OTTAWA, Thursday April 22, 2004
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs met this day in a joint session with the Standing Committee of the House of Commons on Foreign Affairs and International Trade at 3:30 p.m. to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his delegation.
The Honourable Consiglio Di Nino and Mr. Bernard Patry (Joint Chairmen) presiding.
Mr. Patry (Joint Chairman): Welcome, Your Holiness. In accordance with Standing Order 108(2) of the House of Commons and the motion adopted by the Standing Committee of the House of Commons on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on March 23, 2004, on behalf of my colleagues in the House of Commons, I would like to say how very honoured we are to welcome you for a second time to our committee. Your first visit was back in 1990.
Over the past year, the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade spent much time studying the issue of Canada's relation with the countries of the Muslim world. Throughout this process of meetings and travel, we came to a better understanding both of the increasing importance of the spirituality in international affairs and of the need for more intercultural and interfaith dialogue.
In Jordan, I had the privilege to discuss with His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan the increased necessity of that interfaith dialogue. On March 31, 2004, we tabled a unanimous all-party report that made a recommendation to our government along these lines.
Today is also Earth Day. On this day, your point of view concerning the sustainability of the world development and the issues of globalization and consumption are of great importance to Canadian parliamentarians and the Canadian population.
Also, as a world spiritual leader, your comments on how parliamentarians of the world can deal with this modern world and modern technology are essential.
I will stop here, because I look forward to hearing you speak. However, before we begin, I would ask my Co-Chairman, the Honourable Senator Di Nino, to welcome you on behalf of the Senate of Canada.
Senator Di Nino (Joint Chairman): Your Holiness, I extend a warm welcome to you, particularly on behalf of our chairman, who could not be here, and on behalf of all my colleagues in the Senate. We extend to you a warm welcome and look forward to your words of wisdom.
Mr. Patry (Joint Chairman): I should like to say also that His Holiness is accompanied by Mr. Thubten Samdup, Mr. Tenzin Dargyal, Mr. Lodi Gyari and Mr. Samdhong Rintoche.
Mr. Thubten Samdup, President, Canada Tibet Committee: Good afternoon. As the national president of the Canada Tibet committee, I should like to say a few words. I am sure most of you have signed on to the campaign that we launched about four years ago. I am very happy to say that we have reached close to 170 members of Parliament who have signed on to this campaign. You all deserve big applause.
We launched this campaign because we felt that Canada does have a role in the ongoing non-violent struggle of Tibet. We pride ourselves in being the defender of human rights and peacemaker in the world. The recent outpouring of sympathy and support from the general Canadian public has been overwhelming.
Due to that widespread support, you have responded by signing on to the campaign that we have launched. We have sent a clear message to our Prime Minister that not only do we want him to meet with His Holiness, but also we want more. We do not want empty words of support but something tangible, something we can work with.
I have said all along that that initiative came from the Tibetans and Tibetan friends in Canada. We did it voluntarily because we felt the sense of urgency that we had to do something.
You responded, and we are very happy. I should like to thank you all on behalf of the Tibetans in Canada and our supporters. Without further ado, my colleague will say a few words in French. Once again, I should like to thank you all, and we will count on your continued support.
Mr. Tenzin Dargyal, President, Montreal Office, Canada-Tibet Committee: We wish to thank everyone for coming here this afternoon. We are very proud to announce that we have succeeded in getting 162 federal MPs to support our campaign to have Canada act as a mediator between His Holiness and China in order to settle the Tibet question. This is indeed evidence of the support we have of the general public and of all those who are here today. We have always maintained that if a pacifist movement survives, then war will surely die. Thank you.
Mr. Patry (Joint Chairman): You have the floor, Your Holiness.
[Editor’s Note: Some evidence was presented through a Tibetan interpreter.]
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Members of both standing committees, I should like to express my deep appreciation for giving me this opportunity to be with you. I should also like to express my thanks to all of you for taking such interest.
I shall now speak about Tibetan issues. I always keep in mind the geographical situation and the ancient culture and heritage when I deal with the Tibetan problem.
Before 1950, Tibet was completely a land of peace.
At that time, the entire modern Indian long border really was a peaceful border. Since the new situation, the picture is completely changed. Now, with regard to India and China, the two most populated nations, mutual trust and friendship between these two nations is extremely important. From that viewpoint, the Tibet issue is in regards to the mutual trust between China and India.
At another level, Tibet usually is considered to be the roof of the world. The major rivers that cover from Pakistan to China have their source in Tibet. Therefore, the Tibetan ecology is very important for all portions of Asia. Billions of people depend on these waters.
There is cultural heritage, as well. The Tibet tan culture is very much influenced by Buddhist messages of love, non-violence and respect for all forms of life. Our culture is not only one of the most ancient cultures of the world, but also something relevant in today's world, particularly when we see a lot of violence and hatred. I feel that the Tibetan culture is one of the ancient cultures that can help to reduce these negative emotions.
Today, the ecology of Tibet is facing some problems. The preservation of Tibetan culture is also having problems. These problems are not due to a natural disaster but are due to human behaviour. Therefore, we need a political approach.
China and Tibet, through many centuries, had very close links. In modern times, there is interdependency. They are interconnected. That is the new reality. Moreover, Tibet materially is backward.
Taking into consideration all these factors, I feel that the best way to overcome the problem is not to seek separation or independence; rather, we should remain within the People's Republic of China. In the meantime, there should be a more realistic domestic policy.
Actually, the constitution of the People's Republic of China provided all the minorities, such as Tibetan and Mongolian, provided autonomous status. Therefore, if this right that the constitution provides were sincerely carried out, then many problems would be solved.
In the early period, the 1950s, the Chinese leadership was headed by Chairman Mao Tse-tung. According to the reality, the Chinese government finally decided the peaceful liberation. Between the local Tibetan government and the Chinese central government, we have an agreement that we call the "17-point agreement." That agreement, if you study it, is very much in the spirit of one country, two systems.
Eventually, things became difficult. In 1959, there was no choice but for me to escape. Eventually, about 100,000 Tibetans left the country.
We have a commitment and responsibility to preserve the Tibetan culture and heritage. Therefore, even after we came to India, as refugees, we tried our best to preserve Tibetan culture, spirituality and language. As a result, today, we see more people showing interest about Tibetan culture and spirituality.
In the meantime, our main responsibility is about Tibet. There are about 6 million Tibetan people in our homeland. During the past 45 years, sometimes things are better; sometimes they are more difficult. For example, the early 1980s, when Hu Yaobang was in power, was a hopeful period. I believe that had the atmosphere of that remained, we would have by today resolved the Tibetan problem. I am quite sure of that.
Unfortunately, due to many factors, the attitude of the central government became more hardened. Eventually, the event at Tiananmen Square happened. The situation in Tibet also became more difficult. However, our effort did not change in spite of some setbacks. We always insisted that we must find a solution through dialogue.
About two years ago, we renewed the dialogue with the Chinese government. At the beginning, we felt it was a good start. Up until now, two of our delegation has visited China and had some talks. Up to now, our main emphasis has been to build confidence, because the Chinese officials and the Chinese government have many suspicions. They accuse me of being a secessionist. I think the Chinese government here describes me as a secessionist in the Quebec way. One reporter asked me that. I said, I do not know. I am not an expert on these things. There may be some similarities or differences there, but that is not my business. The Chinese government decided there is too much suspicion. Our immediate task is to remove these suspicions. There is some positive indication now from the Chinese sources, but it may take time.
Another point that I would like to mention is that inside Tibet, since our dialogue was renewed, there is no indication of more leniency or improvement. Our side has determined to find a mutually agreeable solution within the framework of the Chinese constitution. That is our line.
Until now, many governments, in particular, many Parliaments in the free world, are really showing support to us. I have no doubt that this renewal of direct contact — I believe that our supporters and our friends' persuasion, showing their concern, has had some impact.
First, I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation on behalf of those few thousand Tibetans who settled in this country very happily. Second, you are also taking seriously the concerns and rights of 620 million people. Therefore, I can express appreciation on behalf of 620 million people. As before, your support is crucial. Please help us to materialize meaningful dialogue with the Chinese government.
I think Canada's position — since it has good relations with the People's Republic of China. I always tell my supporters that negative attitudes make it very difficult to help us but that a more positive and friendly attitude with the Chinese government, not an antagonistic one, can help. Canada can, with the positive, friendly atmosphere, tell them sincerely and truthfully that they should solve the Tibetan problem.
Whether the Chinese government admits it or not, there is a problem. Every visitor to Tibet knows that something went wrong. The Chinese government also knows there is something wrong; they feel very, very sensitive about Tibet issues. The Chinese official say that things are completely normal, that the majority of the people are genuinely happy and satisfied; if that were so, there would be no reason to feel so sensitive.
There are also a large number of Chinese soldiers, in spite of some improvement in relations with India. The present situation of Tibet is neither good for Tibetans nor for the Chinese.
There are still more problems for the Chinese government to solve, such as the unification of Taiwan. Emotionally, it also must settle the Hong Kong situation. The Tibet issue is easier to solve. If you were two compare the Tibetan issue and the Taiwan issue, the Tibetan issue is much easier to solve. For China's own interests, I think the time has come to talk seriously. We are fully committed not to seek independence, in spite of some young Tibetans who are very critical of my stand. Therefore, the time is right to look seriously at the Tibet issue more realistically — seeking truth from fact; that is the scientific grid. However, fact must be fact, not false fact. Accept the reality, and accordingly find a solution.
Mr. Patry (Joint Chairman): Thank you very much, Your Holiness, for your introductory remarks. I want to remind the colleagues of both Houses that we have 25 minutes left for question and answer. In recognizing questioners, I will go from one side of the Parliament to the other. One question and a very short preamble, please. I would prefer the answers to be longer than the questions.
Mr. Day: Thank you, sir, for being here. Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of peace. If a country endorses freedom of religion, then that country also will endorse freedom of speech, freedom of association, protection of people and all types of rights.
When you travel and promote peace as you do, which is so commendable, does this form a part of your discussion? Many governments do not endorse freedom of religion within the borders of their country, so many, many other freedoms are restricted. That makes for tension and lack of peace. Is this something that you find you can promote and discuss with other leaders? If Tibet became an entity the way you would like it, would it be democratic? How would that look?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: One of my lifelong commitments is the promotion of religious harmony. Actually, there is not a sound basis for putting restrictions on religion. I think various religious traditions have the potential to create peaceful and compassionate families, peaceful communities, and so on.
The difficulty is that due to the differences in religious traditions, sometimes there is a little suspicion or negativity. As well, some individuals use religion for their own different interests. Otherwise, I think the promotion of religious harmony is very possible. With that, the contact among the different traditions certainly can be positive.
As far as democracy is concerned, I think we achieved more democracy than in China proper among the Tibetan community. I think the principal matter is that in April 1959 we came to India, and within two years we started the work of democratization. We started to work on a draft constitution for a future Tibet, according to democratic principles. Finally, in 1963, we adopted that. There, one clause mentioned the Dalai Lama's power can be abolished by a two third majority of the Parliament.
Also, in 1969, I made a public statement that whether the Dalai Lama institution should continue or not is up to the Tibetan people. In 1992, I made a statement that when the day of our return comes, with a certain degree of freedom, I will hand over all my legitimate authority to the local government. That local government eventually should be an elected democratic government.
Meanwhile, while we remain in India, about three years ago we achieved an important achievement regarding democratization. Three years ago was the first time we had an elected political leadership. This person, Ven. Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche, is another monk — quite similar to the Dalai Lama — a Buddhist monk who trained in Buddhist philosophy, not in modern politics. At that time, a layperson and Samdhong Rinpoche engaged in a form of competition, but a very friendly and peaceful competition. Finally, Samdhong Rinpoche won a majority. I am very proud that, even within our refugee community outside, we already have a genuinely elected political leadership.
Since then, I always describe my position as semi-retirement. Naturally, when important matters are discussed or when decisions are being made, Ven. Samdhong Rinpoche always seeks my opinion. However, I always say that the final decision should be in his hands and not in my hands. For the last 45 years, that has been, I think, our path for democratization.
Senator De Bané: Your Holiness, when you look to the different challenges that this planet faces, what are the two or three major challenges that you think we have to concentrate our efforts on?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: The first is population. In the present situation, there is a gap between rich and poor — at the global level and the national level. This is not only morally wrong, but practically this is also a problem. We have to address the huge gap between the rich and poor.
In China, which is a socialist country, this gap is present. Personally, I am a socialist in my economic thinking. From that viewpoint, the present gap between the rich and poor in China is unbelievable.
The basic necessities of southerners are not adequate. Starvation is also a possibility. In some cases, it is due to their own mistakes. Some of these people spend a lot of money on weapons, but neglect agriculture or education or training. That is their own mistake. However, basically, the living standards of southerners are low, while those in the northern industrialized nations have a high standard of living. Eventually, this must be more equal.
In America, the United States is the richest country, but still there are a lot of poor Americans. The number of billionaires is increasing but many are still living in poverty. In Canada, the economic situation and education of the First Nations, I think in many fields, is unequal, although the Canadian Constitution provides for equality, equal rights. Like America, it provides for equal rights, but because of that, the economic situation is sometimes difficult.
The question of population then arises. According to the present population, if the southerners' living standard is raised up to the living standard of the northern world, the question arises of whether there are sufficient natural resources.
India and China combined have a population of more than 2 billion. If they were like America, and Canada as well, I believe, each family would have two cars, sometimes three cars. If each person in that population of 2 billion owned one car, there would be more than 2 billion cars. In terms of pollution alone, it would be very difficult.
Hence, the population problem is very important. As well, there is this gap between the rich and poor. We must address those issues.
Another concern is ecology. Politically, I always pray and tell my audiences that one of our ultimate goals should be demilitarization at a global level. The arms trade should have closer checks. Step by step, we could ban nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons, and then we could eventually ban all offensive weapons.
Mr. Eggleton: Your Holiness, I am pleased to welcome you for the second time, the first time being in the 1980s when I was the Mayor of Toronto and you visited my city.
You came to the heart of the matter that appears to be the objection of the Chinese government with respect to a meeting when you said that your agenda did not include separation or independence. You identified your issues for the Tibetan people as being ecological and cultural concerns as well as religious freedoms and human rights.
How do you reconcile that with the fact that part of your delegation, the man sitting beside you, is the chair of the Tibetan Government in Exile? How is that generally viewed? What does it mean to be the Tibetan Government in Exile, and how does that reconcile with your statement of no separation and no independence?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Actually, in 1992, I made it clear in a public statement that as soon as we return with certainty of freedom our Government in Exile will automatically dissolve. We have no special privilege to gain inside Tibet. For a more detailed explanation, our elected political leadership should speak to this.
Venerable Samdhong Rinpoche, Chair, Tibetan Government in Exile: The Tibetan Government in Exile does not represent the government of a nation. When His Holiness took asylum in India, there was a legitimate government of Tibet. It was a local government in relation with the government of the People's Republic of China. The People's Republic of China duly recognized His Holiness's government as a legitimate government of local Tibetan people. That government continues — it is 362 years old, a government running from the fifth Dalai Lama until now. It is duly recognized by many nations, including the People's Republic of China.
The 17-point agreement was concluded with that local government, with due recognition, and although that local government's seal was not present, there was a duplicate of it. Therefore, we do not symbolize the Tibet Government in Exile as that of a separate nation. It is that government which has existed there since 1951 under the 17-point agreement, and it continues today.
Senator Andreychuk: Your Holiness, since I last had the opportunity to hear you speak, your message has not changed. It is as compelling about peace and renewal of a facilitation of a meaningful dialogue as ever it was.
The years since the late 1980s have changed. How much more compelling is the issue in Tibet, so that we can say to our government that it must immediately pursue some efforts with the Chinese, in order that a more meaningful dialogue will take place?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Sometimes I describe it like this: One ancient nation with a unique cultural heritage is now dying. Things are serious. My representative here visited China twice. Also, before that, in the 1980s, there was a fact-finding delegation from India. On that occasion, he also visited there. He also visited Tibet last year. As such, he may have more recent information for you on this matter.
Mr. Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Canada Tibet Committee: Certainly, I believe that we are running out of time. Time is neither a friend of the Tibetans nor of the Chinese. Tibetans, as His Holiness indicated, are being marginalized in every aspect. As we sit here today in these discussions, we are being marginalized economically. We are also being marginalized by the massive transfer of the non-Tibetan population to the plateau, which creates a tremendous danger to the survival of this unique culture that His Holiness has always talked about.
We have been urging the Chinese — His Holiness is not the problem. Unfortunately, the Chinese leaders continue to see His Holiness as the problem. Our message is that both the Chinese and the Tibetans must take this great opportunity that we have in the presence of His Holiness to solve this problem. The Chinese sometimes believe that time is on their side. They believe that if His Holiness were not present, the issue of Tibet would somehow vanish.
If something were to happen to His Holiness before this issue is resolved, the Tibetan people's bitterness and anger toward Chinese rule would exist for generations. This has been seen before in other parts of the world.
Hence, we have a unique opportunity. We have been making every effort to bring about a resolution. As His Holiness indicated earlier, some of us have made two trips to China. Recently, His Holiness instructed me to get in touch with the Chinese government to say that he would like us to return. Your help is very important.
Time is definitely running out for Tibetans, as well as for the Chinese. We hope the Chinese leaders are wise enough to take the opportunity of His Holiness's presence to resolve this issue.
Legitimacy is another issue. While the Chinese physically may occupy Tibet, they will never have legitimacy in Tibet until a solution is found with the approval of the Tibetan people and with the blessing of His Holiness. The Chinese government must be aware of that. Even if the Chinese government were to stay for a very long time, it would not be legitimate. The Tibetans would not accept the legitimacy of that government. As well, the rest of the world does not accept the Chinese government there as being legitimate. Regardless of what other governments may say about the reality, we all know in our hearts that Tibet is a separate nation that has been wronged.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: We say that Tibetans are dying, the culture is dying. If we look back through the century, when the thirteenth Dalai Lama, my previous incarnation, visited Peking, China, there existed a Manchurian community, with its own language. As far as religion was concerned, they followed Tibetan Buddhism. The then Chinese emperor was Manchurian. I believe that was in 1904. Exactly a half century later, in 1954, I was also in Peking and Manchuria, but there was no longer a Manchurian community. It had been completely assimilated.
There was also the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia with the same political status. Today, in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia, according to independent Mongolian information, there are 3 million Mongolians and 18 million Chinese. Now Mongolian native people have become a minority or an insignificant community in their own land — and they are not the only people who have become a minority. Something has happened in this century. Hence, unless we take some special care, some special arrangement, it is very possible to happen in the case of Tibet.
Mr. Gyari: We believe that one of our major threats is the massive demographic invasion that happens in Tibet. As in the case of Hong Kong, the Chinese government has agreed to have a legitimate restriction of other Chinese citizens from the mainland moving to Hong Kong. We feel that, in the future, if we work out a solution, there is already a precedent, even though Hong Kong is now very much a part of China. Chinese citizens from other parts of China cannot freely move into Hong Kong. Therefore, similarly, we do believe that there is a precedent that could be implemented if the Chinese government so desires.
Mr. Bergeron: Your Holiness, not only are we extremely honoured, we are also summoned to action by virtue of your presence among us, to the extent that you would like to see Canada play a role in bringing about a negotiated settlement to the Tibetan question.
Quite apart from the signatures collected from parliamentarians, the Canadian government's position with regard to Tibet and to you is based on China's claims that Tibet has always been part of China and that this is a domestic policy matter.
In your view, what concrete steps should Canada be taking in order to assume the role that you would like it to play?
Senator Carney: I should like to thank His Holiness for making such a long journey to encourage us to nurture a good heart, as you said in Vancouver.
You have outlined your concerns about preserving Tibet's culture, its heritage and its ecology and your need to seek a solution within the constitution of China.
How can we as parliamentarians help you?
Ms. McDonough: One of the reasons for the universality of your message and why it is viewed as inspirational by so many of us is that it does not make a separation between spirituality and the application of spiritual values to political and economic life.
I wonder, knowing that you are not faint hearted on these subjects, whether you could comment specifically on your view of the escalation of the arms race and the militarization of space that has now begun to be launched by the United States in the form of a national missile defence program?
Mr. Obhrai: Thank you, Your Holiness for being here. I was exposed to Tibetan culture when I was a kid reading Dr. Lobsang Rampa’s books. I read all of them when I was a young kid. Therefore, I am well aware of the Tibetan culture and its problems.
With the opening up of China — during the time when you escaped from Tibet to India, China was a closed socialist economy. Today, China is an open society with its diversion, its own internal situation — for example, Tiananmen Square and further down the road.
Within that context, do you not think the Tibetan demand for autonomy — I understand your demand for autonomy, but somewhere along the line Tibet has always been an independent country. Would that not be your final objective, if the changes took place in this case within China?
Mr. Caccia: Your Holiness, in your opening remarks in this room earlier, you made a reference to the fact that you need some political approach. Does political approach include the United Nations, and if so in which manner?
Mr. Wilfert: You indicated that the Tibetan situation could be resolved faster in your view than the situation regarding Taiwan. Can you indicate for us, since the central tenant of Canada’s foreign policy is human rights and the issue of freedom of expression and spiritual practice is important to Canadians, how we can best assist you in accelerating that, given that by 2007 the railway to Lhasa will be completed and will accelerate the assimilation of the people of Tibet?
Ms. Leung: Your Holiness, as a Canadian MP of Chinese descent, I warmly welcome you. I wonder if we can have an international mediator to negotiate, to bring Tibet and China together to seek a peaceful resolution?
In the past, China and Taiwan had a negotiation. A team from China represented China and a team from Taiwan represent Taiwan. They have tried to negotiate a peaceful solution. It failed, but this is another example.
Which do you think is more feasible — the international negotiator team or the second example that I proposed?
Mr. Patry (Joint Chairman): Your Holiness, you have been asked several questions. It is now your time to speak.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Actually, since the 17-point agreement was reached, there is direct contact with the Chinese government. There has been no third-party involvement. Since 1979, we developed direct contact. We always tried to talk directly. Recently, direct contact was renewed. We always pursue directly. However, a third party can help to materialize that meaningful dialogue.
With respect to arms, I believe that I have already mentioned that eventually our goal should be demilitarize the world, step-by-step. It is better not to spend a lot of money for armament in space.
On the political approach, the problems that we are passing through mainly in Tibet are not natural disasters, but are due to the central government's policy. Hence, we need a political solution. Our approach is direct contact. We are not thinking about the involvement of the United Nations. Of course, in the early 1960s, the Tibet issue was raised at the United Nations, and three resolutions were passed. However, the situation at that time as compared to today is different. Now, we are mainly focusing on direct contact.
Concerning the Taiwan issue and the Tibet issue, when our delegation — I think the second or third delegation — visited Peking in the early 1980s, in response to a Chinese high official our side mentioned that we have more right to demand certain rights than Taiwan, because we felt we have a different culture, including a different language — these things.
The response from the Chinese high official was that there are big differences. The official said that Taiwan is not yet liberated, that Tibet is already liberated, and so Taiwan has more rights to demand more. Then, what I mentioned is that Tibet is easier comparatively. There are many complications there. Recently, as a result of the vote, I think the attitude of the population in Taiwan seems to be becoming more hardened, so these are very complicated things.
Now that Tibet is already was liberated, in their own hands, the only thing is how to give the Tibetan people deeper satisfaction. It is much easier. Your question is answered, I think.
Mr. Patry (Joint Chairman): Thank you, Your Holiness.
Senator Di Nino (Joint Chairman): Your Holiness, first of all, we extend our thanks for your gracious acceptance of our invitation for you to address a joint session of both houses and Foreign Affairs committees.
We certainly extend warm wishes to you in your difficult task of trying to find a solution to both a longstanding and a rather difficult problem as well to solve. I am sure I can speak for the majority of parliamentarians when I say that we extend to you our hand in friendship and our wishes for cooperation. To the degree that we are able to assist, I think most parliamentarians will be there to assist you in your struggle. Thank you for attending here.
The committee adjourned.