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Kunleng interviews Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, elected leader of the exile Tibetan Administration, on his current visit to Washington DC, developments in Tibet, and prospects for dialog and resolutions on Tibet with Beijing.
Posted here with permission from VOA
Originally published at: http://www.voatibetanenglish.com/content/article/2631951.html
By Dr. Nawang Phuntsog
Living in exile and not knowing if one would ever be able to return to your homeland is one of the most inhumane conditions to be in. Euripides, the ancient writer of Greek tragedy, noted that there is “no greater sorrow on Earth than the loss of one’s native land.” Tibet was invaded, occupied, and annexed by an external force which drove thousands into exile - a condition that caused, in the early 1960s, unimaginable social, economic, and psychological suffering both individually and collectively. In retrospection, it is hard to believe that a viable and robust exile community has been built through overcoming seemingly insurmountable rehabilitation challenges.
A Tibetan government-in-exile infrastructure is in place, garnering international adulation for its legislative acumen and agility. The birth and continued survival of this institutional structure in the host country itself is no less than a miracle. Featuring three branches of a conventional government, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has been at the forefront of keeping Tibetan issues in the vortex of geopolitics against all odds. Since early survival mode, with nothing except the sky above and the earth beneath, to the internalization of Tibetan struggle and aspirations, is an achievement of no small feat. To the Chinese government, the CTA’s political maneuvers may seem like the wings of a butterfly flapping against the mighty Chinese Wall, but this incessant fluttering is beginning to make the Wall wear thin. Like the rays of the sun, the Wall cannot keep the truth hidden. Rather, it is a rising phoenix, quite unbeknownst to its oppressor.
It goes without saying that the leadership of His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama has been supremely instrumental in the reconstruction and establishment of the entire infrastructure in the Diaspora. In all of Tibet’s long history, the 14th Dalai Lama is the only one who has had to endure the longest and most challenging tenure in exile. No Dalai Lama has worked so tirelessly and relentlessly as the 14th in the service of his people during its darkest and grimmest period. One shudders to think about what the situation for Tibetans in exile could have been had the 14th Dalai Lama not been in the midst during such grueling times. His Holiness is the most visible rallying symbol for Tibetans, serving as a metonym eliciting unrestrained allegiance from all in and outside of Tibet. Tibetans have been linked with His Holiness historically, culturally, spiritually, and politically for hundreds of years. This sacrosanct connection must be nurtured and embraced, as it is the soul of Tibet nation’s existence.
Tibet is more than a geographical boundary; it is an ideal consisting of non-violence, compassion, tolerance, universal peace, justice, humility, and respect for the sanctity of life. The land of snows continues to be the beacon of light that offers peaceful and non-violent alternative to that of blood-shedding war for seeking solutions to intractable human problems. The loss of the spirit of spirituality associated with Tibet is indeed an irreplaceable and irrevocable one, and there lies the need to protect it above all.
Dislocation from one’s homeland brings in its wake unprecedented challenges of rehabilitation, while living under the occupation has its tragedy. To be a living witness and helpless bystander to the wanton destruction of the most cherished sacred texts and iconographies in one’s own country is a soul scorching suffering. Having your home and farmland taken over while under duress in the name of dubious development is an equally heart-wrenching experience. Lack of basic human rights – freedom of speech, worship etc- in one’s own land is intolerable to say the least. The ongoing suffering of Tibetans in Tibet requires no further elaboration as the actions of self-immolation speak louder than words. The indomitability of human spirit is exemplified in this poignant political act of self-immolation that must rattle the conscience of the world and above all the Chinese leaders. With hands folded in supplication, the self-immolators have in the most potent form invariably called for the return of His Holiness. The yearning of the natives to see His Holiness is as intense and deep as that of the exiles to return home. The tragic trajectory of suffering of Tibetans, in and outside, is profound and indescribable. All Tibetans have the moral responsibility to bring an end to this agony at any cost, much less adding to it.
When one considers the past and recent behaviors of anti-Dalai Lama (Dolgyal group) demonstrators within the context of Tibetan suffering, spirituality, historic relationship with the Dalai Lama institution, and shared national interests, the anomaly is starkly obvious. Dolgyal’s anti-Dalai Lama protests are profoundly disheartening for any reasonable Tibetan. Worse still, no Tibetan would have ever expected that one’s own pedigree would engage in the most unimaginable behavior of showing utter and blatant disrespect to their most revered leader, His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Aligned with European and United States tours of His Holiness, Dolgyal demonstrators have waged in recent years an aggressive campaign to undermine the iconic stature of His Holiness. Carrying placards that read, “Stop Lying The Dalai Lama”, “The Dalai Lama is a Muslim,” etc., Tibetan monks and laypersons, along with others, shout these disdainful slogans in close proximity to the walkways of His Holiness. These despicable acts undermine spiritual, cultural, and national sentiments of all Tibetans.
During this tumultuous historical period, it is the moral responsibility of all Tibetans to unite together for the early restoration of freedom in Tibet. Tibetan identity must reign supreme as the rest is of lesser significance. This is not the time for regional and sectarian differences to usurp the common aspirations of Tibetans, especially at a time when young and old Tibetans including nuns and monks are willingly setting their precious human bodies on fire in order to shed light on the dire living conditions in Tibet. In the world of Buddhism, Tibet has the rare distinction of being the only one that has maintained an unbroken lineage of Buddha’s teaching but has also given rise to indigenous forms of sectarianism unheard of during Buddha’s era. The benevolent Buddha has taught the four noble truths and the eight-fold path as the quintessential aspects of his teachings. These teachings are succinct, profound, pragmatic, and self-intensifying. Simply put, the Benevolent stated, “Do not commit sin, tame one’s wild mind, accumulate merits, and that is my teaching”. For Buddha’s sake, hold on to the path Buddha has so lovingly shown.
Religious teaching is an academic activity. Viewed from an academic perspective, His Holiness has exercised his academic freedom in prescribing and subscribing parameters for his instruction when he stated that his teaching is restricted to Dolgyal practitioners associated with hegemonic sectarian ideology that has undermined the ecumenical spirit of Buddhist schools. For example, it is a common practice in the United States to include fieldwork and language requirements, among others, as preconditions for students prior to enrolling and taking specific courses. It is, thus, incumbent on students to meet course expectations on a voluntary basis. The establishment of criteria for entry into course is a gate-keeping process that ensures the sanctity, relevance, and meaningfulness of academic pursuits. Moreover, teacher-disciple relationship is a cornerstone principle in Buddhist teachings, and thus His Holiness has requested that those who continue to propitiate Dolgyal not to attend his religious instructions.
On a sober note, the current political and cultural condition of Tibet may be likened to an individual in an intensive care unit of a hospital. Like a person strapped to a hospital bed, Tibet is under the ironclad grip of China gasping for critical life support. Is this then the time for Tibetans to squabble over a controversial deity when Tibet lay in the intensive care unit?
By Thubten Samphel*
Perhaps as an indication of the dangerous direction China is lurching towards is the loud thinking among official circles that there should be a campaign to root out subversive ideas from the West. Research centres and educational institutions across the country have been ordered to stamp these out. No less a figure than China’s education minister, Yuan Guiren, made this thundering command. This is to protect the integrity of the party and socialism. There is no word about people needing protection from the party.
China is a vital engine of a globalised world. In order to maintain this role, the country needs to open up more and not close its doors to fresh ideas emanating from outside its shores. Within China there is strong public support for the current anti-corruption drive. But there is less so for any future campaign to root out what Beijing considers corrupting ideas from outside. Indeed there might be a backlash. The Chinese people’s judgment is that they vote yes to the campaign against corruption and no to the possible campaign against non-Chinese ideas.
In Tibet, things are worse. The authorities want to wage a war on how people think. Among other things the authorities want to root out the Tibetan people’s devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and any idea of self-immolation. The authorities have yet to spell out the details of their master plan of how to get into Tibetans’ minds to separate loyal from subversive ideas but they are determined to do this with help from “nets in the sky and traps on the ground,” in short the extensive and intrusive surveillance network placed in Tibet, and outright bribery.
To control and regulate how six million Tibetans think is one thing but to control the minds of 1.3 billion Chinese is an undertaking of imperial pretension. Chinese emperors in the past have tried this, from book burning to burying scholars in the ground to erecting the Great Wall. The last Chinese emperor to undertake this daunting task was Mao. His campaigns from the Hundred Flowers through the anti-rightist to the Cultural Revolution sapped the energy of China and decimated its population. In response China got Deng and his counter-cultural revolution, a communist party superbly supervising a booming capitalist society.
President Xi Jinping’s anti- corruption campaign is laudable. This is what China needs. But to tell the 1.3 billion Chinese that the party will think their thoughts is beyond the party’s dwindling intellectual resources and certainly beyond the governance responsibility of any party, elected or un-elected. In short, the responsibility of any government is to govern and not think on behalf of those they govern. If any ruling party attempts to do this it will lead to what Mao would call ideological chaos and greater social contradictions. And the response from the public would be, govern us justly. We will do our own thinking. And back off from our backs and minds!
* Thubten Samphel is the director of the Tibet Policy Institute, a research centre of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)
Originally published at: http://tibetpolicy.net/comments-briefs/think-tanks-schools-china-not-allowed-think-party-will-2/
Excerpt from the full interview published in The New York Times:
"In an interview, Mr. Leibold discussed the origin of the Chinese government’s ethnic policies, its efforts to control the borderlands where most ethnic minorities live and its demands that Muslim women remove their veils.
A veiled Uighur woman at a food stall in a market at Kashgar, Xinjiang, in August. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Q. When did China begin classifying people according to ethnicity?
A. The distinction of groups by language and culture started in the imperial era. More recent attempts to “scientifically” classify people began with foreign adventurers and naturalists who traveled around southern China during the Republican period, and this gets picked up in the People’s Republic of China and mixed with Marxist taxonomies.
It became more sophisticated and institutionalized under the Communists but reflects Qing dynasty policy on ruling through local customs — recognizing ethnic chieftains, co-opting them into the state in exchange for titles and money.
The system that runs today is still based on ethnic patronage. “We’ll recognize you as ethnic minorities and, if you’ll play by the rules of the game, we’ll reward you with certain benefits. But if you resist, the boot awaits.” This is what the Qing called combining imperial grace (en) with might (wei), or what we might call a carrot-and-stick approach to ethnic governance.
Q. Does the government see there’s a problem?
A. No. The biggest problem is the inability to admit mistakes and problems. Xi [President Xi Jinping] just claimed in late September at the Central Ethnic Work Conference that current policies are correct and ethnic relations are basically harmonious. This is consistent with almost every statement issued by the Chinese Communist Party. But across the globe there are ethnic problems and you first have to admit it. Only by admitting shortcomings can you talk about them and seek solutions. But in China you don’t get to first base. No one talks about it. But the party does do a good job in putting on the screws."
Full NYT interview can be found here:
By Tibetan National Congress
Tibetans celebrate first Dalai Lama-Obama public appearance this week, and applaud recent Obama-Modi cooperation on regional security towards China
3 February 2015
The Tibetan National Congress (TNC), an independent Tibetan political party, celebrates what it sees as a tipping-point in closer India-U.S. relations, with critical implications for Tibet. TNC especially applauds the new India-U.S. commitment to security cooperation, which coincided with a TNC Twitter campaign highlighting the regional security implications of China's occupation of Tibet.
In a historic visit to India, U.S. President Barack Obama joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a landmark joint strategic vision aimed at responding to diplomatic, economic and security challenges in Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Region. Numerous reports indicate that the two democratic leaders share unease about China’s aggressive moves in the region, and share an interest in a united approach to address them.
"The Tibetan National Congress is strongly encouraged by the deepening ties between India and the United States," said TNC's Vice President Migmar Dolma. "From the perspective of regional security, it is critical that India and the U.S. enhance their cooperation and address the destabilizing situation in Tibet."
On January 24, PM Modi invited public questions for a joint radio program co-hosted with President Obama using the hashtag #AskObamaModi, TNC launched a social media campaign to tweet the following question: "China's occupation of #Tibet is a regional security threat. How can we resolve it to secure peace? #AskObamaModi". Tibet supporters from around the world re-tweeted the question, making it one of the leading retweets.
During the radio program, PM Modi chose to focus on personal questions that "touch the heart", even while noting that "most of the questions [received on Twitter] are connected to politics, foreign policy". Dolma stated, "Prime Minister Modi clearly acknowledged that he received important foreign policy questions. Of course Tibet was one of his top foreign policy questions. The Chinese occupation of Tibet is the root cause of major security threats to the entire region: the constant danger of Sino-Indian border conflict, trans-boundary water disputes over rivers originating in Tibet, China's interference in Nepal's internal affairs, and undeclared martial law in Tibet due to the ongoing self-immolation crisis. It is only through Tibetan self-rule that these problems can be resolved."
"India and the U.S. share a national interest in resolving the destabilizing Tibet issue, to say nothing of also promoting their values of human rights and democracy," said Dolma. "It is a natural partnership that these two great democracies — India and the U.S. — promote their security and their values, by jointly promoting Tibetan self-rule."
Just days after President Obama returned from his historic visit to India, it has been announced that he will appear in public with His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the first time in his presidency. The U.S. President and the Tibetan spiritual leader will appear together on February 5 in Washington, D.C. at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Dolma stated, "This will be the first time that a U.S. President appears in public with His Holiness the Dalai Lama since President George W. Bush presented His Holiness the Congressional Gold Medal at the Capitol in 2007. This is indeed a recognition of Tibet's importance as a strategic and moral issue, and builds directly on the exciting momentum generated from the Modi-Obama visit."
By Freedom House (January 2015)
The Politburo’s Predicament—which examines the evolution of the censorship and internal security apparatus under the leadership of Xi Jinping—finds that the overall degree of repression has increased since Xi rose to power in November 2012 but at a cost to the Communist Party's resilience.
Xi has combined populist and coercive policies in an attempt to strengthen the party’s hold on power. These efforts have proven somewhat effective, but they have also fueled resentment and recruitment to the cause of rights defense, both within society and among some party members, security personnel and censors, author Sarah Cook concludes.
The result is that the Chinese Communist Party is trapped in a vicious cycle, whereby the actions taken to maintain power risk alienating the population and some of its own members, undermining the regime’s long-term legitimacy and security.
Read the full report at: https://freedomhouse.org/china-2015-politiburo-predicament#.VL1AmMn9V2D.
By Tibetan Review (January 10, 2015)
(Editorial appeared in the November-December 2014 edition of Tibetan Review.)
On Oct 20 this year, the government of India issued a document titled “The Tibetan Rehabilitation Policy, 2014”. It is a significant document which enables one to know what the policy status of the Tibetans living in India since 1959 is. With some long lists, the policy document also explains what welfare and other facilities may be, but not necessarily will be, extended to them.
To begin with, the document explains that “Tibetans in India are considered refugees and they are staying temporarily in India on Humanitarian considerations”. The term ‘refugee’, however, does not occur in the Indian statute books and should, therefore, be understood in its proper context. In the case of Tibetans, it necessarily means those holding the Foreigner’s Registration Certificate (RC) issued by the government of India and which they are required to get renewed annually or, as the case may be, every five years, unless their permit to stay in the country gets revoked before that.
The RC is therefore nothing like the permanent residence document that successful asylum applicants get in the USA or Canada or other Western countries. Such asylum grantees get almost all the rights that the country’s citizens are entitled to, short of voting in elections and possibly standing for election to the country’s highest office. India does not have a law or standard system or process for granting such kind of asylum.Read the full editorial at: http://www.tibetanreview.net/rehabilitation-policy-unlikely-to-stem-tibetans-emigration-dreams/.
By www.tibet.net (January 15, 2015)
DHARAMSHALA: A three-day training for trainers workshop on the Middle Way Approach (UMAYLAM) is being held from 14-16 January at Mcleod Ganj. The workshop is organised by the Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration to boost awareness on the Middle Way Approach among the grassroots level Tibetan public by training local leaders and activists.
Fifteen participants took part in the workshop including staff from the Settlement Office, members of the local Tibetan assembly, staff from Mentseekhang and Tibetan NGOs.
Mr. Sonam Norbu Dagpo, Secretary of Department of Information and International Relations, spoke to the participants on the nature, evolution and achievements of the Middle Way Approach. He also spoke on the Central Tibetan Administration’s firm commitment to continue dialogue with the Chinese leadership to seek genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people. He answered questions from the participants following his talk.
The workshop is specifically designed to engage people at grass roots level in understanding the Middle Way Approach by training local leaders who are engaged in day-to-day interaction with the public, a DIIR staff told Tibet.net.
The three day workshop is being presided over by Mr. Tsering Wangchuk and Ms. Kalden Tsomo.
By Simon Denyer (Washington Post, January 15, 2015)
BEIJING — "Je suis Charlie," Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote as he made a passionate defense of free speech this month, arguing that extremists would never be able to silence other voices and opinions on his social media platform.
But Tibetan writer and dissident Tsering Woeser says her experience with Facebook tells a different story, after the video of a Tibetan self-immolation was deleted and a fellow dissident’s account temporarily suspended last month. Zuckerberg, Woeser wrote, is “not exactly being honest about defending freedom of expression,” as he tries to make more money by getting a block on his service lifted in China.Read the full story at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/15/no-mark-zuckerberg-you-are-not-charlie-argues-tibetan-writer/.
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