He lambasted the local cadres for perpetuating ethnic Han chauvinism and continuing the "ultra-leftist" policies of the Cultural Revolution, such as demonising the Dalai Lama.
He sacked the local party boss, ordered that thousands of Han Chinese cadres be replaced by Tibetans and issued what the Tibet scholar Robbie Barnett describes as "perhaps the closest thing in Chinese Communist Party history to a real apology".
"We feel that our party has let the Tibetan people down. We feel very bad!" Hu Yaobang told Tibetans on behalf of the party's central leadership, according to a member of his group, Wang Yao, as recorded in the book Resistance and Reform.
"The sole purpose of our Communist Party is to work for the happiness of people, to do good things for them. We have worked nearly 30 years, but the life of the Tibetan people has not been notably improved. Are we not to blame?"
One of the mysteries of modern Chinese politics is what goes through the mind of Hu Jintao when as President he honours Hu Yaobang's family shrine each Chinese New Year. In the nearly three decades since Hu Yaobang's extraordinary mea culpa, and 21 years since his death, Tibetan living standards have improved but the political situation remains at crisis point.
Two weeks ago, the head of the party's United Front Department told cadres to appoint only "politically reliable" monks and require clerics to play a leading role in "anti-separatist struggles".
And Tibetan sources revealed authorities had secretly sentenced Tibet's wealthiest businessman to life imprisonment, perhaps relating to a large donation to the Dalai Lama.
This week the official Xinhua news agency belatedly admitted that a "stray bullet" from security forces had killed a Tibetan protester on the Tibetan plateau, in western Sichuan province, while Tibetan sources put the death toll at three or four.
Visitors today to the Potala Palace look out over a Han Chinese-dominated business district, a lavish joint headquarters for the Communist Party and "autonomous" government, and occasional convoys of heavily armed police. The narrow cobblestone streets of the old Tibetan quarters crawl with police and their informants.
Tibetans are mostly too scared to talk openly with foreigners, but in dark corners after dusk many speak of their furious anger towards "the Chinese" as well as a near-obsessive faith in the Dalai Lama.
Formations of police patrols are as much a source of comfort and reassurance to many Han Chinese as they are a cause of anxiety and anger for Tibetans.
Two years ago, rioting Tibetans filled these streets with so much fire and blood that many Han witnesses still cannot bear to speak about it. At least 19 people died.
After the riots Zhang Yan shifted her small cosmetics business from Lhasa to more peaceful Shigatse. "We give them so many conditions and yet ... " she said, eyes filling with tears and unable to finish her sentence.
Parts of Lhasa still feel like a war zone but the situation to the north in Xinjiang is more serious.
About 200 people were killed there a year ago, mainly Han Chinese going about their business but also Uighurs killed by security forces. In the days after those riots, a Han construction worker spoke of seeing Uighurs slaughtering Han, "slicing their throats like lambs", before police opened fire, killing Uighurs.
"The Chinese have taken everything away and left us with nothing," a young Uighur in a restaurant said. "So we throw rocks and whatever we have in our hands, and they have guns."
And yet these two waves of race riots – China's worst violence since 1989 – were not accepted as evidence that hardline policies had reached their use-by date, but that they should be tightened further.
The stock response of Chinese leaders and official scholars is to claim things are fine. "The local, ordinary people love the country, they love the Communist Party of China," said Tibet's otherwise urbane and sophisticated deputy party chief, Hao Peng, on a rare foreign media tour.
The bloody race riots are blamed on the exiled Tibetan and Uighur leaders, the Dalai Lama and Rebiya Kadeer, or on biased Western media, or simply on the ungrateful character of Tibetans and Uighurs.
Tibetans remember Hu Yaobang fondly, even as a hero. "I admire Hu Yaobang's courage," said the Dalai Lama in 2005. But few Tibetans or Uighurs pause to thank Hu Jintao for anything. A report by the International Campaign For Tibet, Tibet at a Turning Point, blamed him for brutal massacres and political repression when he was party boss of Tibet in 1989. It blamed him for the "hardline policies against Tibetan culture and religion" that were formalised in 1994 and also for the appointment of hardliners since. But Hu Jintao is the most opaque of Chinese political leaders and the truth may be more complicated.
Robbie Barnett, of Columbia University, says that "the unravelling of Hu Yaobang's ideas" over the past two decades is "fascinating because it seems so unnecessary, so inimical to China's interests, and because it almost certainly triggered the recent protests".
"Why has China persisted with this lose-lose policy?" he asks. "Perhaps it's because the only people who do not lose from it are the hardline bureaucrats who run it."
September 4, 2010
Beijing has taken the same approach to criticism from abroad over its handling of Tibet, significantly raising the stakes by identifying Tibet as a "core interest." Beijing has given notice that unless the world adopts a "correct understanding" of Tibet by spurning any view contrary to the Communist Party line, there will be consequences for bilateral relations and it will be difficult for China to cooperate on the global economic recovery or other issues.
Washington has bent under the pressure. President Obama refused to schedule a meeting with the Dalai Lama until after his November 2009 visit to Beijing, although he did speak about Tibet there. Afterward, U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Jon Huntsman adopted Beijing's line, stating that the president's meeting with the Dalai Lama, and recent U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, had "trampled on a couple of China's core interests." These actions have serious implications for U.S. support for Tibet, for activists for freedom inside China, and the Dalai Lama and his democratic government in exile.
Often, when Chinese officials present their position on Tibet, senior U.S. officials cede ground by saying nothing publicly. Indeed, the words "Tibet" and "Dalai Lama" have gradually disappeared from the administration's vocabulary. Washington's official statements about the April earthquake in Yushu, an area that is 97% Tibetan, did not refer to Tibetans or Tibet.
The silence was even more troubling at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, major talks the U.S. and China held in Beijing in May. State Councilor Dai Binguo presented China's view on Tibet in his remarks at a joint session but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not respond or mention Tibet publicly. It was left to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, to state the U.S. position.
At a routine press briefing several days later, State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley deflected a question about the way Tibet was handled during the talks, saying "It's hard for me from halfway around the world to describe everything we discussed," despite having just given remarks on the U.S. positions on Burma and North Korea presented during the S&ED.
The silence of the Obama administration is peculiar since U.S. policy on Tibet is clear. Spelled out in the Tibet Policy Act, it supports, among other things, talks between the Dalai Lama and Beijing and respect for Tibetans' human rights and religious, linguistic and cultural heritage.
Past administrations have faithfully carried out this policy. The 2009 annual report on negotiations between Beijing and the Dalai Lama, required under the Act, recounts extensive contacts about Tibet between President George W. Bush and General Secretary Hu Jintao as well as between Chinese interlocutors and other American officials, such as the coordinator for Tibetan affairs, a position first created by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
The current Tibet coordinator, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Maria Otero, was not included in the giant U.S. delegation to the Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Her predecessor in the post, Paula Dobriansky, traveled to China four times and met with the Dalai Lama 13 times. The 2010 report, due in March, was only submitted to Congress on Wednesday.
The administration's downplaying of Tibet undermines Chinese liberal intellectuals and activists who have criticized Beijing's policies on Tibet at great risk to themselves. After the March 2008 uprising, a Chinese think tank called the Open Constitution Initiative issued a report challenging Beijing's position that the riots were incited by the Dalai Lama and criticizing the crackdown that followed. This organization was later shut down and its staff harassed.
In addition, 29 intellectuals, lawyers and activists signed an open letter in March 2008 supporting dialogue with the Dalai Lama and urging and end to official propaganda vilifying him and Tibetans. One of them, Liu Xiaobo was later prosecuted on subversion charges for his writings and sentenced to jail for 11 years.
American officials should know by now that nothing is gained by acquiescing to China's overbearing behavior on Tibet or any other issue. Adapting to Beijing's "correct understanding" of Tibet undermines not only the Dalai Lama and human rights for Tibetans, but also America's own "core interest" in seeing these respected in Tibet and China as well. To be credible, America must clearly and publicly pursue a well-established policy on Tibet.
Ellen Bork, Foreign Policy Initiative
“Encouraging substantive dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama is an important foreign policy objective of the United States. We continue to encourage representatives of the PRC and the Dalai Lama to hold direct and substantive discussions aimed at the resolution of difference, without precondition,” the report said.
The “Report on Tibet Negotiations: March 2009 - February 2010” outlines the “Status of discussions” between the two sides and recounts steps taken by the Obama administration to encourage the PRC government to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama “leading to a negotiated agreement on Tibet”.
“The US government believes that the Dalai Lama can be a constructive partner for China as it deals with the difficult challenge of continuing tensions in Tibetan areas. His views are widely reflected within Tibetan society, and he commands the respect of the vast majority of Tibetans. His consistent advocacy on non-violence is an important principle for making progress toward a lasting solution,” the report noted.
“China's engagement with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to resolve problems facing Tibetans is in the interests of both the Chinese government and the Tibetan people. Failure to address these problems will lead to greater tensions inside China and will be an impediment to China's social and economic development.”
In the 11-page report, the US government reiterated its call on China to respect the unique religious, linguistic and cultural heritage of the Tibetan people, and their human rights, and civil liberties.
The report, which was due in March, was submitted to the Congress only on August 18, a significant delay that critics say could imply “downplaying” of Tibet by Obama administration.
The US’s policy on Tibet is spelled out in the Tibet Policy Act 2002, and it supports, among other things, talks between the Dalai Lama and Beijing and respect for Tibetans' human rights and religious, linguistic and cultural heritage.
Under the act, the US government is required to submit its annual report on the negotiations between Beijing and Dalai Lama.
Nine rounds of talks held so far since 2002 between the two sides did not produce any concrete results.
After a hiatus of almost 15 months the two sides held their ninth round of dialogue in January 2010 in Beijing.
While welcoming the resumption of dialogue, the report said US was “disappointed that eight years of talks have not borne concrete results”.
“We hope that another round will be scheduled soon and will include discussion that will lead to solutions to the problems that Tibet and its people face.
“We continue to urge both sides to engage in substantive dialogue and hope to see a tenth round of dialogue that will lead to positive movement on questions related to Tibetans’ lives and livelihood,” the report said.
On August 1st 2007, thousands of Tibetans were attending the famous summer horse festival in Lithang County in the Tibetan region of Kham (Ch. Sichuan province). The horses are more like ponies, but the skill of their riders is impressive. At full gallop, the Khampa horsemen lean precariously sideways off the saddle, flop to the ground with arms dragging in the dust behind them and unprotected heads inches from the earth, and somehow manage to regain an upright position.
Banned during the Cultural Revolution, the festival has since been co-opted by Chinese authorities to celebrate the founding of the People's Liberation Army, the military arm of the Chinese government and the largest military force in the world. The year 2007 marked the PLA's 80th anniversary. It was a big deal in China, observed with glitzy musical stage productions re-enacting highlights of the army's history (minus 1989 Tiananmen) and rousing political speeches promoting its "glorious achievements". Snazzy new uniforms had even been specially tailored to mark the occasion.
But this atmosphere of Chinese national pride was about to be roundly disturbed at the Lithang horse festival by a 53-year-old nomad from rural Tibet. His name was Runngye Adak, and just before the official function began, he jumped up on stage and grabbed the microphone. Addressing the audience, he coolly but firmly voiced a number of grievances that were all articulated later in the protests that broke out the following Spring in Lhasa, and which spread across the entire Tibetan plateau.
A Western filmmaker, who requested anonymity, captured part of Adak's speech on video. Not knowing the language, he had no idea as to the significance of what he was filming. The tape was overlooked for years, but the footage has now been made public (with English subtitles) by Tibet support organizations to coincide with the third anniversary of the event. View footage at http://vimeo.com/13801972
"...These things have happened to us; did you hear what has happened to us? Although we can move our bodies, we cannot express what is in our hearts. You know? These days there are those who say we don't need the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is the one that we six million Tibetans truly [need]"
According to eye witnesses, Adak, cutting a striking figure in a white cowboy hat and traditional chupa slung over his shoulder, called for the release of political prisoners such as Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Dalai Lama's candidate for Panchen Lama, and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly respected monk and community leader, who is currently serving a life sentence on the dubious charge of "conspiring to cause explosions". Witnesses report Adak also saying that the Dalai Lama should return to Tibet. It seems that the nomad had taken the security personnel by surprise and was able to complete his address to roars of approval from the crowd before he was arrested by armed police.
China's Communist Party mouthpiece, Xinhua, said that hundreds of Tibetans gathered outside the local jail to demand Runggye Adak's release. The Associated Press later reported that scores of people were arrested in the aftermath.
Runggye Adak, known as a respected local figure and father of eleven, was charged with "provocation to subvert state power," and was indicted by the Kardze Intermediate People's Court on four counts ranging from disruption of law and order to state subversion. He was subsequently sentenced to eight years imprisonment with deprivation of political rights for four years. According to Radio Free Asia, during the trial, the judge stated that by calling for the Dalai Lama's return, Adak had "committed the crime of subverting the People's Republic of China."
In response, Runggye Adak told the court, "I wanted to raise Tibetan concerns and grievances, as there is no outlet for us to do so." He went on to say there is no one in Tibet who does not have faith in, loyalty to or the heartfelt wish to see the return of the Dalai Lama. He countered "propaganda" by the Chinese authorities that Tibetans have lost faith in the Dalai Lama, saying: "That is wrong, but we have no freedom to say so."
Adak's nephew, Adak Lopoe, was given ten years, and an art and music teacher named Kunkhyen was given nine years, both for crimes of endangering national security--in other words, for trying to inform the outside world about Adak's protest.
Runngye Adak's actions were labeled a "major political incident" by China's central government, but to Tibetans he became an instant hero. For a few minutes, an uncensored voice had been heard that mirrored their secret dreams and burning resentments.
The nomad's plea inspired renewed resistance to China's control in Lithang, which resulted in the harshest crackdown the region had seen in decades. A rigorous smear campaign against the Dalai Lama met with dismal failure, and was further hindered two months later by the conferring of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal on the Dalai Lama by President George W. Bush, which Tibetans celebrated as a personal victory.
Said President of the International Campaign for Tibet, Mary Beth Markey, "Criminalizing devotion to the Dalai Lama has been the undoing of their [Chinese authorities] efforts to win the hearts and minds of Tibetans and certainly contributed to the anger that erupted in March 2008."
According to ITSN, a global coalition of Tibet support organizations, Runggye Adak's family has only been able to visit him once in the past three years and there are currently fears for his health. He is serving out his sentence in Mianyang Prison, Sichuan Province, the same prison as Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, the monk whose release he had called for in his courageous stand for freedom.
Rebecca Novick, The Huffington Post
Posted: August 6, 2010 02:54 AM
The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner will hold an hour-long chat session to be broadcast on the Twitter account of Chinese writer Wang Lixiong, who has long been a critic of Beijing's policies in Tibet.
Wang said in a blog entry that the Dalai Lama -- reviled by Beijing as a separatist -- will respond to about 250 questions submitted by more than 1,100 web users on the mainland, where information about the monk is restricted.
Nearly 12,000 people selected the 250 questions by online voting done on a Google Moderator site, which was blocked in China on Thursday, according to Xiao Qiang, who heads the US-based China Digital Times.
The Dalai Lama joined Twitter, the popular micro-blogging site, earlier this year.
Although Twitter is blocked in China, Chinese users will be able to access the chat with the Dalai Lama, from 1200 GMT, as Twitter allows third-party applications and servers to freely use its data both inside and outside China.
This has made Twitter largely available in China, eliminating the need for the virtual proxy networks often used to circumvent the vast web of government Internet censorship sometimes dubbed the "Great Firewall of China", Xiao said.
"The Great Firewall has actually helped the Twitter community to grow in China in a way not seen around the world," he told AFP by telephone.
"This community has a particular political bond, which is anti-censorship. Many Twitter discussions are about Internet freedom and how to circumvent the so called Great Firewall in more sophisticated ways."
An estimated up to 150,000 Chinese have Twitter accounts, with as many as 100,000 of them physically living in the mainland, Xiao said.
China has called the Dalai Lama a "wolf in monk's clothing" and accused him of seeking to split the country, although he has repeatedly said he accepts Beijing's rule and is only seeking "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet.
A decade of dialogue between representatives of the Tibetan leader and China's communist government has failed to reach any substantive progress.
AFP, Beijing, 21 May 2010
Copyright © 2010 AFP
More than 30 men and women, including writers, bloggers, singers and environmentalists, have been detained or are imprisoned, mostly after sharing views or information about conditions in ethnic Tibetan areas, the International Campaign for Tibet said in a new report.
"Raging Storm: The crackdown on Tibetan writers and artists after Tibet's Spring 2008 protests" details scores of arrests and long jail sentences for many intellectuals.
Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in March 2008 gave way to deadly violence, with rioters torching shops and turning on residents, especially Han Chinese.
At least 19 people died in the 2008 unrest, which sparked waves of protests across Tibetan areas. Pro-Tibet groups overseas say more than 200 people were killed in a subsequent crackdown.
China's Communist Party-run government says that Tibet has historically belonged to China, and it is spending generously there to develop a poor remote area. Officials accuse the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled leader, of fanning separatism.
A new generation of young, often bilingual and tech-savvy, ethnic Tibetans have been exploring their ethnic identity in the wake of the 2008 protests, the report says.
"These (writings) have been published in blogs, articles in one-off or unauthorized literary magazines, in books published and distributed privately, and also in the lyrics of songs sung in public places, uploaded onto Youtube or as cellphone ringtones," the report said.
Their efforts, which challenge the official account of the events of 2008 as a conspiracy mounted by outside forces, have prompted the most wide-ranging suppression of Tibetan artists and intellectuals since the Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976, it said.
"For the first time since the Cultural Revolution, singers, artists and writers have been the target of a drive against Tibetan culture in which almost any expression of Tibetan identity not validated by the state can be branded 'splittist'."
Lhasa, the regional capital of Tibet, is introducing rules to restrict access to printing and photocopying services, state media reported, in what officials said was an effort to stop "illegal activities."
Under the rules, operators of printing and copying businesses in Lhasa must be cleared by the police, and must collect the names, addresses and identity card numbers of anyone using their services, said a report in the Lhasa Evening News last week.
"TORTURE WITHOUT TRACE"
Among the Tibetans under pressure is civil servant, essayist and editor Shogdung, who before 2008 had been considered a radical critic of Tibetan traditions and close to the Chinese state after he authored an article denouncing Buddhism.
However his latest book, "The line between Sky and Earth," is an exploration of the 2008 protests and their impact on Tibetan identity, and argues for the right to civil disobedience. It includes a section apologizing for earlier views and a discussion of the pressures and discriminations Tibetans face. "They have made everyone, be they close or distant, powerless, helpless and desperate," the report quotes it saying. He was detained on April 23 this year, and his whereabouts and welfare have been unknown since.
Two Tibetans who worked for Western NGOs received sentences of 14 years and life, apparently for attempting to pass on information about the situation in Tibet, the report said.
Singer Tashi Dhondup, who performed songs with lyrics mourning the dead and ongoing repression, including one with the title 'Torture Without Trace' was also detained in December and sentenced to 15 months of "re-education through labor."
The Qinghai provincial government's media department declined comment on Shogdung, Tashi Dhondup and other Tibetans detained there. The Tibetan government could not be reached for comment.
Reuters, Emma Graham-Harrison, BEIJING
Tue May 18, 2010 12:57am EDT
(Editing by Alex Richardson)
Although the first such talks under the Obama administration follow ethnic unrest in Xinjiang and Tibet and an overall deterioration in conditions in China, the Asian nation's growing economic power and international clout make it easier for it to shrug off critics, human rights experts said.
The U.S. State Department said the two-day, closed-door meeting in Washington would address areas including religious rights, rule of law and Internet freedom, an issue that put Google Inc on a collision course with Beijing last year and led the Web search giant to quit the Chinese market.
The dialogue, which was frozen between 2002 and 2008, is expected to include cases of numerous Chinese lawyers and human rights activists who have been detained or harassed by their government, the State Department said.
"Rule of law, religious freedom, freedom of expression, labor rights and other human rights issues of concern will be raised over a two-day period," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.
"Internet freedom is a dimension of our pursuit of freedom of expression," he said, adding that he was unsure whether the Google issue would be raised but wouldn't be surprised if it did come up.
Google, the world's top Internet search engine, said in January that it was no longer willing to censor Internet search results in China and might pull out of the country partly because of cyber attacks on its corporate infrastructure.
Two months later, Google shut its mainland Chinese-language portal.
A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Chinese authorities took the issue "very seriously," but had yet to respond specifically to U.S. calls for an open and thorough investigation into the cyber attacks on Google.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. group Human Rights Watch urged the United States to raise specific cases of detained lawyers and activists, as well as to prevent the talks from being "largely a rhetorical shell" as they are seen by much of the rights community.
"Over the past year, the Chinese government has tightened controls on Uighurs and Tibetans, launched attacks on lawyers and human rights defenders, maintained a chokehold on media freedom, and bolstered government surveillance and censoring of Internet communications," the letter to Clinton said.
The Buddhist region of Tibet was roiled by ethnic unrest ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, while Muslim Uighurs rioted last year in violence that left nearly 200 people dead.
China "has even obstructed civil society organizations, including groups working with victims of the May 2008 Sichuan earthquake and child victims of the 2008 toxic melamine milk scandal," Human Rights Watch said in the letter.
The plight of activists was underscored anew this week when China's top AIDS activist, former health ministry official Wan Yanhai, fled to the United States with his family, citing pressure from authorities, said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.
China's delegation, led by Chen Xu, the director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of International Organizations and Conferences, is being hosted by Mike Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in talks that also involve outside experts.
Complaints about China's rights practices increasingly fall on deaf ears as a booming economy amid a recession in the West has given Beijing confidence and diplomatic muscle at a time of rising nationalism among Chinese, analysts say.
After decades of double digit economic growth, showcased by the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai Expo, "the average Chinese citizen today is more well-disposed toward the Chinese government than the average American citizen is toward the American government," said Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group political risk consultancy.
Richardson of Human Rights Watch acknowledges the unfavorable winds for meaningful rights talks.
"It's absolutely true that they have become even more intransigent on human rights issues over the last couple of years as they are feeling very confident, and there are a lot of debates about whether these dialogues are really a useful exercise," Richardson said.
"But the only people who really win if they don't take place at all are people in the Chinese government."
By Paul Eckert
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed)
Growing up in mainland China, Ms. Zhu went through a transformation from having a distorted image of Tibet, to loving its culture and people after she visited there. Now an immigrant in Canada, she can’t seem to get Tibet out of her mind. Tibet has become a part of her life, like her pulse and breathing. That distant and mysterious land lies right at her life’s turning point and has been leading her toward milestone after milestone in her literary creations.
As Tibet is now the focus of international attention, the Epoch Times interviewed Ms. Zhu Rui in Canada, and asked her how she viewed Tibet, Tibetans, and their culture. During the interview her sensitive mind and soul took us on a journey, exploring that beautiful yet unfortunate snowy plateau.
My First Visit to Tibet: Chinese Han - Tibetan Conflicts
Ms. Zhu Rui: When I was young I had numerous meetings at which we were asked to recall the bitter past and be thankful for the sweet present. At that time, my impression about Tibet was that it was not only undeveloped, but also barbarous and to be feared. But later my perception of it changed.
It became a civilized, clean and picturesque place. I can’t pinpoint the exact cause of that change, as it is too distant in my memory. Like most Chinese, I was brainwashed by communist propaganda. Whatever was said about Tibet was not good, and I accepted that it was not good. In the 1980s, the Chinese communist regime seemed quiet on many sensitive issues—including on Tibet—and many works on Tibet from different angles appeared in China. I even found books on Tibet by foreign writers, and I became interested in the region.
My first trip to Tibet took place in 1997. On our drive to Bird Island in Qinghai Province, I saw the first Tibetan tent, so I asked our driver to stop the van. As we started toward the tent, the people in it, a Tibetan woman and her husband and two children, came out greeting us. Happily, they ushered us in and treated us with their favorite food: butter tea, and they offered their only cushion for us to sit on.
I left the hostess 10 yuan (approx. US$1.4) before we left. But another Han woman in our van asked the Tibetan woman, “Other people all practice family planning. How come you have two children?”
Back in the van, one of us exclaimed, “Tibetans are really poor!” Another one said, “Poor? Isn’t it good here?! These pastures are all free!” Hearing their conversation, thinking about how that Tibetan woman treated us with the best they had without seeking anything in return from us, my heart felt heavy.
As we reached a desolate stretch of land on our drive on the Qinghai-Tibetan highway, we saw a Tibetan couple with the wife carrying a baby walking on the side of road. They waved to us, wanting a lift. So I said to the driver, “Shall we give them a ride?” As if he didn’t hear my words, the driver stepped on the gas and the van moved faster. “Why didn’t you stop the van?” I asked. “It’ll be beyond the capacity of the van,” he replied. “It’s not true. We can take six or seven more passengers. They are so helpless in this deserted area. If we don’t give them a hand, who knows how long it will be, before they can expect to see another vehicle coming? Why can’t we help them?” “You are so naïve. You don’t know that Tibetans are dirty. If you allow them to step onto the van, you’ll all hate the odor on them.”
I knew I couldn’t make him change his mind and gave up. I looked out the window and saw that the hands of the Tibetan couple still raised but now frozen.
When we arrived in Tibet, I found that everything was different: the language, the clothing, the buildings, the religious sites—and I liked them all. As I was strolling down Barkhor Street—the busiest shopping street in Lhasa—I was totally absorbed. The earthen jars, the stringed flags, thang-ga paintings, turquoise necklaces, and costumes all amazed me. When I entered the Buddhist temples, I was awed by the beauty of the architecture. People in them were all so quiet and I was surrounded by an atmosphere of serenity.
My Second Visit to Tibet: Simplicity and Honesty
The second time I visited Tibet, I stayed with a Tibetan household because I wanted to see how they lived. The hostess never stopped chanting scriptures.
I visited Lhamo Lhatso, also known as Goddess Lake. It’s a holy lake in the heart of the Tibetan people. In identifying incarnations of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, the lake is consulted for clues. It was a hard journey to Lhamo Lhatso. There is no paved road and it took us a long time before we arrived. When I returned, there were lice in my hair and mud all over my body.
The hostess quietly washed all of my dirty clothes. I felt embarrassed. “I am so young; I can wash my own clothes. How could I let you do it for me?” I asked. “You just came back from a pilgrimage. So when I do something for you, I am doing something good. I am accumulating good karma,” she replied. “It was not a pilgrimage. I am of Han nationality. I don’t have any faith in my heart. I went there because I wanted to know my previous and future lives,” I continued. “It doesn’t make any difference as long as you went there,” she said.
I later moved to another farmer’s house that did not have electricity or running water. They made a living by weaving wool blankets. When it was time to leave, I said to them, “I’m leaving.” They didn’t expect me to go so soon, and brought out everything they thought was good, such as potatoes, and asked me to take them home. I said I wouldn’t, so they insisted that I take the blankets they made. I saw they were so sad at my leaving, so I said, “I’ll come again when farming starts.” Hearing that, their faces lit up, starting to count how many days were left before the farming started.
Their spiritual life is centered on giving, being grateful, and trust. These are typical Tibetan people.
My Work in Tibet: An Interview With a Master of Farm Slaves
After my first visit to Tibet, I started to create literary works featuring Tibet. Invited by the Society of Literary and Art Workers of Tibet Autonomous Region, I came to Tibet again and worked for the editorial department of the "Tibet Literature" . During this period, I took the opportunity to interview a master of farm slaves, a former Tibetan aristocrat who was referred to in the Chinese Communist regime’s propaganda materials.
Only then did I realize that Tibetan aristocrats are kindhearted, and every aristocratic family has a Buddha-worshipping hall. Worshipping Buddha and doing something good are major parts of their daily routines. In the past, many aristocratic families also offered food to beggars and wandering monks at their front doors every day. They would even generously meet the demands made by ruffians and those who goofed around if they came to their homes to beg for food during the Tibetan New Year.
In Tibet, beggars and poor people have never been discriminated against since Buddha Shakyamuni had been in that situation in the past.
The author of Seven Years in Tibet, Heinrich Harrer, who was an Austrian mountaineer, escaped to Tibet after he was arrested by the Indian authorities in the wake of Germany’s being defeated inWorld War II. When he first arrived at Lhasa, he looked extremely awful, but an aristocrat invited him to his household. Besides helping him have a bath and haircut, the family also offered him new clothes. He was also invited to all the aristocratic families one after another, including the Dalai Lama’s mother. That’s why he maintained a good friendship with the Dalai Lama all his life.
After I associated with Tibetan aristocrats, I strongly felt their innate quality of compassion. I thus started to reflect on some of my own conventional notions. Their behaviors were absolutely different from that of the Chinese regime's propaganda. Of course, there might be some rotten apples in every group in the world, and some individual Tibetan aristocrats might not be so good, but I have not met them so far. Nonetheless, when an atypical case was portrayed by the regime as a common phenomenon, it was spread widely, and became a scheme to deceive and fool the Chinese people purposely. To the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people, Tibet is a remote territory, and the only channel for them to know Tibet’s situation is the Chinese authorities’ propaganda.
There were various reasons for me to become interested in Tibet first and then to have passion for it afterward. Among others, I was very much moved by the Tibetans’ frankness, truthfulness and the mentality of allegiance. These traits are different from the Chinese people nowadays who always take into consideration their personal interests before doing anything. Tibetans are very intelligent, and are not as sly as the Chinese today.
Han People in Tibet
There are four categories of Han people living in Tibet. The first category is the cadres sent to work in Tibet. The second category is construction contractors and workers who were recruited from Sichuan and other provinces to construct Han-style buildings in the wake of the demolishing of many ancient Tibetan buildings. The third category is small business operators and vendors who moved to Tibet from the adjacent regions in Sichuan Province as they couldn’t make a living there due to the high unemployment rate. The fourth category is a small group of people who went to Tibet because of an interest in Tibetan culture, which is mainly composed of painters, artists and writers.
These artists would rather give up their comfortable lives in the hinterland of China and went to Tibet because they really love the culture there. In addition to their respect for Tibetan culture, they clearly know what is going on there. But they would never mention it, as they want to survive the atrocious rule by the Chinese Communist regime.
The vast majority of those who moved to Tibet did not understand Tibet, and their entering Tibet has resulted in damage to Tibet in various aspects. Take those small business operators and vendors for instance. They brought substandard commodities to Tibet from the hinterland of China. The goods many nomadic people came all the way from remote areas to buy from the market often turned out to be substandard. For instance, the thermos they bought cannot keep water warm and the footwear they bought was worn out in a few days.
Those Chinese construction contractors, workers, business operators, and vendors are mixed with Tibetans, but the Han people don’t appreciate or respect Tibetan culture at all. With the Chinese regime’s vicious propaganda against Tibet over the past years, they regard Tibetans’ unsophisticated traits as something underdeveloped, and the steadfastness of their belief as superstition.
The household where I stayed was on Barkhor Street in the old town of Lhasa, where many Chinese small business operators and vendors live nowadays. These merchants just dry their underpants and vests in the sun in front of Tibetan families’ Buddha-worshipping halls, irrespective of the fact that it would hurt Tibetans.
When I had a meal at small Chinese restaurant run by Han people from Sichuang Province during my first visit to Tibet, I asked the operator of the restaurant for the direction to Barkhor Street. It turned out that he warned me: “You’d better not go to Barkhor Street, as there is nothing meaningful you can see there. You should stay away from Tibetans, since they are not well-educated, If you approach them, you will be in danger.”
With this mentality, Han Chinese people find it difficult to associate with Tibetans. This is why the Dalai Lama didn’t want too many Han people migrating to Tibet. For one thing, it might deepen the conflicts between the two races, and for the other, Tibetan culture would be damaged tremendously.
Damage to the Tibetan Culture and Religion
The ancient Tibetan buildings are part of Tibetan culture, and have inestimable values in architecture, history, culture, and aesthetics. In the past, there were over 500 ancient buildings around Barkhor Street in Lhasa. But only 93 remained when I visited in 1997, the majority of them were demolished by the communist regime.
Tibetan Buddhism is the spirit of Tibet, and the biggest offence to Tibetans is to insult this spirit. Although the Chinese constitution stipulates the freedom of religious belief, this “freedom” does not exist in Tibet, and many obstructions are set to keep people away from their belief.
The current regulation forbids anyone under 18 years of age to become a monk. However, in the past, there was no age limit. In Tibet, temples are also schools, and many extraordinary Tibetan scholars, such as Gedun Chosphel, were educated in temples.
In the temples, one can be taught architecture, linguistics, literature, etc. Tibetan Buddhism is not just the essence of mankind’s spirituality; it also has close ties with science. In some aspects, it is even more advanced than current science. This contributes to the reason why many scientists generate interest in Tibetan Buddhism.
Unfortunately, the Chinese people under the communist regime do not bother to grasp a deeper understand of Tibetan culture. They hold groundless views on age regulations for temples, claiming that one would become ignorant and incompetent if entering the temple at a young age.
The regime also casts restrictions on what can be taught in the temples. Every temple has a work team from the regime. They turn the monk’s study time to communist patriotism education, with every monk needing to pass with a red certificate. Upon visiting one temple, a monk showed me his certificate.
Without such a certificate, the monk would be kicked out of the temple. Very often, the most disciplined monks were kicked out because they put their belief above the so called “patriotism education.”
What has happened in the temples now is communist politics under a religious coat, and is completely against the spirit of Buddhism.
The regime has also changed the religious system. Many systems in the temple that have been passed down for many generations have been abolished. Take the Geshe exam, for example. Geshe is the highest position in the temple, equivalent to PhD. The System of Debating Buddhist Scriptures has not been abolished, but has been changed completely.
In the past, monks would annually go to a valley close to Lhasa to hold their Buddhist Scriptures Debate forum. Now the number of monks permitted to participated is restricted, and often the forum is cancelled for no reason.
Religious festivals are the most illustrious and colorful part of Tibetan culture, but many of them have been completely eradicated now, like the Tibetan Calendar celebrations, considered to be the most important of the Tibetan festivals.
Another is the Lamp Festival, where Tibetans light butter lamps to commemorate the death of Master Zongkaba, a tradition upheld for the past several hundreds years. Although this festival has not been banned, when I was there, I saw many police, and plain clothed police present. Also, people who worked in the government were absolutely banned to participate in this activity.
Besides this, many other religious activities, such as the Treasure Bottle Mountain Worship, and Pine Branch Burning Heaven Worship, are also restricted.
Who Brings Moral Degeneration into Tibet?
Currently, Tibet is full of prostitutes; hairdressers on the streets of Lhasa are mostly brothels. One often spots seductively dressed females from the neighboring Sichuan province, wandering on the streets of Lhasa. They seduce men on the street and even make attempts on passing by monks.
According to one dermatologist at the People’s Hospital in Lhasa, before 1978, there was no single case of a sexually transmitted disease among the 11,081 people being surveyed. But in 2002, there were over 10 cases daily, and the diseases showed many variations.
Tibetan is taught as a foreign language
I have not met one cadre who works in Tibet and knows the Tibetan language. The first thing I did after immigrating to Canada was to learn English. Isn't that logical? Why wouldn’t someone who lived in Tibet and love Tibet learn the language?
A conqueror believes that the locals should learn their language. Therefore, Chinese Mandarin is the only official language used in large conferences and governmental meetings. This has brought major inconveniences to the Tibetans.
One Tibetan doctor who attended a medical meeting in Lhasa said to me, “This is too hard for me. Throughout this whole conference, there is no communication in Tibetan.” He showed me his Chinese brochure, “Even a side-by-side Tibetan translation would be better than nothing.” His Chinese was very poor. I asked him if that was the only incident. He responded, “It happens in every meeting.”
The situation in schools is the same—communication is only in Chinese. The Tibetan language is taught as a foreign language.
Wasteful and Corrupted Communist Officials
The Tibetan riot in March was a result of accumulated frustration on the China-Tibet situation. The Chinese communists have damaged and insulted the Tibetan people, culture, religion, and natural resources.
Ordinary Tibetans still live in poverty—their situation has not improved for several decades. The Chinese people may think that the communist regime has done its best to financially support Tibet. However, the true beneficiaries are those officials who work for the Chinese Communist Party. Ordinary Tibetans have felt no change.
What is the extent of the luxury and corruption of the Chinese officials? There was a government building in the Autonomous Region, however, officials felt it to be “insufficient” and believed there should be another. Therefore, they spent over US$100 million to build the Chongzhou Base in Chengdu City of Sichuan Province. After the construction was complete, the officials felt it was too far to travel, and thus abandoned the Base and built a second in a secret location. I happened to realize the existence of the Chongzhou Base through an official document.
The Derzhong Spring is a famous scenic resort. In 2000, the son of Raidi, the deputy secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, contracted a 40 year term at the resort. The cost of a guest house near the resort used to be US$2 per night. After the newly signed contract, the price soared so high that I could no longer afford it. Raidi’s son has been doing whatever he pleases in Derzhong. A friend of mine witnessed him hunting endangered wild yellow ducks.
How Much Do You Know About Tibet?
A Chinese youth came to my house and talked about the Westerners’ support of Tibet, “The Westerners know nothing about Tibet, and thus they speak nonsense about the Tibetan issue.” I asked, “How much do you know about Tibet?” He responded, “Tibet is part of China.” That’s what he considers, “knowing Tibet.” Unfortunately, he represents the majority of young Chinese.
This is solely due to the many years of censorship by the Chinese Communists. Tibet is a remote place for the Chinese. Not everyone would visit Tibet; even the tourists see only the surface.
It is difficult to learn a culture. I’ve been in Canada for more than a decade, and yet, I’m still a stranger to the Western culture.
The Tibetan culture is completely different from the Han culture. The majority of the Chinese people won’t even have a chance to visit Tibet. Their sole source of information is the Chinese Communist’s propaganda. Whether you like it or not, it’s everywhere. You’ll hear it while cooking, talking, and even going to the bathroom. It brainwashes you.
The Chinese Communists have completely destroyed the 5,000 years of Chinese culture and civilization during their 60 years of ruling. For example, the criticism over Confucius during the Cultural Revolution has precisely demolished the fundamental virtues of the Confucius philosophy—benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and humility, but retained the dross serving to the interest of the communist authority.
The constant patriotic education naturally led to the fanatical nationalism that is present today. In fact, the so-called Chinese patriotism and nationalism is merely a resurgence of chauvinistic power. As a result, the damage not only affects the Chinese, but the world as well.
The more I learn about Tibet, the more I feel a sense of crisis and fear for the loss of such a culture. It is a unique culture. It is not something that once lost, could be reproduced. There is no other culture that can replace the Tibetan culture.
By Lin Caifeng
Epoch Times Staff, Created: Sep 9, 2008, Last Updated: Sep 27, 2008
Brief Biography of Writer Zhu Rui
Ms Zhu Rui is a Han writer. She has published several novels, poems, and essays, with most of her works related to Tibet. After the Lhasa Massacre happened in March 2008, Ms Zhu published many articles on the Internet, including, Why Tibetans Want to Protest, Write to Some Chinese, A Letter to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Hope the One in Power Doesn’t Miss This Opportunity, Hope of Tibet, and Interview with Buddhist Monk Arjia Rinpoche.