Brothers and Sisters,
What a beautiful day! And even more beautiful people.
I want to thank all of you, especially those who have travelled so far to be here, for attending the 11th InterEthnic/InterFaith Leadership Conference.
This year, our conference theme salutes the real dream of the people. It is:
“Strengthening Our Alliance to Advance the Peoples’ Dream: Freedom, Justice, Equality and Peace.”
As we look forward to realizing that dream, we will also look back at where we have come from and what we have been through. I firmly believe that our resolution of coming together and joining hands, and its impact is a necessary condition to real forward movement in our common cause.
The conferences have been intended to circle the globe and now we have come to India. We chose India, and even Dharamsala, for multiple reasons. Of course, we wish to honor His Holiness the Dalai Lama in his place of residence. Even after 57 years in exile, his spiritual purity shines as a beacon, drawing the attention of the entire world to brutal Chinese repression, in a way that benefits not only Tibetans, but also for all groups denied basic rights in China and neighboring regions.
India is Gandhi’s home. Our first conference began on his birthday in the year of 2000. Back then, I said in the opening speech “ My dear friends, we are meeting in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday we celebrate today-that we may transcend the differences among us and live in harmony together.” Indeed, Gandhi and his principles and practices of Satyagraha have been one of the most important sources of inspiration for our struggle to realize our dream of freedom, justice, equality and peace. It has long been our wish to gather together in Gandhi’s spirit in India.
While we enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Dharamsala, I think we should thank the Indian people and their government for their unique support for the Tibetan diaspora and for their cause of a free Tibet.
At this conference, we have a rich agenda of interesting panels, important guest speakers, and useful workshops. We will be presenting our second set of Citizen Power Awards to several champions of human rights whose efforts and commitment call for special recognition. And I expect the most engaging part of the Conference, as it has been for the last a few years, will be our session when we have an energetic and candid discussion of what our priorities should be for joint action over the next year.
An equally important aspect of this conference will once again be outside of the formal agenda. It will be the opportunity for each of you to get to know representatives of other ethnic, faith, professional and regional groups, to informally exchange your thoughts and feelings and to deepen the sense of empathy and comradeship that unites us in our shared mission of freedom for all those oppressed by the tyrants of Beijing. So I urge you to take full advantage of the meal times, coffee breaks and social periods at the conclusion of each day's formalities to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood that these Conferences are designed to foster.
Finally, let me briefly address the current state of China, which, I believe poses great challenges for us, but also great opportunities. Xi Jinping's alarmingly escalating repression of human rights on so many fronts has further brutalized people of all faiths, ethnic minorities, human rights advocates, lawyers, writers and artists. His audacity in regressing almost to the horror of the Cultural Revolution has shocked the world's conscience. He has repeatedly violated China's own laws and constitution, making clear that, for him, "the rule of law" really means the "law of the ruler."
But, at the same time, the CCP faces its own crisis of declining support and legitimacy, as the people increasingly rebel against its heavy-handed rule and it's selfish incompetence. The CCP faces mounting public disgust with government lies, information control, unsafe buildings, infrastructure, food and medicine products, sickening pollution, glaring corruption, and blatantly unjust detentions and prosecutions. Even more significant, new rounds of public protests and open challenges to the Party and even to Xi Jinping himself, have undermined the dictators' legitimacy in the eyes of the peoples represented in this conference – and, indeed, in the eyes of the whole world.
So now, brothers and sisters, we have an opportunity to stand up stronger, to be more creative and strategic, and to work as never before in our common mission to inform, encourage, and unify the people inside, and to empower freedom fighters around the world.
I believe this assembly will strengthen our alliance and jumpstart the next round of our joint work.
Thank you all.