Congratulations and respect to the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) on the commemorative date of its founding. In 1970, the TYC was established in Dharamshala (Northern India) with the blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 315 delegates from 16 different Tibetan communities in India and Nepal attended. The founding of TYC in 1970 came at a time when the first group of young Tibetans who had received a balanced modern and traditional education were graduating from schools and colleges. TYC’s constitution, aim and objectives, and organizational structure were decided, and the first Central Executive Committee (CENTREX) elected to lead it. The movement gathered momentum with set-up of regional chapters, called Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (RTYC).
With two more Tibetans self-immolating this week we are again seeing a despairing response from within some sections of the exiled Tibetan community, people are asking in what way are such sacrifices securing either the attention of a largely indifferent world, or advancing the cause of Tibet’s independence struggle. These are entirely understandable reactions to what are painfully distressing events, yet in a key sense they are the wrong questions, as they are based upon an erroneous understanding that these actions seek a global response, an international condemnation to China’s tyrannical occupation of Tibet. Sure, it would be extremely welcome to see a concerted and forceful response from the international community to the horrors of China’s human rights atrocities against Tibetans. Yet the political and economic interests of nations ensures a shameful appeasement of China, faces turning away from the decades of suffering endured by Tibet, relieved only by platitudes and hand-wringing. Recall the assurances of the United Nations to the Tibetan hunger-strikers earlier this year? In which, fearful of the prospect of Tibetans starving to death on its New York doorsteps, the UN promised a detailed and urgent investigation into China’s actions in Tibet. Thus far silence, evasion and inaction has followed. So the fiery sacrifices of these Tibetans, even were they seeking international support for Tibet, would; due to the marble-heart of realpolitik, remain ignored or at best offered disingenuous words of concern, measured so as not to offend China.
It is fatuous to even consider that these actions are in themselves trying to secure independence for Tibetans, which inevitably invites the questions, what is the purpose of such sacrifice and who is the intended audience? Perhaps these self-immolations are more accurately understood as expressions of resistance, in which it is the action itself that is the protest, a declaration of Tibetan independence and loyalty to the Dalai Lama. They also defy China’s occupation and are a dramatic reminder that the spirit for Tibet’s national freedom and identity remains undiminished. The sight of Tibetans engulfed in flame, holding aloft the symbol of Tibet’s independence must also have an incredible impact upon the local Tibetan community where they occur, no doubt generating sadness and anxiety but also reinforcing a sense of solidarity, national identity and encouraging a determination to oppose China’s occupation.
They are after all heroes, but the political nature and objectives of their protests sits uneasily with the current position of the Tibetan Administration, keen to avoid mention of Tibet’s independence and desperately trying to assure China that it seeks only improved autonomy under Chinese rule. Aware though of the profound support and emotion within the Tibetan Diaspora towards those who self-immolate, it has to be seen to show respect and honor such sacrifice. Yet it does so by avoiding any mention of the political demands made by such Tibetans and chooses to represent their actions as a response to China’s policies, or as the only, desperate, means of protest due to the intensity of China’s suppression of Tibetans. While there maybe a shadow of truth in that for the most part this is a political and cynical version of events, designed to dilute, evade and ignore the central objective common to the majority of such protest, Tibetan independence.
Let us journey to an alternative landscape for a moment, a flight of fancy in which these Tibetans are embraced as they should be by their exiled Administration, as inspiring martyrs to Tibet’s true cause, a reminder to Tibetans everywhere that the only solution that guarantees genuine protection and respect of Tibet’s culture and national identity is the restoration of its independence. Imagine the effect upon the exiled Tibetan community if their sacrifice was seen, not only in terms of tragedy and pain, but as selfless inspiration and courage. Would such a re-interpretation be followed by questions as to why they are offering their lives to asserts Tibet’s rightful national independence yet in exile their Administration is surrendering Tibetan nationhood in exchange for Chinese rule?
These individuals are sending an immensely powerful message, not to the corrupted offices of the UN or Washington DC, but to fellow Tibetans, is their overtly political sacrifice being understood or is it getting lost in the emotional response, the massed prayers and despair and frustration felt among exiled Tibetans? It has been noted by others that the best way to respect the sacrifices made by these Tibetan martyrs is to actively support the cause they gave their lives for, that means advocating, protesting for Tibetan independence. Yet even as the harrowing images of self-immolation emerge from Tibet, and reports document such protests demanding Tibet’s national freedom, the momentum to promote the policy which would accept Chinese rule with limited and cosmetic improvements in autonomy goes on regardless, trampling over the charred remains of Tibet’s heroes.
For a considerable time this site has reported upon, exposed and challenged the exiled Tibetan Administration’s censorship regarding Tibet’s true cause, if you do a search on ‘lodi gyari’, ‘samdhong rinpoche’ and more lately ‘lobsang sangay’ it will become pretty clear that the phrase ‘independence’ is something of a dirty word to those charged with advancing the hopes and rights of the Tibetan people. Indeed there has been operating a sly surrender of Tibet’s right to nationhood, and a betrayal of the struggle and aspirations of Tibetans inside occupied Tibet, for a number of years, driven by an appeasement of China in the vacuous hope of progressing negotiations. This has resulted in a string of dangerous and politically suicidal compromises all of which have undermined, misrepresented and generated disillusionment within the Tibetan movement. Yet the resentment and opposition to such betrayal has been largely muted, the majority of concern expressed away from public scrutiny in Tibetan homes, this is due to a number of societal and cultural factors, obedience and respect towards authority figures being a key influence. Conformity is another, thankfully however there are some who are prepared to speak out and expose the stifling censorship and manipulation which is preventing any genuine democratic process and debate within Tibetan society.
One such individual is Tenzin Nyinjey. Tenzin works at the Kashag (equivalent of government) as an assistant to the Kalon Tripa (office of Prime Minister). He will be officially resigning from his job on 31st July 2012. In 2010, he graduated from the University of Wyoming with an MA in Political Science, and returned to India to serve the Tibetan community. He had worked at the Department of Information and International Relations of the Central Tibetan Administration from 2003-2007. From 2007-2009 he served as the Managing Editor of Tibet Journal published quarterly by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamshala.
He has released a statement on this subject, which was published by Dossier Tibet and which we reproduce here in the hope of allowing others to understand better just how the Tibetan cause is being censored and suppressed, by the very people who insist they are committed to supporting Tibet’s people.
“This morning I came across a Facebook wall message posted by one of the Rangzen activists living in the United States, in which he quoted a line from two sympathisers with Tibetan independence, Harry Wu and VR Krishna Iyer, expressing concern at the censorship of words such as “independence” implemented by the Tibetan government-in-exile in its official publications.It is surprising that this terrible truth did not produce much reaction from Tibetan readers of his page.My gut feeling is that this is due to the genius of the ‘Middle-Way’ propaganda that has now fully succeeded in pacifying the Tibetan people’s innate desire for independence, so much so that they don’t bother even when their leaders are openly found engaging in nasty acts of Orwellian censorship.
What is shameful is that protest against the suppression of such truths in our community comes from non-Tibetans rather than from Tibetans themselves. It sort of astounds me how much our consciences have been stifled, and how much we have been alienated from our struggle, that we don’t even feel the need to speak out against such immoral acts committed by our own government.
We all know that the Tibetan leadership began giving up on the struggle for independence in the early 1970s, and did so more formally with the Strasbourg proposal in 1988 in France. Not many of us, however, know that this journey down the road to oblivion was speeded up during Prof Samdhong Rinpoche’s reign as Kalon Tripa, from 2002 to 2011. I experienced it personally, for during that period, around 2003, I joined the Tibetan civil service as a fresh graduate, after going through formal training at the Sarah Tibetan college. I was posted to the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), as one of the translators and editors of the publication section. It was led by the late Tendar-la and, until then, produced publications that never compromised on the truth of China’s occupation and colonialism in Tibet, despite the prevailing Middle-Way policy. The department brought out numerous publications condemning China’s colonialism in Tibet and the building of railways that intensified its destruction of our homeland.
As the years progressed, however, all of a sudden the narratives started changing. Words and phrases such as ‘colonialism’ and ‘military occupation’ in official publications started to be replaced by ‘mutually-beneficial solution,’ ‘Tibetans being one of the minority nationalities,’ ‘mainland China,’ ‘China’s rule in Tibet,’ ‘within the framework of Chinese constitution’ and so on—all by order of Samdhong Rinpoche. In fact, during one of the official meetings chaired by the Kalon Tripa, Gyari Rinpoche openly reprimanded a leading official and editor of DIIR for continuing to use words like ‘colonialism’ in DIIR publications. Writers like Lukar Jam observed these ominous changes and criticised them in their essays (Lukar was later forced to resign from his work at the Department of Security), but not many of us heeded them. On the contrary, we blindly accused them of blasphemy, of going against the ‘wishes of the Dalai Lama,’ ‘of being Chinese spies,’ of breaking ‘the unity of Tibetan people,’ and ‘playing into the hands of the Chinese regime.’
Such kneejerk reactions from our people were understandable given that we have been brought up within a system that injects in us passivity and obedience to leadership. Indeed, most of us, having been brought up with a belief in the infallibility of our leadership, faithfully followed whatever course Dharamshala charted for our future. We rarely imagined that the leaders in Dharamshala were human beings, with all the possibilities of making mistakes, and thus blindly placed our destiny in their hands. So, our leaders are not to be blamed alone—we all share a collective responsibility in this.
For instance, in my own near-blind obedience as a bureaucrat, I thought the policies for our struggle were framed independently at the Kashag. It was only later when I was told to transcribe and translate into English the taped lengthy discussions that took place between Gyari Rinpoche and Zhu Weichun in Beijing that I was made to realise that all these decrees not to use words like ‘colonialism’ came explicitly from the lips of the Chinese authorities. Under the slogan ‘creating a positive atmosphere for dialogue,’ the Chinese negotiators told our Tibetan authorities that Tibetan exiles shouldn’t protest Chinese leaders visiting foreign countries, and if all went well, then they would seriously consider the desire expressed by the Tibetan leaders for a possible visit by the Dalai Lama to the Buddhist pilgrimage site Wutaishan in China. The fox-like-cunning and trickery of the Chinese negotiators is now evident, when I look back, in the way the Chinese made it all sound ‘sincere’ and ‘serious,’ and thus fooled us into believing, that they would invite the Dalai Lama to China if Tibetan exiles ‘behaved’ well—that is if we stopped all protests.
Of course, we all know the results of those negotiations. The Chinese never invited the Dalai Lama to visit Wutaishan, nor did they negotiate for Tibetan autonomy; they never intended to, right from the beginning. Instead, what happened were the massive 2008 Tibetan protests, followed by a violent military crackdown. Since then the situation inside Tibet has gotten worse with the ongoing self-immolations. Tibetans inside Tibet, who have experienced firsthand China’s occupation and colonialism for decades, know that the only language colonial masters speak with the so-called natives is that of violence and repression, not ‘dialogue,’ and therefore, the only way out is resistance—passive or active, non-violent or armed.”
(Tenzin Nyinjey: Source Dossier Tibet)
During the London Olympic Ceremony as the athletes of Bhutan entered the arena, the BBC commentator declared that the Himalayan country bordered China. A similar description was given to Kyrgyzstan, when in truth that land has occupied East Turkestan on its eastern border. Always willing to promote China’s propaganda line and indifferent to the facts. it mattered little to the narrators that Bhutan is next door to occupied Tibet. Such moments remind us of the ideological war which China wages concerning its bogus claims over peoples and territories which it invaded and illegally occupies and the servile collaboration of media. Watching the parade of nations, including a Palestinian delegation, there was a sadness that Tibet was not represented relieved though by a moment of pleasure wondering what sports it would excel at, archery and wrestling spring immediately to mind, as traditional games enjoyed by Tibetans. Can you imagine the reception of the crowd on seeing Tibetan athletes, dressed in the fabulous colors and costumes of Tibet’s regions. The smiles and applause as the Snow Lion banner made its way into the arena, to take its rightful place among others national flags, it would be magical. Meanwhile, as activists voyage to the creative parts of their thinking to conceive ways to get the Tibetan flag past the layers of insane security (which pervades every aspect of the London Olympics) in order to remind the global audience of the national freedom denied to Tibet, that dream retains a powerful ability to inspire, despite China’s tyranny and propaganda. Such hopes can be realized, who for example would have thought it realistic, that a number of participating states in the opening ceremony, formerly denied their national independence by virtue of being part of the former Soviet ‘Union’ would realize their freedom and be a member of the Olympic community of nations? Yet there they were Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania and Ukraine all enjoying the celebration and atmosphere under their respective flags.
The one national participant of particular interest and relevance to Tibet and its struggle is perhaps East Timor and when its athletes paraded around the stadium it was as a beacon of hope that one future occasion Tibetans too will enjoy that right and freedom. There are some important parallels between Tibet’s cause and East Timor’s struggle, most prominently a people declared their independence only to have their land invaded leading to a struggle to regain sovereignty from a dominant occupying power. Shared too was a range of injustice and suffering imposed by a foreign regime that was immensely advantaged in terms of economics and military supremacy and resources. Tibetans inside occupied Tibet experience a similar if not more vicious tyranny and have the same objectives as that attained by East Timor, which was to gain its independence in 2002. Important to note however that this was realized with far more active political support, significantly via the United Nations and the Roman Catholic lobby, than Tibet enjoys, indeed it has been asked had East Timor been a non-violent Buddhist culture would its cause have attracted the international solidarity it did. The role played by the United Nations in assisting to secure and facilitate independence for the East Timorese naturally begs the question why is it so sloth-like in supporting the Tibetan people, one key factor is of course the political magnitude and influence of China as a Security Council member within the UN, a power not enjoyed by Indonesia which eventually had to conceded to international pressure on East Timor. Yet while such real politic should not be underestimated the mechanisms and process in which the UN encouraged and supported the path to East Timor’s national freedom may well offer a more hopeful alternative objective for the Tibetan cause than accepting Chinese rule and tolerating minor improvements in autonomy, yet firmly under the grip of China.
The primary reason for UN intervention was built upon the degree and extent of violence, denial of human rights and cultural oppression which in 1974 followed Portugal’s abandonment of its colony of East Timor. A civil war erupted between various parties until the unilateral declaration of independence Ion November 28, 1975. Backed by western governments and anxious of supposed communist influence the Indonesian military invaded during December 1975 and announced East Timor as its 27th province on July 17, 1976. Critical to note that, unlike the occasion of China’s invasion of Tibet in 1950, the UN Security Council opposed the invasion and East Timor’s nominal UN status remained “non-self-governing territory under Portuguese administration.” It is a tragedy and example of the cynical indifference of powers at that time that Tibet’s fate was not afforded a similar sympathy and support.
The years of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor was characterized by violence and brutality, with a reported 102,800 conflict-related deaths in the period 1974–1999, during which the East Timorese guerrilla force, Falintil, fought a bloody campaign against the Indonesian forces. Then in 1991 the 1991 Dili Massacre was to attract international outrage and wider support for the independence movement. Upon the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto, a UN-endorsed arrangement between Indonesia and Portugal authorized a United Nations supervised popular referendum in August 1999. The result massively chose independence, which was responded to by further military action from Indonesia and its supporters within East Timor, leading to An Australian peace-keeping mission. The administration of the region was assumed by the UN through the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor in October 1999. East Timorese independence was formalized on May 20, 2002 and on September 27, 2002 it became a member of the United Nations.
While the two issues have important distinctions the realization of East Timorese independence
continues to remind the world that a people can, with determination and resistance overcome a foreign tyranny, despite overwhelming military power. However, it remains debatable if East Timor would have been able to free itself from the shackles of occupation without the international support and UN intervention it eventually received. Currently Tibetans are largely ignored by the United Nations, at best they receive platitudes, or empty assurances are offered as was the response earlier this year to the Tibetan Hunger Strike outside UN Headquarters in New York. That indifference demands to be challenged and the United Nations reminded, through a forceful and unified campaign, of the catalog of human rights violations, cultural genocide and violent oppression endured by Tibet’s people for over six decades. Ban Ki Moon who was a member of the team tasked with escorting the Olympic flag during the ceremony has to consider that his organization, which actively supported East Timor’s journey to freedom has a moral and ethical duty not to ignore the plight of Tibet or rightful aspirations of its people to regain their independence. The Olympic ideal claims to represent the highest human values and principles, as does its sister organization the UN, however while Tibetans remain in chains such principles are cosmetic posturing. Can we expect anything more from such a morally bankrupt organization which in May authorized the deployment of Chinese police officers as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in East Timor!
It is a well known and recorded truth that inside occupied Tibet the Tibetan people have been resisting for decades China’s illegal and violent occupation. It is also a fact that Tibetans in their protests, individually and collectively have as a major political objective, Tibet’s independence, as revealed by a wealth of documented material and ongoing reports emerging from that blighted land. It is therefore accurate and fair to describe the Tibetan resistance as being pro-independence, a reality long acknowledged by the Dalai Lama in various statements.
What then are we to make of comments from the exiled Tibetan Prime Minister, Lobsang Sangay, reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald in which the Harvard educated lawyer offered a troubling response to what was presented to be the challenge of maintaining a line against non-violence; which the reporter implied was becoming difficult for younger Tibetans to support, in light of the moderate policies (political suicide more accurately describes those) of the exiled Tibetan administration.
When asked if that was becoming more difficult he replied:
“Yes in some senses because as more time passes, and there’s no progress, it validates the pro-independence argument – ‘see we told you so’. But for us, the values of democracy and non-violence are not negotiable.” Source: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/dreams-of-a-leader-of-a-land-he-has-never-seen-20120625-20yh1.html
Interesting how those values are of such supreme importance that they are to be blindly followed despite a singular absence of any progress in terms of securing a meaningful agreement from China’s regime, however we digress, So the lawyer, with a trained exactitude for words, is content to suggest that those Tibetans who are actively support Tibetan independence have less regard for non-violence and democratic values than the privileged cabal known as the exiled Tibetan Administration? Moreover do these remarks slander the young Tibetans inside occupied Tibet who take to the streets to demand Tibetan independence and freedoms, that are indeed steeped in democratic principle, such as free speech, right to dissent and national self determination? His words are deeply divisive and fail to respect the common political aspiration of Tibetans for their nation’s independence, in portraying advocates of Tibet’s national independence as violent objectors to democratic they display an uneasy similarity to the rhetoric usually associated with China’s regime, it too denigrates Tibetan protesters seeking independence as violent.
By wrongly tainting the demand for Tibetan independence with violence Lobsang Sangay is walking a very dangerous road indeed, alienating himself and his exiled Administration from a deeply held hope of all Tibetans for an independent Tibet, and misrepresenting a Tibetan youth, which is courageously opposing China’s tyranny to demand their country’s rightful independence.It may well be that his comments were designed to appease China, a move to reassure the Chinese Regime by disassociating the exiled Tibetan Administration from the issue of Tibet’s independence by criticizing and denigrating those seeking that goal. If so, what next? How far is this position from endorsing China’s claims that such Tibetans are criminals seeking to split the Motherland? Is there no depth to which the appeasement of China’s Regime will not sink?
No matter how devoted to the cause of Tibet supporters of Tibetan national freedom may be, the distracting currents of confusion, resulting from conflicting statements issued by Tibet’s, now only spiritual leader, continue to generate puzzling diversions. Take the latest comments, reported April 22 by Voice of Tibet, in which the Dalai Lama is claimed to have made the following request
‘Instead of independence, I plead other freedom fighters to adopt middle way’:
For anyone not familiar with that term, ‘middle way’ refers to a set of proposals put to China by the Tibetan leader, in which he abandoned aspirations for Tibet’s rightful independence, in exchange for seeking a form of autonomy under China’s national and regional laws. Here’s the confusing part. In 2009 during an NBC television interview the Dalai Lama conceded that his ‘Middle Way’ proposals had proved a failure, which he again repeated during a BBC interview in 2012 , where he affirmed that:
“Our approach [has been] more or less failure to get some kind of cross understanding with the Chinese government and some kind of improvement inside Tibet. In that aspect [it has] completely failed,”
This somewhat contradictory circumstance is difficult to understand, a situation in which inside occupied Tibet courageous Tibetans are resisting China’s vicious occupation to demand independence for Tibet, yet in exile their spiritual leader is asking them to forgo that struggle and embrace a policy, which he himself has conceded has proved a singular failure. Beyond this troubling contradiction however lie even darker waters, the consequences and challenges of which can only be fully understood or felt by Tibetans themselves, arising from their deeply profound and historically established faith and reverence towards the Dalai Lama.
In making such an appeal the Tibetan leader is unwittingly placing a colossal burden upon the shoulders of those who are actively seeking Tibet’s national freedom, as his words speak directly to the heart of each Tibetan, forcing an impossible dilemma upon individuals to honor and respect the wishes of the Dalai Lama, at the expense of surrendering Tibet’s just cause, for a condition in which Tibetans would remain under China’s draconian grip, with at best cosmetic improvements and limited religious or cultural freedoms. It is nothing less than asking Tibetans to give up their decades old struggle and endorse a ‘solution’ which not only has been consistently rejected by China’s Regime, but one in which the very author of that proposal, the Dalai Lama, has admitted has failed.
What is going on behind the scenes which may help to explain this remarkable appeal? Is it simply the words of an enlightened Buddhist who wishes to see an end to the suffering of his people and feels the surrendering of their struggle would best serve that objective? Alternatively, are his words constructed to send a positive signal to China, in a bid to encourage negotiations between his representatives and their counterparts from the Chinese government? Without doubt the ongoing self-immolations and violent oppression inside occupied Tibet have focused minds within the exiled Central Tibetan Administration, yet as their compatriots defy the tyranny of China’s paramilitary forces, to demand national independence, such an appeal not only undermines their efforts and sacrifices but generates confusion for a people who would follow their leader over the edge of a precipice.