The opening day of the Fifth International Rangzen Conference held in Dharamshala, India for three days, began May 23, 2018. Photo: TPI/Tenzin Chodak

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Dharamshala, India — The 5th International Rangzen Conference concluded at the Municipal Cooperation’s Community Hall in Dharamshala, India on Friday, May 25, 2018 with a five – point declaration, condemning China's illegal occupation of Tibet. The conference has called Xi Jingping an "authoritarian dictatorship", says his "capitulation" has further unleashed terror and anxiety in occupied Tibet.

Around 200 hundred Tibetans, including MPs, activists, students, scholars and community leaders from India, Nepal, United States of America and Europe, attended the conference to review the Tibetan freedom movement and discussed issues ranging from the ongoing crisis in Tibet, to working out creative and practical steps toward the goal of independence for Tibet.

President of Indo-Tibet Friendship Association, Ajay Singh Mankotia was the chief guest of the event. Vijar Kranti, a prominent Indian journalist and photographer with decades of interest in the Tibetan freedom struggle, well-known writer and political activist Jamyang Norbu, Lhasang Tsering, poet, writer, and activist and Tenzin Tsundue, a poet, writer and Tibetan activist were among the prominent guests. Other guests, including a few members of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile; Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar, Geshe Monlam Tharchin, Tenpa Yarphel, Serta Tsultrim and Juchen Konchok.

A special audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama was granted for the participants at his official residence on Friday, in Dharamshala, India, at the conclusion of the conference. During the conference, Late Karma Choephel, a prominent Rangzen advocate and former Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in-Exile was awarded the ‘Freedom Fighters Award’ for his inimitable contribution to Rangzen movement.

The most notable participants are former executive members or former members of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which is the largest youth organisation fighting for the complete independence of Tibet, maintained that they respect everyone’s opinion but Tibet was historically an independent country and it is their rights to struggle for its Independence.

Besides the main five points, the declaration has highlighted: "Tibet reached the pinnacle of its power and prosperity during the reign of its sovereign emperors and despite the ebb and flow of politics and power, Tibet remained an independent country marked by its distinct culture, history and leadership. The Communist China invaded Tibet in 1949 and on May 23, 1951, under duress, Tibet was forced to sign the so-called “17-Point Agreement”."

The conference also remembered "the sacrifices of Tibetan martyrs, their commitment to Tibet’s freedom" and participants raised their "voice against and to challenge China’s continuing occupation and persecution of Tibetans after over half-a-century since its occupation."

The declaration said that "The government of China began to systematically force its policies of oppression and insatiable greed in Tibet and on March 10, 1959, Tibetans from the three provinces of Tibet rose up in a popular national uprising in the Tibetan capital Lhasa. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government was forced to escape into exile. Soon after reaching the safety of exile, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke to a large contingent of international media on April 18, 1959 in the Indian city of Tezpur. His Holiness declared that the free and independent country of Tibet was invaded and brutally occupied by the Chinese government and officially repudiated the so-called “17 Point Agreement”."

"As a direct result of China’s invasion and continued occupation of Tibet more than a million Tibetans have suffered untimely deaths and Tibet’s religious and cultural heritage has suffered severe destruction. Although with its policy of economic liberalization, China has superficially presented a façade of political relaxation, Tibet has been violently denied its fundamental human rights and the freedom to practice its religion and culture," the declaration read.

"To this day, Tibetans inside Tibet continue to sacrifice their lives rising up in protest against their occupiers and fighting to protect Tibet’s environment and language. The recent case of China sentencing Tashi Wangchuk to five years in jail for championing Tibetan language protection is a case in point. A large number of Tibetans continue to languish in Chinese prisons while many have succumbed to torture," it added.

Since February 27, 2009, 152 Tibetans from all three provinces of Tibet have set themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese government. In exile, 10 Tibetans have self-immolated. These fiery protests are symbolic of the Tibetan people’s aspirations for a free and independent Tibet and for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten and remain as an inspiration for the struggle for Tibet’s rightful independence.

While speaking about "the need and significance of the international Rangoon conference," they said that "the conference is being organised in protest against the black day 67 years ago when Tibet was forced to sign the so-called “17-Point Agreement”. The conference also marks 10 years of the 2008 peaceful protests which spread across the entire Tibetan plateau."

"For the past 67 years, Chinese government policies on Tibet have remained brutal and oppressive and in response Tibetans have continued to rise up in protest – the ideal and hope for Rangzen has never been compromised. The conference is being organised in memory and honour of Tibetan martyrs – women and men carrying forward the powerful legacy of Tibetan sovereign emperors – who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet and continue to oppose and resist China’s illegal rule."

"The struggle between Tibet and China is that of one between the oppressed and the oppressor and of sovereignty between nations. Tibetans have never cowed down under oppression and till the time comes when Tibetans reclaim ownership of our land, the demand for an independent Tibet, which is “the will of the dead and hope of the living” will be passed on as inheritance from father to son and generations to come will treat this struggle as their soul," the declaration added.

The following are excerpts from the Dharamshala Declaration, passed at the 5th International Rangzen Conference:

  1. The Conference reaffirms that in order to fulfill the enduring goal of restoring the independence of Tibet, generations of Tibetans will carry on the struggle with fortitude and diligence.
  2. The Conference condemns China in strongest terms for continuing its brutal occupation of Tibet for over 60 years which has caused death of more than a million Tibetans and irreparable damages to Tibetan culture, language and environment. And even as we conference here the situation in Tibet is getting worse everyday. Xi Jingping’s capitulation of his authoritarian dictatorship has further unleashed terror and anxiety in occupied Tibet. This the world must know and we resolve to spread the awareness and awaken the world to this sad reality.
  3. The Conference acknowledges the declarations made during the international Rangzen conferences held in 2015, 2016, and 2017 and will endeavour to implement the resolutions.
  4. The Conference recognises the current critical stage of the Tibetan struggle and the instances of suspicion and misgiving damaging our common cause and unity among exile Tibetans. The Conference calls on Tibetans dedicated to the struggle for an independent Tibet to continue to be fully aware of our friends and foes and direct all our efforts solely to our struggle with a patient and tolerant attitude towards internal meaningless misgivings.
  5. The Conference expresses its deep gratitude to the people and government of the great nation of India for their help and support during these most difficult times in the history of Tibet. The Conference reaffirms that India’s security is inextricably linked to a free Tibet and the Conference fervently appeals to the people and the government of India for their continued support for the cause of an independent Tibet. The Conference acknowledges the support of countries, organisations and individuals from across the world for the Tibetan cause and we appeal over again for your continued solidarity and support for the revival of a free and independent Tibet.

The declaration closes by saying "With resolute conviction in the imminent reunion of the Tibetan people in a free and independent Tibet and the glorious return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Potala Palace."

After a series of discussions amongst Rangzen activists in India, an organizing committee was formed. However, the Rangzen conference is being organised by volunteers and the international participants had paid their own travel expenses to attend the meeting. The first Rangzen conference was held in Dharamshala, India in 2012. This was followed by those held in New Delhi, India in 2015, New York, USA, in 2016, and Paris, France in 2017.

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