Lobsang Sangay—the prime minister of the Central Tibetan Administration—expressed his hope for a dialogue for peace between Tibet and China in a lecture on Tuesday in the Tsai Auditorium.
Sangay, a Harvard Law School graduate, explained that the Tibetan government-in-exile is pushing for a resolution through the establishment of an administrative mechanism to unite all Tibetans under one government, rather than a territorial demarcation.
Cooperation between China and Tibet is not impossible, Sangay emphasized.
“Historically, Chinese and Tibetans have lived peacefully side by side,” he said. “Dialogue is the way to resolve the issue of Tibet. These are difficult issues and you have to use terms that are not to the liking of both sides.”
Sangay criticized the “hard-lined policy” of the Chinese government. Walking the streets of Lhasa, he recalled talking to villagers who told him that “every 20 meters, there is a checkpoint. Even buying a vegetable or going to market is cumbersome and difficult. There are more military personnel here than monks.”
To questioning from the audience that Chinese occupation has improved the life of many Tibetans, Sangay responded, “Just because you have solar power, water, and toilets, should you exchange that for freedom? That is the fundamental question?”
The discussion about a Tibetan dialogue comes in the wake of numerous self-immolations of Tibetans in recent years. Sangay highlighted the Central Tibetan Administration’s stance on these actions. “We do not encourage any protests inside Tibet because of harsh consequences. Someone protests, you get arrested, sometimes you disappear. But once it takes place it becomes our sacred duty to support the aspiration and share with the world what happened,” he said.
He maintained that this question of global image ensures that it is in China’s best interests to reach an agreement.
“Many people look at China as the next superpower, rising power. China is spending millions on soft power, and Chinese people generally like to be seen as good human beings,” Sangay said. “But what’s happening in Tibet negates all that. If China wants respect from the rest of the world, and wants to be seen as a peaceful power, they must show it in Tibet.”
The Tibetan prime minister remains hopeful that a peaceful resolution is in the works. He concluded his lecture, saying, “it is a difficult issue, but it can be solved and we will solve it.”
The lecture attracted an international audience, including representatives from both sides of the issue.
Alan Ma, who is visiting Cambridge from China, said he came to the event because he was interested in hearing a different perspective on the issue.
“The Chinese government shows things in a different light than the American government. I want to understand the difference between them, things which we Chinese might misunderstand about the situation.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: Oct. 10
An earlier version of this article misquoted Central Tibetan Administration Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay. He said that China was “spending millions on soft power,” not on solar power.