Evidence of meeting #9 for Canada-China Relations in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chinese.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Christine Holke
Lobsang Sangay  Sikyong, President, Central Tibetan Administration
David Mulroney  Former Ambassador of Canada to the People's Republic of China, As an Individual

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Yes, we hear you. Can you hear us? Can you go ahead with your questions, please?

I'm afraid we'll have to carry on. Sorry, Ms. Zann—

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Hello. Actually, I think I'm here now.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Yes, please go ahead with your questions.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

I'm so sorry, but my Internet keeps cutting out.

I want to say hello to Sikyong. It's so nice to meet you virtually here. I'm calling today from Nova Scotia on the east coast, and we have a large Buddhist community here in my riding in the Truro area, and also in Halifax. We have approximately 2,200 Buddhists, and three centres, so many people are concerned about what's happening with Tibet. I know many people would be very pleased to hear you today and say that we will do our best to try to support your issues and the problems that are going on with China.

I'd like to ask you what is happening with regard to health care during the pandemic in Tibet. We're not hearing too much about that. How are people being looked after, and what is going on?

4:25 p.m.

Sikyong, President, Central Tibetan Administration

Dr. Lobsang Sangay

It's so good to see you virtually.

I do come to the Halifax security forum every year, so I hope to come even this November and meet with this community as well.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Excellent. I will come and meet you.

4:25 p.m.

Sikyong, President, Central Tibetan Administration

Dr. Lobsang Sangay

Sure.

When we have these technological problems with muting and unmuting, we should all know it's all because of the coronavirus, which originated in China. If there is something about karma, something should happen pretty soon in a good way, that is, a resolution for the Tibetan people.

After the coronavirus spread all over China.... It's odd that if we look at the trajectory or the trend around the world, it wasn't restricted to one place, but in China it was restricted mainly to Wuhan and the extended province. It did not spread all over China, so there is a growing suspicion that information was suppressed. It infected more people, and that's why when Chinese people started travelling outside then, to Europe, America and Canada, it started infecting more people.

As far as Tibet is concerned, it's very interesting. As per the Chinese report, 101 Tibetans were infected and all were cured; no one died. We know for a fact that in one county, more than a dozen people were infected and several Tibetans died, just for one county, but after March 18, nothing, no information came from inside Tibet. Everything was shut down. So they took advantage of the pandemic and they have resorted to more repressive policies in the Tibetan Plateau.

You know that 154 Tibetans have committed self-immolation since 2009, which means the situation in Tibet is so desperate that the Tibetan people are resorting to self-immolation. Sometimes we get cases of self-immolation, but we never get the details because it's repressed. It's absolutely controlled. Even the coronavirus and the health issue are extremely difficult to know. Since March 18, we've had no information whatsoever. That means the Tibetan Plateau is completely shut down as far as health-related or coronavirus-related information is concerned.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you.

I also wanted to ask you about the Indian-Chinese skirmishes along the border. I know that in May and June there were these deadly skirmishes. What is CTA's view of these skirmishes, and what impact did they have on China's military presence in Tibet?

4:25 p.m.

Sikyong, President, Central Tibetan Administration

Dr. Lobsang Sangay

That's the Indo-Tibet border. We say Indo-Tibet border now; the Chinese government says Indo-China border. It's a border that's 3,500 kilometres long, and not even one kilometre of land border was there between India and China. Tibet acted as the buffer zone between India and China. Hence, there was very deep peace because they never met face to face. Since the occupation of Tibet, the Chinese army has moved to the border now. It's called LAC, line of actual control.

The agreement was that there would be no violence or no gun fighting, so all the guns, even for army personnel, have to be pointed down, but this time the Chinese side used violence and killed 20 Indian soldiers and injured more than a hundred by using batons and all kinds of weapons. So for the first time in 40 years, there was violence and there were deaths. It has created a lot of anxiety and elements of resentment, even in India.

I've appeared—

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Thank you, Doctor.

4:25 p.m.

Sikyong, President, Central Tibetan Administration

Dr. Lobsang Sangay

—on 40-some television shows in India and reminded them that it's always the Indo-Tibet border.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Doctor, I'm terribly sorry to interrupt.

Thank you, Ms. Zann. That's the end of your time.

I would ask members.... Maybe that was me, but I don't think I did that. I don't think we should be using the symbols for clapping and thumbs-up and so forth. We can express it when it's our turn, of course. That may have been up by mistake in your case, Ms. Zann, because you had technical problems, obviously. It's appearing on the screen and I'm not sure why.

Oh, I think it's my fault. Pardon me; it's entirely my fault. It's my mistake. I apologize.

Now we're on to Mr. Harris for two and a half minutes.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

First of all, Dr. Sangay, let me just say that I wish to acknowledge it everywhere.... I know it's a long and uncertain road, but you have offered very great hope and I think that's a very positive thing.

I'd like to understand a little better how your organization has evolved since the Dalai Lama and the leadership of your organization.... Not that it has gone in a different direction, but it has separated out in terms of authority. What was the purpose of that, and has that been effective in advancing the cause of the Tibetan people?

4:30 p.m.

Sikyong, President, Central Tibetan Administration

Dr. Lobsang Sangay

The head of the Central Tibetan Administration was always His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In 2011, he separated the church and state and devolved all his political authority. In 2011, I took over as the political leader.

Our administration functions like any other government. We have an education department, which runs between 70 and 80 schools. The Department of Religion and Culture oversees about 250 monasteries and nunneries. We have our own health system. Our own settlements have a mayor-like system. We run like any other government. The building I am in is the information and international relations building. We have 13 offices, like embassies, all over the world.

I'm grateful to the Canadian government for providing funding for the education of Tibetan children in South Asia. We educate our own children. This is a self-sustaining and quite efficiently run administration. If you compare it with any refugee community anywhere in the world, you will find that the Central Tibetan Administration is the most efficient. We provide education up to high school and provide scholarships for children to go to college. We provide welfare to people who are poor and who are sick. We have old-age homes, and monasteries and nunneries to preserve and promote our spirituality and our culture and language. Our finance department runs financial services, including a bank-like system.

So yes, we run like any government. We provide a very good service to the Tibetan people. Our literacy rate, for example, is 94% and—

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Dr. Sangay, I apologize for interrupting you again. I'm afraid we're over Mr. Harris's time.

Thank you, Mr. Harris.

We started a bit later than planned. As a result, I had in mind that we could go to about 4:45 p.m., if that's acceptable. I'm trying to manage it so that we have an equal amount of time for each witness. That would allow one more five-minute set for the Conservatives and one for the Liberals.

I hope that's acceptable to members. We'll have to pause for five to seven minutes between witnesses, and then at the end, after the next witness, we'll have to pause for about 15 minutes, I'm told. I'm trying to manage all this time.

I don't see anyone objecting, so I'll carry on with Mr. Genuis for five minutes.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I don't think Dr. Sangay will mind my doing this. Instead of asking him questions, I want to take this round to move a motion that reflects one of his asks. This would maybe take about five minutes and be a matter of consensus for the committee.

I want to move the following: that this committee call for dialogue between the Central Tibetan Administration and the Government of the People's Republic of China with the view to allowing the exercise of genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution, and report this motion to the House.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Is there any debate on the motion?

Mr. Harris.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I thought we were doing a study. We were going to hear from people and make some decisions afterwards. It seems to me a bit unusual that in the middle of testimony from a witness we would have a motion on something that may require some further thought.

Other people might have some comments. I'm not objecting to the particular motion, as such, but procedurally this seems to be a bit unusual.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Thank you, Mr. Harris.

I believe the motion is in order. Of course, if members wish to debate it or not, it's up to members.

I don't see anyone else seeking to debate the motion—

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Could I raise an issue, Chair?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Well, I have Mr. Oliphant first, and then it will be you, Mr. Virani.

We'll now continue with Mr. Bergeron.

August 6th, 2020 / 4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Liberal Don Valley West, ON

I would be speaking generally in favour of this motion. I don't disagree with it. I think that the spirit of it is absolutely correct. I think this is one issue where there is very little daylight among our parties. We are all concerned about Tibet and human rights. When you look over the last 20 years, over various governments, we've been fairly consistent regardless of what party has been in power and where we're at.

I do agree, however, with Mr. Harris. I'm worried that it feels a little premature. We've just started, really, a little bit more on human rights. We were going to do a fairly in-depth set of discussions around various human rights issues. I would feel, personally, a little bit more comfortable if we had a little more witness testimony and then sorted out our plan about how we're going to address these issues publicly in the House and make decisions.

Again, I'm not against it, but it seems to me that it doesn't give us time to really look at the whole picture and whether or not it is timely. It's always timely to discuss human rights in Tibet, but is this the best time for a motion to come from this committee?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Geoff Regan

Mr. Virani.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

I have three points, Mr. Chair.

Building on what Mr. Oliphant just mentioned, I think the position of various Canadian governments has been exactly that: the Sino-Tibetan dialogue needs to restart. That's been consistent. I also think there's a fundamental misunderstanding among large parts of the Canadian populace about what the middle-way approach is. That's the first point of concern, just having people have a better understanding of what would be in the content of the motion.

The second point is that Dr. Sangay very rightfully raised a number of issues that bear a lot of scrutiny and a lot of understanding and consideration by this committee about what a potential motion might look like: things such as reciprocal access and other nations that have passed legislation that relates to this principle of reciprocity.

A third issue that was raised was the commonality between various human rights causes—such as Hong Kong, the Uighurs, Taiwanese—and the Tibetan cause. In my view, having as broad and as sweeping an analysis before putting forward a motion might be the best way forward. I think it's clear, from Dr. Sangay's testimony, that what we are upon is an opportune time to shine a light on human rights abuses, but doing that with a more multilateral approach, bringing in multiple issues, multiple stakeholders and multiple nations.

Thank you.