Ottawa, 29 January 2013: The Vice President of Tibetan Youth Congress Dhondup Lhadar testified in front of a panel of 15 members of parliament in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Canada. The prestigious opportunity to testify in front of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the House of Commons of the Canadian Parliament had arisen out of a lobbying effort in Ottawa on 10 December 2012 on International Human Rights Day during the visit of the Vice President and General Secretary to Toronto organised by RTYC Toronto. In their invitation they had specified that members would be particularly interested in the issue of self-immolations, including any recommendations we may have for Canadian action that could contribute to reducing or ending the recent wave of self-immolations.
The hearing lasted about an hour and 15 minutes during which time the translated testimony of Dhondup Lhadar was read out followed by an individual testimony of Tsewang Dhondup and the floor opened to Q&A session. Questions revolved around the issue of self-immolation and TYC’s position, asks and what it believes the Canadian government should do.
Responding to the first question on why Tibetans are self-immolating VP Dhondup Lhadar said that there are mainly two reasons behind the self-immolations. “One is the absolute rejection by the Tibetan people of the occupation of Tibet by China and secondly to protest against the systematic and malicious attempts to slander our leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and eradicate Tibetan culture and race and destroy Tibet’s environment as a result of this occupation.”
In a positive statement on the self-immolations MP David Sweet (Conservative Party of Canada, CPC) stated that, “I just wanted to be clear that the decisions that are made by the immolators are their own and is not because of some pressure that they are receiving from some other outside group. I just wanted to make sure that was on the record and I believe that’s the answer we get from the witnesses.”
Another important question was on what the government of Canada do to resolve the current situation inside Tibet. Mr. Dhondup Lhadar responded by stating that our foremost appeal to the Canadian government and the Parliament is to pay attention to the testaments of the more than ninety-nine self-immolators in order to understand their real aspirations and investigate the actual situation inside Tibet. To this effect it must make efforts to send independent investigation team inside Tibet as well as international media and within the Canadian Parliament to pass a resolution and make a statement on the current situation inside Tibet and pressure the government of China to make sincere efforts to bring about positive changes for Tibet.
Just before wrapping up, Dhondup Lhadar was once again offered the opportunity to address the panel. In conclusion he said that China’s heavy handed response to self-immolations have prompted Tibetans to resort to other ways of sacrificing their lives such as consumption of poison or jumping into rivers. “This clearly substantiates the fact that Tibetans in Tibet today do not even have the right and freedom to choose the way they want to sacrifice their lives for their country through self-immolations. This obstruction to their basic freedom of choice clearly shows the epoch of darkness cast over the universal fundamental human rights and freedom and in order to dispel this darkness Tibetans inside Tibet are urging the leaders and politicians of the free world to take action and this is an appeal I would also like to make on behalf of the six million Tibetans.
MP Wayne Marston from New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee concluded the hearing by expressing that gratitude for bringing before the committee the testimonies and said that this committee is “Ceased with concern for what is happening inside Tibet and I want to assure you that members present from all parties are very concerned and troubled by what we hear. And your testimony is an important part of our study looking into this. If you have anything to add that you haven’t given us today be sure to send it to the clerk.”
The meeting was joined by members of RTYC Toronto and RTYCNY/NJ.
This is the first time a Tibetan Youth Congress Central Executive member has been accorded the opportunity to testify in the Canadian House of Commons. Proceedings of the hearing can be viewed by clicking this link