Address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Palace of Westminster, LONDON July 16, 1996

Your Excellencies, Honourable Members of Parliament and dear Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to address you today on the question and current situation of Tibet. I thank the Parliamentary Group for Tibet for arranging this opportunity. I wish to express my deep appreciation of and gratitude for the support from our friends in the British Parliament and among the public. I consider your support not as pro-Tibet but rather as pro-justice. There is no doubt that your support and solidarity are of great significance and benefit to our just cause.

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 problems 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. This has been documented in reports by various international human rights organisations.

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 be addressed on its own merits. It should be seen as distinct from the overall situation in China. Undoubtedly, the Chinese in China suffer from human rights abuses, but these abuses are of an entirely different nature.

In Tibet our people are being marginalised and discriminated against in the face of creeping Sinocization. The destruction of cultural artefacts 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 and contamination, which have serious ramifications beyond the Tibetan plateau, and economic development must be addressed specificall with regard to Tibet. These problems are also different from those faced in China.

It is encouraging to note the growing concern being shown for the human rights situation in Tibet by many governments and NGOs around the world. A recent example of the growing international support for Tibet is the firm and principled stand taken by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation of Germany in the face of great pressure in co-sponsoring an international conference on Tibet in Germany last month and the adoption of a number of comprehensive and strongly worded resolutions by various parliaments around the world. But 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 population transfer.

I am convinced that the next few years will be crucial in bringing about honest negotiations between us and the Chinese government. Such negotiations are the only way to promote a peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the Tibetan question. Moreover, 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.

It is undoubtedly in the interest of the Chinese people that the present totalitarian one-party state gives way to a democratic system in which fundamental human rights and freedoms are protected and promoted. The people of China have clearly manifested their desire for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in successive movements starting in 1979 with the 'Democracy Wall' and culminating in the great popular movement of the spring of 1989.

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 the 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.

Democracy in China will have important consequences for Tibet. Many of the leaders of the Chinese democracy movement recognise that Tibetans have been ill-treated by Beijing and believe that such injustice should be redressed. Many of them openly state that Tibetans should be granted the opportunity to express and implement their right to self-determination. Even under the present one-party rule China has undergone dramatic changes in the last 15, 16 years. These changes will continue. I remain optimistic that this transformation will make it possible for the Chinese leaders and encourage them to resolve the problem of Tibet peacefully through dialogue.

In the final analysis it is for the Tibetan and the 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 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 in the West as well as in Asia.

Furthermore, in my efforts to seek a negotiated solution to our problem, I have refrained from asking for the complete independence of Tibet. Historically and according to international law Tibet is an independent country under Chinese occupation. However, over the past sixteen years, since we established direct contact with the Beijing authorities in 1979, I have adopted a "middle-way" approach of reconciliation and compromise in the pursuit of a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the Tibetan issue. 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 the 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 their unique cultural heritage from total annihilation.

Moreover, 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. Meanwhile, they continue to flood Tibet with Chinese immigrants, effectively reducing Tibetans to an insignificant minority in their own land. In fact some of my friends call this China's 'Final Solution' to the Tibetan problem.

Tibet - an ancient nation with a unique culture and civilization - is disappearing fast. In endeavouring to protect my nation from this catastrophe, I have always sought to be guided by realism, moderation and patience. I have tried in every way I know to find some mutually acceptable solution in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise. 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.

In the first place, the true nature of China's rule over Tibet must be understood. China's leaders have for decades, even before the Communist revolution, propagated a false and self-serving version of the history of Tibet and of Tibet-China relations. Tibet's historical independence and its rich cultural and spiritual tradition have been entirely distorted to justify China's invasion, occupation and suppression of Tibet. The international community, and even the Chinese people, still does not fully comprehend the extent of the destruction, suffering and injustice experienced by the Tibetans under Chinese rule. Today the Chinese people, especially the intellectuals, closely follow what happens outside China. The Chinese authorities are no longer able to isolate the population from outside sources of information. It is, therefore, immensely important that governments and non-governmental organisations in democratic countries discuss all aspects of the Tibetan issue, from the historical relations between Tibet and China to the current violations of human rights, openly and honestly.

Secondly, China's leaders must be made to realise that the question of Tibet will cause ever increasing problems to China domestically and internationally unless it is resolved to the satisfaction of both China and Tibet through earnest negotiations, in which all issues can be discussed with honesty and candour.

Thirdly, we need governments of democratic countries to continue to urge the Chinese authorities to respect human rights in Tibet and to enter into serious negotiations with us. We appeal for persistent and concerted efforts by the international community in bringing about direct and meaningful negotiations.

Fourthly, in their contacts with leaders and members of the democratic movement in China and in exile, governments of democratic countries should make clear their expectations with regard to China's future conduct towards Tibet. Now is the time for Chinese democrats to make commitments in this respect.

On our part, 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.

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 be discussed and resolved". I have formulated the basic ideas of "middle-way" approach in my former proposals, the Five Point Peace Plan (1987) and the Strasbourg Proposal in 1988. 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. These proposals were very well received internationally, and they can still form a rational basis for negotiations. My framework for negotiations does not call for the independence of Tibet. What I am striving for is genuine self-rule for Tibet. Today I wish to reiterate our willingness to start negotiations with China anytime, anywhere without any preconditions. And I extent to China's leaders an invitation to open negotiations as soon as possible in the interests of both Tibetan and Chinese peoples.

The material on this page has been prepared from World Tibet Network News - 96/07/16 by Sönam Tenzin.
E-MAIL: E-MAIL: All enquiries, comments and suggestions welcome.