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Welcoming the President of the Tibetan government in exile

Today the Australian parliament is immensely privileged to welcome the Sikyong, the president of the Tibetan government in exile, to our House. In April this year I was deeply honoured to join a cross-party delegation to Dharamshala to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile.

Right now, the Tibetan people are facing their own stolen generation with a campaign of assimilation. A recent UN report revealed the rise of Chinese-government-run residential schools in Tibet, where around one million Tibetan children have been mandatorily removed from their families and are now being raised in boarding schools from preschool age. They are not taught in their own language and are permitted little contact with their families. They are thus divorced from their culture, religion and traditions.

Another most critical of issues for the Tibetan people is the plan of the Chinese government to intervene in the succession of the 14th Dalai Lama. The succession process is a deeply religious, centuries-old right that lies at the heart of Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It is unthinkable that this process could be usurped or interfered with in any way for political reasons. The right to religious freedom is as a central tenet of both our democracies, and it is my hope that Australia will continue to stand up for the religious rights of the people of Tibet.