Head of Tibetan exile govt renounces ‘One China Policy’ during visit to city
SHILLONG, Nov 13: The Sikyong (president) of the Central Tibetan Administration of the Tibetan Government in Exile, Penpa Tsering, who took over from Lobsang Sangay in May 2021, was on a two-day visit to Meghalaya.
During his stay here, he met the Tibetan community, visited the Buddhist monastery at Lumparing and also met senior officials of the government including Chief Secretary DP Wahlang.
On Saturday, the Sikyong also had a courtesy meeting with MLA Ampareen Lyngdoh and sought her cooperation on behalf of the Tibetan community in Shillong.
The Shillong Times met up with the Sikyong for a tête-à-tête on present challenges for the Tibetan community in Tibet numbering about 6 million and others scattered around the world.
According to Sikyong Tsering, in India there are approximately 76,000 Tibetans settle in different states. The Tibetan population census data collection is one of the initiatives of the incumbent CTA, led by Sikyong Penpa Tsering.
When asked if the Tibetans settled in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) have access to good education, healthcare and other welfare measures, Tsering said they are getting education and other facilities but it is the culture and language that is under threat of being forgotten as the students are not taught Tibetan language.
“Do you know that we Tibetans use the Devanagiri script and can read all the Indian scriptures? We have the closest affinity with India since we embraced Buddhism which came from India,” he said.
The Sikyong, a well-spoken and well-travelled man, was in Switzerland in November last year to meet the Swiss National Council in a mission to exhort the Swiss Government to take a strong position on China’s relentless hold over Tibet. “The journey to convince the countries of the world to exert pressure on China continues and we expect India too to take a position on this. After all, India is China’s closest neighbour,” Tsering said adding that all countries should reject the “One China Policy” for Tibet never was and shall never be accepted to be a part of China.
The Sikyong also pointed to the climate dangers facing Tibet from the loss of biodiversity and China’s Three Gorges Dam over the Yangtze river. The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydro project dam and has displaced hundreds of people and has the potential to flood lower riparian countries.
In 2020, the Yangtze overflowed its banks due to heavy rainfall causing heavy loss of lives. “India should be talking to China on how it uses its rivers and what it builds over them. The Tibet Autonomous Region is known as the 3rd pole and the Water Tower of Asia as its river supplies water to nearly two billion people in Asia. In view of this, India should be pushing the agenda at climate conferences,” the Sikyong said.
Stating that the other threat to Tibetan culture and worldview is that there is a huge out-migration by the present generation of Tibetans. “They are studying in 25 different countries and no longer know their language, culture and religious practices and perhaps do not also have the angst to fight for the freedom of Tibet. We need to challenge the younger generation of Tibetans and tell them what His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, ‘Never give up’. One day Tibet will be free and we shall return to our land,” he said.
The CTA has a Department of Religion and Culture which is trying to conserve and promote the ideals of Buddhism. “Our challenge has always been to look after the welfare of Tibetans in exile. The United States has been a staunch supporter of Tibetan rights. In June 2021, the US passed a Bill to counter China.
In the section on “Policy with Respect to Tibet,” the bill calls for the setting up of a Tibet Unit within the Political Section of the United States Embassy in Beijing until the US Chengdu Consulate is restored or when a US Lhasa Consulate is created, the Sikyong stated.
The US Bill affirms the sentiments underlying the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 and states that the US should encourage the Secretary of State to engage with allies to support Tibetan Buddhist leaders’ self-determination in the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation and to oppose Chinese interference.
Under a section on “United States Policy and International Engagement on the Succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and Religious Freedom of Tibetan Buddhists,” the Bill reaffirms the policies mentioned in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 and states that any interference by the Chinese Government or any other government in the process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama and any future Dalai Lamas would represent a clear abuse of the right to religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan people.
The Bill further calls for international efforts to protect the religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists and states that and exhorts all allies and partners to support Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders’ sole religious authority to identify and install the 15th Dalai Lama; to oppose claims by the Chinese Government that is has the authority to decide for Tibetan Buddhists the 15th Dalai Lama; and to reject interference by the Chinese Government of in the religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists.
Other than the US which has a clear policy on Tibet, other countries are weighing their economic interests and their decision vis-à-vis Tibet are decided by their economic priorities, the Sikyong concluded.
The members of Tibetan community in Shillong, headed by settlement officer and parliamentarian Tsering Dolma, hosted a welcome reception for Sikyong and the CTA delegation.
Sikyong’s first visit in Shillong was to the Tibetan market there at Glory’s plaza where he interacted with the Tibetan shopkeepers and attended to their grievances.
Many of the local dignitaries and high ranking officials paid a courtesy call on Sikyong later that day. Among them were MLA of East Shillong Ampreen Lyngdoh and Editor of The Shillong Times Patricia Mukhim, Deputy Commissioner of East Khasi Hills Isawanda Laloo and Superintendent of Police of East Khasi Hills Sylvester Nongtnger.