Tibetan political leader calls for ‘true autonomy’ within China in Australian address

Sikyong Penpa Tsering says ‘it is the quality of the rule’ that matters most to Tibetans.
By RFA Tibetan
Tibetan political leader calls for ‘true autonomy’ within China in Australian address Sikyong Penpa Tsering addresses the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on Wednesday, June 21, 2023.
Screenshot from National Press Club of Australia video

Tibetans would willingly accept Chinese rule if granted true autonomy by Beijing, the leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile said Wednesday.

“If those kinds of autonomies are granted to the Tibetans, they will be happy to live under the framework of the People’s Republic of China’s constitution,” said Sikyong Penpa Tsering, the head of the Central Tibetan Administration, referring to the status of Scotland and South Tyrol within the context of British and Italian rule.

“It is not a matter of who rules; it is the quality of the rule,” he said, speaking to the Australian National Press Club in Canberra on “resolving Sino-Tibet conflict and securing peace in the region.”

Penpa Tsering reiterated the Central Tibetan Administration’s commitment to resolving the Sino-Tibet conflict through the “Middle Way Approach” formulated by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. The strategy promotes true autonomy for Tibetans under Chinese rule, as written in China’s constitution.

But he highlighted the historically independent status of Tibet and said that unless that status is recognized, China would have no reason to negotiate with the CTA.

Embassy lobbying efforts

Penpa Tsering’s hour-long address, which also touched on the Chinese government’s attempts to control the reincarnation process of the Dalai Lama, surveil Buddhist monasteries and restrict the movement of Tibetans, took place despite Beijing’s best efforts.

Earlier this month, Chinese Embassy representatives met with press club chief Maurice Reily and voiced their opposition to Penpa Tsering’s appearance at Wednesday’s event, requesting that his invitation be revoked.

China has controlled Tibet since it invaded the region in 1949, and rejects any notion of a Tibetan government-in-exile, particularly the legitimacy of the Dalai Lama, who lives in Dharamsala, India. Beijing has also stepped up efforts to erode Tibetan culture, language and religion. 

Speeches given at the National Press Club are broadcast on Australian TV and attended by prominent members of the press, and observers suggested Beijing may have lobbied Reily because it was worried about the wider exposure Penpa Tsering would get.

“I want to thank the Chinese government for always being the best publicity agent," Penpa Tsering said at Wednesday’s event, implying that Beijing’s efforts did more harm than good.

Visit to parliament

Earlier on Wednesday, Penpa Tsering delivered a speech on the geopolitical significance of Tibet at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

On Tuesday, the Sikyong observed proceedings at the Australian parliament, where lawmakers Sophie Scamps and Susan Templeman detailed the situation inside Tibet under Chinese rule. He also met with several Australian MPs.

Speaking to RFA Tibetan, Kalsang Tsering, the president of the Australian Tibetan Community Association, welcomed Penpa Tsering’s visit on behalf of the estimated 2,500 Tibetans living in Australia.

“The honor that Sikyong Penpa Tsering has received here in Australia and in the Australian parliament has been overwhelming and it is evident that there is so much support from the parliamentarians for the Tibetan cause,” he said.

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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Sonam Tashi
Jun 21, 2023 10:13 PM

China has controlled Tibet since it invaded the region in 1949 and rejects any notion of a Tibetan government-in-exile, "particularly the legitimacy of the Dalai Lama", who lives in Dharamsala, India.
This is a misstatement by RFA, China does not reject and question the legitimacy of the current Dalai Lama. He was even met by Mao, the founding father of Chinese Communist Party in 1950s.
China already granted autonomy, and asking what Tibet already enjoying is absurd. Tibet Autonomous Region enjoys certain degree of autonomy, that is very obvious, and nobody can deny that. There is nothing called true autonomy, it is genuine autonomy or higher degree of autonomy.