The ‘Mongolia – Tibet Cultural and Religious Symposium’ was organized in light of the 8th International Tibet Support Conference which concluded a day prior to the event. The day long symposium included three panels of discussion alongside with addresses by the Sikyong, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the Director of the Tibet Policy Institute, Mr. Tsewang Gyalpo Arya and by the Deputy Director of the Tibet Policy Institute, Mr. Tenzin Lekshay.
Mr. Arya, in his Welcome Address, emphasized on the pertinent need to form a mutually beneficial platform between Tibet and Mongolia, in order to own and bring out their narratives of history, culture and identity against the proselytizing historical fallacies that was and is being produced by the Communist Party of China.
The Inaugural Address by Dr. Sangay expressed his support and solidarity for the people of Southern Mongolia and highlighted the repressions both communities in Tibet and Mongolia have suffered under the Chinese regime. He noted that these grievances need to be highlighted on the global stage and the centuries old relationship between Tibet and Mongolia would entail a greater partnership in the present and future for the cause of freedom and human rights.
The first Panel titled ‘Buddhism in Tibet and Mongolia’ was chaired by Ven. Telo Tulku, the Honorary Representative at the Office of Tibet based in Moscow. He spoke about the historically close religious and political relationship that has existed between Tibet and Russia, its unfortunate decline during the 20th Century in the aftermath of the division of Mongolia by Soviet Russia and Communist China, the invasion of Tibet by the latter and the resurgence of this relationship between the Democratic Mongolian State and the exile Tibetan population post 1990.
The first speaker of the panel, Mr. Temtselt, who serves as the Chairman of the Inner Mongolian People’s Party and the South Mongolian Congress, recollected the times he met with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1990 as well as his Representative, Tashi Wangdu, in 1995. In both meetings he highlighted the oppressive policies initiated by the CCP in Mongolia against its people and religion and therefore he expressed his happiness that he was a part of this Conference on Tibet and Mongolia. Reiterating the need for unity between the two communities, he requested the Tibetan community to assist in the rejuvenation of Buddhism in his country which has declined over the years due to Russian and Chinese political machinations.
Mr. Tenzin Tseten, a Research Fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute, followed suit with his paper titled ‘China’s management of Tibet Buddhism’. The focus of his presentation was geared towards highlighting the paradoxical reality of the abject state of Buddhism inside Tibet vis – a – vis the apparent protection it is entitled under the Chinese Constitution. The contradictory nature of the CCP’s policies lies in its long term goal of appropriating religion for the service of the Party with the former being eradicated altogether while the CCP builds it claims to legitimacy by falsely claiming the Yuan dynasty’s ‘Priest – Patron’ relationship with Tibet for its own.
The second Panel, titled ‘Mongol – Tibet Relations: Past, Present and Future’ was chaired by Mr. Arya. The first speaker was Mr. Munkhbayar Chuluundorj, the former Secretary General of the Green party of Mongolia, whose presentation was titled ‘Mongolia and Tibet Relations’. The discussion was geared around the historical relationship that has existed between the two countries as he highlighted the visit of the 3rd Dalai Lama to and the birth of his successor in Mongolia, the treaty of friendship signed between the two countries in 1913 which recognized each other’s existence as sovereign nation states and the suffering both countries have undergone at the hand of Communist China. He reiterated the need for both countries and communities to forma partnership against their aggressor and the importance of this particular Conference towards this endeavor.
The second speaker was Mr. Tenzin Desal, a Research Fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. His paper, titled ‘Tibet and Mongolia: Coming to terms with modernity and the quest for statehood’, was centered around the core theme of statehood that is a consequence of modernity and the need for the same within the context of formulating a sense of national history and identity. Within the context of the Tibet – Mongolia relationship, the 1913 treaty signed between the two countries is imperative while discussing their claims to statehood. He further argued that ethnic policy of China, although seemingly directed towards recognizing the inherent equality of all its ‘ethnicities’ was in fact geared towards disrupting and breaking their lineages, their origins and their unity.
The third speaker was Dr. Olhunud Daichin, the Chairman of the Mongolian Liberal Union Party and the Secretary General of the South Mongolia Congress. His presentation titled ‘Thoughts on changes in world politics and future of Mongolia and Tibet’ highlighted the adverse impacts of the PRC’s ambitious ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative while harkening back to Mongolia’s past where from 1930 to 1950, China increasingly influenced the country’s political and cultural turmoil. South Mongolia has undergone tremendous ecological changes due to increasing mining and destruction of its environment. He ended with a hope to draw inspiration from the successful struggle of the Tibetan population in exile for the past 60 years.
The third and final panel, titled ‘Human Rights and Ecology’ was chaired by Mrs. Tsering Tsomo, the Director of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. The first speaker was Dr. Govrud Archa, the Deputy Secretary General of the Southern Mongolia Congress. His presentation, titled ‘Environment of Southern Mongolia, Current Situation of Human rights and language – A study’ converged around the adverse effects the Communist rule has had on the environment, human rights and education of the people of Southern Mongolia. Increasing mining and water pollution has rendered the land inhospitable for the people to live in while the artificial control of the rain for industrial purposes has caused an upsurge in the aridness of the region. Consequently, the displacement of the people has led to protests which have been suppressed by police forces. The introduction of the bilingual education policy in 2018 has seen education been used as a propaganda tool while the native languages has been marginalized in order to break the relationship between members of the Mongolian community.
Mr. Tempa Gyaltsen Zamlha, the Head of the Environment Desk at the Tibet Policy Institute, followed suit with his presentation titled ‘Looking at the causes of increasing natural disasters in Tibet’. He argued that the increasing rise in floods, desertification, landslides and droughts in Tibet over the past three years could be attributed to rapid urbanization projects, the global climate change phenomena and the lack of adaption and awareness by the Chinese government. He further noted that the Tibetan people have symbiotically adapted to Tibet’s environment for centuries and so the Chinese Government, in order to reduce the rate of natural disasters, would have to incorporate the traditional knowledge within their decision making process while at the same deploy effective mitigating and disaster relief mechanisms.
The final speaker of the panel was Mr. Karma Tenzin, a Research Fellow at the Tibet Policy Institute. His presentation titled ‘The Current Status of the Tibetan Language in Tibet: An Analysis’ focused on the increasing decline in the use of the Tibetan language within the public realm in Tibet and the adverse effects it has had on the preservation of the language. He highlighted the obvious contradiction that existed between China’s claims that its Constitution protects the rights of its ‘ethnic minorities’ to preserve their languages and the ground reality which sees the Government increasingly attempt to marginalize these languages. Languages thrive when they are used within the public circles but within Tibet, the Chinese language is dominant whether it be the simple task of booking travel tickets, for media and literary purposes or within judicial or administrative circles. Within such a saturated environment, it is extremely difficult for the Tibetan language to survive since the Chinse language serves as the sole gateway to participate in the political, economical and social fabric of Tibetan society.
A general discussion among the participants of the Symposium took place where Mr. Arya spoke about understanding the misleading claims of the CCP over the Yuan dynasty’s relationship with Tibet, arguing that China was a part of the dynasty but never its authority or inheritor. The rest of the discussion was spread out across different topics such as understanding East Turkistan / Xinjiang historical and cultural relationship with Mongolia and the need for further collaboration between the people of Tibet and Mongolia.
The day long symposium concluded with a Vote of Thanks from Mr. Lekshay as he expressed gratitude towards the speakers, the representatives of the Office of Tibet from Russia, Taiwan and Japan for their assistance in organizing the Symposium, the Tibetan media as well as the Sikyong for his time. He expressed his hope that this would be the first of many other Symposiums between the Tibetan and Mongolian communities in the near future.