Dalai Lama not a ‘separatist,’ Tibet’s exile leader says

The comment comes after visit from a U.S. diplomat prompts a rebuke by China.
By Palden Gyal
Dalai Lama not a ‘separatist,’ Tibet’s exile leader says Tibet's exile leader Sikyong Penpa Tsering (L) speaks with RFA reporter Palden Gyal in an interview, May 20, 2022.

Tibet’s Dalai Lama is not a separatist working to split Tibet from China’s rule, Tibetan exile political leader Sikyong Penpa Tsering told RFA in an exclusive interview on Friday. Instead, the exiled spiritual leader seeks only a peaceful solution to the question of Tibet’s status that protects Tibetans’ rights, Tsering said.

The Chinese government has repeatedly accused the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), of pushing for independence, Tsering said. “But contrary to what the Chinese Communist Party says in their propaganda, the Dalai Lama and the Middle Way approach contain no elements of separatism at all.”

Tsering’s remarks followed Beijing’s condemnation of a visit this week by Uzra Zeya, U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues, to Dharamsala, India, seat of the CTA, and of her meeting with the Dalai Lama on Thursday in which she promised U.S. support for greater freedoms for Tibetans living under Chinese rule.

Speaking to RFA, Tsering said the Chinese government’s constant protest of the CTA’s diplomatic engagement with other countries has only helped to publicize the Tibetans’ struggle around the world.

“The Chinese government may fool their own citizens, but they cannot fool the global audience,” Tsering said. “Our Middle Way policy is an approach adopted in consideration of resolving the issue of Tibet peacefully and of bringing about peaceful coexistence between the Tibetan and the Chinese people,” the exile leader added.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force more than 70 years ago. Tibetans frequently complain of discrimination and human rights abuses by Chinese authorities and policies they say are aimed at eradicating their national identity and culture.

In the debate over how best to advance Tibetans’ rights, the CTA and the Dalai Lama have adopted a policy approach called the Middle Way, which accepts Tibet’s present status as a part of China, but urges greater cultural and religious freedom, including strengthened language rights, for Tibetans living under Beijing’s rule.

Uzra Zeya now travels to Kathmandu for high-level talks in Nepal, where Nepal’s government since 1995 has stopped issuing refugee cards to Tibetans fleeing across the border from Tibet.

Nepal is seen by China as a partner in its Belt and Road Initiative to boost global trade through infrastructure investment, and Nepal’s government has cited promises of millions of dollars of Chinese investment in restricting Tibetan activities in the country.

Nepal’s close political ties with China have left the estimated 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in the Himalayan country uncertain of their status, vulnerable to abuses of their rights, and restricted in their freedoms of movement and expression, rights groups say.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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