It’s been nearly a year since Phuntsog set himself on fire and essentially kicked off the stream of immolations that have continuously escalated attention to the situation in Tibet. Mainstream media is finally carrying the story with more vigor than in the past 10 months. Potentially this could create an avalanche of support for Tibet in ways we have not seen in the past.
If you are willing to vocalize your support, contact your local and national government representatives and ask them to take a stronger stance toward China.
Below are several links to reports that highlight attempts by journalists to investigate one of the biggest and most ignored stories of last year; one that shows no signs of abating this year. Let’s spread the word and make sure that Tibetan‘s receive the attention and assistance they deserve.
Join your local Tibetan community on March 10th to commemorate the 1959 uprising and please attend prayer vigils that are being held February 8th around the world. Contact your local Tibetan organization for details.
Tibet TV Online - Tibetan Version
Lobsang Sangay- English Version
As Chinese everywhere were celebrating the first couple of days of the Year of Dragon on
January 23rd and 24th, 2012. Chinese police fired indiscriminatelyon hundreds of Tibetans who had gathered peacefully to claim their basic rights in Drakgo, Serthar, Ngaba, Gyarong, and other neighboring Tibetan areas. Six Tibetans were reportedly killed and around sixty injured, some critically.
Because of gruesome acts such as these and the systematic repression of Tibetans, the resentment and anger amongst Tibetans against (the) Chinese government has only grown since the massive uprising of 2008. Ever since the invasion of Tibet, the Chinese government has claimed that it seeks to create a socialist paradise. However, basic human rights are being denied to Tibetans, the fragile environment is being destroyed, Tibetan language and culture is being assimilated, portraits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama are banned, and Tibetans are being economically marginalized.
Tibet is in virtual lockdown. Foreigners have been barred from travelling to Tibet now and the entire region is essentially under undeclared martial law. I urge the Chinese leadership to heed the cries of the Tibetan protestors and those who
have committed self-immolation. You will never address the genuine grievances of Tibetans and restore stability in Tibet through violence and killing. The only way to resolve the Tibet issue and bring about lasting peace is by respecting the rights of the Tibetan people and through dialogue.
As someone deeply committed to peaceful dialogue, the use of violence against Tibetans is unacceptable and
must be strongly condemned by all people in China and around the world. I call on the international community to show solidarity and to raise your voices in support of the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people at this critical time. I request that the international community and the United Nations send a fact-finding delegation to Tibet and that the world media be given access to the region as well. The leaders in Beijing must know that killing its own family members is in clear violation of international and Chinese laws, and such actions will cast further doubts on China’s moral legitimacy and their standing in world affairs.
I want to tell my dear brothers and sisters inside Tibet that we hear your cries loud and clear. We urge you not to despair and refrain from extreme measures. We feel your pain and will not allow the sacrifices you have made go in vain. You all are in our heart and prayers each and every day. To my fellow Tibetans, I request you not to celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year), which falls on February 22 this year. However, please observe the basic customary religious rituals such
as burning incense, going to temple and making traditional offerings. To demonstrate our solidarity with Tibetans in Tibet, I
urge Tibetans and our friends around the world, to participate in a worldwide vigil on Wednesday, February 8, 2012. Lets send a loud and clear message to the Chinese government that violence and killing of innocent Tibetans is unacceptable! I request everyone to conduct these vigils peacefully, in accordance with the laws of your country, and with dignity.
U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke speaks with Charlie Rose on his role with China, the increasing human rights infractions, economics and some future trends.
To listen click here: Charlie Rose/Gary Locke
Yesterday Wednesday January 18, 2012 marked a crucial and important demonstration of the power of the internet to mobilize, educate, and influence our world. If you visited sites like Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, and our own WordPress you quickly would have realized something was different. Even more you may have been educated about two pieces of legislature circulating the U.S. Congress and Senate. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) on the surface appear to be aimed at controlling piracy of music, film and other copyrighted works found in plenty on the internet. I’m all for putting an end to piracy, for artists, musicians, writers, film makers to be able to protect their original work from being freely distributed across the internet. However the wording of the bills is a tad more sinister and instead infringes on the neutrality of the net that we now have. In other words it amounts to censorship and corporate and government control of internet content. If you aren’t in on the details of these two bills click here for information.
Yesterday’s internet blackout, a flood of Tweets and other social network activity and messages sent to Senate and Congress representatives has caused the momentum of these two bills to come to a near grinding halt. And it is this that excites me because it shows us how powerful the internet is in advancing a cause, spreading the word, creating a viral or epidemic like movement that actually creates change and makes a difference. From Tahrir Square to a blacked out Wikipedia the internet is playing an essential role in our collective ability to rise up and demand change in systems that do not serve the vast majority. While it is absolutely imperative that we as global citizens remain vigilant and aware of infringements on our rights it is also important that we recognize opportunities to plant seeds of change.
As we move into a politically sensitive time (Losar and March 10) I urge each of you to think about ways to utilize the internet on a global scale to affect change in Tibet. How can a movement that demands intervention on behalf of Tibet become viral through the use of the internet? What is the message that will stir activism on a grand and global scale not just among Tibetans and a few supporters? How can the message be made relevant to a larger audience and create a sense of urgency like never before?
There are many Tibetan related organizations all advocating for Tibet and Tibetans. Were they to unite under the exact same messaging and create a campaign that is more compelling and inspiring than ever and clearly states what is at stake beyond human rights, then a movement that is currently stalled could find new footing and new life. Disseminating the message consistently, actively, and without the confusion of middle way versus freedom or independence is imperative.
This is how we get governments to take action and change their continued passive stance on Tibet and China. As I keep saying the power of the people is more powerful than any government in existence today or ever. There are more of us than there are of them and when we really see that dynamic then we see where the ultimate power lies and we can unite fearlessly and create a world that is just for all beings.
In the wake of last year’s immolations, I had hoped that the New Year would bring a different story out of Tibet, but alas not. The immolations continue and today (yesterday in Tibet) a 16th Tibetan is reported to have set himself on fire in Aba, Sichuan Prefecture. This makes four people setting themselves on fire in the past week. The Associated Press distributed the most recent story noting that unrest followed the immolations and Tibetans in the area rose up in spontaneous protest only to be met with the usual military force. Woeser is quoted on her blog saying, “A young Tibetan person self-immolated … the local area has erupted in public protests and marches, and they have been met with military police fire and suppression. There are Tibetan casualties.” Phayul has posted a more detailed account of the situation in Ngaba (Aba), an area that has seen 11 immolations since March of last year.
My heart goes out to Tibetans across the globe, especially to those in the Ngaba area who must at this point be traumatized beyond simple comprehension. There is nothing I can say that will alleviate the emotional turmoil of my husband and our friends who are constantly worried about their families in Tibet. Those whose hearts break a little more with each immolation, with each death, with each report of turmoil in Tibet. I have no words to comfort and am instead filled with frustration, sadness and anger. Especially I am angry at governments who shake their fingers at China, condemn their repressive policies and ask them to behave themselves, but continue unabated trade relations. Why should China change anything when it seems the world is at their feet? When the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world eagerly and greedily reap the rewards of business dealings with China, promoting foreign investment in a country run by heartless thugs who lie, cheat, murder and behave with arrogant pomposity as they strut upon the world’s stage.
Nothing will change in China until we the people unite to overthrow corrupt people and their corporations holding sway on China’s economic growth. Not until we the people demand that governments across the globe place economic sanctions on China demanding that they adopt democracy, adhere to human rights expectations and until they are expelled from their position on the U.N. Human Rights Council. China has no right what-so-ever to be on the Human Rights Council, they have not in any way earned a place at that table. In my estimation their presence weakens and undermines the U.N. as an entity formed for the good of humanity; instead, China’s membership represents an insult to humanity.
I don’t believe that Tibetans will stop killing themselves. I want them to but I don’t think they will. This is the most attention that Tibet has received in years and maybe they see a certain kind of success in making the gravity of their situation known to the world by sacrificing their precious lives. I can’t help but wonder how many deaths will serve as the tipping point. How many will have to set themselves ablaze before meaningful intervention into the Tibetan situation occurs?
Rest in Peace. Bhod Gyalo!
Almost every time I hear a speech given by a representative of the Tibetan Youth Congress or read a news article as I did today (Tibet Post) quoting a TYC member I get riled. From today’s November 15, 2011, Tibet Post an article quoted Dhundrop Lhadhar, the Vice President of the TYC as saying….
It has been 61 years since the aborted uprising of 1959, which lead the Dalai Lama and his faithful people to flee Tibet and arrive in Dharamshala, which has since served as their place of refuge.
Saying that it’s been 61 years since the 1959 uprising is..well mathematically impossible. If you want the world to take you seriously then build ethos, also known as credibility. First of all get your dates straight. Know what you’re talking about, get your facts straight, know your history and for the sake of all Tibetans do some in-depth research on what it takes to build a viable campaign for freedom. Start with geopolitics as a framework for your understanding and then move on to study Gandhi, and ML King and as a further suggestion check out Gene Sharp’s volumes on the politics of non-violent action, he’s a bit of a genius in this realm.
Secondly, related to the dates please, please get this right. I’ve heard Tibetan’s saying during impassioned speeches, 52 years of occupation, 61 years, and all in this year of 2011. The occupation began the minute PLA soldiers stepped foot on Tibetan soil on October 7, 1950, so don’t under any circumstances let them off the hook for one minute. It was their intent then and in the months leading up that day to occupy Tibet for their very own. So the occupation began 61 years ago. And it wasn’t long after the Chinese made their way to Lhasa which was long before 1959. For some reason many Tibetans seem to think that Lhasa was free of Chinese troupes prior to 1959 which is not the case. Additionally the signing of the 17-Point agreement on May 23, 1951 signaled for China the success of their Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. Tsering Shakya’s book The Dragon in the Land of Snows, is chock full of dates and in-depth information on the events leading up to and after the initial invasion and serves as an excellent resource for this information, and it’s published in Tibetan.
The Tibet Post article also has this quote from Lhadhar saying in reference to the immolations, “These extreme actions indicate a renewed grassroots pledge calling for all Tibetans to stand united to collectively end Beijing’s draconian rule”……..”a painful cry from across the mountains to accelerate efforts to restore Tibet’s independence”.
While this sentiment is aimed at pulling Tibetans together it misses the fact that there is indeed a very visible contradiction within the Tibetan diaspora. This contradiction stems from HHDL’s Middle Way plan which in November of 2008 was upheld by the Tibetan community in a vote that reflected their split in ideology. The problem is that the community is itself divided on these two paths of Autonomy under China or all out Independence. How can a community stand united in anything when there is this strong divide? This is not a small matter and in fact can make or break a movement. Yes people can disagree and that’s normal, but this divide is akin to having a split personality. There is no way to gain traction for a Free Tibet when the leaders or representatives of the exiled people of Tibet are holding to the Middle Way. These are the people who are the recognized voice of Tibetans across the globe. They are speaking for Tibetans and unfortunately seem not to be truly representative of the overall population.
When Lobsang Sangay meets with members of U.S. Senate or any other political leaders and he is advocating for dialogues with China, but outside on the streets groups of Tibetans are yelling Free Tibet and holding signs saying China Lies, this looks ridiculous! There is not a shred of credibility from the viewpoint of any world leader. And it is exactly why China can legitimately say that the Dalai Lama lies and is a splittist. They hear him saying one thing, but see his people saying and doing the polar opposite.
I have said several times on this blog that Tibetans need to regroup, restrategize their forward movement and come together in a cohesive voice. The international community will not back a split personality. No way. You can march in the streets till your feet fall off and that is all very noble and important, and there has to be more to the strategy. Most of the time Tibetans are preaching to the choir, meaning they are protesting with and to each other, my question is how are you involving non-Tibetans in your immediate community?
How are you partnering with the communities you live in to gain increased support? What is your message and how is it being delivered? A true grassroots movement starts with people not government and in most cases it aims to change government. Start with changing the platform of the CTA on Tibet’s status. If the majority of Tibetans want freedom and independence then the CTA should be in alignment with that desire regardless of what His Holiness thinks. The Dalai Lama handed over the reins of political office to ‘the people’, so take the reins and change the accepted position from Autonomy to Independence. Shake things up. Then you can move forward united. Just make sure you get the dates and facts right.
Recently Lobsang Sangay paid a visit to D.C., likely with the hope of generating support from the U.S. in dealing with the most current issues in Tibet. Garnering an informal meeting with senators was no big deal, but the folks that mattered, from the State Department and the White House were unwilling to see him. This is no surprise as the policy of every administration is that the U.S. recognizes Tibet as part of China and thus meeting with anyone representing the ‘exiled’ government is a big no no. Meetings with the Dalai Lama are barely allowable and conducted on the basis that he is a Spiritual leader not a political leader.
The strategy of the exiled Tibetan leadership has for the past 6 decades relied on relationships with world leaders and urging them to intervene on behalf of Tibetans. This reliance is as faulty now as it was in the late 40’s when the Tibetan government was busily soliciting help from India, Great Britain and America. They didn’t get the help they needed then and they won’t get it now. That is the unfortunate nature of geopolitics, foreign policy and economics. America will elicit the usual warning without consequences that China should respect human rights in Tibet and negotiate with the Dalai Lama. They will go to great lengths to investigate and report rule of law and human rights infractions, but will do nothing to back up these warnings with sanctions, changes in trade policy or anything more forceful. It’s not because China is so powerful as many people have been fooled into thinking, there is enough evidence to show that there are significant holes in China’s system to be of concern. The issue has more to do with who in the west is doing business in China and their potential to earn billions of dollars is motivation to influence government leaders to stay out of China’s way. Human rights be damned economics are more important! It’s not that governments don’t know what’s going on, they very much do. It’s just a very difficult and delicate diplomacy issue that could have negative ramifications on a large-scale well into the future. This is of course a horrendous attitude that foreign policy makers negotiate with on a daily basis.
If history has taught anything it would be that this strategy comes at a very high cost with every potential to eventually disrupt our own cozy safe lives. As Martin Niemöller pointed out with his famous oft quoted ode to the importance of speaking out for the persecuted; eventually the silent will end up as the persecuted. I’m not suggesting that China will come knockin on our door or try to invade Europe, the truth is they lack the military power to do so at this point. However, the question I bring up is, why would anyone in good conscience want to do business with a regime that routinely violates the human rights mandates set forth by the U.N Commission? Never mind the U.N. what about values, and conscience, what about morals and human life? What kinds of people ignore these atrocities in order to make a billion or two?
Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay, shouldn’t bother with Capitol Hill sell outs and in effect is barking up the wrong tree in terms of creating movement and change. Instead he could appeal directly to the people of America and Europe and wherever he can reach. Many citizens across the globe continue to remain uniformed of the continuing egregious acts against humanity that are committed routinely in China. Tibetan information networks are not considered a reliable enough sources for news outlets and so what little news does leak into mainstream media is meted out by the Communist Party and is stripped of all contexts and often seeks to implicate the Tibetans as problematic.
A grassroots effort to educate the masses would therefore have potential to create the pressure on governments needed to then compel China to make drastic changes to their policies. Tibetans in general have a tendency to hide in the shadows and are far too polite in pushing for their needs to be addressed. Additionally there has been historically far too much reliance on His Holiness to “fix” the problem. We have seen that over the past several decades, though he has gained a tremendous following and respect as a world renowned spiritual leader, his attempts at garnering true support leading to changes have been ineffective. Freedom from persecution for Tibetans is now up to the Tibetan people themselves. Their voices must unite and find traction in an effort to rile up more supporters than they currently have. Supporters who then can demand justice and action from world leaders and government’s on their behalf.
The latest developments in the Tibet/China saga reveal the degree to which the Chinese have put His Holiness on edge regarding the issue of his death and subsequent reincarnation as the 15th Dalai Lama. For folks who don’t quite understand how all this works and has worked for the past almost 400 years you can get a full explanation from His Holiness here. The People’s Republic of China and its communist Party overlords have been saying with increasing vehemence that they have the authority to choose the next Dalai Lama, and in fact that it is religious law. Somewhere back in 2007 the communist Party issued a 14 point mandate that among many things says that no Tibetan Lama can be reincarnated outside of China and that the selection of the Dalai Lama must be approved by Beijing authorities.. Of course this is completely silly not to mention downright foolish and an obvious attempt to control the selection of higher lama’s, most importantly the Dalai Lama. It’s not about the CCP failing to understand how reincarnation works – surely they’re smarter than that – rather it is a bid to secure stability among Tibetans in Tibet by securing their own puppet lama. I also suspect that having the next Dalai Lama in their pocket – who will say and do what he is trained to do - is possibly thought of as a way for them to secure a more positive world view and legitimize their horrendous policies in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has a great deal of influence over Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet and as most of us in the west know he is admired as one of the world’s great spiritual leaders, deeply respected by many people from politicians and celebrities to average folks like myself.
What is absolutely mystifying to me and probably to many others is the question of whether the CCP actually believe that Tibetans will follow any lama chosen by them. With all their declarations of wanting harmony and unity in China and especially in the TAR and troubled ethnic Tibetan areas, messing with the selection of the Dalai Lama is no way to engender warm and fuzzy feelings among Tibetans toward anyone in Beijing’s politburo. Recent history proves that China being involved with reincarnation doesn’t work so well as Tibetan’s in Tibet and the diaspora refuse to acknowledge the puppet 11th Panchen Lama chosen by the CCP to replace the young Gedhun Choekyi Nyima who was chosen by the Dalai Lama back in 1995. Just this summer in fact a visit made by the Chinese puppet Panchen to Labrang monastery in Tibet was conducted under heavy military control due to the fear of outbreaks of violent protest during his visit.
For his part the 14th Dalai Lama is simply firing back at the Chinese with his own plan to choose where, when and whether or not he will reincarnate. The difficulty is that the while the Dalai Lama is an individual, he as the official spiritual leader in many respects belongs to the Tibetan people. The position of Dalai Lama has for 369 years been one of spiritual and moral compass and political head of the Tibetan people. Does he get to choose ending the lineage of reincarnated Dalai Lama’s? Should he alone choose? He has mentioned that it is up to the people to decide if the lineage of Dalai Lama should end; however, it will be impossible to put this to a vote among the 4-6 million Tibetan’s living in Tibet. It wouldn’t be right that only the diaspora votes and decides because 150,000 people cannot and should not speak out for the larger Tibetan population. Were the Tibetans to decide to end the tradition of Dalai Lama all together this would not be enough to hold back the CCP who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. They would simply proceed with their Golden Urn method to select the 15th Dalai Lama ignoring completely the wishes of the Tibetan people.
Personally I vote for reincarnation outside of China and lots and lots of International publicity when it happens as well as sustained publicity over the course of his or her upbringing. The Chinese won’t be able to kidnap the 15th Dalai Lama if the birth occurs outside of China. However, this won’t stop them from choosing and installing their own puppet Dalai in Tibet and denouncing whomever the Tibetan’s in exile choose. Either way it’s going to be a mess, with both sides insisting their Dalai Lama is the real deal. Essentially the Dalai Lama can’t win this game, whether or not and where he reincarnates, the Chinese will simply appoint their own Dalai Lama and fill CCTV and Xinhua news with the legitimacy of their choice versus the Tibetan’s choice. Tibetan’s won’t accept the Chinese choice just as they haven’t accepted the Panchen Lama and the argument will continue.
Optimistically the current Dalai Lama will remain alive for another 15 years or more; during which time Tibetans will hopefully come together as a united front and rally for independence. The Middle Way strategy hasn’t worked thus far; China is simply not willing to budge in any meaningful way on Tibet. Sustained international pressure is one of the more realistic chances left at this point. Neither is waiting for the CCP to crumble, both because that won’t guarantee independence or even autonomy and the clock is ticking, there’s no time to waste as increasingly the landscape and culture in Tibet is being irrevocably changed.
Tibetans need support from people of all walks of life who will put pressure on their own governments and the U.N. to intervene on behalf of Tibetans. The Central Tibetan Administration has been attempting for years to garner support from political allies which seems fool hardy given the fact that it was these international governments that left Tibet abandoned to the PLA’s invasion. The U.S., Great Britain and India didn’t offer meaningful help in the years before and after the 1950 invasion and occupation (even after repeated pleas) and they sure won’t help now that they are firmly in bed with the Chinese economically. The U.S. Congress can stand all it wants with Tibet but until they put their money where their mouth is, it’s all just a bunch of hooey. Increasingly western political leaders are caving in to the tantrums from China every time even a whiff of a potential meeting with His Holiness is in the air. No one wants to raise the unpredictable ire of the CCP or adversely affect economic partnerships.
The question is how to make this issue relevant by connecting with the values of enough citizens globally (and this includes China) to get folks motivated enough to speak out for Tibetans. The days of celebrity sponsorship of the Tibetan cause are basically over, and a few uninformed Hollywood hangers-on didn’t create significant change in the 90’s anyway and it won’t now either. Essentially very little has changed except things are getting worse in Tibet rather than better.
It’s time for a new plan, a new movement with greater momentum that speaks to as many people in the world as possible. What Tibetans all over must realize is that not enough people understand their plight, when it comes to the basics most westerners are ignorant of the facts and current events in Tibet. They must stop assuming that the American or British governments are on their side and will help them and they must, must, must understand the history between Tibet and China of the past at least 65 years. For instance China occupied Tibet in 1950, not 1959 as is so often stated, printed on Tibetan websites, literature, etc….if you are Tibetan take it upon yourself to learn at least the modern history of Tibet.
Good interview with Dr. Lobsang Sangay the newly elected Kalon Tripa of the Tibetan Government in exile. Check it out.
click here. Interview on NDTV