By Daisuke Kikuchi | Japan Times
ON THE WEB, 28 February 2018
Japan and the international community should pressure China to find a peaceful solution to its long-standing conflict with Tibet, the president of the Tibetan government-in-exile told The Japan Times in a recent interview in Tokyo.
“It’s either China transforms you, or the world transforms China,” Lobsang Sangay said.
“It’s important that the international community … coordinates [its] approach on China,” said the 49-year-old leader, who was on a weeklong visit to Japan in February.
Sangay said China, which controls Tibet, is a threat to “real democracy and freedom of speech,” while noting that many Tibetans, including monks, have set themselves on fire to protest Beijing’s rule over their homeland.
When he spoke to Japanese lawmakers during the visit, Sangay expressed concern that more and more countries are shying away from the Tibet issue amid China’s increasing economic clout, as exemplified by its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build networks of trade and infrastructure in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, according to Jiji Press.
The interview with the most powerful Tibetan leader after the Dalai Lama was held on 20 February, just days before the Communist Party of China said it plans to abolish the two-term limit on the presidency [of China]. The ruling party’s proposal, announced on Sunday, paves the way for Xi Jinping, 64, to stay in office beyond the end of his second five-year term in 2023.
As China continues to insist that Tibet has always been part of its territory — while Xi further cements his grip on power — Sangay believes the next five years will be critical for his cause.
He has been travelling the world in an attempt to win support for the non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people.
“Xi Jinping is on a second term. Normally on a second term, you try to do something big, something for your legacy,” Sangay said. “That’s why it is the next five years that the international community should press China to find a peaceful solution on the issue of Tibet.”
China claims Tibet has been part of its territory since the mid-13th century, while many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of their history.
The Dalai Lama and a large number of his followers have been living in exile in India since they fled Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.
Sangay, born in a refugee camp in 1968, became the head of the Central Tibetan Administration in 2011, the same year the Dalai Lama stepped down as head of the government-in-exile. Sangay was re-elected in 2016.
The Harvard-educated leader said there is also a plan to find a successor to the Dalai Lama, who is 82. Speaking also on Tibet’s vision for the next 50 years, he said, “We must start brainstorming as to how to preserve our identity, our culture, our language, our religion.”
He said his people must also consider how to provide improved education to younger generations “so they become more sophisticated” and learn how to become effective leaders.
He said the 50-year plan also needs to address “how we make ourselves economically sustainable — in exile or inside Tibet.”
The latest visit to Japan by Sangay was his fourth as Tibetan president. He first visited Japan in 2012 and then once a year since 2016.
To deepen ties with Japan, which has the world’s largest parliamentary support group for Tibet, he said, “I promise that I will keep coming back every year.”