The president of the Tibetan government-in-exile, Dr Lobsang Sangay, wants Kiwis to support the Tibetan fight for autonomy from China.
"New Zealand got its freedom supported by others, and the values that it fought for - the basic values of democracy and human rights - are the values that we are fighting for," said Sangay, who is on his first visit to New Zealand.
"Now I am here to seek the support of the people of New Zealand to fight for the same basic rights for Tibet."
A legal expert born to refugee parents in India, Sangay was elected as Tibet's first sikyong, or president, in 2011 and was re-elected last year.
His father, a monk, fled Tibet in 1959 - the same year as the Dalai Lama.
Sangay's uncle was shot dead, and his pregnant aunt committed suicide because she could not bear the daily injustices.
"The situation in Tibet is tragic. As we speak Larung Gar monastery is being destroyed," he said.
"From 12,000 monks and nuns, it will be reduced to 5000, many are forced to leave and made to sign a pledge never to return again."
Larung Gar, founded in 1980, is said to be the biggest Tibetan Buddhist institute in the world and attracts thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns to study there.
Pictures published by Free Tibet on Twitter and YouTube showed wooden buildings at the institute razed to the ground.
"Three nuns have committed suicide because they have nowhere to go," Sangay said.
"Since 2011, 146 Tibetans have set themselves on fire because of the repressive policies of the Chinese Government.
"There is no religious freedom, no political freedom, and not even environmental rights."
He said those who protested and voiced their opinions were put behind bars, and often tortured.
"Many feel it is better to commit self-immolation and die, than suffer for a long, long time in Chinese prisons."
During his four-day stay, Sangay will be drumming up support through public talks in Auckland and Dunedin, and meeting politicians in Parliament on Tuesday.
The president said he was seeking for a "Middle Way" rather than independence, so Tibetan people can achieve autonomy within China similar to what Hong Kong and Macau enjoy.
Sangay, a Harvard Law School graduate, governs in exile from Dharamsala, India.
He admits it has been difficult making any headway with China because his office is not recognised by the Chinese Government.
Chinese troops entered Tibet in 1950, a move Beijing said was to "liberate" it from feudal rule.
A failed uprising against Chinese rule resulted in many Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, fleeing into exile.
Tibet had traditionally been ruled by the Dalai Lama, but the ageing monk said he would turn his authority over to a new elected leader in 2011.
Sangay urged New Zealanders to help the Tibetan cause, and those interested to visit Tibet.net
"If you really want to understand China, you have to know the Tibetan story," he said.
"If you don't know the Tibetan story, you will never understand China."
There are about 50 Tibetans living in New Zealand, most of them in Auckland.