Image: cellphone images made possible by an extremely brave Tibetan
This is what happened. Yachen Gar, a major Tibetan Buddhist center, the size of a small town was invaded couple years back by Chinese paramilitary. On the orders of China’s regime the bulldozers moved in, centuries old buildings demolished, thousands of monks and nuns homeless. Rounded up by armed Chinese troops they were forced onto convoys of buses, destination prison camps. Held there under a brutal program of political indoctrination, mental and physical abuse, Tibetans whose daily life was dedicated to following the teachings of Buddhism now are forced to renounce their cultural identity. Failure to comply results in beatings, torture and additional years of detention.
Today we read that Tibetan nuns being held at Jomda near Chamdo in occupied Tibet have been beaten to a pulp by Chinese thugs, their supposed crime? Having each and every day being forced to sing songs in Chinese praising Xi Jinping and China’s communist party, followed by hours watching propaganda films on Chinese military campaigns these Tibetans are in psychological trauma. Some breakdown into tears. It was this response, which was seen as disloyalty and dissent against the glorious Chinese government, that resulted in a number of brutal assaults against these Tibetan women. Left unable to walk, barely conscious and seriously bruised they were removed into isolation cells. Following this attack they were informed their detention would be increased, more endless days of misery and indoctrination.
While these atrocities are being inflicted and China wages cultural genocide against Tibetans the political world shrugs, what kind of world are we inhabiting, in which such atrocities are ignored so as to maintain positive relations with China’s terrorist authorities?
Look right from the get go we’re going to make it plain. We’ve little respect for academics specializing in Tibetan culture and history, who (usually for the purposes of career and research enhancement) collaborate with the Chinese regime. Why? Because there’s always a dangerous compromise on the facts, there has to be. Don’t forget it’s a totalitarian authority which demands compliance to its official narrative on any aspect of Tibet. Unless a scholar signs-off on that there’s no deal, applications for visas are denied, cooperation from Chinese universities and research bodies is not extended. So what do you do? After all you have a passion for your area of study? It would be a real shame not make progress on that project you’ve been considering, right?
So the justification begins, and any concerns on partnering with a regime that you know is brutalizing the Tibetan people and eradicating their cultural and national identity, is rationalized away. With the support and encouragement of intellectual colleagues, the prospect of exotic field trips, and dreams of acclaim for that paper you will now be able to complete and publish, it becomes remarkably easy to ignore the harrowing reality endured by Tibetans. That’s the great thing about being inside the bubble; you are insulated the work becomes everything, while a remnant of concern may remain it’s pushed away into some neglected junkyard of your thinking.
The Chinese authorities will prove extremely helpful and generous, facilitating your research in Tibet, such support and cooperation comes with a price! The work you produce has to conform to standards expected and dictated by a number of government bodies including; Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Tibet Academy Of Social Sciences and China Tibetological Research Centre. You will be required to use certain phrases when describing Tibet, its culture, regions, place-names and people, these of course are propaganda constructions to emphasize China’s bogus claims that Tibet is part of China. At first including such terminology in your writing is awkward but that feeling soon passes and it becomes natural, it also ensures your visa gets renewed!
Image: Eric Baculinao
Field trips are arranged, monitored, controlled and carefully selected and approved, you will liaise on a regular basis with a Chinese academic ‘partner’, At a number of sites you will meet with Tibetans, who will no doubt inform you of the great progress being made in occupied Tibet, while addressing the subject of your researches. The monastery you have access to seems thriving, new buildings and unrestricted Buddhist practice, the perfect location for your study!
An experience no doubt encountered by Professor Agita Baltgalve (University of Latvia/Latvian Society for the Study of Religions). On May 8 she was a key speaker at the screening of a propaganda film shown at the Chinese embassy in the capital city of Riga, Latvia. Her comments clearly met the approval of Xinhua, the official mouthpiece of China’s regime, who reported her as saying: ‘..Latvia has seen visits of several Tibetan delegations, now the documentary films provides an opportunity to learn more about the land and people of Tibet by means of cinematography. ‘. Anyone watching a film on Tibet authorised by Xi Jinping’s regime will be educated with disinformation and falsehoods, not that this seems to trouble Ms Baltgave!
She is an active collaborator in endorsing and promoting Chinese propaganda, seemingly content with the engineered illusions presented to her during visits to a handful of selected Tibetan monasteries during 2018. Her report ‘Current Situation of Tibetan Monasteries in China’(note the title wording) no doubt fails to mention the paramilitary presence at such sites, the asphyxiating control from China’s ideological storm-troopers who dominate and control every aspect of daily life at Tibet’s monasteries. Missing too will be the transformation of once Buddhist centers of study into indoctrination camps, where the political thoughts of Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are forced upon Tibetans.
We wonder how Ms Baltgave would have responded to news of a documentary film being shown at an embassy of the Soviet Union which portrayed Christianity as thriving in Latvia during the time it was under Soviet occupation? How would she have regarded a western academic’s willing participation in promoting such propaganda? Such ethical considerations appear to be of no importance to Tibet academics who choose to collaborate with the Chinese regime.
The onslaught against Tibetan culture marches relentlessly on. China’s regime targets the children of occupied Tibet robbing them of their cultural identity within indoctrination centers. Such as the one above in the Tibetan town of Chamdo near the border with Tibet’s Kham region. In this so-called ‘experimental primary school’ the Chinese language is compulsory, along with a psychological grooming designed inculcate loyalty and patriotism towards China, its communist party regime and dictator Xi Jinping.
From the get go here’s the deal….Tibet has been under a military lockdown since the Chinese army invaded and occupied the country in 1950. Since then the nature and intensity of oppression has gone through phases, but what has remained constant is the complete lack of cultural, religious and political freedom for Tibetans.
One particular trigger for changes to the tyranny imposed upon occupied Tibet occurs in March, when Tibetans recall the Lhasa Uprisings of 1959, 1989 and 2008. Despite assuring the world that Tibetans are content under Chinese rule, the authorities annually flood Tibet with additional paramilitary units. Armored-convoys and military check-points are increased, movement is restricted, and towns placed under siege. Proof that China’s regime is deeply fearful of the reality that Tibetans do not welcome China’s illegal occupation of Tibet.
Reports coming out of Tibet on March 6 have detailed an intensification of so-called ‘security’ measures in Lhasa, Tibetan pilgrims being subjected to interrogation and detention. Another account from Derge (སྡེ་དགེ ) a town in Kham region of eastern Tibet reports that Tibetans have been denied any freedom of movement, even between local settlements. The Chinese regime has ordered Tibetans there to remain at home on March 10 and also shut down access to the Chinese chat application ‘WeChat’.
Such measures reveal the cold truth that haunts the anxieties of the Chinese authorities. That its propaganda claims on Tibet are reduced to ashes by the fact that Tibetans do not wish to be under the control of China and seek freedom for their culture and nation.
Imagine if you will that one day a foreign army invades your neighborhood, enforces a lockdown and then imposes a series of draconian new rules. It announces that the name by which you and your family have known the town for generations is now changed to a verison in their language. Any dissent will be met with arrest, torture or execution. One of the new policies requires you to celebrate the New Year, not on 31st December but the 15th February. On that day you will parade carrying the flag of the tyranny which now terrorizes your community.
Allow us to introduce you to a village (in the Tibetan region of Kongpo renamed by the Chinese regime as Nyingchi) that’s around 6 hours drive east of Lhasa. As you can see from the photo above, taken around February 12 the local Tibetans were lined-up to wave the Chinese flag as part of what was described in the propaganda website ‘China Tibet Online’ as a ‘Losar celebration in a Tibetan village’. For untold generations the Tibetans of Kongpo tradionally celebrated their New Year in November, why then are these villagers supposedly enjoying festivities in February? Either the authentic customs of the area have been eradicated, or these Tibetans have been forced into a propaganda photo-shoot to coincide with the date of the Chinese Spring Festival.
This is further evidence of Tibetan traditions being suppressed and replaced with events dictated by the Chinese authorities. What has been since ancient times a festival welcoming the New Year, honoring the spirits of land and water and dispelling negativity along with the old year, has been debased into a crass political stage-show.
We’re just gonna call this one right out. Certain departments within Columbia University are riddled with supposedly objective academics, who in truth are actively promoting a bias which has its origins in the propaganda laboratories of China’s regime. Especially when it comes to the subject of Tibet. Yet despite the academic posturing and intellectual presentations it’s apparent that an agenda is being pressed, one which has the fingerprints of the Chinese Communist Party all over it. Students attending classes on Tibetan history or culture are exposed to information that has a worrying resemblence to the official distortions found in the statements of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Prominent ‘authorities’ on Tibet who have extracted a profitable academic career from the plight of Tibetans collaborate closely with the Chinese authorities. Some go much further, becoming advocates of China’s presence in Tibet, others apply a distorting veneer over Tibetan history or overtly misrepresent the facts. Such deceptions, for that is what they are, lie barely concealed within the specialized lexicon of what is termed, ‘Tibetology’. Such ‘useful idiots’, as Stalin would have recognized them, are of value to the Chinese authorities, who consider that ‘academics’ (especially of non-Chinese origin) promoting their falsehoods on Tibet carry a persuasive and authoratitive voice. Moreover such individuals are often called upon by a largely unthinking media to offer ‘informed’ perspectives and insights on the issue. Thus enabling the toxic propaganda to be published across mainstream media as ‘objective’ analysis, while in truth it’s the approved dogma of China’s tyrants.
Columbia University has become something of a welcoming base for such operations, and also an active and willing partner with the controversial Confucius Institute. An organization which covertly is little more than a resource of the Chinese security services, trawling human intelligence information behind the mask of cultural events and courses. On October 6, 2017 a day-long conference was hosted at Columbia University entitled ‘Beyond Empire and Borders: The Third International Conference on the Qing Dynasty and Inner Asia” . The list of participants, many drawn from Chinese institutions, included Mr Tsering Shakya and Mr Robert Barnet who have on numerous occasions invited the concern and outrage of Tibetans for comments which can at best be described as peddling China’s untruths on Tibet. No coincidence either that the event, so we are advised, was sponsored by none other than the Confucius Institute!
Today the Chinese Regime released an official list of state-approved Tibetan Buddhist Lamas. It did so under the guise of protecting people from what it claims as fake ‘Living Buddhas’ who we are asked to believe are cynically exploiting the innocent and gullible by passing themselves off as genuine reincarnations of revered Tibetan Buddhists.
Well sure the world has its share of phony mystics and ‘spiritual’ teachers but in this case we need to look beyond the propaganda to see the motives and objectives at work.
For years China’s authorities have targeted Tibetan Buddhism with a view to imposing complete control over Tibetans and Buddhist thinking which are considered with suspicion and fear. Such has been the imposition of regulations and penalties imposed upon Tibetan monasteries that these former centers of Buddhism and learning have effectively been transformed into detention centers, complete with para military check-points, protected with machine-guns and razor-wire!
Meanwhile a ceaseless ideological war has been waged against Tibetan monks and nuns, a campaign of brain-washing (sorry that should read, according to official Chinese sources ‘re-education’) aimed at inducing patriotism towards the Motherland and encouraging loyalty to the Regime! Such is the extent of restriction and interference that even the tradition and rarefied process of identifying reincarnated Buddhist Lamas now requires administrative approval from the Chinese regime.
While Tibetan cultural identity and Buddhism faces this relentless assault the communist party of China has no difficulties in appointing a number of fake ‘living Buddhas’ to promote its disinformation on Tibet. Including most notoriously a bogus Panchen Lama (see photo above) there are many others, including below:
Such is the context that needs to be considered when reading today’s report that the Chinese government has released a ‘verified living Buddha’ list. We should remind ourselves too that a six-year old Tibetan child, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, was on May 17, 1995, disappeared along with his family and caretakers, to become the youngest political prisoner in the world. He had been recognized that same year as the 11th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, an acknowledgement which prompted China’s regime to arrest the boy, who has not been seen since, and appoint its own fake ‘living Buddha’!