Last week, we heard once again Chinese Communist Party’s officials reiterating their concept of religious freedom in Tibet. Chen Quanguo, the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Party chief, wrote in the People’s Daily newspaper that monks and nuns should be evaluated for their "patriotism," a word they use to describe their allegiance to the Communist Party. In China’s one-party system the Party is institutionally more important than the State. Also, he wrote "Let the monks and nuns in the temples and monasteries have a personal feeling of the party and government's care and warmth; let them feel the party's benevolence, listen to the party's words and follow the party's path." To complete his article he added that all Tibetan monasteries should also fly the Chinese national flag. Chen Quanguo clearly thinks of monasteries as if they were government buildings where the national flag should be displayed, and this explains very well the depth of control that the government of China wants to have over Tibetan Buddhism. Furthermore, for years now China’s police officers (“patriotic teams”) have been permanently stationed inside or next to Tibet’s monasteries, working to ensure that their thinking is in line with the Party’s desires and that “troublemakers” are kept in check. If it weren’t tragic, it’s ridiculous to think that an important official of the second biggest economy in the world could make such statements in 2015. But this is what is happening in China and, with the exception of some important international media coverage (many of which quoted ICT in their stories), very few international institutions and governments worldwide seem to notice that this is happening in Tibet today. So, our duty to monitor and expose these developments, and to provide principled and balanced analysis, is even more necessary while the economic clout and influence of China on our governments and societies grows. It isn’t just Tibet that we should save; it is our faith that human values cannot be taken away from some without others speaking up on their behalf. This is what interdependence means in a global society. Nobody will stay free forever unless all human beings concretely support each other to achieve that goal. You have an opportunity to do your part by joining the International Campaign for Tibet. Please do it today, it will not only support our efforts to help our brothers and sisters in Tibet but, by challenging China’s authoritarian rule and political influence, it will help to build a better world for all of us. www.savetibet.org/donate

Matteo
Matteo

 
Last week, I had the privilege to have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington DC with my colleagues Bhuchung and Tencho from the International Campaign for Tibet. [caption id="attachment_5698" align="aligncenter" width="520"]ICT Audience His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave an audience to ICT's President Matteo Mecacci, Vice President Bhuchung K. Tsering, and Assistant Director Tencho Gyatso this morning in Washington, DC while he is in town to attend the National Prayer Breakfast.[/caption] Meeting His Holiness on behalf of the 100,000 worldwide members of ICT was a special honor. In advance of our meeting, it was with a great sense of responsibility, that we discussed in detail the issues we should bring to his attention. As some of you know, ICT was established in 1988 as a result of discussions between His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetan leadership in exile and supporters in the United States. We recognized the need for an organization that could help spread the Dalai Lama’s message of peace, nonviolence and reconciliation, and help bring a better future for the people of Tibet. For ICT leadership, this is still our number one priority. We are fully committed to continue this crucial work in all the countries and regions where ICT operates. It was our responsibility and duty to convey this message to the Dalai Lama. I am happy to say that meeting His Holiness was a great encouragement for us to continue the work and programs we are doing. We felt his sincere appreciation of our efforts. We went into the meeting being aware and mindful that the bond between ICT members and the Dalai Lama is particularly strong. As a confirmation, a recent global opinion poll clearly shows that the love for the Dalai Lama’s wisdom, humility, and strong sense of hope is on the rise, despite the biggest challenges a man of peace can face - the occupation of his homeland - and China’s relentless and desperate attempts to tarnish his image. You, as an ICT member and person of goodwill, have been and continue to be a pioneer in this global movement. You and I believe that Tibet is not important just for Tibetans but also for us: people who believe that the preservation of the Tibetan environment is crucial for the survival of our planet; people who believe that the preservation of the genuine and free Tibetan culture of peace and tolerance is part of a global heritage that should not be dissipated; people who believe that Tibetan land should not be used for China’s geopolitical or military calculations, but should serve as a source of stability and peace among China and India and for the entire Asian continent. We are humbled and thankful to be able to contribute in any possible way to accomplish the vision of peace carried out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We are confident that you will continue to join us in this adventure, and become part of this global movement. Our ideas are on the right side of history; you will not regret it!

Matteo
Matteo

 
As promised, our petition to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was delivered yesterday at their Headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Over 20,000 people, from no less than 130 countries (!) signed it.

At ICT we are very proud and inspired to be part of a global movement of citizens who are concerned both about the well being of the Tibetan people, and the status and future of civil liberties in our democratic countries.

I would like to personally thank each of you who signed and shared this initiative with friends and family. I am firmly convinced that by uniting individuals of good will we can make change happen in this world, and ICT is fully committed to continuing to work hand in hand with you. We will reach out to you asking for your involvement and engagement with our work, and I really hope that you will continue to respond positively and take action.

To deliver the petition, I took the time to fly to San Francisco and joined our partners at Care2 to go to Facebook Headquarters. Before arriving I wrote to Debbie Frost, the VP for International Communications and Public Affairs who had been kind enough to respond to our petition on my blog, requesting a meeting to deliver the petitions and to further discuss this very important issue.

I never received a response, but I thought that since Zuckerberg stated that freedom of expression is very important to Facebook, they would find someone to receive a petition signed by over 20,000 people - many of them Facebook users - who are concerned about their policy regarding the deletion of videos of Tibetans’ self-immolations.

I was wrong. When the receptionist reached out to her office it turned out that she too busy to meet us and nobody else was available. We were instructed to leave the petition with the security guards and leave, which we did.

I am neither disappointed nor surprised; I am just sorry for Facebook, a company that is playing an important role for the future of freedom of expression in the world. They found time to give a warm welcome to the head of China’s censorship machine, but did not find the time to listen to the concerns of over twenty thousand citizens.

As a Member of Parliament and of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, I have met with Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, Members of Parliament and business leaders all over the world. When someone does not respond to a request for a meeting on an issue of public concerns it means either that there is a lot of confusion on how to respond, or there is something to hide.

In any case, rest assured that we will continue to watch and monitor closely the status of freedom of expression on Facebook.

Matteo
Matteo
It has now become tradition for Pope Francis to hold informal press conferences with journalists traveling with him on the plane while returning to Rome from his trips abroad. The last trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines was no exception and the Pope commented on a wide range of issues with some quite candid remarks. Among them, there was also an interesting comment about his missed meeting with the Dalai Lama last month in Rome. Questioned by Anaïs Feuga of Radio France about why he hadn’t met the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis said (transcripts are available in Italian) that according to the Protocol of the State Secretary “Heads of States or persons of that level are not received when in Rome for an international meeting. For example, during the FAO summit in Rome I did not meet anybody. This is the reason why I did not meet him.” The first observation to be made is that Pope Francis has publicly confirmed the high regards in which he holds the Dalai Lama – as also stated by the Vatican’s spokesperson last month in Rome - rightly comparing his stature to that of a “Head of State or person of that level.” At the same time, he referred to the “Protocol of the State Secretary” to explain why the meeting did not take place. This would seem, at first glance, an uncharacteristically bureaucratic explanation for a Pope who is universally known (and has become popular for this) for not mincing his words and for taking the Vatican’s bureaucracy to tasks on many issues: from the constant call on the need for the Church to stick to the values it preaches, to the promotion of transparency and accountability of its administrative structures. Also, the Pope felt the need to add something to the official answer provided by the Vatican last December, which included reference to “the delicate situation” with China (and which irritated many Catholics and many others all over the world), probably with the goal to reassure them of his intentions: “I have seen that some newspapers have written that I did not meet him for fear of China: this is not true. In that moment the reason was that one [the protocol].” Then he went on saying “He [the Dalai Lama] had asked for an audience and he was given a date at some point. He had asked before, but not for that moment, but we are in contact. But the reason was not the rejection of the person or the fear of China.” So these remarks clearly indicate that the Pope was and still is willing to meet with the Dalai Lama, but that some “protocols” of the State Secretary (the Vatican Government) did not make it happen last December. These protocols, and the reference to the “delicate situation” with China, probably did not make him very happy. This is a positive shift that other world leaders should watch and follow closely, to avoid becoming hostages of Beijing’s desiderata. Now, the ball is in Pope Francis’s court and to reach the goal he will probably have to have another match with the Vatican’s bureaucracy, in addition to China. Matteo
Matteo