As the co-chair of the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Tibet, I am passionate about helping the Tibetan community seek the justice and freedom they so rightly deserve. The issue of access highlighted by the motion is one that is ongoing.
A visit to the Tibet Autonomous Region by a delegation of Australian parliamentarians would certainly not be unprecedented. Representatives from other governments including Britain, New Zealand, the USA and Canada have visited the TAR since the very gradual opening up of access in 2012, albeit in highly controlled circumstances.
A visit would provide us with an opportunity to make informed comments on the plight of the Tibetan people. I note that the visit in 2015 by the US delegation came about after US House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, raised concerns about democracy and human rights with the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, during a visit to the US. He said at the time, 'Come and see for yourself,' and she considered that an invitation. This is very similar to what happened here.
Back in 2014 in this place I took the opportunity of raising concerns about human rights and the environmental situation in Tibet with a visiting representative from the Chinese government. He challenged my information by asking as to whether or not I had visited Tibet and, on hearing that I had not, he suggested that I should.
That was three years ago and, since then, the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Tibet has been endeavouring to accept that invitation. There has been a request supported by our foreign affairs minister, and numerous letters to and from as we continue to reach out to the Chinese government requesting that they honour their invitation but, unfortunately, to date it has been fruitless.
In the meantime we continue our advocacy within Australia. On 8 August this year my co-chair, the member for Melbourne Ports, and I will have the honour of hosting Dr Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration. Dr Sangay's academic record is certainly impressive.
In 2004 he became the first Tibetan to receive a degree from Harvard Law School, and he is now considered an expert on international human rights law, democratic constitutionalism and conflict resolution. He has spoken at hundreds of seminars around the world and, in 2007, he was selected as one of the 24 young leaders of Asia and as a delegate for the World Justice Forum in Vienna.
In 2011 he was elected to the post of Kalon Tripa and, in 2016, was re-elected as the Sikyong, president of the Central Tibetan Administration, for the second time. During Dr Sangay's visit we will endeavour for him to meet with relevant senior Australian government representatives to arrange a function so that members can meet the delegation and hear the stories of Tibet first hand.
The Tibetan community is also approaching Australian universities to try to educate people on what they continue to experience in exile. It is important to note that the middle-way approach taken by His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not seek independence for Tibet, but rather genuine autonomy within the framework of the People's Republic of China.
This vision is articulated in the Memorandum of Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People which was presented to the Chinese government in 2008. Unfortunately, meaningful dialogue between the Dalai Lama and his representatives with Chinese authorities has been absent, so this policy has not progressed. The stalemate does nothing to lower tensions or resolve differences, and it is extremely disappointing that the Chinese government has continually refused to participate.
In closing, I would like to strongly encourage my colleagues in this place to recognise that this issue is a priority for the global stage, and one that is of high profile in parliaments such as those of the United States and Canada.
Here in Australia, however, our friendship group struggles to get engagement from colleagues, and it saddens me to assume that this is the result of Chinese influence in so many aspects of our economic and political life.
The Tibetan resistance will only go away when China has once and for all extinguished their religious freedoms, devastated their cultural heritage and destroyed their unique environment.
As a country that has played an active role in ensuring freedom and democracy prevails in all global conflicts, we cannot sit back and allow this to happen. I strongly support this motion.