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'Himachal CM is Chief Guest at Dalai Lama's birthday celebrations', says Penpa Tsering, Prsident, Tibetan govt in exile

Talking about the reincarnation of Dalai Lama and taking an aim at China, Penpa Tsering, the President of the Tibetan government in exile said, His Holiness's reincarnation is solely dependent on the decision of his Holiness and a communist government that doesn't believe in religion itself cannot be responsible for it.

'Himachal CM is Chief Guest at Dalai Lama's birthday celebrations', says Penpa Tsering, Prsident, Tibetan govt in exile

Zee Exclusive: Penpa Tsering, the President of the Tibetan government in exile based out of Dharamshala has said that the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Jai Ram Thakur will be the chief guest at the birthday of his holiness Dalai Lama next week, that is 6th July. The development shows growing engagement by siting functionaries of the Indian govt. Remember last time Indian PM Modi had spoken to Dalai Lama and sent his congratulations. Speaking to our Diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Penpa Tsering who is the Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration said, "Dalai Lama is well regarded by the international community and you remember PM Modi wishing him on his birthday last year. So, this year, we have the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh as our chief guest for his holiness's birthday".

China is known to get miffed over engagements with the Dalai Lama or members of the Tibetan leadership in exile. Sikyong Tsering was in Washington a few days ago where he participated in the 8th World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet which saw address by Nancy Pelosi speaker of the United States House of Representatives. Interestingly, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing on Sino Tibet conflict and how to deal with Beijing's narrative on Tibetan history, particularly it being an independent state. 

Asked about Dalai Lama's reincarnation debate and China staking claim to appoint the next highest spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism,  Sikyong Tsering pointed out, "a communist government that doesn't believe in religion itself cannot be responsible for recognition of re-incarnation of his Holiness the Dalai Lama" and "His Holiness's reincarnation is solely dependent on the decision of his Holiness"

Q: If you can talk about your Washington visit for the 8th World Parliamentarians Convention on Tibet from 22nd to 23rd June, we saw the participation of Nancy Pelosi...

A: The world Parliamentarian convention on Tibet took place first in 1994 in India, then in Lithuania, 1997 in Washington, so we come back to Washington DC after 25 years. 4th, 5th such conventions were held in Scotland, in Rome, 7th in Latvia and this is the 8th Parliamentarians convention on Tibet and 28 nations participated in this in hybrid form. At the inaugural, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was present and the President of the international campaign for Tibet, Richard Gere was also present and addressed the gathering. Speaker Pelosi has been very kind and supportive on the Tibet issue and is committed to the cause of Tibet. She was very categorical on countering disinformation on Tibet, and historical narrative on Tibet and expressed strong support.

In Congress, Congressman Jim McGovern is also the co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He, along with speaker Pelosi has decided to organize a hearing on the historical status of Tibet to counter misinformation on the narrative on the historical status of Tibet as an independent state by experts. China's propaganda has been very strong and almost every country recognizes Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China. That needs to be countered. The hearing was held in congress for the first time and they also plan to move a bill in the house in the coming days.

Q: On that hearing on Tibet at the US congress, how significant you see them as. It looks like both the Administration and the congress have been engaging on Tibetan issues... ALSO READ- KCR to receive Yashwant Sinha but not PM Modi at same airport today: Report

A: I would like to thank President Biden for appointing Uzra Zeya as U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues just one year after coming to the office and that at the level of undersecretary. You will remember that I was in the US in April-May and we met her, then she also came to India, and Nepal the following month, so the progress and interest from the United States government have been very strong and very consistent. Then the hearing on the hill, on the historical narratives, termed as barriers to resolving the Sino-Tibet conflict including on the status.

Unfortunately, not many people read Tibetan history and China has been saying Tibet was part of China since the 7th century, and they could not hold, then they said Tibet was part of China from the 13th century, that also could not hold, then the 18th century, that also could not hold. At one point they were saying Tibet was part of China since antiquity, and now they are talking about Tibet being part of China since time immemorial.

So, if we don't counter China's narratives, you don't get the middle way approach. People don't realize that Tibet was an Independent country and his holiness Dalai Lama, considering the reality inside Tibet decided to step down from Independence to a middle-way approach, seeking negotiated mutually beneficial lasting solution for the Sino-Tibet conflict. On that count, the hearing is significant and it is on record of the US Congress that Tibet was not part of China.

Q: How do you see the G7 statement mentioning Tibet and Xinjiang, calling on China to respect universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.. ALSO READ- Sanjay Raut grilled by ED for over 10 hours amid Maharashtra power crisis

A: Right now, because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, everybody focuses on Russia, but the US, Nato and G7 recognize the fact that China is the long-term competition and challenge to the global democratic world order. In that sense, G7 mentioning Tibet on fundamental human rights is significant and shows a shift on the policies, focusing on the Sino-Tibet conflict. Really appreciate the G7 for coming out with a statement, not just on Tibet but also on Uyghurs.

I prefer to call it Uyghurs, instead of Xinjiang because that is the name given by China, and China does Sinicization, including names. Now if you go to the Tibetan map, it will be very difficult to read Tibetan names, because it's all Sinicization. They call Tibet Xizang, which is not acceptable.

Q: The Chinese President has gone to Hong Kong; how do you see the visit...

A: China has already gone against International law, so what has been agreed between the British and the Chinese after the takeover in 1997, China has trampled on all those agreements and then there were developments in the last few years, and now Hong Kong guys are spread all over the world as refugees.

President Xi has not travelled outside China for more than 2 years, and people believe that he will not travel internationally. So, Hong Kong, now more or less under China, the visit may in a way be President Xi's message to the world that Hong Kong is very much part of China and they are trying to improve economic conditions but without freedom it's very difficult to engage with China.


Q: Dalai Lama, his birthday is coming, a lot of celebrations are planned. What is the Tibetan leadership, the Parliament planning and do you see world leaders congratulating the Dalai Lama.

A: This has always been there, his holiness, Dalai Lama is well regarded by the international community and you remember PM Modi wishing him on his birthday last year. So, this year, we have the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh as our chief guest for his holiness's birthday. But we won't be celebrating on a large scale because of the Covid. Of course, now his holiness is aging and now it's a concern, concern that now he is going to be 87. We are happy for the fact that his holiness is keeping very very healthy.

Q: Do you expect congratulations from the Indian PM and do you expect a meeting as well, His Holiness Dalai Lama meeting PM

A: The meeting, I suppose will happen only when His Holiness comes down to Delhi. Not during his Holiness's birthday, because the PM is not travelling there and his holiness is not coming here. Following last year's trend, I am sure there will be many many wishes from the international community including about India.

Q: You mentioned concerns are there as to who will be the next Dalai Lama, his reincarnation, and who is next. China has its own view in appointing the next Dalai Lama, what is the viewpoint of the Tibetan leadership vis-a-via what China has been saying and you're expecting from India on reincarnation

A: His Holiness's reincarnation is solely dependent on the decision of his Holiness because he is going to be reincarnated. A government, a communist government that doesn't believe in religion itself cannot be responsible for the recognition of the re-incarnation of his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Even if they come up with another candidate, as reincarnated Dalai Lama, that will not be accepted, not only by Tibetans but the whole world community.

The US government has already taken a position on this in the form of an amendment to the 2002 Tibet policy act, now it is called the Tibet policy and support act 2020, which I think many many countries will replicate. As far as His Holiness is concerned, according to some predictions His Holiness is predicted to live up to 113 years of age, so right now it is too early to talk about his reincarnation. He will live for long.

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