‘Lack of time’: Tibetan president-elect warns of cultural genocide
BEIJING / NEW DELHI – The main political leader of the Tibetan government in exile says there is an urgent threat of “cultural genocide” in Tibet and that the international community must stand up to China ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Penpa Tsering, who was elected president of the Tibetan Central Administration (CTA) this month, said in an interview on Friday that they were committed to a peaceful resolution with China, but that Beijing’s current policies threaten the future of Tibetan culture.
“Time is running out,” Tsering said, speaking of Dharamshala in India. “Once he’s knocked out, it doesn’t make sense to fight for anything,” he said.
Rights groups and Tibetans in Tibet say the government has put strict controls on religion, language teaching and work, while encouraging immigration from Han, China’s largest ethnic group.
“I have always said that we are not against multiculturalism… but a single majority population completely crushing a minority population, it amounts to cultural genocide, especially when imposed by the state,” Tsering said.
Beijing denies having violated the human rights of the Tibetan people. He claims that his development policies have eradicated absolute poverty in the region and are supported by all residents.
Chinese troops seized Tibet in 1950 in what Beijing calls “peaceful liberation.” In 1959, the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled into exile, following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Founded after exile, the CTA maintains its own executive, legislative and judicial bodies in Dharamshala. No less than 150,000 Tibetans live in exile.
Tibet has since become one of the smallest and most sensitive areas in the world. Journalists, diplomats and other foreigners are prohibited from visiting outside of tightly managed government tours.
“If you don’t question Chinese practices right now, then China will get away with everything,” Tsering said, responding to a question about the 2022 Winter Olympics. “There must be a stop at that. “
China is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its control over Tibet this month with news events and a government-sponsored visit to the region.
This is part of a larger effort to formalize Beijing’s claim to Tibet and to share a positive account of the role of the Communist Party there.
In a white paper released to state media on Friday, Beijing said that prior to China’s intervention, Tibet was “miserable and backward feudal serfdom” that was “doomed to be extinguished.”
“Money alone doesn’t bring happiness,” Tsering said. “If we had been independent, we could have been as developed economically as Tibet today,” he said.
Dialogue between Beijing and CTA has stalled since 2010. Tsering said the Dalai Lama’s return to China was crucial to reopen a dialogue.
“We will use all ways and means to reach the Chinese government,” Tsering said. “If the Chinese don’t respond to us, the only way to keep the problem alive is to reach out to the international community,” he said.
The CTA and Tibetan advocacy groups have received increased international support amid growing criticism of China’s human rights record, particularly the United States.
In November, Tsering’s predecessor Lobsang Sangay visited the White House, the first such visit by a CTA president in six decades.
A month later, the US Congress passed the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which demands the right of Tibetans to choose the Dalai Lama’s successor, and the establishment of a US consulate in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
Tsering reiterated that when the 14th Dalai Lama passes, he will only reincarnate in a “free country”, as he wishes. China says it has the right to choose the Dalai Lama’s successor according to Chinese law.
“Why are they so concerned with the 15th Dalai Lama?” Tsering said. “The 14th Dalai Lama is still alive and he wants to go to China. … Chinese government leaders must first learn about Buddhism. “
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