Tibetan exile political leader Lobsang Sangay called on Chinese leaders on Friday to change their “hardline” policies in Tibet, urging dialogue as the only way forward to resolve problems in the protest-hit Himalayan region.
Citing recent statements by ruling Chinese Communist Party officials, he said “it is very clear that they are advocating a tough policy on Tibet and implementing a tough policy in the Tibetan areas.”
“We have been telling them their hardline policies will not work,” Sangay told RFA’s Tibetan Service in Washington, where he also met this week with U.S. officials and lawmakers.
“When Tibetans inside Tibet are resisting by refusing to fly the Chinese national flag … and protest against [Chinese] mining operations, this proves that China’s hardline policy is not working in Tibet,” he said, citing growing opposition to forced displays of loyalty to the Chinese state and demonstrations against Chinese-backed mining operations in Tibetan-populated areas.
“Only through talk and dialogue can the Tibet issue be resolved,” said Sangay, the political leader of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), as the exile government is called.
Negotiations between exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s envoys and Beijing have stalled since January 2010. There has been no breakthrough in the discussions, which have been held since 2002.
China has ruled Tibet since 1950, and the Chinese government has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule.
Proposals by Tibet’s exile government that Beijing allow “genuine” autonomy for Tibetans do not pose a challenge to rule by the Communist Party, though, said Sangay, who was elected Tibet’s exile prime minister in 2011 and now holds the title Sikyong, or political leader.
But Tibetans should be allowed control of all aspects of their lives, including religion, culture, language, and the environment, Sangay said.
“This would be genuine autonomy both in name and in reality,” he said.
Sangay emphasized that democracy “is not a precondition” for genuine autonomy, “but it’s something that we practice [in exile] and it’s important for the future.”
Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing's rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.
A total of 123 Tibetans in China have also set themselves ablaze in self-immolation protests calling for Tibetan freedom, with another six setting fire to themselves in India and Nepal.
Reported by Dorjee Damdul for RFA's Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.