Speech at Human Rights Day “Solidarity with Tibet” Rally

Dec.10, 2012, New York 

By Yang Jianli


Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Not long ago in Dharamsala– overwhelmed with grief while thinking of the sacrifices so many devoted and peaceable Tibetans have made for the cause of their people’s freedom, but also enormously encouraged and strengthened by their spirit, I called for a global campaign of truth about the Tibetans’ unspeakable suffering at the hands of the Chinese rule and about their remarkable struggle for freedom under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Today I came to tell you another simple but deep truth:

Yes, I am a Tibetan.

For, Who can say that he is not a Tibetan today if he sees the burning flames in Tibet and is not numb to pain himself?

Who can say that she is not a Tibetan today if she hears the voices cry out from the flames and is still in possession of a heart to love and a mind to understand?

Today we are all Tibetans.

But dear brothers and sisters, please join me today in asking a question of the Secretary General of the United Nations. I all know that the UN Charter affirms the “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, [and] in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.”

Today we must ask, “Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, are you a Tibetan today?”

Dear brothers and sisters, please also join me in asking this question of the President of the United States of America. We all know that its Declaration of Independence claims “All men are created equal.”

“Mr. Obama, are you a Tibetan today?”

Dear brothers and sisters, please join me in asking this same question of the new leader of the People’s Republic of China. I all know that its failed policies have rendered the life in Tibet unbearable for the Tibetans.

“Mr. Xi Jinping, are you a Tibetan today?”

I bring this question to these world leaders because, holding the powerful political positions they do, they can hamper or promote justice more easily than others.

My friends, I don’t know what these Tibetan self-immolations will lead to in the near future, but I am sure that our children will learn about this unparalleled episode in their history textbooks. What they will also learn is whether these leaders, facing the human disaster now unfolding in Tibet, seized the opportunity to impede injustice and uplift humanity, or whether they squandered it– or what is worse, promoted policies that deepened the crisis.

Wise, mature, and powerful, these men don’t need to be taught what is right and what is wrong. But they do need to be reminded of three characteristics that mark great leaders: courage, vision, and integrity. At the end of the day, the high court of history’s judgment on each of them, in whatever office they are holding, will be measured by answers to these three questions: Were they men of courage? Were they men of vision? Were they men of integrity?

Dear brothers and sisters, let us say together, loud enough for these world leaders to hear:

We are all Tibetans.

Free Tibet.

Let the Dalai Lama return home.

Thank you.