Statement of Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay on the 55th Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day
Fifty-five years ago, thousands of Tibetans spontaneously gathered on this day in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet, to protect His Holiness the Dalai Lama and protest against Chinese occupation. Seven days later, His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Lhasa and fled to India. 80,000 Tibetans followed him into exile.
I visited Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh this January and was profoundly moved to see the path His Holiness the Dalai Lama took to enter India. I also visited Bomdila and Tuting, where thousands of Tibetans sought refuge. There is no escape from the painful reality that many of the elders who were forced to make the journey into exile in 1959 have died without fulfilling their dreams of returning to their homeland. Similarly, innumerable Tibetans in Tibet have died without reuniting with family members or realizing their freedom. I take great solace, however, that their hopes and dreams live and grow in their children.
Demonstrations of resilience and resolve by Tibetans inside Tibet from the uprisings and resistance in Kham and Amdo in the 1950s, to the protests in Lhasa in the 1980s, to the nation-wide uprising in 2008 and the recent self-immolations reveal that the struggle for Tibet will not abate. The Tibetan struggle today is led by a new generation of Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile. It is the younger generation of Tibetans in Tibet who clearly and loudly demand their identity, freedom and unity. The new generation of Tibetans in exile participates in similar endeavors.
School children in Chabcha have demanded Tibetan language instructions in their schools, Tibetans in Driru have refused to hoist Chinese flags on their rooftops, and outcries over the human loss and environmental destruction of Gyama mine in Meldro Gungkar reach our ears. These protests unambiguously refute the Chinese propaganda that, “except for a few, Tibetans are happy in Tibet.”
Since 2009, there have been 126 self-immolations all across Tibet. Despite repeated appeals not to engage in such drastic actions, the self-immolations have continued. Tsultrim Gyatso, a monk, who self immolated on December 19, 2013, wrote in his last testament: “Can you hear me? Can you see it? Can you hear it? I am compelled to burn my precious body for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for the release of the imprisoned Panchen Lama and for the welfare of the six million Tibetans.”
The Kashag expresses its deepest respect to all the brave men and women in Tibet. The Kashag is listening to the calls for the end of repression and suffering of Tibetans inside Tibet. It is for this reason that its primary and immediate objective is to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet through dialogue as soon as possible. At the same time, the Kashag needs a long-term strategy to strengthen and sustain our struggle, if necessary. One complements the other, and so the Kashag will make efforts to both resolve the issue of Tibet through dialogue and successfully sustain the Tibetan struggle.
My fellow Tibetans, we must bear in mind that the year 2020 will mark 70 years since the invasion of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China. By then, the generation of Tibetans with memories of a free Tibet will have greatly dwindled. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will turn 85 and by that year he will have led the Tibetan people for 70 uninterrupted years. The next generation of Tibetan leadership inside and outside Tibet has to cope with a crucial and challenging reality. Tibetans inside Tibet will have no personal memories of traditional Tibet, while Tibetans outside of Tibet will know only a life lived in exile. Exile Tibetans constitute only 2.5 percent of six million Tibetans but it is likely there will be equal number of Tibetans in the West and in India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Exile is a precarious phase of uncertainty and contingency, and occupation can be a dangerous transition to permanent subjugation. The challenge we face will be in reconciling the distance and gap between life in exile and life under Chinese occupation. We will have to learn to carry forward the freedom struggle under these very different Tibetan realities and experiences, none of which are rooted in personal memories of a free Tibet. How do we achieve this?
As a long-term strategy, we need to build self-reliance in the Tibetan world, in thought and action. Our more than 50-year-old movement cannot depend solely on others to help us achieve our goals. It is time to assume individual responsibility and collective leadership and stand on our own feet. We need to build our individual and collective strengths. We need to reflect deeply.
I believe that education is our most potent and realistic investment and tool. The more skillfully we educate our entire population, the more successfully we will develop strong foundations of self-reliant economic, technological, and governmental systems. Our global supporters know our cause is just and they value our Buddhist heritage. Tibetans embrace the values of humility, integrity, and resilience as the bedrock foundation of the Tibetan struggle.To that we must add modern education to achieve our goals. It is the combination of traditional values and contemporary education that will keep our struggle vigorous, dynamic, and formidable.
It is crucial that younger Tibetans study the language and history of the nation. It is equally important that they record the stories and narratives of individual families and ancestral land. Continue to enjoy momos in Tibetan restaurants and wear chubas in celebration of the Tibetan culture, but for identity to take strong roots we must educate ourselves, engage deeply with Tibetans from Tibet, and reflect individually on the challenges that lie ahead.2014 is a year to engage, educate, and empower ourselves and the movement.
To maintain unity and achieve effectiveness in the exile community, a central core is critical and for Tibetans, the Central Tibetan Administration serves as this irreplaceable core. The Kashag invites dedicated youth to take leadership positions in the Central Tibetan Administration and in other Tibet-related organizations.
In conclusion, I welcome the recent meeting between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama. I appreciate President Obama’s strong endorsement of the Middle Way Approach. A genuine autonomy for Tibet through the Middle Way Approach aspires to replace political repression with basic freedom, economic marginalization with economic empowerment, social discrimination with social equality, cultural assimilation with cultural promotion and environmental destruction with environmental protection. We are committed to the Middle Way as the most effective approach to end the suffering in Tibet. It is our hope that the new Chinese leadership led by President Xi Jinping will pay heed and adopt this pragmatic and moderate stand.
The Kashag would like to thank the great nation of India and its kind people. After assuming political responsibilities in Dharamsala, I came to realize more than ever how much India has supported and continues to support Tibet and the Tibetan people. The Kashag also extends deep appreciation to governments, parliamentarians, Tibet Support Groups and individuals around the world and urges them to continue the journey with us.
I am happy to announce that the Central Tibetan Administration will observe 2014 as the year of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, to pay tribute to his visionary leadership and contribution to Tibet and the world. I am also happy to remind Tibetans and our friends across the globe that 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 25th, we will also commemorate the 25th birthday of the 11th Panchen Gedun Choekyi Nyima.
The Tibetan people have risen time after time to overcome great adversities in the long history of our civilization. Today, our sense of identity, solidarity, and dignity is deeper than ever. If we remain united, and bring the rich traditions of the elders to interplay with the innovation and dynamism of the younger generation, I firmly believe that the Chinese government will have no choice but to address our aspirations.
Dear Tibetan brothers and sisters inside Tibet, our journey may be long and the challenges may appear daunting, but we will succeed. In Tawang, I saw the path His Holiness the Dalai Lama, our parents, and grandparents took from Tibet to India. From a distance, I could see the great mountains and rivers of Tibet. I took it as a good omen to begin 2014, that like you, I saw a path back to Tibet.
Finally, I pray for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the immediate resolution of the issue of Tibet.
10th March, 2014
Statement of the Tibetan Parliament Exile on the occasion of the 55th Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day
Today is the 55th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising which took place in Tibet’s capital Lhasa on 10th March 1959. This historic event took place as a culmination of events marked by the invasion and occupation of Tibet, subjugation of its people, and pursuit of actions which threatened the life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama under a policy of naked and all-out aggression pursued by the communist government of China. The people of Tibet, being no longer able to endure such a situation, displayed undaunted valour to rise in a spontaneous outburst of uprising. For all the Tibetan compatriots who died untimely deaths, or who have suffered or who to this day continue to suffer oppression for the national religious, political and fellow-nationals’ causes under the yoke of the imperialist and repressive policies of the government of China since that momentous event, we offer our admiration. We take this opportunity to express our appreciation to them and to praise them for their totally selfless and highly courageous deeds. We also use this occasion to offer our tribute to them; to express our solidarity with them; and, indeed, to bow in respect to them all.
Speaking in general terms, it is beyond dispute and a matter of common knowledge everywhere that Tibet and China have evolved as two uniquely different neighbouring countries, whether one speaks about their natural geographical formations, racial ethnicities, cultures, languages, customs and habits, and national histories. Nevertheless, as soon as it seized political power in China, the communist Party of China, using the pretext of a so-called ‘peaceful liberation,’ launched a military invasion of Tibet and occupied the entire territory. Not contended with that, it launched what it called campaigns of Democratic Reform, Cultural Revolution, and so on. Their real aim was to obliterate Tibet’s unique religious and cultural heritage, and people. They were highly atrocious policies of lie, deceit, and brazenness launched on successive occasions and under which countless numbers of innocent Tibetans were put to untimely deaths. These are universally known facts.
It is as a result of the past as well as the still continuing implementation of highly atrocious and deceitful policies of colonialism that the people of Tibet, being unable to endure the situation anymore, staged peaceful protest demonstrations on successive occasions. They did so since the 1980s, including the widespread one which engulfed the whole of Tibet in the Earth-Mouse Year in 2008. The Chinese government carried out savage, inhuman crackdowns on those peaceful demonstrations. Such reprisal actions drove the Tibetan people to even greater desperation and a feeling of utter helplessness. And so, giving up their all, and being driven to do so, they carried out protests by burning themselves, shouting slogans to voice their demands that His Holiness the Dalai Lama be invited back to Tibet, that Tibetans be given freedom, and so on. From the time monk Tapey immolated himself in Ngaba area of Domey in eastern Tibet on 27 February 2009 to the date of 13 February 2014, when Lobsang Dorje did so, also in Ngaba, a total of 126 Tibetans have carried out this form of extreme protest, according to the facts which became available and which have been verified by us. Of them, 108 have died. Within the community of the Tibetans in exile too, a man named Thupten Ngodup immolated himself on 27 April 1998 in India’s capital New Delhi. Since then, until 6 August 2013, when Karma Ngedhon Gyatso torched himself in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, a total of seven Tibetans have carried out such fiery protests. Of them, four died, while the remaining three survived.
The causes of the continuing protests by Tibetans in Tibet against the Chinese government, including in the form of self-immolations, are violent political repressions, cultural assimilation, economic marginalization, ethnic discrimination, nomadic displacement, environmental destruction, and so on. Everyone knows that the government of China has carried out and still continues to implement such hardline and cruel policies in Tibet.
In the year that has just gone by too, China did not relent even an inch to relax its policy of tight restrictions in Tibet. In 2013, the government of China dispatched a total of more than 18,000 cadres to the Kham Driru area alone. The multitude of purposes for this action included forcing the Tibetan people to show loyalty to the Communist Party of China and the People’s Republic of China under its rule and to fly the national flag of China. The residents of the area’s MowaTownship made clear their disapproval of such intimidation and coercive dicta from the authorities with various forms of protest, including by dumping the red flag of China into the local river. The Chinese police and army took extremely violent and strike-hard reprisal actions against them. In addition, many children were removed from their schools in this area and forced to return home. Also, everywhere in areas neighouring MowaTownship, army camps of various sizes as well as monitoring and investigation centres were set up. The Tibetan people were thereby subjected to high degrees of all manners of oppression and controls in their day to day lives. As a result, the situation once again came to resemble the period of the virulent campaigns during the Cultural Revolution. Also in the recent past, the people’s government in Dzoege County of Sichuan Province publicized a document with 16 clauses listing rules of reprisal actions required to be taken in response to self-immolation protests carried out by Tibetans. They include provisions to deprive civil and political rights of Tibetans and to intimidate and impose restrictions, and are already being implemented in full force.
Tibet, known as the Roof of the World, is also referred to as the globe’s third pole on account of its critical importance as the source of much of the Asian rivers, for its role in global climate change, and so on. Its environmental conditions have direct impact on other environments. Nevertheless, the government of China continues to carry out in Tibet indiscriminate building of numerous new electric power stations and water reserviours, mineral resource exploitations, clear felling of tree, fencing of pastures and grasslands, and building beyond limits highways and railway networks. Likewise, it also carries out unlimited building of dams, projects for diversion of rivers, and so on, thereby causing untold damage to Tibet’s natural environment. As a result, rivers and lakes affecting some three billion people across Asia, including China and India, have reached critically dangerous stages of drying up or stoppage. Last year, the Tibetan people of GedrongTownship in Dzatoe County of Kham Yulshul Prefecture (QinghaiProvince), staged a peaceful protest demonstration when the government of China initiated a mineral extraction project in the area. The Chinese government responded by sending in armed troops to crack down on them. The troops fired teargas shells on the protesters, jabbed them with high-voltage electric batons, used other forms of violence on the Tibetans, and detained numerous innocent Tibetans.
The government of China has dispatched a large number of work teams of cadres, backed by armed troops, to the villages and pastoral areas across Tibet. By such means, the people of Tibet have been deprived of their right to travel to other parts of Tibet or to be visited by Tibetans from other parts of Tibet. As regards economically productive activities like running shops and factories, and setting up projects of various kinds, the majority of them have come to be owned privately by ethnic Chinese people. The needy Tibetan villagers and nomads have, on the other hand, not at all benefitted from these.
In the monasteries, the main centres of Tibet’s religious and cultural heritage, the monks and nuns are, much against their wishes, being forced to listen to propaganda readings and to study the stands and policies and so on of the government of China. They are thereby being forced to turn their backs on the study, practice and teaching of their religion. As regards the displaying of visually liberating images of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for purposes of offering worship, a ban has been imposed. What is more, the Tibetan people are being coerced to blaspheme and libel against His Holiness the Dalai Lama with orders to isolate him in the fields of both religion and politics. Besides, since last year, a vicious policy called ensuring the purity of the monks was implemented in the Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in areas such as Amdo Labrang Monastery, Mogru Monastery and this remains in full force today. At the end of the year 2013, the living quarters of the ordinary monks and the places of worship of Kham Drongna Monastery were forced to shut down. Likewise, monasteries such as Rabten Gonpa and Tarmoe Gonpa located in Kham Nagshoe Driru Dzong were also forcibly shut down and the monks made to end all religious activities. Likewise, in the area of education, the government of China has shown absolutely no concern despite pleas made by students and numerous educated people, calling for Tibetan to be made the main language of teaching.
According to the 2013 Annual Report by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Dharamsala, the total number of Tibetans detained or jailed for carrying out political activities today stand at 920. In 2013 alone, 215 Tibetans were arrested on pretext of political activities and were sentenced.
Making use of the opportunity offered by the occasion today, we would again like to make one very emphatic reiteration: The nature of the Tibetan struggle remains a resolute one of non-violence, with commitment to the Middle Way Policy, without any sort of wavering. At all times, from the very beginning until now, the Central Tibetan Administration has continued to make efforts, in keeping with the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to resolve the issue of Tibet through dialogue with the government of China. This has been manifest to all those who have remained in enjoyment of freedom and democracy. Nevertheless, the government of China has at all times made various devious efforts to misrepresent the Tibetan struggle as being characteristically marked by violence, as indeed it is still doing now. For example, in 2008, when there was a violent incident in Zhongqing city in which a policeman on guard duty was killed in a clandestine attack, a false announcement was made to suggest that it was the work of a Tibetan terrorist. In 2014 too, when there was an arson attack on the gate of the Chinese Consulate in the US city of San Francisco, a suggestion was put out as if a Tibetan was connected with the incident. In particular, during the uprising protests across Tibet in 2008, or during the self-immolation protests by Tibetans since 2009 and, indeed, every time Tibetans carry out a peaceful protest action, a misrepresentation was invariably sought to be made to paint it as a violent action. All sorts of misrepresentations are being sought to be put out that the so-called violent protests are taking place on the basis of the instigation and with the infiltration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration. Internationally, the Chinese government has also increased pressure and criticism against governments, parliaments, organizations and even individuals on Tibet related issues. For example, efforts were made to prevent the meeting which recently took place between the US President Mr. Barack Obama and His Holiness the Dalai Lama and China also made it clear that it would never recognize the Special Coordinator on Tibet issues announced at that time by the United States government. But leave aside such major incidents; even minor ones were not spared. Even in an extreme case, Kochon Prize selection committee of TB experts (Stop TB partnership, WHO) unanimously nominated the Noble Peace Prize winner Doctors without Border (MSF) and Tibetan TB Control Programme at Delek Hospital, Dharamsala for their appreciative contribution to their fight against TB, for the prestigious 2013 Stop TB Partnership Kochon Prize. As a result of the Chinese government’s direct pressure, the formal approval could not be signed which therefore stands withdrawn. We are resolute in expressing our outrage against such evil and wanton interferences in the functioning of international organizations and in the freedoms of independent countries.
Nevertheless, today, there is a rising attention to the tragic situation in Tibet and increasing support for the Tibetan people as a result of it. Including the US government and Congress, governments and parliaments of many countries, international non-governmental human rights organizations, have expressed grave concern on the issue of Tibet and made appeals to the government of China in efforts towards achieving a Sino-Tibetan dialogue. In particular, on 21 February 2014, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the President of the United States of America, Mr Barack Obama, again met in the White House for about an hour, the latter expressed his government’s support for His Holiness’s Middle Way Policy designed as an effort for the resolution of the Sino-Tibetan dispute. Apart from that, President Obama also expressed his government’s deep concern over the greatly worsening situation in Tibet with regard to human rights and religious freedom. At the same time, he also issued an emphatic call on the government of China to enter into a meaningful dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives. However, the policy of the government of China towards the issue of Tibet has so far continued to harden and worsen considerably, without any sight or sound indicating a sign of liberalization. Such a state of affair remains a source of deep anguish to us. In November 2013, The People’s Republic of China got elected to the United Nations Human Rights council. Nevertheless, there are serious doubts about the government of China’s ability or willingness to fulfill its commitment to respect the provisions of the basic human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. This being the case, we strongly appeal with a great hope to the governments and peoples of this world, as well as, especially, to the ordinary people of China, urging them to be unbiased and seek truth accordingly.
Likewise, when we look in hindsight at the past 55 years, we notice that there have been continuous strong moves to indoctrinate the Tibetans in Tibet through propaganda announcements, from the government of China with regard to its positions, policies, and so on. Nevertheless, because its utterances were invariably incompatible with its deeds, there was no way the public could ever repose trust in the actions and behaviours of the government of China. It is an all too well known fact, therefore, that there are many ordinary people who are vehement while showing their disapproval and distrust of the government of China. Such being the situation, it is high time that the leaders of China give up their attitude of obstinate and invariable clinging to autocratic and narrow minded thinking. With a clear and open mind, coupled with an attitude of being an excellent human being, the leaders of China should adapt themselves to the developmental trends and moral ethos of the evolving world. By such a course of corrective and reformed behaviour, the Chinese leaders should make a clean break from their mistaken policy of the past. The time has come to realize the imperative to enter into a Sino-Tibetan dialogue and the Tibetan parliament in exile is taking the opportunity of this occasion to once again remind the Chinese leaders about it.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has, with a clear vision of the current, as well as near and distant future developments, and keeping in mind the best possible religious, political and public interests, devolved his entire administrative and political powers to a leadership elected by the Tibetan people themselves. Since that happened, the concerned main and branch organs of the Central Tibetan Administration have been discharging their responsibilities with utmost diligence. And Tibetans both in exile and those left behind in Tibet have been highly appreciative and supportive of the new development. In future too, the Tibetan people will remain true to their mutual oath-bound commitments, as with the state of inseparability between milk and water, in discharging their share of their respective bounden duties. By pooling together whatever knowledge, capability and sense of selfless service they have, and working even more cooperatively for the collective good, they will aim for even greater achievements in order to attain a greater level of higher common goals. This has, in fact, become a root cause for ensuring both our immediate and long-term interests. We therefore once again appeal to everyone concerned to make ever greater efforts, buoyed by an even higher level of inspiration, to realize the importance of working with all-round care and energy.
It is true, of course that the state and central governments of India, as well as the Department of Security of the Central Tibetan Administration, have been working with great diligence and to their utmost capability, to ensure the personal security of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Nevertheless, we should be aware of the fact that 55 years ago, China had openly and without any hesitation launched attacks which directly threatened the life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In keeping with such an attitude, the government of China could again be motivated, under a stratagem of deceit motivated by political requirement, to act again. It is under their dispensation that a section of people having no sense of karma, who are historically blemished, and who act without thinking, professing allegiance to Dholgyal but motivated only by monetary and other material considerations, have been strengthening their efforts to create discord among Tibetans in Tibet and carry out defamatory and blasphemous actions against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Keeping this in view, the intelligence agencies of the governments of the United States of America and India have emphasized the imperative to strengthen the personal security arrangements and precautions for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In keeping with these developments, it has become extremely important for the Central Tibetan Administration and all living Tibetans to remain in a high state of alert and contribute their lot to cooperatively address this collective concern.
The issue underlying the Tibetan struggle is concerned with being beneficial for global peace and it is imperative to see it resolved urgently. This being the case, governments, parliaments, associations, and individual business people across the world having concern for peace and justice have given selfless and courageous support to the just cause of the Tibetan people’s struggle, without being swayed or intimidated by the economic pressure tactics and coercive falsehood emanating from China. To them all we offer our heartfelt gratitude. At the same time, we take this opportunity to express our confidence that they will continue to stand by the side of truth and lend us their support more than ever before and we fervently appeal to them all accordingly. In particular, we greatly appreciate the appointment on 20 February this year of Dr. Sarah Sewall as the United States government’s Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the United States government for this gesture.
Fundamentally, with regard to the administrative matters, The Kashag, the executive organ of the Central Tibetan Administration, has been continuing to discharge its functions with a great sense of responsibility. On the part of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile too, lobbying and appeal campaigns have been carried out and continue to be carried out, urging the governments and parliaments, prominent public figures and the general populace both in India and across the world for support for the Tibetan cause, keeping in view the fundamental issue of Tibet in general terms and the tragic current situation in Tibet today in particular.
To all the leaders of governments, members of parliaments, organizations and private individuals, especially the central and local governments and people of India, who have provided all manners of help and support to the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan community in this period of highly critical dangers to Tibet and its historical inhabitants and environment, we express heartfelt thanks.
Finally, we fervently pray that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual lord of the Three Realms, a champion of world peace, live for a hundred eons and see all his wishes fulfilled with utmost spontaneity and that the just cause of Tibet may definitely prevail.
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The Tibetan Parliament in Exile, Dharamsala, India
10 March 2014