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.
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.
Phayul Dec. 2, 2011
Fiery sacrifice by a Tibetan in Chamdo
By Tendar Tsering
Tenzin Phuntsok, a former monk in his forties, reportedly self-immolated in Chamdo area of Tibet on Thursday. Tenzin Phuntsok is believed to have survived the self-immolation and has been taken to a local hospital.
No other details are available at the time of reporting. Click here for full story
Here is an update on Dawa Tsering from Radio Free Asia.
Warning: Video is graphic
This video smuggled out of Tibet shows31 year-old Dawa Tsering badly burned and under the care of his friends. Dawa has refused formal treatment and is being cared for by monks at the Kardze monastery and a brother -in-law with medical training. Youtube video
It was with a very heavy heart yesterday that I read of the 10th self-immolation in Tibet. Dawa Tsering a 31-year-old monk from Kardze Monastery like the nine Tibetans before him attempted to sacrifice his life in protest of China’s illegal occupation of Tibet. Calling for a return of the Dalai Lama and freedom to Tibet he suffered an agonizing pain I can’t even begin to imagine.
The names of the previous nine Tibetans who self-immolated are:
Tenzin Wangmo – Deceased
Norbu Damdrul – well-being and whereabouts unknown
Choephel and Kayang – both deceased
Kalsang Wangchuk – well-being and whereabouts unknown
Lobsang Kelsang – reported in hospital
Lobsang Kunchok – reported in hospital
Tsewang Norbu – deceased
Phuntsog – deceased
My thoughts and prayers are with these 10 brave souls, their families, friends and all those who witnessed these people burning themselves and the aftermath of such a site. My thoughts are also with those who have been falsely blamed and imprisoned for the immolations, the monks from Kirti who are still missing, those who have been killed, hurt or traumatized during the past several months and all the people in Ngaba who are living under the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party. I fear there will be a weekly and indefinite continuation of immolations.
Please sign the petition Stand Up for Tibet asking for global intervention in Tibet.
I Will Stand Up
Eight young Tibetans have set fire to themselves in eastern Tibet since March 2011; six since 26 September. Four have died. These unprecedented and truly desperate acts are a cry to the outside world for help.
I knew it would happen again. And it did. Before I could finish writing about the fourth and fifth monk’s self-immolations, two more young Tibetan men have killed themselves. I pray these acts of protest through self-sacrifice do not become a trend among Tibetan monks across Tibet or even in India. It’s heartbreaking that the situation at Kirti monastery in particular has driven these 7 young men to such heights of desperation.
Monks burning themselves alive won’t get the level of international attention necessary for meaningful change within Tibet to occur. While unfortunate, this is a reality. What is required to change China’s policies on Tibet? Government entities across the globe repeatedly refuse to stand up against China in any truly meaningful way. I was lying in bed last night before sleep descended, thinking about the lack of involvement in the Tibet plight from the U.S., Great Britain, European governments and others from the very get-go. Such are the things that disturb my sleep on a regular basis. Leading up to the 1950 invasion no one was willing to get involved. Why? Because they were more worried about positive foreign relations with China than they were in helping a small country that at the time seemed to have very little that anyone might be interested in. I wonder if Nehru were alive today and could see what is developing if he would have regrets. Sixty-one years later these same nations and more are increasingly concerned with economics than they are with human rights. Inspired by the growing Occupy Wall Street movement I decided to have a look at U.S. corporations doing business in or with China; the list is daunting and far from complete. The China – US Business Council lists about 240 businesses on the website, from 3M to Boeing to Mary Kay and Tyson foods and of course the infamous Carlyle Group.
There are a couple of meanings that could be gleaned from this reality. One is that economic interests in China are so deeply imbedded that risking upheaval that would certainly come as a result of demands regarding activities in Tibet dissuades the U.S. government from meaningful intervention. Secondly the possibility exists that with the right amount of pressure from consumers on these U.S. based corporations their mode of doing business with China could be influenced, which in turn would then pressure the government to act. A similar equation could be applied to Europe, Japan, and Canada. Currently Cisco is under fire for selling surveillance equipment to China. Essentially they are being accused of selling surveillance equippment to China which is then employed in tracking down dissidents who are jailed, tortured etc. Ever since the Tiananmen Square incident the U.S. has made it illegal for American firms to sell “crime control” products. Given China’s well known human rights abuses record, it seems a rather swift conclusion that even the most innocuous surveillance equipment would fall under the restrictions set out in the licensing policy. Yet Cisco and others happily sell all sorts of surveillance or crime control devices to the PRC. This development rightfully calls the ethics of corporations into question.
Democratic governments don’t change policies – especially bad ones – until the people demand change. The American government has always been sympathetic towards Tibetans, but what have they actually done to change the situation in Tibet? Their interests have always been self-motivated, from the CIA supported Chushi Gangdruk to yearly evaluations on China’s human rights, to meaningless calls for China to properly deal with the Tibetan issue. Even the awarding of the Congressional Medal to His Holiness was self-motivated. George Bush stood up there next to the Dalai Lama as the first standing president of this country to do so ever, not because he intended to fight for Tibetan rights, not because he wanted to take China to task for their abuses against Tibetans, not because he planned on sending military aid to Tibet or to pressure China in any way. His motivation was simply to say “F*&%$ You China! I don’t like communists and atheists and I’m gonna stand here next to the man you revile the most, the one who most threatens you just so I can piss you off. Ha!” In his religious fanaticism Bush chose one of the worlds most revered spiritual personalities as a weapon of sorts for his own personal misguided agenda. What good came of it for Tibetans? Real tangible good? Change in China’s policies? No. Change in China’s treatment of monks? No. Change in China’s attitudes toward the Dalai Lama and a willingness to conduct meaningful solution oriented dialogue with his envoys? No. Nothing came of the pomposity of that day, except for a few moments of George W. Bush looking like a nice guy instead of the crazy nut job he actually is. And worse a sense of hope rose up in the Tibetan communities across the globe; false though it was. Consistently Tibetans refer to this award and the act of Bush with great reverence and appreciation, completely missing the geopolitics involved; if anything the congressional medal made things worse between Tibetans and China; just one more reason to vilify HHDL and his clique. George Bush didn’t do anything to actually bring about change for Tibetans and that is the bottom line, corporations and goverment are the answer but not in the way we usually think. As I stated at the beginning of this paragraph, change doesn’t happen until the people demand change.
The importance of building new support for the Tibetan cause -
It’s clear that relying on capitalist governments for assistance is not the answer, as their interests lie in creating wealth from economic associations with China. So what is the answer? The Tibetan movement needs to shift gears. Unifying the message and hte action to be taken is the first step. What is the message? Freedom or autonomy? Pick one and agree to pursue it wholeheartedly. This problem of division from a dual message weakens the place from which Tibetans operate. If in the heart of most Tibetans lives the ideal of rangzen then so be it, own it, claim it and be all about freedom and then dig your heels in for the long battle. This sort of freedom does not have to involve violence or great bloodshed and can instead be designed to hit China where it hurts most, economically and disruption of the prescious but currently very fragile national unity. In fact there is a law safeguarding unity of China:
“Article 103 of the Criminal Law sets forth the crime of “inciting separatism and harming national unity,” which is overly interpreted by the authorities as precluding written or oral advocacy of self-determination, including, in the case of Tibet, calls for the return of the Dalai Lama and displaying the Tibetan flag”.
Regardless of a law it seems that China’s unity is increasingly threatened. Mass incidents in China more than doubled in 6 years, from 74,000 in 2004 to 180,000 in 2010. These incidents run the gamet of full fledged protests, to small village skirmishes with local officials, to factory walkouts and they all have something in common; civil unrest, dissatisfaction with the current policies handed down by the CCP. This is a weak spot in the dragons armour as is the economic dependence on the U.S., Ja[an and Europe. Yes China is actually dependent on the U.S. even though they owe 3 trillion to China. The U.S. also purchases 500 billion dollars worth of goods annually and without that steady stream of revenue China would be in trouble.
You need the global citizen behind you. Contrary to what many Tibetans believe, Americans don’t know anything about the Tibet issue. Seriously. Yes, we love the Dalai Lama but when it comes to Tibet itself, well somehow the message got lost in the shuffle; lost in the guru stupefication and adoration of His Holiness maybe. Most American’s have no idea what has and is happening to Tibet and Tibetans. Don’t wait for a seemingly sympathetic government official to step up and bat one out of the park for Tibet either, not gonna happen.
Ask yourselves, why should Tibet matter to the average citizen of any western country? Is it just a question of human rights and human dignity? That isn’t enough. The belief in human rights didn’t save Rwandans from genocide, it didn’t save Darfur from the same, nor Cambodia or Bosnia and a hundred other places and cultures over the course of human history. I love Tibetans but the truth is they are no more special than any other human being on the planet and they are not the only people in China who are suffering.
Can the Tibetan issue be representative of the wider issue of hegemonic forces and the annihilation of specific cultures? Can Tibet incorporate others into the fight for freedom? And if they are able to join forces will they have a better shot at getting the message across to more citizens globally and thus be able to mobilize action from those global humans? Isn’t the real issue freedom for all? A world where genocide of culture and people becomes truly a thing of the past? It’s a long shot I know, but I think that kind of world is one in which we all want to live. Standing by and doing or saying nothing because it’s not your cause or your too inundated with your own problems is not an excuse. The freedoms that so many of us take for granted everyday could be taken from us at any time and wouldn’t we then want and pray and hope that someone would save us??
I can’t bear to read of another monk setting himself on fire in a desperate attempt to convince China and the world that Tibet should have freedoms. And I can’t even begin to imagine how traumatizing and unbearably painful it is for families and friends of these young men. I pray there are no more immolations among Tibetans or anyone anywhere ever again…