Speaking with a Regional Secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) on a recent trip to India, he was amazed to hear that there was no branch of the TYC in England, nor any Tibetan organization openly dedicated to campaigning on Tibetan independence. He was genuinely saddened to hear that during the procession of the Olympic Torch through London in 2008 , out of the hundreds of Tibetans, and thousands of Tibet supporters, there was only one prominent banner calling for independence for Tibet.
There have been a number of reports from Tibetans (and others) in England about the sheep-like conformity amongst Tibet support groups, to follow the party-line, as dictated by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile TGIE). Thus, Tibet is selectively presented to the public as an issue of human and religious rights , while the Dalai Lama appears to have become something of a personality cult, whose adoring suporters fail to connect with the political aspirations of Tibetans inside Tibet. Aware of the actual nature of the struggle being waged by the people of Tibet, yet like the Lotus Eaters of Greek mythology for the most part they slumber in peaceful indifference.
When protests do take place the message of such events consistently fail to declare Tibetan independence, even these are decided (we have heard) by non-Tibetan supporters, which may explain the absence of any clear political conviction and direction. According to a circular promoting a Tibetan rally through London for March 6 2010, the ‘key messages’ to be displayed and voiced by protestors was to be;
“Tibetans have no voice in Tibet”, “China: stop silencing Tibetans”, “Britain: stand up for Tibetans in Tibet”, “Stop the torture in Tibet”, “China stole my land, and “My voice, my freedom”.
Now of course such declarations are not without merit, and are important points to convey, but surely the central message of any event which claims to be championing Tibet’s freedom should be ‘Independence For Tibet’. An assertion in solidarity with the political demands of Tibetans inside Tibet. Unfortunately it would appear we can have little confidence that any effort to represent the heartfelt aspirations of Tibetans for Rangzen will not be dis-suaded or sabotaged.
“My friend made a huge (and costly) banner with graphic pictures of women tortured and klilled by the Gyamis saying ‘China lies – Tibetans die: EXECUTION!’ Some of the people you mention borrowed it and then said they accidentally lost it! I was also personally pushed away from the Chinese embassy door by Tibetan ‘volunteers’, including one from the Office, but when I talked to HH’s rep in the office, he said that they admired what I was doing and that it did not go against HH’s belief in freedom of expression. I’m in many of the pictures on-line of London demos but the ‘Coalition’ produce the banners and I usually just opt for a flag when I’m in the country and attending a demo now. I don’t know about the e-mail, of course it sounds way off, but sometimes they say things for human rights in China as well as in Tibet in order not to create the anti-Chinese people sentiment that the Chinese government accuse all Rangzen protestors of. You’re right though, it’s been going on for years. Some of us are talking about more radical protesting and standing to counter the usual crap. Hopefully it will surface sooner than later…” (Source: comment posted by Ngakhyen on September 25, 2009)
Of course such blatant censorship would not be possible if Tibetans in England were united and determined in their support for Tibetan independnence, sadly it seems there exists a long tradition of blind loyalty to the dictates of Dharamsala. This has resulted in the decline of rigorous and singular political activity for Tibet’s national freedom. At one diplomatic event some time ago, in conversation with an official from Laos (another country with an antipathy towards communist China), the Tibetans in England were once described strangely as “The Dead People”.
When asked what this meant, it was explained that, ‘They only protest once a year and the rest of the time they disappear’. To be fair, there are some very active individual Tibetans, particularly amongst the Tibetan youth, however there remains a general lack of determined political activity, and virtually no action on Tibetan independence. This is rather unfortunate, given the sacrifices and suffering inside Tibet, as Tibetans continue their resistance and campaign for nothing less than Rangzen (Independence) . It is also puzzling too, in that in other countries there are affiliated branches of the TYC ,or Tibetan organisations dedicated to national freedom.
It has been remarked that the reason for such stagnancy is the degree of political influence which is exerted across the Tibetan scene in the UK by Britain’s Foreign Office, which is implacably opposed to Tibetan independence. Certainly the organization and direction of major political activity, particularly public events, has been largely transferred by Tibetans to the Executive members of the Tibet Society and Free Tibet Campaign (FTC), both of which refuse to campaign for Tibetan independence. Much has been written in the Tibetan Review http://www.tibetanreview.net/ and elsewhere about the relationship between the FCO and the Tibet Society. (See also Tibet: The Facts, A Report Prepared by the Scientific Buddhist Association for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by Paul Ingram TYBA. 1990). An organization, which though reportedly committed by its constitution to campaign for an independent Tibet, is unsleeping in its efforts to promote Tibetan ‘autonomy’ and ‘unconditional negotiations’ between the TGIE and communist China. A position echoed by FTC.
When will younger Tibetans in England regain the political initiative, take full responsibility for their own cause and restore the objective of their compatriots for an independent nation? There are some encouraging signs that such process is underway with the emergence of Tibetan Youth UK , however (as with the Students for Free Tibet-England) that organisation must ensure its own freedom-of-movements, exercise an intelligent discrimination and ensure that it has the confidence to assert what Tibetans inside Tibet are dying for. Bho-Rangzen!
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