CHAIRMAN’S NOTE May – June 2017

First Visit to New Zealand of Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay

I was asked by Mr Lhakpa Tshoko, the Representative in Canberra, to organise and if possible fund the visit to New Zealand of Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, who arrived on 30th April for 5 days.
He was given a great reception at Auckland International Airport by Tibetans, and a lovely welcome banner was arranged by Rinchen Dhundop, President of the New Zealand National Tibetan Community. He was interviewed by a TV ONE reporter and an article appeared on the evening news.

I organised a shared dinner meeting at my home that evening for Dr Sangay, and the Tibetans living in Auckland and Whangarei and some coming from as far away as Christchurch and Nelson. After the dinner Dr Sangay spoke to the Tibetan community. In his address, Sikyong spoke about the 15th Kashag’s five-fifty policy and the importance of investing in education of Tibetan children. He spoke about unity as the underlying factor that will secure and strengthen the survival of the Tibetan movement in the long run. He further updated the gathering on the status of Sino-Tibetan dialogue, the latest political developments in Tibet and China’s ongoing repressive measures in Tibet aimed at annihilating the rich linguistic, cultural and religious tradition of the Tibetan people.

He spoke about the importance of keeping the Tibetan tradition alive, especially with the future generations of Tibetans. We must pass onto them our language and the Buddhist tradition, which are the keys to the preservation of our Tibetan identity. He answered many questions from the Tibetans.
On Monday 1st May, Dr Sangay had three media interviews: one with Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report programme, a interview with Lincoln Tan at the Herald who also made a video interview for NZ Herald focus online programme , and a telephone interview with 95bFM radio station.

The lunch was hosted by Geshe Wangchen la at DCI after which we all made visit to Kelly Tarlton’s underwater world on Tamaki Drive, to see many species of fish and the Emperor penguins. This was relaxing and enjoyable afternoon for Dr Sangay.
In the evening at the Beach Haven Ratepayers Hall, I welcomed everyone and spoke briefly about Mr Ian Revell, former MP, who during his time in Parliament led a strong Parliamentary Lobby Group for Tibet , and went to three world parliamentarian meetings for Tibet. Ian introduced Dr Sangay who gave a speech ; “Tibetan Relations: Past, Present and Future”, which was well received by Friends of Tibet members, the Tibetan Children Relief Society of New Zealand, the Tibetan community and the general public. The audience was given the opportunity to ask questions.

At the conclusion of his speech Dr Sangay presented Mr Revell a gift in appreciation of the work that he had done for Tibet, and the also presented a gift to Mrs Bev Pownall, the President of the Tibetan Children Relief Society of New Zealand, in recognition of the support that the Society had done in supporting Tibetan children in India since its founding in 1964. I publically thanked Friends of Tibet members for their continued support for Tibet. The evening concluded with a shared supper.
On Tuesday 2nd May, we flew to Dunedin, where we were welcomed at the airport by Peter Small from the Dhargyey Buddhist Centre, who had organised the Dunedin leg of the tour.
Sikyong visited Dhargey Buddhist Centre and addressed the local Tibetan Community and New Zealand friends of Tibet. He spoke on the CTA’s Middle Way Approach to resolve the Tibet issue explaining the advantages and benefits of the proposal which ensures the survival of our struggle in exile and enhances the appeal of the Tibetan movement to the world.
In the afternoon we went to Otago University where we met faculty members who gave Dr Sangay a Maori welcome, followed by afternoon tea.

At the university lecture theatre Dr Sangay addressed the audience with the topic “Tibet in the 21st Century, Political, Environmental and Cultural Changes”.

In his address, Sikyong described the prime purpose of his visit as an effort to meet long time friends of Tibet and seek the support of the people of New Zealand for the non violent Tibetan movement led by Central Tibetan Administration.

Sikyong also talked about the Middle Way Approach of the Tibetan administration to resolve the Tibet issue and why a proper understanding of China is a must to understand Tibet and the Tibetan situation. He explained the tragic situation inside Tibet where 147 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the Chinese government’s repressive policies.

Sikyong also emphasised the preservation of Tibet’s Buddhist culture and the fragile ecology of the Tibetan plateau referred to as the water tower of Asia for its rich resource of fresh water. He further highlighted education of Tibetan children as a priority and affirmed the Kashag’s renewed emphasis to ensure a robust development of Tibetan education.

Following the talk, Sikyong presented a memento to Professor Kevin Clements, Director of the department of National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, in appreciation of his support. Sikyong also presented a traditional white scarf to Mr Joe Llywellen, a Ph.D student on Non-Violence and Conflict Resolution, for organising the event.

On 3rd May we flew to Wellington where we were welcomed by members of Friends of Tibet Wellington and the sole Tibetan living in Wellington. After a brief rest in the hotel we walked to Radio New Zealand, where Dr Sangay was interviewed by Kim Hill for her Saturday morning programme. In the afternoon we were met at Parliament by Green MP Gareth Hughes, who hosted an afternoon tea for Dr Sangay and party. Mr Hughes had invited all MPs to attend, including members of the Select Committee of Foreign Affairs and Defence. Unfortunately not one of the SC members attended, (I had approached them earlier asking them to meet with Dr Sangay, but to no avail). I was pleased, however, to see that 9 MPs came to the afternoon tea, where Dr Sangay was given the opportunity to answer any questions that they had on Tibet. I have since written to those MPs thanking them for their attendance, and especially to Gareth Hughes for hosting the tea. I also wrote to the chairman of the Select Committee, Todd Muller, MP, expressing my disappointment that not one member of the Committee had attended and I sent a copy to the Foreign Affairs Minister as well as my local MP, Dr Jonathan Coleman.

Later Dr Sangay took the opportunity to go to the public gallery of Parliament to view proceedings.

The public talk in the evening was arranged by Catherine Lorns at Victoria University’s Faculty of Law. I had earlier briefed Dr Sangay that the students were very interested in the environment issue, so he mentioned Tibet’s environment extensively, focussing on its importance in Asia, where the headquarters of the major rivers are in Tibet.

Sikyong talked about the intention of his visit, which was to meet and thank Tibetan supporters and the Tibetan community and also to appeal to the people of New Zealand for their genuine support towards the Tibetan struggle. He mentioned, in order to understand China one must understand Tibet and the Tibetan situation. He talked about the principles of the “Middle Way Approach” in brief and its vital importance in solving the issue in Tibet. He spoke about the recent self-immolations and the Tibetan plateau being the source of many of Asia’s major rivers which is vital for inhabitants residing below the belt. He also reminded the audience about the fact that if the neighbouring countries had stood and spoken against the invasion of China on Tibet back then, Tibet would not have been facing the kind of situation it is facing right now.

After answering many questions from the audience Dr Sangay presented a memento to the Member of Parliament Mr Gareth Hughes and lecturer Catherine Lorns of the Victoria University in appreciation of their support to the Tibetan Cause.

The next day we viewed a trailer of the documentary “Team Tibet- A Home Away from Home” with its director Miss Robin Greenberg. A few comments were made by Dr Sangay after he viewed short version of the documentary.

Dr Sangay told us that his 10 year old daughter said to him; “You must see the studio where the Lord of the Rings was made while you are in Wellington. “ So I asked Robin to if it is possible to take a tour of the Weta Workshop. She managed to organise a 45 minute private tour of the Weta Workshop. This was great. Dr Sangay took lots of photos with the models to show his daughter and also bought two lovely souvenir books about the making of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies for his daughter. We drove from there to the airport for Auckland.

We went straight from the airport to Kusang Jigme la’s house for a late lunch. Kunsang Jigme la had prepared a sumptuous lunch which was enjoyed by all. We left his house about 5pm for Waiwera hot pools as Dr Sangay wanted to go to the hot pools. Although the traffic was quite heavy, we got there in one and half hours. We got back to the hotel about 11 pm, so it was a very long day for all of us.

Friday 5th May morning I picked them up from the hotel about 10.30 am and drove them to Auckland airport to catch the flight back to India via Bangkok. Some of the Tibetan community members were there at the airport to farewell them. Dr Sangay left New Zealand very happy with his very first visit to New Zealand and I was very happy with how all things went.
I take this opportunity to thank all the people who helped me during his visit, especially those members of Friends of Tibet (NZ) and the Tibetan community members for their financial help to cover the cost of the visit. I have contacted the donors personally and provided them with the financial breakdown. Most of the visit was covered by donations, the shortfall of $1,230.00 being shared between Friends of Tibet (NZ) and the Liaison Office of Tibet (NZ).A big thank you goes to Peter Small and the Dhargyey Dharma Centre who sponsored the flights to Dunedin and Wellington and the accommodation in Dunedin fro Dr Sangay and party.

Next month we will be celebrating His Holiness 83 birthday. In Auckland, the committee has decided to hold the celebration at St Andrews Church Hall, Birkenhead on Saturday 8th July 2017 at 6.30 pm, (Please see the advertising on the back page for all details).

I am saddened once again since our last newsletter, another two self-immolations took place in Tibet and no one is hearing their plea for freedom and return of His Holiness to Tibet. China has an economic grip on the whole world and no country is brave enough to take on the Tibet issue with China for fear of trade retaliation from China. We have traded our human feeling for economic gains.

Best wishes and Tashi Delek

Thuten Kesang
National Chairman