Reflections on a political solution
By Jamyang Norbu, May 2007

issue : AT n°2 - 2007
author: Jamyang Norbu
file :
other language: French

[This article has been requested for Alternative tibetaine in view of the International Forum for a Free Tibet (Turin, May 2007)]

I hope that in this conference we could initiate a discussion on alternate and viable strategies that are clearly Rangzen oriented, but are set out in incremental and manageable stages. The idea would be to undertake a campaign whose success would provide the foundation for another more ambitious campaign. For example:

Recognition of Tibet as an "occupied country"

One of the first steps that might be undertaken is to seek various local administrative bodies, state legislatures, even national parliaments (in countries sympathetic to Tibet) to proclaim Tibet an "occupied country". Such initiatives have been successfully undertaken before but always as one-off initiatives and never as a part of concerted campaign with a specific over-all goal. Such a campaign could make use of the findings and conclusions of the International Commission of Jurists of Geneva, the Conference of Jurists in London, the International Law Committee of the Bundestag, and the People's Tribunal of Strasbourg, which have all unanimously concluded that Tibet is an occupied country and was de facto an independent state before the Chinese invasion. The American Congress passed a bill to this effect a number of years ago.

Even in countries that have no hesitation in proclaiming Tibet to be a part of China, we could campaign for acknowledgment of Tibet as a country that from 1912 to 1950 was a de facto independent nation that was invaded militarily by China. It could perhaps even be presented as a historical fact that requires of every civilized nation in the world a basic minimal acknowledgement, such as that is given to the Jewish Holocaust, the Rape of Nanking or the Tiananmen Massacre.   

Recognition of the government-in-exile

A logical next step might be to seek governmental recognition of the TGIE. This may appear to be a difficult even impossible task but have we really tried? There are precedents for recognizing exile governments. During WWII and the Cold War a number of exile governments, mostly European, of occupied countries, were recognized as legitimate governments and set up their headquarters in London and New York.

There might not be, for some time at least, a big power willing to offer such recognition, but it is at least a perceptible goal to which our supporters and friends in their respective countries could at least work towards. Furthermore, while not relaxing the pressure on countries such as the USA, India, Germany and so on, we should make a concerted effort to get the recognition of smaller nations. Taiwan has used economic aid to get nineteen countries not only to give it full recognition but to also support its bid to get a seat in the UN (see below).

Getting even one small country (size doesn't matter in these things) to recognize Dharamshala as the legitimate government of Tibet is extremely important. For one, the usual Chinese argument that no country recognizes Tibet is taken care off. And, of course, the deadlock is broken. If one why not more? Tibetan morale will receive a boost.

Tibet in the UN

Of course Tibet could never become a member of the UN until there is actually an independent Tibet state, but why not attempt to seek some kind of other standing, such as "observer status" that the PLO received in 1974, or something else. Of course with China in the Security Council, even a symbolic position would be enormously difficult to attain, but even initiating the process would be a tremendous step forward. It would be a real challenge to China. But how could we even get started?

Every year since 1993, Taiwan has put up its bid to get the General Assembly to discuss UN membership, supported by nineteen countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Dominica, Gambia, Grenada, Honduras, Malawi, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Senegal, Solomon Islands and Swaziland. China and its supporters have so far managed to block the bill, but always after a long hard debate. Taiwan is widely believed to win friends through development aid and other economic blandishments.   Although the Tibetan Government could not offer anything similar, we could perhaps in this matter position ourselves in Taiwan's slipstream, as it were, to take advantage of the situation. These governments obviously were not intimidated by China, a politically powerful UN member, by supporting Taiwan. So there is every possibility that they could be persuades to recognize the TGIE and even sponsor or support our case in the UN.

Many of the leaders of these small countries are Western educated lawyers and other professionals who might have international aspirations and need for public recognition, than the politics of their small countries alone could provide. There could also be genuine champions of democracy and freedom in those countries.

These are just some random ideas that I am offering more as starting points for discussions on strategy, than as a fully worked out plan of action.