iconimg Saturday, September 05, 2015

Reshma Patil, Hindustan Times
March 03, 2012
Darjeeling-born Lobsang Sangay, who was elected as the political successor of the Dalai Lama last year, belongs to the generation of Tibetan campaigners who have never lived in Tibet. Sangay grew up in a rural family that sold one of their three cows to pay for his education. The Harvard scholar and Kalon Tripa or prime minister of the exiled Tibetan government, which China considers illegal, spoke to HT over the telephone from Italy:

What is the trigger for the self-immolations?

The immediate reason is the crackdown on Tibet since 2008. They are making monks denounce the Dalai Lama and those who refuse to do so, because it amounts to committing a sin, are expelled from monasteries. The major reason is the occupation and repression of Tibet. Tibetans are becoming second-class citizens in their homeland.

Will the Tibetan protests spread outside China?

The protests have spread to other areas of Tibet (beyond Sichuan) as well. There was a self-immolation attempt in Delhi and Nepal. The exiled Tibetans are already protesting. The Dalai Lama has always discouraged drastic action. Non-violence and democracy are our main principles. We firmly encourage Tibetans to stick to non-violence. It’s in our vital interest.

The self-immolators chant slogans for ‘freedom’. Is the Tibetan mood and demand for autonomy shifting?

There have always been voices in the Tibetan community for independence. The Tibetan (exiled) administration seeks genuine autonomy in China. We will stick to our stated policy.

Are you trying to have talks with China?

We have been in touch with China but there has been no positive breakthrough. The talks have broken down since 2010. Our envoys have not been able to visit China. We are willing to have a dialogue with the Chinese government. We are ready.

What is your response to the Chinese government blaming this unrest on the exiled Tibetan government?

The blame lies squarely with Beijing. The occupation of Tibet and the repression of Tibetans are the reasons the protests are happening. So we want the international community to visit Tibet.

What do the Tibetans expect from the international community and India at this juncture?

India and Indians have been generous and kind in hosting Tibetans for so many years. As a guest, (I) can’t ask for more. We will appreciate any support. The international community has issued statements of support and we welcome that. The United Nations should intervene and find out what’s going on. The UN, and the international community too, can send fact-finding committees to find out what is going on inside Tibet.

Are you trying to have talks with China?

Restoration of freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama are our key demands. We’ve also urged people to refrain from drastic actions, but people keep doing it. Our goal is to keep the spirit of Tibetans and solidarity strong.

Do you think you will ever visit Tibet?

I don’t think the Chinese government will allow me to visit Tibet. I would like to.