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Tibetan leader calls for ‘true autonomy’ within China

Tibetans seek 'Middle Way Approach' formulated by spiritual leader Dalai Lama for the end of the Sino-Tibetan conflict
Sikyong Penpa Tsering addresses the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on June 21

Sikyong Penpa Tsering addresses the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra on June 21. (Photo: National Press Club of Australia via RFA)

Published: June 23, 2023 11:02 AM GMT
Updated: June 23, 2023 11:22 AM GMT

People in Tibet would accept Chinese rule if Beijing grants true autonomy to the region, said the leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile.

“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 (CTA), during an address at National Press Club of Australia in Canberra, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on June 21.

He referred 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 while speaking on “resolving Sino-Tibet conflict and securing peace in the region.”

Tsering reiterated the CTA’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.

Penpa Tsering’s address 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.

Earlier this month, Chinese Embassy representatives requested the National Press Club chief Maurice Reily to revoke the invitation to Tsering.

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 Tsering would get.

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

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

On Tuesday, he 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.

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, RFA reported.

“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.

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