitarian level the EU has engaged in providing financial assistance to Tibetan refugees and in developmental projects inside Tibet. Equally encouraging

and helpful is the European Union’s appreciation and its consistent stand that there is a need to find a peaceful solution to the issue of Tibet through negotiations. The effects of the growing international concerns about Tibet are visible. The Chinese Government has been forced to enter into a dialogue on human rights. It has published a white paper on human rights and “ownership” of Tibet. It has also permitted numerous Western government delegations to visit Tibet.

On behalf of six million Tibetans, I take this opportunity to thank the members of the Parliament, the Commission and the member countries for the continued sympathy and support. As a free spokesman for my people, I appeal to you to intensify your efforts to help facilitate an early and peaceful resolution of our issue through negotiations. There is an urgent need to make real progress in bringing about a peace process to the issue of Tibet. The lack of any progress in resolving the political issue is increasing the real danger of violent conflicts breaking out in Tibet. I, therefore, appeal to you to give priority to the issue of Tibet. I am encouraged that the Irish Presidency of the European Union has assured that the Tibetan issue will be actively pursued with the Chinese authorities.

I have tried in every way I know to find some mutually acceptable solution. However, it has now become clear that our efforts alone are not sufficient to bring the Chinese government to the negotiating table. I am, therefore, left with no other choice but to appeal to the international community for urgent intervention and action on behalf of my people.

Today, the freedom struggle of the Tibetan people is at a crucial stage. In recent times the Chinese government has hardened its policies, increased repression in Tibet and resorted to bullying tactics in addressing the issue

of Tibet. Observance of human rights in Tibet has, sadly, not improved. On the contrary repression and political persecution have lately reached a new peak in Tibet.

Violations of human rights in Tibet have a distinct character. Such abuses are aimed at Tibetans as a people from asserting their own identity and their wish to preserve it. Thus, human rights violations in Tibet are often the result of institutionalised racial and cultural discrimination. If the human rights situation in Tibet is to be improved, the issue of Tibet should he addressed on its own merits.

In Tibet our people are being marginalised and discriminated against in the face of creeping sinicisation. The undermining and destruction of cultural and religious institutions and traditions coupled with the mass influx of Chinese into Tibet amounts to cultural genocide. The very survival of the Tibetans as a distinct people is under constant threat. Similarly, the issues of environmental destruction which has serious ramifications beyond the Tibetan plateau, and indiscriminate economic development must be addressed specifically with regard to Tibet.

Human rights’ violations, environmental degradation and social unrest in Tibet are only the symptoms and consequences of a deeper problem.

Fundamentally, the issue of Tibet is political. It is an issue of colonial rule : the oppression of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China and resistance to that rule by the people of Tibet. This issue can be resolved only through negotiations and not, as China would have it, through force, intimidation and populations transfer.

I am convinced that the next few years will be crucial in bringing about honest negotiations between us and the Chinese government. The present situation offers a historic opportunity for the members of the international community to reassess their policy towards China, in order both to influence and to respond to the changes that are taking place in that country. Whether the coming changes in China bring new life and new hope for Tibet and whether China herself emerges as a reliable, peaceful and constructive member of the international community depends to a large degree on the extent to which the international community itself adopts responsible policies towards China. I have always drawn attention to the need to bring Beijing into the mainstream of world democracy and have spoken against any idea of isolating and containing China. To attempt to do so would be morally incorrect and politically impractical. Instead, I have always counselled a policy of responsible and principled engagement with the Chinese


China is at a critical junction : its society is undergoing profound changes and the country’s leadership is facing the transition to a new generation. It is obvious too that the Tiananmen massacre has failed to silence the call for freedom, democracy and human rights in China.

Moreover, Taiwan’s historic first direct presidential elections earlier this year are certain to have an immense political and psychological impact on the aspirations of the Chinese people. A transformation from the current totalitarian regime in Beijing into one which is more open, responsive and liberal is thus inevitable.

China needs human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These values are the foundation of a free and dynamic society. They are also the source of true peace and stability. A society upholding such values will offer far greater potential and security for trade and investment. A democratic China is thus also in the interest of the international community in general and of Asia in particular. Therefore, every effort should be made not only to integrate China into world economy, but also to encourage her to enter the mainstream of global democracy. Nevertheless, freedom and democracy in China can be brought about only by the Chinese themselves and not by anyone else. This is why the brave and dedicated members of the Chinese democracy movement deserve our encouragement and support. The people of China have clearly manifested their desire for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in successive movements stating in 1979 with the “Democracy Wall” and culminating in the great popular movement of the spring o

f 1989.

A growing number in the Chinese democracy movement recognise that Tibetans have been ill-treated by Beijing and believe that such injustice should be redressed. Like the brave Wei Jinsheng, they openly state that Tibetans should be granted the opportunity to express and implement their right to self-determination. Just last month two Chinese dissidents in China appealed to the Chinese government to grant Tibetans the right of self-determination and to enter into negotiations with me. A similar petition signed by 54 Shanghai citizens was submitted to the Chinese Government in March 1994. Chinese scholars outside China are discussing a constitution for a federated China which envisages a confederal status for Tibet. These are most encouraging and inspiring developments. I am, therefore, very pleased that despite the absence of positive gestures from the Chinese government to my initiatives for negotiations the people-to-people dialogue between the Tibetans and Chinese is fostering a better understanding of our

mutual concerns and interests.

In the final analysis, it is for the Tibetan and Chinese peoples themselves to find a just and peaceful resolution to the Tibetan problem.

Therefore, in our struggle for freedom and justice I have always tried to pursue a path of non violence in order to ensure that a relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and genuine good neighbourliness can be sustained between our two peoples in the future. For centuries the Tibetan and the Chinese peoples have lived side by side. In the future, too, we will have no alternative but to live as neighbours. I have, therefore, always attached great importance to our relationship. In this spirit I have sought to reach out to our Chinese brothers and sisters.

Historically and according to international law Tibet is an independent country under illegal Chinese occupation. However, over the past seventeen years, since we established direct contact with the Beijing authorities in 1979, I have adopted a “middle-way” approach of reconciliation and compromise. While it is the overwhelming desire of the Tibetan people to regain their national independence, I have repeatedly and publicly stated that I am willing to enter into negotiations on the basis of an agenda that does not include independence. The continued occupation of Tibet poses an increasing threat to the very existence of a distinct Tibetan national and cultural identity. Therefore, I consider that my primary responsibility is to take whatever steps I must to save my people and our unique cultural heritage from total annihilation.

I believe that it is more important to look forward to the future than to dwell in the past. Theoretically speaking it is not impossible that the six million Tibetans could benefit from joining the one billion Chinese of their own free will, if a relationship based on equality, mutual benefit and mutual respect could be established. If China wants Tibet to stay with her, it is up to China to create the necessary conditions. But, the reality today is that Tibet is an occupied country under colonial rule.

This is the essential issue which must be addressed and resolved through negotiations.

Unfortunately, the Chinese government has yet to accept any of the proposals and initiatives we have made over the years and has yet to enter into any substantive negotiations with us. We Tibetans will continue our non-violent struggle for freedom. My people are calling for an intensification of the struggle, and I believe they will put this into effect. But we will resist the use of violence as an expression of the desperation which many Tibetans feel. As long as I lead our freedom struggle, there will be no deviation from the path of non-violence.

The Tibet issue will neither go away of its own accord, nor can it be wished away. As the past has clearly shown, neither intimidation nor coercion of the Tibetan people can force a solution. Sooner or later, the leadership in Beijing will have to face this fact. Actually, the Tibet problem represents an opportunity for China. If it were solved properly through negotiation not only would it be helpful in creating a political atmosphere conducive to the smooth transition of China into a new era but also China’s image throughout the world would be greatly enhanced. A properly negotiated settlement would furthermore have strong, positive impact on the peoples of both Hong Kong and Taiwan and will do much to improve Sino-Indian relations by inspiring genuine trust and confidence.

Moreover, if our Buddhist culture can flourish once again in Tibet, we are confident of being able to make a significant contribution to millions of our Chinese brothers and sisters by sharing with them those spiritual and moral values which are so clearly lacking in China today. Especially, since Buddhism is traditionally not alien to the Chinese people.

I remain committed to negotiations with China. In order to find a mutually acceptable solution, I have adopted a “middle-way” approach. This is also in response to and within the framework of Mr

Deng Xiaoping’s stated assurance that “anything except independence can he discussed and resolved”. I have formulated the basic ideas of the “middle-way” approach in my formal proposal, the Five

Point Peace Plan in 1987 and the Strasbourg Proposal in l988. I regret very much that Mr Deng Xiaoping has not been able to translate his assurance into reality. However, I am hopeful that his

successors will see the wisdom of resolving our problem peacefully through negotiations. What I am striving for is a genuine self-government for Tibet. Today, I wish to reiterate our willingness to

start negotiations with China anytime, anywhere without any preconditions.