The president of the Tibetan government-in-exile called on the Australian government to lobby for full Tibetan autonomy in China.
Dr Lobsang Sangay is set to make a speech at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday on the back of a Sydney Opera House talk on Saturday.
Speaking to Fairfax Media, Mr Sangay called for the Chinese government to embrace the ‘Middle Way’ approach, allowing Tibetan people to vote for their representatives in China.
“If the Chinese government ends the oppression and gives genuine autonomy as per Chinese laws, then we will not seek separation from China,” Mr Sangay said.
“We welcome the support and appeal to the Australian government.”
Mr Sangay said no Australian government officials had offered to meet him while he was in the country.
Officially, Tibet is a province of China headed by a Communist Party-appointed administrator.
“He is a Chinese person ruling over Tibetan people and I am a Tibetan who has the mandate of the Tibetan people,” Mr Sangay said.
Tibet’s famous Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, announced in 2011 he wished to hand his political functions to an elected official.
”So the Tibetan movement will be taken forward by the Tibetan people and not be dependent on a single person,” Mr Sangay said.
Exiled Tibetans have twice voted Mr Sangay as sikyong–or president–of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration.
Mr Sangay said the Australian government feared to formally recognise his position out of fear of upsetting China, one of the nation’s leading trading partners.
“That’s why we say it’s a double standard, the exile status is not the reason but who you are dealing with is the reason,” he said.
Mr Sangay pointed to the international community’s embrace of the exiled Syrian government as contradictory despite his government’s embrace of non-violence.
“We use non-violence as a means and dialogue as a process,” he said.
Mr Sangay added that heavy industrialisation of the Tibetan plateau due to an influx of Chinese migrants and Chinese state-sponsored mining in the region was damaging the local environment.
The degradation is endangering the “water tower of Asia” for 1.4 billion people who rely on water flowing from the plateau.
“The first casualty will be China and the Chinese people,” Mr Sangay said.
Mr Sangay himself has never been to Tibet. His father fled Tibet at the same time as the Dalai Lama in 1959. Mr Sangay was born in a refugee camp in India in 1968.
Ultimately, Mr Sangay hoped to see the Dalai Lama return to his “rightful place” in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital and he thanked Australians for their support.
“Continue to be with us for this march of justice, which will be resolved sooner than later.”
By Finbar O’Mallon
Sydney Morning Herald