Articles

  • Election Commission Announces Decorum to be Followed for Upcoming Election By Tibet.net (the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration) DHARAMSHALA: The Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration held a press conference at DIIR hall on 15 July ...
    Posted Jul 29, 2015, 5:22 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Tibetans are Victim of China's Pseudo-Rule of Law By Tenzin NamgyalFrom Mao to Xi,   leaders of PRC are good in using catchphrase heralds to  impose its hard lines ideologues on dissident of Tibetans and other alike. PRC ...
    Posted Jul 20, 2015, 6:10 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • The Truth about Surkhang Wangchen Gelek By Chunden Dolkar and J. T. Surkhang The Tibet Album. "Wangchen Geleg Surkhang, Phuntsog Rabgye Ragashar" The Pitt Rivers Museum. <http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_2001.59.7 ...
    Posted Jul 29, 2015, 4:35 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Cartoon: "The Noodle Maker" (Click to enlarge) By Tendor Email to a friend or share on Facebook, Twitter, etc
    Posted Jun 30, 2015, 6:08 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • MWA, Rangzen, and the Future 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 ...
    Posted Jul 2, 2015, 8:32 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • 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 ...
    Posted Jun 10, 2015, 7:57 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Under the Streetlight in Exile    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 ...
    Posted Jun 10, 2015, 7:51 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • A Tibetan Netizen Asks: “Who Is to Blame for the Instability of a Society?” 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 ...
    Posted Jun 3, 2015, 5:47 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Was the Diplomat of the 13th Dalai Lama a Russian Spy?       By Tsering Woeser Ngawang Dorje, also known as Agvan Dorjiev, is a Buryat Mongolian, a “Geshe Lharampa” Lama from Drepung Monastery; he used to be a Minister of the Kashag ...
    Posted Jun 3, 2015, 5:47 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Aren't They The Lucky Ones?       By WoeserPublished on RFA on May 15, 2015Writer Tsering Woeser has used her blog "Invisible Tibet," together with her poetry, historical research, and social media platforms like Twitter ...
    Posted May 31, 2015, 6:16 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Sikyong speaks on ‘Care for the Future of Tibet?’ to Chinese Scholars in Washington DC       By Tibet.net (the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration)May 14, 2015Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay speaking to Chinese scholars and students during a dialogue organised by Initiatives ...
    Posted May 31, 2015, 6:11 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Message from Tendor and Lhadon to New Delhi Rangzen Conference       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 Dear Friends, We are deeply ...
    Posted May 27, 2015, 7:02 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • SFT/USTC statement on March 10 controversy Date: April 15, 2015The above statement was in response to the following letter, released by the Office of Tibet on April 10, 2015:
    Posted May 17, 2015, 6:11 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • A Factual Account of the Tibetan Government’s Gold and Silver by Paljor Tsarong A 72 year old Tsarong arrested by the Chinese for leading the armed “rebellion" against the Chinese. He returned to Lhasa from India in early January 1959 ...
    Posted Apr 22, 2015, 5:11 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Making progress on Tibet     By Robert Barnett, Columbia University   Excerpt :  “... The Chinese government has responded with tighter controls on movement, worship, speech and information in Tibetan areas, together with increased mechanisms for surveillance. But ...
    Posted Apr 22, 2015, 4:52 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • “Using ‘Inter-Ethnic Marriages’ to ‘Fight Splittism’ is Essentially A Continuation of Colonialism”   By Woeser  The website China Tibet News reported on June 19, 2014: “The symposium for inter-ethnic marriages hosted by Chen Quanguo promotes ethnic unity using inter-ethnic marriage as ...
    Posted Apr 5, 2015, 7:30 AM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • ORIGINS OF THE MIDDLE WAY POLICY By Warren W. Smith, Jr. Ph.D.  Dr. Smith is also the author of Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations; China's Tibet?: Autonomy or ...
    Posted Mar 24, 2015, 8:52 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Tibet on the Cards of History: Revisiting the Tibetan National Flag By Nick Gulotta and Dicky Yangzom A number of publications on Tibet have created confusion regarding the historical status of the Tibetan national flag. Without qualification, these works assert that ...
    Posted Mar 23, 2015, 5:17 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Cartoon of the Day - by Tendor (Click cartoon to enlarge) Email to a friend or share on Facebook, Twitter, etc.:    
    Posted Mar 22, 2015, 4:44 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Why Tibetans were divided on the March 10th Tibetan Uprising Day By Choenyi Woser | March 21, 2015 The author is a reporter at Tibet Express based in Dharamsala, India; the views expressed in this piece are those of the author's ...
    Posted Mar 21, 2015, 1:31 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • A Tibetan Feminist's Response to Adele Wilde-Blavatsky By Tsechi Chuzom [In response to "Conflict at US-Tibetan Exile Event Symptom of Widening Rift" , published at Huffington Post] According to this “author,” I, Tsechi Chuzom, child of Tibetan ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2015, 5:05 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • SFT's statement regarding March 10 in New York March 20, 2015All of us at Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) were inspired by the global display of solidarity for the Tibetan freedom struggle shown on the 56th ...
    Posted Mar 20, 2015, 4:55 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • TNC Statement on the events in New York and Dharamsala on March 10 By Tibetan National CongressMarch 13, 2015The Tibetan National Congress (TNC) is deeply distressed by the divisiveness that has erupted at two of this year's March 10 commemorations ...
    Posted Mar 16, 2015, 5:49 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Time for unity, not division, says Kalon Gyari Dolma at Tibetan women's uprising anniversary Phayul [Thursday, March 12, 2015 22:43] Gyari Dolma speaks at TWA led Tibetan Women's Uprising commemoration, March 12, 2015, Phayul Photo: Kunsang GashonSpeaking at the gathering, Dolma ...
    Posted Mar 16, 2015, 5:39 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • There is no middle without the ends By Tenzin Gelek There is little doubt that what happened in NY on March 10 2015 was unpleasant to witness and certainly condemnable. But whatever be the immediate cause of ...
    Posted Mar 15, 2015, 5:48 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Education Kalon presides over 10 March Uprising Day in New York From Tibet.net (official website of the Central Tibetan Administration)March 13, 2015 Education Kalon greeting schoolchildren during a visit to the Tibetan community in the US DHARAMSHALA: Education Kalon ...
    Posted Mar 15, 2015, 5:38 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Commemorating or Rewriting March 10th? By Tenpa Gapshi Lately, a wind is blowing, leaving its musky entrails in its track; vacuous and immaterial, and yet twirling behind every unfinished sentences, and raised eyebrows, sometimes ominous ...
    Posted Mar 15, 2015, 5:34 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • The Paris Lessons By Wangpo Tethong Chitue (Member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile) for Europe The Paris Declaration, a European initiative in support of Tibet, will be proclaimed this weekend. It is ...
    Posted Mar 12, 2015, 5:25 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Personal accounts of March 10 in NYC: "Free Tibet" banned By Pema Yoko Deputy Director, Students for a Free Tibet My heart broke today. For the first time in my life my own people tried to ostracize me for simply ...
    Posted Mar 12, 2015, 5:25 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
  • Agenda for Urgent Meeting: Regarding March 10 Event in New York By Denzi Yishey After watching and reading numerous videos, postings and comments on social media networks including Facebook on the unfortunate March 10 Uprising event in New York, every Tibetan ...
    Posted Mar 12, 2015, 5:05 PM by The Tibetan Political Review
Showing posts 1 - 30 of 747. View more »

Election Commission Announces Decorum to be Followed for Upcoming Election

posted Jul 29, 2015, 5:22 PM by The Tibetan Political Review



By Tibet.net (the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration)


DHARAMSHALA: The Election Commission of the Central Tibetan Administration held a press conference at DIIR hall on 15 July, announcing the code of conduct regarding the upcoming election of Sikyong of the 15th Kashag and members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.

“Any entities whether it is a candidate,a supporting group,an  individual, an Election Commission office staff, a political party or a welfare association have to abide by the rules and regulations assigned in the Central Election Commission rules, article 25. Those who flout the mentioned decorum have to face consequences after a probe as per article 24,” Sonam Choephel Shosur, Chief Election Commissioner said at the press conference.

The press conference was followed by a screening of a short video for creating awareness on election process.

The preliminary election for Sikyong of the 15th Kashag and members of the 16th Tibetan Parliament is scheduled on 18 October 2015 and the final election to be held on 20 March 2016.

Click here for detail.



Originally published at:
http://tibet.net/2015/07/election-commission-announces-decorum-to-be-followed-for-the-upcoming-election/



Tibetans are Victim of China's Pseudo-Rule of Law

posted Jul 20, 2015, 6:10 PM by The Tibetan Political Review





By Tenzin Namgyal


From Mao to Xi,   leaders of PRC are good in using catchphrase heralds to  impose its hard lines ideologues on dissident of Tibetans and other alike. PRC initially marched in Tibet under the guise of wishing to aid in development and improve the living standards in the secluded country. Soon Tibetans witnessed the true color of PRC, when Tibetans were given ultimatum to sign the 17 points Agreement in 1951.Since then in order to  “Senocize” of Tibet , PRC has imposed “Great Leap Forward” under socialist Democracy; capitalism in the color of  Socialist Market Economy, consequently, it  proved to be disastrously counterproductive, contributing to the first ever famine in Tibet’s history, destruction of Tibetan identity, widespread self-immolations, and growing instability across the Tibetan Plateau.

Now Xi,  like his predecessor, rhetorically endorsed “Socialist Rule of Law” with Chinese characteristic without being scope for Rule of Law.

The Rule of Law was coined by Sir Edward Coke and later developed by Prof. Dicey. Rule of Law means “…no one is above the law and every man  including King, is subject to the ordinary law…”  In India, the concept of Rule of Law can be traced back to the Upanishad (Ancient Philosophy before 6th century BC). It provides that Law is the King of Kings.

As per the Chinese ‘Rule of Law’, party is the law and what they says is law! And it is deliberately misleading and overturning   the very spirit of Rule of Law. In fact, it is not rule of law as we understand, rather law is being used for tools to suppress the society in order to impose and sustain their authoritarian regime.

Party has pledged to the legal   reform. “The judicial system is the last defense for social justice," Xi was quoted as saying. "If it fails, the people will widely question (the ability to realize) social justice and stability will hardly be maintained."

But in practice, the question  of judicial independence remain untouched. The judges are hired, paid, promoted and fired by local officials. Most of the judges are under qualified who were either formerly military or police. The sensitive or political cases are decides in the closed door by adjudicating committee composed of bureaucrats.

Lawyers are literally handicapped at the mercy of officials and those who undertake political sensitive and human rights matter were  either license to practice are seized or illegally incarcerated or both.


PRC’s Constitution guarantees; Rights and Interest of Minority nationalities, develop inhibited by minority as per their need and Regional Autonomy; Constitution supremacy/Rule of Law; Rights to criticize and make suggestion; Freedom Speech, Press, Demonstration; Religion Rights, Human Rights and other rights.

In substance, on national   ‘Constitution Day’, the most censored word was ‘Constitution’ according   Weibo. Citizens who challenged the   inaction of the constitutional law and Rule of Law by the party, are arbitrarily, extra judicial arrested, prosecuted on baseless charges and executed.

Amnesty International reports China again carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together……. believes thousands are executed and sentenced to death there every year, but with numbers kept a state secret the true figure is impossible to determine

The struggle of Tibetan is squarely within ambit the provision of the Chinese constitution. But Chinese Communist continues to deny and called struggle of Tibetan as disguise Independent. So Tibetans are victim of denial and Communist Party of China is hostage of denial. As a result, Communist party continue to impose hard line policy,  the veracity of crime was witnessed by foreigner journalist who visited in  1979, described Tibet as ‘the graveyard of a murdered civilization.” So, Tibetans left no other way to redress the atrocity  policy but burn themselves to death, since Feb 27, 2009, 141* Tibetans have self immolated in Tibet and China.

The sources claimed President  Xi Jinping is most authoritarian leader since Mao, so he  must realize that the stability of country and genuine respect of foreigner counterpart could be ascertained, respect rule of law and walk within the provision of written Constitution acknowledges and respect the unity in diversity of ethnics minority.  As Jerome Cohen expert in Chinese law, writes “ Beijing wants the world to admire a ‘rising China’..for the quality of its civilization.. but the PRC will not win international respect for its political and social progress until it ceases locking up political dissidents and treats those currently detained in more human level.”




The Truth about Surkhang Wangchen Gelek

posted Jul 20, 2015, 5:32 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jul 29, 2015, 4:35 PM ]


By Chunden Dolkar and J. T. Surkhang




The Tibet Album. "Wangchen Geleg Surkhang, Phuntsog Rabgye Ragashar"

The Pitt Rivers Museum.

<http://tibet.prm.ox.ac.uk/photo_2001.59.7.5.1.html>



It is so ironic that a person deemed by the Chinese as their worst enemy in the Kashag in Tibet stands now accused of having been a Chinese informer by Kasur Gyalo Thondup.  We are referring to Surkhang Wangchen Gelek about whom Mr Thondup asserted in his book  The Noodle  Maker of Kalimpong: "Surkhang early on had become something of an informer, allowing himself to be exploited, currying Chinese favor” (pg 135). As will be shown below Mr Thondup is totally incorrect. Let alone being a Chinese informant,  Surkhang Wangchen Gelek was a  Tibetan patriot who was and still is considered by the Chinese as one of their greatest enemies in the Tibetan Government throughout the l950’s.

                       

A clear source of evidence for this comes from Chinese government documents cited in Professor Goldstein’s (A History of Modern Tibet, Vol. 2, 2007).  For example, on 1 April 1952, the Chinese Central Government sent instructions to the Tibetan Work Committee (the Party’s main office in Lhasa)  that said, “However, the imperialists have not yet given up [plans of] invasion and the conspiracy to stir up a war in Tibet.  The conspiracy may have new developments recently with Gyalo Thondup, Surkhang and the Dalai Lama’s mother returning to Tibet. You need to pay very close attention and be alert all the time” (page 344).  More specifically, on 11 April 1952, the Central Government sent the Tibet Work Committee in Lhasa a telegram stating, “Hence, the policy in the telegram you sent [to us] at 9 p.m. on 10 April, in which you mentioned the plan to dismiss the two sitsabs, dismiss the ‘People’s Association,” and punish the chief instigators (those instigators are the so-called imperialist invasion elements, namely Lukhangwa, Lobsang Tashi, and Surkhang, etc) is absolutely correct. …  Lukhangwa, Lobsang Tashi, and Surkhang are the chief figures in the reactionary faction …” (page 331) . Similarly in a telegram sent by the Central Committee with Mao himself directing Chinese tactics from Beijing to Lhasa on 16 April 1952, said “In this political struggle we will firmly attack the two reactionary sitsabs and drive them from the political stage.   Regarding the other chief separatists such as Surkhang, etc., we will temporarily paralyze/blunt them.” (p. 357).


Conversely, when Mao was deciding whether or not he should demand the sitsabs be dismissed or should offer the Dalai Lama a concession and just allow them to resign, he told the Tibet Work Committee in a telegram dated 16 April that they should  have detailed discussions regarding these options with Che Jigme [the leading official of the Panchen Lama], Phüntso Wangye [the senior Tibetan communist cadre from Batang] and one of the Kashag ministers, Ngabö. In other words, at this critical time in 1952, when the Chinese turned for private advice from a leading Tibetan official, they turned to Ngabö NOT Surkhang. (Goldstein 2007, page 360).  Thus, in 1952 at the same time that Mr Thondup was in Lhasa for his first visit to Tibet since 1945 for a few months the Chinese clearly considered Surkhang as their enemy, not their informant!  Mr.Thondrup’s accusation, therefore, is completely false.  The Chinese also accused Surkhang of formenting rebellion against China when he returned with the His Holiness from Beijing in 1955. The entry for May 1955 in the official Chinese Communist Party Chronicle of events in Tibet says:


As the Dalai Lama passed through Chikang and Sokhang in Sichuan, these Tibetan areas instigated an uprising.  Yongzin Trijang [Rinpoche], … The Dalai Lama’s tutor, and Surkhang Wangchen Gelek, under the pretext of taking both the southern and northern roads, were instigating local headsmen and upper class lamas and telling them to oppose democratic reform and the Communist Party and even instigated an armed uprising.  These were done when they carried out religious meetings or when they held meetings in Ganzi [Kham] concerning self rule for Tibetans at the Litang Monastery, … etc., They even told them that if they "organize the uprising the Kashag will provide them with weapons and can provide assistance."


And “China’s Tibet” a Chinese Government history of Tibet similarly accused Surkhang of fomenting

rebellion, saying,


They directed the rebellion this way.  The Dalai Lama was accompanied by Surkhang Wangchen Gelek a Kalon of the local govt. of Tibet and  Trijang [Rinpoche] the assistant religious teacher of the Dalai Lama.  Surkhang went by the northern route by way of Ganzi and Derge and Trijang Rinpoche went by the southern route, by way of … Litang and other places.  These two people planned rebellion activities on the way and they said to some local chiefs that they should do everything possible to delay democratic reforms and to try and prevent such reforms.  They told these people to organize an armed uprising, and they must try to make contact with foreign countries. (Dangdai Zhongguo de Xizang [Contemporary China’ Tibet]) Beijing 1991.


And in an interview with Professor Goldstein in 1994, His Holiness, speaking of the Kashag in the 1950s said, “And in the Kashag, Ngabo and Sambo, the two, had relations with the Chinese.  But we didn’t think [that] they didn’t like the Tibetan Government and weren’t loyal and would tell the Chinese, but [we thought] that since they were close to the Chinese, if the Chinese pressed them hard they would tell the information.”  Here again, there was no mention of Surkhang as among the Kalön’s who might tell things to the Chinese. Surkhang moreover, unlike others like Kalön Ngabö, had no illusions about the future under China  and believed  that in the end the communists would destroy the old system as they had done in China. Though he was openly cordial in his role as the senior Kashag Minister (kalon) because the policy agreed on by the His Holiness and the Kashag in 1951-52 was to maintain smooth relations with the Chinese so that the benefits that accrued to Tibet under the 17-Point Agreement would continue, and conversely, the implementation of the socialist land reforms that the Chinese wanted would be prevented.


Based on this, Mr. Thondup’s comment that an encounter between Zhang Jingwu and Surkhang led to the Chinese target of attack shifting  from the “people’s” demonstrators to the sitsabs, is clearly false. As the above quotes from Chinese documents reveal, they lump Surkhang side by side with the 2 sitsabs as the chief reactionaries in the Tibetan government.


His Holiness came to Yadong (Dromo) on the Sikkim border in 1951 having appointed  two sitsabs,  Lukhangwa and Lobsang Tashi and a “staying” Kashag consisting of Shasur and Tashi Lingpa to run the government in Lhasa and a “traveling” Kashag with  Surkhang and Ramba who accompanied him. Recent Chinese information indicates further that it was Surkhang and his fellow Kalön Rampa who actually told the sitsabs and the Kalons in a telegram from Dromo  to use “the people” to pressure the Chinese to accept changes in the 17-Point Agreement. (Goldstein . A history of Modern Tibet, Volume 3, 2013, p 43) This led to the start of the People’s Association (Mimang  Tsongdu).  


As Dr. Tsering Shakya says: “The Mimang Tsongdu (Peoples’ Association) was created prior to His Holiness’ visit to China. One of the main concerns of the association was the well being and safety of His Holiness.  They were also diametrically opposed to the Chinese policy in Tibet at the time.  The Mimang Tsongdu was able to secure support from influential people such as Phala and Surkhang.  These two believed that the protest movement would enable the Tibetan Government to put pressure on the Chinese.  They therefore, quietly encouraged the Mimang Tsongdu to intensify its activities.  In fact Kalon Surkhang arranged for financial assistance to be given to the group”.  P 145 Dragon in the Land of Snow.

  And in any case, in April 1952, when Mr Thondup was in Lhasa, the Chinese were well aware of the sitsabs’ attitudes toward them since they were openly defiant in expressing  their feelings and thoughts..  Every time they met with the Chinese leaders face-to-face, the meetings literally ended in yelling and screaming matches.  


Surkhang’s attitude toward the Chinese can also be seen clearly from the decisions he made about his own family.  Rather than see a long term future with the Chinese, Surkhang was one of the very few aristocratic families who did not send their children to study in China and had no social interactions with the Chinese officials outside of his role as Kashag Minister. Once Zhang Jingwu actually commented to him about this saying, “I have been to many Tibetan homes but have never seen the inside of Surkhang house”  Surkhang did not respond. (Personal communication of Surkhang  to his family 1957). Thus, in  1956, when His Holiness came to India to attend  the Buddha Jayanti Celebrations, Surkhang took that opportunity to bring his younger brother and son to India where he left them when His Holiness and he returned to Lhasa in 1957.  Ad then in the following year, 1958, Surkhang secretly sent his daughter and niece to join his brother and son in India disguising them as servants of the Queen mother of Sikkim and  Ragasha family who were returning to India. Surkhang clearly was preparing to leave when the situation got out of control in Lhasa.  


Surkhang, moreover, was the first Kalön to disagree in public with the Chinese leaders. This famous incident occurred at a large public meeting in Shigatse in September 1958 and involved Surkhang and Tan Guansan (the leading Chinese official in Lhasa) regarding the Chinese view that Surkhang and the other top government officials were behind the Chushigandru revolt.
A Tibetan government official, Chape, was at that meeting and recalled the event:


  1. Yes.  I was there.  …  At the meeting, Tan Guansan said that China has no plans other than to peacefully liberate Tibet, but the Tibetan government has been respectful in front, but opposing secretly.[4]  He criticized the government for its behavior, and he said some very pointed criticisms about Surkhang.[5] He said that the government's main representatives act very clever (tib. kheebo) when they come [in person], but after they return, they do bad things.  There are people who are like that.  If they continue to act like this, later it will not be good. If they do disgusting acts that draw blood from their brother nationality [the Han Chinese], that will be bad.  The Central Government has been very tolerant until now, but there is a limit to its patience.  If you continue to act like this it will not be good. So in this manner he gave a powerful criticism of the Tibetan government’s high officials.


While Tan Guansan was standing and speaking in this very animated and forceful manner, Surkhang was seated on the same platform as Tan.  However, he was pretending to be falling asleep.  I myself was then a government official so I was looking at Surkhang to see how he was reacting to this; he was acting like he was asleep and was acting like he was not paying any attention to Tan.

However, after Tan Guansan spoke, Surkhang stood up and said, "Regarding the Khambas, the Dalai Lama and the Kashag have done all kinds of things like giving them advice and sending people to tell them to stop.  But some people are stirring up trouble through lies.  In the future, we will try to ‘alleviate the anger of China and quell the Khamba disturbance’ and we will see this [problem] through to the end.[6]   As to whether the [Tibetan] government is doing anything or not, in the future you should look carefully."  He spoke calmly and wasn't agitated (tib. ngarpo), and he didn’t say bad things about China.  Surkhang gave a clever [tib. khepo] response to Tan Guansan's accusations, correcting his mistakes  He spoke for a long time.  He said that with regard to the Khambas, if we were to send soldiers to fight them, we only have a small number of troops. Moreover, when we sent people [delegations] to talk with them, they didn’t listen.  So we have had no means to do anything about this.  Nevertheless, we will [try to] “calm the anger of China and quell the Khamba disturbance.”  He said this very in a very clever way. [i.e. putting the onus on the Chinese themselves for the problems].. 

Q. Were people astonished by the overt criticism?

A.  This was the first time that Tan had openly criticized them [the leading officials in Tibetan Government] in this real forceful way, so people were startled and frightened.  Everyone thought that now things will not go well. It made a bad impression.  In his speech, Tan said that if you continue to do as you are doing now, there will be blood spilled between the two brother nationalities.[7] Then, he went on to say, "You have to pull you horse back from the edge of the abyss."[8]  This made those of us who were listening afraid, and gave us the bad impression that all will not go well.  Surkhang talked for a long time explaining everything [that the Tibetan Government had done]. .[9]  

(Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, Volume IV: In the Eye of the Storm)


His Holiness also commented on Surkhang’s response in Shigatse in an interview in 1995 with Professor Goldstein,


A. …I sent Surkhang Shape to receive Nehru [in Domo when Nehru was going to Bhutan] and there Surkhang really made an effective [tib. nus pa thon pa] speech at the front of Chinese officers.   … Many Tibetans expressed that he did marvelous.  … He didn’t directly criticize the Chinese but most probably, I think, he [showed] the spirit of the Tibetan people and not that he came as the representative of the Chinese government. (Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, Volume IV, [English unchanged])



Mr. Thondup, in his account of His Holiness’ escape from Norbulinga in 1959 writes that a very few people were involved in the decision, namely Gadrang Lobsang Rizen, Surkhang, Shasur, Liushar, Phala, bodyguard Phuntsog Tashi Takla and of course His Holiness  and his three closest attendants. Just ten people were privy to this critical decision.  Would someone thought to be a Chinese informer be included in this exclusive group who were entrusted with a matter of such importance involving the very safety of His Holiness?  Surely not.


Finally, in Mr. Thondup’s account of the early years in exile in India, he says that the Kashag recommended asking the Indian Government for a loan of 200 million  rupees and when he suggested a reduced sum Surkhang and Yuthok objected and that HH the Dalai Lama went along with them.  He contends that Nehru refused the loan because of the enormity of the sum and that Surkhang and Yuthok fled Mussoorie  in embarrassment and never returned.  How ridiculous is that?  The Tibetan government's English interpreter (Jigmie Yuthok) recalls that the loan amount requested was not 200 million but 6.5 million.

   

In closing, Mr Thondup is well known in the Tibetan community as someone who makes wild statements of dubious veracity, so it is not surprising to learn that even Prime Minister Nehru felt compelled to explicitly comment on this to His Holiness when they met January 1, 1957. In a note Nehru sent to N.R. Pillai, Secretary General of the Ministry of External Affairs  he  wrote, “I  told the Dalai Lama that his brother at Kalimpong (Gyalo Thondup) often spoke very foolishly and it seemed to me that he was rather unbalanced…” (Indian Government document cited in Melvyn Goldstein: A History of Modern Tibet, Vol 3 page 480).


It is not surprising, therefore, that Tibetans who came to India in the 1980’s after China opened its doors to travel expressed confusion and amazement in finding Surkhang being labeled a traitor, when all they had been hearing in Tibet in speeches, broadcasts and movies in the intervening 20 or more years was that he was one of the main enemies of China and instrumental in the Khamba uprising and His Holiness’s escape to India.  To this day China continues to publish articles and make movies portraying him in the worst possible light.  Of course Kasur Gyalo Thondup seems intent on aiding the Chinese in this effort with his wild and unfounded accusations.


The people Mr Thondup maligns so irresponsibly are long deceased but their memory needs to be protected.  It would be a great injustice if their patriotism, integrity, long years of service, loyalty and devotion to His Holiness remains sullied by the wild, baseless, false, unsubstantiated allegations of one person.



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Cartoon: "The Noodle Maker"

posted Jun 30, 2015, 6:04 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jun 30, 2015, 6:08 PM ]



(Click to enlarge)

By Tendor



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MWA, Rangzen, and the Future

posted Jun 30, 2015, 5:57 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jul 2, 2015, 8:32 PM ]




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.

H
owever, 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.


Introduction

Tibet is not in control of its own destiny. Try as he did in the 1980’s, His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) was not able to convince China to negotiate a new relationship and status with Tibet. And while sympathetic, the rest of the world did very little to push or encourage China. They did give HHDL a Nobel Peace Prize for at least trying.

The future of Tibet is inexorably tied to the future of China. Since none of us can predict how the future will unfold, it is most beneficial to be as prepared as possible for whatever may occur. Think of it as long-term contingency preparedness planning.

MWA and Rangzen


In the Declaration, reference was made to what is apparently a state of discomfort and anger between some of the adherents of Rangzen and others, who I take to include adherents of the Middle Way Approach (MWA). Apparently everyone is calling for "unity," apparently in the hope that people will join "their side." I was dismayed to read that message.

It is very clear in my mind that MWA and Rangzen are not in competition with each other, but that they work best when they coexist together in complementary benefit to Tibet and the Tibetan people. One is not better than the other, nor is one more right than the other. Their ultimate value can only be known in the future.

Historical Background

There are four conceptual frameworks for viewing and discussing the political relationship between China and Tibet.

1) The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), first declared in 1954. Much of it is modeled after the 1936 Constitution of the Soviet Union, but there are some significant differences. For example, while the Soviet constitution creates a federal system and contains an explicit right of secession, the Chinese constitution creates a unitary multi-national state that explicitly forbids secession. (1)


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)

2) In 1984 the PRC promulgated The Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law (REAL). It appears to be the implementing legislation for those sections in the Constitution dedicated to the issue of regional autonomy. Perhaps it originated as a quid pro quo for something else. (3) In any case, while it details a wide range of rights and powers related to regional autonomy, it also contains a multitude of provisions giving the central authorities broad powers to inhibit and otherwise control any decisions made by regional authorities. What Beijing may giveth, Beijing may also taketh away.

According to a review and analysis of REAL by the Loyola University Chicago International Law Review:: “The deficiency of legal and political mechanisms to put the ethnic autonomous laws into force not only resulted in limited exercise of the autonomous power but also, in some extreme cases, threatened the mere existence of the ethnic minority autonomous areas.” (5) Page 259

On the next page, it summarizes the reduction of the six articles on regional autonomy in the 1954 version of the Constitution to one article in the 1975 version in this way: “These absurd constitutional changes clearly demonstrate the historical shortage of legal guarantees of ethnic minority autonomous powers.” (5) Page 260

3) MWA Given the legal conundrum/morass of REAL, it is not surprising that HHDL, the CTA and, indeed, the entire Tibetan movement makes little or no mention of it, instead preferring to promote their own version of regional autonomy as described in the many documents relevant to the Middle Way Approach (MWA). (6) The MWA is a loose collection of goals and principles enunciated over the span of a few years by HHDL. It is wonderfully reasonable, compassionate and idealistic, creating hopes of significant autonomy and visions of Tibet becoming a buffer “Zone of Peace” in between the Asian giants of China and India. It is also woefully deficient in structural and implementation mechanisms.

4) The final conceptual framework is Rangzen independence, which gives the most autonomy possible within the structure of a contemporary nation-state. As I understand Rangzen, there is at least a general agreement that it means the achievement of independence for Tibet through non-violent efforts and struggle. An admirable goal, and it is philosophically consistent with HHDL’s vision of a Zone of Peace.

Zone of Peace


The idea of His Holiness to create of Tibet a Zone of Peace is a wonderful idea. Now if only we could make the whole planet into a Zone of Peace. Unfortunately, his presentation of the concept may have created some problems for our “friends” in Beijing.


Imagine for a moment that you are a CPC Political Analyst sometime back in the 1980’s, and your assignment is the Dalai Lama and Tibet. One fine morning someone brings to your attention the new MWA webpage, which you note contains the following two statements:

“Treading a middle path between these two [status quo and independence] lies the policy and means to achieve a genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. (6)

“At the same time, they [the Tibetan people] do not seek independence for Tibet.” (6)

So, you print off copies and bring them to the next Staff meeting, where the boys from the Politically Correct Ideology section have a look at them. “Not bad,” they’re saying. “At least he’s moving in the right direction.”

Sometime later, the webpages for the Five Point Peace Plan and the Strasbourg Proposal are brought to your attention. Contained within them are the following statements:

“The establishment of a peace zone in Tibet would require withdrawal of Chinese troops and military installations from the country.” (7)

Every Tibetan hopes and prays for the full restoration of our nation’s independence.” (8)

Upon reading these, the boys from the Politically Correct Ideology section break out into laughter and guffaws, offering up the Mandarin equivalent of: “Yeah, right. Don’t think so, Jackson.”

With that, the decision is made to revive the “Dalai Splittest” theme.

Analysis of Perspectives


In the eyes of the Chinese, Tibet belongs in the REAL structure, and it may never willingly agree to have Tibet in an MWA-type framework, with its greater autonomy, for two reasons:

1) the other ethnic groups would demand the same status, and

2) that would be tantamount to conceding that the Tibetans are correct; that they are an invaded and occupied land.

In the same way, Tibetans would never agree to live under the existing REAL framework for two reasons:

1) no real autonomy exists under the REAL structure, and

2) that would mean that they would be agreeing that Beijing is correct, that Tibet is a part of China.

This situation appears to be a perpetual stand-off, with both sides talking past the other and neither side able or willing to move off its stance.

If nothing changes within China, nothing changes for Tibet.

Getting There from Here

One of my disappointments in the Rangzen Declaration is the absence of discussion on how Rangzen might be realized. Nothing was said about how to get there from here. In fact the only stated goal is the return of HHDL to the Potala.

Now, if one is talking about HH the 14th DL, then there is a finite and limited amount of time remaining and available to achieve this goal. What is the vision for how this will occur? What are the plans for making this happen?

Rangzen


As I understand Rangzen, there is at least a general agreement that it means achieving independence for Tibet through non-violent efforts and struggle. That may be possible, but sustaining and protecting Tibet as modern nation-state without violence may not be a realistic goal.

The vast majority of contemporary nation-states have military resources and security infrastructures necessary and sufficient to defend themselves against hostile external threats, as well as to protect its citizens from internal strife and violence. Small states with insufficient resources have usually made security arrangements with their large neighbors.

For example, San Marino, Andorra and the Vatican depend on Spain, France and Italy for their security and existence. The Baltic nations are scrambling to increase their security arrangements with the West now that they have watched the Russian bear chewing on the Ukraine’s backside.

The decision on what to do about violence will be fundamental to the sustainability of Tibet as a nation-state.

Scenarios

Collapse

China has a complete collapse a la USSR. The Soviet Union ceased to exist and all of the previous member republics were technically free to go their own way. The Baltic Republics, the five “Stans” (Kazahkstan, etc.), Georgia, etc. all left and set up their independent shop.

Belarus and Ukraine achieved technical independence, but Moscow put a Stalinist stranglehold on both, from which only the Ukraine has escaped, and only partially at that.

This scenario would have Chinese security forces either being withdrawn to the Han heartland, or being abandoned in place. One assumes that either India or the UN would assume temporary control of security, while Tibetans from around the world poured into their homeland eager to rebuild their country. Rangzen achieved.

But an easy victory does not ensure the safest future. The question remains: how good are the Tibetans going to be at defending themselves and their new-found freedom, especially in a decade or two when China gets back on its feet and starts feeling grumpy about having “lost” Tibet.

Will Tibet be ready? Or will it repeat what it did in 1950? (9)

Weakening


China goes through an internal crisis resulting in a considerable weakening, but not a total collapse. This scenario would have minimal Chinese security forces remaining in place to guard the important buildings and transport facilities. This scenario is the most challenging for Tibetans, for it leaves three options.

1) Do nothing. Then nothing inside Tibet will change

2) Begin negotiations with China on an MWA-type of configuration.

Negotiations with China will be very tough, especially when negotiating styles and methods are so different. Recently we have seen an example of the Chinese style with the students in Hong Kong. The final outcome had already been decided in Beijing before sitting down with the students. My understanding of the Tibetan style is one of openness and sharing, making sure that everyone gets some benefit from the process.

The western style is different yet again, with the final outcome to be determined by the negotiating process, and with details being revealed only as negotiations proceed. The goal is to get your opponent to agree to what you want. Their motivation includes believing that it is the best deal they are going to get from you, and that any alternative would be worse.

Somewhat akin to the game of poker, which can include bluster and bluffing as techniques.

3) For Tibetans and the Chinese, the worst case scenario is armed rebellion. Are the Tibetans prepared to do that if negotiations break down?

Will China be bluffing when they say they can bring more troops in? Maybe the Uyghurs and the Mongols are so successful with their own rebellions that they are tying down every available division of Chinese troops, and they have none to spare. This is where intelligence information comes into play, to help one side interpret the extent and truth of a bluff.

The decision to fight or to settle can only be made at the moment based on an assessment of probabilities. If the likelihood of winning an armed rebellion is low, a negotiated settlement a la MWA is likely to be the best option. That would mean an agreement to significant levels of autonomy, and a permanent status guaranteed by China and the other involved parties. It would certainly be better than the current status quo, and would avoid the many headaches that go along with being an independent nation-state. And it keeps everything consistent with Ahimsa.

On the other hand, if the likelihood of armed rebellion being successful is high, it might make worth the shedding of Ahimsa in order to achieve full independence. The benefit to this is that, by engaging in a successful armed insurrection, Tibetans would learn how to manage violence and to organize and administer themselves in an efficient manner, giving them the experience that they would need to successfully build, manage, defend and sustain Tibet as an independent country. This will be needed when China regains is strength and decides it wants Tibet “back.”

The model for this can be found in Yugoslavia during WWII. Tito was the leader of the Partisans fighting against the occupying Axis armies.

The Allies decided to support him, and in two years of fighting and organizing, he had the basic components of a government in place. Thus was born the new Yugoslavia. That the Serbs later demolished everything that Tito built up does not detract from his accomplishments. (10)

Conclusion

One can only wonder about the wisdom of the decision by the PRC to proclaim areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang to be historically and integrally part of China, for it does tend to limit their options. If, instead, they had proclaimed areas such as these to be conquered lands, they could have then changed their minds and cut them loose at any time. As it is, they have shackled themselves, and have eliminated that easy option.

The future is impossible to predict. That said, if Tibetans are sufficiently prepared, they will be able to take full advantage of opportunities that present themselves. That will require leadership that is flexible, pragmatic and sufficiently dynamic so as to be able to deal effectively with all possible scenarios.

It might be worth considering adopting REAL to meet the needs of the Tibetans. Even if an MWA type of negotiated settlement is arrived at, it will still need to be written into Chinese law. If the Tibetans can find a way to make a version of REAL acceptable, what with the appropriate changes and adjustments, the Chinese might feel less threatened and may take it very seriously. REAL 2.0

Closing Whimsy


My favorite fantasy scenario is this: “Padmasambhava is reincarnated and goes to work kicking some serious Chinese booty. Rock 'n' Roll, Guru Rinpoche. May your Vajrapani be pure and potent. Om Mani Peme Hum.”

(1) Wikipedia

(2) http://en.people.cn/constitution/constitution.html

(3) My speculation is that it was part of a deal arrived at when Nixon and Kissinger went to China in 1972. When the agenda turned to Tibet, Mao and Zhou Enlai might have asked that the U.S. cease their support of the Khampas. Nixon would have rightfully responded with: “Well, what are you going to do for the Tibetans?” To which Mao and Zhou might well have asked: “How do you handle the issue of the Indians in the USA?” To which Nixon would have responded: “They have their own laws and legal standing.” To which Mao and Zhou could have said: “Well, what if we pass a new law dealing with the rights of all of the ethnic minorities in China?” To which Nixon would have said: “Works for me.” (Speculation all mine. JI)

(4) http://www.cecc.gov/resources/legal-provisions/regional-ethnic-

autonomy-law-of-the-peoples-republic-of-china-amended

5) The Loyola University Chicago International Law Review: published in Issue 2 of Volume 9, Spring/Summer 2012:

6) http://dalailama.com/messages/middle-way-approach

7) http://dalailama.com/messages/tibet/five-point-peace-plan

8) http://dalailama.com/messages/tibet/strasbourg-proposal-1988

9) Into Tibet, 2002, Thomas Laird

10) Eastern Approaches, 1949, Fitzroy Maclean





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Election Commission Announces Preliminary and Final Election Dates for Sikyong and 16th Tibetan Parliament

posted Jun 10, 2015, 7:56 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jun 10, 2015, 7:57 PM ]


 
 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.

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/



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Under the Streetlight in Exile

posted Jun 5, 2015, 6:01 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jun 10, 2015, 7:51 PM ]


 
 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 non-struggle


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

there.



Wake-up Call


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.”  [1]  


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.” [2]  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’.” [3]


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.” [4]


We must not repeat the “ostrich–head-in-the-sand mentality” that “rendered Tibet unable to function effectively”  [5]  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.



CTA Reloaded


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.” [6]



Footnotes



  1. Goldstein, Melvyn C.  “A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State”.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Shakya, Tsering. “The Dragon in the Land of Snows - A History of Modern Tibet since 1947”.

  4. McGranahan, Carole. “Arrested Histories: Between Empire and Exile in 20th Century Tibet”:

  5. Goldstein, Melvyn C.  “A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2, The Calm Before the Storm, 1951-1955”.

  6.  Mullin, Glenn H. Path of the Boddhisattva Warrior: The Life and Teachings of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.






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A Tibetan Netizen Asks: “Who Is to Blame for the Instability of a Society?”

posted Jun 3, 2015, 5:47 PM by The Tibetan Political Review



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

“Who Is to Blame for the Instability of a Society?”
By Zur Sum Ma

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.



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Was the Diplomat of the 13th Dalai Lama a Russian Spy?

posted Jun 3, 2015, 5:42 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jun 3, 2015, 5:47 PM ]


 
 
 
By Tsering Woeser


2015 05 18 Was the 13 Dalai Lama Diplomat 1
Ngawang Dorje, also known as Agvan Dorjiev, is a Buryat Mongolian, a “Geshe Lharampa” Lama from Drepung Monastery; he used to be a Minister of the Kashag and acted as a diplomat under the 13th Dalai Lama.

 
High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written in August 2014 for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on August 19, 2014.

This post looks at the fascinating historical figure of Buryat Lama Ngawang Dorje, also known as Agvan Dorjiev.

Was the Diplomat of the 13th Dalai Lama A “Russian Spy”?
By Woeser

 

2015 05 18 Was the 13 Dalai Lama Diplomat 2

The book given to me by the Tibetologist from Buryatia

Not long ago, I was fortunate to get to know a few Tibetologists from Buryatia (Russia) who were all of Mongolian ethnicity; they were researching Tibetan history, Tibetan medicine, traditional Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan language. I admired them for their ability to not only speak Buryat Mongolian and Russian, but also English, Tibetan, and Chinese.

During our conversation, I learnt that Moscow also has a University like the “Minzu Universities” in Beijing, Chengdu, Lanzhou and so on; their Russian equivalent could be translated into “Ethnic Friendship University”. The youngest of the scholars said jokingly that it was only after he had entered this “Ethnic Friendship University” that he realised the existence of various non-friendly ethnic sentiments. Even though Buryatia is called an “Autonomous Republic”, it is said to be very similar to the Tibet Autonomous Region (but of course the Buryatia Autonomous Republic holds a great deal more power than the TAR). Out of the one million inhabitants, Buryat Mongolians only make up around 30%, the remaining 70% are Russians. The lingua franca is Russian. Buryat Mongolians basically only speak their mother tongue at home.

The Tibetologist Nikolay Tsyrempilov gave me his book about the 13th Dalai Lama and the famous Buryat Lama Ngawang Dorje that he had written with the Tibetan scholar Jampa Samten and published in English and Tibetan as a present. It includes the many letters that His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama and Ngawang Dorje exchanged.

2015 05 18 Was the 13 Dalai Lama Diplomat 3

The original “Tibet Mongolia Treaty”

Ngawang Dorje, also known as Agvan Dorjiev, was a Buryat Mongolian, a “Geshe Lharampa” Lama from Drepung monastery; he used to be a Minister of the Kashag and acted as a diplomat under the 13th Dalai Lama. He was entrusted to compile the first draft of the famous “Tibet Mongolia Treaty” that was signed on December 29, 1912; he was one of the Tibetan representatives who signed the treaty that declared the Tibetan and Mongolian independence from the Qing government and broke off all political relations with China.

The Mongolian writer, Daxi Dongribu, who lives in Japan, wrote in his essay “The Tibetan-Mongolian Past”: “In this treaty, Tibet and Mongolia proclaim mutual recognition, the preface stipulates: ‘Given that Mongolia and Tibet have already broken away from the Manchurian dynasty, are separated from China, and have become independent countries, and given that both countries share the same religion, with the aim of strengthening the two country’s historic mutual friendship…’ the following articles explicitly specify friendship, mutual help, the intimate friendship between two Buddhist countries, trade relations etc. The document makes occasional use of the Tibetan word ‘Rangzen’ which means ‘independence’.”

The Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu, in his article “A brief overview of events that led to the 13th Dalai Lama’s Proclamation of Tibetan Independence”, called Ngawang Dorje “a seminal figure in bringing about the reformist and nationalist awakening in the court of the young Dalai Lama, but has by and large been overlooked.”

The 14th Dalai Lama says in Thomas Laird’s “The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama” that Ngawang Dorje “was in fact an outstanding scholar and pious Buddhist monk, and he was always loyal to the 13th Dalai Lama.”

Ngawang Dorje was persecuted by Stalin and died in 1938 at the age of 84.

2015 05 18 Was the 13 Dalai Lama Diplomat 4

Zhang Boshu’s recent book

The Chinese government always has hated Ngawang Dorje (whose Chinese name is De Erzhi), labelling him as a “Russian spy” who “illegally signed the ‘Tibet Mongolia Treaty’ declaring the ‘separation of Tibet and Mongolia from China, splitting up the country and founding two independent nations’”. The Chinese government has been vehemently rejecting and vilifying Ngawang Dorje. Interestingly, the Chinese political scientist and constitutional scholar Zhang Boshu who currently resides in the US, in his most recent book “The Tibet Issue in China’s Democratic Transition”, adopts a very similar language to the CCP, calling Ngawang Dorje a “Russian spy who used Buddhism to gain the Dalai Lama’s trust”, and quoted large parts of the biggest social scientific project to revise Tibetan history, “The History of Tibet–Turquoise Beads”, showing that he entertains exactly the same viewpoint as the CCP.

The famous international Tibetologist and professor at Indiana University, Elliot Sperling, cannot help but laugh about the CCP’s and Zhang Boshu’s misrepresentations of Ngawang Dorje’s life story: “If Ngawang Dorje had really been some kind of ‘special agent’, then he must have been a special agent of the 13th Dalai Lama. It is true that he implemented Russian policies, but he did so for the advantage of Tibet and not as part of a Tsarist Russian conspiracy. Tibet was at the time facing the invasion of the British Empire. Russian politics were naturally directed at containing the British Empire; and when the Dalai Lama was in Mongolian exile he also entered into a political dialogue with Tsarist Russia.”

It is, however, strange that the Central Tibetan Administration’s department in charge of communications with the Chinese world, regards a nationalist scholar like Zhang Boshu as an important person “increasing Chinese people’s truthful knowledge about the current Tibetan question”.

August 2014


Originally published at http://highpeakspureearth.com/2015/was-the-diplomat-of-the-13th-dalai-lama-a-russian-spy-by-woeser/ and republished in TPR with permission.



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Aren't They The Lucky Ones?

posted May 31, 2015, 6:16 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

 
 
 
By 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.

Fantasy Tibetans


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.

Self-negation

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.

Transplanted story

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. 



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