Why Tibet Could Be the Best Opportunity for Xi Jinping

This article written by ICT President Matteo Mecacci, co-authored by ICT Vice President Bhuchung K. Tsering, was published on September 22 by The Huffington Post.

Obama Xi

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hand with Chinese President Xi Jinping after their press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China in 2014. (Photo: AP)

On September 24 later this month, China’s President Xi Jinping will arrive in Washington to meet President Obama for an important state visit. The context is a growing alarm about China’s less than peaceful rise, and provides a rare opportunity for the president to give an important message on Tibet.

It has been noted in Washington that President Xi’s self-proclaimed “China Dream” — a vision of a peaceful and rising China on the world stage — has become a Kafka-esque nightmare for many.

China’s government has been publicly blamed for major cyber attacks suffered by US federal institutions and businesses over the last months and more sanctions seem to be in preparation to target some of its officials. US and EU business leaders are now openly expressing concern for the safety of their work in China; fears that were previously reserved for political dissidents, Tibetan religious leaders, lawyers and journalists targeted by Beijing. CEOs and others are obviously concerned about the purge and targeting of city workers in China after the recent downturn of the financial markets.

There has been an unprecedented attack on Chinese civil society, resulting in the arrests of civil rights lawyers and peaceful activists. In Tibet, writers and artists have been tortured and imprisoned for singing about the Dalai Lama or expressing their views in literary journals.

The expansion of outposts in the South China Sea has unnerved China’s neighbors and US allies in the region and revived the debate about increasing US military spending to push back against what are perceived as Beijing expansionist aspirations in the Pacific.

The domestic anti-corruption campaign — with its international ramifications to recover financial assets — has not been followed up by a reform of the judicial system that provides independence. It is now perceived more as a way to eliminate other competing factions than a genuine attempt to implement the rule of law in the public sector.

We know that Tibet, as a strategic border area, is an important matter to China. The Party State has stepped up its rhetoric against the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, in this context — which sits uncomfortably with the White House. President Obama has met the Dalai Lama four times and the two men enjoy a warm relationship.

The Dalai Lama’s peaceful advocacy and will to find a negotiated solution with China is highly respected in Washington, and his stature in the world stage as spiritual and moral leader increases with his age.

In the interest of China, and his own, Xi Jinping, certainly needs to give different signals to a world that is skeptical about his administration. A commitment to reduce carbon emissions in view of the COP21 UN Summit in Paris on climate change later this year is in the making, and would be certainly welcomed by the Obama administration, but it won’t be a surprise, as it won’t be enough expressing a general commitment to find “peaceful” solutions to the South China issues or to “fight against cyberterrorism.”

China can show to the world that it is really changing only if it can make profound reforms, such as moving from a centralized and authoritarian political system — which leads to its embrace of nationalistic and aggressive policies — to a more democratic and decentralized one, where the rule of law and a process of genuine consultations lead to sound political decisions.

For this, the Tibetan issue represents an important opportunity for Xi Jinping. By embracing the Dalai Lama’s sincere offer for dialogue based on his Middle Way Approach, and his decision to devolve his political authority to Tibetan institutions in exile — clearly indicating that he has no interest in going back to Tibet to rule — Xi Jinping would show that he is open to find some solutions to difficult and longstanding political issues that are of concern for the international community.

President Obama, who is also a Nobel Peace Laureate, should personally tell President Xi that he has nothing to fear from the Dalai Lama. The resistance by Tibetans to the decades-long policies of cultural and ethnic assimilation has been remarkably nonviolent so far, and this is largely due to the leadership provided by the Dalai Lama. It is the 80th birthday year of the Dalai Lama and this should provide a sense of urgency for resolving the issue in his lifetime. It is absurd to believe that Xi Jinping, leader of an atheist Party state, can ensure stability in Tibet through stage-managing a reincarnation of the Nobel Peace Laureate and seeking to eviscerate a peaceful religious culture.

Rather, by embracing the Dalai Lama President Xi might be able to bring about a change in the mindset of the international community on China and its future. China and its leaders know that despite its economic influence (which seem to be shaking currently) there is much distrust by the governments about China’s intentions and ambitions. If China respects the aspirations of the Tibetans for self-rule, the Dalai Lama could be a catalyst for China’s acceptance as a responsible member of the community of nations.

Xi Jinping as a Living Buddha

Communist Party officials visiting Beijing for annual meetings shook up the internet and saddled themselves with reams of bad press last week when they harshly attacked the Dalai Lama. That in itself isn’t anything new; even headline-grabbing accusations like claims that the Dalai Lama ‘betrays his country and his religion’ are just new iterations of Beijing’s old themes. What really got people’s attention is the way Party officials claimed ownership and mastery over the Tibetan Buddhist concept of reincarnate lamas: “Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” senior Party official Zhu Weiqun told reporters.


NYT editorial cartoon- Xi Jinping tries to issue spiritual orders to the Dalai Lama.

There’s an obvious absurdity to this claim; Tibet expert Robert Barnett mentioned seeing Zhu’s statement “through the prism of Monty Python.” It might be useful to look at some of the specifics regarding Beijing’s claim though, in order to fully appreciate the absurdity of these ideas.

To begin, the Party has been riled up by comments the Dalai Lama made over the last few years concerning his reincarnation. He has speculated that he may return outside the borders of the People’s Republic of China, or as a girl, or that he may not be reborn at all. He has emphatically repeated that senior Tibetan Buddhist leaders, and the Tibetan people at large, will end up making the final decisions, and in the meantime as long as he remains in good health these matters won’t have to be decided for some time. Hence this reply, delivered by Padma Choling, the Chinese-appointed governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region: “Whether he wants to cease reincarnation or not, this decision is not up to him.”

Here the obvious absurdity reveals itself: if we take the Dalai Lama to be a human manifestation of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, then we can safely say that the decision certainly does lie with him, and not with some department of the Communist Party of China. Padma Choling also asked reporters “if the central government had not approved it, how could he have become the 14th Dalai Lama? He couldn’t.” And yet, he did- because the central government he’s referring to now, established by the Communist Party, didn’t yet exist when the current Dalai Lama was recognized. The central government of China at the time was that of the Republic of China, which has since relocated to Taiwan. It’s worth noting that their involvement was minimal, as well- their representatives arrived after traditional Tibetan methods had been used to confirm the identity of the child, and they merely joined other foreign delegations in attending the enthronement ceremony. The Party would like you to believe that they presided over the ceremony, but historian Tsering Shakya has found no evidence supporting this claim.

Recently the Party has begun insisting that the use of a Qing dynasty relic called the Golden Urn is crucial for recognizing reincarnate lamas. My colleague Pema Wangyal examined the history of the Golden Urn last year, and his findings significantly undermine the Party’s position. The Golden Urn was only involved in the selection of three out of the fourteen Dalai Lamas, and just two of the first ten Panchen Lamas. Notably, the current Dalai Lama was selected without the use of the Golden Urn.

The Communist Party obsession with the Golden Urn has a much deeper flaw, though. As Elliot Sperling points out, the only reason the Golden Urn had any legitimacy in the past is that the emperors of the Qing dynasty practiced Tibetan Buddhism. Emperor Qianlong was acknowledged as an emanation of Manjusri, and he was considered by some to have powers of discernment that might help in the process of searching for reincarnations. Today’s Communist Party leaders have no such faith, and no such acknowledged spiritual roles. The rules of the Communist Party would even appear to make this impossible, as atheism is a must for senior Party leaders.

Even then, the patron-priest relationship that linked the Dalai Lamas to China in the past was formally abrogated by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1913. In the absence of any such arrangement, Beijing would be wise to leave spiritual matters like the recognition of reincarnate lamas to qualified spiritual authorities. This will spare them from the absurdity of documents like State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5, a 2007 Chinese law which says people who plan to be reborn must complete an application and submit it to several government agencies for approval. It’s a law which somehow manages to make a mockery of both the Communist Party’s supposed atheism and the religious institutions of Tibetan Buddhism.

To borrow their words, Zhu Weiqun and Padma Choling have taken an ‘extremely frivolous and disrespectful attitude’ towards this issue, and a good first step towards sorting it all out would be for them to stop intentionally conflating the relationships Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism has had with the Communist Party, the Republic of China, and the Qing dynasty. Tibetan Buddhist leaders like the Dalai Lama are perfectly capable of making their own decisions regarding the future of Tibetan Buddhist institutions, and they should be free to do so without outside interference.

How does one incite ethnic hatred in China?

Imagine a country which is openly denying ethnic minorities the right to check into hotels, and to receive passports. Imagine a country where a rights lawyer from the majority ethnicity calls these kinds of policies ‘ridiculous.’ And finally, imagine a country where the criminal charge of ‘inciting ethnic hatred’ that soon follows is brought against the lawyer for opposing these policies, and not against the government agencies responsible for instituting them.

The lawyer is Pu Zhiqiang, a smart and steadfast man whose commitment to defending rights runs all the way back to his participation in the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement. He has defended high-profile Tibetans, including Karma Samdrup, and Perry Link described his outlook on minorities in the PRC thusly:

In his comments on Uighurs and Tibetans, Pu tries to appreciate how ethnic minorities see things—not ideologically but as practical matters of daily life. He hears about a new regulation ordering that Buddhist temples in Tibet hang portraits of the top Chinese leaders—all Han—and that the stated reason for the move is “to dissipate religious consciousness.” He posts: “Are Han heads insane? Or only the head Hans?”

Pu Zhiqiang

Pu Zhiqiang

The latest word is that Pu rejected the charges as groundless from his cell in a detention center, but it seems unlikely a Party-picked judge will agree- as Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times reminds us, as of 2013 Chinese courts had an acquittal rate of just 0.007%. Jacobs referred to legal experts who say that the issue centers on “China’s party-run judiciary, a system in which the police, prosecutors and judges work together to ensure convictions.” The consequences could be severe for Pu, who would face an 8-year prison term. The evidence presented by the government as proof of his incitement of ethnic hatred comes in the form of a handful of Weibo posts, the equivalent of tweets.

Meanwhile, Tibetans find it difficult to leave the country, and difficult to stay in it as well. Freedom of movement is one of the most basic and fundamental human rights, something enshrined in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which China is a signatory) and in the first Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (although it was later removed after the institution of the hukou system). The restrictions on passports, which are implemented in some places by requiring Tibetans to hand in old passports and then denying them new ones en masse, are completely unlike the way the Communist Party treats Chinese people. Domestic travel has become just as difficult, with Tibetans who live outside the Tibet Autonomous Region [TAR] finding it difficult or impossible to visit the TAR, and with Tibetans inside the TAR encountering new restrictions on their movement within their own ‘autonomous’ region. “We can’t accept Tibetans,” one hostel worker told Radio Free Asia. “It’s clearly stated in the police regulations.”

By choosing to charge Pu while they continue the practice of structural discrimination, the Party makes it clear that in their view ‘ethnic hatred’ isn’t incited by those who violate the rights of China’s ethnic minorities, but rather by those who call for these violations to end. It’s a view that reflects the absolutely dominant position that the Chinese hold in the Communist Party, and one that leaves no place for the view of the minorities- a polar opposite to the way Pu viewed the Tibetans and Uyghurs.

Didi Kirsten Tatlow recently wrote from a Chinese elementary school where students are taught mnemonic devices involving bloodthirsty Japanese people, and where parents muse about how “Tibetans are considered inferior and such allegedly inferior people will never lead China.” In Xi Jinping’s China they’re far less likely to get in trouble for ‘inciting ethnic hatred’ for saying something like that than someone else would be for commenting on it.

Losar in the State Department Heralds the New Year for Tibetan Americans, in more sense than one

On July 21, 2014, history of sort was created when around 100 Tibetan Americans from Amherst, Boston and nearby areas joined US Congressman James McGovern at the City Hall of Northampton, MA, as he held a press conference on his introduction of HR 4851: The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, in the House of Representatives. This was a public acknowledgement of the existence of the Tibetan American community and their being a stakeholder on issues relating to Tibet in the United States Congress.

Seven months later, another history was created when on February 24, 2015, Under Secretary Sarah Sewall, in her capacity as the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, hosted in the State Department a Losar (New Year) to an invited group of Tibetan Americans, diplomats and other guests.

State Department Losar reception

Sarah Sewall with some of the Tibetan American artists and “Chang maidens” during the State Department Losar reception.

As Under Secretary Sewall invited the gathering to join her in saying, “Losar Tashi Delek” one could sense a special emotional feeling among the Tibetan Americans privileged to be participating in the event. Excitement was clearly visible as quite a few of the Tibetan Americans who had come to help serve the traditional Tibetan delicacies and drinks could not resist taking the time to shoot photos, to record the history in the making.

In fact, Karma Gyaltsen la, who together with some other colleagues performed songs and dances, put it best when he adjusted the lyrics of a traditional Tibetan New Year fixture, the recitation by a Drekar, a jocular mendicant, wondering whether the Losar celebration within the State Department “was a dream or a reality.”

Why is the Losar at the State Department significant? As Under Secretary Sewall said at the reception, “Now, one of the amazing things about the Tibetan American community is that in numbers you all… are relatively small, but in your influence, and in your impact, you are enormous.” It heralds virtually a new year for the Tibetan Americans whose existence is increasingly being noticed in the United States.

Former Special Envoy of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Gyari Rinpoche, also saw the Losar celebration as an indication of the implementation of the United States’ objective of helping to preserve and promote the distinct Tibetan religious and cultural heritage.

As I write this, we are preparing for the next annual Tibet Lobby Day here in Washington, D.C., which will be held on March 2 and 3. This is an event that has seen increasing participation by Tibetan Americans as they go to the offices of their members of Congress and exercise the freedom to express their views on Tibet to them.

Henceforth, Losar would not only be an exotic tradition of a people far away in Tibet, but is a Tibetan American culture and thus as American a culture as any other.

Pope Francis’s first failure

Dalai Lama with Pope John Paul

The Dalai Lama with Pope John Paul II, Vatican City, June 14, 1988. (Photo:

Last week His Holiness the Dalai Lama participated in the Nobel Peace Prize Summit in Rome, which had initially been scheduled to take place in South Africa. This plan was scrapped after the South African government failed to grant His Holiness a visa under Chinese pressure.

His Holiness was very much welcomed in Rome where the audience gave him a standing ovation at the venue of the Summit.

At the same time, in what was the biggest public relations failure by Papa Bergoglio since he ascended to the seat of San Pietro in Rome in 2013, the Vatican did not grant to His Holiness a meeting. Instead he issued a public statement saying that the Pope holds the Dalai Lama “in very high regard”, in a recognition of the high opinion that hundreds of millions of Catholics all over the world have for the Tibetan spiritual leader.

So why not meet him? The answer is simple. The Chinese Government uses the “Dalai Lama card” to put pressure on all its international partners, both to put them on the defensive (typical behavior of aggressive negotiators) and most importantly because it fears that the moral authority and legitimacy that His Holiness has gained worldwide might be transformed in pressure to implement much-needed political reforms in China and Tibet.

Contrary to China’s calculations – betting that isolating him politically will resolve the Tibetan question – the Dalai Lama anticipated China’s aggressive campaign by voluntarily and willingly choosing to abdicate his political authority in 2011. This, among other long-term factors, including China’s bullying, has not undermined, but rather increased the popularity in the west of the 14th Dalai Lama.

With this decision and a step forward to dedicate himself to promote peace and interreligious dialogue, the Dalai Lama had hoped to facilitate a meaningful political dialogue between the Tibetan and the Chinese sides. Unfortunately, China continues to act aggressively, hoping that the problems in Tibet will be solved through their current policies.

Certainly, as a Tibetan, the Dalai Lama remains concerned with the deterioration of human rights and individual freedoms in Tibet, but it must also be noted that the he tries all the time to highlight potential positive developments that are taking place in China. Furthermore, in regards to the foreign leaders who have stopped meeting him in Europe, he continues to repeat that he does not want to create any inconvenience to the countries that are eager to make business or have good relations with China. The problem is, clearly, what kind of long-term relations can be established with an authoritarian country that does not apply the rule of law and whose judicial system is highly corrupt?

With this in mind, the way China continues to pressure everybody in the world not to meet His Holiness tells us a lot on how insecure Beijing is about its policies in Tibet, and shows its failure to grow as a responsible partner for democratic governments on the world scene. Getting away with bullying the Tibetans is only going to encourage the hardliners in Beijing to do this on other issues and to other peoples and countries.

For Pope Francis, who has courageously challenged the Vatican bureaucracy on many fronts (from its shadowy finances to the cover up of sexual abuses within the Church, from a renewed dialogue with Muslims and the Russian Orthodox to recommit the Church to help the poor and shelve luxury living styles), to give up on the promotion of interreligious dialogue with the Dalai Lama is a striking contradiction with what he has been preaching from the pulpit.

While tactically this move might bring some benefits to the Vatican in its dealing with China – the Vatican has been trying hard for decades to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing and the Chinese Foreign Ministry had a positive comment in response to the – this choice makes clear that the promotion of religious freedom for all in China is not a priority for this papacy. This is a stain that will not fade until urgent remedial measures are taken.



The Dalai Lama and 25 years after the Nobel Peace Prize

On December 10, 2014, lovers of peace, friends, well-wishers and followers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama celebrate the 25th anniversary of the bestowal of the Nobel Peace Prize to him. His Holiness is of course is in Rome to participated in the Nobel Peace Laureates Summit, which has now been relocated there.

It is a cliché to say what a difference 25 years can make. But in the case of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, these two and a half decades have indeed cemented his place as a statesman and a conscience of the world. Today, the Dalai Lama and peace/compassion have virtually become synonymous.

In 1989, I was working in Dharamsala and so was part of the collective Tibetan rejoicing of the event. We, at least I, then interpreted the prize solely in the context of Tibet, and Tibet alone. We saw this as Tibet’s day in the sun. Fast forward to 2014 and I reread His Holiness’ acceptance speech (of December 10, 1989) as well as his Nobel lecture (of December 11, 1989), and the Presentation Speech by Mr. Egil Aarvik, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. I now have a fresh perspective of the expanse of the Dalai Lama’s impact.

His Holiness’ remarks in Oslo in 1989 appear to me as the germinating ground for the philosophy for which he has become well-known today. This includes his dialogue with the scientific community, his adherence to nonviolence, and, above all, his three main commitments: promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony and promotion of Tibetan culture.

Let me expand.

By the very awarding of the prize to him, the Nobel Committee acknowledged the Dalai Lama as a proponent of peace and nonviolence. In his Award Presentation Speech, Mr. Egil Aarvik, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, said, “In view of this, fewer and fewer people would venture to dismiss the Dalai Lama’s philosophy as utopian: on the contrary, one would be increasingly justified in asserting that his gospel of nonviolence is the truly realistic one, with most promise for the future. And this applies not only to Tibet but to each and every conflict. The future hopes of oppressed millions are today linked to the unarmed battalions, for they will win the peace: the justice of their demands, moreover, is now so clear and the normal strength of their struggle so indomitable that they can only temporarily be halted by force of arms.”

In the Tibetan cultural context, the Dalai Lama is also referred to as Zamling Shidey Depon ( “pilot of world peace”) and he continues to be one today.

The Dalai Lama’s stress on the need for religion to have dialogue with science can also be perceived in his Nobel remarks.

In his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech on December 10, 1989, the Dalai Lama said, “With the ever growing impact of science on our lives, religion and spirituality have a greater role to play reminding us of our humanity. There is no contradiction between the two. Each gives us valuable insights into the other. Both science and the teachings of the Buddha tell us of the fundamental unity of all things. This understanding is crucial if we are to take positive and decisive action on the pressing global concern with the environment.”

Today, the Dalai Lama has established a strong foundation for dialogue between religion and science through the Mind & Life initiative. In the process, he has had an impact on the thinking of the scientific community, particularly those working in the field of neuroscience, through his sharing of the Buddhist perspective.

I also want to believe that through his Nobel remarks, the Dalai Lama was also crystalizing his now well-known three commitments.

His Holiness began his Nobel lecture, delivered on December 11, 1989, by saying, “Thinking over what I might say today, I decided to share with you some of my thoughts concerning the common problems all of us face as members of the human family. Because we all share this small planet earth, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature.”

He continued, “The realisation that we are all basically the same human beings, who seek happiness and try to avoid suffering, is very helpful in developing a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood; a warm feeling of love and compassion for others. This, in turn, is essential if we are to survive in this ever shrinking world we live in. For if we each selfishly pursue only what we believe to be in our own interest, without caring about the needs of others, we not only may end up harming others but also ourselves.”

In another words, His Holiness was stressing on the fundamental human values that all human beings share.

The Dalai Lama was addressing the issue of religious harmony when he said in the same lecture, “As a Buddhist monk, my concern extends to all members of the human family and, indeed, to all sentient beings who suffer. I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We need to cultivate a universal responsibility for one another and the planet we share. Although I have found my own Buddhist religion helpful in generating love and com-passion, even for those we consider our enemies, I am convinced that everyone can develop a good heart and a sense of universal responsibility with or without religion.”

As for Tibet, the Dalai Lama said this in December 1989, “The awarding of the Nobel Prize to me, a simple monk from faraway Tibet, here in Norway, also fills us Tibetans with hope. It means, despite the fact that we have not drawn attention to our plight by means of violence, we have not been forgotten. It also means that the values we cherish, in particular our respect for all forms of life and the belief in the power of truth, are today recognised and encouraged. It is also a tribute to my mentor, Mahatma Gandhi, whose example is an inspiration to so many of us. This year’s award is an indication that this sense of universal responsibility is developing. I am deeply touched by the sincere concern shown by so many people in this part of the world for the suffering of the people of Tibet. That is a source of hope not only for us Tibetans, but for all oppressed people.”

So, 25 years later what is the lesson that we can take from the bestowal of the Nobel Prize to the Dalai Lama. I can only repeat what the Nobel Committee Chairman said in 1989, “ In awarding the Peace Prize to H.H. the Dalai Lama we affirm our unstinting support for his work for peace, and for the unarmed masses on the march in many lands for liberty, peace and human dignity.”

China’s corruption inspection team finds what Tibetans already knew

Chen Quanguo

Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Quanguo

The report from Lhasa about the visit there by the central inspection team and finding corruption at grass roots level, and remarks by the Tibet Autonomous Region Party Secretary Chen Quanguo warning cadres who continue to be loyal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama is interesting in a few ways.

First, here is a summation of the report. The official Tibet Daily carries a report on November 5, 2014 about the findings of an inspection team of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which was in the Tibet Autonomous Region from July 25 to September 24, 2014. It quotes Ye Dongsong, head of the inspection team, as saying, “Some officials have failed to take a firm political stand and some grass-root officials in the region were found to have serious corruption issues.” Apparently, the team collected the information by “interviewing some people, receiving letters from the public, receiving phone calls, personal visits, and looking at and reading relevant documents.”

It is good that the authorities are finally realizing something that has been an open secret among Tibetans in Tibet for many decades; corruption is rampant and even routine tasks that are expected from any official cannot be performed without going through the Takgo (“back door”). Therefore, finding “serious corruption issues” will not be a surprise to the Tibetans, but they will now be waiting to see how the authorities will be following up on this. Ye is quoted as reiterating that on the issue of anti-corruption campaign, Tibet will not enjoy any special privileges. But a belief among the Tibetan public is that the authorities will not be prosecuting any of these officials as they are also the ones who mouth slogans of loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. So far the trend is for the authorities to specifically reward those officials who are criticized by the public because this was taken as an indication that these officials are upholding party lines (and conversely demote those who are praised by the people).

The Tibet Daily reports Chen Quanguo, Party chief of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, as accepting the team’s findings saying that they were “factual and comprehensive” and have “woken us up from the sleep of ignorance.”

Chen then expands on the situation saying that the anti-corruption campaign should be coordinated with the anti-separatism campaign. He is reported as saying that one hand should uphold the anti-corruption campaign and the other hand should uphold the anti-separatism campaign.

Now here comes the interesting part. Chen is reported as saying, “Those cadres and officials who harbor fantasies about the 14th Dalai Clique, follow the 14th Dalai Clique, participate in supporting separatist infiltration sabotage activities will be strictly and severely dealt with according to the law and disciplinary rules.” Chen adds that they should not be Go-nyima (“dual headed”).

If there was any doubt on why Chen Quanguo was saying this, it was clarified by a Chinese professor to the official Global Times on November 5. “Some officials in Tibet still sympathize with the Dalai Lama. They continue to support the Dalai Lama out of their religious beliefs,” said Xiong Kunxin, a professor with the Minzu University of China. The professor also adds, “… those officials also support the Dalai Lama’s separatism activities.”

The findings of China’s inspection team and the admission by Chen Quanguo that even cadres are looking to the Dalai Lama instead of to the Communist Party confirms the reality that despite all their efforts the Chinese authorities have not been successful in severing the historical and special bond between the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama.

China has always attempted to make the world believe that everything is fine in Tibet, and that the Tibetan people are happy under the Communist rule. They even claim that “Earth-shaking changes have taken place in Tibet since the peaceful liberation 60 years ago.”

But the latest report confirms what the Tibetans knew all along; their steadfast devotion to the Dalai Lama and the existence of corruption at all levels in the Tibetan society in Tibet. The sooner the Chinese Government acknowledges these and positively addresses them, the better it is for China and Tibet.

With the new EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs a new strategy on human rights in Tibet is needed!

Federica Mogherini

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission designate.

On 22 October 2014, the European Parliament, after having undertaken formal hearings with all Commissioner-designates, voted on the new European Commission, led by its President Jean-Claude Juncker, and approved the 27 candidates. The new High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission will be Mrs. Federica Mogherini, Italy’s former Foreign Affairs Minister. She assumes her new position on 1 November, 2014.

Her appointment was the outcome of a long and difficult negotiation process between the European Council and President Juncker. Mrs. Mogherini emerged as a frontrunner for the post early on in the process but had been in the center of heated debates between Member States. In fact, several Eastern European Member States, such as the Baltic States, Poland and Bulgaria, were strongly opposed to her candidature, as she was deemed too Russia-friendly, and threatened to block her appointment. Moreover, many expressed concerns that, at a time of serious challenges and international crises, a candidate with a stronger background would have been more appropriate, as she lacked foreign policy experience, having been in her position only since January.

Therefore, Mrs. Mogherini assumes her new office with the challenge to prove that her commitment to the fundamental European values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights is unwavering.

We at the International Campaign for Tibet have expressed our readiness to work closely with the new High Representative and have called on Mrs. Mogherini to ensure that human rights are included at every level of EU-China relations.

During her hearing at the European Parliament on 6 October, Mrs. Mogherini stressed her commitment to the promotion of human rights throughout all areas of her work, defining it as the “core business” and a precondition for stability. On that occasion, she also clearly stated that a reassessment of the EU’s relationship with Russia was needed by combining a “mix of assertiveness and diplomacy.”

She did not specifically refer to China and Tibet in her speech and focused more strongly on the ongoing political and humanitarian crises around the world. However, she pointed out that she attached great importance to the rights of ethnic minorities and would work on the prevention of discrimination against them.

We welcome Mrs. Mogherini’s strong human rights language, which makes us hope for a greater collaboration in the next five years.

Mrs. Mogherini has had a Tibet connection. During her time as a Member of the Italian Parliament she has met with the Dalai Lama and participated in the World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet held in Rome in 2009. She has also met with representatives of the Tibetan leadership, including the Sikyong, Dr. Lobsang Sangay.

In recent years we have witnessed a disappointing, systematic downgrading of human rights issues in the EU’s foreign policy. Under Catherine Ashton’s leadership, human rights in the EU’s external action have been reduced to mere, occasional and rhetorical statements. On China specifically, we have often highlighted the lack of concrete progress of the EU-China human rights dialogue, which has failed to deliver improvements on the ground, and regret the fact that the Chinese government was able to reduce the rounds of this dialogue from two to one per year.

We hope that with a new High Representative, the EU will reinvigorate its human rights work and drift away from the worrying double standards it has adopted, and stop condemning human rights violations only in smaller and less strategically interesting third countries, while turning a blind eye towards powerful, strategic partners such as China.

It is urgently needed that the EU rethinks its human rights strategy and adopts a coherent and unified approach towards human rights issues in China and Tibet. This is necessary not only for the EU’s own credibility, but because this is its duty, according to the EU Treaties. We believe that securing human rights anywhere in the world will ultimately bring stability also to the EU and European citizens.

Mrs. Mogherini needs to prioritize this matter at the very beginning of her mandate and use all her exchanges with the Chinese leadership to reinforce the message that the current situation in Tibet is unacceptable for stable EU-China relations.

Only this way she will be able to bring the EU back to its role of human rights champion and promoter, and leave the current image of a weak and divided EU behind.

“United in diversity” is the motto, which the EU has proudly given to itself. It is time that this does not simply remain a slogan. It is time that the EU really starts acting as a strong, united and global actor for human rights and peace.

Progress in China’s Human Rights in 2013… according to the Chinese Government

As it happens to many governments, there is a moment in the year when the Chinese Government presents an overall picture of the human rights situation in the country, and we at ICT are naturally interested in reading it, especially about Tibet. This year it happened last week.

What is peculiar about China is that while (democratic) governments present their annual human rights reports trying to be accurate and objective, China’s authorities continue to embrace propaganda starting from its title — “White Paper: Progress in China’s human rights in 2013” — not even contemplating that “progress” might not happen concerning the respect of human rights. What is striking is that despite the dire situations in Tibet and Xinjiang, there is not even the slightest recognition by the Chinese of the vast human rights violations that continue to happen.

A blog is not the place to make a systematic analysis of the claims presented in the White Paper, but while I encourage you to read it yourself. I wish to draw your attention to a few sentences.

In the chapter about the “Rights of ethnic minorities” all the paragraphs begin with celebratory remarks. A few examples:

“China has established the principle that all ethnic groups are equal and jointly participate in the management of state affairs on the constitutional, legal and systemic levels.”

“The political rights of ethnic minorities are fully guaranteed.”

“The socioeconomic rights of ethnic minorities are fully protected.”

“The cultural legacies of Tibet are effectively protected, and the local religion and traditional customs and social mores are respected.”

For a country that aspires to be accepted as an important and reliable international power, China clearly needs to make a lot of progress and democratic governments should never accept unreliable and unconfirmed information from it. We at ICT have a solution: if China thinks that the reality of the human rights situation in Tibet is such, it can prove it by inviting UN experts and human rights NGOs to Tibet to see it for themselves.


The “enjoyment” of social and economic rights of Tibetans

The people of my generation were just teenagers when the Berlin wall fell and the demise of the social and political system built around the Soviet Union took place.

I knew very little about politics and the world at the time, but that little was enough to remember Communist propaganda that was sometimes mentioned on TV celebrating a happy and florid land (images of beautiful Red Square on Moscow were in display) where people where not interested in “western freedoms,” but instead enjoyed “real equality”. After all, I was born in Italy, a country that had the biggest Communist party of western Europe, so I had some easy access to that propaganda.

When in 1989, I saw the images of the people of Berlin celebrating the fall of the Soviet system, it was clear to me who was lying and who was telling the truth.

Today, China, although still formally ruled by the Communist Party, is far different from the Soviet Union. Decades ago it decided to wholeheartedly embrace capitalism; a decision that has led to significant economic growth over the last 15 years.

What is not too different from the communist systems is the propaganda about justice and equality; has capitalism, without freedom and the rule of law – brought equality, in particular in Tibet, as the Chinese government claims?

Last week, ICT challenged China’s assertion that Tibetans enjoy equal social and economic rights and we did it in the place where all countries of the world are, in theory, supposed to be accountable for the respect of basic human rights.

ICT Germany’s Executive Director Kai Muller took the floor at the United Nations in Geneva and gave a clear testimony before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that was reviewing China’s record.

You can read Kai’s testimony here. His case was particularly compelling regarding the forced relocation of Tibetan nomads, the denial of the right to education for Tibetan children and the control on religious freedom in Tibet.