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News Update-Tibet at WSSD: Round Up

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/09/12; September 12, 2002.]

12 September 2002
Pretoria (SA)/Geneva (CH)

WSSD Global People's Forum Urge UN to Acknowledge Occupation of Tibet

From 23 August to 4 September 2002, a strong Tibetan Delegation, led by Mr. Jampal Chosang, Representative of H. H. the Dalai Lama in South Africa, attended the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. As this global United Nations meeting concluded, the Global People's Forum (NGO Forum) at Nasrec, despite attempts by the Chinese authorities, recognized illegal occupation of Tibet, Palestine and Western Sahara.

In the document, Commission Reports, the NGO community noted "that amongst the many violent conflicts that cause human suffering at present in all parts of the world are the illegal occupation of Tibet, Palestine and the Western Sahara. We urge that the U. N. acknowledge these occupations as acts of violence and therefore need immediate action."

"We consider this acceptance by the NGO community as an encouraging message," said Mr. Chosang. "If foreign occupation or alien domination is considered to reflect the political realities of only one particular country situation or that of one people alone then we do not live in the realities of current century," he asserted.

The Tibetan Delegation to WSSD has engaged in various efforts to raise the crucial WSSD issues confronting Chinese-occupied Tibet today or to raise situations similar to that of our homeland. Our delegates were invited to speak at events organized by the Global People's Forum or its related parallel meetings. Ms. Tsering Yangkey, the head of Tibetan Govenrment in Exile's (TGIE) Environment and Development Desk was invited to speak at a panel discussion on "Environmental Health, Toxic Chemicals and the Rights of Peoples," on 23 August. Mr. Chosang was invited to speak in the panel on Peace and Development Commission of the Global People'ss Forum. The four monks from Nechung Monastery joined an interfaith ceremony, "Celebration of Hope" at Ubuntu Village, which was organized by the Spiritual and Religious Caucus of the NGO Forum.

The Tibetan delegation organized a panel discussion on the subject, "Foreign Occupation, Self-Determination and Sustainable Development," at which representatives from Palestine, Kurds (Turkey), Ogoni people (Nigeria), Hawaii and Tibet spoke. Similarly, a forum on "Water Without Borders, Transboundary Water & Human Security" was organized at Waterdom on 3 September. Ms. Tsering Yangchen from TGIE's Environment and Development Desk spoke on the "Tibetan Plateau: Head waters of Asia's River System" and Mr. Tashi Tsering from Tibet Justice Centre talked on the subject, "In Whose Interest? State Politics of Development & Water Management."

Another major NGO event, "The World Sustainability Hearing-Listening to the Needs of the Earth and Its Peoples" was held at St. Stithians College in Johannesburg where on 29 August, the case of Tibet were heard through the testimonies of Ven. Ngawang Rigzin of Nechung Monastery and Mr. Lafitte, an expert on Tibet.

Mr. Lafitte was also invited to speak at a daylong workshop, "Making the Links between Human Rights, Environment and Sustainable Development", organized at Nasrec on 1 September. International Campaign for Tibet was one of the 24 sponsoring organizations of this event.


Governments' Commitment on Self-determination and Foreign Occupation

As the negotiations were being conducted at the Sandton, the venue of the governmental-segment of the WSSD, Tibetan delegates earnestly followed the language governments were lobbying on human rights, health services, peace, non-violence, governance, self-determination and foreign occupation to mention a few.

Both the political declaration and the programme of action commitment adopted by governments at Johannesburg Summit made specific references on the issue of self-determination and foreign occupation. For instance in the Programme of Action commitment governments agreed to: "Take further effective measures to remove obstacles to the realization of peoples to self-determination, in particular peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation, which continue to adversely affect their economic and social development and are incompatible with the dignity and worth of the human person and must be combated and eliminated. People under foreign occupation must be protected in accordance with the provisions of international humanitarian law."

"There is the general feeling amongst NGOs that governments have retracted from the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights in the commitment made at Johannesburg but we welcome their acceptance that peoples living under foreign occupation should receive adequate attention in the WSSD process," said Ms. Norzin Dolma of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

A Difficult Summit to Cover

The whole organization of the Summit were diverted at four major venues and like other participants, it became impossible for the Tibetan Delegation to observe the developments at all four location on a daily basis. "It was particularly difficult for us to monitor what propaganda China was engaged in at all four locations or all the events they were organising," said Ms. Tsering Yangchen.

At Ubuntu Village, the main exhibit part of WSSD, the People's Republic of China, like many other governments, established a grand exhibit, "March With Time". But the section on Tibet only showed a photograph of a team of Tibetans and Chinese engineers conducting some scale on the new railway line from Gormu to Lhasa with the Potala Palace in the background. When questioned many of the Chinese at this exhibit did not really know much about Tibet but a lot of materials were being distributed on Tibet, including one colourful and expensive pamphlet titled, "Achievemens (sic) in Tibet".

Tibet in Antarctica Mission

Mr. Namgyal Tsering was another member from the Tibetan Government in Exile in the Tibetan Delegation to WSSD who had joined Mission Antarctica?s programme at the Summit at Ubuntu Village. This is his aspirations and understanding of the situation in participating at the WSSD: "I am highly touched and inspired by the Mission Antarctica, and I am praying for my opportunity to go both to the South and North poles and commit positive actions in the icy continent. Adding to this, I would like to convey the story of Mission Antarctica to my people and our host Indians, with decisive efforts involving young peoples to work for the global and local environmental issues. I want to create 'fantastic garbage' to convey environmental message by way of artistic features like compiling maze from the local rubbish so they can listen from it, "how these are encroaching our lives and the planet so near if humans are to have a future." The Antarctica Mission had brought a team of 70 people comprising of 31 different nationalities, with participants from Israel, Palestine, India, Pakistan, China and Tibet.

"I-China KuFanele Ukuluma No Tibet"(China Must Talk with Tibet)

This is the Zulu slogan members of the Tibetan delegation shouted during a 9 kms March of the Global People's Forum on 31 August which took the participants from poor Alexandria township of Johannesburg to the Sandton, the rich part of the city. Majority of the Tibetan members of our delegation participated in this March that had its share of politics when the African National Congress was accused of "hijacking" the main March of the NGO Forum. Apart from receiving good media coverage both at local and international levels, Tibetans had a memorable rapport with a group of children from Alexandria Township. The children continued to walk with us, sometimes raising the Zulu slogan for Tibet's future, until the March concluded at Sandton.

Tibet Vigil At Sandton

On 3 September, members of the Tibetan delegation with a few supporters from South Africa held a silent vigil at Sandton around the exact time when China?s Prime Minister was delivering his speech to the plenary session of the government meeting. Holding six placards, which read: "See No Tibet, Hear No Tibet, Speak No Tibet"- WSSD Gags Tibetan Voice, the vigil continued until the South African police intervened. The Tibetan vigil received a fairly good attention by diplomats, NGOs and coverage by the world media.

The Tibetan Delegation also organized a Vigil at Nasrec on August 27 with different placards and a big banner reading, "No Sustainability in Asia Without Tibet-China Dialogue".


Sand Mandala

One of the main attractions of the WSSD was the creation of the sand Mandala at Nasrec, by four accomplished monks of Nechung Monastery based in Dharamsala, India. On 4 September, hours before the NGO Forum officially concluded its work, the monks conducted the dissolution ritual ceremony of the Chenrezig Mandala at the Tibet Information Stand, "Tibet's Environment and Development". The sand was later thrown into the Zoo Lake in Johannesburg.

The Nechung monks continue to show the art of sand Mandala to the people of South Africa and are currently in Durban, the city that hosted the World Conference Against Racism last year.


"Misinformation"

This was one of the messages we got from a representative of a Chinese GONGOs at panel discussion on foreign occupation, self-determination and sustainable development that took place on 30 August at the NGO Forum. There was this Chinese man who was repeatedly trying to disrespectfully take the floor even if the chair had not called him. Finally when he was given the chance, he spoke about a lot of "misinformation" being spread in the room and people should come to Tibet to see for themselves how things were all good under China. But he and three colleagues immediately left the room when Tsering Yangkey began to respond.

At three NGO meetings, whenever Tibetans spoke for the inclusion of wordings on self-determination and peoples living under foreign occupation in the final NGO document, some of the Chinese participants always tried to silence such views. Mr. Tashi Tsering of Tibet Justice Centre spoke on this issue at one of the daily NGO briefings and when a Chinese participant tried to respond him for the second time, other participants "booed" the Chinese speaker.

During the session on governance and corruption at Nasrec, one of the panelist agreed that "China is an insult to communism" as far as governance and corruption was concerned. This time the Chinese participants were not there to respond.

"Compared to our verbal clash with the Chinese participants at the World Conference Against Racism, we had a much calmer atmosphere at WSSD. This time we had a lot of positive exchanges with the participants from China," said Mr. Tashi Wangdu from the Office of Tibet, South Africa.


"We Are Making a Difference"

This is the title of a publication distributed at the WSSD by ?China Association for NGO Corporation (CANGO) and Global Village of Beijing? but which said that the "Chinese government is committed to the principle of sustainable development...the participation of China in global sustainable development cannot be ignored."

The publication, nevertheless, has this view on the current state of environment in present-day China: "Environment deterioration and natural resources depletion in China are serious problems. Rivers, lakes and reservoirs have been heavily polluted. Two thirds of cities suffer from various degrees of underground water pollution. Most cities suffer serious air pollution, and about 30 per cent of China's land has suffered from acid rain. In addition soil erosion caused by desertification and deforestation have significantly damaged the local ecological balance."

The publication received funding by Heinrich Boell Foundation, the foundation of the Green Party in Germany. Our World in Focus

One of the side events the Tibetan delegation attended was the book launch on 30 August at Ubuntu Village by New York-based Earth Pledge Foundation called, "Our World in Focus-Moving Toward a Sustainable Future" which included an essay by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the foreword to this book, Mr. Nitin Desai, Secretary-General of the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development said: "Our World in Focus is an ambitious book that, through some striking and thought-provoking photographs and penetrating essays of renowned people, highlights the current state of humankind's relationship with the Earth and poses the question "Where do we go from here?"

In the essay titled, "Tragedy", His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote: "My personal understanding of tragedy is that of one in exile. The tragedy of my land and my people is their loss of liberty. All human beings yearn for freedom, equality, and dignity, and we all have a right to achieve them. Yet Tibetans are among those oppressed peoples who have been denied the opportunity to express and implement their right to self-determination."


"Don't Loose Hope?"

This is the message the Tibetan Delegation received at the conclusion of a Tibet Briefing at Heinrich Boell Foundation Forum at Nasrec on 1 September. At this briefing Mr. Chosang, Mr. Lafitte and Ms. Yangkey spoke about the overall situation in Tibet today. A short video about the current WSSD issues facing Tibet was screened which was produced by the Department of Information and International Relations of the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Several Chinese participants also attended the briefing although they did not intervene to repeat China's propaganda on Tibet. "With some of them we did have a good exchange of views on the current state of Tibet's environment," said Ms. Yangkey.

During the question and answer session, several speakers from Asia and Africa spoke about their support to the Tibetan cause. But one South African speaker impressed the Tibetans most when, in an emotional tone, he urged the Tibetan people not to give up.

"Don't loose hope?" he said

"I believe this is the message from Africa to the people of Tibet which we must cherish," said Mr. Chosang.

Members of the Tibetan Delegation to WSSD were:

Ngawang Rigzin, Nechung Monastery
Tenzin Phulchung
Tenzin Rabten
Tenzin Tharchin
Norzin Dolma, Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy
Thubten Norbu, Student, USA
Renato Palmi, Tibetan Society of South Africa
Lisa Sock, International Campaign for Tibet
Gabriel Lafitte, Tibet Expert, Australia
Tashi Tsering, Tibet Justice Centre
D'Archy Richardson
Scott Harrison
John Isom (Attended the Rio Earth Summit in 1992)
Jampal Chosang, Tibetan Government in Exile
Tashi Wangdu
Tsering Yangkey
Tsering Yangchen
Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon
Namgyal Tsering

- end -

Note: Ngawang C. Drakmargyapon of Tibet Bureau for UN Affairs in Geneva, Switzerland, wrote the News Update-Tibet at WSSD on behalf of the Tibetan Delegation to WSSD.


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