We have been a victim of China's occupation of Tibet: Tibetan President

Dharamshala, India — The President of the Central Tibetan Administration Dr Lobsang Sangay gave an interview to the "NewsX", a news television channel in India on Jun 3, 2020. "What happened in Tibet 60 years ago, it is the incremental approach, it is the leadership coopetition and slowly steadily, they make all the intrusion, and soon you realise that your country is gone," President told the reporter.

The below is a rough transcript of NewsX's interview with Dr Lobsang Sangay, the President of the Tibetan government in-Exile, previously known the Government of Tibet.

What has been happening in Ladakh? Are you concerned at all that the incremental nature of the Chinese approach that eventually impacted Tibet? Maybe resurfacing?

Actually, you know what we have been saying for the last 60 years. What happened to Tibet could happen to India and all the neighboring countries. And what you see in Ladakh, its a repeatation, or what happened in Tibet 60 years ago, it is the incremental approach, it is the leadership coopetition and slowly steadily, they make all the intrusion, and soon you realise that your country is gone. So we have been a victim of China's occupation of Tibet. So the lesson that India and the leadership of India should learn is by closely studying the issue of Tibet.

Dr Sangay, at this point of time for viewers who are watching this. What is the situation in Tibet and in Lhasa?

Now there is political repression, cultural assimilation, environmental destruction, economic marginalisation, and all kinds of human rights violations. As you know, more than 100 Tibetans have committed self-immolation, burn themselves that demonstrate the desperation and determination of Tibetan people that they are protesting against the occupation of Tibet. They're saying occupation is unacceptable and repression is unbearable. That's why they're burning themselves and confronting self-immolation.

How much of the infrastructure China was building in the railways in the roadways that we know they have done and now they want to expand that into Kathmandu as I know you're aware how much of that has already happened?

You know this one Belt, One Road initiative, which is now expanded to all over the world. We have been the first victim, because initially when China built one road connecting China to Tibet, they said this will bring prosperity to Tibet and Tibetan people, you will benefit from this. In fact, we Tibetans helped to build those roads and our parents and grandparents were paid in silver coins. We sang a song, China's Communist Party is like-kind parents, they shower you with silver coins to help build a road connecting China to Tibet. Soon, that road paved the way for Chinese trucks to come, Chinese tanks to come, Chinese guns to come. That's how they occupied Tibet. Now the railway line has come. 30 airports have been built six major airfields are being built. All these roads from Tibet are connecting to Nepal and all the neighboring countries, the railway lines will follow suit. So this is the experience. We have witnessed it for over 60 years.

Dr Sangay, is the demographic change of getting in ethnic Chinese into Lhasa, Tibet?

That has been their policy, late Panchen Lama Rinpoche had submitted a 70,000 characters petition in 1962, three years before the Cultural Revolution, in which he said population transfer of bringing Chinese people into Tibet, to marginalise Tibetans in their own country was the practice in the 1960s. Now, fortunately, at the moment in Tibet, in urban areas, the Chinese tend to be the majority during summer. But in winter, many of them return and go back to China. So during winter, Tibetans are still the majority in Tibet. This is not the case simply optimal if you look at the Southeast Asian countries. This is like 20 years old data in the neighboring countries of Southeast Asia. They have built 300 plus high schools to be taught in the Chinese language. Now there are more Chinese in Kathmandu than Tibetans in Nepal. So the population transfer and migration of Chinese all over the world, including in Tibet, is part of the cultural assimilation. And part of how 1.4 billion Han Chinese tend to migrate and dominate and marginalise the Tibetans and other minorities.

What is your understanding, the difficult developments that many people globally are reticent to comment upon what has been happening with Uighurs in Xinjiang?

You know when Tibet was occupied, we've been making this noise, the human rights violation of Tibet should be a concern of the international community. the whole world said Tibet is an exception, what's happened in Tibet is wrong, but we can do business with China, we can have a normal relationship with China. Now in the last few years when they saw more than a million Uyghurs were put in concentration camps. The security law and denial of, right to freedom of speech in Hong Kong and interference in Taiwan. You can clearly see Tibet is not an exception, you're dealing with the regime and a system, which is systematic and sophisticated in undermining freedom in the neighboring places. Now, all over the world.

You mentioned this has been our experience, and let me pick that up, you mentioned the other developments the other immediate development of course taking place in Hong Kong. How are you viewing that?

Now, again, what's happened to Hong Kong already happened in Tibet before. So the Chinese line of the slogan is this, Hong Kong is part of China, Tibet is part of China, Taiwan is part of China Ladakh is part of China, but coronavirus is not part of China. Now, in broad daylight, the Communist Party of China is capable of misleading people. We all know that coronavirus originated in China. And everybody says so and more than 130 countries have passed a resolution to investigate the origin of coronavirus, but the Chinese government broad daylight says, No, it's not us.

Let me ask you, then about Taiwan, because the situation there has been very difficult now, many people are saying that look with 100 year anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party coming up next year. this is what they're doing it for?

Yes, I think Taiwan could be a flashpoint, Ladakh could be a flashpoint, in which China has been interfering in Taiwan. For so many decades, the democratic process, been compromised interference and election is part of the game plan. Now, Taiwan has performed so well. As far as dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. But then Taiwan was a member or affiliated with WHO till 2016. But given the recent performance on the coronavirus pandemic. They should be affiliated with WHO, but the Chinese government says no, they will not participate. So this is the bullying tactic or the strong hand tactical Chinese government all over the world, and we Tibetans have seen it, experience it for the last 60 years.

What do you make of the bill in the US Congress?

The one is by the congressman Scott Perry, supporting the independence of Tibet, and we welcome any support, on religious matter, environmental or human rights matter. But there is another bill. It's called the Tibetan policy and support Act, which was passed in the US House with 392 votes in support of the bill which is 95% of the house. Now the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is debating it and once they put in the vote that it will come to the floor of the Senate. If that passes, then President Trump signs it, it becomes a law that this is a major comprehensive detailed policy act for Tibet. On the other hand, the support for the independence of Tibet. It's a show of solidarity by a congressman and which has to move the US House of Foreign Relations Committee, we hope it will pass.

How frustrating is it, sir, when the world winds change, and certainly China's front and center? The voices of Tibet, certainly are heard again. And in the interim period are often ignored. How frustrating is it?

No, we are Buddhists, we don't go by frustration, we go with equanimity. This is our struggle. The term struggle is apt, it's a struggle on a daily basis, weekly basis, monthly basis. As long as you are at it with your movement with solidarity with Tibetan inside Tibet, our movement will be strong. So sometimes the international wave will come and support you, don't get too carried away, sometimes the international wave will not support you, you don't lose your heart. That's called equanimity in Buddhism. So that's our goal. As long as you believe in your cause, you fight, you will reach your goal, sooner than later.

Will any Tibetan, in your view sir ever accept the leadership of a Lama Lama, that China wants to choose?

Absolutely not. the Communist Party of China has zero credibility when it comes to religious matters. 98% of the monasteries and nunneries were destroyed, 99% of the monks and nuns were disrobed. Even now, they interfere in every religious matter. And they call themselves an atheists regime. If you don't believe in religion, why are they interfering in it, given the track record of destroying our monasteries and nunneries and vilifying and calling names of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama who is revered by the whole world? With such credibility, they have no role whatsoever in the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

What message would you send sir, to the people of Nepal, as you will know that the road-building activity to link Lhasa to Kathmandu, is reaching an advanced edge, railway lines might follow next?

I don't know how much people or the government of Nepal will listen to me. But it's for India to consider. Nepal is the only other Hindu country in the world. Now the government there is leaning more towards the Communist Party of China. Then Tibetans there are suffering. Basic human rights are denied under the influence of the Chinese government as I said here. We also would like to tell the people of Nepal, that we have suffered. We have the first-hand experience under the occupation of China, repression of Tibetans continue even today. So they came with sweet words, some kind of proposal to peacefully liberate Tibet. It was a violent occupation and Tibetans continue to suffer now learn from us. Nepal, India, and the rest of the world, the sooner the better for you.

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Dr Lobsang Sangay served as the Tibetan Prime Minister in exile from 2011 to 2021. He is the first person without a monastic background to hold this position. He was born in 1968 in a refugee community in Darjeeling, India.