While the people of Tibet and other colonies of China are struggling for freedom of their countries from Chinese occupation, their struggle is also aimed at ensuring the national security of countries surrounding China, especially for India, and peace for the rest of the world from a belligerent China. This was a common observation of experts and advocacy groups who shared a common platform to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the ‘Declaration of Independence of Tibet’ by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1913.The webinar was organised jointly by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE) and Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) on the evening of Monday, February 13,2023. The experts who presented their perspectives were Mr Bhuchung Tsering, Interim President of International Campaign for Tibet who participated from Washington DC; Dr Uwe Meha member of the Board of Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association GSTF who participated from Switzerland; Ms Youdon Aukatsang, a Member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, who participated from Singapore; Ms Tenzyin Zochbauer, Executive Director of Tibet Initiative Deutschland (TID) who participated from Berlin; and Gonpo Dhundup, President TYC who joined in from Dharamshala.
Bhuchung Tsering dwelt upon all the five points emphasized by the 13th Dalai Lama in his Declaration. He said that the Declaration not only reiterated the independent status of Tibet but it also presented a much larger vision of the Dalai Lama about the future of Tibet. “While point-4 declared that Tibet had regained its independence after a short spell of Manchu army’s invasion of Tibet, points-1 and 2 emphasized over preserving and promotion of Tibetan national identity. Similarly, points-3 and 5 explained how the Tibetan officials should govern Tibet and work for the social welfare of the Tibetan masses”, he said.
He said the historic declaration of 1913 becomes far more significant when considered along with the Shimla Agreement between Tibet and British India and his 1932 prophecy about the future of Tibet. During the Shimla convention between Tibet, China and British India the representatives of China refused to sign the treaty because Tibet had raised the issue of those areas of Eastern Tibet that China had occupied and Tibet demanded their return. In his 1932 prophecy, the 13th Dalai Lama had warned the people of Tibet about the lurking danger from the Chinese communists and the carelessness of Tibetan officials regarding governance and national interests.
Dr Uwe Meya in his presentation underlined the danger of the world community borrowing the Chinese narrative on Tibet without examining or challenging it. He said, “In the media, and also in political debates, ‘Tibet’ is mostly referred to, if at all, as ‘TAR’. Even worse, many media use the official Chinese language when reporting on Tibet and just call it ‘a region in southwestern China’. They are unaware that with this, they implicitly and unknowingly acknowledge that Tibet has been part of China for all time. Moving to politics, we notice that most governments now do not challenge China’s “one-China” standpoint and thereby fall into the trap of accepting to treat Tibet as China’s “internal affair” and thereby weakening the Tibetan position in negotiations. Moreover, Beijing uses these statements as ‘evidence’ for its claim and uses the international community’s statements as a substitute for legitimacy to rule over Tibet. The other trap that the Western world – politicians, the media and the general public – falls into is calling the Tibetans a ‘minority’ and using euphemisms such as ‘the Tibet issue’. We must realize that Tibetans were made a minority only by the Chinese occupation.”
Ms Youdon Aukatsang reminded the people that when the 13th Dalai Lama declared Tibet’s independence it was after defeating the Manchu army which was not ‘Chinese’. She said that over the history the relations between the Manchu kings and Tibet were of patron and the priest and did not mean that the Manchus were the rulers of Tibet. This simply means that this was a friendly relationship. Giving a modern example of Bhutan and India relations she said that although Bhutan is a protectorate of India, but both countries respect each other as independent countries. She said although China claims that it ‘liberated’ Tibet but the reality is that Tibet is an occupied country.
Ms Tenzing Zochbauer said that this day would be celebrated in the best way if the Tibetans use it to counter the Chinese propaganda and inform the world that Tibet was never a part of China. She emphasized the need of educating and training the young Tibetan generation about the true history of Tibet. She spoke about the campaign of her organisation TID which has been successful in enrolling more than 450 German city councils to hoist the Tibetan flag on their office buildings every year on 10th March. She said that Tibetans and Tibet supporters are working towards a day when the flag of free Tibet will be hoisted on Potala palace and the Dalia Lama will return to a free and independent Tibet.
Gonpo Dondup in his presentation and his vote of thanks said, “TYC and all Tibetans are celebrating this historic day, which very clearly underlines that Tibet has been always an independent country and that the Chinese occupation of Tibet is illegal. China is using its propaganda machinery to establish a false narrative in the international discourse against the truth of the independent status of Tibet. It is therefore the duty of every Tibetan, whether in exile or those living under the colonial occupation of Tibet, to fight back against this Chinese propaganda. While people of Tibet are struggling for a Free Tibet they are actually fighting for the national security of India and other countries surrounding China and also for the restoration of peace for the rest of world.”, he said.