Tibet & middle-way? @Heritage Lobsang Sangay, Tibet’s Prime Minister on China & Tibetan People

Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President, Central Tibetan Administration

Tibet’s Prime Minister in Exile and an expert panel discussion on the way forward.

The Dalai Lama has long advocated a “middle way” – neither assimilation nor independence — in Tibet’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China.  It is an approach that has been endorsed by the U.S. government as the most promising framework in which to “support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity,” (in the words of the 2002 Tibet Policy Act) and maintain the U.S. position that Tibet is part of the PRC.  What is the future of the middle way approach?  What are the policy options for the United States?


One China Policy and the Middle Way Approach  of the Tibetan People http://www.heritage.org/asia/event/one-china-policy-and-the-middle-way-approach-the-tibetan-people via @Heritage



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My reincarnation can’t be born in place with no freedom: The Dalai Lama

dalai-lama-260517My reincarnation can’t be born in place with no freedom: The Dalai Lama

Asked if a world without organised violence is possible, Dalai Lama replied, “theoretically, it is possible.”

THE DALAI Lama has said that he will die in India, and his reincarnation cannot be recognised in an environment which does not have freedom — a clear reference to China. The topic of reincarnation has been a burning issue, since China considers the spiritual leader as a “splittist”, a charge denied by the 14th Dalai Lama.

Speaking at the Express Adda on Wednesday, the Dalai Lama held forth on a variety of questions — preservation of Tibetan culture, a world without violence, his commitment to vegetarianism (despite being a non-vegetarian for health reasons), the concept of analytical meditation, the relationship between religion and politics, and even, his thoughts on life on another planet.

For two-and-a-half hours on Wednesday afternoon, he captivated a packed hall and regaled the audience with his trademark humour. Asked about his reincarnation, he said, “If the situation remains like this, then I will die in this country.” While he said that it is not necessary for his reincarnation to be born in the country where he dies, he added that if the reincarnation is recognised in a place which does not have “freedom”, it would be impossible to accept that.

Asked about the future of the Dalai Lama as an institution, he said that “as early as in 1969”, he had stated that it was a decision which would have to be taken by his people. The 81-year-old, however, said that sometime back, they decided that when his age reaches around 90 years, they would have a “more serious discussion” on the issue.

Reiterating that the decision should be taken by his people, he quipped that the Chinese government was showing more seriousness. “The Chinese communists should first accept the concept of rebirth. Then communists should accept reincarnation. And then they have the moral connection to Dalai Lama’s reincarnation,” he said.

On the Chinese government describing him as a “splittist”, he denied the charge and said that he has not been seeking independence of Tibet from China since 1974. The Dalai Lama said the basic human nature is “compassion”, and people are usually against war. “People are fed up of violence,” he said, as they have “common interests”, rather than “national sovereignty”.

Asked if a world without organised violence is possible, he replied, “theoretically, it is possible.” He said he does not believe prayers bring about “peaceful society”, but the citizenry has to “work for it”. “If we meet Jesus Christ or Buddha and ask them to bring peace, they will ask us who created violence? It is human beings who have created it, they have to stop it. Work for peace… the easy thing to do is to pray,” he said.

Explaining the futility of reciting prayers without understanding their meaning, he said that the Tibetan mantra, “Om Mani Padme Hum”, when chanted in a hurry, sounds like “money, money, money…” The spiritual leader of Tibetans said he does “analytical meditation” where he can see the “whole picture”. He stressed the need to focus on “training of mind” during meditation. He also reiterated his commitment to preservation of Tibetan culture and language.

While he emphasised the importance of modern education, he said that education should include the value of compassion instead of only focussing on “material values”. “Maintain peace of mind, then face remains handsome,” he quipped. Replying to a question, he said while religion has the responsibility to instill “moral principles” in politics, the “institution of religion should be separate from the State”. He said that in India, people have been living in religious harmony for years, and he renewed his commitment to promote “religious harmony”.

Saying that he was leading a “retired life” since 2011, the Dalai Lama, when asked about America under President Donald Trump, said, “I love America… consider America as leading nation of the free world.” But, on Trump, he said that it is “too early to say” and he should better keep quiet. Describing Indian traditions as his “guru” and himself as the “chela” (disciple), he said the roles had reversed now.

Asked about his opinion on extra-terrestrial life, he said he feels that there is life beyond Earth, and it is difficult to accept that only Earth can have life in the entire universe. Asked if he was troubled by reports about a man tied to a jeep being used as a human shield or people being killed in the name of cow protection, the Dalai Lama said his “nature” is positive. But, he said, in a country of more than one billion, “there must be some mischievous people”, and added that media too has a responsibility.

He promoted “vegetarianism”, although he admitted that he was a “non-vegetarian” because of health reasons. The Dalai Lama was in conversation with The Indian Express’s Executive Director Anant Goenka and National Opinion Editor Vandita Mishra. Express Adda is a series of informal interactions organised by The Indian Express Group and features those at the centre of change.

Guests at the event in the past include Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian, filmmaker Karan Johar, Union Minister Piyush Goyal, Niti Aayog Vice Chairperson Arvind Panagariya, writer Amitav Ghosh, cricketer Rohit Sharma, economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and, most recently, actor Saif Ali Khan.


Tibet Society is helping to get the truth out of Tibet and encouraging people to stand with Tibetans. Please support our work.  http://www.tibetsociety.com/content/view/607/35/




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Satellite photos at #Lhasa Airport in occupied #Tibet show #China ’s J-11 fighter jets. (Lhasa Gonggar Airport ལྷ་ས་གོང་དཀར་གནམ་གྲུ་ཐང་ 拉萨贡嘎机场 )

Lhasa Gonggar Airport ལྷ་ས་གོང་དཀར་གནམ་གྲུ་ཐང་ 拉萨贡嘎机场

Satellite photos at #Lhasa Airport in occupied #Tibet show #China ’s J-11 fighter jets.

(Lhasa Gonggar Airport ལྷ་ས་གོང་དཀར་གནམ་གྲུ་ཐང་ 拉萨贡嘎机场 )

Despite the absence of any insurgencies there is continued expansion of militarization across Tibetan plateau, including a ‘counter-terrorism’ drive. The photos also appear to show new #SAM Surface to Air Missiles.

In the coming years China may narrow the gap with the US & Russia in terms of strategic nuclear capabilities. Beijing’s recent flight tests of advanced DF-5C intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) is likely to change the rules of the game in the Asian-Pacific region.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force fighter aircraft is an upgraded version of copies of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27. Manufactured by the Chinese company, Shenyang Aircraft Corp, it reportedly incorporates the J-16’s advanced  Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar.


J-11 fighter jets Armament:
Guns: 1× 30 mm (1.18 in) cannon
Missiles x 10: 2 under fuselage, 2 under air ducts, 4 under wings, 2 on wingtips  and to carry combinations of Missiles including radar-guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles
Rockets: Unguided rocket launcher
Bombs: Free-fall cluster bombs


Lhasa Gonggar Airport (Chinese: 拉萨贡嘎机场, Standard Tibetan: ལྷ་ས་གོང་དཀར་གནམ་གྲུ་ཐང་; IATA: LXA, ICAO: ZULS) is the airport serving Lhasa, the capital city of the Tibet Autonomous Region, China. It is about 62 kilometres (39 mi) southwest of the city in Gonggar County of Shannan. The airport is close to the road to Tsetang, the seat of Nêdong District and the capital of Shannan. At an elevation of 3,570 metres (11,710 ft), Lhasa Airport is one of the highest in the world. It was built in 1965, a second runway was built in 1994


Tibet Society is helping to get the truth out of Tibet and encouraging people to stand with Tibetans. Please support our work.

#TibetSociety @tibetsociety #China #shenyang #j11 #fighteraircraft #WMD #FreeTibet


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Yak brings Tibet message to London on his bike

A Tibetan nomad completes his solo cycling tour of 13 European countries – covering over 5000 miles, and then leaves for Japan to further his mission to highlight China’s abuse of human rights in his homelands.


Rinpo Yak with Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North

[London, 13 August 2013] He is 42, father of two young teenagers. He says he is in good health and loves cycling. Since 2000, Rinpo Yak has cycled across 44 of the 50 states in the US – covering over 8,400 miles. In March this year, coinciding with the anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising, Yak set out his latest global solo cycling tour from Brussels, the European Union’s Headquarters.

Since 2009, Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) of Amdo Province in eastern Tibet has witnessed the largest number of Tibetans resorting to self-immolations in protest of Chinese government’s misguided policy on Tibet. Showing solidarity with his brethren in Tibet, Yak said,


Rinpo Yak with Amnesty International HQ officials (Wednesday 7th August)

“I am a Tibetan from Ngaba. I have been living in the US with my family since 1998 after fleeing Tibet into Nepal the year before. My main mission for undertaking this global cycling tour is to raise the deplorable condition of human rights in Tibet whilst carrying the messages of over 120 self-immolated Tibetans, who died calling for freedom and the return of our Spiritual Leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to the international community.”

In Europe, Yak cycled across 13 countries where he met with over 120 public figures such as parliamentarians, government officials and human rights advocates. Yak arrived in Britain two weeks ago after cycling across Europe, including Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Holland, Spain and Italy. London was the final stop in his European leg of the cycling tour, where he had meetings with government officials, parliamentarian and NGOs representatives. In addition to media interviews, Yak also met with local Tibetan communities and Tibet support groups across Europe.

On his arrival in the British capital on 2 August, Yak gave a live interview with Washington-based Voice of America’s (VOA) Tibetan Language programme from their London studio. Yak said that the European countries were showing overwhelming support and solidarity with the Tibetan people, and the public figures he met with were also candid about the growing influence of China’s economic power, indicating clear challenges to the Tibetan struggle in the years ahead.

Honouring Yak’s arrival, Thubten Samdup, London-based Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and members of Tibetan Community in Britain hosted a cordial reception at The Office of Tibet. They applauded Yak’s individual initiative for the Tibetan cause, which was very inspiring and motivating.

Yak then took part in the Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle festival on the following day, which organisers estimated some 50,000 cyclists joined in the streets of London. Yak stood out from the cyclists as he was flying Tibetan national flag on his bike!

During the week, Yak participated in an action protest jointly organised by Free Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet outside the InterContinental Westminster Hotel in central London. The two leading Tibet groups have been urging the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to withdraw from their involvements in ‘The InterContinental Resort Lhasa Paradise’, which is opening soon in Lhasa. The Tibet campaigning groups maintain that the IHG presence and its naming of the hotel as the “Lhasa Paradise” is a ‘propaganda gift to the Chinese regime’ which is responsible for gross human rights abuses throughout Tibet, and severe repression, surveillance and denial of human rights in Lhasa in particular. The campaigners also said that the Chinese authorities may use the hotel and its business facilities to discuss and implement further repressive measures in Tibet.

Whilst acknowledging their Tibet campaigning work, Yak visited offices of several groups, including Free Tibet and Tibet Society, and urged them to continue their support for Tibetan people. They also helped Yak with facilitating meetings and media contact.

The main highlights of Yak’s London engagements were his meetings with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Member of Parliament, Amnesty International and the BBC World Service. Accompanied by London-based Tibetans, Rinpo Yak urged the Foreign Office to note Tibetan people’s aspirations when dealing with the Chinese government. He further urged Britain impress upon China to review its hardline policies in Tibet, address the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people through dialogue and allow unfettered access to Tibet for the media and UN. The Tibetan delegate reiterated that Tibetans in Tibet were simply calling for their freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Despite the British Parliament in summer recess at present, Jeremy Corbyn, an MP for Islington North, met Rinpo Yak (pictured above) with several Tibetans at the weekend in his constituency. The Labour MP, who has previously raised Tibet issue in the Parliament, was quoted in the local newspaper – The Islington Tribune, by saying,

”It was a pleasure to welcome Rinpo to Islington as part of his cycling tour around the world for human rights and against cultural suppression in Tibet. We have a locally based Tibet support campaign which I am happy to work with during their lobby of parliament on the treatment of Tibetan people, and as a fellow cyclist I admire his stamina in visiting 12 counties in Europe and over 40 states in the USA as part of his world tour to highlight the treatment of the people of Tibet.”

Yak spent some time with Temtsel Hao, producer at the BBC World Service Chinese programme. Later, the BBC World Service published an article about the meeting on its Chinese website. A local newspaper also reported Yak’s stopover in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, south London, which is home to nearly 100 Tibetans.

At the meetings, Yak asked concerned officials to write messages of support and pledges to act in his notebooks, which he plans to present to the Dalai Lama and then the European Union and United Nations.

The Tibetan Community in Britain, Greenwich Tibetan Association and Kailash Momo Tibetan Restaurant hosted receptions, farewell dinners and made donations to Rinpo Yak. Individual Tibetans offered khatas and spontaneous donations in support of Yak’s exemplary mission for the Tibetan cause.

After his successful UK and European cycling tour, Yak left for Japan on the morning of 12 August to continue his mission. From Japan, Yak plans to cycle to Taiwan and possibly China. His final destination is India, where Yak hopes to receive an audience with the Dalai Lama.

(This report was compiled by Tsering Passang, who assisted Rinpo Yak’s key engagements in London with Lodup Gyatso. It first appeared on the Tsamtruk Network blog: http://tsamtruk.wordpress.com)

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UK-China relations – no change, no apology


What we are seeing in news reports about UK-China relations, initially published in Xinhua (the Chinese state-run news agency) and then taken up by The Telegraph, which ran a piece featured in its financial pages written by Liu Xiaming, China’s Ambassador to the UK, is no more and no less than PR spin by China. It is smoke and mirrors, attempting to persuade people that something has changed in UK-China relations so an invitation can be extended to David Cameron to visit Beijing in the autumn without any loss of face.

The truth is there has been no change in British policy on Tibet; David Cameron has not apologised to China for meeting the Dalai Lama when he was in London last year, the government’s stand on Tibet being part of the People’s Republic of China remains unaltered, and recently on Sky News Nick Clegg asserted the UK would not back down from confronting China on human rights issues.

The Dalai Lama meeting David Cameron and Nick Clegg, May 2012

The Dalai Lama meeting David Cameron and Nick Clegg, May 2012

Despite the UK’s “very important” economic relationship with China, Mr Clegg said, “That doesn’t mean we should somehow give up on what we believe in when it comes to human rights and freedoms which we will continue to express in a respectful but nonetheless firm way.” And, as detailed by Liu Xiaoming in his article, it seems despite the UK’s adherence to human rights and freedoms and despite the apparent frozen relations between the UK and China, trade has not only continued unhindered, but has grown.

The Chinese government is pragmatic; they need trading relations to flourish in order to keep their population, who are expecting uninterrupted economic growth, happy. However, at the same time, they are not averse to trying their hand in bullying countries into accepting their viewpoint on all manner of issues, including when a leader of a country can and cannot meet the Dalai Lama. It is a game, albeit one that can have far-reaching consequences. But our government, and other governments, can and should do more to stand up to China’s flannel, stop kowtowing to its whims and use their influence to encourage China to bring real change in key areas of human rights and freedoms and rule of law.

Liu Xiaoming

Liu Xiaoming

In his article, Liu Xiaoming says, “Six months ago, I was interviewed on the BBC’s Newsnight by Gavin Esler. He quoted Rudyard Kipling’s famous phrase: “East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” I replied that the right way for East and West to meet is to “discard pride and prejudice and apply sense and sensibility.” I believe this is also the right way for China and Britain to meet and work for an even brighter future for Anglo-Chinese relations.”

Very nice sentiments, but will Liu Xiaoming and his colleagues in Beijing follow this belief and “discard prejudice and apply sense and sensibility”? If they did, there really could be progress on Tibet and for other minorities suffering under China’s rule.

Further reading:
24/6: British foreign secretary reiterates respect for China’s territorial integrity
The Telegraph

27/6: Cameron’s words to MPs have opened door to better relations!
27/6: 2 million ‘displaced’ by Chinese relocation policy
28/6: China and Britain have their differences but they also have a lot to offer each other
28/6: China may be softening on HHDL
Tibet Society
8/5: China seeks apology from UK; Clegg says UK must stand firm
9/5: Cameron: UK government “does not support Tibetan independence”
3/7: Hague smooths path for Cameron to visit Beijing

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Tibetan flag raised in Northampton

On 5 March 2013, a special ceremony was held at the Northampton Guildhall  in memory of those who died during the 10 March uprising in Tibet 54 years ago.

The guest of honour was Mr Thupten Samdup, the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the UK and Northern Europe. He was greeted by the Mayor and Mayoress Roger & Jenny Conroy, the Leader of the Council David Mackintosh, Keith Davies ex-Leader of the Council and many other Councillors, including the Deputy Lieutenant of Northamptonshire Cllr Terry Wire. Mr Samdup inspired the packed hall with his words of compassion and wisdom.

Participants at Northampton Uprising Ceremony. Photo by Harry Wilson

The video of the song Burning in the Mountains by Jane Alston was shown. The song was inspired by the current wave of self-immolation protests in Tibet. The video includes harrowing scenes of self-immolation and also shows the Dalai Lama crying at this tragic loss of life.

Before the event began photos and names of the deceased were shown on a big screen with Rest in Natural Great Peace (sacred Tibetan music) playing in the background.

The ceremony included speeches, prayers and music. The Mayor, Roger Conroy, read out a heartfelt letter of concern from TV presenter, Gloria Hunniford. Ms Hunniford said, “It is a great honour to send love to this event and help keep the Tibetan lineage alive. My daughter TV celebrity, Caron Keating, was battling with cancer and she had the Dalai Lama’s photo by her bed and Tibetan monks stayed in her home. She gained incredible strength from their kindness and care. I wish you much success in this incredibly honourable cause. My very best wishes.”

Caroline speaking at ceremony. Photo by Harry Wilson

Caroline Scattergood, organiser of the event, spoke about Tsering Kyi, a 20 year-old Tibetan woman  who took her life in desperation to help Tibet, saying to her family, “Life is meaningless if we don’t do something for Tibet.”

David Mackintosh, leader of the Council, spoke on behalf of the Council and their 14 years of support for the Tibetan people. Mr Mackintosh revealed that the Council had been pressured by Chinese government officials to cancel the flag-raising ceremony, but the Council refused to yield saying, “It’s traditional now!”

Uprising Ceremony in Guildhall. Photo by Harry Wilson

Uprising Ceremony in Guildhall. Photo by Harry Wilson

A letter was read out from Micheal Ellis MP for Northampton. Mr Ellis said, “I am pleased that the people of Northampton will again have an opportunity to show their support for the Tibetan people. I would have liked to have been able to attend but I am required at the House of Commons.

“I remain very concerned about the situation in Tibet. The conduct of the Chinese government with regards to Tibet has repeatedly shown how little they respect the rights and will of the Tibetan people. I hope that the new Chinese leadership will show a reforming attitude to this matter and a new-found respect for Tibetan culture but until they do campaigners like those here today are so very important.

“I know the Prime Minister also feels strongly about this, and alongside the Foreign Secretary, have repeatedly raised the human rights issue with the Chinese Government at every available opportunity. This diplomatic pressure will continue and I hope we will all eventually see a peaceful and equitable resolution.”

Before the flag was raised the audience sat in silence and contemplation while healing Tibetan sounds flowed around them played by Rozz & Ant. The audience were asked to pray for Tibet and the deceaseds’ mothers and fathers and share in their loss and grief.

The flag was raised and we were left with this thought:

The true way to mourn the dead… is to take care of the living that belong to them. “So, Northampton will take care of Tibet.”

Tashi Delek

Photo by Harry Wilson

Flag-raising ceremony. Photo by Harry Wilson

The flag-raising & ceremony was organised by Shine a Light for Tibet, a Northampton-based voluntary group which raises awareness about the Tibet issue. For more info contact Caroline at cscatts43@yahoo.co.uk.

Further reading and links:
Uprising Anniversary 2013: UK report
Video of ”Burning in the Mountains” on YouTube
(Warning: video contains graphic images of self-immolations)

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The Dalai Lama’s Representative comes to Chipping Norton

On 2 March 2013, an “Evening for Tibet” was held in Chipping Norton, a thriving market town on the edge of the North Oxfordshire Cotswolds, an area of outstanding beauty, with rolling hills and idyllic limestone villages. The reason for the visit of the Representative of the Dalai Lama was his wish to speak to the people of Chipping Norton, as they are the constituents of our Prime Minister, David Cameron, who was invited but sadly declined the invitation as he was occupied elsewhere.

Mr Thubten Samdup, the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the UK and Northern Europe, addressed the packed Town Hall, requesting the audience to write to the Prime Minister, urging him to take a bolder, more critical stance over Tibet. He reminded the audience that the UK has a special connection with Tibet, having invaded the sovereign country in 1904, and subsequently developed an amicable relationship with the Tibetans, with British diplomats living in Lhasa until its occupation by China in 1950.

Mr Samdup also referred to the 107 self-immolations which have taken place in recent times and the ongoing struggle Tibetans face to not only to achieve freedom and determine their own future but simply to have their basic human rights recognised.

Escape-logoThe sufferings of the Tibetan people were made particularly poignant by the screening of the film Escape from Tibet. This highly acclaimed film, which depicts the flight across the Himalayas of a group of refugees and focusing on brothers Pasang and Tenzin, is an “astonishing record of endurance, of the triumph of the human spirit”, and everyone in the audience was deeply touched by it.


Tenzin & Pasang in Escape from Tibet

Nick Gray, the director, was there to introduce his film, which remains highly relevant nearly two decades on, as Tibetans continue to make the hazardous journey to escape the hardships of living in Chinese occupied Tibet. Also in attendance was Tenzin, the 11 year-old in the film, who is now in his late twenties and a student in London. Tenzin recounted his memories of life in Tibet and his experience of fleeing his homeland. Both Nick and Tenzin answered questions from the audience.

Tibetan momos with chillies were dished up by Dolma and Sangmo , two Tibetan ladies in traditional dress, who had come from London to cook and serve them. Finally, Jane Alston sang her wonderful and moving song Burning in the Mountains, which was inspired by the Tibetan self-immolations.

“Evening for Tibet” was organised by Tibet supporter Diana Hughes.

Further reading & links:
Uprising Anniversary 2013: UK Report
Escape from Tibet – Details of film; purchase the book
Video of ”Burning in the Mountains” on YouTube (Warning: Video contains graphic images of self-immolations)

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Voices of Freedom


The following is the introductary speech to Voices of Freedom (a concert held in central London on 12 December 2012 to highlight cultural resistance in China and to mark Human Rights Da), given by Jessica Trevis, who works at Amnesty International.

Note: the views and opinions are Jessica’s and do not necessarily represent those of Amnesty International.

An overview of persecution in China, Tibet and East Turkestan

Human rights violations in China are systematic. They cross over boundaries of religion, culture, freedom of speech, or of association. They infiltrate everyday moments and actions. It does not matter whether you are ethnically Han, Uyghur, Tibetan, Falun Gong, a lawyer, a mother or a student, all groups within China are vulnerable to the violation of their most basic human rights.

The recent attention in main stream media has voiced to the wider world the severe injustice suffered by both Tibetans and Uyghurs as ethnic minorities in China. The radically intensified wave of self-immolations and continued lack of response from the Chinese government reminds us all for the need for global action on behalf of Tibetans and other groups targeted by authorities.

Even when visiting Tibet in 2010 I was shocked by the transparency of the repression of cultural norms and the openness of the Tibetan people in voicing their opinions about the persecution they were suffering.

Arriving at the beginning of Saga Dawa [an annual Buddhist festival], my first impressions were one of significant military presence. Armed military personnel were poised at each street corner and there was severe restriction of movement. Checkpoints were not only assembled for vehicles travelling outside of the city but within Lhasa itself, with monks on their way to monasteries being frequently intercepted by desks of registration points. The monasteries themselves were also inhabited by clear signs of surveillance and obstructions demonstrated by the presence of ’Re-education Centres’.

These things alone were enough to allow me to witness the underlying grievances of the Tibetan people. But beyond these everyday aspects of life in Tibet, Tibetan people are frequently subjected to wide scale raids, mass detainments and the excessive use of force by Chinese authorities during area crackdowns. These crackdowns are prompted by anything from the flow of information, the possession of a picture of the Dalai Lama or, as we have seen most recently, wide scale peaceful protests and civil unrest.

During times such as these, it is vital that we remember the inequality of media coverage and therefore endeavour to not allow it to silence the continued violations in China that are less reported. For example last week in Henan province, 50 Uyghur individuals were hospitalised after clashing with police in a rally of 1,000 peaceful protesters. In a similar sign of indifference, the Chinese government refused to even acknowledge casualties in this incident. The protest, similar to the riots that spread through Urumqi in 2009, was caused by the Uyghur community’s reaction to cultural discrimination after a Uyghur woman was forcibly de-veiled.

These tensions and frustrations between ethnic lines are themselves a product of the Chinese authority’s sponsorship of derogatory and discriminatory policies towards Uyghur and Tibetan ethnic identity. Inside East Turkestan Uyghurs suffer the same cultural and religious persecution as the Tibetans do. As monasteries are monitored, controlled and emptied, many mosques are completely eradicated or banned from use, particularly during Islamic religious festivals. The Uyghur landscape, so important to the identity of its people, has been rebuilt in a style fitting to a Han Chinese population and ancient streets renamed in a language alien to the origins of the Uyghur people.

While Tibetans fighting for the protection of their cultural rights are deemed separatists of the Dalai Clique, Uyghur activists are promoted as a network of radical Islamists that strategically fits an international idea of terrorism.

In the current context of human rights in China, voicing the desire to speak in your mother tongue can be a crime worth punishable by detainment, a prison sentence or even torture. As a Uyghur or Tibetan you are at a disadvantage to gain good employment, to have an education above that of primary level, travel outside China, practice your religion or speak your own language freely.

Sometimes it is difficult to see how this extreme suppression of basic rights transfers to an individual life, so I would like to share with you a case that Amnesty International is currently campaigning on.

Abdukiram Abduveli has now been imprisoned for 22 years. Ethnically Uyghur and a religious leader, he travelled around East Turkestan speaking on the need for religious freedom and the economic discrimination against his people. Subsequently in 1993 he was charged with “inciting counter revolutionary propaganda”. Detained for seven months before being charged, the criminal verdict linked him with an organisation called the Islamic Reformist Party, where they said Abdukiram was scheduled to hold a meeting with other members. However, he was arrested before this meeting could even take place. Despite the lack of evidence in court he was denied access to a lawyer or to his family.

Originally sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and 4 years suspension of political rights Abdukiram Abduveli was due to be released in 2002. However his imprisonment has been extended four times. In his court verdict it states the reason for these extensions: “The witness statements by prisoners confirm that when the offender Abdukirim Abduveli was serving his prison sentence he consistently disobeyed the prison administration regulations, he refused to accept prison education, he many times engaged in praying, announcing a hunger strike, swearing and hitting the supervising inmates, and it is for these reasons that the offender’s reform points were deducted”.

As a punishment for these ‘crimes’ Abdukiram is regularly held in solitary confinement in a small dark cell with no light for around 15 days at a time, he is also beaten as a “precautionary measure”. In 2011 his mother visited him and found him suffering from malnutrition and unable to stand. Later that year in November his mother travelled to visit him but was denied access. Instead guards allowed her to watch a video tape of him where upon she was informed that he had developed bone cancer. Although he is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2014, it is unlikely that this will happen without international intervention.

But human rights issues in China do not just extend to those who are a minority. They are a problem of the majority. Individuals such as Liu Xiaobo, Gao Zhisheng and Chen Guangcheng have demonstrated the Chinese government’s desire to control and constrain the voices of those who have stood up to defend freedom of expression. Even with international support many have paid dearly for their bravery. Families of human rights defenders are frequently harassed, detained, coerced or even tortured by authorities in retaliation for speaking out.

Chen Guangcheng, now safely studying law in New York, has felt such retaliation in the form of his nephew Chen Kegui, who two weeks ago was charged with inflicting intentional injury after his family’s home was ransacked and his parents beaten by plain clothed police. His family was informed of the trial only three hours before it took place and he was denied a lawyer of his choice. Chen Kegui was trialled by the same court that held an equally unfair trial in 2006 for Chen Guangcheng.

In a recent meeting, Chinese lawyers expressed the extreme levels of intimidation that Chinese authorities exercise in order to pressure them to cease working on particular cases. Many spoke of being personally detained and tortured. The weak rule of law in China and abuse of local officials has not only allowed the practice of torture to become commonplace but also for it to flourish from the lack of accountability for its perpetrators. It is an acute challenge to encouraging the development of freedom of speech and expression in Chinese civil society.

With the 18th Party Congress marking a transition for China, I feel it is not within the new leadership, who has already demonstrated the continuation of political conservatism, which we should rely on for change. Instead we should look to promote solidarity within Chinese civil society so that change can be brought about both on the ground and internationally.

Last month saw a surge of online reactions concerning the self-immolations in Tibet on Weibo. The feelings expressed were not ones of anger or political motivations but ones of empathy and concern. They also remained uncensored for Chinese civil society to see. It is not just online that we are seeing such developments, the Falun Gong community and those who have experienced forced evictions have demonstrated the power of petitioning to local authorities. Petitions of over 1,000 signatures have mobilised action from not just Falun Gong but from neighbouring non-believers, allowing individuals to see beyond the authorities condemnation of Falun Gong members as a cult-like group, and recognise the need for unity in demanding a just rule of law.

Solidarity events such as Voices of Freedom are crucial to achieving these goals. A key issue when campaigning for change in China is the creation of a collective network of activism, one that crosses borders of ethnicity, of belief or of political association. To give a voice to the human rights situation in China, we must first give a voice to all individuals that it affects.

Watch video clip and read about Voices of Freedom concert

ImageVoices of Freedom highlighted cultural resistance in China and marked Human Rights Day 2012. It was presented by the UK-based coalition Chinese, Uyghur & Tibetan Solidarity UK and featured imprisoned voices and banned works from Tibet, East Turkestan and China.

Chinese, Uyghur & Tibetan Solidarity UK is a coalition of organisations and activists that opposes the tyrannical rule of the Chinese Communist Party and works to promote human rights, freedom and democracy for all the oppressed people and nations under the Chinese Communist Party.

The coalition includes the following organisations: Chinese Solidarity Campaign, Federation for Democratic China, Friends of Tiananmen Mothers, Tibetan Community in Britain, Tibet Society, Tibetan Youth UK, Students for a Free Tibet UK, Uighur Association and Uighur Community UK.

How to get involved:
Sign up to the coalition email list by emailing: cuts.uk@gmail.com
Join us on facebook: www.facebook.com/groups/cuts.uk

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The speech David Cameron could have given at the United Nations

On reading David Cameron’s address to the UN General Assmbly about Syria and the Middle East (on 26 September) it occurred to us he could so easily have been talking about Tibet.  Wouldn’t it have been great had he given this version…

Mr President, Deputy Secretary General, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen.

TIBET [has] endured decades in which the institutions of civil society were deliberately destroyed. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM banned. The free media abolished. The rule of law twisted for the benefit of the few. We cannot expect the damage of decades to be put right in a matter of months.  But the drive for opportunity, justice and the rule of law and the hunger for a job and a voice are not responsible for the problems in the region. Quite the opposite.

The building blocks of democracy, fair economies and open societies are part of the solution, not part of the problem. And we in the United Nations must step up our efforts to support the people of TIBET.

The fact is that for decades, too many were prepared to tolerate THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT on the basis that they would both keep their people safe at home and promote stability in the TIBETAN region. In fact, neither was true. Not only were these dictators repressing their people, ruling by control not by consent, [they were also] plundering the national wealth and denying people their basic rights and freedoms.

Brutal dictatorship made the region more dangerous not less. More dangerous because these regimes dealt with frustration at home by whipping up anger against their neighbours, [Japan, Taiwan] and the West. And more dangerous too, because TIBETANS denied a job and a voice were given no alternative but a dead end choice between dictatorship or PROTEST.

What was heartening about the PROTESTS IN TIBET was that the TIBETAN people found their voice and rejected this false choice. They withheld their consent from a government that had lost all legitimacy. And they chose instead the road to a more open and fair society.

CHINA does present profound challenges… You can not blame the people for the behaviour of a brutal dictator. The responsibility lies with the brutal dictator himself. THE CHINESE GOVERMENT is today inflaming tensions IN TIBET.

The only way out of TIBET’s nightmare is to move forward towards political transition and not to give up the cause of freedom.The future for TIBET is a future without THE CHINESE GOVERMENT. It has to be based on mutual consent.

But if anyone was in any doubt about the horrors that THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT has inflicted on THE TIBETAN people, just look at the evidence published by VARIOUS TIBETAN NGOS IN RECENT YEARS.

The blood of these TIBETANS is a terrible stain on the reputation of this United Nations. And in particular, a stain on those who have failed to stand up to these atrocities and in some cases aided and abetted THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT’s regime of terror. If the United Nations Charter is to have any value in the 21st Century we must now join together to support a rapid political transition. And at the same time no-one of conscience can turn a deaf ear to the voices of suffering.

We must help them unwind this legacy [where] TIBET’S natural resources [were] unfairly exploited BY THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT… [We] have a responsibility to help TIBETANS get back the stolen assets that are rightfully theirs, just as we have returned billions of dollars of assets to Libya.  It is simply not good enough that the TIBETAN people continue to be denied these assets.

TIBETANS should have the chance to fulfil the same aspirations for a job and a voice… and we support their right to have a State and a home.

Mr President, there is no doubt that we are in the midst of profound change and that many uncertainties lie ahead. But the building blocks of democracy, fair economies and open societies are part of the solution not part of the problem. Indeed, nothing in the last year has changed my fundamental conviction.

[This is] a precious opportunity for TIBETANS to realise their aspirations for a job, a voice and a stake in their own future.

And we, in this United Nations, must do everything we can to support them.

Further reading:
Transcript of David Cameron’s actual speech to UN General Assembly: 26 Sept 2012
BBC report: 27 Sept 2012

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A referendum to end the crisis in Tibet

Allowing Tibetans in Tibet to choose their own destiny may be the only way to end the current crisis and political deadlock.

The following article, by Tsering Passang, first appeared on the Open Democracy website on 30 August 2012. Tsering Passang is an exiled-born Tibetan who works for Tibet Relief Fund in London, UK.

A referendum to end the crisis in Tibet

The Dalai LamaIn November 2008, the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile convened the First Special General Meeting on Tibet in Dharamsala, northern India, attracting 560 Tibetan delegates from nineteen countries. After six days of intense deliberations on ways to find a resolution to the urgent crisis in Tibet, the summit released final recommendations, which included urging the continued leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and pursuing his ‘Middle-Way’ Approach. I attended this important meeting from London.

Four years on, many changes have taken place worldwide, including the Arab Spring that brought the downfall of repressive regimes in some North African countries, and the creation of a new state – South Sudan. On the Sino-Tibetan conflict, despite unprecedented events of over 50 Tibetan self-immolations, Beijing and Dharamsala are currently in a political stalemate. Repeated calls from Dharamsala that urged the Chinese authorities to allow foreign journalists, diplomats and independent monitoring groups to assess the real situation inside Tibet not only fell on deaf ears in Beijing, but the Communist rulers refuse to acknowledge any problems in Tibet.

Meanwhile, few major changes have taken place in the domestic Tibetan political scene within the exiled community. In the past year, His Holiness the Dalai Lama took a drastic decision to transfer his remaining political authority to the elected Tibetan leadership, thus turning his earlier ‘semi-retirement’ into ‘full-retirement’ from the political leadership, resulting in the transformation to a fully functioning Tibetan democratic society. This also paved the way for a historic ending to 369 years of the Dalai Lama Institution’s (also known as the Gaden Phodrang) political reign over the Tibetan people.

Lobsang SangayIt is just over a year that the young, charismatic, Harvard-educated and exiled born Tibetan legal scholar, Dr Lobsang Sangay, was elected by the Tibetan diaspora as its political leader, commonly known as the Kalon Tripa of the Central Tibetan Administration (or Prime Minister of Tibetan Government-in-Exile). The new Tibetan leader in Dharamsala has recently come under increased pressure to contain the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet. Dr Sangay has publicly stated that since his accession to the exiled political leadership, the number of self-immolations by young Tibetans in Tibet has increased dramatically. Beijing has pointed fingers at exiled Tibetan ‘splitists’ as the masterminds behind such tragic acts. Dr Sangay hit back by stating that the ‘repressive policies of China’ have led to such desperate acts by Tibetans living under the Chinese communist rule.

In June this year, two senior envoys of the Dalai Lama – Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen – resigned from their posts out of sheer ‘frustration’ at the lack of progress during nine rounds of talks with the Chinese Communist Party representatives, which started in 2002. The envoys stated that Beijing “did not respond positively” to the detailed proposal of the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle-Way’ policy, documented in the ‘Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People’ and the follow-up ‘Note on Memorandum’, which they submitted to their Chinese counterparts in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

Earlier in the year, the elected Tibetan leadership in Dharamsala announced the convening of a Second Special General Meeting to discuss the current urgent crisis in Tibet. Some 500 Tibetan delegates from around the world are expected to attend this special meeting in Dharamsala from 25 to 28 September.

Given the current situation, I hope that the Tibetan delegates will pay some attention to one of the recommendations from the First Special General Meeting which called to ‘pursue complete independence or self-determination if no result comes out in the near future’. If the forthcoming special meeting is to be taken as a serious follow-up to the first one, then Dharamsala must not only thoroughly review the core issues and necessary strategic action plans but, in my view, it also needs to actively pursue some well thought-out plans, including advocating for an acceptable channel through which the Tibetans in Tibet could have a voice in their own destiny and not just react to external events.

Since the Tibetan people have the right to claim ‘self-determination’ under international law, they should never lose sight of this universally acceptable resolution for Tibet’s future. More so, they must remind and demand that the Tibetan and Chinese leaders in Dharamsala and Beijing respect and secure the Tibetan people’s fundamental interests.

It is also long overdue that the international community bears some moral responsibility in helping to resolve the ongoing political and human crisis in China-occupied Tibet. Tibetans have received a great deal of sympathy from people across the world to their peaceful struggle, which they appreciate. The recent Europe Solidarity Rally for Tibet, held in Vienna on 26 May 2012, is another example of Europeans’ continued support for the Tibetan cause.

A meaningful global support could be aiming to facilitate a referendum for Tibetans in Tibet, whereby they would be given the freedom to express whether they wish to remain under the present rule of the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China, or choose a different form of political governance to cater their needs.

It is also time for Tibetans to knock on the doors of the UN and other major international bodies such as the EU, ASEAN and SAARC countries, calling for tangible multi-lateral action whilst seeking increased co-operation from the alliance (both governmental and non-governmental) of political leaders, law makers, leading world figures and support groups who are sympathetic to the Tibetan cause.

In addition, the forthcoming summit in Dharamsala should unanimously call upon the Central Tibetan Administration to convene an international conference on Tibet in 2013, to coincide with the 100 years of proclamation of Tibet’s independence by the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama, with invitations reaching representatives of countries worldwide, to prepare for a multi-lateral roadmap towards a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan situation.

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