Fri, Jul 31, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Tibet representative plays down comments

CLEARING THE AIR Dawa Tsering said that while Tibet had experienced internal divisions in its history, it had never been occupied or ruled by a foreign country

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Tibetan government-in-exile’s representative in Taiwan, Dawa Tsering, yesterday sought to clarify his recent remarks on Tibetan history after they drew criticism.

Dawa was quoted by the Taipei Times as saying in a keynote speech at a forum on human rights issues in Tibet and Xinjiang in Taipei last Friday that Tibetans were not a unified people throughout history and that the concept of a sovereign state in the modern sense never existed in the minds of Tibetans before the Chinese invaded Tibet in the 1950s.

Because of the absence of this concept Tibetans did not resist the invasion until later, when they realized that the occupation threatened their culture, religion and property, he was quoted as saying.

“After reading the report published by the Taipei Times, some [Tibetan] readers came to believe that I meant that Tibet was not historically a unified country and that Tibetans had no sense of statehood and thus criticized my remarks,” Dawa said in a written statement yesterday. “I therefore would like to clarify it so that the false information would not be passed on or be used by people with malicious intentions.”

Besides receiving protests from Tibetans, Dawa said that officials from the Tibetan government-in-exile had also voiced their concerns.

He said in the statement that while Tibet had experienced internal divisions in its history, “it was an independent country and had never been occupied or ruled by a foreign country.”

“The concept of a sovereign country in the Western sense was not understood by Tibetans, and they were not aware that it was their responsibility to defend their own country and sovereignty,” the statement said. “Hence, when China invaded Tibet in 1950, Tibetans did not actively resist the invasion. Instead, they regarded the defense of their country as the responsibility of the Tibetan government.”

Dawa went on to say in the statement that Tibetans began to rise up against Chinese rule not only because of threats to their religion, culture and private property, but also because the Chinese Communist Party regime repressed Tibetans in all aspects — political, economical and social — in the name of “state” and “sovereignty.”

The repression, he said, “made the [Tibetan] people realize that it was their responsibility to defend the sovereignty and independence of their own country.”

“Above is what I truly meant when I discussed the relevant issues in my speech [last week],” he said.

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