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By Jeffrey S. Inglis
This article follows up on the Final Declaration of Rangzen Conference conducted in May 23 and 24 of 2015 in New Delhi.
I wish to congratulate the leaders, the organizers and the participants of this important conference. It has the potential to become an ongoing event that will be of fundamental importance to the future of Tibet.
However, if that is to happen, I suggest that the conference agenda become much more comprehensive in at least acknowledging the vast array of complex and challenging issues.
In reading the Constitution, it is not difficult to note that countless actions undertaken by the state are not in compliance with the Constitution; nor is it difficult to understand that the lack of compliance enjoyed by the state is due to the absence of legal and political accountability mechanisms. (2)
Election Commission Announces Preliminary and Final Election Dates for Sikyong and 16th Tibetan Parliament
Source: Tibet.net (the official website of the CTA)
By Staff Writer
Mr. Sonam Choephel Shosur, the chief Election Commissioner accompanied by Additional Election Commissioners Ven. Geshe Tenpa Tashi and Mr. Tenzin Choephel at the press conference, 10 June 2015.
DHARAMSHALA: The Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration today announced the dates for the preliminary and final election of Sikyong of the 15th Kashag and members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
“The preliminary election for Sikyong and members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament is slated for 18 October 2015. The final election would be held on 20 March 2016,” Mr. Sonam Choephel Shosur, the Chief Election Commissioner, said. The Election Commissioner is accompanied by the two Additional Election Commissioners appointed recently by the standing committee of the Tibetan parliament in lieu of the upcoming elections.
The election commission also announced the new rules regarding campaign expenses and activities of the candidates.
“The total campaign expense for a Sikyong candidate should not exceed INR 8 Lacs and the campaign expense for a candidate for the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile should not exceed INR 3 Lacs,” the Election Commissioner said, adding that all campaign activities should cease two days before the final Election Day.
The election commission urged the candidates to submit their names and details to their local election commission before announcing their candidacy. They also urged the candidates to refrain from excessive campaigning in sensitive areas such as Nepal where the local people are recovering from a severe natural tragedy.
The 2016 general election will elect the fourth directly elected Sikyong (earlier Kalon Tripa) and the 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. The 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile would be composed of 45 members with ten representatives each from the three traditional Tibetan provinces; two representatives each from the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon religion, two representatives from North and South America, two representatives from Europe and Africa, and one representative from Australia and Asia (excluding India, Nepal and Bhutan).
For a complete detail of the announcement, click here.
Originally published at http://tibet.net/2015/06/election-commission-announces-preliminary-and-final-election-dates-for-sikyong-and-16th-tibetan-parliament/
By Lobsang Gyalpo
Some of you may know this story which is also known as the streetlight effect:
A police officer sees a person crawling around under a streetlight and asks him what he is doing. “Looking for my keys,” replies the person. “Where’d you lose them?” asks the officer. “‘Across the street,” comes the answer. “Then why look here?” questions the surprised officer. “‘Cause there’s lots more light here,” explains the person, continuing his search.
The streetlight syndrome reflects pretty much, in my opinion, our (Tibetans) approach or strategy to regaining our independence or autonomy or cultural survival or whatever. Whether this goal is to be achieved by violence or non-violence or through the middle way is one aspect that has to be considered. However, there is also another equally, if not more important, issue that has been completely ignored. The crux of the problem here is that our entire effort has been and continues to be concentrated on actions outside Tibet (under the street lamp) as opposed to inside Tibet (across the street) which is where the holy grail, be it independence or autonomy, etc., is to be achieved.
Obviously it is easier to search under the street lamp. Outside Tibet we are able to hold protests, lobby governments, organizations, politicians and celebrities, raise awareness of the Tibet issue through the media and public-awareness events, etc. However, the reality is that our goal for change inside Tibet cannot be achieved without actions that take place “across the street” i.e. inside Tibet. I am not aware of any freedom struggle that was successful solely through efforts undertaken outside the country in question. Understandably, we continue to search under the streetlight because we are comfortable with doing this. We know how to do this since we have been doing this for quite some time now and are now well trained in this type of support activity. We can see under the streetlight.
Searching across the street poses problems. It is more difficult to search there because we cannot see there. This difficulty forces us to confront the question whether we really want what we say we want. If we really want what we say we want, we would then start searching across the street even though it is dark there. We would then do something about the lack of light there. As Confucius has pointed out, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Strategy without execution
I am not discrediting what we have been doing so far nor do I mean to belittle the invaluable assistance provided by our supporters through their lobbying activities. This is certainly something that also needs to be done but cannot by itself alone attain what we claim we want. This glaring shortcoming in our efforts to date is something that has been completely overlooked in the ongoing, endless debates on rangzen, autonomy, middle way, etc.
It has been all about what we want and nothing at all about how to get it. Our obsession with this topic in this context is simply puerile. Simply saying we want this or that is not going to change the status quo. The Chinese government is not going to all of a sudden get all jittery and keel over just because we opt for rangzen or whatever.
“Strategy without execution is hallucination”, as pointed out by Mike Roach, CEO of CGI, a 31,000 person IT firm, in a presentation to a McGill MBA class. Even if we were to achieve consensus on this contentious topic it would still not bring us any closer to our goal. Rangzen was the de facto vision prior to the advent of the Middle Way but that still did not get us any closer to our goal then. If non-violence is our strategy, great but it has to be related to non-violent actions inside Tibet. Rangzen? OK but here too we need activity inside Tibet that will lead to rangzen there. And yes, there are things that can be undertaken inside Tibet. Once we accept the premise about where the focus should be directed, then we start coming up with ideas about what can and needs to be done.
The aspirations and activities of the Tibetans in exile are often referred to as a “struggle”. However, to be brutally honest, apart from the period of armed resistance carried out from Mustang in Nepal, there is no “struggle” in exile. Whereas Tibetans in Tibet, those that have not thrown in their lot with China, are truly struggling, our actions outside Tibet to date, cannot be termed a struggle. We are now doing pretty much the same as or maybe even less than the “injis”, our non-Tibetan supporters, and that definitely cannot be construed as a struggle. Organizing and taking part in 10th March demonstrations once a year is not a struggle. Our non-struggle in exile should not be confused with the genuine article in Tibet.
What’s in a name?
The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) is basically living up to its name. It is dedicated, as far as I am able to ascertain, to administration. Administration has nothing to do with what Tibetans claim they want. Administration was crucial for survival in the early years of exile and the CTA has fulfilled its initial role superbly. Now, however, after more than 50 years in exile, administration should not be the primary focus of this organization unless no other more pressing agenda exists for the continued existence of this organization.
Currently, the CTA operates more like some kind of a Ford Foundation, fully occupied with keeping itself running albeit without similar financial resources. If a more pressing agenda does exist, either the focus of this organization should be changed or a parallel organization should be created fully dedicated to addressing the needs of this more pressing agenda or someone else or some other group must step in to ensure that the goals of this overriding agenda are met. This, of course, assumes that we do have such a higher priority agenda other than pure administration. Could this perhaps be that of a government-in-exile?
The Miriam Webster dictionary defines government-in-exile as “a government temporarily established on foreign soil following the occupation of its own territory by another authority”. The keyword here is temporary. Unfortunately, in our case, the CTA is beginning to look more and more like a permanent establishment. A more pressing agenda would imply the goal of moving from the status of a government-in-exile to that of government of a country which would further imply implementation of actions to achieve such a goal.
Our success is our enemy
Tibetans enjoy the dubious distinction of being the most successful refugees. While survival in exile was obviously the top priority during the early days in exile, our very success in adapting to life in exile is now our enemy. The good life, relatively speaking, has led to complacency and a lack of urgency that weighs down the Tibetans in exile to the point of inertia. Hence the current execution strategy of all parties concerned, be it proponents of rangzen or autonomy or middle way, of simply sitting and waiting for something to happen e.g. China imploding internally due to domestic strife and political dissent and resulting in our wishes being fulfilled.
Of the around 140,000 estimated Tibetans in exile, how many are actively engaged in doing something concrete for Tibet? Sadly, the answer is only a few. Simply holding or participating in protest rallies is not enough. After more than 50 years in exile, we certainly do not suffer from a lack of highly educated professionals or financially stable Tibetans or Tibetans who have the time and capability to engage actively for their country.
We have been busy all these past years mobilizing support among the international community for Tibet but have failed to mobilize the Tibetans in exile. The majority of the Tibetans in exile have washed their hands of all responsibility by conveniently placing the entire burden of achieving the goal of freedom in Tibet on the CTA and His Holiness. Richard Gere recently, in an appeal to Members of European Parliament, quoted His Holiness: “It is not enough to be compassionate, we must act.” This hits the mark, for us Tibetans, unfortunately and painfully dead center.
Proactive vs Reactive
We must act, as opposed to just reacting only to events inside Tibet as we have being doing till now. Resorting to solely criticizing the CTA is nothing else than weaseling out of our responsibility. If the CTA is not doing what it should be doing, then we Tibetans need to step in ourselves and start taking matters into our own hands by doing what needs to be done with or without the CTA. Business as usual just does not cut it in our precarious situation.
In our recent past, Tibetans have taken the initiative to act in times of crisis. In the 1950s, concerned individual Tibetans acted on their own to form the People´s Association or Mimang Tsongdu to counter the growing influence of the Chinese in Tibet. Armed resistance to Chinese rule in Kham was initiated beginning in 1956 by Tibetans who chose to act rather than wait for the Tibetan government or someone else to do something.
Placing all our bets on the international community is also definitely not a winning proposition. We may chide and deride governments and organizations that kowtow to China for economic benefits but it would be the height of naivety for us to expect them to act otherwise. Quite possibly, we would also act in like manner if the roles were reversed.
Living in Dharamsala within the Tibetan establishment, being surrounded by supporters and being witness to the various and frequent pro-Tibet activities that take place seduces us into the illusion that progress is being made in the political arena. However, all one has to do to shatter this delusion, is to be on the ground in Tibet itself to realize the insignificance of our efforts to-date to bring about change
We may be winning a few skirmishes and battles here and there outside Tibet as a result of our lobbying and public awareness activities but we are losing the war in Tibet where our presence is, as far as public knowledge goes, non-existent and which has been undergoing momentous and far-reaching negative changes over the years of a magnitude that we cannot even begin to comprehend from our comfortable armchairs in exile. We might as well be light years away on another planet for all the difference we have been able to make to the people in Tibet. Simply wringing our hands and bemoaning our fate as we impotently watch events unfold inexorably and relentlessly in Tibet from the sidelines can only lead to total victory for China.
China will never, of her own free will, give up Tibet. There is simply too much at stake – geopolitics, economics and highly charged, emotional nationalism - for China to do so. The international community is a dead end, a characteristic that has plagued Tibet since the early days of the invasion. Commenting on the important factors that led to the demise of Tibet in the period leading up to the invasion by China, Melvyn Goldstein makes the following observation:
“Equally important was the refusal of Tibet’s traditional friends and neighbors to provide effective diplomatic and military support … When Britain left India in 1947, it abandoned its interest in Tibet, yielding all initiative to the newly independent Indian state. … And two years later, in December 1950, when Tibet appealed to the United Nations for help, it was the British delegate who spoke first, informing his colleagues on the world body that after a half-century of intimate relations with Tibet, His Majesty’s Government felt that the status of Tibet was unclear and suggesting that Tibet’s appeal be postponed.” 
As for India then, Nehru saw Tibet as a threat to Sino-Indian friendship and Melvyn Goldstein concludes that as a result “The Tibetan policy pursued by the Indian government forced Tibet into a settlement with China on China’s terms.”  Tsering Shakya too confirms this lack of support then and notes that this “refusal of the British Government and others to provide any kind of assistance was, in the Dalai Lama’s words, ‘terribly disheartening’.” 
For over 60 years now we have been singing the same old song:
The situation in Tibet is getting worse.
The world must help Tibet.
However, after 60 years of repeating this mantra we still continue to lack significant political support. So my fellow countrymen, it is high time to ask not what the world can do for our country but instead to ask what you can do for your country.
We keep admonishing the world that time is running out for Tibet. On the other hand, however, the urgency of the situation in Tibet has not been enough of a concern for us to warrant any changes or adjustments to our modus operandi.
The current situation in exile mirrors eerily the conclusion drawn by the British in 1946. During the period of the regency following the death of the 13th Dalai Lama, Tibet fell into a state of political chaos:
“In a letter to the Foreign Office in New Delhi, A. J. Hopkinson reveals British frustrations with the situation in Lhasa;
The Tibetan Government, as had been said often enough during the past two years, are going through a particularly bad state of supineness and apathy. It is difficult to help them, unless they are willing to help themselves; and unless they are anxious to help themselves and likely to do so effectively, we do not particularly want to get identified with any particular party, or marked out as hostile to any other. It is for the Tibetans themselves to pull their own chestnuts out of the fire, if they want to, which they have not shown much signs of during the last few years.” 
We must not repeat the “ostrich–head-in-the-sand mentality” that “rendered Tibet unable to function effectively”  in the time period leading up to the signing of the 17-Point Agreement in 1950. Hence, whatever the goal, if we don´t do anything ourselves, no one else is going to pull our chestnuts out of the fire for us. In which case, let´s face it, barring a deus ex machina, we will never achieve whatever it is we claim we wish to achieve.
With this thought in mind and also bearing in mind my initial reference to the streetlight effect, the following quote from a stirring scene in the movie, The Lord of the Rings, conveys, in my opinion and figuratively speaking, a fittingly applicable message to us all:
“Forth, and fear no darkness!
Arise, arise! Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!"
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 5: The Ride of the Rohirrim, in which the beacons of Gondor are alight, calling for aid and the riders of Rohan ride to the aid of and lift the siege of Gondor.
The beacons in Tibet have been lit - over one hundred and forty and counting. It is up to each one of us to heed this CTA – Call To Action. To this end, I quote from the Final Testament of His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama wherein he makes a coincidentally identical appeal with respect to the imminent danger to Tibet that he foresaw from the communists in China:
“Use peaceful methods when they are appropriate; but when they are not appropriate, do not hesitate to resort to more forceful means…
The future of our country lies in your hands. Whether you are a chief minister or
simple government official, monk or lay person, teacher or disciple, secular leader or
ordinary citizen, I urge you to rise up together and work for the common good in
accordance with your individual capacity.” 
High Peaks Pure Earth presents the English translation of an online essay titled “Who Is to Blame for the Instability of a Society?” by a Tibetan blogger going by the name of “Zur Sum Ma”* and which was published on the website Korawa on January 12, 2015.
In this essay, the author addresses the question of stability in society, a sensitive topic in Tibet and the PRC. The word “stability” is widely associated with former leader Hu Jintao, along with the concept of the “harmonious society” (hexie shehui 和谐社会), and Hu’s obsession with “stability maintenance” (weihu wending 维护稳定, also shortened to weiwen) has been well documented, both in terms of for China and inside Tibet. “Maintaining stability” is a key policy issue in Tibet and it continues to be used to justify high levels of security and restrictions on movements in Tibet.
In the China Digital Times Grass Mud-Horse Lexicon’s entry for “Stability Maintenance”, it says: According to the New York Times, the Chinese government budgeted US$111 billion for social stability maintenance in 2012, US$5 billion more than the military budget.
In China today, large scale episodes of social unrest are occurring with growing frequency and these are officially defined as “mass incidents”. An unofficial gathering of more than 100 people is recorded as a “mass incident” and the official Annual Report on China’s Rule of Law No 12 (2014) researched 871 mass incidents involving more than 2.2 million people between Jan 1, 2000, and September 30, 2013. However, according to this China Daily article from last year, the research was flawed as it did not take into account any incidents that were only reported on social media. Among the reasons for these “mass incidents” were pollution, labour strikes and forced demolitions.
As recently as last month, China stressed the need for stability in Tibet in their White Paper titled, “Tibet’s Path of Development Is Driven by an Irresistible Historical Tide”, published The State Council Information Office of the PRC. In the conclusion it says, “Only by upholding stability and opposing turmoil, can the future of Tibet be assured” and “In the years to come, the people of every ethnic group in Tibet, […] , will progress on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, […] , to develop a prosperous, harmonious socialist society, and to join with their fellow Chinese in accomplishing the Chinese Dream of the great renewal of the nation.”
The website Korawa is proving an interesting platform for Tibetan writers and intellectuals. Zur Sum Ma’s outspoken writing style is reminiscent of Shokjang’s, the Tibetan writer whose current whereabouts are unknown. The essay “Man & Freedom” by Buddha was also published on Korawa.
Thank you to Dhonling Bhu for the translation from Tibetan to English.
*Zur Sum Ma (zur gsum ma) literally means something that has three sides, or is a triangular shape
Translation by Dhonling Bhu
Generally speaking, stability is a necessity. If any region, society or country is not stable, then it destroys the happiness of the people who live there. However, when it comes to the individual citizen, is stability necessary? There are two types of stability that can exist: real stability under democratic rule and fake stability under an authoritarian state. Stability under authoritarian rule is through the suppression of people’s freedom and power. But stability under democratic rule is the opposite; it gives people freedom and equality.
The leaders ensure stability, not out of a genuine interest for their citizens, but to protect their own power. If a leader loses his power, then he loses the personal benefits that he made from his power. Anger, fear and doubt often stir up instability. In the name of a “harmonious society”, “people’s interests”, “the stability of the country” and “the prosperity of the region”, authoritarian leaders skilfully and deceitfully hide their own interest and fool many people. At some point, citizens would understand their authority’s real deceitful objective while the authorities were speaking about the stability. During that time it is obvious that citizens would react angrily and look down on their leaders. Certainly the younger generation citizens will also spit on their leaders’ face. On the contrary, the leaders were not mindful about this because they were simply infatuated by their personal benefits and cannot reflect on their work.
The two types of stability are maintained in different ways. Stability under authoritarian rule is maintained by oppression and by using force on people’s freedom and equality. For example, a leader can maintain stability under authoritarian rule by limiting their citizens’ freedom of speech. However, maintaining stability through deprivation of freedom of expression is unstable and impermanent. Not only that, it also creates cause for instability. Another way a leader can maintain stability is by deceiving citizens with financial favours. For example, whether it is necessary or not, the latter grants help to the citizens to create a positive image of benevolence. In turn, the authorised media makes the citizens seem grateful to the state for its kindness. In fact, whatever money or wealth the state have is owned by the citizens of the country whereas the state doesn’t own anything. Still, the leader explains it by saying, “the country and the government has given financial support to you”. Actually, it is appropriate to receive all this financial support from the government to citizens. Therefore, the citizens need not feel grateful towards the government.
In short, the country and government are made up of the citizens. On the other hand, those citizens who receive the most support become the greatest tool to maintain the stability of the country and encourage others to keep the peace. If they feel gratitude towards the leaders, then the door of misfortune will open spontaneously. It is common sense that if someone is grateful, then they will be courteous to their benefactors, and believe in their morality. This blocks “grateful” citizens from feeling doubtful towards their leaders or viewing anything they do as bad.
Even if they do identify their actions as bad, they would still not react because of their past good deeds. In that way, the authorities maintain stability because people do not think critically about the authority’s actions, and do not recognise that they are indebted to them. Thus, citizens become part of the problem by helping to oppress the freedom and equality of human beings, including themselves. If the leaders were not fulfilling their goal by deceiving citizens with financial favours peacefully, then they would implement the first method by force and oppression.
If citizens would know that their leaders were undermining people’s freedom and power then those citizens would not like them. This also disheartens those citizens. At the beginning there would be only a few citizens who were aware of this, but surely the number would gradually increase more and more. Freedom of speech cannot be stopped by force. There is a Buddhist saying that “the mouth of sentient beings cannot be shut off, even by Buddha.” Moreover, it is without question that people become thoughtful and more aware with the development of society.
What we can understand from the above is that maintaining stability while undermining people’s freedom and equality is actually same as maintaining stability while disturbing people’s state of mind. It is merely maintaining stability while creating wounds in the hearts of the people. Authoritarian rulers who have no limits on the ways in which they can control and manipulate their people create instability. In conclusion, the faults and crimes committed by the authoritarian rule are the direct cause of instability by the people.
Disrupting the “stability” of people’s state of mind is the first step in creating social instability. If a leader misuses their power, then they will disrupt their people’s state of mind, which then leads to the instability of society. Sometimes I admit that maintaining stability by “suppressing from the top” through condemning people’s freedom and equality is a dangerous and unsure future for the powers that be. In fact, this gathers up the causes of the instability. But for the leaders, they only care about stability during their tenure and feel no responsibility for maintaining stability after their leadership. The next leader would also implement the “suppressing from the top” strategy of power. Perhaps the leaders lack political wisdom and courage to eliminate the causes and conditions of instability.
Furthermore, there is a saying that “before ripening the cause of the instability, we have to destroy it completely”. This gives a huge opportunity for the leaders to condemn people’s freedom and power. It also gives the leaders a useful base to claim to destroy the “thorn of the heart” before it ripens. What does “before ripening” mean? How can one measure the difference between ripen and unripe, and what causes instability? Who would know whether a heart is ripened or not yet ripened? Therefore, “maintaining stability” is a direct cause of instability. It is possible to reach a certain point where citizens who are under oppressed and “maintained stability” have no other choice than to disrupt the “stability”.
Thus, who is to blame for instability after all?
The misuse of power by the authorities hurts the freedom and power of citizens, which leads to the disturbance of people’s mental happiness and ends with its helpless citizens disrupting “the stability” of the country. The authorities put “a cap of crime” on the people’s heads by accusing them of disrupting the stability and harmony of society.
Do the authorities feel that citizens will be silenced if they just fulfil their basic needs such as food and shelter?
Do the authorities think that the so-called “citizens” will sing “joyous songs” and abandon their freedom and power merely because they are comfortable and fed?
Do the authorities think that the so-called “citizens” do not care that someone is stepping on their heads? Also, do they think their citizens will just sit quiet as a mouse, without any opinions of their own?
Originally published at http://highpeakspureearth.com/2015/a-tibetan-netizen-asks-who-is-to-blame-for-the-instability-of-a-society/ and republished in TPR with permission.
By Tsering Woeser
Published on RFA on May 15, 2015
Writer Tsering Woeser has used her blog "Invisible Tibet," together with her poetry, historical research, and social media platforms like Twitter, to give voice to millions of ethnic Tibetans who are prevented from expressing themselves to the outside world by government curbs on information. In a recent commentary, she says Tibetans shouldn't play into mainstream fantasies about their own heritage:
Recently, a young Tibetan couple's wedding photos were labeled with all kinds of epithets, such as "dazzling the nation," "beyond dogma," "moving into secularism," and other eye-catching headlines, going viral on the Chinese Internet.
Then, even the Chinese official news agency Xinhua reported the wedding, calling it an example of a modern Tibetan wedding of the post-1980 generation, with the groom on one knee, holding a ring to propose, while the bride cried with happiness. "So with the zeitgeist," [Xinhua proclaimed.]
This young Tibetan couple hail from Kardze [in Chinese, Ganzi] Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (the husband, Gerong Phuntsok) and from Barkham [Ma'erkang] county in Ngaba [Aba] Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province (the wife, Dawa Drolma).
They are Tibetans who come from largely agricultural regions, with the highest level of penetration of Han Chinese culture.
From these reports, we learn that Gerong Phuntsok graduated from Beijing's Central Nationalities University and runs an advertising agency in Chengdu, while Dawa Drolma studied music at the Ngaba Teachers' College and now runs an online jewelry business.
Their wedding album can be sorted into two different types of photos: images showing them as "modern Tibetans" wearing suits, skirts, and shades, and a wide-brimmed hat, drinking coffee and wine, running, listening to rock music, driving a sports car or flying in a helicopter, just like the children of so many Hollywood stars, cutting a dash in Chinese and foreign cities on holiday, looking no different from the models in today's Chinese fashion magazines.
They are fit for display in the window of a wedding photography shop.
Worthy of comment
In the other group are the "traditional Tibetan" photos, in which they appear in so-called national dress, wearing prayer beads, hands clasped and heads bowed as if in prolonged devotion. These are taken atop the Potala Palace, or in Jokhang temple, or spinning wool outside a yurt with a yak on the grasslands. But they still look like models, and they seem to be performing.
These, too, are fit for display in a bridal boutique window.
If such a wedding album is just made so people can have photos of themselves to hang on the wall on share among a small circle of friends, there is nothing wrong with it. If it is used for commercial publicity, it is a different matter, and if it is used for political propaganda, then it is worthy of comment.
But these young Tibetans' wedding album has gone viral, and not just in China. Even the BBC and the New Yorker picked up on it.
It seems the photos are being read as a demonstration of the modernization of the lives of young Tibetans who are different from their forebears, who possess a dazzling modern style to rival their peers, but who also harbor feelings of nostalgia and a sense of tradition.
This makes me want to laugh. The fact is that this young Tibetan couple has no real experience of pilgrimage or herding and the fact that, for all their traditional appearances in the photos, they are still the petty bourgeoisie of today's China.
Such fantasy Tibetans are to be found in the minds of Chinese Tibet enthusiasts, and can often be found wearing Tibetan clothing against the backdrop of the Potala Palace and Barkhor bazaar and various temples, providing wedding photos for Han Chinese tourists ... who pose in traditional Tibetan stage costumes or bridal gowns for commercial photographers.
Gerong Phuntsok and Dawa Drolma are doing no more than imitating them.
It goes like this: Chinese Tibet enthusiasts and supermodels dress up as Tibetans, then young Tibetans imitate the Chinese and the supermodels imitating them. There is only one word for this: pseudery.
Dressing up in traditional, ethnic minority clothes against the backdrop of the Potala Palace, temples and prayer wheels, or pastoral nomadic scenes may seem like you're coming home to something, but it's all an act; the appearance of coming home. It's so staged.
Tibetans can see right through this sort of act, but non-Tibetans will be dazzled by it. It caters to a lot of things; to Chinese people's idea of modernization, to their misunderstanding of Tibetans.
For young Tibetans to dress up in these costumes, far from being an expression of their Tibetan identity, is in my view a form of self-negation.
This negation turns them into passive objects in an increasingly mainstream and "civilized" world which has secularism as its focus. There is no true expression to be found here, nor any true self-acceptance or identity.
Still less is there any sense of an authentic self or a modern Tibetan identity. It's grotesque, like a painting of a tiger based on a photo of a cat.
Such images are of "otherized" Tibetans: a pale reflection of oneself in the eyes of others. They have little new to offer, other than being the empty productions of the current culture among young Chinese people and among young Tibetans who imitate Han culture and its imitation of what looks like Western culture, but is actually Chinese.
Not really free
The big irony lies here: Can this young Tibetan couple get into the Potala Palace to pray? As Tibetans whose hometowns lie outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region, can they go to Lhasa without having to hand in their ID cards to the police? Can they stay in guesthouses not approved by police?
Do they have the freedom to travel freely? Do they have the freedom to have their own ideas and to determine how they will live their lives?
Can these young Tibetans leave the country to go on holiday whenever they want? Clearly they have passports, something that 99 percent of Tibetans can't get.
Aren't they the lucky ones?
They should know that the deputy chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region's writers' association recently tweeted: "Why can't we Tibetans go on overseas trips? Why have our passports been confiscated by the authorities for the past three years? Why don't they give them back to us? Everyone else in China gets to go overseas on holiday, why not Tibetans?
Perhaps this couple were able to get passports because their hometowns are outside the Tibetan region, but I happen to know that it's very hard for Tibetans to get passports, even if they live in Chengdu [the Sichuan provincial capital].
A happy life?
All this is intentionally or unintentionally ignored by the official Chinese media, and the two have already been portrayed as the Tibetan representatives of modernization, living the happy life of their choice and enjoying various rights that enable them to realize their dreams.
No wonder so many Chinese people online are envious.
But there is a coincidence here, and it's a sad one, noted by The New Yorker. On the day that this wedding album went viral, a 47-year-old Tibetan nun set fire to herself on the streets of Kardze town in the Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, burning to death on the spot.
She became the 142nd Tibetan and the 23rd Tibetan woman to succeed in self-immolating as a form of protest at the Chinese government.
There have been so many self-immolations, of old and young, monks, nomads, and farmers.
And at least half of them come from the same hometowns as this happy young Tibetan couple in the photo album.
Quite a few of them are young, too, about the same age as the couple in the photographs.
Maybe some of those photos of them on the grasslands, on horseback, or in front of pastoral tents in some Xanadu idyll were taken near the homes of some of those people who self-immolated.
To use the language that is current in China, self-immolation is a dark, negative force, evil, and related to Tibetan independence, and must be snuffed out.
The positive energy lies with this young bride and groom, who must be crowned with the halo of "modernization," feted, and brought into the light.
In a political environment where there is no true personal freedom and no true psychological freedom, the label "modern" rings fake and empty.
Secularism isn't the same as modernism, and it's not a panacea for the Tibet issue, nor a defense against it.
This has been a story about authenticity and parody. The real thing would suffice, not some image of success created to boost sales.
The young Tibetan couple may have written "A story about the two of us" on their album, but in fact all they have done is transplanted someone else's story into their own lives.
But they did actually get married, and for that, I wish them the greatest happiness.
RFA Editor's note: RFA counts 139 self-immolations by Tibetans in China since 2009 [as of May 15, 2015].
Copyright © 1998-2014, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036.
By Tibet.net (the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration)
May 14, 2015
Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay speaking to Chinese scholars and students during a dialogue organised by Initiatives for China in Washington DC, 12 May 2015.
WASHINGTON DC: Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected political leader of the Tibetan people, yesterday spoke to over forty Chinese scholars and students in Washington DC on the topic ‘Care for the future of Tibet?’
The meeting took place at a dialogue organised by Initiatives for China (IFC), a grassroots movement towards democracy in China, which was moderated by Dr. Yang Jianli, Founder/President of IFC and a fellow Harvard scholar and close acquaintance of Dr. Sangay.
Sikyong, in his address to the scholars, underlined the importance of interaction between the Chinese and the Tibetan people to restore the historic trust and friendship shared by the two people. The trust and friendship between the two people has however strained lately as a result of Chinese government’s continued propaganda to create misunderstandings and disharmony, he noted.
Without over simplifying the essence of the Tibet issue, Sikyong explained that the Tibet issue could be described in four M’s, as in Mistake, Mistrust, Middle Way and Misunderstanding or Misinterpretation.
He said that the occupation of Tibet by the Communist Chinese forces and the continued repression of the Tibetan people by the Chinese government is a mistake.
“If you look back in history, at least from Tang dynasty all the way to Qing dynasty to the Kuomintang era, Tibet invaded China at one time and Chinese armies also came to Tibet. But then the Chinese army never stayed in Tibet for this long, the repression has never been this severe, hence I think even from a historical context it is a mistake,” he said.
Sikyong reasoned that this mistake is the root that has sown mistrust between the two people. “Instead of redressing the mistake, the Chinese government continued its policies of political repression, cultural assimilation, social discrimination, economic marginalisation and environmental destruction in Tibet which led to the Tibetan people’s mistrust of the Chinese government,” Sikyong said.
Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay highlighted the Jokhang temple as the epitome of the mistrust that has prevailed in Tibet as a result of the Chinese occupation and repression.
“The Jokhang is the holiest shrine for Tibetan Buddhists. What’s interesting is that, the Jokhang houses a statue of Buddha, which was brought to Tibet by Wencheng, a Chinese princess who married Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. For centuries, Tibetans have worshipped the temple. However, if you visit the Jokhang now, there are surveillance cameras and sharpshooters perched on rooftops everywhere, which is making the Tibetan people apprehensive about going to the Jokhang now,” he said.
“This drastic change in the behavior of the Tibetan people towards the Jokhang begs the question, how did a sacred place of worship turn into a feared police station? Perhaps this is the biggest example of the mistrust between the two people that has risen as a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet,” Sikyong asserted.
Speaking on the Middle Way Approach, Sikyong said that the Middle Way Approach was envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and implemented by the Central Tibetan Administration to address the enduring mistrust between the two people.
“The Middle Way Approach seeks for a genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the framework of the Chinese constitution. The Chinese government always allege that Tibetans aim to split the nation, which is why we have taken into consideration not to challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” Sikyong explained, adding that this proposal is as reasonable and moderate as one can get to resolve the issue.
“However, instead of responding to this proposal positively, the Chinese government has resorted to misinterpretation and misinformation, hence misunderstanding,” Sikyong exclaimed.
Sikyong quoted a statement from the recent Whitepaper on Tibet issued by the Chinese government to elucidate his point. “The recent white paper stated that Tibet was part of China since antiquity. However, in 2004, a similar Chinese White paper on Tibet said Tibet was part of China since the 13th century,” Sikyong argued.
“But if you go by the writers of the republican era, Tibet became a part of China during the Republican or Kuomintang era. Then again, if you read the 17 point agreement signed by an under duress Tibetan delegation with the Chinese government on 21 May 1951, you will see that the preamble of the agreement say, ‘Tibet shall return to the Motherland’,” Sikyong remarked, arguing that if Tibet was always a part of China, where was Tibet returning from?
“There are a lot of contradictions in the Chinese government’s narrative on Tibet.,” Sikyong said.
To buttress his case, Sikyong recalled a reputed Chinese historian from Fudan University, who sits on the advisory board of the Communist party, who has said that China cannot claim Tibet as a part of China since antiquity, as Tibet was a sovereign nation during the Tang dynasty.
He also asserted that the recent white paper on Tibet was a deliberate attempt by the Chinese government to misinterpret and mislead the world.
“The white paper’s allegation on the Middle Way Approach has less relevance with the Tibetan proposal and more with a false propaganda to create misunderstandings on the issue of Tibet,” he said.
Sikyong concluded his address by reassuring the Chinese scholars about His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people’s deep commitment to non-violence to resolve the Tibet issue.
The talk was followed by a question/answer session where Sikyong clarified and responded to the doubts and remarks expressed by the scholars.
Sikyong Dr. lobsang Sangay shares a close relationship with overseas Chinese intellectuals and scholars as he was among the first Tibetans to reach out to Chinese students and public through organising Sino-Tibetan dialogues in the 1990s, in collaboration with Dr. Yang Jianli.
This dialogue is also a part of Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay’s continuous efforts to enhance mutual trust and understanding between the Chinese and the Tibetan people and hopefully a positive solution on the issue of Tibet.
The dialogue in progress at Washington DC.
Originally published at: http://tibet.net/2015/05/sikyong-speaks-on-care-for-the-future-of-tibet-to-chinese-scholars-in-washington-dc/
By Tenzin Dorjee and Lhadon Tethong
Message given to participants in the International Rangzen (Independence) Conference held in New Delhi, India, May 23-24, 2015
We are deeply encouraged that this gathering - one that brings together so many thoughtful, passionate and committed Tibetan freedom fighters - is taking place in New Delhi at the India International Center. We send our regrets that we’ve not been able to join the meeting in person, but we are grateful for the opportunity to share our thoughts with you.
Many people, including ourselves, continue to pursue Tibetan independence as the goal of the struggle. From a principled and strategic standpoint, Rangzen must be kept alive in our world for reasons we all know well and, thus, we won’t restate them here. Unfortunately, there seems to be a growing misperception that advocating independence is synonymous with endorsing violent separation of Tibet from China, opposing the Central Tibetan Administration, and even opposing His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, and we would like to address these dangerous myths here.
We wholeheartedly believe in, practice and promote nonviolent means of achieving change in Tibet and ultimately, independence. But our belief in nonviolence is not based on faith or morality alone, it stems from our study and practice of nonviolent theory that shows us a peaceful resolution to the Tibetan issue is possible if we wage a struggle that combines strategy and nonviolent discipline. We believe the only way for Tibetans to secure our long-term interests – including the preservation of our culture – will be through active and creative resistance that gives future Chinese leaders no option but to address Tibetan grievances. No small nation, like Tibetans, can protect its long-term interests without making noise, taking action and agitating for change. It is never the inclination of the majority population – certainly not in a situation of colonial occupation as in Tibet – to truly address the needs of the minority unless clear demands are made and backed up by constructive as well as agitative action. The status quo in Tibet is unacceptable and must be challenged, but the only feasible way to do it, while maximizing participation and minimizing destruction, is through nonviolent means.
As for our position in relation to the official policy of the Tibetan Government, we believe that promotion of either genuine autonomy or independence does not need to pit people against each other. In fact, to achieve either of these goals, Tibetans and our supporters must continue to engage in activism and advocacy in order to create the pressure on the Chinese leadership that will compel them to change at all. In addition, a firm stand on independence in fact significantly strengthens the Middle Way Approach by positioning genuine autonomy as a real compromise. Without people advocating for independence, the Middle Way would no longer be a compromise – and, in the eyes of the Chinese, genuine autonomy then becomes a radical position that seeks to separate Tibetans within the People’s Republic of China. From this perspective, it can be understood that multiple approaches and diverse positions actually bolster our struggle for freedom instead of weakening it.
Furthermore, our advocacy of independence does not mean that we are opposed to dialogue or negotiations – far from it. We recognize the importance of both as a means of resolving conflict. At the same time, we believe that dialogue and negotiations achieve major changes only when both parties have a high degree of influence and power vis a vis each other. In the Tibetan case, this means negotiations would be effective only when there is enough at stake for the Chinese leadership that they feel compelled to compromise. This is true whether the Tibetan negotiators are ultimately pursuing autonomy or independence. We have every certainty that this pressure and influence on the Chinese leadership can be created through purely nonviolent means, if carried out strategically and according to the lessons of the many nonviolent struggles, both successful and unsuccessful, seen throughout history. Though the current Chinese leadership appears unwilling to change now, we believe the situation in China will evolve and that future Chinese leaders can be compelled to engage in meaningful dialogue, whether they want to or not.
As Tibetans and global citizens, we have always been encouraged and inspired by His Holiness’ openness and acceptance of diverse political opinions. We have taken to heart His advice that as members of a democratic society we are free to have our own opinions and political stance but that we should make sure to pursue our work with the right motivation and, of course, through nonviolent means. We have tried our best to do this, over many years of working with various Tibetan NGOs and support groups. We believe that we and the organizations we have had the privilege to lead are making an impact, especially amongst youth all over the world.
Lately, however, we have been concerned to see a situation emerging where advocates of independence and Middle Way are perceived as being in irreconcilable opposition to each other, and people increasingly seem to feel that they must choose a “side.” As this choice is often presented by a misguided few as being a choice to be either “with” or “against” His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan Government, it has proven extremely divisive and toxic to our struggle. This year’s March 10th commemorations in New York City and Dharamsala show the extent to which this wrong-headed thinking has progressed in our society and, sadly, it appears only to be growing worse.
We believe that unity of Tibetans must come from a positive common purpose of ending the suffering in Tibet and supporting the efforts of our people there to restore human rights and freedom. A climate where Tibetans seem more focused on working against each other rather than focusing on China, and where people are afraid to openly speak their views for fear of being ostracized or wrongly charged with being “against His Holiness”, severely hinders our ability to do this. Many of us, who are working earnestly to organize nonviolent campaigns and activities to strengthen the Tibetan struggle, feel alarmed by this situation. We are also concerned to see that among the educated youth – many of the most active, committed and progressive members of our society – and among our supporters, the perceived shrinking of space in the Tibetan community for diverse views is leading to disillusionment and doubts in the leadership of the movement. This is damaging for our entire movement, because we all – Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile – need our government to be strong, credible and genuinely representative of all Tibetans.
As youth who have the great fortune of living in the same era as His Holiness, we believe His great legacy of democracy for the Tibetan nation is critically important and one of the greatest assets in our struggle that we must safeguard. We must ensure that His Holiness’ fundamental, lifelong commitment and contribution to democratizing Tibetan society and government is not just recognized and celebrated but, more importantly, practiced and promoted within Tibetan society. It is clear that His Holiness’ promotion of democracy is not limited to just electoral democracy, but rather one with critical attributes including, in the words of democracy scholar Larry Diamond, substantial individual freedom of belief, opinion, discussion, speech, publication, broadcast, assembly, demonstration, petition and Internet.
To achieve any meaningful political solution to the Tibetan issue – whether genuine autonomy, independence or some other outcome that would protect Tibetan rights – there are many more years of difficult work ahead of us. And our hope lies in our collective trust in each other as Tibetans, determination to end the suffering inside Tibet, and strategic nonviolent action. When people in our community are sidetracked into criticizing each other or trying to shut out voices of those who have different opinions than our own, rather than finding ways to work together for a positive result, all of us lose, and most of all, Tibetans in Tibet who rely on those of us in the free world to help advance our common cause.
The nearly 150 Tibetans who have committed the act of self-immolation in the last three years have achieved the monumental goal of propelling the Tibetan people’s fundamental desire for freedom onto the conscience of the global community. They have proven with the utmost eloquence their unquestionable allegiance to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, reaffirmed the unparalleled strength of the Tibetan spirit of resistance, and exposed the immensity of the suffering brought upon Tibet by Chinese rule. Their actions, which will enter our history books, have forever changed the future of our nation.
But we fear for a future where the most committed and impassioned Tibetans in Tibet feel burning their bodies is the only way to demonstrate their opposition to Chinese rule and loyalty to His Holiness. The purpose of our work in exile should be to pursue strategies and tactics that encourage and give hope to Tibetans inside Tibet and help build more political space and breathing room there so that they feel it is possible to engage in long-term change-making actions that are lower in risk but high in effectiveness.
We can do this by educating and training ourselves and the younger generation in the art of nonviolent resistance, waging strategic campaigns that advance the cause of Tibetan rights and freedom, using our love of life, culture and freedom to bring an end, once and for all, to China’s oppression in our land. As Tibetans and Rangzen activists, let us commit to live and work together with all our people so that we can continue this fight until we reach our goal of freedom and independence within the lifetime of our revered and beloved leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
With best wishes for a successful conference and thanks to the organizing team and all in attendance,
Tenzin Dorjee & Lhadon Tethong, May 19, New York City
The above statement was in response to the following letter, released by the Office of Tibet on April 10, 2015:
Date: April 15, 2015
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