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By Jigmie Dorji Yuthok
(Photo: Depon Yuthok Tashi Dhondup and D-Tshap Taring Jigme, Lhasa 1937)
Mr. Gyalo Thondup’s book, The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong, has already been the subject of much criticism, and rightly so. Indeed, even his co-author, Anne Thurston, expresses grave doubts about the veracity of his story in the Introduction to the book, before you hear a word from Mr. Thondup. Again, in the book’s uncommon “Afterword” section, she notes that some Tibetans who had read the manuscript — and her editors as well — were suspicious of the motivation behind Mr. Thondup’s many allegations against fellow Tibetans and his portrayal of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s views on Tibet. And how does one excuse Mr. Thondup’s deliberately arrogant disrespect toward the 10th Panchen Lama, who — once he began to see the real nature of China’s brutal occupation — spoke against it and paid a very heavy price in the form of many years of imprisonment and torture. Such gratuitous criticism coming from someone who kept himself safely out of harm’s way was shocking and embarrassing to most Tibetans. So, before publication, the co-author and publisher were at the very least suspicious that Mr. Thondup’s version of history was tainted with bias and the twin motivations of self-aggrandizement — a trait he has exhibited throughout his life — and clearing his name in a ﬁnancial scandal by casting stones at everyone else. Nonetheless they went ahead and published the book, defending Mr. Thondup’s right to tell his story, and probably hoping that allegations that were known to be “controversial and provocative” would sell books.
So it is that I must join those who have stepped forward to set the record straight. Mr. Thondup’s The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong calls the then Tibetan Government incompetent and ignorant, maligns the good name of many Tibetan patriots — including my late father, Kalon Yuthok Tashi Dhondup (http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/tibet/biography_282.html)— and has inaccuracies which cannot be left to stand without correction. This response is based on my personal experience and documents, and it will concentrate on the things I know from having been at several of the events that Mr. Thondup has portrayed, as well as those documents in my possession which provide a more accurate and less egocentric account of this critical period of Tibetan history.
I will begin by addressing a general theme that pervades the book, the portrayal of Tibet’s government of the period prior to China’s invasion as “absolutely incompetent.” Mr. Thondup proclaims himself “ashamed of my government” and further states “the people running Tibet were incompetent – not just ordinarily incompetent but absolutely incompetent.” The use of such harsh and cruel language not only maligns those who were in ofﬁce before and during the Chinese invasion of Tibet, it indicts a system of government that — in spite of its many ﬂaws when judged through the lens of modern democracy — had in fact been quite successful in assembling, managing and defending a nation for more centuries than most modern democracies have existed. His gratuitous dismissal of such accomplishments betrays an arrogance that might be justiﬁed if it came from someone with a stellar record of competence himself, but such is hardly the case. In Kundun, H.H. the Dalai Lama says of his elder brother, Mr. Gyalo Thondup, “He did some good things, but he also made many mistakes. He is stubborn and he creates controversy wherever he goes.”
Now let’s get down to speciﬁcs.
Mr. Thondup claims to have been in contact with many Indian government ofﬁcials during the period between China’s invasion and His Holiness’ escape to India when, in fact, he was blissfully unaware of all the decisions that were taken by the Tibetan government. So when Mr. Thondup claims that the Tibetan government “never asked the Indians or Americans for help,” he couldn’t be more mistaken
In 1950, I was called by the Tibetan government to serve as an English interpreter to the Tibetan Trade Mission. I was 18 years old and studying at St. Joseph’s North Point, Darjeeling. The officials in the Trade Mission were Rimshi Surkhang Lhawang Tobgye and Kenchung Lobsang Tsewang. We met with India’s Prime Minister Nehru. This “Tibet Trade Mission” was in reality a secret mission to request military arms from India, a request that Prime Minister Nehru turned down. Later, Mr. Thondup, while virtually running the Tibetan government in the 1960s, was equally unsuccessful in obtaining anything more than token outside support, so he should have known ﬁrst-hand that such support was hard to come by. Cold War political realities made intervention in a remote and inaccessible Tibet a very low priority on the world stage. But whether one is speaking of the 1960s, or the preceding decades, not achieving positive results does not constitute a lack of effort or a lack of competence.
In March 1959, when we received word that His Holiness the Dalai Lama had ﬂed Lhasa, my father, Kalon Yuthok, and I were in Kalimpong. Some Kalimpong Tibetans – Kalon Yuthok, Drunyik Chenmo, Alo Chongze, and myself among others but not Mr. Thondup – immediately went to Delhi to petition the Government of India to help Tibet and to ensure that His Holiness did not fall into the hands of the Chinese. The petition was submitted to Prime Minister Nehru, again to no avail. After waiting for a reply which was never to come, we returned to Kalimpong. Again no one had the appetite to get into a hot war with China on the Tibetan plateau, not a nascent India, nor more powerful and stable nations halfway around the world such as Great Britain and the United States.
Later in the book, Mr. Thondup speaks about the April 1959 statement by His Holiness upon his arrival in Tezpur, India. In his zeal to portray everyone but himself as incompetent, Mr. Thondup alleges that His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s ﬁrst statement to the international news media, who had assembled there following His Holiness’ escape from the Chinese, was read to the press by an Indian ofﬁcial, implying Nehru’s people had even drafted it just as the Chinese Communist Government accused. He is mistaken on both counts. The English translation of the Tibetan-language Tezpur statement was read to the press corps by a Tibetan, namely me, not by a nameless “Indian ofﬁcial” as Mr. Thondup alleges.
Upon His Holiness’ arrival, the Government of India arranged temporary residence for the Dalai Lama in Mussoorie. Khenchung Tara and I, as the English-speaking secretary, took care of the Tibetan Government documents and correspondence as well as His Holiness’ private correspondence. On June 20, 1959, His Holiness gave a statement to the media and held his first western-style “news conference.” I had prepared an English version of his statement which I then read to the media (A&E Biography 1997: “Dalai Lama The Soul of Tibet” Part 3 of 5) (https://youtu.be/Lklgq0yU9Wk). During the questions and answers session of the press conference I was assisted by another English speaking Tibetan official, Sandutsang Rinchen.
The next glaring inaccuracy of The Noodle Maker that I can correct concerns the vastly exaggerated loan request that Tibet was alleged to have made to India. To begin with, when Prime Minister Nehru came to see His Holiness in Mussoorie in April 1959, the subject of loans of any amount never came up. Mr. Thondup’s suggestion that Kalons Surkhang Wangchen Gelek (http://web.prm.ox.ac.uk/tibet/biography_65.html) and Yuthok Tashi Dhondup had advised His Holiness to approach Prime Minister Nehru for a loan of 200 million Indian rupees is ludicrous on its face. As a matter of fact, Kalon Yuthok was not in Mussoorie at that time. Perhaps the subject of a loan for 200 million Indian rupees did come up during Mr. Thondup’s private discussion with the Indian diplomat, P.N. Menon. That would explain why no one else ever heard of it.
Returning to reality, the Kashag, the executive body of the Tibetan government, with the approval of His Holiness, later did decide to approach the Government of India for a loan of just over 6.4 million rupees. Kalon Surkhang, Kalon Liushar — and myself as their interpreter — travelled to Delhi to ask India’s Foreign Secretary Subimal Dutt for this loan, which was unfortunately refused by him. Mr. Thondup, who did not occupy any ofﬁcial role, was allowed to accompany us only as an observer. And it is particularly important to note that at this time, Mr. Thondup, who was educated in China and in the Chinese language, was not ﬂuent in English. I translated the discussions back and forth between English and Tibetan and I well know what the amount of the loan request was, and Mr. Thondup was so informed on the spot.
When one talks about the inﬂuence of an elder brother of someone such as His Holiness, on government and politics or even in the realm of ﬁnancial matters, it is in a context that people everywhere probably understand. Add to the political power of the person in question the religious and spiritual signiﬁcance of Tibet’s Dalai Lama and it is easy to understand how a family member might try to maneuver himself into a position of power. For this reason, during an incarnation of a Dalai Lama, it was Tibet’s tradition that family members — while well provided for — were usually kept out of the government, and their inﬂuence was limited. The Chinese invasion and His Holiness’ escape to India provided an opening for change, and Mr. Thondup did not miss this opportunity to assert himself into Tibetan politics.
But before returning to this subject, there is the little matter of the missing Tibetan gold and silver that Mr. Thondup goes to such great lengths to blame on others, despite his responsibility as a trustee of these funds. I have some direct knowledge that touches on this important issue.
First let me say that I personally believe that the reason that Kalons Surkhang and Yuthok and Dzasa Pangdatshang have been targeted by Mr. Thondup is because all of them were members of the Tibetan Government that, in the lead-up to the Chinese invasion of 1949, had expelled all Chinese nationals from Tibet: a decree that applied to Mr. Thondup’s Chinese wife. And there were several other issues where Mr. Thondup had clashed with the Tibetan government both before and after the Chinese invasion, beginning with the Kashag’s displeasure with Mr. Thondup’s going to school in China instead of India. “At this time, sending one’s children to China to attend school was unheard of in the aristocracy. Those families who chose to send their children for a modern education (which was not possible to obtain in Tibet) all sent them to India. … … China, which, it should be noted, was ostensibly Tibet’s enemy.” After His Holiness’ and Mr. Thondup’s father died, the Kashag also appointed trustees to sort out the family’s finances, much to Mr. Thondup’s displeasure. So, in the midst of a number of intrigues that took place during the late 40’s and early 50’s, Mr. Thondup returned to Tibet in 1952 full of ideas that were out of step with Tibet’s political leadership. His controversial education in China made many doubtful of his recommendations. Thinking that he knew more than them, and unhappy that his ideas were rejected as “more red than the Red Chinese themselves,” he left for India. In other words, there was “bad blood” between the parties long before His Holiness ﬂed Tibet. Now add to that the fact that Surkhang, Yuthok and Pangdatshang had knowledge of the gold and silver the Tibetan Government had sent to Sikkim in 1950.
The Kashag were responsible for shipping the gold and silver there via the Tibetan border town of Yatung (Dromo), where Pangdatshang was Governor. And there was a lot of gold and silver. In 1959, the arrival of this gold and silver in Kolkata (Calcutta) from Sikkim became such big news that Mr. Desmond Doig, a journalist from The Statesman of Calcutta, interviewed Mr. Thondup, who told him that the value of the gold and silver was worth 6.4 million Indian rupees. Yes, by a strange coincidence that is the actual amount of the Tibetan loan request made earlier to India, discussed above. How Mr. Thondup pulled that number out of the air is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, or perhaps it was the ﬁrst number that popped into his head, having heard it before. But here’s where it gets really interesting. Pangdatshang told Doig that the value of the gold and silver was very much greater than what had been reported in his Statesmen article. When Doig went and asked Mr. Thondup about this discrepancy, Mr. Thondup — in a ﬁt of anger — told him that if he published any further news about the value of the Tibetan gold and silver, Mr. Thondup would send thousands of Tibetans to demonstrate in front of The Statesman’s ofﬁces. How do I know this? I was the interpreter during Pangdatshang’s meeting with Doig, and Doig recounted Mr. Thondup’s threat to me after he asked Mr. Thondup about the huge discrepancy. Add to this the fact that one of Mr. Thondup’s friends, Tashi Tsering, says that “literally millions of dollars worth of gold were loaded onto Dakota cargo planes and flown to Calcutta” and the mystery of what happened to the missing gold remains unsolved to this day.
But returning to the earlier mystery of the non-existent 200 million rupee loan request, Mr. Thondup says in his book that “Surkhang and Yuthok were so embarrassed when the Dalai Lama reported his conversation (about the failed loan request) to the Kashag that they ﬂed Mussoorie and …… suffered an irreparable loss of face.” Mr. Thondup’s notions of “loss of face,” like many other of his ideas, seem much more Chinese than Tibetan. In fact, in his book on page 115 you will notice that he refers to Tibet as “the motherland,” just as the Chinese do China; whereas Tibetans use the term “fatherland” exclusively. Seasoned and patriotic Tibetan cabinet ministers would not get “so embarrassed” that they would shirk their duty and flee. What actually happened is quite simple.
Kalons Surkhang and Yuthok did not “ﬂee” or “defect” to Taiwan as Mr. Thondup portrays it. It was due to their exclusion from the new Thondup-controlled exile government and subsequent inability to serve His Holiness and work for Tibetan independence from inside India — along with what proved to be a very justiﬁed fear of danger for their families’ safety — that Surkhang and Yuthok left India. Thinking that they could continue to serve His Holiness and the Tibetan cause as private citizens, Surkhang and Yuthok went to Taiwan, largely because, in March of 1959, President Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China (Taiwan) had pledged his support for Tibetan self-determination. Upon their arrival in Taiwan, there were already about 30 Tibetans being trained in Taiwan as paratroopers to ﬁght the communists alongside Chiang Kai-shek's troops.
Kalon Yuthok later had the privilege of being granted a private audience with His Holiness during his ﬁrst visit to the US in 1979, and again in 1980 during His Holiness’ visit to Vancouver, Canada. In fact, His Holiness appears in a photo taken with the extended Yuthok family during the 1979 visit to Seattle. So the notion that Kalon Yuthok was persona non grata, and even banished from His Holiness’ sight, does not hold up to the light of day, even if Mr. Thondup may have wished it to be so.
(His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Seattle, 1979 with Kalon Yuthok Tashi Dhondup (right of HHDL)
and Yuthok Jigmie Dorji (left of HHDL), along with their families)
Another example of the extent of Mr. Thondup’s influence in the Tibetan community in the early days of exile, and his disdain for anyone who thwarted his will, took place in 1966 when my wife and our two daughters went to Darjeeling and Kalimpong where Mr. Thondup’s Chikdril Tsogpa (United Party) turned his personal vendetta against the Pangdatshang and Yuthok families into organizing a demonstration against my wife, Pangdatshang Rinchen Omo, and our two daughters, who were only nine and seven years old. The demonstrators chanted that Pangdatshangs are not Tibetans and they should be eliminated from the Tibetan race and put in jail. Local police found the mob so hostile that they took my family into police protection and escorted them to Siliguri airport for their flight home to Kolkata. The Indian authorities in Kolkata wanted to investigate the incidents, however we considered the events — which took place in Darjeeling and Kalimpong — to be a Tibetan matter and told them that we preferred to take our case to the Tibetan Government in Dharamsala
And that is what we did. In Dharamsala, we encountered a new element of “mob” behavior, but that was also where Mr. Thondup learned that he had, once again, overplayed his hand. On the evening after having an audience with His Holiness, my wife and I were surrounded by a hostile crowd. Tibetan Government officials came and dispersed the crowd and local police arrived intending to arrest the persons who had surrounded us, but we again declined to press charges since they were just pawns being manipulated by the leaders of Chikdril Tsogpa for their own political ends.
Another Chikdril Tsogpa crowd called for the dismissal of Private Office Secretary Khenchung Tara because he had arranged an audience with His Holiness for my wife and me. After the audience, we informed the Tibetan Exile Government that we were prepared to answer any questions that the government may have about the Yuthok family and Pangdatshang family. The investigation commission said I was excused since I was a Yuthok and they only wanted to question my wife about the Pangdatshang family. Her inquisitors did not have a clear agenda as to the line of questioning. So they began with what Americans call “a fishing expedition.” They ended the investigation sessions with a statement that the commission was fully satisfied with all the answers given by Omo Pangdatshang whom they concluded to be a patriotic Tibetan.
Following these and other similar incidents the Chikdril Tsogpa organization gradually became unpopular among the exile Tibetan community. Others who had been similarly mistreated came forward and told their stories and the Chikdril Tsogpa faded into obscurity.
Hopefully that is the fate that awaits Mr. Thondup’s purported biography. Although it pretends to be historically accurate, The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong is clearly a blend of fact and fancy. I have only addressed a small portion of its contents, addressing inaccuracies and falsehoods about which I have some personal knowledge. And, while these alone would justify the co-author’s warnings about The Noodle Maker’s authenticity, I am not the ﬁrst to offer such corrections, and I probably will not be the last. They say you must “suspend your disbelief” in order to enjoy a work of ﬁction; but The Noodle Maker pretends to be factual so I advise the reader not to give in to the natural human desire to be told a good story and instead to understand that non-ﬁction should be held to a much higher standard.
 Mary Craig, Kundun, (Counterpoint, 1997), Page 353.
 Warren W. Smith, Jr., Tibetan Nation, (Westview Press, Inc., 1996), Page 254.
 Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa, Tibet: A Political History, (Potala Publications, 1988), Page 291.
 Ibid, Page 295.
 Ibid, Pages 297-298.
 Tsering Shakya, The Dragon in the Land of Snows, (Columbia University Press, 1999), Page 22.
 Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: Volume 2 The Calm before the Storm, 1951-1955, (University of California Press, 2007), Page 235.
 Ibid, Page 238.
 Ibid, Page 375.
 Tashi Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet, (M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1997), Page 58.
 Ibid, Page 58.
 Warren W. Smith, Jr., Tibetan Nation, (Westview Press, Inc., 1996), Page 503. (Department of State Outgoing Telegram, 6 November 1959, National Archives, 793B.00/11-659).
By Gelek Badheytsang
If you're not white, chances are when you're watching a movie or a TV series, you'll catch yourself on the lookout for anyone who's not white.
It's a very minor event, this trying to find someone who looks like you onscreen, and most of us probably do it unconsciously.
That Hollywood has blind spots when it comes to race and race-based issues is not a groundbreaking revelation. Its audience, increasingly non-white and vocal, are challenging the films and their filmmakers about this gap when it comes to who is shown on-screen and who isn't.
It's in this context that we find Doctor Strange. Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill, in a fit of exasperation and indignation, responded to criticisms recently that his movie committed the age-old Hollywood tradition of whitewashing by casting Tilda Swinton in the role of the Ancient One. In the Marvel comic book lore, the Ancient One was based on a Tibetan mystical master. He guides the titular hero (portrayed onscreen by Benedict Cumberbatch) in his journey from a brilliant but ordinary surgeon, to a brilliant and powerful superhero; cloaked and ready to join the pantheon of Marvel characters, and the next installment of the money-printing enterprise that is the Avengers series.Full article at: www.vice.com/en_ca/read/hollywoods-latest-whitewash-what-doctor-stranges-casting-of-tilda-swinton-means
By Tsewang Norbu (Germany)
Second largest economy, only next to USA, China is the rising super power in world order, like it or not.
But China's rise is not how western observers brush it as, making the success story, a very new phenomena in Chinese history. China story on the other way date back to rich and more powerful past, beginning with first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi. He boasted “his kindness reaches even oxen and horses and there is not a human who did not benefited from his rule." Chinese historian see his rule as golden age of order and justice. The economy of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) of China was the largest in the world during that period. Four great invention: Papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass are inventions of ancient China, that had hugely impacted through out civilization of humankind, beginning from cognitive revolution.
How China looked today, perhaps is manifestation of her failure of last two hundred long years. With Qing dynasty failure in later part of its reign to vast control and modernise mechanism to govern because of Internal feud within ruling family, and nonetheless sudden and unprecedented advance of west. Both in economy terms and political sphere, to which Qing China fail to walk per with.
Therefore today in scenario, China being, only recently break out from western shackles. Developing country in world of far developed west. In era, where almost all major scientific and political development evolved in western side of world, be it accepted Communism or Multi party democracy, all trace western origin, though President Xi Jinping, in public accept one and renounce another being foreign with wit.
Observers and business community, those of them, whom had never seen fortune in last two hundred and plus years in China, and from whose collective mind rich Imperial China has disappeared, as distance memory. They being very certain its beginning of new happy story, declared ‘China a new coming superpowers, rather than revival of old power and economy order. Communist Party of China, the ruling party also is more comfortable with word New than Revival. Though not in any aspect, it govern like dynasty, based on family line, and legitimates itself with Mandate of Heaven. The Mandate of Heaven, like Western frameworks of rule by divine right. Instead legitimates itself in a way that is the polar opposite of the Mandate of Heaven. Still nonetheless frames the State as an embodiment of the Party subsiding with Emperor, seeks loyalty to Party instead of emperor and fly a flag inspired from Party.
Many sinologists believe, CCP is unwilling to accept it as revival on two terms. One, based on biased that Communist party is only liberator of Chinese people in wake of century of humiliation. Secondly, those dynasty, though may were far astonishing in the matter of record... but also were founded on bloodshed. Truth with even CCP is tainted, that with greater scale.
However, how immune CCP may claim from China's imperial past, all the soft language, CCP, employ to legitimize its rule are but a old Chinese Imperial political thinking, that suggest imperial period as golden age of order and justice, while composed a dreadful warning, in case of decline and possible dethrone of imperial order, how dark age of chaos and injustice will evolve from nowhere. CCP like another imperial on the run, issue same old message on so many occasion, that removal of CCP from power, in option to multi-party democracy will directly lead China to chaos and in hand of foreign power.
Under CCP, though for the first time in Chinese history there was a unified political structure, from the local to the national level. But CCP walk beyond national border to impose another national, few of them, like Tibetan, Uyghurs and Mongols doesn't share the same ethnic background, culture influence, political history, and collective idea of Chineseness at all. China's argument on defence is, one, In past all three of them, CCP claim, have fallen under subject of Chinese Imperial authority on different time, and on the other way, which are debatable on what extent. Secondly, based on another imperial believe that suggest, Mandate of heaven was bestowed not in order to exploit the world, but in order to educate humanity. This beautiful phrase was justification given, when Imperial army lead war expedition, killing all neighboring presumed barbarians whom the empire must bring benefits of cultural and economy. CCP, nonetheless is build up on such imagine order, that neighbouring were uneducated, miserable barbarians, whom the party must bring benefits of socialism and Chinese growth even in cost of human life.
To highlight, CCP official, throw statistics of all kind to show benefits of socialism in Tibet. It's part of believe, without considering, it's not so fair to compare, that in contemporary world between James Dean and Brad Pitt, though both are actor and come from same federation, “Hollywood". Very few may recognize James Dean, anymore. Whereas Brad Pitt is omnipresent.
Instead of benefit, to reflect opposite reality, Just months before, few days prior Tibetan national uprising, a Tibetan blogger had blogged, “on the ground CCP rules over Tibet, to civilize and pump moral is unjust, when Chinese success story had bankrupt the Chinese moral and cultural Bank, that issue high value on upright deeds than dollar and gold. And perhaps inspired by President Ronald Regan (Tear down the wall), he blogger from Sichuan province wrote on his another blog, “Tear down this invisible wall", on the policy of movement restrictions among Tibetan of outside TAR to travel Lhasa.
Another legacy CCP inherent from China's imperial past is Kowtow. During Qing dynasty, one issue facing foreign embassies to China was the act of prostration known as the kowtow. Foreign diplomats understood that kowtowing meant accepting the superiority of the Emperor of China over their own monarchs, an act which they found unacceptable. But Qing were rather successful on ground if you do not Kowtow, embassies will be not permitted to open in China.
In our recent collective memory, to demonstrate China's inherent imperial behavioral (kowtow), Mr Cameron is best example. He sparked fury in Beijing in 2013 by meeting the Dalai Lama. In subsequent, Beijing reacted with unofficial economy embargo. To calm down that Chinese fury and win over Beijing again, Mr. Cameron, flied two times to Beijing to show superiority of China, and being PM of country which century before imposed unequal treaties, now so willing to accept subordinate chair, giving great deal of performance to Chinese Boss, United Kingdom no longer, anymore stands firm on her principle of human rights and value.
Territorial dispute in South China Sea is another great reflection. If we microscope the whole issue, we find dispute among rival countries are many centuries old, for centuries rival wrangled over claim but why tension has steadily increased in recent years? Is it because China wants to create atmosphere of Kowtow threatening with military occupation. Smells like t is, with revival of China, which greatly entangled in glorious but blood-tainted Imperial past.
Author Tsering Woeser uses her blog "Invisible Tibet," together with poetry, historical research, and social media platforms, to give voice to millions of ethnic Tibetans who are denied freedom of expression. In a recent commentary for RFA's Mandarin Service, she talks about the politicization of a centuries-old Tibetan Buddhist dispute by the ruling Chinese Communist Party:
On Dec. 21, 2015, Reuters ran an article by three of their most experienced journalists titled "China co-opts a Buddhist sect in global effort to smear Dalai Lama."
"A Reuters investigation has found that the religious sect behind the protests has the backing of the Communist Party. The group has emerged as an instrument in Beijing’s long campaign to undermine support for the Dalai Lama," the article said.
The name of this Buddhist sect is Dorje Shugden, shortened to Shugden.
Problems first began to emerge with Shugden in the 17th and 18th centuries, but weren't spoken about publicly until the 1990s.
The Dalai Lama, based on many years of observation and more importantly on Buddhist teaching, has said that if monks and believers wish to be true followers of his Gelugpa sect, they should give up the worship of spirits like Shugden and base their practice on Buddhist doctrine.
The problem of Shugden has lasted for 300-400 years, and through five incarnations of the Dalai Lama.
However, a more detailed examination of the issue would mean investigating experiences which are often only accessible to meditators who have worked through certain practices in sequence. The very precise words used to describe such experiences are frequently misunderstood by a lot of people.
But it's not just about spirits: religious belief is in itself a very personal thing.
There is no question that human beings have worshipped all manner of spirits, gods, animal and plant totems through history.
But if you call yourself a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, and you rely on deities and spirits rather than Buddhist doctrine; if you see them as more important than the Buddha himself, then there's a problem.
Even more importantly, adherents of Shugden practice are the fundamentalists of the Gelugpa sect, because they recognize only the Gelugpa school as the true form of Buddhism. They are intolerant, and reject the Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya and any other schools of Tibetan Buddhism, seeing them as inauthentic.
The Dalai Lama doesn't want to see infighting between the schools lead to the fragmentation of Tibetan Buddhism, and sees the fundamentalism of the Shugden followers as religious intolerance.
Monks in the pay of China
In indicating that followers of the Gelugpa school should drop their Shugden practice, he is effectively handing over greater religious freedom to believers. It is effectively a negation of something negative that yields a positive.
By Drukar Gyal (a/k/a Shokjang)
The following appeal was written by Tibetan blogger Shokjang and translated by International Campaign for Tibet:
To the Qinghai Higher People’s Court
My name is Drukar Gyal, or Druklo in short, and my pen-name is Shokjang. I come from Khagya village in Gengya area of Sangchu (Chinese: Xiahe) county, Kanlho [Gannan] prefecture. On March 19, 2015, I was detained by Rebkong (Chinese: Tongren) county Public Security, and held in the detention centre there from the 20th. On May 5, the formal announcement of my arrest came. On July 21, the Malho (Chinese: Huangnan) Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court convened; I presented the defence that my actions were not illegal, and the court’s deliberation was postponed for over seven months, until the second session on February 17 2016, which announced a sentence of three years imprisonment with two years suspension of political rights.
As I myself cannot accept this judgment, I have written this appeal to the provincial Higher Peoples Court, cherishing the hope of justice being done.
The Malho Peoples Court has condemned the matters I wrote about as “inciting the splitting of the nation”. The main points are (i) A composition about the freedom of religious belief posted on the internet; (ii) A written account of the events of March 16 (2015), when police and soldiers came to search my hotel room at gunpoint; (iii) Reproducing a short section from the book ‘The Division of Heaven and Earth’ on the internet; (iv) Sharing a news report that the Chinese government would hold talks with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on matters unrelated to Tibetan independence; (v) Reproducing on the internet an internal video clip of Chinese police beating ordinary Chinese people in the street; (vi) Having copies of six books, including ‘Sky Burial’ by Wang Lixiong, on my phone.
Concerning the first four points, while I presented the case for my defence earlier, the present sentencing document rules that my arguments citing the constitution and so on are without foundation.
If even the provisions of the Chinese constitution are not valid arguments, I find the basis for the Intermediate People’s Court’s decision hard to understand. With the merest of hopes, I am restating my case that my actions were not illegal, along with an unreserved statement of my position, and request that you the provincial Higher Peoples Court give it full consideration.
1. Freedom of religious belief is an important right of citizens defined by the constitution. On the basis of this constitutional right, my composition expressed my view of the restrictions imposed by armed soldiers on the occasion of the ‘flower offering’ ceremony at Kumbum monastery, and addressed my readers on awareness of the right to religious belief. Any citizen has the right to comment on developments in society according to legally guaranteed rights, while conveying awareness of the law to others is a responsibility. I have only exercised my right and responsibility according to the constitution, and made no mention of separatism etc. as they allege.
With regard to the overall relationship between religion and politics, I clearly wrote that I was expressing my opinions on the outcome of politics dictating to religion and the outcome of religious rights dictating politics; the former [is discussed] in the present composition, and the latter is still unwritten.
To put it straight, this was basically just a short piece that has nothing to do with a serious political allegation like “splitting the nation”. The Malho Intermediate Peoples Court cited a fragment of what I wrote, “…this is not just trampling on the Tibetan people’s right to freedom of religious belief, but on the right of the Chinese people as a whole to religious freedom”, to accuse me of having a separatist attitude. If knowledgeable people were to examine this, would they not find it laughable? Not only did I not make even the slightest reference to separatism, my statement posits no distinction between the Chinese and Tibetan peoples. Their talk of separatism does not establish what is being separated from what.
At that time, the situation at the Kumbum Flower Offering ceremony [Monlam Chenmo, marked by a massive presence of armed troops] was widely discussed on the internet, with lots of devotees giving their opinions one after another, as you well know. After seeing these things, I simply wrote down what I thought, and the photos inserted in my text were entirely borrowed from others, none of them were taken by me. As someone staying in Labrang, my camera lens cannot reach Kumbum monastery, as any ordinary person would understand.
Further, straightforwardly writing down my view of the situation at that time is my right to written expression, a right enshrined in and protected by the constitution. If such situations in the cultural sphere turn into serious political issues, issues of national separatism, does that make visitors from both nationalities who post photos and other observations on the situation at Kumbum monastery on the internet into perpetrators of separatism? By this logic, only a minority of the general public would not be considered as separatists or instigators of separatism. Won’t such extreme suspicion make for an authoritarian stranglehold? Doesn’t it contradict the core socialist values of “freedom, democracy, equality, transparency, upholding law…” etc. being propagated by President Xi Jinping and others? Won’t this apparent deliberate dereliction of the decisions of the top leadership be ridiculed by nations from the four corners of the world? Won’t future generations be ashamed? I request the Higher Peoples Court to review this carefully.
2. On the evening of March 16 (2015) I was in a hotel in Rebkong [Tongren]. Late at night, two people wearing police uniform and army uniform and carrying guns came inside saying they needed to search the place. When I asked them to show some documentary proof, they pointed their guns at me and loudly intimidated me. That was the first time I have experienced the terror of facing the barrel of a gun pointed at me. Such unspeakable, unimaginable intimidation embittered me towards the Rebkong security [forces]. Confronted with those, whether policemen or gangsters I knew not, I wrote that [account of events] in the hope of getting the protection of the security authorities and the public.
In case those searching me at gunpoint that night really were police and army personnel, is it not illegal to conduct a search without a warrant? The injured party here is myself, and the proper object of the court’s protection is me. In case they were gangsters, I am even more so the injured party, and the one due to be protected by the court. However, quite unbelievably, the court instead accused me not only of inciting separatism, but of fabrication, saying “Results of police investigation confirm the use of fabrication and incitement to cause unrest” [quoted in Chinese]. As to whether my account is fabricated, take another look at the CCTV footage from that day, and it can be clearly seen.
The term ‘instigatory’ is a mystery. If one talks about instigating separatism, I have not written even a word of separatism, much less instigated it. If I write about an incident in which I suffered harm, and that becomes an unfounded accusation against me, and I write an appeal to the court about the incident, that does not make me a separatist. Helplessly subject to a punishment that makes your flesh creep the more you think about it, I appeal to the Higher People’s Court to look for the objective truth.
3. The short extract from ‘The Division of Heaven and Earth’ [a major contemporary work by the Tibetan author Shokdung] was copied by someone else and posted on the internet. In the course of my involvement with it, I wrote: “Look at this again and again, and think about it again and again” there. The reason for that is that I do not want to see any more of such tragic bloodshed. I will never fight to secure my own happiness through shedding the blood of others. China is a vast country with 56 different nationalities, and Tibetans are one of the largest minorities. I am a Chinese citizen, and as a Tibetan intellectual, I have to be concerned for the precious lives of my own kin. If doing so is called “instigating separatism”, nothing is more laughable. I might joyfully and voluntarily serve my sentence, but I never want to be a person without regard for the lives of his brothers and sisters. Come to that, I would do the same for our Chinese brothers and sisters.
4. The news about the Chinese government talking with the Dalai Lama was an internal thing. I shared it from my friend’s Weibo [Chinese social media] page. It is extraordinary that even sharing a piece of internal news can be illegal. Such negotiations have taken place in the past, and a few years ago some representatives of the Tibetan government [in exile] came to China to hold discussions. But the Malho Prefecture Peoples Court does not seem to understand that this has nothing to do with state secrets and suchlike. Otherwise, there is no basis for such a decision. According to the Malho Prefecture Peoples Court’s way of making judgements, not just I but the Chinese government has committed a serious crime, and internal news channels should just be closed. I appeal to the Higher Peoples Court to show some understanding.
5. The video clip is of a real life incident somewhere in the mainland. It got a very high number of hits. I also shared it from a Chinese friend’s Weibo. The oppressed Chinese public sympathised with the suffering of the victims. As I said earlier, “I would do the same for our Chinese brothers and sisters”. This has nothing whatever to do with so-called separatism, neither can it be construed as illegal. Without even looking into the content of this video clip, the Malho Prefecture Intermediate Peoples Court declared it to be Tibet-related, and landed the weighty accusation of instigating separatism on my little head, a weight I can hardly bear. I await exoneration by the Provincial Higher Peoples Court.
6. It is true that I have read books like Wang Lixiong’s ‘Sky Burial’, but I have not quoted a word from such books, and certainly not passed them on to others. If ‘Sky Burial’ is a book that should not even be read, it is excellent that its author has been shown such leniency by the law. Such application of the law has all my respect. Writers like him should be cherished by the nation and the people. And yet, showing leniency to an author and then punishing his readers – under which point of law this is sanctioned, I really do not know. If my grasp of the law is too poor, I do apologise, but otherwise, I appeal to the Higher Peoples Court to clearly distinguish such “One Country, Two Systems” practices.
There are further implications: for my friends even to say that they had seen the previous three posts on my Weibo page is counted as prime evidence of law-breaking. If even setting eyes on these things is going to be considered illegal, then not only all my writings, but everything down to the birds and the bees could be too. Which intelligent person can accept charges based on evidence ‘ridiculed by people but tolerated by dogs’?
Another thing I don’t understand is that they took away my iPhone5S, because they retrieved those posts through the phone. But if they had found those writings in my house, would they also confiscate the house and its contents?
They may be like ‘an old mouth used to eating, and an old hand used to taking’, but I don’t have that many benefactors, and trust that you, the Provincial Court, will not ‘blow an ill wind into a poor man’s tsampa bag’.
Finally, as a Chinese citizen, my right to free expression and right to compose writings about my experiences are provided for by the constitution, but on account of my lack of familiarity with the law, I apologise if I have not expressed myself well, verbally and in written. Most of all, with my old mother and siblings looking at me with constant tears in their eyes, and my wife and children waiting for me every second, I await a proper decision as swiftly as possible from the Higher Court.
Druklo, also known as Shokjang
February 24, 2016
By Elliot Sperling
It’s already been many years since anyone seriously asserted that continuing political liberalization would be the certain result of economic growth in post-Mao China. One might propose, however, that we are seeing something somewhat opposite: as economic indicators turn downward the post-1989 idea that if left to its authoritarian ways the CCP will continue to deliver economic progress and better lives is no longer taken for granted. In this environment, the lashing out at scapegoats and the tightening of the space available for dissident speech and action in the PRC is unquestioned. The indications are so numerous as to make any doubts risible: human rights lawyers arrested, Hong Kong booksellers abducted, and on, and on, and on.
If this sort of reaction is now familiar, it has long been evident in the way the most aggrieved of China’s “minority nationalities” (or, if one wishes to use the newer mandated terminology, “ethnic groups,” the status to which they’ve been rhetorically relegated, lest someone take the term “nationalities” too seriously) have been treated. The troublesome incorporation of Uyghurs and Tibetans into the PRC has been particularly fraught since the inception of the PRC, essentially as a result of the late-19th-early-20th centuries’ structuring of Chinese identity in such a way that Uyghurs, Tibetans and Mongols have come to be viewed as indisputably Chinese (rather than subjects of China). Thus, their centrifugal impulses—real or perceived—invariably seem threatening to a regime for which the unification and of China has, since 1949, been infused with legitimating significance.
In this environment dissent and grievances from Uyghurs and Tibetans are not seen simply as expressions of discontents that might be redressed. They are, rather, threats to the stability of the regime and the nation. And these grievances are very substantive: demographic marginalisation; internal travel restrictions (for Tibetans); blatant discrimination in employment and other areas; harsh restrictions and monitoring of religious and social practices; and even (particularly with Uyghurs) restrictions on clothing and grooming. This is not to mention the particularly severe nature of political imprisonment visited on Uyghur and Tibetan dissidents. Given all this, it would be surprising if there weren’t widespread resentment of the Chinese state. But the official response is not to ask what policies and conditions are behind the discontents being expressed. It is to ask who is doing this to China; who is behind it all. It is to demand scapegoats. This ought to seem reasonably clear when recourse is made within China proper to the plotting of foreign anti-China forces. Uyghur and Tibetan protests and dissent are respectively and reflexively ascribed to Islamic terrorism and the machinations of the Dalai Lama and his clique. The former claim, regarding the Uyghurs, may yet become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For over two years one of the most prominent Uyghur intellectuals, Ilham Tohti, has been in prison (now under a life sentence) for voicing Uyghur grievances and publicising violations of their basic human rights. Almost uniquely moderate (he does not advocate independence), his persecution and imprisonment exemplifies how China feeds and bolsters extremism: by sweeping up moderates who work and speak openly, it leaves only extremists, who by necessity are below the radar, to speak to the grievances that afflict large numbers of Uyghurs.
Inside Tibet the use of the Dalai Lama as a scapegoat has a history of decades and has had no success (except, perhaps, in increasing veneration of and allegiance to him on the part of the Tibetan population). The greater visibility of the Tibet issue has generated a greater degree of attention to Tibet as an international issue impacting China’s image than has been the case with the Uyghurs and a greater amount of ink in official publications and pronouncements has been given over to vehemently asserting the correctness of China’s policies and actions in Tibet. But in spite of the repeated rhetoric about the Dalai Lama plotting to split China, his stand against Tibet’s independence is known to a number of those who deal with the Tibet issue inside Chinese officialdom. Similarly, Ilham Tohti’s rejection of independence for the Uyghurs is also not unknown.
The Uyghur opposition outside China has advocated self-determination as a goal (and it would be the height of political cynicism—as far as both Uyghurs and Tibetans are concerned—to assert that, given what has been done to them since 1949-1950, they should have no voice in their future), while the Tibetan exiles, whose political base is in Dharamsala, India, have been following a chimerical China, based on the Dalai Lama’s assessments, and offering compromise after compromise.
Expectations of any sort of Chinese accommodation with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan exile community (whose discontents with China are shared with large segments of the Tibetan population inside Tibet) have been misplaced since the 1990s. The authorities in China are effectively counting on the Dalai Lama’s death to end the Tibet issue. They’re now confident that this end is near and remain certain that there is no further need to deal with him. The exile authorities (under the Dalai Lama’s tacit leadership; he has ostensibly relinquished political leadership, though his name is invoked by exile politicians with authority and none seem willing to treat him as less than infallible) have fecklessly made repeated concessions while China has retained its position. In the upcoming exile leadership elections, the two remaining candidates have been speaking disproportionately about welfare and other issues pertinent to exile life and have had few words for addressing the dead end into which their fantasy image of China has led them.
The various negotiations that have engaged Chinese representatives and exile delegates have come to a halt and there is little to indicate that this will change. Since the 1990s China used the talks as busywork for the Tibetan exiles: something to keep them otherwise diverted while China waited for the demise of the Dalai Lama. And the exile side accommodated this, periodically asserting that their chimera was real. Now, more powerful than ever, China sees no need to budge. Indeed, it constantly pushes back and now lobbies (with growing success) to prevent high-level visits and meetings between the Dalai Lama and foreign leaders.Professor Elliot Sperling is an Associate Professor of Central Eurasian Studies and the history of Tibet and Tibetan-Chinese relations at Indiana University.
By Tenzin Lhadon
In light of the recent news on one of the write-ups in Hindi journal "Congress Darshan" blamed Nehru for the state of affairs in Kashmir, China and Tibet and how Nehru ignored Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s advice against trusting China with heart and soul. The remark that led to the sacking of its editorial content in-charge and editor Sanjay Nirupam’s apologetic note has brought forth old and unpleasant memory. The incident that was reported hold great significance and interest for it not only reopened old wounds which makes India-China relations vulnerable but more importantly it brought the issue of Tibet out with open. Although extensive discussions and number of scholarly articles were written on India-China relations, there is still a lack of strong voices for the political reality and misfortune handed down on Tibet and the Tibetan people.
Tibet in India-China debacle
The debate and discussion on the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s handling of Tibet issue at the time when India-China relations were at its nascent stage is still widely argued and contested. It is contested on various hypothetical grounds but equally reasonable questions were raised on matter related to the issue of Tibet and how Nehru managed the situation taking into consideration that its relation with the emerging powerful Communist China takes precedence. Following which shows that a thorough study and an extensive analysis on Nehru’s approach and position over Tibet before and after its annexation by the PLA display a differing attitude. However, the major question or debate lies in how Tibet was then regarded and played between the two Asian giant in a modern nation-state context. How Tibet became the victim of geopolitical game and why is it still being disfavoured and blamed for the frail and uncertainty of the India-China relations are some questions this article analyses.
Historical incidents and memories do have a significant effect and far-reaching outcomes in terms of defining and managing a relation based on mutual trust and cooperation. India-China relation in such terms can be called a relation that suffers from the past memory of 1962 war stretching it to the present unending border dispute and border region. Despite the encouraging growth in their economic partnership, the overall India-China relations is viewed rather fragile with major political and security issues lurking at the top. The weak India-China relationship is because it is one based on trust deficit with old memory of humiliation and deception from China or political instigation from India as the Chinese strongly believed (China's Decision for War with India in 1962 by John W. Garver). The relationship contains an old bruise but the wound is still fresh.
Apparently, three major interpretations of Jawaharlal Nehru’s policies on China prevail: of which a) one section being empathetic, b) the second section being contemptuous of Nehru and c) the third exuding pity rather than contempt of Nehru’s attitude towards Chinese as Ramachandra Guha wrote in his article titled “The Dalai Lama's War”. Likewise there continues to exist two major perspectives on the role of Tibet issue in India-China relations at present. There are large sections of people, intellectuals and politicians who strongly support the cause of Tibetan freedom movement whether discreetly or openly while there are other sections of the masses and scholars that believe Tibet issue plays an irritant factor in the advancement of India-China relations and future progress. However, a third perspective from Tibetans in the India-China conflict and debate has been underrepresented and less talked about despite the issue of Tibet being at the core issue of India-China relations.
A Tibetan perspective
The issue of Tibet has developed to be one of the most distinct and powerful roles in the course of the modern history of Asia. Tibet was not only the victim of geopolitical game and Nehru’s miscalculation but it ironically also happened to be the perfect vengeance against Communist China. The 1962 war left India traumatized and humiliated was triumphantly able to leave profound scars in the Chinese psyche by accepting the Dalai Lama to India and rushing to his defence that enraged the Chinese and still provokes them. Secondly, Tibet serves as a battleground for India and China in their political bargaining and a space to exhibit historical animosity. Thirdly, whether the issue of Tibet is an irritant or not, and whether or not ‘Tibet card’ is used discreetly against China, the issue of Tibet assumes an important part in the historical discourse and political reality of Asia which remains to be a fact that is much discredit for and underestimated. In fact, Claude Arpi mentioned how John Garver argued that the 'Tibet' factor is the main reasons for Mao’s decision in waging war with India.
Finally Tibet certainly takes a significant and special role in the eventual prospects of India’s relation with China. Whether Tibet issue is sidelined, if not dismissed or treated with negligible role, Tibet remains to be of special concern and great relevance with strong historical bearings and possibility for India and China. As rightly pointed out by Srikanth Kondapalli who has once again reminded that Tibet is inherently linked to the Indo-China border dispute and unless the Tibet issue is resolved in favour of China, the border issue will not be resolved. Hence, treating Tibet issue with pettiness and annoyance will never make the situation better for both India and China nor will it going to solve the situation without considering Tibet taking a significant part in India-China relations. Infact, Tibet issue could turn out a potential means of assistance in bridging gap between India and China. Till now the issue of Tibet has been seen as divergence of views and a source of conflict between the two, however, India’s substantial role in bridging gap between Chinese representative and Tibetan exiles delegate in their dialogue will extend enormous message of potential peace and coexistence between India and China and for Asia as a whole. Since India, China and Tibet are inextricably linked to each other, prioritising India’s role in bridging gap between China and Tibet could eventually led to peaceful coexistence between India and China for real.Whether we call it Nehru’s miscalculation or China’s deceitful aggression or even British imperial interest and strategic hypocrisy that left the Tibet issue unresolved and deemed a victim of real politik is a matter that needs much more attention and credit. India and China should cease victimising Tibet in their conflict and treat it as source of potential solution for the two. The whole debacle of India-China relation makes me end with the note that India-China conflict starts with Tibet and that it should end with resolving the issue of Tibet.
By Lhadon Tethong
Many Tibetans around the world are anxiously monitoring the results of the March 20th elections for the Tibetan government in exile. Our democratic system is far from perfect, but, unlike in China, it exists and is here to work on and improve. This is clearly something all Tibetans are proud of and was one of the main points made in the election-day interviews of both the incumbent, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, and his challenger, the speaker of the Tibetan parliament, Penpa Tsering.
The fact that this democratic system exists is thanks to the extraordinary vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the many Tibetans who came before us. In spite of the grief and trauma they experienced - having lost their homes and land, seeing their families and sacred places of worship attacked and ripped apart, and being forced to find safety in a foreign land - they worked tirelessly to rebuild not just our community, but our nation in exile. And they didn’t just go ahead and re-establish the old political system, they worked to create something better and stronger that we could one day offer to our people inside Tibet.
As Tibetans, we can never forget this part of the founding vision — that this was a nation-building project, and not just a cultural preservation project. It was about political progress and hope, even in the darkest times. It was to reject the backwardness of China under the Communist Party, and the system of authoritarian government there, and demonstrate that Tibetans were indeed the modern and progressive ones.
If there was a time to lose hope and feel desperate, it was in those early years in exile, not now. Back then the international community did not know of the Tibetan plight, or even the name of the Dalai Lama, and Tibet seemed lost to the world, locked up by China and almost completely cut off behind the highest mountains on earth. In those dark times, as my parents and so many of our people witnessed, Tibetans in the refugee camps died by the hundreds and thousands of simple and curable sickness and disease.
Now, though life remains very difficult for Tibetans inside Tibet, much has changed and there are many reasons to have hope for a better future. For one thing, the dawn of change is on the horizon as China looks closer to the brink of major upheaval. As history shows us, with change in China comes opportunity for change in Tibet. And, most importantly, Tibetans inside Tibet are holding strong to the desire for freedom. A new generation has taken up the struggle and people from every walk of life are engaged. Despite the massive obstacles and challenges they face, clearly they have not given up, so how can we?
As I see it, our responsibility to Tibetans in Tibet is to keep up the pressure on China by continuing to take action and build the strength of the freedom movement. Tibet needs to be an issue that confronts Chinese leaders and future generations of Chinese leaders at every turn. It has to be an issue of global concern - one that is raised every time China is discussed and consistently tugs at the conscience of the international community - for decades to come.
The only way this happens is if we keep the Tibetan freedom movement strong and free. By ‘strong’ I mean by engaging many more people in the struggle - especially Tibetan students and youth, and non-Tibetan allies across the globe. By ‘free’ I mean through openness and inclusivity; by not just allowing, but actually encouraging diverse voices and approaches. These are the conditions that foster creativity, maximize the numbers of people involved and will ultimately ensure Tibetans have an active and effective grassroots movement that can help build leverage for the Tibetan side vis a vis the Chinese leadership. These are the conditions that used to exist in the Tibet movement and, I would argue, are a main reasons why our struggle has been so successful to date. As long as people remain nonviolent, they should not be controlled or told what to do by those who think they “know best”.
If we want to honor the democratic vision laid out by His Holiness, we will continue to work on improving our democratic system. We will not be trapped by the conservative, and wrong, view that democracy means only “rule by majority” where the voices of those not in the majority are shut down and shut out. There are many countries in the world that have this kind of democracy right now. They are ruled by vicious and authoritarian leaders who like to use the facade of elections to cover up their despotism.
When the Tibetan election results are officially announced, all of the people who voted for the losing candidate technically become the “minority”. But this does not mean that their voices no longer count; that everything they say is no longer valid and that they should be marginalized. In a liberal democracy, which is what Tibetans should aspire to, the voices of the minority, no matter how large or small, are not silenced by those in power, nor at the grassroots level. The “majority” should seek to understand their views, should make space for them and protect their right to speak. And, even if they do not agree with these views or positions, should not try to shut them out of the national conversation. This is the beauty of a truly democratic society. This is what should distinguish the Tibetan system from that of the Chinese. This is what we should be proud of.
By Phurbu Rinzin
The Speaker of Tibetan Parliament in exile, who is also one of the Sikyong/Prime Ministerial candidate for the upcoming election allegedly says that he knew Kundun got upset on learning that the 2016 Kalachakra mass initiation is being turned into a political tool.
How true or not true, the full information is not yet known and so far it is only Penpa Tsering himself as the judge, witness and the complainant, but suppose what he says is true, how irresponsible and lack of leadership he has shown to completely disregard the upset that Kundun is alleged to have felt, by doing exactly the opposite, which is further politicize publicly the Kalachakra as a political tool on his campaign trails to discredit his opponent!
How childish and untactful of him to gulp out matters of state secrets, matters concerning the personnel of Kundun, state of affairs within the palace to public on being questioned by individuals on the campaign trails? He says he doesn’t want to dwell on it and clearly his body language also agrees to it, but then why couldn’t he keep is mouth shut? Suppose he becomes our Sikyong, and he is on the BBC hot seat, facing an anchor like Jeremy Paxman, who is known for his savaging of politicians, would it not make all Tibetans eat our fingers for our Sikyong may say everything, or anything that comes to his mind or more precisely his untamed mouth? Trust and confidentiality are the two sides of a coin that a leader must have and adhere to as a basic principle; candidate Penpa Tsering has unfortunately done himself a damage on this.
Routinely China’s Govt. and its cohort Dolgyal group complain and criticize us for using Kalachakra as a political tool but this time, regretfully one of our own is doing the service for our enemies. For saying publicly that he knows from start to end, even to the crucial details of date/time, only to be accepting later, in-front of the media scrum that he has actually not been fully informed on it; for him to be knowing that Kundun get upset over politicization of the Kalachakra and yet unsagaciously politicize it throughout his campaign are not a mere embarrassment that not only hijacked this election period from discussing other facts based and crucial policy issues facing Tibet, but also it has now been unwittingly damaging for Kundun, his aides, the Kashag, general public and no doubt, for the candidate himself.
For discussing this Kalachakra fiasco, many like candidate Penpa Tsering, mix up facts and invalidly sourced information or rather probable rumours to make their arguments. This attributes to further complicate and create confusion in the public on the issue. Though the wisest thing would have been for the candidate to make this not a campaign issue or at least control the damage that has been done initially when he said, in NY, he is withholding despite knowing from A to Z only to be saying more on it at various next stops in Minnesota and other places in Mysore, Varanasi etc.
Holistic and judicial means to untangle this issue, this writer feels is to not to mix the rumours side or unconfirmed information part and assess thoroughly fact based, what is being said from place to place by the candidate and see if there are inconsistencies. Therefore, based on what actually candidate Penpa Tsering has been saying on the issue, following inconsistencies can be deduced and voters who weigh on this topic to give their vote, are welcome to draw an informed conclusion. Otherwise, it can go endless to-fro mudsling, dragging this issue even after the election.
Finally, from a wider perspective, the decision to cancel and postpone the Kalachakra has been a wise and a correct one. Available statements by Ganden Podrang and the Kashag on the matters are fairly consistent. The comments to media, public and news on the issue by Hon. Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay are also consistent throughout and sheds further light in to the fact that the decision was taken with full consultation and understanding with Ganden Podrang by the Kashag, particularly in view of the medical advice given for His Holiness, in July 2015, New Delhi for Prostrate treatment.
Indeed the decision has to be taken at the time as per the circumstances whether it be in an election period or not, because the well-being and health of His Holiness is indisputably the most important for us all, six million Tibetans and followers and fans of His Holiness throughout the world. For our Hon. Speaker Penpa Tsering, the best decision would have been to press the incumbent on policy based issues, demonstrate his credentials as a proven leader and seek public support through an inspiring and fact based clean politics; winning or losing the election is never guaranteed beforehand, still then the Speaker could have chosen not to drag and politicize the Kalachakra decision.
By Apa Lhamo
The energized debates and intensive discussions among the public seem to have lost their spark after the preliminary elections. What led to this development? Should this be a cause of concern for the nascent Tibetan democracy which is at a nascent stage?
The fourth direct preliminary elections of sikyong (Prime minister) and chithue (Members) of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile were held on 18th October 2015, and the final stage of the same is slated for March 20, 2016. Tibetan Democracy, though conceived in Tibet, was essentially born while in exile in India. The 13th Dalai Lama tried to initiate a number of democratic reforms in Tibet but was severely suppressed by conservative sections of the society at the time. In 1950, the incumbent Dalai Lama after assuming the spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet also introduced a number of progressive changes to the centuries old Tibetan theocracy, and inculcated ideas of direct democracy through his Reform Committee. However, the Committee and its introduction of democracy was soon thwarted by the 1959 invasion of Communist China, its subsequent occupation of Tibet, and the Dalai Lama's resultant exile. Therefore, while there was an indigenous move towards democracy in Tibet, direct involvement of the general Tibetan public in democracy was experienced for the first time by Tibetans in exile.
This Tibetan implementation of democracy "from the top down" contrasts to the traditional and conventional transition and struggle of Democracy by people across countries in the world. This uniquely different Tibetan democracy was born in exile in India with the formalisation of the Draft Constitution for the Future Tibet on March 10, 1963, and the subsequent adoption of the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile on 14 June, 1991. Although the new born Tibetan democratic movement is different from many other democratic movements, the Tibetan version does share a common characteristic with other fledgling democratic movements in that it has its own dynamics and processes.
The Election Commission: Progress and Problems
The Election Commission of the Tibetans in exile although made an impressive move by setting rules for the candidates and their campaign procedures, and by setting limits on campaign expenditure in accordance with the charter of the Tibetans. The Election Commission, headed by a chief and two additional commissioners, was applauded by many for its efforts in managing the stateless Tibetan Diaspora's spread across the world in the preliminary election. However, the Commission incurred criticisms from others for its incompetence in specific areas, its authoritarian nature and its questionable enforcement of election rules. Some critics claimed that the Election Commission even deliberately manipulated the rules of the election to give advantage to two incumbent candidates.
The Central Election Commission was severely criticised when it failed to respond after institutions affiliated with the Central Tibetan Administration actually banned a sikyong candidate from speaking and campaigning for the post. The Central Election Commission garnered even more criticism when it issued a circular notifying a new 20 per cent regulation regarding the number of candidates shortlisted for the Sikyong and Chithue elections, and this just a day after the preliminary elections on October 19, 2015. As many critics noted, common sense dictates that the number of candidates to be shortlisted for the final should be decided in a more reasonable time frame. There were five candidates vying for the post, out of which only two could make it to the final. Critics claim that this action on the part of the Commission was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Election Commission officials-- who are at the beck and call of their superiors in the administration-- to keep a certain candidate out of the race because of his strong position of total Tibetan independence from the Chinese government. In the previous election in 2011, as many as five candidates were allowed to campaign for the finals and all of them happened to support the Tibetan Government in Exile's position of middle way. These questionable actions, coupled with incompetence of the Election Commission, were of particular concern to the larger Tibetan Diaspora and also to a group of “long-time Tibet Supporters" who published an open letter to the CTA, expressing their misgivings and their disappointment. USA Congressman Rohrabacher and Director of USAID voiced similar concerns through a letter addressed to CTA's election commission.
Participation of the General Tibetan Populace in the Election
Many Tibetans scattered across the world engaged themselves enthusiastically in rigorous debates and discussions about potential sikyong candidates. These intensive debates and discussions, from almost every household to social gatherings to both online and offline platforms, imply growth and progress of the nascent Tibetan democracy. The scale of participation, in both numbers and intensity, in the preliminary elections indicates an impressive growth spurt when compared to the previous election in 2011. The competition of candidates vying for a seat and the youthful nature of many candidates standing for parliamentary seats is impressive.
The road ahead
The incumbent political leader Dr. Lobsang Sangay and Mr. Penpa Tsering, the speaker of the Tibetan Administration, both middle way advocates, are the only two finalists for the upcoming election in March. Their positions and agendas are somewhat divergent, but the discussion and debate --as well as the election itself--would have been more energized, interesting and democratic had the Election Commission not issued their last minute twist to the rules and allowed the third candidate, Mr. Lukar Jam Atsock, a former political prisoner and an advocate of Rangzen (Independence) from the Chinese rule to campaign in the finals. Although he garnered considerable support for his "radical" views, his intellectual depth, and his political acumen he was opposed by many for his stand and his alleged “critique” of the Dalai Lama's position of political compromise with China to solve the issue of Tibet. It is clear from the preliminary poll results that the incumbent Mr. Sangay is likely to retain his post for the next five years, but his "opponent,” the speaker of the Central Tibetan Administration, is not far behind and crawling steadily. However, it would have been a dramatic developmental marker for the nascent Tibetan democracy had there been the third contender, Lukar Jam Atsock, who emerged as a strong catalyst to rigorous discussions and debates prior to the preliminary elections.
Apa Lhamo is an M.Phil Research Candidate at the Centre for European Studies, School for International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. The author is also associated with the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
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