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Interview: TYC on Tibet's upcoming elections

With 35,000 members, the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) is the largest NGO of the exile Tibetan community. DW's Adrienne Woltersdorf interviewed its vice president, Dhondup Lhadar.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama decided to quit politics

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama decided to quit politics

Deutsche Welle: The upcoming elections on March 20 will be the most important elections ever for Tibetans in exile. But what will the elections change?

Dhondup Lhadar: These elections are very important for us Tibetans. His Holiness is getting older and the situation in Tibet is getting worse. We will be voting for the future of Tibet.

You are the head of the largest Tibetan NGO. World wide, the Tibetan Youth Congress has approximately 35,000 members, most of whom are young Tibetans who are participating in elections for the first time. Did you expect this amount of participation?

We have been preparing for these elections since 2007. I have been head of the Youth Congress for five years now and have visited over 40 Tibetan dispora communities in India. I have been talking about the importance of the 2011 parliamentary elections for years.

What do you think of the Dalai Lama’s decision to resign as a political leader?

We have a clearly defined position on that, which we have made known to the Dalai Lama a while ago. We believe that the scope of the Dalai Lama’s political actions has been relatively limited since 2001, when we Tibetans democratically elected our prime minister. But the Dalai Lama’s resignation does not mean he will give up the fight for Tibet’s freedom. His Holiness can resign from politics, but not from our cause.

What do you expect for the future?

We expect to be represented by none other than democratically elected leaders from now on. The Dalai Lama was never elected.

You are probably aware that Western leaders will have a difficult time meeting with a Tibetan prime minister in exile out of fear of affronting China?

It is not important to us who the international community recognizes and who it doesn’t recognize. For us it is important who we recognize as our leader. You see, the Egyptian people demonstrated against their leader, Mubarak. Although the US government had tried to keep him in office, the Egyptians ended up getting him out. And in the end, the US government had to accept the decision of the Egyptian people. And it must be said that the Egyptians were able to reach their goal within a very short time.

The incumbent Tibetan government in exile is convinced that only few Tibetans really want independence from China and that most support the Dalai Lama’s demands for autonomy. Are you of the same opinion?

No. 90 percent of Tibetans want independence. They are even willing to give their lives for that, as we saw in the protests of 2008. All of the demonstrators were demanding independence. But it is also true that around 90 percent of Tibetans in exile support the Middle Way Approach – which strives for Tibet as an autonomous region in China. But what they support is not the politics of any approach, but it is the Dalai Lama, who chose the Middle Way.

Do you believe the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way Approach has failed?

Yes, I do believe so. We have been taking that path for 30 years but we have not seen it bring us any success. His Holiness has repeatedly said himself that talks with Beijing have been fruitless.

Would you rather stop the dialogues?

If you look at the situation the Tibetans have in Tibet and the stubbornness of the government in Beijing and our approach, I believe any further attempt to create a meaningful dialogue would be pointless.

What do you have if not dialogue with Beijing?

I respect dialogue. During times of crisis, it is always the best approach. But it should be held on the solid foundation of history. In the past, Tibet was independent. Thus future dialogue must aim for independence.

Can you really imagine a future Dalai Lama calling out for war against China? Is there really any alternative to the Middle Way?

We hope desperately that His Holiness will be able to return to Tibet before his death. If he must die in exile, then his Middle Way Approach will die with him. Author: Adrienne Woltersdorf (sb)
Editor: Shamil Shams

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