Strasbourg Proposal

Strasbourg Proposal

His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Address to the Members of European Parliament at Strasbourg, June 15, 1988

We are living today in a very interdependent world. One nation's problems can no longer be solved by itself. Without a sense of universal responsibility our very survival is in danger. I have, therefore, always believed in the need for better understanding, closer cooperation and greater respect among the various nations of the world. The European Parliament is an inspiring example. Out of the chaos of war, those who were once enemies have, in a single generation, learned to co-exist and to cooperate. I am, therefore, particularly pleased and honored to address this gathering at the European Parliament.

As you know, my country - Tibet - is undergoing a very difficult period. The Tibetans - particularly those who live under Chinese occupation yearn for freedom and justice and a self-determined future, so that they are able to fully preserve their unique identity and live in peace with their neighbors.

For over a thousand years we Tibetans have adhered to spiritual and environmental values in order to maintain the delicate balance of life across the high plateau on which we live. Inspired by the Buddha's message on non-violence and compassion and protected by our mountains, we sought to respect every form of life and to abandon war as an instrument of national policy.

Our history, dating back more than two thousand years, has been one of independence. At no time, since the founding of our nation in 127 BC, have we Tibetans conceded our sovereignty to a foreign power. As with all nations, Tibet experienced periods in which our neighbors - Mongol, Manchu, Chinese, British and the Gorkhas of Nepal- sought to establish influence over us. These eras have been brief and the Tibetan people have never accepted them as constituting a loss of our national sovereignty. In fact, there have been occasions when Tibetan rulers conquered vast areas of China and other neighboring states. This, however, does not mean that we Tibetans can lay claim to these territories.

In 1949 the People's Republic of China forcibly invaded Tibet. Since that time, Tibet has endured the darkest period in its history. More than a million of our people have died as a result of the occupation. Thousands of monasteries were reduced to ruins. A generation has grown up deprived of education, economic opportunity and a sense of its own national character. Though the current Chinese leadership has implemented certain reforms, it is also promoting a massive population transfer onto the Tibetan plateau. This policy has already reduced the six million Tibetans to a minority. Speaking for all Tibetans, I must sadly inform you, our tragedy continues.

I have always urged my people not to resort to violence in their efforts to redress their suffering. Yet I believe all people have the moral right to peacefully protest injustice. Unfortunately, the demonstrations in Tibet have been violently suppressed by the Chinese police and military. I will continue to counsel for non-violence, but unless China forsakes the brutal methods it employs, Tibetans cannot be responsible for a further deterioration in the situation.

Every Tibetan hopes and prays for the full restoration of our nation's independence. Thousands of our people have sacrificed their lives and our whole nation has suffered in this struggle. Even in recent months, Tibetans have bravely sacrificed their lives to achieve this precious goal. On the other hand, the Chinese totally fail to recognize the Tibetan people's aspirations and continue to pursue a policy of brutal suppression.

I have thought for a long time on how to achieve a realistic solution to my nation's plight. My Cabinet and I solicited the opinions of many friends and concerned persons. As a result, on September 21, 1987, at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington, DC, I announced a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet. In it I called for the conversion of Tibet into a zone of peace, a sanctuary in which humanity and nature can live together in harmony. I also called for respect for human rights and democratic ideals, environmental protection and a halt to the Chinese population transfer into Tibet.

The fifth point of the Peace Plan called for earnest negotiations between the Tibetans and the Chinese. We have, therefore, taken the initiative to formulate some thoughts which, we hope, may serve as a basis for resolving the issue of Tibet. I would like to take this opportunity to inform the distinguished gathering here of the main points of our thinking.

The whole of Tibet known as Cholka-Sum (U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo) should become a self-governing democratic political entity founded on law by agreement of the people for the common good and the protection of themselves and their environment, in association with the People's Republic of China.

The Government of the People's Republic of China could remain responsible for Tibet's foreign policy. The Government of Tibet should, however, develop and maintain relations, through its own Foreign Affairs Bureau, in the fields of religion, commerce, education, culture, tourism, science, sports and other non-political activities. Tibet should join international organizations concerned with such activities.

The Government of Tibet should be founded on a constitution of basic law. The basic law should provide for a democratic system of government entrusted with the task of ensuring economic equality, social justice and protection of the environment. This means that the Government of Tibet will have the right to decide on all affairs relating to Tibet and the Tibetans.

As individual freedom is the real source and potential of any society's development, the Government of Tibet would seek to ensure this freedom by full adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights to speech, assembly, and religion. Because religion constitutes the source of Tibet's national identity, and spiritual values lie at the very heart of Tibet's rich culture, it would be the special duty of the Government of Tibet to safeguard and develop its practice.

The Government should be comprised of a popularly elected Chief Executive, a bi-cameral legislative branch, and an independent judicial system. Its seat should be in Lhasa.

The social and economic system of Tibet should be determined in accordance with the wishes of the Tibetan people, bearing in mind especially the need to raise the standard of living of the entire population.

The Government of Tibet would pass strict laws to protect wildlife and plant life. The exploitation of natural resources would be carefully regulated. The manufacture, testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and other armaments must be prohibited, as well as the use of nuclear power and other technologies which produce hazardous waste. It would be the Government of Tibet's goal to transform Tibet into our planet's largest natural preserve.

A regional peace conference should be called to ensure that Tibet becomes a genuine sanctuary of peace through demilitarization. Until such a peace conference can be convened and demilitarization and neutralization achieved, China could have the right to maintain a restricted number of military installations in Tibet. These must be solely for defense purposes.

In order to create an atmosphere of trust conducive to fruitful negotiations, the Chinese Government should cease its human rights violations in Tibet and abandon its policy of transferring Chinese to Tibet.

These are the thoughts we have in mind. I am aware that many Tibetans will be disappointed by the moderate stand they represent. Undoubtedly, there will be much discussion in the coming months within our own community, both in Tibet and in exile. This, however, is an essential and invaluable part of any process of change. I believe these thoughts represent the most realistic means by which to re-establish Tibet's separate identity and restore the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people while accommodating China's own interests. I would like to emphasize, however, that whatever the outcome of the negotiations with the Chinese may be, the Tibetan people themselves must be the ultimate deciding authority. Therefore, any proposal will contain a comprehensive procedural plan to ascertain the wishes of the Tibetan people in a nationwide referendum.

I would like to take this opportunity to state that I do not wish to take any active part in the Government of Tibet. Nevertheless, I will continue to work as much as I can for the well-being and happiness of the Tibetan people as long as it is necessary.

We are ready to present a proposal to the Government of the People's Republic of China based on the thoughts I have presented. A negotiating team representing the Tibetan Government has been selected. We are prepared to meet with the Chinese to discuss details of such a proposal aimed at achieving an equitable solution.

We are encouraged by the keen interest being shown in our situation by a growing number of governments and political leaders, including former President Jimmy Carter of the United States. We are also encouraged by the recent changes in China which have brought about a new group of leadership, more pragmatic and liberal.

We urge the Chinese Government and leadership to give serious and substantive consideration to the ideas I have described. Only dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead to a viable solution. We wish to conduct discussions with the Chinese Government bearing in mind the larger interests of humanity. Our proposal will therefore be made in a spirit of conciliation and we hope that the Chinese will respond accordingly.

My country's unique history and profound spiritual heritage render it ideally suited for fulfilling the role of a sanctuary of peace at the heart of Asia. Its historic status as a neutral buffer state, contributing to the stability of the entire continent, can be restored. Peace and security for Asia as well as for the world at large can be enhanced. In the future, Tibet need no longer be an occupied land, oppressed by force, unproductive and scarred by suffering. It can become a free haven where humanity and nature live in harmonious balance; a creative model for the resolution of tensions afflicting many areas throughout the world.

The Chinese leadership needs to realize that colonial rule over occupied territories is today anachronistic. A genuine union or association can only come about voluntarily, when there is satisfactory benefit to all the parties concerned. The European Community is a clear example of this. On the other hand, even one country or community can break into two or more entities when there is a lack of trust or benefit, and when force is used as the principal means of rule.

I would like to end by making a special appeal to the honorable members of the European Parliament and through them to their respective constituencies to extend their support to our efforts. A resolution of the Tibetan problem within the framework that we propose will not only be for the mutual benefit of the Tibetan and Chinese people but will also contribute to regional and global peace and stability. I thank you for providing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

Special General Meeting Recommendations

Recommendations of the First Special General Meeting Convened Under Article 59 of the Charter


The Private Office's letter addressed jointly to the Speakers and the members of the Kashag (Cabinet), dated 11 September 2008, stated, "In order to hold an extensive discussion and debate with regard to the Tibetan cause in the light of recent emergency events in Tibet and the international scenario, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wishes to convene a Special General Meeting around November or December of this year under article 59 of the Charter. Timing and participants of the meeting should be planned at the earliest by the Parliament and the Private Office should be informed accordingly."

Since the Parliament was in session at that time, the programme of the Special General Meeting was prepared jointly by the Parliament and Kashag and was unanimously adopted after thorough discussions for His Holiness the Dalai Lama's approval. His Holiness approved the same.

Accordingly, the first session of this historic first Special General Meeting was inaugurated in Dharamsala on the twentieth day of the Ninth Month of the Tibetan Royal Year of 2135, 17 November 2008. Special invitees were the Supreme Justice Commissioner and the other two Justice Commissioners of the Supreme Justice Commission, Joint Chairman of the Public Service Commission and Election Commission, Auditor General of the Audit Commission, eight Kalons including Kalon Tripa, 41 members of the Parliament; 18 former Kalons, 32 former members of Parliament, 66 Central Tibetan Administration staff, one Special Envoy and an Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 10 Representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama stationed abroad, 78 representatives of the Local Assembly of Tibetan settlements across India, Nepal and Bhutan and of the general public where there is no local assembly, 60 representatives of regional Freedom Movement Committee, 32 representatives of Tibetan Associations abroad, 20 representatives from various NGOs, 58 representatives of the heads of the Tibetan schools; 30 monk and nun representatives from four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, 11 representatives from various autonomous institutions, and 48 volunteers from India, Nepal, Bhutan and abroad who are involved in the Tibetan cause. In total 560 participants from 19 different countries gathered together at the Tibetan Children's Village (TCV) Hall for the inaugural session.

Embracing the Enemy

Embracing the Enemy

Address of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Yale University (U.S.A.), October 9, 1991

Thank you very much for your warm welcome. Master (Dr.) Lytton, brothers and sisters of the Yale community, I am very honored to be here.

We live in truly extraordinary times. The world has changed dramatically in the last few years. The aspirations of people and nations for freedom and democracy, and the desire for self-determination, have resurfaced full of unexpected vigor and tenacity. The events in Eastern Europe and Mongolia, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more recently, the changes in the Soviet Union after 70 years of communist control are all examples of this phenomenon.

I have just completed a most memorable visit to Mongolia, the Baltic States and Bulgaria. Seeing millions of human beings enjoying the freedom they were denied for so many decades filled me with much happiness. Their triumph is a compelling reminder that the human desire for freedom will ultimately prevail no matter the length nor the severity of any repression. And, most importantly, that the inevitable transition can be made without resorting to violence.

Recently announcements by both President George Bush and President Mikhail Gorbachev could eventually lead to a world without arms. I would like to congratulate them for their historic decision. Years ago, when I spoke of my dreams of a world without arms many people, including some friends, felt that it was too idealistic. However these new developments indicate the possible realization of this dream. It will nevertheless, be a difficult task and there will be numerous obstacles. All of us must continue to make our own contributions to this effort no matter how small they may be.

 It is within this rapidly changing political climate that the struggle of the Tibetan people to regain our freedom after more than 40 years of oppression by the Chinese government must now be seen. Since China invaded Tibet in 1949-51, 1.2 million Tibetans, one-fifth of the population, have lost their lives. Through 42 long years, we have struggled to keep our cause alive and preserve our Buddhist culture of non-violence and compassion.

It would be easy to become angry at these events. To feel nothing but hatred for the Chinese authorities. Labeling them as our enemies, we could self-righteously condemn them for their brutality and dismiss them as unworthy of further thought or consideration. But that is not the Buddhist way. And, as recent events have so clearly demonstrated, that is not the way to achieve peace and harmony.

Our most valuable teachers are our enemies. Not only is this a fundamental Buddhist teaching, it is a demonstrated fact of life. While our friends can help us in many ways, only our enemies can provide us the challenge we need to develop tolerance, patience, and compassion. These three virtues are essential for building character, developing peace of mind, and bringing us true happiness.

In Christianity there is an inspiring teaching about turning the other cheek when struck by the enemy. This same ideal underlies Buddhist philosophy. Through a systematic practice, we can develop a tolerance so powerful, that when an enemy strikes, we feel actual appreciation for his action, for the opportunity for growth he has provided. We feel at ease, free from anger and hate, and clearly see the compulsions triggering his behavior. We can feel genuine compassion for the sad fate he brings upon himself as a result of his harmful conduct.

Through good times and bad times, we Tibetans try to keep our spiritual health and our good humor, remembering that all people, whether they harm us or help us, are ultimately our friends. I often tell the Tibetan people that as long as we remember these fundamental truths, we are truly invincible. Our determination will never die, and we will eventually be able to help our friends in China too.

I am a firm believer that relations between people and between nations must be based on human understanding. Only by candidly sharing ideas will we find solutions to the many challenges now facing the global community. In this context, I believe that the world should engage China whenever she is willing to take part in the international community in a constructive manner. But when she persists in violating fundamental norms of civilized behavior she should not be indulged like a spoiled child. China must be made accountable for her actions as a responsible member of the international community.

As you know, during my last visit to the United States I had the privilege of meeting President George Bush. His public statements, such as his speech here at Yale past spring, reflect his heartfelt commitment to encouraging democratic change in China which encompasses one quarter of humanity.

We Tibetan believe that the United States and others must send clear signals to the Chinese government that its repressive policies cannot be tolerated. Political and economic pressure are appropriate incentives for inducing necessary change. The same standards must be applied to China which the International community invoked in response to colonialism and human rights abuses in other parts of the world. The situations in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States, the Soviet Union and South Africa would not have changed when they did without international pressure including diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Some contend that China will revert to the isolation of the Maoist era if she is pressured by the international community to change her behavior. China's leaders have themselves threatened to do so to prevent international pressure. But experience has shown that China will not be able to take that path, even if some of her leaders want to. The Chinese people have already demonstrated their desire for democracy and freedom. They have seen it prevail in the foremost communist states. As the organizers of the failed coup in the Soviet Union learned, the spirit of freedom and democracy cannot be crushed once it has been released.

It has also been suggested that the Asian view of human rights is fundamentally different from that of the West and that Asians attach less value to human life. This is not at all correct. As Buddhists, we revere human life as the most precious gift. My view of human rights is no different than yours. Suffering and pain are the same for all human begins. Tibetans, and other Asians, feel them the same way that you Americans, Europeans, Africans, South Americans and others do. Distress over abuses in China and Tibet is as legitimate as international concern over human rights violations in the Soviet Union and South Africa. These matters are not the internal affairs of any country but fundamental concerns of human beings everywhere for the sufferings of their brothers and sisters.

China now stands alone as the last totalitarian, communist empire. But as the recent events in the Soviet Union have made clear, it cannot remain that way for long. Freedom and democracy will come to China. I believe that for the sake of world peace and stability, the international community must actively encourage China to make this transition as quickly, as smoothly, and as non-violently as possible. The peaceful revolutions in many parts of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union should serve as models. We should not allow a repeat of the situation in Yugoslavia, where the world community's failure to recognize early enough the seriousness of the problem contributed to the turmoil now consuming the region and causing vast suffering to its people.

In the absence of any international pressure, the Chinese government's response to developments such as those in the Soviet Union is likely to be more repression, in an attempt to hold on to its eroding power base. Recent reports from Tibet indicate this attitude. So when the inevitable change occurs, there will be more violence and greater human suffering. The world has a responsibility to prevent this from happening.

The changes in the Baltic States are particularly inspiring. Although it took a long time, in the end even the Soviet government, the former occupying power, accepted the inevitable consequences of the people's demands.

Just as the people of the Baltic States have been successful in regaining their freedom, I am confident that we Tibetans will soon regain ours. We have maintained a steadfast determination to achieve this goal during 42 years of occupation.

In the past, I made a number of proposals to the Chinese leaders which I hope would provide the impetus for resolving our difference and finding a comprehensive solution to the question of Tibet. I presented these proposals as a free spokesman of the six-million Tibetan people.

In 1987, I advanced a "Five Point Peace Plan" as an overture to the Chinese to begin negotiations. The following year, I elaborated on this plan during a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg suggesting a form of association between Tibet and China. But Chinese leaders rejected the proposal and refused to enter into negotiations. Moreover, many Tibetans, in exile and in Tibet, were strongly opposed to the proposals which they felt contained unnecessary concessions to the Chinese. It is, therefore, clear that the Strasbourg proposal can no longer serve any useful purpose and I have recently announced that we are no longer committed to its terms.

I have always stated that the central issue is that the Tibetan people must ultimately choose their own destiny. It is not for the Dalai Lama, and certainly not for the Chinese to make that decision. This principle was explicitly expressed by the late Prime Minister Nehru during an address to the Indian Parliament on December 7, 1950: "...since Tibet is not the same as China, it should ultimately be the wishes of the people of Tibet that should prevail..."

However, I do not want the situation to come to a standstill. Given the rapid pace of worldwide changes, I believe there are no new opportunities for resolving longstanding issues such as Tibet. I have thus asked the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile and others to come forward with fresh ideas for peacefully resolving the Tibetan issue. But above all, I must reiterate that six million Tibetans inside Tibet must have the final say on the future of our country.

The People's Republic of China claims that Tibetans are happy under Chinese rule, and that it is only a "handful of splittists" who think otherwise. As I have said before, the feelings of the Tibetan people can best be ascertained by plebiscite. But the official Chinese attitude concerns me deeply because Beijing refuses to accept the reality of the situation. So long as the Chinese do not understand the true feelings and aspirations of the Tibetan people, it will be very difficult to find a satisfactory solution to the problem.

The Chinese government's refusal to reciprocate my efforts to start negotiations has increased the impatience of many Tibetans, especially young Tibetans in Tibet, with the non-violent path we follow. Tension in my country is increasing as China encourages demographic aggression in Tibet, reducing Tibetans to a second class minority in our own country. The harsh repression and intimidation of Tibetans is increasingly polarizing the situation. I am extremely anxious that, in this explosive situation, violence may break out. I want to do what I can to help prevent this.

In the view of these developments, I am considering the possibility of a visit to Tibet as early as possible. I have in mind two purposes for such a visit.

First, I want to ascertain the situation in Tibet myself on the spot and communicate directly with my people. By doing so I also hope to help the Chinese leadership to understand the true feelings of Tibetans. It would be important, therefore, for senior Chinese leaders to accompany me on such a visit, and that outside observers, including the press be present to see and report their findings.

Second, I wish to advise and persuade my people not to abandon non-violence as the appropriate form of struggle. My ability to talk to my own people can be a key factor in bringing about a peaceful solution. My visit could be a new opportunity to promote understanding and create a basis for a negotiated solution.

A visit to Tibet can, of course, only take place if Tibetans are permitted to meet with me and to speak freely with me, without fear of retaliation. For my part, I must be free to travel whenever I want and to meet with any Tibetan I wish to meet. Many of my friends who will be keen to accompany me on such a trip should be free to do so without any hindrances. This courtesy must also be extended to the international media in a spirit of goodwill and openness.

In view of the urgency of finding a resolution to the decades old conflict between the Chinese and the Tibetans, I hope that China's leaders will now respond positively to this new initiative of mine. I trust they will make a commitment which can be withstand public scrutiny and satisfy all those involved in this search for change and peace in Tibet.

I call for these precautionary measures so that each step we take will be forward and neither party can conveniently retract from moving ahead. In the past, many promises and assurance were given to me by Chinese leaders, none of which were honored. In 1951, in Lhasa, 1954 in Beijing, and 1956 in India, I was given explicit assurance concerning Chinese behavior towards my people by Mao Tse-tung and Chou En Lai among others. Since then, Chinese authorities have repeatedly failed to implement many of their own declared policies to respect the Tibetan national, cultural and religious identity.

Many world leaders, parliamentarians, and individual friends have, in recent years, made efforts to persuade the Chinese government to respond positively to my overtures. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to them and seek their continued support for my efforts.

It is my hope that China's leaders will work with their own people, with their neighbors, with the United States and with the rest of the world to live in harmony and peace. Only then will this ancient country, now constituting a quarter of humanity, finally assume its rightful place in the global family. This is in keeping with the Buddhist vision of a world based on compassion; a world without enemies, a world of peace and true happiness.

Thank you.

Speech of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the European Parliament

Speech of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the European Parliament (Brussels, 24 October 2001)

Madame Speaker, Honourable Members of the Parliament, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honour for me to address the European Parliament. I believe the European Union is an inspiring example for a cooperative and peaceful co-existence among different nations and peoples and deeply inspiring for people like myself who strongly believe in the need for better understanding, closer cooperation, and greater respect among the various nations of the world. I thank you for this kind invitation. I consider it as an encouraging gesture of genuine sympathy and concern for the tragic fate of the Tibetan people. I speak to you today as a simple Buddhist monk, educated and trained in our ancient traditional way. I am not an expert in political science. However, my life-long study and practice of Buddhism and my responsibility and involvement in the non- violent freedom struggle of the Tibetan people have given me some experiences and thoughts that I would like to share with you.

It is evident that the human community has reached a critical juncture in its history. Today's world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity. In the past, communities could afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate. But today, as we learn from the recent tragic events in the United States, whatever happens in one region eventually affects many other areas. The world is becoming increasingly interdependent. Within the context of this new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interest of others. Without the cultivation and promotion of a sense of universal responsibility our very future is in danger.

I strongly believe that we must consciously develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. We must learn to work not just for our own individual self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Universal responsibility is the best foundation both for our personal happiness and for world peace, the equitable use of our natural resources, and, through a concern for future generations, the proper care for the environment.

 Many of the world?s problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a human family. We tend to forget that despite the diversity of race, religion, culture, language, ideology and so forth, people are equal in their basic desire for peace and happiness: we all want happiness and do not want suffering. We strive to fulfill these desires as best we can. However, as much as we praise diversity in theory, unfortunately often we fail to respect it in practice. In fact, our inability to embrace diversity becomes a major source of conflict among peoples.

A particularly sad fact of human history is that conflicts have arisen in the name of religion. Even today, individuals are killed, their communities destroyed and societies destabilized as a result of misuse of religion and encouragement of religious bigotry and hatred. According to my personal experience the best way to overcome obstructions to inter-religious harmony and to bring about understanding is through dialogue with members of other faith traditions. This I see occurring in a number of different ways. In my own case, for example, my meetings with the late Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, in the late 60s, were deeply inspiring. They helped me develop a profound admiration for the teachings of Christianity. I also feel that meetings amongst different religious leaders and joining together to pray from a common platform are extremely powerful, as was the case in 1986 during the gathering at Assisi in Italy. The recent United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held last year was also a laudable step. However, there is a need for more of these initiatives on a regular basis. On my part, to show my respect for other religious traditions I went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem a site holy to three of the world's great religions. I have paid visits to various Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Jain and Sikh shrines both in India and abroad. During the past three decades I have met with many religious leaders of different traditions and have discussed harmony and inter-religious understanding. When exchanges like these occur, followers of one tradition will find that, just as in the case of their own, the teachings of other faiths are a source of both spiritual inspiration and as well as ethical guidance to their followers. It will also become clear that irrespective of doctrinal and other differences, all the major world religions help to transform individuals to become good human beings. All emphasize love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, self- discipline and so on. We must therefore embrace the concept of plurality in the field of religion, too.

In the context of our newly emerging global community all forms of violence, including war, are totally inappropriate means of settling disputes. Violence and war have always been part of human history, and in ancient times there were winners and losers. However, there would be no winners at all if another global conflict were to occur today. We must, therefore, have the courage and vision to call for a world without nuclear weapons and national armies in the long run. Especially, in the light of the terrible attacks in the United States the international community must make a sincere attempt to use the horrible and shocking experience to develop a sense of global responsibility, where a culture of dialogue and non-violence is used in resolving differences.

Dialogue is the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations. The promotion of a culture of dialogue and non-violence for the future of mankind is a compelling task of the international community. It is not enough for governments to endorse the principle of non-violence without any appropriate action to support and promote it. If non-violence is to prevail, non-violent movements must be made effective and successful. Some consider the 20th century a century of war and bloodshed. I believe the challenge before us is to make the new century one of dialogue and non-violence.

Furthermore, in dealing with conflicts too often we lack proper judgment and courage. We fail to pay adequate attention to situations of potential conflict when they are at an early stage of development. Once all the circumstances have progressed to a state where emotions of the people or communities involved in disputes have become fully charged, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prevent a dangerous situation from exploding. We see this tragic situation repeated time and again. So we must learn to detect early signs of conflict and have the courage to address the problem before it reaches its boiling point.

I remain convinced that most human conflicts can be solved through genuine dialogue conducted with a spirit of openness and reconciliation. I have therefore consistently sought a resolution of the issue of Tibet through non- violence and dialogue. Right from the beginning of the invasion of Tibet, I tried to work with the Chinese authorities to arrive at a mutually acceptable, peaceful co-existence. Even when the so-called Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet was forced upon us I tried to work with the Chinese authorities. After all, by that agreement the Chinese government recognized the distinctiveness and the autonomy of Tibet and pledged not to impose their system on Tibet against our wishes. However, in breach of this agreement, the Chinese authorities forced upon Tibetans their rigid and alien ideology and showed scant respect for the unique culture, religion and way of life of the Tibetan people. In desperation the Tibetan people rose up against the Chinese. In the end in 1959 I had to escape from Tibet so that I could continue to serve the people of Tibet.

During the past more than four decades since my escape, Tibet has been under the complete control of the Government of the People?s Republic of China. The immense destruction and human suffering inflicted on the people of Tibet are today well known and I do not wish to dwell on these sad and painful events. The late Panchen Lama's 70,000- character petition to the Chinese government serves as a telling historical document on China's draconian policies and actions in Tibet. Tibet today continues to be an occupied country, oppressed by force and scarred by suffering. Despite some development and economic progress, Tibet continues to face fundamental problems of survival. Serious violations of human rights are widespread throughout Tibet and are often the result of policies of racial and cultural discrimination. Yet they are only the symptoms and consequences of a deeper problem. The Chinese authorities view Tibet's distinct culture and religion as the source of threat of separation. Hence as a result of deliberate policies an entire people with its unique culture and identity are facing the threat of extinction.

I have led the Tibetan freedom struggle on a path of non-violence and have consistently sought a mutually agreeable solution of the Tibetan issue through negotiations in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise with China. With this spirit in 1988 here in Strasbourg at this Parliament I presented a formal proposal for negotiations, which we hoped would serve as a basis for resolving the issue of Tibet. I had chosen consciously the European Parliament as a venue to present my thoughts for a framework for negotiations in order to underline the point that a genuine union can only come about voluntarily when there are satisfactory benefits to all the parties concerned. The European Union is a clear and inspiring example of this. On the other hand, even one country or community can break into two or more entities when there is a lack of trust and benefit, and when force is used as the principal means of rule.

My proposal which later became known as the "Middle Way Approach" or the "Strasbourg Proposal" envisages that Tibet enjoy genuine autonomy within the framework of the People's Republic of China. However, not the autonomy on paper imposed on us 50 years ago in the 17-Point Agreement, but a true self-governing, genuinely autonomous Tibet, with Tibetans fully responsible for their own domestic affairs, including the education of their children, religious matters, cultural affairs, the care of their delicate and precious environment, and the local economy. Beijing would continue to be responsible for the conduct of foreign and defense affairs. This solution would greatly enhance the international image of China and contribute to her stability and unity - the two topmost priorities of Beijing - while at the same time the Tibetans would be ensured of the basic rights and freedoms to preserve their own civilization and to protect the delicate environment of the Tibetan plateau.

Since then our relation with the Chinese government has taken many twists and turns. Unfortunately, I must sadly inform you that a lack of political will on the part of the Chinese leadership to address the issue of Tibet in a serious manner has failed to produce any progress. My initiatives and overtures over the years to engage the Chinese leadership in a dialogue remain unreciprocated. Last September, I communicated through the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi our wish to send a delegation to Beijing to deliver a detailed memorandum outlining my thinking on the issue of Tibet and to explain and discuss the points raised in the memorandum. I conveyed that through face-to-face meetings we would succeed in clarifying misunderstandings and overcoming distrust. I expressed the strong belief that once this is achieved then a mutually acceptable solution of the problem can be found without much difficulty. But the Chinese government is refusing to accept my delegation till today. It is obvious that Beijing's attitude has hardened significantly compared to the eighties when six Tibetan delegations from exile were accepted. Whatever explanations Beijing may give concerning communications between the Chinese government and myself I must state here clearly that the Chinese government is refusing to talk to representatives I have designated for the task.

The failure of the Chinese leadership to respond positively to my Middle Way Approach reaffirms the Tibetan people's suspicion that the Chinese government has no interest whatsoever in any kind of peaceful co-existence. Many Tibetans believe that China is bent on complete forceful assimilation and absorption of Tibet into China. They call for the independence of Tibet and criticise my "Middle Way Approach". Others are advocating a referendum in Tibet. They argue if conditions inside Tibet are as the Chinese authorities portray it to be and if the Tibetans are truly happy, then there should be no difficulty holding a plebiscite in Tibet. I have also always maintained that ultimately the Tibetan people must be able to decide about the future of Tibet as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, stated in the Indian Parliament on December 7. 1950: "?the last voice in regard to Tibet should be the voice of the people of Tibet and nobody else."

While I firmly reject the use of violence as a means in our freedom struggle we certainly have the right to explore all other political options available to us. I am a staunch believer in freedom and democracy and have therefore been encouraging the Tibetans in exile to follow the democratic process. Today, the Tibetan refugees may be among the few communities in exile that have established all the three pillars of democracy: legislature, judiciary and executive. This year we have taken another big stride in the process of democratisation by having the chairman of the Tibetan Cabinet elected by popular vote. The elected chairman of the Cabinet and the elected parliament will shoulder the responsibility of running the Tibetan affairs as the legitimate representatives of the people. However, I do consider it my moral obligation to the six million Tibetans to continue taking up the Tibetan issue with the Chinese leadership and to act as the free spokesman of the Tibetan people until a solution is reached.

In the absence of any positive response from the Chinese government to my overtures over the years, I am left with no alternative but to appeal to the members of the international community. It is clear now that only increased, concerted and consistent international efforts will persuade Beijing to change its policy on Tibet. Although the immediate reactions from the Chinese side will be most probably negative, nevertheless, I strongly believe that expressions of international concern and support are essential for creating an environment conducive for the peaceful resolution of the Tibetan problem. On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a mutually beneficial solution that will contribute to the stability and unity of the People's Republic of China and secure the right for the Tibetan people to live in freedom, peace and dignity.

Madam Speaker, honourable members of the Parliament, brothers and sisters of the European Parliament, I consider myself as the free spokesman for my captive countrymen and women. It is my duty to speak on their behalf. I speak not with a feeling of anger or hatred towards those who are responsible for the immense suffering of our people and the destruction of our land, homes, temples, monasteries and culture. They too are human beings who struggle to find happiness, and deserve our compassion. I speak to inform you of the sad situation in my country today and of the aspirations of my people, because in our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess. Today, our people, our distinct rich cultural heritage and our national identity are facing the threat of extinction. We need your support to survive as a people and as a culture.

When one looks at the situation inside Tibet it seems almost hopeless in the face of increasing repression, continuing environmental destruction, and the ongoing systematic undermining of the culture and identity of Tibet. Yet I believe that no matter how big and powerful China may be she is still part of the world. The global trend today is towards more openness, freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. Sooner or later China will have to follow the world trend and in the long run there is no way that China can escape from truth, justice and freedom. Since the Tibetan issue is closely related with what is happening in China, I believe there is reason and ground for hope.

The consistent and principled engagement of the European Parliament with China will accelerate this process of change that is already taken place in China. I would like to thank the European Parliament for the consistent display of concern and support for the non-violent Tibetan freedom struggle. Your sympathy and support have always been a deep source of inspiration and encouragement to the Tibetan people both inside and outside Tibet. The numerous resolutions of the European Parliament on the issue of Tibet helped greatly to highlight the plight of the Tibetan people and raise the awareness of the public and governments in Europe and around the world of the issue of Tibet. I am especially encouraged by the European Parliament's resolution calling for the appointment of an EU special representative for Tibet. I strongly believe that the implementation of this resolution will enable the European Union not only to help promote a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan issue through negotiations in a more consistent, effective and creative way but also provide support for other legitimate needs of the Tibetan people, including ways and means to preserve our distinct identity. This initiative will also send a strong signal to Beijing that the European Union is serious in encouraging and promoting a solution of the Tibetan problem. I have no doubt that your continued expressions of concern and support for Tibet will in the long run impact positively and help create the conducive political environment for a constructive dialogue on the issue of Tibet. I ask for your continued support in this critical time in our country's history. I thank you for providing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.  

Thank you.  

 

The Dalai Lama. 24 October 2001