International Tibet scholars call on China to end harsh repressions in Tibet, should stop tactic of blaming the Dalai Lama

An international group of Tibet scholars have asked President Hu Jintao and China to take steps to end the harsh repression in Tibet saying “that silence is no longer an option for a group whose members have devoted their professional lives to the study of Tibet’s culture and history.”

In an open letter to President Hu Jintao made public on March 27, 2008, the 75 scholars, who have signed so far, said, “The group furthermore states that the tactic of blaming the unrest on the Dalai Lama masks a refusal, on the part of the Chinese government, to recognize the failures of its own policies.”

Following is the full text of the press statement and the open letter.

Press Release: International group of concerned Tibetan studies scholars submits an open letter to Chinese president Hu Jintao

March 27, 2008

An international group of scholars in the field of Tibetan Studies, a group whose areas of specialization include Tibetan religion, history, society and literature, have come together today to sign an open letter addressed to People’s Republic of China President Hu Jintao. The letter calls on President Hu and the government of the People’s Republic of China to take steps to end the harsh repression in Tibet that has followed in the wake of the Tibetan demonstrations that have been taking place over the course of the last two weeks.

The signatories also express their sympathy with the group of Chinese writers and intellectuals who submitted a petition to the Chinese government on the Tibet situation on March 22.

The group of scholars calls on the Chinese government to cease its use of force against Tibetans and to end the suppression of Tibetans’ basic right to the free expression of their opinions. The group furthermore states that the tactic of blaming the unrest on the Dalai Lama masks a refusal, on the part of the Chinese government, to recognize the failures of its own policies.

In their open letter, the scholars state that silence is no longer an option for a group whose members have devoted their professional lives to the study of Tibet’s culture and history. The restrictions placed on freedom of speech and expression in Tibet would be unacceptable to the signatories in their own lives; how can they be acceptable in the lives of Tibetans?

The signatories to the open letter are many of the leading scholars in Tibetan Studies. Coming from a number of countries, they teach and carry out research at some of the leading institutions in the field. As they note in their letter, however, “the civilization we study is not simply a subject of academic enquiry: it is the heritage and fabric of a living people.”

The group of concerned scholars invites colleagues and graduate students of Tibet and Tibetan civilization who have not yet signed the letter and would like to do so to visit www.tibetopenletter.org where they may sign electronically.

A statement by concerned Tibetan studies scholars on the current crisis in Tibet addressed to president Hu Jintao and the government of the People’s Republic of China

President Hu Jintao

People’s Republic of China

Zhongnanhai, Xichengqu, Beijing City

People’s Republic of China

Dear Mr. President,

Over the course of the last two weeks the world has witnessed an outbreak of protests across the Tibetan plateau, followed in most instances by a harsh, violent repression. In the majority of cases these protests have been peaceful. The result has been an unknown number of arrests and the loss of numerous lives, which have been overwhelmingly Tibetan. This has understandably triggered widespread concern and anguish across the globe. As scholars engaged in Tibetan Studies, we are especially disturbed by what has been happening. The civilization we study is not simply a subject of academic enquiry: it is the heritage and fabric of a living people and one of the world’s great cultural legacies. We express our deep sorrow at the horrible deaths of the innocent, including Chinese as well as Tibetans. Life has been altered for the worse in places with which we are well acquainted; tragedy has entered the lives of a people we know well. At the time this statement is being written, continued arrests and shootings are being reported even of those involved in peaceful protest, the accused are being subjected to summary justice without due process and basic rights, and countless others are being forced to repeat political slogans and denunciations of their religious leader.

Silence in the face of what is happening in Tibet is no longer an option. At this moment the suppression of political dissent appears to be the primary goal of authorities across all the Tibetan areas within China, which have been isolated from the rest of China and the outside world. But such actions will not eliminate the underlying sense of grievance to which Tibetans are giving voice. As scholars we have a vested interest in freedom of expression. The violation of that basic freedom and the criminalization of those sentiments that the Chinese government finds difficult to hear are counterproductive. They will contribute to instability and tension, not lessen them.

It cannot be that the problem lies in the refusal of Tibetans to live within restrictions on speech and expression that none of us would accept in our own lives. It is not a question of what Tibetans are saying: it is a question of how they are being heard and answered. The attribution of the current unrest to the Dalai Lama represents a reluctance on the part of the Chinese government to acknowledge and engage with policy failures that are surely the true cause of popular discontent. The government’s continuing demonization of the Dalai Lama, which falls far below any standard of discourse accepted by the international community, serves only to fuel Tibetan anger and alienation. A situation has been created which can only meet with the strongest protest from those of us who have dedicated our professional lives to understanding Tibet’s past and its present; its culture and its society. Indeed, the situation has generated widespread shock among peoples inside and outside China as well, and we write in full sympathy with the twelve-point petition submitted by a group of Chinese writers and intellectuals on 22 March.

Therefore, we call for an immediate end to the use of force against Tibetans within China. We call for an end to the suppression of Tibetan opinion, whatever form that suppression takes. And we call for the clear recognition that Tibetans, together with all citizens of China, are entitled to the full rights to free speech and expression guaranteed by international agreements and accepted human rights norms.

Jean-Luc Achard (Centre National de La Recherche Scientifique, Paris)

Agata Bareja-Starzyńska (Warsaw University)

Robert Barnett (Columbia University)

Christopher Beckwith (Indiana University)

Yael Bentor (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

Henk Blezer (Leiden University)

Anne-Marie Blondeau (?cole pratique des Hautes ?tudes, Paris)

Benjamin Bogin (Georgetown University)

Jens Braarvig (University of Oslo)

Katia Buffetrille (?cole pratique des Hautes ?tudes, Paris)

Jos? Ignacio Cabez?n (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Cathy Cantwell (University of Oxford)

Bryan J. Cuevas (Florida State University)

Jacob Dalton (Yale University)

Ronald Davidson (Fairfield University)

Karl Debreczeny (Independent Scholar)

Andreas Doctor (Kathmandu University)

Thierry Dodin (Bonn University)

Brandon Dotson (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)

Georges Dreyfus (Williams College)

Douglas S. Duckworth (University of North Carolina)

John Dunne (Emory University)

Johan Elverskog (Southern Methodist University)

Elena De Rossi Filibeck (University of Rome)

Carla Gianotti (Independent Scholar)

Maria Gruber (University of Applied Arts, Vienna)

Janet Gyatso (Harvard University)

Paul Harrison (Stanford University)

Lauran Hartley (Columbia University)

Mireille Helffer (Centre National de La Recherche Scientifique, Paris)

Isabelle Henrion-Dourcy (Universit? Laval, Qu?bec)

Toni Huber (Humboldt University , Berlin)

Ishihama Yumiko (Waseda University)

David Jackson (Rubin Museum of Art, New York)

Sarah Jacoby (Columbia University)

Marc des Jardins (Concordia University)

Matthew T. Kapstein (University of Chicago; ?cole pratique des Hautes ?tudes, Paris)

Gy?rgy Kara (Indiana University)

Samten Karmay (Centre National de La Recherche Scientifique, Paris)

P. Christiaan Klieger (Oakland Museum, California)

Deborah Klimburg-Salter (University of Vienna)

Leonard van der Kuijp (Harvard University)

Per Kvaerne (University of Oslo)

Erberto Lo Bue (University of Bologna)

Donald Lopez (University of Michigan)

Christian Luczanits (University of Vienna)

Sara McClintock (Emory University)

Carole McGranahan (University of Colorado)

Ariane Macdonald-Spanien (?cole pratique des Hautes ?tudes, Paris)

William Magee (Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Taiwan)

Lara Maconi (Institut Nationale des Langues et Civilizations Orientales, Paris)

Dan Martin (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

Rob Mayer (University of Oxford)

Fernand Meyer (?cole pratique des Hautes ?tudes, Paris)

Eric D. Mortensen (Guilford College)

Paul Nietupski (John Carroll University)

Giacomella Orofino (Universit? degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale)

Ulrich Pagel (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)

Andrew Quintman (Princeton University)

Fran?oise Robin (Institut Nationale des Langues et Civilizations Orientales, Paris)

Ulrike Roesler (University of Freiburg)

Geoffrey Samuel (Cardiff University)

Kurtis Schaeffer (University of Virginia)

Cristina Scherrer-Schaub (University of Lausanne)

Peter Schwieger (Bonn University)

Tsering Shakya (University of British Columbia)

Nicolas Sihle (University of Virginia)

Elliot Sperling (Indiana University)

Heather Stoddard (Institut Nationale des Langues et Civilizations Orientales, Paris)

Robert Thurman (Columbia University)

Takeuchi Tsuguhito (Kobe City University of Foreign Studies)

Gray Tuttle (Columbia University)

Emily Yeh (University of Colorado)

Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (University College, London)

Michael Zimmermann (University of Hamburg)

 

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