Free Tibet! Asia-Pacific Forum
Tokyo, 2-4 July 2008
Report by Michael Organ, Australia
On 23 June 2008, as a former member of the Australian Parliament (Member for Cunningham, Australian Greens, 2002-2004) and supporter of Tibet, I was invited to attend the Free Tibet! Asia-Pacific Forum to be held in Tokyo the following week (2–3 July 2008). A report on the Forum is presented below. It was a great honour and privilege to attend the Asia-Pacific Forum and continue my work supporting the Tibetan people in their fight for freedom from Chinese oppression. Free Tibet!
The Free Tibet! Asia-Pacific Forum
Messsage from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 30 June 2008
I am happy to learn that a meeting of the Save Tibet Asia Pacific Forum is being held in Tokyo from 1st to 3rd July with representatives of Tibet Support Groups, including Parliamentarians from Australia, Taiwan and Japan attending the Forum.
Tibet today is passing through a very critical period with the very survival of the Tibetan people at stake. The situation in Tibet continues to be grim. The recent demonstrations and protests throughout Tibet are a clear manifestation of the Tibetan people's deep-rooted dissatisfaction over the situation prevailing across the Tibetan plateau. China's current unremitting efforts to assimilate Tibet are eroding the Tibetan people's distinct cultural and spiritual heritage. For this reason it is important for the international community to speak up on behalf of the Tibetan people.
On our part, we remain committed to resolving the issue of Tibet through dialogue and discussion in finding a mutually acceptable solution, that is, within the constitution of the People's Republic of China. During my meetings with representatives from the Chinese media as well as at a gathering of members of the Chinese community in Australia recently, I also assured them that we are neither anti-China nor anti-Chinese and we have great admiration for China and its people. It is extremely important that we reach out to the Chinese brothers and sisters, wherever possible.
Incidentally, the seventh round of formal discussions between my envoys and the representatives of the Chinese leadership are taking place in China at the same time as this conference of yours. This latest meeting has come at a crucial time. I hope this seventh round of talks will continue in making some marked improvement in our discussions
I am happy to learn that Mrs. Kesang Y. Takla, the Kalon for our Department of Information and International Relations, is the main speaker at this conference. She will provide you with more details of our efforts to resolve the Tibet issue with the Chinese side.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the organizers of the Save Tibet Asia-Pacific Forum and the participants for their unstinted support in our nonviolent struggle for freedom and justice. As I have said time and time again, we treasure your valuable support, especially coming as it does from the Asia Pacific region. I also take this opportunity to wish you every success in your deliberations.
With prayers and good wishes
Tenzin Gyatso, 30 June 2008
Day 1 - Presentations by Delegates
The Forum was held at the Gakushi Kaikan hotel main conference hall in Tokyo. In attendance were politicians and former politicians from Australia, Taiwan and Japan, academics, Tibetans, representatives of the Mongolian and Urghar people, and Madame Kesang Yangkyi Takla, the Tibetan Minister for Foreign Affairs. The chairman of the forum was Mr. Seishu Makino, a long-time supporter of Tibet, former Japanese member of parliament and chairman of the Save Tibet Network, Japan. Mr. Makino’s friendliness, enthusiasm, professional manner and obvious deep commitment to the Tibetan cause was a feature of the Forum. The various speakers included the following, though this is not a definitive list:
• Inaugural address by Mr. Seishu Makino, Chairperson, Save Tibet Network Japan
All of the Australian delegates were given the opportunity to speak. This included the Hon. Peter Slipper MP, federal member for Fisher, Paul Bourke, CEO of the Australia Tibet Council, myself, and Tenzin Phuntsok Atisha, Australian representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Peter’s talk focussed on the political aspects of the Tibet issue, Paul’s outlined the various activist campaigns, my own highlighted the environmental imortance of Tibet, and Atisha provided a personal account of his part in a delegation which visited Tibet during the 1980s. Our talks took place during the course of the day and were interspersed among those from Japanese and Chinese speakers, young and old.
The hall the forum was held in was three quarters filled with a good crowd, media, translation booth and assorted paraphernalia. Translation services were in place to cover the languages spoken at the conference – Japanese, English and Chinese (Taiwan). The instantaneous translations into English were very good, allowing us to follow the general thrust of all the speeches. Some speeches – including those from the Taiwanese – were broken as a result of the need to translate first from Chinese into Japanese, and then from the Japanese instantaneously into the English.
The speakers covered the main topics of concern regarding Tibet – the uprising and crackdowns since March 2008, with hundreds killed and thousands imprisoned, along with issues such as the environment, the Olympics and the heightened interest in things Tibetan by the Japanese. The recent, unprecedented public pro-Tibet protests in Japan were noted and applauded. The conference was attended by a good mix of older people, especially politicians, and younger people who had recently been involved in the public protests. One of those young people gave an impassioned speech at the end of the first day of the conference, in contrast to the more measured tones of the previous speeches by the politicians.
The day was interspersed with lunch at the Chinese restaurant inside the hotel containing the conference venue, and then a dinner in a stately room adjacent to the conference hall. During the evening dinner Madame Takla spoke, as did the local Tibetan representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mr. Lhakpa Tshoko. The dinner was good in that it gave us Australians time to talk with some of the local Save Tibet Network supporters and get their views on a whole range of issues, including of course the Tibet situation.
Day 2 – Forum Resolution and Press Conference
On day 2 of the Forum we adjourned to a smallish room at the conference venue where we were all seated at a long table, with Tibetans, Japanese, Taiwanese and Australians together in their respective groups. Our job was to work on the Forum resolution, and in this we were able to be active participants – liaising with all the other parties, but bringing our language and editing expertise to the task of fine tuning the resolution and getting it into a strong, English language form that the Japanese could then make use of. This process went on until 12.30 and was quite enjoyable, as we went over each line, adding and deleting material, seeking consensus and getting it just right. Following adoption of the resolution, there was an hour break for lunch, then at 1.30pm a press conference was held which ran on until about 2.30pm. The following is a press report on the Forum outcome, including the final resolution:
Save Tibet Asia Pacific Forum Draws Resolution on Tibet
Parliamentarians, scholars and supporters of Tibet from Australia, Taiwan and Japan who attended Save Tibet Asia Pacific Forum yesterday at Gakkushi Kaikan hall in Yurakucho, Tokyo drew a resolution this morning based on their deliberation and discussion on Tibet issue yesterday. Kalon Kesang Yangkyi Takla, Minister for Information & International Relations of Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala was the chief speaker during the Forum. The resolution called upon the world G-8 leaders who are scheduled to meet on 7th and 8th in Hokkaido, Japan for Toyako summit to address Tibet issue during the summit. Save Tibet Asia Pacific Forum was organized by Save Tibet Network Japan, represented by Mr. Seishu Makino, former Japanese Member of Parliament.
The resolution was drafted and discussed among the delegates and unanimously finalized at 12 pm today as follows.
Resolution of the Save Tibet: Asia-Pacific Forum
Given the current critical situation in Tibet, present and past parliamentarians, Tibet Support Groups and supporters from Australia, Taiwan and Japan attended a forum immediately prior to the G8 summit to appeal to world leaders to use their influence to address the Tibetan issue as a matter of urgency. [Note: Tibet in this document refers to the whole of Tibet, comprising the provinces of Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang.]
The Asia-Pacific Forum, organised by Save Tibet Network Japan*, was held in Tokyo from 1-3 July 2008. Participants recognised the dramatic increase of concern and support for Tibet throughout the world resulting from the recent tragic events in Tibet. Â The Forum condemns the on-going violations of human rights in Tibet, including arbitrary arrests, repression and the campaign of so-called "patriotic education" in occupied Tibet.
The Forum commends the Tibetan people for responding to the call by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to reject violence, despite the violence and suffering inflicted on them by the Chinese authorities.
The Forum fully recognises His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile to be the legitimate representatives of the Tibetan People.
The Forum fully supports the Middle Way Policy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the re-opening of official contact between Representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Government of the People's Republic of China to discuss the peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue.
The Forum notes that many of the leaders attending the G8 Summit at Toyako, Japan, including President George Bush, President Nicholas Sarkozy, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda have individually made strong statements of support for the Tibet-China dialogue.
The Forum urges these leaders to jointly re-affirm their support for the dialogue process and calls upon them to urge President Hu Jintao to elevate the dialogue to the level of formal, results-oriented negotiations leading to genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people as soon as possible.
The Forum urgently calls on the Chinese leadership to:
a) Cease the arbitrary arrest and detention of Tibetans and immediately release all those imprisoned for peacefully exercising their basic human right to free expression
b) Allow the United Nations, foreign journalists and other media, diplomats and independent international fact-finding delegations unrestricted access to Tibet
c) Immediately cease the so-called "patriotic education" campaign which has been re-introduced across Tibet
d) Respect the rights of the Tibetan people to engage freely in cultural and religious practices
e) Cease the facilitation of migration by Han Chinese and other non-Tibetans into Tibet
f) Stop the reckless exploitation of Tibetan natural resources which is endangering Tibet's fragile eco-systems and impacting on neighbouring countries
g) Transform the Tibet-China dialogue from mere token discussions to transparent, agenda-driven negotiations with the aim of achieving genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people and bringing harmony to both Tibet and China.
Tokyo 3 July 2008
Forum Press Release - 3 July 2008
At 13:30 hrs Kalon Kesang Y Takla along with the other delegates from Australia, Taiwan and Japan gave a press conference concerning the Forum and the resolution. The resolutions drafted in English and Japanese was distributed and read before the press. Kalon Kesang Y Takla thanked the Asia Pacific Forum organizers, and informed the press that she had a good opportunity to participate in the Forum`s discussion on Tibet issue and that the deliberations have been very fruitful and vibrant. She spoke on the critical nature of the Tibetan struggle for peace and justice. She concluded here remarks with a hope that the G-8 leaders will take the Forum`s resolution seriously and adopt appropriate action to urge China to resolve the Tibet issue at the earliest convenience. Mr. Makino, organizer of the Forum said, "The G-8 summit is very important; we have seen good numbers of agendas to be discussed during the summit. But despite the brutal crackdown in Tibet and gross human rights violations taking place in the region, the Tibet is issue not on the agenda. We want to appeal to the G-8 leaders to raise the Tibet issue and to bring peace and stability in Asia, and for that matter in the world." He said the resolution will be handed over to the offices of the Japanese Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister tomorrow by Mr. Edano Yukio, President of the Japanese Parliamentarian Group for Tibet. Through the office of the Japanese Foreign Minister the resolution will be passed to the leaders of G-8 nations. He further added that the Save Tibet Network will follow up the matter to see that this resolution makes its proper impact during the G-8 summit in Hokkaido. After attending to the questions from the press, Kalon Kesang Yangkyi Takla and the delegates left the venue, marking the successful conclusion of Save Tibet Asia Pacific Forum, Tokyo.
Following completion of the media conference around 2.30pm, a few photographs were taken of delegates, helpers and organisers, at which point the Forum was officially over.
Having spoken to a number of Japanese at the Forum, including some of the young activists who had approached me seeking advice and support, I came away with the impression that within Japan there existed a real fear of China, and for good reason. China had been arming itself to an incredible degree over the previous decade, and the Japanese - who had no military forces to speak of - were very much aware of this. Some felt their nation was vulnerable and defenceless, and this even came from individuals who were pacifist by nature.
There is no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party is one of the most brutal and oppressive regimes on the planet - evil is a word commonly used - and its treatment of the Tibtetans since 1949 and more recently in March 2008 was clear evidence of this, as are the constant threats to Japan's near neighbour Taiwan. It had been hoped that the Beijing Olympics would have resulted in an easing of the oppresion within China and a move towards more demoocratic freedoms, but the reverse has occurred. China's actions in recent times clearly displayed to the Japanese, and to the world at large, a hatred of freedom of expression and the democratic process. In addition, some Japanese felt that if China were to continue down its present path, then the invasion of Taiwan and Japan was inevitable. This fear was heightened in March 2008 when Japanese television channels, in many instances for the first time, showed images of the brutal repression of the Tibetans by the Chinese - more than 200 protestors were killed and over were 5000 imprisioned, with torture a common occurrence for those in custody.
As a result of the March 20008 events, the Japanese reacted with a public show of support for Tibet by unprecedented public protests involving thousands of people. The Japanese also stood up to the Chinese thugs who accompanied the Olympic torch relay when it visited Japan. The Japanese, like so many other democratic and freedom loving peoples around the world, are hoping and praying that the Chinese Communist Party falls and that the brutality, torture and oppression imposed upon the cititzens of China, Tibet and Mongolia ceases and that peace comes to the region. Their support for the Tibetans is therefore also a cry for peace for all the people of Asia.
For us Australians, physically isolated from Asia, these fears may appear foreign. However Australia is part of Asia, and we only have to look back to World War II when there was a real threat of invasion by Japan to understand some of the concerns raised at the conference. Australians can empathise with the Japanese, with the Taiwanese, with the Tibetans and the Mongolians, as we contemplate the thought of being made second class citizens in our own country, of loosing our independence, of loosing our freedom, our basic democratic and human rights, and our soverignty. Of course the British invasion of Australia in 1788 inflicted untold pain upon the local Aboriginal people, and to this day Australia as a nation is trying to come to terms with this and right the wrongs. We all therefore have a role to play in fighting for freedom and justice, both home and abroad. Free Tibet!
Michael Organ, 10 July 2008
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