Inauguration boosts ties with Tibet

Tenzing Dhamdul

by Tenzing Dhamdul

The number three holds a special meaning in Tibetan culture and its tradition of Buddhism, exemplified by the Three Jewels and the tradition of performing three prostrations.

Three critical days for Tibet-Taiwan relations, from Saturday last week to Monday, culminated in a historic participation of a Tibetan delegation led by Kalon Norzin Dolma and Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile Dolma Tsering at the inauguration ceremony of President William Lai (賴清德) and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) in Taipei.

Saturday last week marked the 29th anniversary of the abduction of the 11th Panchen Lama. A news conference organized by the Human Rights Network for Taiwan and Tibet (HRNTT), addressed by Zeekyab Rinpoche, the abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, alongside Dolma and Tsering, highlighted ongoing concerns regarding the Panchen Lama’s disappearance at age six by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime, earning him the unwanted title of the world’s youngest political prisoner.

On Sunday last week, the Tibetan delegation attended the Saga Dawa Festival in Taipei, celebrating Tibetan history and culture. The event, organized by the HRNTT and other organizations, took place at the Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Research Institute, a site emblematic of Taiwan’s democratic heritage. It featured speeches from Taiwanese dignitaries such as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Hung Sun-han (洪申翰) and Fu Jen Catholic University professor Wu Hao-ren (吳豪人), fostering deeper connections between the Tibetan and Taiwanese communities.

The same day, the delegation met Hsiao. The Tibetan Parliament in Exile later on Facebook said: “We were able to relay our thoughts for deepening support from the Taiwanese government to Tibet.”

Hsiao, known for her support of Tibet, played a pivotal role in setting up the initial Taiwan Parliamentary Group for Tibet.

These events set the stage for the inauguration ceremony on Monday last week. Dolma and Tsering attended as VIP guests, alongside other foreign delegations as honored guests. This marked the first time in recent memory that an official Tibetan delegation received such an honor.

On the same day, the 11th Taiwan Parliamentary Group for Tibet was inaugurated, moderated and led by Hung. Discussions centered on strengthening support for Tibet and its people, with members of the government also being part of the landmark event.

These events underscore an accelerated mutual recognition between Taiwan and the Tibetan government-in-exile, particularly in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era. This period has seen more Tibetan delegations invited to Taiwan and several Taiwanese delegations visiting Dharamshala, India. Notably, last year, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and Hung visited Dharamshala, and Dolma also met with then-minister of foreign affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮).

The absence of official Indian representation at the inauguration event, likely an attempt to avoid antagonizing China during India’s general election, further highlights the significance of Tibetan representatives.

Tibetans and Taiwanese advocate for peace with China, adhering to their guiding principles for conflict resolution, championing democracy as the way ahead and preserving their unique identities.

Under Lai and Hsiao, Taiwan-Tibet relations appear promising. Many Tibetan students from India are opting to study in Taiwan of late, laying the foundations for a robust relationship. Organizations like the HRNTT and the Office of Tibet in Taiwan play pivotal roles in strengthening these ties. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), Beijing remains wary of these developments. Despite historical challenges, the cooperative efforts between Taiwan and Tibet signal a promising future that must be nurtured.

This article was originally published on May 26th 2024, in the Taipei Times.

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