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Exile Tibetans mark 109th Independence Day amid crisis over middle way policy

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(TibetanReview.net, Feb14’22) – Tibetans in Dharamsala and Paris marked on Feb 13 the 109th anniversary of the Tibetan Independence Day, reported the ANI news service Feb 13. It was on this day in 1913 that the 13th Dalai Lama issued a proclamation rejecting China’s ostensible claim of having sovereign authority over Tibet and declared an end to any question about the country’s political status. However, the official exile Tibetan policy now is to seek autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule.

In Dharamsala, Students for Free Tibet (SFT), which campaigns for the restoration of Tibet’s independence, marked the occasion by holding a symbolic party and organizing a group dance and other events, the report said.

At one such event, the group displayed a copy of the Shimla Convention of 1913- 1914 on the status of Tibet negotiated by representatives of the Republic of China, Tibet and British India.

The agreement laid down the McMahon Line as the border between India and Tibet. While India today takes this line as its territorial border, China does not. China, in fact, claims that the whole of Arunachal Pradesh state is its territory on the basis of its invasion and occupation of Tibet in the 1950’s.

In Paris, Students for Free Tibet-France held a protest on the Bastille Square. Similar other programme events were held at this venue which saw participation by more than 100 Tibetans living in the country, said another ANI report.

The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the de facto Tibetan government in exile, has been pursuing a middle way policy of seeking autonomy for an undivided Tibet under China’s current constitution, seeing this as a more realistic option as well as an urgent need under the current circumstances. However, China’s policy is to assimilate Tibet rather than to grant it any sort of genuine autonomy and refuses to hold talks with the CTA, calling it a separatist movement.

The middle way approach was initiated by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, decades ago and remains the bedrock of the CTA’s China policy. However, Tibetan Youth Congress, the exile Tibetans’ largest grassroots organization, as well as Students for a Free Tibet, campaign for the restoration of Tibet’s independence.

The Tibetan Parliament in Exile is divided between middle way and independence supporters and this was conceivably the underlying reason for the existential crisis which gripped the CTA last year.

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