Originally published in Radio Free Asia click title to be taken directly to the article on RFA's website. I'm sharing here because Woeser's experience is an excellent example of just how deep the repression of Tibetan's in their own country has extended. To be turned away from the Holy city, the heart and capital of your country, must be painfully excruciating. Tibetans should be exempt from needing special permission to enter Lhasa. China has it all wrong.
An outspoken Tibetan poet describes the experience of entering the region’s capital city.
The Qinghai-Tibet train is packed with tourists from every part of China on their way to Tibet, singing several years’ worth of songs, including “On the Train to Lhasa.” A train attendant from Hubei asks me anxiously: “What is the security situation like in Lhasa?” “Very safe for you [Han Chinese],” I say, pointedly emphasizing the “you.” Some young people sitting nearby with real Beijing accents overhear this, and ask me about it. “There are army, police and plainclothes officers lining the streets,” I tell them.
The train attendant is pretty bright, and asks: “Do Tibetans feel very constricted?” Another young person chips in: “Does this have anything to do with those Tibetans who have self-immolated?”
So some people do know about the self-immolations by Tibetans, in spite of the Party’s deafening silence on the matter. Party organs at every level prevent people from talking openly about it.
I look at them, as if they were alien beings from another land: “These aren’t isolated incidents,” I say. “More than 50 Tibetans have self-immolated, from right across the Tibetan region, even some in exile.”
Someone follows up with a question: “Why do they want to set fire to themselves?” But others are already drawing away, turning their heads to look out at the scenery.
I am very conscious of the language barrier, even though we are all speaking Chinese. I reflect that self-immolation is hardly a rare tragedy these days, but that while another culture might understand why a person would self-immolate on their own behalf, they can’t see why someone would do that on behalf of a whole ethnic group. But I’d like to say a bit more about that, and tell them about the last words uttered by some of the Tibetans who have self-immolated.
Perhaps some people won’t want to listen any more. Going to Tibet on holiday is the dream of many Chinese people, and perhaps … they just want to get on and use the 10 days’ vacation they have carefully saved up, and just can’t wait to scrawl “So-and-so was here” at every tourist destination they go to. They are mostly concerned with seeing the scenery, and the “Tibetan tourist sites” picked out in advance by their tour company. They don’t care about the local people who have nothing to do with the tourist attractions, like Tibetans who set themselves on fire.
The Buddha’s enlightenment teaches us that all living things are equal. But in reality, there are a world of differences; particularly between different ethnic groups. When our train, packed full of so many living things, arrives at Lhasa station, the majority of non-Tibetan passengers breeze easily through, so very excited to be heading off to various parts of Lhasa, and looking quite perky; even those who are immediately hit by altitude sickness.
The dozen or so Tibetan passengers, on the other hand, are stopped by armed police and their identity cards checked with a device similar to those used to swipe credit cards. When I hand my card over, I am stopped with the words, “Woeser, stay behind!”
What can the Tibetans who were stopped do about it? We are all taken into the police station next to the railway station. I can’t help thinking of all those Tibetans from Lhasa who were sent to “study classes” for brainwashing after they traveled to India at the beginning of the year to attend an initiation presided over by the Dalai Lama. Were they feeling as nervous as I am now, when they were taken from their homes by police, or intercepted on their way home?
Two young Tibetans from the southern part of Qinghai province are to be sent back home the next day, because they didn’t have a “permit to enter Tibet.” The police dealing with Tibetans pay scant heed to their pleas, repeatedly telling them that a “permit to enter Tibet” must be issued by county level police departments or above. The really funny thing is, one of the young women, who did look a bit Chinese, tells the police that she is actually a fake Tibetan, which surprises them, and they ask her why. She says she changed her nationality from Han to Tibetan in order to take advantage of positive discrimination offered to ethnic minorities in the university admissions process. “This is now a huge pain for me,” she says, admitting that she deeply regrets it.
Those Tibetans who do hold a “permit to enter Tibet” have their ID cards photocopied, and are asked to fill out the address where they will be staying in Lhasa, the reason for their trip, and their identity, as well as signing their names and adding their fingerprints in blood-red ink. I have no “permit to enter Tibet,” but as a special person required to be outside Beijing for the duration of the 18th Party Congress, I also give them my fingerprints.
When I and the two young people from [Qinghai] are finally allowed to leave the police station and enter Lhasa, they say to each other, amid sobs: “Who’d have thought it would be so hard for Tibetans to get into Lhasa?”
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Tsering Woeser is a Tibetan activist, poet and blogger who lives in Beijing.
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As of this writing 55 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in what is referred to as a non-violent protest of Chinese occupation and all that accompanies their colonialist rule in Tibetan regions. All but 10 of these immolators have died, and all of them are currently heralded as heroes committing acts of non-violence.
The following sentiments will likely be unpopular and some of you will even be offended, but I am unwilling to continue to sit by and pretend that self-immolation is non-violent. It is my belief that these acts are in fact incredibly violent. Non-violence goes far beyond eliminating physical injury and must also encompass emotional and psychological wellbeing. Gandhi declared that even a negative thought about someone was an act of violence.
From my work as a former crisis interventionist for a police department I can attest to the emotional and psychological injuries inflicted upon those who are witness to horrific events. Surviving family members or the person who discovers the body of an individual who has committed suicide or has died in some violent manner are traumatized, especially if they witnessed the death. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common side effect from any event that is highly disturbing to an individual’s psyche and the level of disturbance is unpredictable and different for everyone. The effects can be devastating and disruptive to the life and overall well-being and health of the person traumatized by such events.
Self-immolations may not physically endanger others, but what of the emotional and psychological wounds inflicted upon those who witness the immolator engulfed in flames? What of those who have risked their own safety to care for the immolator who did not die immediately and bore witness to the unbearable pain of such injuries? What of the family members who are left behind, especially the young children whose parents died from their act of protest? And what of those of us who see the video’s, the pictures, read the reports and wait everyday with trepidation that another Tibetan will douse themselves in flammable liquid and become a human torch for freedom?
Living with a truly compassionate heart requires one to also understand the ramifications of ones actions in the world and how they will or will not adversely affect one’s direct or indirect sphere of influence. These acts are violent pure and simple because of the psychological and emotional harm inflicted on the witnesses and families and the community at large. It is equally violent and perverse to hope that these acts will garner support and attention for the Tibetan cause.
A scholar of Tibetan history I have spent years examining and analyzing the political history and geopolitical underpinnings of Tibet versus China and have come to understand very clearly what will and what won’t motivate a change in CCP attitudes and in the way western leaders respond to the Tibet situation. Self-immolations are not that motivator, western sympathizers may abound but the lack of action speaks volumes and has since before China even stepped foot in Tibet 62 years ago.
And as a long time supporter with many Tibetan friends I consider my family, I am heartbroken to see these misguided actions and support for its continuance. Instead of encouraging more pointless acts that have done nothing to change conditions for Tibetans in Tibet, it’s time to speak the truth and admit that self-immolation is violent; as violent as standing in the middle of street with a gun to one’s head only worse. It’s time to send a clear and strong message to Tibetans in Tibetan regions that immolations are not effective; in fact they have done more to harm Tibetan communities in those regions, than incite the desired move toward political liberation. The Tibetan diaspora need to let their brothers and sisters know that ending their lives in these violent acts won’t bring freedom or the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Stand in solidarity by encouraging them to live instead of die.
Through a collection of essays written by Tibetan scholars like Tsering Shakya and cultural anthropologists who have spent large portions of their working life dedicated to understanding Tibetan culture and history, we are given an intricate analysis of the situation in Tibet. What we won’t get from news sources, rumors, and biased viewpoints is actual analysis that starts at the foundation of the Tibetan culture. I think you’ll find a wealth of information here.
Here is the link to the front page of this particular forum on the Immolations:
Here is a link to Tsering Shakya’s essay which I found compelling and honest.
Journalists are sneaking by road blocks and security in Tibetan areas. The videos and pictures coupled with eyewitness and interview testimonial provide concrete information about the ongoing events in Tibet. What we see does not represent a people who live in freedom.
Today March 10, 2012 53 years after the failed uprising in Lhasa took the lives of so many people and saw the final dismantling of Tibetan society as it was known for thousands of years; I want to thank the brave journalists who have borne witness to the military crackdown in Tibet. Please continue investigating and reporting on Tibet.
|From Phayul……….Breaking News: Three Tibetans self-immolate in Serthar|
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.
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!
For the past several days I’ve wrestled with whether or not to post the video showing Palden Choetso in flames. It’s a disturbing video, a surreal visual to be sure and at first I wondered if it was authentic, so vivid and unreal is the image of her engulfed in bright orange flames. Not until she falls does it become believable. The mere idea of a human being or any living being on fire is so incredibly difficult to fathom, and seeing it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.
We will never know what was going on in her mind as the reality of pain bore down on her in the moments during the event that claimed her life, but our hearts and prayers go out to her and her family and friends as well as those who were witness to this tragic event.
The image of her burning is disturbing, but not grotesque or gory however, keep in mind that this is a real person under those very real flames. If you’d like to read more here is the story from the SFT website.
“shocking images of Palden Choetso, a 35-year-old nun from Geden Choeling Nunnery in Tawu, eastern Tibet, who died after lighting herself on fire on November 3, has been obtained from sources in Tibet. One video shows Palden Choetso standing upright as flames engulf her body. Additional footage shows Tibetans’ response to the self-immolation, including nuns protesting and chanting “Freedom to Tibet”; thousands of Tibetans at a candlelight vigil early on the morning of her funeral; and Chinese security forces converging on Nyitso Monastery”.
Click here for video Palden Choetso
There has been so little mainstream media coverage on the immolations in Tibet… Not at all surprising given that the handful of people who own most of the media in the U.S. and globally are neck deep in capitalistic relations with China. They don’t dare risk friendly business ventures with investigative reports on anything controversial. However here’s a recent BBC feature on the immolations.
In case you’re interested in learning more about the geopolitics of China, its potential for military power, and continued economic gain, here is a great video with one of my favorite geopolitical brainiacs, George Friedman. I appreciate his knowledge on matters of geopolitics and find it really helpful in understanding China’s politics, its place in the world and the role Tibet has to play in the overall strategy.
This is particularly important for those who believe that China will fall apart and thus Tibet will be free.
Film maker Norah Shapiro is working on a documentary about the Miss Tibet beauty pageant. You can check out her efforts so far at Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile. Seeing her efforts took me back to the time I ran smack up against the Miss Tibet Beauty Pageant while living in Dharamsala in 2008. I was shocked that such a thing existed and in what I saw as a self-promoting opportunist using women in typical patriarchal fashion, for his own benefit.
Lobsang Wangyal is the creator and promoter of Miss Tibet. He claims that his intentions are purely based on wanting Tibetan women to become more powerful, less shy and to use the platform of Miss Tibet to draw more attention to the issue of Tibet. This video called Miss Tibet in Exile, was for me a clear example of Wangyal’s opportunistic leanings and gets especially icky at the end when the girls hand over all the money they’ve won to him. Ugh! Unfortunately there are supporters of this train wreck of a beauty pageant including members of the Tibetan Government who seems to think that any event that draws international attention to Tibet is good for the cause, regardless of the quality or overarching statement made by such an event.
Here’s a novel idea for Mr. Wangyal, if you want to empower Tibetan women there are far better ways to accomplish that task. A beauty pageant that conforms to the age old formula is antiquated and unimaginative not to mention disprespectful toward women. If you are sincere why not get creative and bust out of the mold of traditional beauty pageant fare, be bold enough to refashion a pageant in such a way as to be truly empowering for women? Is there a point in having young girls parade around in swimming suits and fancy dresses, other than to focus on the female body? The inherent nature of a beauty pageant is disempowering simply because it is based on the roulette wheel of genetics. What of the girl who by misfortune does not conform to the agreed upon standards of beauty, is she not beautiful? Start by redefining beauty, and the worth of a woman in society.
Beauty pageants are born out of and are a continuation of patriarchal hegemony. In short they represent dominance and power over women. It should be no secret that we live in a patriarchal world, everywhere not just in the U.S. Across the world patriarchy is the undercurrent that girds government, military, sports, systems of power, financial and educational institutions, it is something that is so pervasive that most of the time we fail to recognize how we are caught up in and influenced by its power.
Beauty pageants are an outward expression of male dominance over women and ultimately the objectification of the female body. They are the expression of women’s perceived worth in the world which is based first on physical beauty set forth by culturally constructed and agreed upon standards of that beauty. Secondary to physicality is talent and intellect which consistently takes a back seat to a woman’s perceived beauty.
A Huffington Post article critiquing pageants points out that, “Beauty contest participants reap great financial benefits when they win, and American viewers are fully accustomed to evaluating and watching women for pleasure” (Jill Filipovic HuffPost 2007). Woman have been objectified for so long that we aren’t even aware of our collective participation. Bombarded on a daily basis with images of women as objects rendered perfect by computer enhancements, we have lost for the most part, sensitivity to this continual objectification.
Tibetans in exile have the opportunity to create a society that is not simply a replication of all that as gone before. They could draw far more attention to their cause were they to attempt a cutting edge rendition of a pageant that was based in respect for women in all of the roles they hold in society. Instead, Mr. Wangyal’s pageant makes these young girls appear foolish and naïve as they have no apparent concept of feminism and how hard women the world over have fought to be taken seriously and valued as important contributors to society, industry and government.
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
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.
From day one China has struggled to win over the Tibetan population. Sixty one years later they are still struggling and missing the beat at every turn. In the early days of China’s occupation of Tibet they handed out silver coins and helped the farmers with harvests. Later that helpful demeanor turned into brutality, torture and murder as the CCP sought to gain increased control over the population. This in turn did nothing to endear China in the hearts of Tibetans and instead led to dissent, protest, freedom fighters, and guerilla warfare in the form of CIA backed Chushi Gangdruk and eventually the uprising in 1959.
Consistently and with fervor the CCP creates policies for Tibet that are not in alignment with the characteristics of Tibetan culture. Why then would they be at all surprised that Tibetans continue to be dissatisfied with the rule of China? The problem with these policies rooted in hegemony is that they do not provide the basis for self-rule and autonomy, part of China’s constitution. Instead policies are shaped based on what the CCP believes is best for Tibetans, which actually means it’s best for the CCP and the true well-being of Tibetans is only a tertiary if even that, consideration.
A recent study from Human Rights Watch illustrates very clearly why there has been so much dissent in Ngaba prefecture in the past several months. The information shows that security or police expenditures have risen since 2005 to the highest rates in all of China. This means that Tibetans are living on a daily basis with the pressure of intense security. It is with the false belief that increased security creates a peaceful society that China continues to build its oppressive presence in the lives of Tibetans. Instead what this kind of security intrusion creates is the feeling of being in a sort of prison. It creates feelings of paranoia, distrust, anger, fear, and eventually those who are under this sort of pressure will explode. It’s a given and only a matter of time.
Instead of creating unified communities based on peace, China’s policies have created communities of dissent and discontent. People who feel they have no freedom or control over their destiny will eventually rebel. Couple that with economic disparity and you have a recipe for disaster from increased resentment and dissatisfaction. Andrew Fischer writes about the economy of Tibet calling China’s government subsidies boomerang aid. His studies point out some very valuable information in regard to the vast amounts of money being funneled into the TAR. Most notably that the bulk of the subsidies go to Han owned businesses operating outside of the TAR and government agencies in the Tibet Autonomous Region. While there is some trickle down for Tibetans, the bulk of the money benefits non-Tibetan populations.
Economic disparity between Tibetans and Han migrant’s fuel a lot of tension, which is then exacerbated by the increased security and the forced celebrations of China’s so called success. For instance during this past summer’s celebration of “60 Years of the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”, much of the Tibetan regions were closed to foreign travel in the months leading up to the main celebration in Lhasa. During the actual celebration Lhasa itself was under undeclared Marshall Law, with heavy military presence throughout the city. Tibetan’s were told to act happy and smile and many were told to stay away from the celebration staging area altogether, except for a select few filmed during the proceedings. In an act of true media spectacle a thousand actors were brought in to don sinicized costumes and participate in a parade that depicted happy, appreciative Tibetans.
The main problem with this celebration is that there was no “Peaceful Liberation” at least not in the eyes of Tibetans. How does 40,000 PLA troupes against 13,000 Tibetan troupes represent peaceful? How do the deaths of thousands of Tibetans represent peaceful liberation? China was not asked to enter Tibet. They were not asked to liberate Tibetans. They were not welcome in Tibet especially once their true intentions became clear to the majority of the population. Deep down in the collective unconscious of CCP members, they know this is the truth. They know they are wrong, but their ego’s will not be moved to do the right thing.
More recently in response to immolations China has made some utterly stupid moves. One was imprisoning Tibetans accused of being responsible for immolation of Phuntsok. As if they had conspired with Phunstok to set himself on fire. Secondly the initial news reports implied that Phuntsok’s immolation occurred because he was epileptic; an outright lie to defer any possible thought of something being wrong in Tibet. As the immolations continued the CCP then attacked the Dalai Lama and western reactionaries for stirring up trouble. Once again not confronting the possibility that perhaps China’s overall policies in Tibet are amiss and need to be assessed or changed. China constantly refuses to take personal responsibility for anything that happens among Tibetans.
Most recently China has decided that buying clergy will encourage them to stop burning themselves and will instead ignite love and respect for the CCP. Providing monks and nuns with money, health insurance and what essentially amounts to welfare assistance will not change the minds and hearts of Tibetans. Throwing money at the problem of Tibet will not make the problem stop, at what point I wonder will China realize this? As the Beatles sang so long ago, money can’t buy you love.
China’s policies in Tibet will continue to create dissent, they will continue to globalize Tibet, and forever change the landscape of a once sacred remote and unique place and culture. Tibet as it once was will become but a memory and cease to exist except in fragments across the globe.
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.
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.
Just in from RFA
Troops Pour Into Lhasa
Security restrictions are ‘intense and frightening,’ says one resident in the Tibetan capital.
Chinese riot policemen in front of the Potala palace in Lhasa on June 20, 2008.
Chinese security forces in large numbers have moved into Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa in an apparent bid to discourage local protests against rule by Beijing, according to sources in Tibet.
“Thousands of troops appeared in Lhasa city on the evening of Oct. 18,” a caller from Lhasa told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“By the next day, Lhasa was filled with security forces,” he said.
It was not immediately clear whether the security forces referred to are troops belonging to China’s People’s Liberation Army or are members of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police, or whether members of both forces are now present in the city.
“I heard that these restrictions will continue until Oct. 22,” another Tibetan calling from Lhasa said, also asking not to be named.
“Some think the self-immolation protests in Amdo Ngaba could be the reason for this increase in security, while some say that the new movement [in solidarity with the Ngaba protests] among exile Tibetans is the reason.”
The troops are now stationed at major intersections, on main streets, around the Jokhang temple, and at the Potala Palace—the former residence of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the caller said.
“Troops were stationed at the outskirts of Lhasa, too,” the caller said. “They are everywhere in the city.”
“One group of security forces, dressed in light khaki, is stationed around the Jokhang and on main streets around the Potala Palace. Another group goes around in groups of two to four black vans to every corner of Lhasa.”
“Groups of 10 soldiers, standing in back-to-back formation, are posted at every intersection with their fingers on their triggers, ready to shoot,” the caller said.
“The restrictions in Lhasa are intense and frightening,” he said.
Chinese security forces in Lhasa are now thoroughly searching Tibetans coming from Tibet’s eastern Kham and Amdo regions, along with monks and nuns and anyone wearing eastern regional dress or hairstyles, the caller said.
“They are questioned about their current place of residence, native place, and reasons for being in Lhasa, and so on.”
The soldiers also search cell phones, looking for photographs of the Dalai Lama or another senior religious figure, the Karmapa. They also search for Tibetan songs, or anything else considered politically sensitive, the caller said.
“For the slightest reason, they detain the Tibetans they search and take them to the detention center at Tagtse, outside Lhasa. Those who are further suspected are moved to the main detention center in Lhasa,” he said.
Tibetans have stepped up their protests against Chinese rule in recent weeks.
Prompted by the nine self -immolations in Tibet, there are now a couple of petitions going around asking for a global response to China’s policies in Tibet. Please add your name and spread the petitions to your contacts, post to Twitter and FB and any other social network you have…
We the People a U.S. based petition to the Obama administration – you do not have to be an American to sign this petition, but you will be required to set up a simple login and password. There are currently less than 2000 signatures and 20,000 are needed in order to pass the petition for consideration.
We the People Click on the link to add your name to the petition
Calls upon the People’s Republic of China to put an end to its repression in Tibet as demonstrated by the ongoing unrest
I am writing this letter to draw your kind attention to the tense situation in Tibet due to the Chinese authorities’ increased restriction in the wake of a series of self-immolation by Tibetans in Ngaba Tibetan region.
These acts by Tibetans to self-immolate are signs of increasing sense of desperation on account of continued denial of freedom by the Chinese government, including in matters of religious freedom. The situation is certainly made worse by the lack of any positive response by China to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s effort to find a genuine and lasting solution to the Tibetan issue for the mutual benefit of the Tibetans and Chinese people.
I would like urge you to immediately call on the Chinese Government to withdraw all restrictive measures in Tibetan areas
An international petition started by the International Tibet Network.
I Will Stand Up
Nine young Tibetans have set fire to themselves in eastern Tibet since March 2011; seven since 26 September. Five have died including a nun. These unprecedented and truly desperate acts are a cry to the outside world for help. Sign this petition
Latest news: A Tibetan nun from Ngaba set herself ablaze and died Monday in the first female self-immolation case in recent memory among Tibetans protesting Chinese rule, sources said Monday. (RFA)
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…