Partial Transcript (Verbatim) of Lobsang Sangay's Comments at the Woodrow Wilson Center

Date: October 27, 2008
Location: Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington, DC


SANGAY:  [Introductory comments]... I thought maybe I can relate Tibet to Obama.  ...If Obama is elected as the next president of America, then I think it will be revolutionary.  I think it will shock the world and, I mean, it will shock me too.  Because I was thinking to myself, slavery ended in hundred and fifty years ago, Martin Luther King made this speech, "I have a dream," 45 years ago.  ...

Take the same timeframe.  Tibet was occupied in 1951 or 59, right?  So 60 years after Tibet was occupied by China, America is on the verge of electing an African-American president.  Look at the, what you call, situation in Tibet.  Now can we ask this question in China: can a Tibetan become the next president of China?  Or a premier of China.  One could say it's impossible, right? 

If you look at the US administration for the last 20, 30 years, at least there has been one or two minorities in the Cabinet.  you have Condi Rice as the secretary of state, and I think Gutires [Gutierres] if I'm spelling, pronouncing his name right, he is the secretary of commerce.  And Ellen Chung, I think, she's the labor secretary right?  Chung.  Yeah.  Labor secretary.  Three of them.  Now compare that with China.  You have 27 or so ministers, no one is minority.  Except for the head of the minorities department, who is a Mongolian.  In the US Congress now, the majority whip, James Clyburn, right, he's the third post powerful person in the Congress is an African-American.  And Charles Rangel from New York is the chairman of the most powerful committee, appropriation[s] committee.  Compare that will Tibetans in the National People's Congress.  Some will say it's a rubber stamp of the Chinese government, there's an interesting debate going on.  Even then, only one Tibetan becomes the vice chair of the National People's Congress.  But what's not said is that there are 20 plus vice chairmen, and the executive vice chairman is often Han Chinese.  Right?  Now even at the Cabinet level, nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, no minorities.  25 members of the politburo, no minorities.  Right?  At least in the US you have.

So now you know, now, if you, and then, if you look at the situation in Tibet Autonomous Region or Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Gansu, Yunan [Eds: and Qinghai] province I think it's worse.  For example in the last 50 plus years, the party secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, has never been a Tibetan.  Not just that, in the standing committee of the politburo of the Tibet Autonomous Region, out of 15 members, right, 8 are Han Chinese.  ...

So why I say this?  Of course one could say, you know, it's not relevant.   Mark's cousin, I heard, Jerry Cohen, will say "don't compare American democratic theory with reality in China."  But I'm comparing reality in America with Reality in China.  Right?  Is, since 43 years of Civil Rights Act, so much of [sic] changes have happened for African Americans.  I'm not saying is alright, definitely not.  But the trajectory of African-Americans, at least the political representation in the US, US government, has been on the upswing.  As for Tibetans, it is going down.  Of course, zero at the national level, even at the local level it is going down.  ...

[About 2008 uprising.]  Now, there is a past precedent.  In 1951, '9 too, there was an uprising.  '87 '88 '89, there were uprising.  Now there are correlations between dialogues not working, and leading to uprising.  Because in 1951, the Tibetan, local Tibetan government in exile [sic] asked for the Chinese government and the central government of China [sic] signed the Seventeen Point Agreement.  Right, through dialogue, but the Chinese government did not implement most of the provisions of the Seventeen Pt Agreement and hence partly led to the 1959 uprising.  Now as Allen mentioned in early '80s the liberal leader Hu Yaobang led or made efforts to introduce liberal policies in Tibet Autonomous Reg and Tibetan areas as well as have dialogue with representatives of Dalai Lama.  Hu Yaobang fell out of power, it did not lead anywhere, and because the dialogue fell through, '87 '88 '89 uprising happened.  Now as for 2008, since 2002 eight meetings have taken place between the Chinese and Tibetan government [sic].  And there is no breakthrough whatsoever, hence there was uprising in March and April of 2008.  So there is a correllation between dialogues not working and uprising.  

[...]

Again, bringing Obama and Tibet back together, you know China wants to let's say emulate at least the good part of America.  China wants to be like, a powerful nation like America. But maybe China can try to emulate some good things, some positive things which, about America as well.  You know, that is respecting and implementing the principles of equality, freedom of [and?] justice as far as African-American representation in the US government.  Similarly hopefully the Chinese government will follow abut Tibet as well.

[Sangay then gave a Power Point presentation on "where are we now", i.e. dialogue process, and Chinese constitution and statutory provisions on autonomy.]  So I will approach like a lawyer because I am a legal scholar, straight forward, I'll present and you decide.  But this is not Fox news eh?

[...] Melvyn Goldstein says Tibet is not a human rights issue, it is an ethnic issue.  Now I'd like to say, Tibet is not an ethnic issue it is a legal issue.

["I would like to show, as a lawyer..." looks at autonomous laws re: establishing aut regions where minorities live in compact inhabitancy.  Reads the law, discusses the other autonomous regions.] 

In conclusion, well if China as you all know, they are what you call it, their international affairs sloagan is peaceful rising.  China wants to rise peacefully.  And China wants to be a great nation.  I think China deserves to be a great nation, I think so.  But the greatness cannot be forced or bought, you know, you has you have to earn it I think.  And in that sense actually how China treats Tibet will partly determine the legacy and future image of China.  I hope because I you know I'm involved in organizing conferences or track II initiatives, inviting Chinese scholars from China to Harvard University, almost every year I've been doing it.  I've organized six conferences so far.  And I'm sure many of Americans here when you interact with Chinese friends they often when you mention Tibet they often come around and say "you Americans, how you treated African-Americans and Native Americans." Right?  I hope the Chinese people will not use this guilt-stricken defensive mechanism, you know?  Rather, they will turn around and say "you Americans got it wrong, we'll show you how it needs to be done properly.  Look at Tibet, this is the way to do it."  I hope China will rise up, be a great nation.  And claim their mantle of 5,000 years civilization, and treat Tibetans in a civilized manner.  And  as Daial Lama has shown, and he is willing till death, to be as concillatory as possible, even though he is losing hope, the 8th delegation is going literarlly at the end of this month.  And hopefully the Chinese government will rise up as a great power and show to the world a model on how to treat minorities.  And we Tibetans don't expect to the next president of America, uh, China, but Tibetans do expect to be their own leader of their own region.  As stipulated in the white papers of China, and the Chinese constitution and minority nationality act of China. 

[...]

[QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION: Question asked about Jiang Zemin's claim that PRC's "liberation" of Tibet is equivalent to Lincoln's liberation of the slaves.  First Eliot Sperling answers for several minutes.]

SANGAY: For the sake of time I'll just say, you know, now I got [sic] an excuse, now, Jiang Zemin said that their [Chinese] treatment of Tibetans is better than the American treatments [sic] of African-Americans.  Then I nominate myself as the next president of China.  At least I have a credential.  Obama is from law school, Harvard Law School, and I also graduated from Harvard Law School, you know, so we have si[milarities]

PROF. CARLSON: Did you edit the Law Review?

SANGAY: Pardon?

CARLSON: Did you edit the Law Review?

SANGAY: I did the human rights journal.  Does that [count], yeah, so?

[end of answer]
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