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INTERVIEW | Tibetan President Penpa Tsering's New Mission to Protect Tibet's Lands, People, and Neighbors

"Tibet is not just a political issue. It is an environmental and livelihood issue too. Ten major rivers of Southeast Asian countries originate from Tibet."



Sikyong Penpa Tsering addressing the seminar on Tibet, Uyghur and Southern Mongolia. (Courtesy of Tibet House)

Recently elected as president of Tibet's Central Tibet Administration in Dharamshala, India, Penpa Tsering was in Japan in September to inform and explain the challenges facing Tibet's lands, people and culture. JAPAN Forward followed his visit and the public's engagement with him as he patiently explained the issues and shared information with policymakers, politicians and the public . 

President Tsering also agreed to speak exclusively and on the record in an interview with JAPAN Forward, including the history of the nation of Tibet's wartime engagement with Japan and the West, and his observations about the human rights and environmental infractions being carried out against his country. 

In his own words, excerpts of the interview follow. 

Sikyong Penpa Tsering addressing the bipartisan meeting of Diet members on Tibet, Uyghur and Southern Mongolia. (Courtesy of Tibet House)

A UN High Commissioner on Human Rights report is also needed for human rights and religious freedom in Tibet: 

Recently the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet announced "The Uyghur Report," in which the human rights and religious freedom violations by the Chinese Communist Party have been highlighted. The world has come to know what exactly has been happening to the Uyghurs and how the people are suffering in the region.

We would like to have a similar report on Tibet. It is unfortunate that despite our request, the High Commissioner could not visit Tibet and see what is happening in Tibet. 

Tibet addressing its issues in a report to the United Nations:

We are now working on a "Tibet Report," and plan to submit the same to the United Nations. 

We request Japan and the international community to support this report and have the United Nations condemn China for the violation of religious and human rights in Tibet and other occupied regions. 

Tibet plateau (photo by McKay Savage via Wikimedia Commons)

Not just political, but an environmental issue, too:

The Tibet issue is not just a political issue, it is an environmental and livelihood issue too. Ten major rivers of Southeast Asian countries originate from Tibet. 

Westerners refer to Tibet as the roof of the world. Asian countries say Tibet is the water tower of Asia, and many scientists, including Chinese, designated Tibet as the third pole. 

All these references indicate the importance of Tibet as a source of water in Asia and an important factor in climate change and global warming. The Indus, Sutlej, and Brahmaputra rivers in India and Pakistan; the Mekong river of Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos; and the Yangtze and Yellow rivers of China, all these rivers come from Tibet. 


It is said that the livelihoods of some 1.8 billion people of riparian states depend on these rivers from Tibet.

Mr Penpa Tsering, President, Central Tibetan Administration, speaking on the 10th March Anniversary in Dharamsala, India. (Courtesy Tibet House)

Impact of China's dams on Tibet

The danger that we are facing right now is that China is building dams to control the flows of these rivers, thus impacting the ecology of the regions and obstructing the free flow of water. 

These dams could be used for military purposes during wartime. So, the ecology of Tibet is not only a Tibetan problem — it is an Asian and an international problem. We cannot let the CCP regime destroy and damage the Tibetan plateau.

How to stop China's bullying of its neighbors and ethnic minorities:

The Chinese communist leadership is acting like a bully and creating a volatile situation in the neighboring countries’ borders and oceans. 

It is our silence and China-appeasement policy that have made China an irresponsible, powerful bully. Democratic societies need to work together and come out openly to warn China to live by international norms and stop its belligerent provocations.


Interview by: Jason Morgan, PhD

Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan. Find his reports and essays on JAPAN Forward here

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