Tibet Weekly Update – March 19, 2014

A listing of the top news developments in and around Tibet during the previous week.

Health of detained Tibetan abbot in danger

Silent protest outside Nangchen prison

Silent protest outside Nangchen prison for Khenpo Kartse on January 15, showing men, women and children gathered outside the prison.

New information has emerged regarding Khenpo Kartse, the highly respected religious figure and community leader held in detention since December 6, 2013. According to a source who spoke with Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Tibetan service, Khenpo Kartse, whose health has significantly declined since being detained, is now gravely ill and is in serious need of improved medical care. According to the same report, Khenpo Kartse was allowed to meet with his lawyer for the first time on February 26, 2014. His lawyer has since appealed to the authorities for urgent medical care. In addition, it is now believed that authorities are attempting to justify Khenpo Kartse’s detention by claiming that he housed “fugitive monks” at the monastery he heads, an accusation his lawyer describes as “‘not compatible with reality,” according to RFA.
 

Authorities display overwhelming force around sensitive March period

military buildup

A screenshot of the March military buildup around Lhasa. (Photo: Woeser)

While Tibetans and supporters around the world commemorated the 55th anniversary of the March 10, 1959 uprising against Chinese forces amassed in Lhasa, which led to the Dalai Lama’s daring escape into exile, Tibetans in Tibet were confronted with an “unprecedented” display of martial force, organized by authorities in Tibetan areas to coincide with the sensitive March period. In addition to the events that unfolded in 1959, peaceful protests which began in Lhasa on the March 10 anniversary in 2008 quickly spread across the entire Tibetan plateau, the overwhelming majority of which were peaceful. In Lhasa, the protests escalated into a riot on March 14, which was subsequently seized upon by state media as emblematic of Tibetan protests. The award winning Tibetan writer and commentator, Woeser, posted screen shots from video of this year’s military build-up broadcast by the official state-run Tibetan television station, XZTV.
 

Failed promises at the forefront of new book by long-serving Tibetan Party cadre

Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile

The Dalai Lama inaugurates the newly renovated Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile. (Photo: VOA Tibetan Service)

In the 55 years since the uprising, the Dalai Lama and Tibetans in exile have worked to build thriving democratic institutions. On Tuesday, March 11, the Dalai Lama inaugurated the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile’s newly renovated building on the first day of its latest session in Dharamsala, India, seat of the Tibetan exile community.

The Tibetan parliament-in-exile and the Central Tibetan Administration’s elected leadership symbolize the long-standing commitment to democratic reforms initiated by the Dalai Lama. The fulfillment of these reforms stand in stark contrast to the failed promises made to the Tibetan people by the Chinese Communist Party since before its invasion of Tibet in 1949. Those failed promises are at the center of a recently published book, “A Long Way to Equality and Unity,” by long-time Communist Party member, Phuntso Wangye (often referred to as Phunwang). In this latest compilation of essays, Phuntso Wangye deftly criticizes the Chinese Communist Party for its failed promises to the Tibetan people and encourages the current group of Chinese leaders to allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet, as well as enable greater autonomy for Tibetans and other minority nationalities in the People’s Republic of China.

Phuntso Wangye

Phuntso Wangye, during an interview in Beijing in 2006. (Photo: Reuters)

Phuntso Wangye, described by Robbie Barnett, Director of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia, as a “man who is beyond fear,” stands as a unique witness to modern Tibetan history. Phuntso Wangye joined with the Chinese Communists during China’s revolution in the hopes of bringing political reforms to Tibet. However, Phuntso Wangye fell prey to the inner turmoil of Communist politics and in 1960 he was imprisoned and forced to spend the ensuing 18 years in solitary confinement. Today, Phuntso Wangye lives in Beijing and is believed to be in failing health, though he remains one of the few influential Tibetan voices in the Communist Party.
 

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