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Tibetan Sikyong (or Prime Minister) Lobsang Sangay expresses concern over China’s hardline policies against Tibet. New Delhi, India, 27th November 2012. (Simon de Trey-White/S de Trey-White)
Tibetan Sikyong (or Prime Minister) Lobsang Sangay expresses concern over China’s hardline policies against Tibet. New Delhi, India, 27th November 2012. (Simon de Trey-White/S de Trey-White)

Tibetan leader holds hope China can learn from Canada Add to ...

Q. Have you had much interaction with the government of Canada?

I met with [Citizenship and Immigration Minister] Jason Kenney. … Also I was at a reception and the groups in that room was amazing, there were Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Indians and Tibetans – and he spoke about all of them, in one room – I thought, only in Canada is this possible! Everywhere where you talk to Tibetans, you don’t mention Chinese; you talk to Chinese, you don’t mention Taiwan … and there he was, ‘this is our policy on China, it’s good for you’, round of applause, ‘we’ve done this on Taiwan, it’s good for you,’ and ‘I’d like to recognize my good friends from Tibet’ … The fact that he could bring all these groups in one room and make them all applaud for each other when right outside the room they’d be on different sides of the protest groups … He says all the right things, and he says them to everyone.

Q. His government has refocused its foreign policy away from human rights to trade and economic interests – if you see Mr. Kenney again, or you do meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would you have anything to say about that?

A. I don’t know the details, but we believe that economic rights are important but human rights are equally important – Amartya Sen’s argument: What’s the use of having economic growth without human growth? Human rights are good for economies, and in that sense protecting them should all the more be at par with economic rights.

Q. What will you do, if the Dalai Lama is to pass away and Beijing announces that they have found his successor and installed him?

A. First of all that’s premature because His Holiness is very healthy, he travels constantly and he has more stamina than people in their 30s and 40s. On this question, he issued a statement in September 2011 when all the top religious leaders came; there are three ways [in which a new Dalai Lama can be named]: reincarnation, he passes away, is reborn. Selection, where the top Buddhist leaders will come and select, like with the Pope. And emanation, where he could designate his own successor before he passes away. So these three options are on the table. But whatever it is, it doesn’t matter what Beijing does, in the sense that faith is a matter of heart and mind, you simply can’t buy it and impose it on people, you can’t say ‘this is the boy you should believe in from tomorrow on, follow him and you will get spiritual blessing’ … Also His Holiness himself said Beijing will have no credibility because if they are serious about reincarnation first they should find the reincarnation of Mao Tsetung, Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping – because they have contributed a lot more to China …

Q. But does it potentially pose a risk to the influence of your government – Tibetans inside Tibet are denied access to information about you, and they would be being told this was the new Dalai Lama.

A. The question is always, Who will believe? Even today after 50 years of occupation, the Chinese government has thrown in so much money, so much propaganda to the Tibetan people inside Tibet. These people who are protesting grew up completely under the Chinese system – they are protesting now, meaning there is something fundamentally wrong … Our spirit is as old as the Chinese, and just because they tell something us does not mean we will subscribe to it. In fact we will not. And the basis of our agreement has to be voluntary and mutual in nature.

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