Good evening. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak here today.
It is a very auspicious occasion, the 24th anniversary of the day on which the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize 10th December 1989.
The messages he advocated during his acceptance speech that day messages of tolerance, mutual respect, equality and trust are as relevant now as they were then.
It is saddening and disappointing however that China’s “calculated and systematic strategy aimed at the destruction of Tibet’s national and cultural identities” is also as relevant now as it was then.
Search ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Tibet’ on Google and there is a myriad of information about the continuing and rapidly deteriorating situation, and China’s clampdown and failed policies.
The sad irony is that people in Tibet do not have access to freedom of information and indeed cannot protest or openly speak at all about what is happening to them.
Here in Australia it is hard for us to imagine this level of control by a hostile government.
– Not being able to demonstrate peacefully without heavy-handed military crackdowns.
– Not being able to have a picture of the Dalai Lama for fear of torture and imprisonment.
– Not being able to disseminate information due to TV, radio and the internet being subject to strict monitoring and censorship.
Just last Tuesday, December 3rd, a young married father of two, Kunchok Tseten, set fire to himself in an act of protest against China’s rule.
In doing so he joined at least 120 other Tibetans who have chosen to take this extreme path.
It’s difficult to imagine the desperation of circumstances that would lead a young father to set himself alight, knowing he is about to suffer an agonising death, but with the knowledge that his death will help to keep the Tibet cause front and centre.
As we stand here tonight, it’s sobering to consider that the elements which we consider a core of our progressive society are viewed as dangerous and subversive in China.
The New York Times reported recently that China is determined to eradicate the “seven perils” that they fear are “coursing through Chinese Society”.
These include the “threats of Western Constitutional democracy”, the “promotion of universal values of human rights”, and the notions of “media independence and civic participation”.
All of which, if applied, would clearly have a profound impact on the way China engages with Tibet.
I have seen few quotes that sum up the situation as well as one from an International Tibet Network report that stated:
“After more than 60 years of occupation by China, the reality of the situation in Tibet is an increasingly tragic cycle; the more China tightens its grip, the stronger the Tibetan spirit of resistance becomes, and the more each new wave of protest provokes a brutal military, judicial and propaganda crackdown.”
I was very honoured to meet the Dalai Lama in Ontario, Canada, in April last year.
I have been working with the Australia Tibet Council for several years now and I have always been willing to support the Tibetan cause and promote better understanding where I have been able.
I know you have been very busy since the election working with supporters all over Australia to build support for Tibet in the new parliament.
I applaud the work of the Australia Tibet Council because they continue to work very hard in urging governments to adopt a new global approach on the Tibet issue.
I do recognise that change may only come about if the Governments of the world’s most prominent nations come together to influence China’s policies in Tibet.
By banding together, the Governments involved may avoid a punitive response from China, a threat which does seem to carry a great deal of weight at present.
Keep up the good work and I hope that in the not-too-distant future we will see Governments changing the way they engage with China over this critical Tibet issue.