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Potala Tibet Brief

China bans foreigners from visiting Tibet Autonomous Region until April

February 19, 2019

Tibet tour operators have announced that the ‘annual closure’ of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to foreigners began this year on Jan. 30 and will last until April 1, with one operator recommending that foreigners plan to “begin the Tibet trip no earlier than April 1 because of the Tibet permits restriction policy recently.”

Every year since 2008, the TAR has been closed off to tourists for at least one month, coinciding with the anniversary of the March 10 Uprising in 1959 and protests in 2008.

In 2018, authorities closed the TAR to foreigners from Feb. 10 to April 1, according to tour operators.

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Youth Palace

New training camp for Party cadres in Tibet demonstrates tougher approach and challenges in ensuring loyalty

February 15, 2019

A new “political education camp” in Shigatse is intended to provide ideological training to some of the thousands of Party cadres who have been deployed across Tibet in recent years in private homes, monasteries and schools and in line with Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s agenda of deepening control.

The Chinese state media report refers to the importance for Party cadres of changing their attitudes not just at the superficial level of reciting Party slogans, but in terms of achieving a complete ideological shift. It reflects the current approach of securitization combined with tougher attempts at rewiring Tibetan political thinking, with the stated official aim of “breaking lineage, breaking roots, breaking connections, and breaking origins” of Uyghurs and Tibetans. In Xinjiang, in an unprecedented and horrifying development, an extensive prison camp system of “de-extremification training centers” has been created where around a million Uyghurs and Kazakhs are being held.

The new training camp in Shigatse, established in a year that the Chinese Communist Party marks the 70th year of its foundation on October 1, is focused at training “grass roots Party cadres in rural and pastoral areas” in line with the methodology for Party members in Xi Jinping’s so-called “new era” announced at the 19th Party Congress in October, 2017.

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Thank You America

As Tibetans thank America for 60 years of support, US leaders pledge continued commitment

February 13, 2019

The Tibetan people thanked the United States for 60 years of friendship at a celebration on Tuesday night—and US leaders responded by pledging to maintain their support until justice and human rights come to Tibet.

“Bipartisan support for the rights of the Tibetan people is strong and is not going away. I hope the Chinese government is able to hear that message,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), one of several members of Congress honored at the lively “Thank You, America” event on Feb. 12 in the US Capitol, where gratitude was shared through prayers, songs and speeches.

The event, hosted by the Office of Tibet, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and the Capital Area Tibetan Association, was held to express gratitude to the United States government and people for steadfastly supporting His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan.

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AOC and Dalai Lama

Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, McAdams and other elected leaders join in Tibetan New Year celebrations

February 13, 2019

For Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), a recent Tibetan New Year event was a chance not only to celebrate Tibetan heritage but also to extol the Tibetan-American community’s vital role in the country’s future.

“I believe that the Tibetan community in its integration and in its fellowship with the American community, as part of the American community, is part of charting our path forward together as a country,” the first-term Representative said at an event on Feb. 9, 2019 in her home district hosted by The Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey. “So I’m so proud to work with the community and translate those values into Washington, DC and into the laws of our land.”

Ocasio-Cortez posted a photo of herself playing with a Tibetan child to her Instagram account, garnering more than 216,000 likes and 2,200 comments by Feb. 12.

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US officials, Tibetan-Americans celebrate success at Tibetan New Year event at State Department

February 12, 2019

The recent and future successes of the Tibetan-American community were celebrated at a Tibetan New Year event at the State Department last week that sent strong messages about continued US support for Tibet.

The State Department’s Office of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues organized the gathering on Feb. 8, 2019 for Losar, the start of the Tibetan Year of the Earth Pig.

The event, which attracted dozens of US government officials, diplomats, civil society representatives, and Tibetan Americans, featured traditional Tibetan music and dance performances, Tibetan food and remarks by US and Tibetan leaders.

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Seeker Tibet video

Video quoting ICT exposes destruction of Tibetans’ landscape and way of life

February 8, 2019

The president of the International Campaign for Tibet is quoted in a new video that exposes China’s environmentally destructive policy of forcing Tibetan nomads off their land.

The video from Seeker Media, which is posted on Animal Planet’s Facebook page and on MSN.com, focuses on the Changtang National Nature Reserve in the northern Tibetan plateau. It adds to the growing number of revelations about how the Chinese government is removing Tibetan nomads from the lands they’ve tended for hundreds of years—even though scientists agree their stewardship is essential for protecting the environment.

“Nomadic farming techniques have helped preserve Tibet’s grasslands for centuries,” the video text says, “but now officials want regional cattle farmers to relocate to nearby Lhasa,” Tibet’s capital city.

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MM Heritage Panel

Repression of Tibetan Buddhism engineered by Beijing must be confronted, ICT president says at panel discussion in Washington, DC

February 7, 2019
The president of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) told a panel discussion at a major think tank in Washington, DC that it is time for democratic governments and international institutions to go after high-ranking Chinese officials who design policies that violate human rights.

Speaking at the panel discussion “Evaluating Threats to Religious Freedom in China” at The Heritage Foundation on Feb. 5, 2019, ICT President Matteo Mecacci said that while specific human rights violations against one person or a small group are tragic, more attention should be paid by democratic governments and international institutions to the Chinese leaders whose policies make those violations possible.

“What’s important is also to look at the architects of the policies that are being implemented on the larger scale,” Mecacci said, adding that “These individuals should be individually targeted,” whether by freezing their financial assets or denying them visas to enter other countries.

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Lodi Gyari with TYLP participants.

ICT launches Washington Internship Program for Tibetan-Americans

January 31, 2019

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) is pleased to launch an exclusive initiative that will select highly motivated Tibetan-American undergraduate and graduate students for a unique six- to eight-week summer internship placement in US Congressional offices in Washington, DC.

The Washington Internship Program for Tibetan-Americans (WIPTA) is part of ICT’s effort to empower the burgeoning Tibetan-American community by providing them with meaningful opportunities and exposure to the American political process and by fostering their civic engagement.

In light of the passing away of Lodi Gyari, former ICT President and Chair of the Board of Directors, ICT has chosen to honor his legacy by naming this program after him. Gyari, who died on Oct. 29, 2018, cared deeply about advocacy for Tibet and empowerment of the Tibetan people. Accordingly, the participants in WIPTA will be known as Lodi Gyari Fellows.

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UN Human Rights Council urged to pass resolution on China’s human rights violations

January 30, 2019

The International Campaign for Tibet is among several NGOS that sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Council urging it to pass a resolution at its upcoming session “expressing collective concern about worsening rights abuse in China and the government’s failure to follow through on its obligations and commitments.”

The joint letter, dated Jan. 30, 2019, says that such a resolution should “urge prompt, unfettered and independent access to all parts of the country, in particular Uyghur, other Turkic Muslim and Tibetan areas, by independent international human rights experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and relevant UN Special Rapporteurs.”

The letter adds, “Resisting efforts by China to shield itself from international scrutiny, analysis, and reporting is essential to preventing widespread impunity for violations which, in some cases and based on available reporting, may amount to crimes against humanity. This resistance has the greatest, and perhaps only, chance of success when conducted jointly, and when backed by a multi-pronged multilateral and bilateral effort.”

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Choekyi Released

Fears for health of Tibetan monk jailed for celebrating Dalai Lama’s birthday

January 30, 2019

There are growing fears about the welfare of a Tibetan monk who was released from prison this month after spending three-and-a-half years in jail for wearing a t-shirt that celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday.

The monk named Choekyi (Chinese:Queji), who was the subject of a European Parliament emergency resolution calling for his release last year is suffering from serious ill-health and pain that was exacerbated by hard labor and solitary confinement in prison. He was denied health care in custody, and, even since his release, he has not been allowed to receive medical treatment.

Choekyi was detained in June 2015 after he wore a t-shirt with Tibetan writing celebrating the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday that year and posted messages of good wishes on social media.

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FCCC report cover

New China foreign correspondents report shows need for access to Tibet, ICT says

January 29, 2019

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China’s 2018 report on media freedoms in that country underscores the need for overseas journalists and citizens to have reciprocal access to Tibet, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said today.

The report, titled “Under Watch: Reporting in China’s Surveillance State,” documents the severe restrictions China places on members of the international media who attempt to cover Tibet, a historically independent country that China has occupied and ruled with an iron fist for 70 years.

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Lawyer denied access to imprisoned Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk on eve of arrest anniversary

January 23, 2019

The lawyer of Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, who marks three years in a Chinese prison on Jan. 27, 2019, was denied access to him last week despite Tashi Wangchuk’s request to meet him to discuss making a new petition about his case.

Wangchuk was sentenced to five years in prison on May 2, 2018, accused of ‘separatism’ after appearing in a New York Times video speaking about the importance of protecting Tibetans’ ‘mother tongue.’ Court documents later showed his prosecution to be a sham.

One of Wangchuk’s lawyers, Lin Qilei, travelled to Dongchuan Prison in Xining City, Qinghai Province, on Jan. 15 in order to ascertain Wangchuk’s current situation and his wish to file a new petition for his release, according to a posting by China Human Rights Defenders. Wangchuk’s first, unsuccessful appeal against his sentence was heard in August 2018. According to PRC law, prisoners are entitled to file a petition if they are not satisfied by the judgement against them. According to Article 22 of this law, the prison should “without delay” handle these petitions.

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Personal thanks from ICT Chairman Richard Gere

January 22, 2019

A message from Richard Gere to ICT Supporters

As Chairman of your International Campaign for Tibet, it gives me great pleasure to share with you the good news of our most extraordinary recent success.

Against huge obstacles, including a formidable Chinese lobbying effort, a transitional Congress, and a Washington that continues to be divided, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act was passed unanimously in the House and the Senate, and was signed into law by President Trump on December 19th, 2018.

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Alignment of Xinjiang, Tibet security forces underline China’s lockdown policies for Tibetans and Uyghurs

January 22, 2019

There is growing evidence that military and security officials in Xinjiang (known to Uyghurs as East Turkestan) are collaborating more closely with their counterparts in the border areas of Tibet and elsewhere, reflecting the Chinese leadership’s alignment of Tibet and Xinjiang and the importance of both regions to the Chinese government in fulfilling its strategic and economic objectives. This cooperation in the imposition of hyper-securitization and militarization is consistent with a harsher, more coercive policy approach toward “ethnic minorities,” which has been particularly evident in Xinjiang with the imprisonment of around a million Uyghurs in internment camps.

The current Chinese Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, Chen Quanguo, who served in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) from 2011 to 2016, developed a system firstly in Tibet and now in Xinjiang that combines coercive securitization and militarization with efforts to accelerate political and cultural transformation. It has the stated official aim of: “breaking lineage, breaking roots, breaking connections, and breaking origins” of Uyghurs and Tibetans.[1] This reflects the ideologically driven preoccupation in Beijing— bearing little or no relation to the real situation on the ground—that the two major “ethnic minority” regions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) present a “grave and present danger” to China’s overall security.

The emphasis on the strengthened connections between military and security officials in Tibetan areas, particularly the TAR, and Xinjiang is linked to Chen’s tenure and is in the context of an aggressive ‘counter-terrorism’ drive in both areas with a strongly political dimension, integral to the new policy direction from Beijing that is being imposed on the Tibetan and Uyghur people.

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Galen Rowell Lhasa

Rowell Fund for Tibet Announces 2019 Grantees

January 18, 2019

The Board of Advisors of the Rowell Fund for Tibet has selected five Tibetan grantees for financial support totaling $ $34,469 for 2019. The winners were chosen from 26 project proposals and these will be carried out in the Tibetan community in India and other countries.

John Ackerly, a member of the Rowell Fund for Tibet Board of Advisors, said: “We want to congratulate the grant recipients this year. They carry on the spirit of adventure, social activism and social service that Galen and Barbara Rowell lived by. Friends and family of Galen and Barbara still help raise the funds for these grants, and we are the ones who decide who gets the grants. I can speak for all of us in saying that reading the applications about all the great work that Tibetans and Tibetan groups are doing, gives us inspiration and motivation to keep this fund going.”

The Rowell Fund for Tibet was established in 2003 in memory of the late Galen Rowell and his wife Barbara who died tragically in a plane crash in 2002. Galen Rowell was an internationally known outdoor photographer whose “Rainbow over the Potala Palace” has become an iconic photo for adventure travelers and Tibet watchers.

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Lodi Gyari

ICT to name its Tibetan Empowerment programs to honor the contribution of Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari

January 16, 2019

The Boards of the International Campaign for Tibet have decided to name the different Tibetan empowerment programs undertaken by our organization as the Lodi Gyari Tibetan Empowerment Program to honor his contribution and memory.

Mr. Gyari, the retired Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, senior official of the Central Tibetan Administration, and Executive Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, passed away on October 29, 2018 in San Francisco. Mr. Gyari had served as the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington DC while simultaneously holding the position of the President of the International Campaign for Tibet. During his tenure, Mr. Gyari was able to make profound political, economic and social contributions to the Tibetan cause. Through building on the visits by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and undertaking effective follow up initiatives, Mr. Gyari was able to successfully institutionalize the Tibetan issue within the United States government.

He was an impassioned advocate for the Tibetan people and believed that they should be empowered to take the lead in the Tibetan movement. Accordingly, during his tenure, the different offices of the International Campaign for Tibet initiated several programs aimed at benefiting the Tibetan people. They include the Tibetan Youth Leadership Program; The Rowell Fund for Tibet; Tibet Lobby Day; Tibetan Parliamentarians Program in Europe; and humanitarian assistance to the Tibetans in exile.

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Laying tracks in Tibet

Tibetans ordered to prostrate to pictures of Chinese President as Tibet leaders prioritize anti-Dalai Lama stance

January 15, 2019

As authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region emphasized their “clear-cut” stance against the Dalai Lama at meetings of the Region’s Party Congress last week, news emerged from eastern Tibet that Tibetans are being told to prostrate and make offerings to pictures of Xi Jinping.

TAR Chairman Che Dalha announced in his work report to the regional Party Congress that oppressive measures had been heightened, saying: “Tibet has firmly curbed and cracked down on secession, infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces [a political term encompassing the Dalai Lama and Tibet supporters] at home and abroad.”

Amid other signs of an intensified campaign against the Dalai Lama, in the eastern Tibetan area of Serthar county in Sichuan, Tibetans who receive official “poverty alleviation” subsidies from the government have been ordered to remove images of the Dalai Lama from their homes and to destroy their altars, according to information from former political prisoner Golok Jigme. Some families are even being compelled to display images of China’s leader Xi Jinping in their homes, and to prostrate and make offerings.

Another source told the International Campaign for Tibet that new housing provided for Tibetans relocated in settlements in Kham were already equipped with small altars – not with Buddhist icons, but with images of Chinese Party leaders.

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China’s claims about easing Tibet travel are an insufficient response to Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act

January 11, 2019

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act’s two lead sponsors in Congress have challenged the Chinese government to show through concrete action that it is opening up Tibet to the outside world.

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were reacting to reports in Chinese state media from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa that China was changing its policy regarding access to Tibet, a historically independent country that China has occupied for 70 years.

A China Daily report on Jan. 10, 2019 says, “Overseas tourists will find it easier and faster to apply for a travel permit to Tibet this year as the regional government makes efforts to boost tourism.”

In response, Sen. Rubio tweeted on Jan.11, 2019: “Seems the new Reciprocal Access to #Tibet law has gotten the attention of the Chinese Gov’t. Time will tell if they open up Tibet & stop brutally repressing the Tibetan people.”

Rubio also had a message for the Trump Administration. His tweet said, “In the meantime, @StateDept should swiftly implement the bill.”

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