By Tsering Choephel
DHARAMSALA, 31 Jan: The recent visit of Penpa Tsering, the Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government in exile, to the Estonian Parliament drew rebuke from the Chinese Embassy. China’s statement, issued on 26 January on their website, expressed strong opposition to the Estonian Parliament for hosting a hearing on the ‘Legal Status of Tibet’ on 25 January, where Sikyong was one of the key speakers.
Chaired by Estonian Member of Parliament Juku-Kalle, approximately 35 parliamentarians, journalists, academics, and Tibet supporters were in attendance at the hearing, as reported on CTA’s website, tibet.net.
In their statement, China reiterated their official view, stating, “The so-called ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’ is an out-and-out separatist political group and an illegal organisation in total violation of China’s Constitution and laws.” They also denounced “any form of contact between any country and this organization for any reason.”
Furthermore, the statement urged Estonian parties to “respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, not to meddle in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Tibet-related issues, and prevent disruption to the healthy development of China-Estonia relations.”
China’s strong objection to the visit is unsurprising. The title of the hearing, ‘Legal Status of Tibet,’ challenges the Chinese government’s historical as well as current narratives of the occupied country of Tibet.
According to the report, Sikyong Tsering spoke about the historical context of the Tibetan narrative, the Middle-Way Approach, and the importance of correcting historical facts regarding Tibet’s independence before its invasion by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The Middle-Way Approach, a solution to the Tibet issue conceived by the Dalai Lama and adopted unanimously as a policy by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, is the official policy of the CTA. It does not seek independence but genuine autonomy within the framework of the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
As stated often in his speeches, Sikyong stressed the significance of highlighting the historical fact of Tibet’s independence despite the CTA’s current middle-way policy to counter China’s forceful distortion of history through maligned policies and propaganda.
Professor Hon-Shiang Lau, a former professor at the City University of Hong Kong and a research scholar of Chinese history, was also one of the speakers. In his talk, Lau delved into Chinese Imperial records from the Ming and Qing periods and presented clear evidence that they “never recorded Tibet as part of China,” says the report.
Dr Michael van Walt van Praag’s talk highlighted Tibet’s independence from a legal perspective. The lack of legality in China’s claim of Tibet as part of it, therefore, he says, explains why China has to buy the legitimacy of its occupation of Tibet from its trading partners’ government to declare ‘Tibet as an internal issue of China’. Michael, a Dutch legal expert, had previously worked as a legal adviser to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile in formulating the Middle-Way Approach.
Estonia, a member state of the United Nations, was among the 20 nations that raised human rights violations inside Tibet during the recently held 2024 Universal Periodic Review of China’s human rights records.
Sikyong Tsering is currently in the midst of his official tour covering the three Baltic States, Finland, the UK, Belgium, and South India from 22 January to 18 February. He is due to visit the United Kingdom in the next few days, where he is invited to speak at the Warwick Economics Summit (WES) annual event.