Agam's Gecko
Monday, March 12, 2007
Tibetan monk in exile
A Tibetan Buddhist monk attends the March 10th commemoration in Bangalore, India. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

t was 48 years ago (on Saturday) that the citizens of Lhasa filled their streets en masse, and surrounded the Norbulingka Palace, summer home of their head of state, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Fearing that an invitation from the Chinese military garrison (for the Dalai Lama to attend a Chinese performance at their base) was a communist ploy to kidnap him, thousands of Lhasans sought to prevent this with their own bodies.

Knowing that a confrontation between the unarmed populace and the heavily armed People's Liberation Army would soon become inevitable, the Dalai Lama resolved to avert catastrophe by leaving the palace in disguise as a nomad. The people of Lhasa have not seen him since.

The catastrophe he sought to prevent however, took place anyway. Upon realising their quarry had escaped, Chinese commanders unleashed a bombardment of Norbulingka which killed practically every soul within it, and a 3 day orgy of violence against the people of Lhasa which left -- according to a Chinese general present -- approximately 87,000 dead.

This catastrophic event in Tibetan history took place after 9 years of the Tibetan government and people trying to work things out while living under the Chinese communist jackboot. Chinese promises of autonomy and non-interference in the Tibetan political system were repeatedly broken as fast as they were made. The Dalai Lama had long been advised to seek freedom in exile as a way to preserve the Tibetan national identity, yet he had been convinced that he could work with the communists while maintaining his commitment to his people. That belief came to an end on March 10, 1959.

That day has been commemorated by Tibetans ever since, and often with severe consequences for those in Chinese-occupied Tibet. A crackdown on public demonstrations in 1989 -- mere weeks before the pro-democracy movement began activities in Beijing -- resulted in hundreds of deaths in Lhasa, under the orders of the then Tibet Party Secretary, Hu Jintao. Hu is of course, the current president of China. Observance of March 10 within Tibet is severely prohibited.

International support for the Tibetan Freedom Movement continues to grow steadily across many parts of the world, and this year's commemoration looks like it has been the most successful to date. From Sydney and Canberra to San Francisco and Chicago, from Prague, London and Paris to Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto and Taiwan (the democratic China, or if you prefer, the Republic of China...), Tibetans and their friends came out on Saturday to send China a message. Tibetans are a people, and Tibet is a nation which had exercised that nationhood long before Mao's armies invaded. Tibet has the internationally-recognised right to self-determination and self-rule -- at the very least it needs the autonomy which was promised (and reneged on) by China all those decades ago.

The New York City demonstration sounds like it was an inspiring affair, with speeches by people such as Robert Thurman, the highly regarded Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu, and the India-based writer and independence activist Tenzin Tsundue -- famous for having skirted Indian security on several occasions to bring the truth to the front of the faces of visiting Chinese high officials. On President Hu's recent state visit to India, Tsundue was muzzled under a 'no communication / no movement' order. Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng also spoke to the crowd, stated by those present to have peaked at about 3,000.

More accounts from dozens of cities around the world have been compiled at Phayul News. Many of these individual events recorded their best ever attendance, and solid support as always, in cities and towns across Mother India, such as Bangalore, Aligarh, Delhi, Mumbai, Madras and of course the heart of Tibet-in-exile, Dharamsala. There was even a Tibetan march for the first time ever in Kathmandu, Nepal. Galleries of photos from the international day of solidarity -- at last count showing 17 different events -- can be found here. By the way, that's Jamyang Norbu at the New York event, shown on the entry page of the galleries. More video and other coverage from around the world at the March10 website (by Students for a Free Tibet), as well as video testimonials (including one from a Tibeto-Caribbean rapper in London).

There seems to be a little more energy showing up on the diplomatic front as well. Moves by the Canadian, Scottish and European parliaments have gained considerable international support, and their could be a little momentum building. A measure passed by the EU has raised the likelihood, if China doesn't begin showing some seriousness with the issue, of establishing an EU "Special Representative" for Tibet. Not that any such office could necessarily accomplish much, but the fact is that the Chinese really hate the attention such moves provide. The Canadian parliament recently passed the following into law:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: urge the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the representatives of Tibet’s government in exile, notwithstanding their differences on Tibet’s historical relationship with China, to continue their dialogue in a forward-looking manner that will lead to pragmatic solutions that respect the Chinese constitutional framework, the territorial integrity of China and fulfill the aspirations of the Tibetan people for a unified and genuinely autonomous Tibet.
The fifth meeting in the above mentioned dialogue took place just over a year ago. No further invitations have been forthcoming from the Chinese side. The status of the dialogue process will be the focus of a US congressional hearing under the chairmanship of Rep. Tom Lantos (a longtime friend of Tibet, and of human rights everywhere) tomorrow in Washington. US State Department "Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues" Paula Dobriansky and the Special Envoy of the Dalai Lama (and one of the Tibetan participants in the dialogue with China) Lodi Gyari will testify.

But is China amenable to treating this issue seriously? Recent indications point to no. Vilification of the exile Tibetans by officials and state controlled press have increased, as have political and cultural suppression within Tibet. The communists appear to have ignored the advice of even some well-regarded China-based scholars, that they should seize the opportunity to deal with a Dalai Lama who holds the steadfast loyalty of his people, and who wishes to reach a mutually agreeable solution before his death. The hardliner Hu Jintao, in concert with the current hardline party boss in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, appear to believe their communism can supplant Tibetan Buddhism itself. Zhang is, of course, not a Tibetan. (I can hear you gasp, "What? The Party Secretary of Tibetan "Autonomous" Region isn't even a Tibetan?" /sarcasm)

There has never been other than a Chinese hardliner in control of the Communist Party in Tibet, as this is the position with real power. Native Tibetans, no matter how much party loyalty one might exhibit, are not to be trusted with real power. This people, with their own unique civilisation, literature and culture, who had their own self-evolved state institutions such as a national military, civil service, monetary system, postal service, etc. are considered by the Chinese political leadership as little more than children -- and barbarian children at that. The Chinese Communist Party is their mommy, and now their "living Buddha." Party Secretary Zhang said earlier this month,
"The Communist Party is like the parent to the Tibetan people, and it is always considerate about what the children need," said Zhang, in Beijing to attend the National People's Congress which opens on Monday.

In response to an Internet post praising him as a living Buddha for Tibetans, Zhang said: "The central party committee is the real Buddha for Tibetans."
This "living Buddha" nonsense is a ridiculous concept created by the Chinese, and picked up and regurgitated admiringly and repeatedly by western press (in much the same way they, in their ignorance, continually refer to the Dalai Lama as Tibet's "God-King"). The Tibetan Tulku is believed to be the reincarnation of an accomplished teacher -- one who has reached the stage of escaping the circle of birth, death and reincarnation, but who willingly returns to the mundane world in order to assist others along the path. It doesn't mean "living Buddha," but that's the Chinese definition that has been imposed, and then propagated further by those who trust them. In Buddhism, there is but one Lord Buddha -- and he died more than two and a half millenia ago.

Now, in keeping with tradition on this little blog, in a far-off corner of the blogospheric inter-tubes, I present HH Dalai Lama's 2007 March 10th anniversary statement.

The Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the 48th Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day
On the occasion of the forty-eighth anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising in Lhasa in 1959, I offer my prayers and tribute to all those Tibetans who have suffered and sacrificed their lives for the cause of the Tibetan people. I also express my solidarity with those who are presently suffering repression and imprisonment.

In 2006, we witnessed both the positive and negative changes in the People’s Republic of China. On the one hand, the hard-lined position was intensified with a campaign of vilification against us, and more disquietingly, heightened political restriction and repression in Tibet. On the other hand, in China itself, we saw some improvement with regard to the freedom of expression. In particular, there is a growing feeling among Chinese intellectuals that material development alone is not sufficient and that there is a need to create a more meaningful society based on spiritual values. Views that the present system is inadequate to create such a society are gaining ground, as a result of which belief in religion in general, and particularly interest in Tibetan Buddhism and culture is growing. Moreover, there are many who express their wish that I make a pilgrimage to China to give teachings there.

President Hu Jintao’s continued call for a harmonious society is laudable. The basis for the realization of such a society is to foster trust among the people, which can take place when there is freedom of expression, truth, justice and equality. Therefore, it is important that officials at all levels not only take heed, but also implement these principles.

With regard to our relations with China, since around 1974, realizing the inevitability of an opportunity to engage some day in dialogue with China, we have made preparations to achieve genuine, unified autonomy for all Tibetans, as enshrined in the Chinese constitution. In 1979, China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping proposed that except for independence, all other issues regarding Tibet could be resolved through negotiations. As this was in accord with our thinking, we adopted a mutually-beneficial Middle-Way policy. Since then, for twenty-eight years, we have consistently and sincerely pursued this policy, which was formulated as a result of thorough discussion and analysis, based on the broad objectives of addressing the immediate and long-term interests of both Tibetans and Chinese, peaceful co-existence in Asia and protection of the environment. This policy has been endorsed and supported by many pragmatic Tibetans in and outside Tibet and by many countries.

The most important reason behind my proposal to have genuine national regional autonomy for all Tibetans is to achieve genuine equality and unity between the Tibetans and Chinese by eliminating big Han chauvinism and local nationalism. This will contribute to the country’s stability through mutual help, trust and friendship between the two nationalities and to the maintenance of our rich culture and language based on a proper balance between spiritual and material development for the benefit of the whole of humanity.

It is true that the Chinese constitution guarantees national regional autonomy to minority nationalities. The problem is that it is not implemented fully, and thus fails to serve its express purpose of preserving and protecting the district identity, culture and language of the minority nationalities. What happens on the ground is that large populations from the majority nationalities have spread in these minority regions. Therefore, the minority nationalities, instead of being able to preserve their own identity, culture and language, have no choice but to depend on the language and customs of the majority nationality in their day-to-day lives. Consequently, there is a danger of the languages and rich traditions of the minority nationalities becoming gradually extinct.

There is nothing wrong with the infrastructural development such as a railway itself. However, it is a source of deep concern that ever since the railway line became operational, Tibet has seen a further increase in Chinese population transfer, deterioration of its environment, misuse and pollution of its water, and exploitation of its natural resources, all causing huge devastation to the land and all those who inhabit it.

Although there has been a certain number of educated and capable communist party members among the people of minority nationalities, it is unfortunate that very few of them have attained leadership positions at the national level and some of them have been given different labels such as separatists.

In order to provide real benefits for both the majority and minority nationalities as well as the central and local governments, a meaningful autonomy should be put into place. Since this particular autonomy is for the minority nationalities, the demand for a single administration of the Tibetan nationality is sincere, just and transparent. It is clear to the world that we have no hidden agenda. As such it is the sacred duty of all Tibetans to continue our struggle towards fulfilling this reasonable demand. No matter how long it takes, our courage and determination shall remain unchanged until we fulfill our aspirations. The struggle of the Tibetan people is not about the struggle for the status of a few Tibetan individuals; it is the struggle of a people. We have already transformed the exile Tibetan administration and community into a genuine democratic system with a succession of leaders elected for the people by the people themselves. We have thus set up a deeply-rooted, vibrant social and political institution that will carry forward our struggle from generation to generation. In the end, the ultimate decisions will be made democratically by the people themselves.

Since the resumption of direct contacts between the Tibetans and Chinese in 2002, my representatives have conducted five rounds of comprehensive discussion with concerned officials of the People’s Republic of China. In these discussions, both sides were able to express in clear terms the suspicions, doubts and real difficulties that exist between the two sides. These rounds of discussion have thus helped in creating a channel of communication between the two sides. The Tibetan delegation stands ready to continue the dialogue anytime, anywhere. The Kashag will provide the details in its statement.

I greet all those Tibetans in Tibet – communist party members, leaders, officials, professionals and others – who have held on to the Tibetan spirit by continuing their efforts to work for genuine interest of the Tibetan people. I express my deep admiration for their immense courage to do whatever they can in the service of the people of Tibet. I also express my deep admiration to the Tibetans in Tibet who, against all odds, have made efforts to preserve the Tibetan identity, culture and language, and for their steadfast courage and determination in realizing the aspirations of the Tibetan people. I am confident that they will continue to strive for our common cause, with renewed dedication and commitment. I urge all Tibetans in and outside Tibet to work unitedly for a secure future based on equality and harmony of nationalities.

I would like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly thank the people and Government of India for their unwavering and unparalleled generosity and support to us. I also express my gratitude to all those governments and people in the international community for their concern and support to the Tibetan issue.

With my prayers for the peace and well-being of all sentient beings.

The Dalai Lama
10 March 2007

[N.B. - Translated from the Tibetan]


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