November 4, 2010
President Barack Obama
c/o US Embassy to India
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri , New Delhi – 110021
Tel: 011-2419-8000 , Fax: +91-11-2419-0017
Dear President Barack Obama,
We welcome your arrival in India, the world’s largest democracy and a leading Asian power. In addition to being home to over a billion people representing a multitude of ethnic groups and religious affiliations, India is also home to more than 100,000 Tibetan refugees.
In exile, Tibetans have set up robust advocacy organizations to press for an end to China’s occupation of our homeland. Together, the undersigned organizations represent a wide array of Tibetans in exile, from students to women’s groups to former political prisoners. We appeal to you to use your first state visit to India as an opportunity to press for fundamental change on the ground in Tibet.
In recent weeks, thousands of Tibetan students, some as young as 13, have taken to the streets in the eastern Tibetan province of Amdo (currently annexed into China’s Qinghai Province) to protest the Chinese government’s decision to replace Tibetan with Chinese as the medium of instruction in Tibetan schools. Tibetan language is the foundation of our rich culture and by denying young Tibetans the opportunity to learn their own language, the Chinese government is systematically attempting to eradicate Tibetan culture and identity. The United States government has recognized the importance of protecting Tibetan language, as outlined in the Tibetan Policy Act. We call on your administration to immediately oppose the sinicization of Tibetan schools and to do everything in your power to help protect Tibetans’ distinct religious, cultural, linguistic, and national identity.
Since the brutal repression of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile, thousands of Tibetans escape every year, on foot, over the highest and most dangerous mountains in the world. Many of our people have lost their lives and generations of children have been separated from their families in order to flee Chinese government repression in our homeland.
Ironically, it is here in exile in India that Tibetans are best able to preserve our culture by learning and speaking our language, practicing our religion, and celebrating our rich culture. We have established a thriving and unique democracy, with all the basic rights denied to us under Chinese rule. Under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and, of course, with the generous support of the government of India, we are ensuring that the Tibetans inside Tibet are not forgotten. Their suffering under Chinese rule continues to be recognized as one of the most pressing global human rights issues of our time.
We call on you to publicly recognize the government of India for supporting the Tibetan people and to seek new approaches with your Indian colleagues to help bring about a just and lasting resolution for the Tibetan people. It is clear that an end to China’s occupation of Tibet will also achieve greater regional security and indeed global security. As the most influential world leader of our time, you are uniquely positioned to help bring this about.
While we remain grateful for the safe haven provided to us by the government and people of India, ultimately, it is the desire of every Tibetan refugee to return home. We urge you to take bold and concrete action today to help change the course of history for six million Tibetans and to signal to the world that non-violence truly can triumph over violence and oppression.
Dolkar Lhamo Kirti, Tibetan Womens’ Association
Woeser Rinpoche, GuChuSum
Chime Youngdung, National Democratic Party of Tibet
Tenzin Choedon, Students for a Free Tibet-India