Tibet Activists Hold Online Press Conference

In what is believed to be the first press conference using the video-chat program Google +, Tibet supporters from the International Tibet Network, Tibetan Women's Association, and Students for a Free Tibet came together on July 15 to discuss the current situation in Tibet.
The press conference addressed the closing of central Tibet (Ch: Tibet Autonomous Region) to foreign tourists to mark the 60th Anniversary of the 17 Point Agreement as well as recent crackdowns on Tibetan protesters.
Panelists included Tenzin Dorjee of Students for a Free Tibet, Dhardon Sharling of the Tibetan Women's Association, and Tenzin Jigme and Allison Reynolds of the International Tibet Network.
Speaking of the celebrations commemorating the 60th Anniversary, Jigme said, "While Galas, exhibitions and book launches are being held in Lhasa, Tibetans from Kham and Amdo are being brutally repressed - a part of life in occupied Tibet that China is not showcasing in its propaganda events."
To get an idea of what is really happening in Tibet, he said, one must look in Tibetan homes and Tibetan monasteries.
Reynolds spoke about how China's "extreme mechanisms of control," including deaths in monasteries such as Karze, long prison sentences for demonstrators, and the current security situation in Lhasa have only fueled more protests.
Strategic nonviolence
One main topic during the press conference was the non-violent forms of resistance that are currently taking place among Tibetans.
One of these acts of resistance involves the boycott of Chinese vegetable shops in certain areas of Tibet. The boycott started when a small group of Tibetans in a specific area decided to stop buying from Chinese vegetable shops. The movement grew so large that some Chinese shops were forced to close down, enabling Tibetan vegetable sellers to open new shops. The movement was so successful that it has spread to neighboring areas.
Dorjee described such tactics as using "personal and social space to make change on the ground, at the grassroots level." He termed these types of resistance "strategic nonviolence," saying that the boycott of the vegetable shops represents a "fundamental shift" in the Tibetan struggle.
Again using a peaceful strategy to keep their culture alive, some Tibetans have started making a conscious effort to read and speak only in Tibetan when they are among family and friends. Some groups of Tibetans have agreed among themselves to start paying a voluntary fine every time they speak a Chinese word, despite the fact that this tactic caused trouble for some monks.
Many Tibetans are starting to educate themselves about non-violent strategies and how they have worked for leaders in the past such as Gandhi, according to Dorjee. Tibetans' interest in these types of movements is no doubt fueled by their devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his firm commitment to peace and nonviolence.
"It is time for the world to put their weight behind the Tibetan peoples' nonviolent struggle for freedom," Dorjee said.
Hope for the future
Speaking about the future of Tibet and China, Dorjee drew on an opinion held by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness claims that while 60 years is the long time in the life of a person, it is a very short amount of time in the life of a nation.
Dorjee said that things may change economically for China, calling the recent economic growth in China a "miracle."
"Miracles don't last," he said.
He also claimed that human rights and economic interest are not exclusive; just because a country opposes rights abuses does not mean its economy goes down.
Dorjee called on China and the international community to act. He urged China to withdraw forces from Tibet and release detainees, for governments internationally to issue statements of concern about the situation in Tibet, for the media to press for access in Tibet, and for the next generation of Chinese leadership to radically change Tibet policy.
Sharling spoke of the importance of actual action. Countless resolutions have been passed but not implemented, she said. She spoke of the importance of pressuring one's country to implement resolutions related to Tibet, and also advised tourists in Tibet to request a visit to Chinese prisons.
"We are not understanding human rights and equality as much as we should be," she said, speaking of the importance of "continued action and consistent action."


Wave of Unrest Rocks China

BEIJING—A wave of violent unrest in urban areas of China over the past three weeks is testing the Communist Party's efforts to maintain control over an increasingly complex and fractious society, forcing it to repeatedly deploy its massive security forces to contain public anger over economic and political grievances.

The simultaneous challenge to social order in several cities from the industrial north to the export-oriented south represents a new threat for China's leaders in the politically sensitive run-up to a once-a-decade leadership change next year, even though for now the violence doesn't appear to be coordinated.

In the latest disturbance, armed police were struggling to restore order in a manufacturing town in southern China Monday after deploying tear gas and armored vehicles against hundreds of migrant workers who overturned police cars, smashed windows and torched government buildings there the night before.

The protests, which began Friday night in Zengcheng, in the southern province of Guangdong, followed serious rioting in another city in central China last week, plus bomb attacks on government facilities in two other cities in the past three weeks, and ethnic unrest in the northern region of Inner Mongolia last month.

Antigovernment protests have become increasingly common in China in recent years, according to the government's own figures, but they have been mainly confined to rural areas, often where farmers have been thrown off their land by property developers and local officials.

The latest unrest, by contrast, involves violent protests from individuals and large crowds in China's cities, where public anger is growing over issues including corruption and police abuses.

There is no evidence to suggest the recent violence is part of a coordinated movement—the party's greatest fear—nor do the events threaten its grip on power given the strength of China's security apparatus, and its booming economy, analysts say. They are nonetheless troubling for China's government which, unnerved by unrest in the Arab world, has detained dozens of dissidents since appeals for a "Jasmine Revolution" in China began circulating online in February. The Mideast uprisings so far haven't inspired similar mass protests in China.

The recent violence, however, has exposed the limits of the government's ability to control the urban population using a sophisticated array of tools from Internet censorship to surveillance—part of what party leaders refer to as "social management."

Authorities have turned to displays of raw power, deploying paramilitary police and armored vehicles in at least three cities in as many weeks, to prevent the violence from spiraling further as protesters have repeatedly directed their anger at government buildings, often ostentatious symbols of power.

What connects the violence is the way that a flashpoint—in the case of Inner Mongolia, the death of a Mongol at the hands of a Han Chinese truck driver, and in southern China, the assault by security personnel on a pregnant migrant worker—sets off much wider conflagrations.

The disturbances could reflect badly on President Hu Jintao, who has tried to promote the concept of a "harmonious society" and who is due to retire as party chief next year.

"There's an increasing sense of frustration that [leaders] are unable to put out a consistent, unifying message, even within the Party," said Kerry Brown, head of the Asia program at Chatham House, who met senior party officials last week. "Local officials are overreacting partly because of a lack of clear leadership at the top."

But the unrest is likely to strengthen the clout of Zhou Yongkang, who technically ranks ninth of nine on the Politburo Standing Committee but wields huge power as he oversees the police, intelligence agencies, prosecutors and courts.

Social unrest has been rising steadily in recent years: In 2007, China had more than 80,000 "mass incidents," up from above 60,000 in 2006, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, although many involved no more than a few dozen people protesting against local officials. No authoritative estimates have been released since then, though analysts citing leaked official figures put such incidents at 127,000 in 2008.

Since February, Messrs. Hu and Zhou have called for tighter restrictions on the Internet, which provides a conduit for people to share anger at government policies and malfeasance and learn about unrest.

Authorities have been careful to balance their use of force with conciliatory gestures, including the removal of some local officials. State media have also been reporting the unrest relatively quickly and openly, compared with previous years, in what some analysts see as an attempt by the government to take control of the narrative ahead of bloggers and other unofficial media.

A Monday editorial in the Global Times, a tabloid linked to the Communist Party, warned against trying to connect the recent incidents of unrest and draw conclusions about China's social stability. "China is not a nation where public anger collectively seeks to topple the existing order. It is time to debunk this ludicrous lie," it said.

The violence in Zengcheng, a town of about 800,000 near Guangzhou, began Friday night when security personnel pushed to the ground Wang Lianmei, a 20-year-old pregnant street vendor from the western province of Sichuan, as they tried to clear her stall from the road, according to state media. A crowd of migrant workers began attacking security guards and police with stones and bricks, as rumors spread that Ms. Wang had been injured and her husband, 28-year-old Tang Xuecai, killed, the state media reports said.

Local authorities tried to quell the unrest over the weekend by setting up a special task force to investigate the case, arresting 25 people and organizing a news conference at which Mr. Tang said that both his wife and their unborn child were unhurt, the reports said.

Xu Zhibiao, Zengcheng's Party chief, went to visit Ms. Wang in the hospital and took her a basket of fruit, the China Daily said.

But the violence flared again on Sunday night, witnesses said.

"We were all told not to go out on the street," said Dong Xingguo, a migrant from Sichuan who is working as an IT engineer in Zengcheng.

A Zengcheng government spokesman said: "Currently the situation in Zengcheng is stable. No death toll." He confirmed that there were still riot police on the streets to keep the peace.

Andrew Browne and Jason Dean in Beijing and Yang Jie in Shanghai contributed to this article.
Write to Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com


C100 Member and ICT Chairman Richard Gere testifies before House Foreign Affairs Committee

Madam Chairman, Congressman Berman, Members of the Committee: As Chairman of the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet, I appreciate the opportunity to testify on an issue that challenges our moral compass and our ability to settle fundamental differences between peoples without resorting to violence.  There are few international issues that have remained unresolved as long as Tibet has, nor one that has so intensely engaged the emotions of the American people. We care about Tibet. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "The Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949 does not become less criminal because it has remained in place over a long period of time...the Chinese have been brutal and have made no bones about it and have made no apologies for it."

The question of Tibet’s incorporation into the People’s Republic of China and the status of the Tibetans impacted by Chinese rule is an issue that continues to create obstacles in the U.S.-China relationship, and for good reason. China resolutely refuses to recognize the Tibetans’ basic rights as defined not only by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also by the Chinese Constitution that contains clear protections for national minorities whether they are Uyghurs, Mongolians or Tibetans. I would like to note that more recently, we have begun to witness the same intensified persecutions against Chinese citizens also. Artists, writers, poets, activists, lawyers and free thinkers -- even simple farmers have been aggressively pursued, in some cases “disappeared,” imprisoned and even tortured – all outside of the framework of law. The vast apparatus of the People’s Republic of China moves against any expression of free-thinking that is perceived as challenging the authority of the Communist Party -- no matter how nonviolent and benign -- which sounds suspiciously like North Korea, Burma and any other authoritarian regime on the planet.

We should view the subjects of today’s hearing – North Korea, Burma and Tibet – as case studies that are not dissimilar to failed systems where long-simmering tensions have erupted into violence elsewhere in the world. Cases where legitimate grievances are left unattended and fundamental freedoms are violently suppressed where the voice of the people is stifled and the rule of law fails to protect, chronically and systematically. 

To quote Secretary Clinton, Beijing is on a "fool's errand” to think it is immune to change or that it can continue to suppress the will of its people to communicate freely as human beings on this small, interconnected planet.

If the concept of the will of the people is meaningful to us at all -- as many believe it should be -- then we need to look very carefully at how we engage the People’s Republic of China vis-a-vis Tibet. Here we can do and must do better.

We cannot engage the Chinese Government while forgetting our foundational principles of democracy and human rights. We cannot disconnect from people’s quest for happiness -- therein lies the stability and international security for the whole planet.  The more we create policies driven by a sustainable, long-term commitment to universal values, the less vulnerable our societies will be to sudden -- and often violent -- shifts in global dynamics.

Recent events throughout the world remind us that policies designed to maintain the status quo -- when the status quo is against the will of the people -- have failed. This is morally wrong and puts us on the wrong side of history. 

President Obama has rightly championed the universality of human rights, and the Administration seems to have found a voice in discussing universal rights: “We support a set of universal rights. Those rights include free speech; the freedom of peaceful assembly; freedom of religion; equality for men and women under the rule of law; and the right to choose your own leaders.”  These rights are also the rights of Tibetans and Chinese, and as the US-China relationship evolves, we must define policies with China that uphold the moral framework of who we are as a people and advance the strengths of our bilateral relationship.

Congress understands this imperative.  For years, you wrestled with the annual debate over Most Favored Nations trade status for China, weighing China’s human rights record against the potential for U.S. business investment in China.  I believe you eventually came down on the wrong side of this argument, granting China permanent MFN status, but in the debate, Congress wisely identified policies and resources to try to move China towards a more progressive political system, a system that would provide protections for the human and civil rights of its people and encourage the development of a vital civil society.  In fact, if not for Congressional initiatives, I believe Tibet might not have survived, given the urgency and complexity of the U.S.-China relationship. 

Now, I am no stranger to Capitol Hill.  I know many of you well but many of you are new to this Committee and were not here for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first congressional audience in 1987 or the Tibetan Policy Act in 2002, or the Congressional Gold Medal presentation in 2007 or the Committee’s last hearing on Tibet in 2007.  

I can tell you that you inherit an important legacy.  Republican and Democratic Chairmen of this Committee and its Senate counterpart, Jesse Helms, Claiborne Pell, Ben Gilman and Tom Lantos led their colleagues in a strong bipartisan response to the outrages in Tibet.  I ask you to carry this legacy on.

Why has Congress acted so deliberately to help save Tibet?   In March 2008, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Dharamsala as protests against Chinese misrule spread across the Tibetan plateau. She poignantly described the human rights situation in Tibet as “a challenge to the conscience of the world."  Speaker John Boehner, standing next to the Dalai Lama in the Capitol rotunda said, “the people of Tibet have become well-acquainted with brutality and cruelty…we will never forget the people of Tibet.”

But much has changed since the Committee’s last hearing on Tibet. 

First, the Chinese government has intensified its already restrictive policies that undermine Tibetan culture and religion, increasingly so since the 2008 uprisings in Tibet.  Tibet remains largely sealed off to the outside world. Tibetans’ language has been downgraded, their economic resources appropriated by the state and the people have very little freedom of expression. Hundreds of Tibetans, including monks and nuns, remain in prison for engaging in nonviolent dissent and are subjected to torture or ‘reeducation.’ The Chinese Communist Party has even gone so far as to say that the reincarnation of Tibetan lamas cannot be recognized without the permission of the Party. This is a distinct violation of a religious and cultural tradition that has been in place for a thousand years.  This from a communist government that is by its own definition atheistic.

There are also now more Chinese than Tibetans living in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa while other areas remain under a form of military occupation. In Ngaba county, eastern Tibet, a young monk named Phuntsok recently set himself on fire in protest of the harsh reality Tibetans inside Tibet continue to endure.  His death prompted prayers – not revolt – but the Chinese authorities fearing the spread of a jasmine-like revolution in already restive Tibet – locked down Phuntsok’s monastery, no food, no communication, no prayers -- and relocated some 300 monks to unknown locations for enforced “patriotic reeducation.”

Second, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has fully devolved his responsibilities in the Tibetan exile government to a democratically elected Prime Minister who will serve as the Tibetan people’s head of government. This is the culmination of the Dalai Lama’s decades-long effort to build a genuine democracy for his people. Today, this exile government does function democratically with three distinct branches, the Central Tibetan Administration, the Parliament in Exile and the Supreme Justice Commission.

The new popularly-elected prime minister, or Kalon Tripa, is Dr. Lobsang Sangay.  This remarkable new leader was born a refugee in India.  His parents, originally nomads, sold  a cow to pay for his education.  He seized the opportunity -- provided by the Untied States Congress -- to study in America under the Tibet Fulbright Program, which has brought more than 300 Tibetans to American universities since 1993. Lobsang Sangay earned his law degree from HarvardUniversity and was serving as a Research Fellow at Harvard’s East Asian Legal Studeis Program at the time of his election.  He now returns to India to guide the Tibetan people through this unprecedented transition.    

I urge the Committee to hear directly from Tibetan leaders who represent the views and priorities of their own people.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be in Washington for 10 days in July.  Lobsang Sangay will be here as well.  Mr. Lodi Gyari, the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is a Washington resident.

Third, as China expands economically, it has assumed a far more self-confident posture.  I imagine that the Committee and the Administration may be familiar with this dynamic in many areas such as currency, intellectual property, and the South China Sea. Anyone, anywhere who voices concern for China’s policies in Tibet are met with shrill and dismissive attacks.  China now includes Tibet as a “core issue” of sovereignty and territorial integrity- along with Hong Kong and Taiwan- effectively taking them off the table for discussion. Tibet has not been afforded the privileges of autonomy that Hong Kong enjoys under the ‘one party, two systems’ rubric although, ironically, the “17 point agreement” signed by the Chinese and Tibetan governments in 1951 was the first instance of this system.  The agreement faltered and ultimately failed and was renounced by both sides following the 1959 escape of the Dalai Lama into exile.   

The fact is that the cycle of uprising and repression will continue in Tibet unless China deals with the legitimate underlying grievances of the Tibetan people. This is as clear today as it was in 1959.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who seeks a negotiated solution for Tibet based on the needs of both Tibetans and Chinese within the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, is facing a Chinese system that in practice pits Chinese interests against Tibetan interests and seeks assimilation rather than protection of Tibetan identity. It’s a Chinese policy planned by technocrats in Beijing who are thousands of miles and thousands of years distanced from the Tibetan experience.  Stability achieved through the will of the people, not through force or coercion is the answer for Tibet.  The Dalai Lama is the strongest influence in the Tibetan psyche.  Tibetans may live in the People’s Republic of China, but they are not Chinese -- not to themselves nor to the Han Chinese who treat them as third-class citizens. The inability to recognize or change this, which in context is a genuine civil rights issue, will never allow the Chinese to equitably resolve and prevent the unending cycle of repression, uprising, and more repression.

The Tibetan Policy Act is a cornerstone of the U.S. approach toward Tibet.  I thank the preceding witness from the Administration for his testimony on implementation of the Act.  I regret that the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, was not able to be here today.  She has not yet publicly testified on Tibet.  Undersecretary Otero is an expert on development among disadvantaged populations, among other things, and has much to bring to her Tibet portfolio.  I urge the Committee to seek her input as the Committee gives further review to the Tibetan Policy Act.

Oversight of the Act is warranted.  For example, Congress has directed the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Lhasa. Lhasa has been on the top of the State Department’s priority list for consulates in China.  The Committee should require that the Department not consent to another Chinese consulate in the U.S. until the Chinese agree to open one in Lhasa. This is an on-going issue but a rather important one that should be moved to the top of the priority list and frankly is, something I addressed in my previous testimony in front of this Committee.  

A central tenet of the Tibetan Policy Act is to promote dialogue between Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama’s envoys.  There have been nine rounds of this dialogue since 2002.  The most recent was in January 2010, now leaving the longest gap between rounds since the dialogue began.  The dialogue has not lead to a breakthrough, as each side basically remains at first principles. The Chinese see it only as regarding the personal future of the Dalai Lama while the Tibetans see it as addressing longstanding, legitimate grievances and the survival of six million Tibetans inside Tibet. 

Under the Act, the State Department is required to report on the status of the dialogue.  The report is not public, and last year’s edition was late.  I urge the Committee to ask that the report be made public, and recommend that the Committee hear from Lodi Gyari, the Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the key Tibetan Representative in the dialogue, on ways in which the United States can move this dialogue forward.

The stated purpose of the Tibetan Policy Act is to “support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity.”  Language is a key factor in shaping identity, and Tibetan language is actively under threat in the People’s Republic of China.  Last year, Chinese authorities announced plans to restrict the use in schools of “minority” languages like Tibetan in favor of instruction in Mandarin.  Tibetan school and college students protested against these plans.  The scale of the protests across Tibet at a time of already intense political repression reflects the desperation of Tibetans about the marginalization and erosion of their language, the bedrock of the Tibetan identity, religion and culture.

The Committee should urge the Administration to make bilingual education a central component in the U.S.-China education dialogue.  The “100,000 Strong” educational exchange initiative should be broadened beyond just Mandarin so that American students can study in Tibet, East Turkestan and Inner Mongolia and learn their languages, and that students from those regions, not just Chinese students, can study in the U.S.

The Tibetan Policy Act calls for advocacy for political prisoners.  The International Campaign for Tibet monitors the status of Tibetan political prisoners, as does the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.  I encourage the Committee to avail itself of these resources, and to request regular briefings from the State Department on the status of its advocacy with their Chinese counterparts.  No Tibetan political prisoner has been released into the care of the U.S. since the first term of the George W. Bush Administration.   This is clearly a result of the hardening of the Chinese position, the inadequacy of the U.S.-China human rights dialogue, and the failure to demonstrate a consistent human rights policy into the breadth of U.S. engagement with China.

Perhaps the most notable political prisoner is the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, possibly the second-most important religious leader in Tibet who was abducted at the age of 6 after being recognized by the Dalai Lama.  The Panchen Lama and his family were then abducted by Chinese authorities. He has not been seen for 16 years.   The Tibetan Policy Act requires that the U.S. Ambassador meet with him.  I have been asked to provide an update on the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts but redirect the question to the panel and ask, when was the last time such a request was made by the US Ambassador and what does the U.S. intelligence community have to say in regards to his the Panchen Lama’s whereabouts?

Let me cite two other cases.  Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a highly respected senior lama from Eastern Tibet, was initially given a suspended death sentence in early 2002 on highly dubious charges of involvement in a series of bomb attacks on Chinese government targets. There are very strong grounds for claiming his confessions were extorted through torture amid suspicions that the real reasons for his incarceration were his popularity among both the local Chinese and Tibetan communities -- the Chinese authorities regarded him as a challenge to their demand for absolute authority -- and he was an active campaigner against corruption in local government. Despite the obvious risks, tens of thousands of people from his local area signed petitions this year calling for his release or retrial, and there are serious concerns for his health.

Karma Samdrup, a high-profile Tibetan businessman and philanthropist, who had previously been embraced by Chinese authorities. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in June of last year on charges of "grave robbing" dating back over 10 years, for which he had already been investigated and cleared at the time. Karma Samdrup provided funding for an environmental NGO run by his two brothers in Eastern Tibet, and was imprisoned when his brothers challenged illegal poaching by police and government officials. His brothers were also consequently sentenced to prison or "re-education through labor" -- one brother was sentenced to 5 years in prison on charges relating to an oblique reference to the Dalai Lama posted onto his environmental NGO's website. The imprisonment of the three brothers cast a profound chill across a globally critical environmental movement on the Tibetan plateau.

I would ask Congress to return to the days when every member who visits China raises a case of a political prisoner in a coordinated strategy with the end goal of their release.  If the Chinese refuse to discuss the status of these cases, we need to attach some value to their decision.

The Tibetan Policy Act also includes “Tibet Policy Principles” that govern U.S. support for development projects on the Tibetan plateau.  The Tibet-Qinghai railway, completed in 2006, has facilitated an unprecedented wave of migration of Chinese laborers into Tibet, who have benefitted from the employment and income generation provided by the railroad -- far more than local Tibetans.  This railway gives merely a glimpse of the potential impact of the half dozen railway lines planned by the central government to link the Tibetan plateau with mainland China.  They will open Tibet up to new levels of migration, tourism, and international trade, which of course, is not necessarily a bad thing but counter to Chinese propaganda, the Tibetans will not be the ones who “prosper”. Because of short sighted policies born in Beijing without proper Tibetan input, Tibet appears ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with these plans. This deserves much greater attention from the U.S. government.  For example, the Committee should study how Hong Kong limits in-migration from mainland China. This can and should be a model for Tibet. 

The Tibetan Policy Act requires that Tibetan language training be available to Foreign Service Officers.  I understand that this is provided for.
Many points about the Tibetan Policy Act are properly addressed to the Administration.  But Congress can do its part.  The Committee should take a fresh look at how the nearly decade-old Act can be strengthened.  As a first step, I recommend you review, and re-approve, amendments that were adopted as part of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, H.R. 2410, which passed this Committee and the full House in 2009.  I note that the companion measure, introduced by then-Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, contained the same Tibet provisions as the bill drafted by then-Chairman Howard Berman.  This is a testament to the underlying bipartisan support for the Tibet issue.

These amendments would strengthen inter-agency coordination and encourage multilateral cooperation on the Tibet issue, authorize appropriated programs and achieve a U.S. consulate in Lhasa.

The Committee can also ensure that Tibet programs are properly funded.  I know that budgets are tight, but U.S. government Tibet programs are as small as they are effective.  For example, because of congressional initiative, the Tibetan language services of Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America broadcast information every day into Tibet.  This is almost the only source of independent news available on the Tibetan plateau, and it works.  When the Dalai Lama met President Obama in the White House in February 2010, monks in Amdo lit off fireworks to celebrate that the world’s greatest democracy still cared for the plight of Tibet.  How did they know the new President would be meeting with their revered spiritual leader?  By listening to the Voice of America. 

American aid helps hundreds of Tibetan refugees survive the dangerous crossing over the high Himalayas.  We provide aid to Tibetans inside Tibet through grants to American NGOs that promote sustainable development, environmental conservation and cultural preservation on the Tibetan plateau.  This is sensitive and often difficult work, and those who dedicate themselves to its success must navigate carefully with partners on the ground to advance Tibetan priorities within a Chinese system suspicious of outside interest.  The office of U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues ensures that congressional intent in its various legislative and policy expressions -- including the Tibetan Policy Act -- is understood and respected.  With proper oversight, this Committee can ensure that the office of the Tibet Coordinator remains funded, staffed and accountable to law and congressional directive.

These are all examples of concrete measures that Congress takes to ensure the survival of the Tibetan people and their ancient, unique and sublime traditions while China continues to press with obvious advantage against them.  The two-pronged approach authored in Congress – policy and programs – has advanced the American values of self-reliance, dialogue, democracy, freedom and most of all hope– in the heart of Asia.  It has also served to institutionalize the Tibet issue within the long-term U.S. China policy construct. I’ve seen the critical impact of congressionally appropriated funds for Tibetans.  They are meaningful.  With a vision for a positive outcome in Tibet, we can do more.  There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who partner with Congress every day in supporting this cause.  Once again, we can do more, however, we need to be more strategic.

With the world changing as quickly as it is, with the internal pressures that are mounting not only in the ethnic minority regions of China but within the core of Chinese society and in its largest cities, there is an extraordinary opportunity, now, to resolve the issue of Tibet. We at the International Campaign for Tibet have never given up on the belief that Tibet can be saved with nonviolent resolution. 

With the right attention from the United States – the most critical force for Tibet – there can be a resolution – without bloodshed. But stability in exchange for human and civil rights becomes an untenable situation for any regime and is certainly untenable for the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet.  John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”

Madame Chairman, Members of the Committee, we cannot be daunted by the steep incline in the road ahead.  You have created much to build on and there are tangible steps going forward we must believe are possible. 

I am grateful to you all and close with the hope that the Committee will find adequate time for discussions with His Holiness, His Representatives and Prime Minister-elect, Dr. Lobsang Sangay in July.

This is what I would like to leave you with.  China is intensely focused on Tibet -- for rational and irrational reasons -- believing it can move quickly to checkmate.  At the same time, there is, I’m certain, a genuine and heartfelt understanding among world leaders of what is at stake here. Most of them have met His Holiness – and while facing very serious Chinese pushback, recognize that the Dalai Lama’s position – genuine autonomy within the People’s Republic of China is attainable and win-win for all players involved.

Thank you for your time Madam Chairman and Members of the Committee.

“Religious Freedom, Democracy, Human Rights in Asia: Status of Implementation of the Tibetan Policy Act, Block Burmese JADE Act, and North Korean Human Rights Act”

June 2, 2011


International Tibet Network issues report on 60th anniversary of 1951 China-Tibet Agreement

On Monday 23 May 2011 China will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 17 Point Agreement. This document, signed in 1951 by China and by the Tibetan Government under duress, consolidated China's military invasion of Tibet. China sickeningly calls this the anniversary of the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet. In response to China's propaganda drive, the International Tibet Network and its Members have prepared a short report and website: '17 Points of Disagreement: 60 Years of China's failed policies in Tibet.'
Crisis in Ngaba, eastern Tibet: The crisis in Ngaba began on 16 March 2011 when a young monk named Phuntsok from Kirti Monastery set himself on fire. Phuntsok, who was heard to shout messages of support for the Dalai Lama, later died after the police extinguished the flames and were seen beating him. Phuntsok's action marked the third anniversary of events in 2008, when at least 10 Tibetans had been shot dead after Kirti monks began a demonstration, and was followed by a number of demonstrations.
In the days and weeks following Phuntsok's death, further protests have taken place and a standoff between military and local Tibetans has developed, with at least 34 detentions, beatings and an intensive "patriotic re-education" campaign. His Holiness has appealed for restraint and on 21 April the International Tibet Network issued a statement condemning China's crackdown. On the night of 21 April 300 monks were taken away from Kirti Monastery, Ngaba, by paramilitary police. Elderly Tibetans keeping vigil at the monastery to try and prevent any monks being removed were beaten, and two - both in their sixties - have died.
China's crackdown is reflected in a widespread suppression of dissidents across the mainland, with many Chinese lawyers, activists and netizens simply disappearing. You can help by urging the world's most influential leaders to stand up for Tibet and demand China cease its brutal crackdown on free speech.
Despite all this, Tibetans in Tibet continue to reassert their cultural identity; courageous singers, writers and bloggers are devoting their work to the enduring spirit of Tibetan resistance. Visit the International Tibet Network's "I Love Tibetan Cultural Resistance" website to read the inspiring literature, watch the music videos, and send a message to China's propaganda chiefs to stop the criminalisation of true Tibetan cultural expression.


Remarkable photos of Kirti Monastery in 2010

Scenes from Kirti Gompa, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery founded in 1472, located in the Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern Sichuan, China. On March 16, 2011 a 24-year-old monk died after setting himself on fire in protest against Chinese rule after the third anniversary of the March 14, 2008 riots, which had left at least 22 people dead. Apparently, another monk from the monastery set himself on fire in 2009 but survived.

See larger sized versions and other scenes from 2005 here.

Repression in China losing its effectiveness?

The twenty-second anniversary of the start of the Beijing Spring protests arrived this month on April 16. Twenty-two years ago, in the Chinese capital, in Shanghai, and about 370 other cities, Chinese citizens poured into the streets to mourn the death of reformist leader Hu Yaobang and plead with Chinese leaders for change. The Communist Party, after internal disputes as to how to respond to popular discontent, ordered the People’s Liberation Army to kill unarmed demonstrators.
In Beijing, the vicious 27th Army fought its way to the center of the capital, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of residents as well as workers and students. Chinese people know that horrific event by the code “64,” shorthand for the carnage that occurred on the fourth of June, 1989. Foreigners use a different term: “the Tiananmen massacre.”
“We are not afraid to shed a little blood,” leader Deng Xiaoping said at the time. He ordered the murderous crackdown to teach the Chinese people a lesson in obedience, but his technocratic successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, have taken a different approach.
China’s current leaders, when they are absolutely forced to talk about Tiananmen, refer to the bloodbath as “that 1989 affair” and for the most part have been able to prevent national discussions of the matter. Textbooks don’t mention it, teachers don’t teach it, and state media ignores that horrible night. Websites are scrubbed of references to the slaughter, and domestic search engines block Tiananmen articles.
As a result of the government’s obsessive efforts, younger Chinese have not learned Deng’s lesson. In 1996, one of our Shanghainese friends, Min, a woman then in her mid-20s, expressed disbelief when she first learned of the Tiananmen massacre. The tragedy came up in a casual dinner conversation my wife and I were having with her and Chris, her American boyfriend. We were astonished that anyone could have lived in a major city in China in 1989 and not heard about the country-wide protests or the massacre in Beijing that followed.
At the same time, older Chinese are forgetting the horror of “64.” In the spring of 2009, I was talking to a prominent businessman in his office in a Shanghai tower, and he mentioned how much China had changed in the preceding two decades. “No one fears the government any more,” he noted.
Beijing now has a critical dilemma. Its leaders want to appear modern, but to do so they have had to cover up Tiananmen. Yet covering up Tiananmen is far more dangerous to their regime than boasting about its brutality.
Why? The Chinese don’t take to the streets when they are angry notes New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who, along with his wife, Sheryl Wu Dunn won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Tianamen . They do so when they think they can get away with it. The continual erosion of fear means that Deng’s essential lesson of Tiananmen—that the Communist Party will use deadly violence on a mass scale—has been largely lost.
So the populace is moving beyond the Communist Party. Senior leaders are certainly trying to be more coercive and coercion limits political discourse, but repression in China’s forward-looking society is losing its effectiveness. And as it loses its effectiveness, an important change in the thinking of Chinese people is occurring: they are becoming defiant.
In 2009, according to Perry Link of the University of California at Riverside, there were more than 230,000 demonstrations in China. That figure is well up from the 127,500 reported for 2008 and the 80,000 to 90,000 a year for the earlier part of the last decade. Figures for protests can be unreliable, but it is evident that Chinese society, in the last half decade, has become more turbulent.
The upswing in protest in the last several years is not because conditions are worse—in many ways they are much better—but because fear is receding while thinking inside the country is changing—as it has in every modernizing society. As the great political scientist Samuel Huntington once wrote, “In fact, modernity breeds stability, but modernization breeds instability.”
So it’s no wonder the Chinese social order is beginning to fray, and by now the evidence of disintegration is unmistakable. Many analysts say the April 3 detention (http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/04/11/041111-opinions-column-artist-chang-1-2/) of artist, architect, and critic Ai Weiwei is counterproductive for the Communist Party as it is creating even more opposition to its rule, and they are correct. But China’s leaders evidently felt they had no choice, for if they had not jailed Ai they would no longer be able to contain dissent in society. And they are right as well.
In short, the Communist Party no longer has room to maneuver. Just like Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt, Hu Jintao no longer has good options. Nothing he is doing to keep order is working because most Chinese sense that a one-party system is no longer appropriate for their country’s modernizing society. We may think that Beijing’s leaders are overreacting to people like Ai Weiwei, but they know how volatile their country can be.
At this moment, like 1989, almost any event can trigger massive protests in China. And this time, unlike 1989, a weakened political system will not be able to use massive deadly force to keep itself in place. The current leaders do not have the standing to order wide-scale murder, and the army would not carry out such a grim task. We will, 22 years after Tiananmen, witness great change in China.
Gordon G. Chang is the author of "The Coming Collapse of China" and a columnist for The Daily. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang


China's Crackdown Signals Shift (WSJ article)

BEIJING—China's detention of government critics, including artist-activist Ai Weiwei, suggests that the country's security services have convinced Communist Party leaders to redefine the limits of political dissent in potentially lasting ways to preserve the Party's grip on power in the Internet age, analysts say.

The roundup of dozens of lawyers, journalists, bloggers and other activists since online protest appeals began circulating in China in mid-February is the latest—and in some ways the broadest—in a series of periodic clampdowns on those whom the Party sees as a threat to its rule.

Some rights groups, Western governments and Chinese liberal scholars are concerned that what's happening now is not just part of a long-running cyclical pattern, but could represent a more enduring shift in the country's political evolution as the current leadership prepares to retire next year.

"I think this is part of a longer term trend," said Chu Shulong, a political scientist at Tsinghua University in Beijing. "Over the last five or six years, this administration has become much more sensitive about social stability than the previous one. Some measures might be temporary, but most of them will be long-term."

While achieving the short-term goal of suppressing online calls for a "Jasmine Revolution," the current clampdown—especially the increasing use of extrajudicial tactics—risks undermining efforts by other parts of the government to strengthen the rule of law and improve China's international image.

Some notable victims of China's efforts to 
maintain a harmonious society

Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2011, Jeremy Page
(Excerpt) Read full article at online.wsj.com


TAR Chairman delivers speech to the Tibetan people on Third Serfs Emancipation Day

LHASA - Padma Choling, chairman of the Tibet autonomous region, delivered a speech on Sunday to the Tibetan people in celebration of the Third Serfs Emancipation Day and promised more efforts for a new Tibet that is stable, united, democratic and well-developed.

During the past 52 years since the end of the serfdom, the autonomous region has seen great achievements in economic and social development, the chairman said.

Tibet's GDP increased to 50.75 billion yuan ($7.8 billion) in 2010, up by 12.4 percent annually since 2005. The net income of farmers and herdsman per capital rose to 4,318 yuan, almost double that of 2005. And more than 1.43 million people benefited from a government-funded housing project for farmers and herdsmen.

At the end of last year, Tibet's population had increased to 2.93 million. And the life expectancy of Tibetan people reached 67 years, almost double the 35.5 years that it was prior to the liberation of Tibet.

Padma Choling also said the livelihood of urban and rural residents has improved because Tibet was one of the first parts of the country to provide free compulsory education.

The autonomous region has almost eliminated illiteracy among juveniles and was one of the first areas to establish the new rural social endowment insurance system and the minimum living security system for urban and rural residents.

"All the achievements should be attributed to the socialist system and the leadership of the Communist Party," said the chairman.

In 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama and his supporters staged a rebellion. The central government foiled it and initiated a democratic reform to end the slavery system in Tibet.

"The democratic reform conducted 52 years ago abolished the cruel and brutal serfdom that existed to exploit the Tibetan people for thousands of years. The reform freed 1 million serfs and allowed the Tibetan people to enjoy legal rights and interests," Padma Choling said.

"Tibet belongs to China. But the Dalai Lama and his supporters have been attempting to separate Tibet from China and restore the feudal serfdom. His conspiracy is doomed to failure. The sky in Tibet will forever belong to the Tibetan people and Tibet will always be part of China as it has been."

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet.
He also sent his greetings and thanks to all people who have been supporting the development of Tibet in the speech.

Tibetan legislators endorsed a bill in 2009 to designate March 28 as Serfs Emancipation Day, marking the date on which about 1 million serfs in the region were freed half century ago.

In 1959, the central government dissolved the aristocratic local government of Tibet and replaced it with a preparatory committee for establishing the Tibet autonomous region.

By Hu Yongqi and Dachiog, China Daily 03/28/2011


C100 Committee member Robert Thurman explains the Dalai Lama's retirement

Yesterday it was announced that the Dalai Lama was retiring, more specifically, stepping down as Tibet's political leader. We talked to Robert Thurman, president of the Tibet House here in New York, about what this really means. This is a unique situation and Thurman tells us to keep in mind there is a difference between "succession" of a political leadership role moving from a spiritual leader to an elected leader, and "succession" of a reincarnating lama by dying and being found again after subsequent rebirth in another family.

I was wondering if you could explain what this retirement means for the Tibetan people. It makes them very anxious, though they are aware that he wants them to take responsibility for the democratic exercise of their citizen's duties. He is only giving up political decision making—he is still there in a moral leadership role, and in spiritual role.

Who will now succeed him? The government in exile has a constitution that vests authority in elected representatives. An elected prime minister will take ultimate responsibility for political decisions, in consultation with cabinet and assembly.

And is this the first time a Buddhist leader has stepped down? He was a unique case of a Buddhist spiritual leader also being a head of state, since the founding of the Dalai Lama government in 1642. So there is no spiritual leader succeeding him, since the Tibetans have created a secular democratic state in exile, to be imported back into Tibet when the time comes.

I read that China maintained that it was not for the Dalai Lama to decide about his own successor, including any possible abolition of the institution. This has to do with the reincarnation of the spiritual teacher line of enlightened Dalai Lamas. Dalai Lama's 1 through 4 had no political power, were merely reincarnate lamas who served as heads of monastic universities and spiritual teachers. The Chinese communists, who do not believe in reincarnation, insisted that they would recognize reincarnations. They began this with the Panchen Lama, who was recognized by the Dalai Lama in the 90s, after which the PRC government abducted and imprisoned him and his family, and then they appointed the child of a party official as the Panchen Lama. Almost none of the Tibetans respect that appointed Lama and he is clearly just a puppet of the state.

Is it possible he will not be able to retire? It is possible that in the future, after the 14th Dalai Lama passes and the Fifteenth is found in exile or by the proper Tibetan religious authorities, that the Tibetan people will make an effort to ask him to sertve as the ceremonial head of state, though it is doubtful the reincarnation will agree, as he will remember (or learn about) his previous incarnation's determination to develop Tibetan democracy and a secular Tibetan government.

In sum, this announcement by the Dalai Lama is not new news, in that he has made the statement about retiring from politics and the Tibetans' need for democratic decision making, often in recent years, beginning in the 60s. What is perhaps new is the formality of this statement at the time of the election of the new Prime Minister.

By Jen Carlson (Gothamist.com) March 11, 2011

Contact the author of this article or email tips@gothamist.com with further questions, comments or tips.

Dalai Lama to Hand Over Political Leader Role (WSJ Article)

BEIJING—The Dalai Lama said he plans to formally step down as political leader of the India-based Tibetan government-in-exile in an effort to further democratize the Tibetan refugee community and combat potential efforts by China to hijack the succession process.

The 76-year-old monk, who fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese Communist rule in 1959, has for several years declared himself unofficially "semiretired" from political leadership, while retaining his more significant role as the Himalayan region's spiritual leader. The Chinese government sees him as a separatist.

Having ruled his homeland as a god-king, he established a parliament-in-exile in the northern Indian hill station of Dharamsala in 1960, introduced a draft constitution three years later, and in 2001 oversaw the first direct election of a prime minister, known as the Kalon Tripa.

But the Kalon Tripa's status among Tibetans and their international supporters continues to be eclipsed by the Dalai Lama—the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner—raising concerns among some of them about who will take over his peaceful campaign for greater autonomy within China after his death.

Tibet's parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala has urged the Dalai Lama not to retire, but he appears determined to enhance the authority of the next Kalon Tripa, who is due to be elected this month, both to govern the 145,000-strong refugee community and, if necessary, to negotiate with China.

"As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power," the Dalai Lama said Thursday in an annual speech marking the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising.

"Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect," he said, adding that he would propose a formal amendment to the constitution at a meeting of the parliament-in-exile on Monday.

"My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened."

Beijing denounced the Dalai Lama's move. "For years he has been expressing his intention to retire. We think these are tricks to deceive the international community," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.

The Dalai Lama's remarks came three days after one senior Chinese official disputed his right to choose his own successor, and another confirmed that Tibet would be closed to foreign tourists during the coming anniversary of violent anti-Chinese riots in March 2008.

Behind the statements from both sides lies a historic struggle for the future of Tibet, which Beijing considers to have been an integral part of its territory for hundreds of years, but which the Dalai Lama says had been a de facto independent state for centuries until the Chinese Communist takeover.

Since Mao Zedong's forces took control of the region in 1951, Beijing has tried in vain to crush Tibetans' reverence of the Dalai Lama with a series of brutal political campaigns, and massive state investment into the region in recent years.

Although the Dalai Lama appears to be in good health, both sides are now preparing for his death, which some experts fear could cause the Tibetan movement to fragment, with some splinter groups advocating the use of violence.

Tradition dictates that the Dalai Lama should be replaced by his own reincarnation—identified by senior lamas who interpret signs after the last incumbent's death and then search for promising boys and give them a number of tests.

The current Dalai Lama—who is the 14th—was born into a farming family in eastern Tibet and was identified at the age of two after he passed certain tests, including identifying his predecessor's rosary.

However, many exiled Tibetans fear that this process would leave them leaderless while the next reincarnation grows up, and open the door for the Chinese government to appoint its own rival Dalai Lama.

In 1995, when the Dalai Lama recognized a young boy in Tibet as the new Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese authorities detained the child and appointed their own candidate.

The Beijing-appointed Panchen Lama is dismissed as a fake by many Tibetans but is often quoted in China's state-controlled media praising Chinese policies in Tibet.

"The Tibetan people now enjoy religious freedom and are much better off," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency this week, during a meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body of which he is a member. "People can freely choose to start a business, study or become a Buddhist monk. They are free to do whatever they aspire to, which was impossible in old Tibet. The peaceful liberation of Tibet has made people the real master of Tibet."

The Dalai Lama has proposed several alternative succession models, including holding a referendum on whether he should be reincarnated at all among the world's 13 million to 14 million Tibetan Buddhists. He has also suggested he could identify his own reincarnation—who he says could be a foreigner, or a woman—while he is alive, even though no Dalai Lama has done so before.

Another proposal is for him to appoint the Karmapa Lama—the third-highest in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy—as a regent to lead the movement until his successor is old enough to take over.

But the Chinese government also appears determined to control the succession process, claiming repeatedly that it alone has the power to certify reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, although Communist Party members are supposed to be atheists.

Padma Choling, the ethnic Tibetan appointed by Beijing as governor of Tibet, said Monday that the Dalai Lama had no right to abolish the institution of reincarnation.

"I don't think this is appropriate. It's impossible, that's what I think," the former soldier said on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's parliament, the National People's Congress. "We must respect the historical institutions and religious rituals of Tibetan Buddhism," he said.

Zhang Qingli, Tibet's Communist Party chief, also confirmed Monday that foreign tourists were temporarily blocked from visiting Tibet, although he said that was due to the "cold winter," a slew of religious activities and the limited number of hotels.

Write to Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com


Statement of the Dalai Lama on the 52nd Tibetan National Uprising anniversary

Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan people’s peaceful uprising of 1959 against Communist China’s repression in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, and the third anniversary of the non-violent demonstrations that took place across Tibet in 2008. On this occasion, I would like to pay tribute to and pray for those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for the just cause of Tibet. I express my solidarity with those who continue to suffer repression and pray for the well-being of all sentient beings.

For more than sixty years, Tibetans, despite being deprived of freedom and living in fear and insecurity, have been able to maintain their unique Tibetan identity and cultural values. More consequentially, successive new generations, who have no experience of free Tibet, have courageously taken responsibility in advancing the cause of Tibet. This is admirable, for they exemplify the strength of Tibetan resilience.

This Earth belongs to humanity and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) belongs to its 1.3 billion citizens, who have the right to know the truth about the state of affairs in their country and the world at large. If citizens are fully informed, they have the ability to distinguish right from wrong. Censorship and the restriction of information violate basic human decency. For instance, China’s leaders consider the communist ideology and its policies to be correct. If this were so, these policies should be made public with confidence and open to scrutiny.

China, with the world’s largest population, is an emerging world power and I admire the economic development it has made. It also has huge potential to contribute to human progress and world peace. But to do that, China must earn the international community’s respect and trust. In order to earn such respect China’s leaders must develop greater transparency, their actions corresponding to their words. To ensure this, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are essential. Similarly, transparency in governance can help check corruption. In recent years, China has seen an increasing number of intellectuals calling for political reform and greater openness. Premier Wen Jiabao has also expressed support for these concerns. These are significant indications and I welcome them.

The PRC is a country comprising many nationalities, enriched by a diversity of languages and cultures. Protection of the language and culture of each nationality is a policy of the PRC, which is clearly spelt out in its constitution. Tibetan is the only language to preserve the entire range of the Buddha’s teachings, including the texts on logic and theories of knowledge (epistemology), which we inherited from India’s Nalanda University. This is a system of knowledge governed by reason and logic that has the potential to contribute to the peace and happiness of all beings. Therefore, the policy of undermining such a culture, instead of protecting and developing it, will in the long run amount to the destruction of humanity’s common heritage.

The Chinese government frequently states that stability and development in Tibet is the foundation for its long-term well-being. However, the authorities still station large numbers of troops all across Tibet, increasing restrictions on the Tibetan people. Tibetans live in constant fear and anxiety. More recently, many Tibetan intellectuals, public figures and environmentalists have been punished for articulating the Tibetan people’s basic aspirations. They have been imprisoned allegedly for “subverting state power” when actually they have been giving voice to the Tibetan identity and cultural heritage. Such repressive measures undermine unity and stability. Likewise, in China, lawyers defending people’s rights, independent writers and human rights activists have been arrested. I strongly urge the Chinese leaders to review these developments and release these prisoners of conscience forthwith.

The Chinese government claims there is no problem in Tibet other than the personal privileges and status of the Dalai Lama. The reality is that the ongoing oppression of the Tibetan people has provoked widespread, deep resentment against current official policies. People from all walks of life frequently express their discontentment. That there is a problem in Tibet is reflected in the Chinese authorities’ failure to trust Tibetans or win their loyalty. Instead, the Tibetan people live under constant suspicion and surveillance. Chinese and foreign visitors to Tibet corroborate this grim reality.

Therefore, just as we were able to send fact-finding delegations to Tibet in the late 1970s and early 1980s from among Tibetans in exile, we propose similar visits again. At the same time we would encourage the sending of representatives of independent international bodies, including parliamentarians. If they were to find that Tibetans in Tibet are happy, we would readily accept it.

The spirit of realism that prevailed under Mao’s leadership in the early 1950s led China to sign the 17-point agreement with Tibet. A similar spirit of realism prevailed once more during Hu Yaobang’s time in the early 1980s. If there had been a continuation of such realism the Tibetan issue, as well as several other problems, could easily have been solved. Unfortunately, conservative views derailed these policies. The result is that after more than six decades, the problem has become more intractable.

The Tibetan Plateau is the source of the major rivers of Asia. Because it has the largest concentration of glaciers apart from the two Poles, it is considered to be the Third Pole. Environmental degradation in Tibet will have a detrimental impact on large parts of Asia, particularly on China and the Indian subcontinent. Both the central and local governments, as well as the Chinese public, should realise the degradation of the Tibetan environment and develop sustainable measures to safeguard it. I appeal to China to take into account the survival of people affected by what happens environmentally on the Tibetan Plateau.

In our efforts to solve the issue of Tibet, we have consistently pursued the mutually beneficial Middle-Way Approach, which seeks genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the PRC. In our talks with officials of the Chinese government’s United Front Work Department we have clearly explained in detail the Tibetan people’s hopes and aspirations. The lack of any positive response to our reasonable proposals makes us wonder whether these were fully and accurately conveyed to the higher authorities.

Since ancient times, Tibetan and Chinese peoples have lived as neighbours. It would be a mistake if our unresolved differences were to affect this age-old friendship. Special efforts are being made to promote good relations between Tibetans and Chinese living abroad and I am happy that this has contributed to better understanding and friendship between us. Tibetans inside Tibet should also cultivate good relations with our Chinese brothers and sisters.

In recent weeks we have witnessed remarkable non-violent struggles for freedom and democracy in various parts of North Africa and elsewhere. I am a firm believer in non-violence and people-power and these events have shown once again that determined non-violent action can indeed bring about positive change. We must all hope that these inspiring changes lead to genuine freedom, happiness and prosperity for the peoples in these countries.

One of the aspirations I have cherished since childhood is the reform of Tibet’s political and social structure, and in the few years when I held effective power in Tibet, I managed to make some fundamental changes. Although I was unable to take this further in Tibet, I have made every effort to do so since we came into exile. Today, within the framework of the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, the Kalon Tripa, the political leadership, and the people’s representatives are directly elected by the people. We have been able to implement democracy in exile that is in keeping with the standards of an open society.

As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.

Since I made my intention clear I have received repeated and earnest requests both from within Tibet and outside, to continue to provide political leadership. My desire to devolve authority has nothing to do with a wish to shirk responsibility. It is to benefit Tibetans in the long run. It is not because I feel disheartened. Tibetans have placed such faith and trust in me that as one among them I am committed to playing my part in the just cause of Tibet. I trust that gradually people will come to understand my intention, will support my decision and accordingly let it take effect.

I would like to take this opportunity to remember the kindness of the leaders of various nations that cherish justice, members of parliaments, intellectuals and Tibet Support Groups, who have been steadfast in their support for the Tibetan people. In particular, we will always remember the kindness and consistent support of the people and Government of India and State Governments for generously helping Tibetans preserve and promote their religion and culture and ensuring the welfare of Tibetans in exile. To all of them I offer my heartfelt gratitude.

With my prayers for the welfare and happiness of all sentient beings.

Dharamsala, 10 March 2011

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi statement on Tibetan Uprising Day

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today to mark the 52nd anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day:

“Today, on the 52nd Anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, we honor the many brave Tibetans who have sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom.  We remember the Tibetan people who peacefully assembled to call for an end to harsh Chinese rule – and we recall the ensuing crackdown that devastated Tibet and forced His Holiness the Dalai Lama into exile.

“The Tibetan people have accumulated legitimate grievances from decades of heavy-handed Chinese government policies in Tibet.  Tibetans have been economically marginalized in their own land, imprisoned for peaceful expression, and barred from the free practice of their faith.  So powerful is the image of the Dalai Lama that Tibetans are imprisoned for simply owning pictures of him.

“It is a tribute to his extraordinary commitment to democracy that His Holiness the Dalai Lama recently announced that he will voluntarily hand over his last governmental responsibilities to the democratically-elected leadership of the Tibetan Government In Exile.  The bond between the Dalai Lama and Tibetans is unbreakable, and attempts by the Chinese government to dictate Tibetan Buddhist teachings and drive a wedge between the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people will continue to be counterproductive.

“We continue to call for the release of Tibetan political prisoners of conscience including Gedun Choekyi Nyima (the 11th Panchen Lama), Dhondup Wangchen, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Norzin Wangmo, Runggye Adak, and many others who are imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression.

“On this anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day, we must heed the Dalai Lama’s transcendent message of peace.  And we must stand with the people of Tibet in their ongoing struggle.”

March 10, 2011


Tibetans in Exile Consider Choice for Prime Minister

Tibetans living in exile around the world will go to the polls later this month to choose a new Prime Minister - for the Tibetan government-in-exile in Northern India.

There are three candidates for the post - and all three faced off this week [Tuesday, March 1] in Washington for an internationally-televised debate. [Watch a video of the debate here.] 

Three candidates for prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Northern India - Tenzin Tethong (l), Lobsang Sangay (c) and Tashi Wangdi (r) - face off in Washington for an internationally-televised debate, March 1, 2011. Photo: VOA
The Dalai Lama escaped from Chinese-ruled Tibet to Dharamsala, in northern India, in 1959. Since then, Dharamsala has been the site of the Tibetan government-in exile. Over the years, the Dalai Lama has worked to hand over more and more of his political role to a democratically-elected prime minister.  

On March 20, Tibetans in exile will directly elect a prime minister for the third time, along with members of the 15th Parliament-in-Exile.

In October, 60 percent of Tibetan exile communities voted in primaries, resulting in three runoff candidates for prime minister.

Those three candidates held the first-ever televised debate before an audience of exiled Tibetans. The broadcast will be seen in Tibet and worldwide on the Internet.

The leading candidate is a Tibetan-American affiliated with Harvard University. Lobsang Sangay grew up in a Tibetan settlement. He is a Fulbright Scholar with a law degree from Harvard.  

“The number one problem obviously is how to solve the issue of Tibet so that we can regain our freedom and then the divided family members from inside and outside Tibet can be united in Tibet,” said Sangay.

Tenzin Tethong is a former representative of the Dalai Lama in New York and Washington. Currently, he is a Distinguished Fellow at Stanford University.

“The most important responsibility for the exile government is to work for the cause of a free Tibet and for the rights of the Tibetan people,” said Tethong.

Tashi Wangdi has run a half-dozen of  the government-in exile’s departments over the years. Most recently he represented the Dalai Lama in Europe.

“It’s very important for us to see what we can do to survive as a Tibetan people in exile and be able to maintain our identity and continue the struggle until we find a solution,” said Wangdi.

By August, Tibetans-in-exile will have a new prime minister. It’s a choice than many are considering very seriously.

Voice of America, Susan Jackson, March 03, 2011


Coalition Urges President Obama to Raise Tibet During US-China Summit

Thirty Nine Tibetan organizations and Tibet support groups in the United States including the Committee of 100 for Tibet have written to President Barack Obama to ask that Tibet be a substantive part of the agenda when he meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Washington on January 19.

The letter states that “the Tibetan people have been denied their fundamental human rights” and comes at a time when Chinese leaders are escalating their violent and repressive policies in Tibet, including a full-scale attack against Tibetan writers, artists and intellectuals.

The groups thank President Obama for his past “public expressions of support for the Tibet issue” and reiterate their call for him to publicly and vigorously raise Tibet during the U.S.-China Summit. The letter states that the United States’ “long-standing history of supporting the Tibetan people creates an incumbent duty on this Administration to continue to raise the issue with Chinese leaders at the highest levels.”

The letter argues that China’s failed policies in Tibet have consequences far beyond Tibet’s borders. China’s wide-scale construction of dams on the upper-reaches of Asia’s largest rivers that originate on the Tibetan plateau and flow into India, Cambodia and other neighboring countries, are fast becoming a potential source of regional instability. The letter also highlights the recent protests by thousands of students in eastern Tibet against a new Chinese-government policy announced in October that will replace Tibetan with Chinese as the language of instruction in Tibetan schools.

The text of the letter is as follows:

January 13, 2011

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We, the undersigned Tibetan Associations, organizations and Tibet support groups, are writing to ask that you make Tibet a substantive part of the agenda when President Hu Jintao visits Washington on January 19.

You have spoken often of the universality of fundamental human rights, most recently to mark the awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese writer and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo.

As you are aware, for the past six decades, the Tibetan people have been denied their fundamental human rights.  President Hu Jintao's visit to Washington is a unique opportunity to engage him meaningfully on the Tibet issue and showcase the ideals and values cherished by Americans, including openness, democracy and individual liberty. These principles underlie your remarks about rights that are universal to all human beings.

The United States has a long-standing history of supporting the Tibetan people and their peaceful struggle for human rights and freedom.  This support has become institutionalized within the U.S. government through the development of policies and programs designed to help Tibetans preserve and promote their culture, identity and dignity.  You have commended His Holiness the Dalai Lama's tireless efforts to negotiate a resolution for Tibet with the Chinese government, a position consistent with long-standing U.S. policy.

Tibet is an integral part of the U.S.-China relationship for moral, historical and strategic reasons.  The position the United States has adopted on Tibet creates an incumbent duty on this Administration to continue to raise the issue with Chinese leaders at the highest levels. Tibet must be on the agenda of your summit with President Hu.

The recent protests by Tibetan students objecting to the central government's plans to subordinate the Tibetan language to Mandarin as the language of instruction are emblematic of China's policy failures in Tibet. Moreover, there is a growing recognition of the potential impact China's infrastructure projects on the Tibetan plateau will have on access to water in downstream countries, as Secretary Clinton noted during her visit to Cambodia.  The role of Tibet, also known by scientists as the "Third Pole," in global climate change is further evidence that developments in Tibet are anything but the exclusive internal affairs of the People's Republic of China.  Without a multilateral framework to address these issues, Chinese policies in Tibet could exacerbate regional instability.  A just and lasting solution for Tibet that includes Tibetans as integral stakeholders will bring greater stability for China, its regional neighbors and indeed the world.

These points underlie the central message that we ask you to convey to President Hu - that the United States has, and will continue to have, a strong interest in Tibet and will remain committed to facilitating a just and lasting resolution for Tibet.  This commitment comes with an expectation that Tibetans must be freely able to exercise their basic human rights and freedoms, preserve their distinctive culture, and address the ecological, educational, political and economic consequences of the Chinese government's failed policies in Tibet.

The U.S. government should continue to press China's leadership for results-oriented negotiations to achieve a political solution for Tibet and engage China in topical areas, including education policies pertaining to Tibetans and regional discussions on water security.

Your proactive approach will demonstrate to the Chinese government that Tibet is an integral part of the U.S.-China relationship as are basic universal values of human rights and dignity.  Again, we thank you for your public expressions of support for the Tibet issue and for your leadership in raising it with Chinese leaders, and look forward to your continuing to exert this leadership when you meet with President Hu.


Association Cognizance Tibet, North Carolina
Capital Area Tibetan Association
Indiana Tibetan Association
Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association
Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota
Tibetan Association of Boston
Tibetan Association of Charlottesville
Tibetan Association of Colorado
Tibetan Association of Connecticut
Tibetan Association of Idaho
Tibetan Association of Ithaca
Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey
Tibetan Association of North Carolina
Tibetan Association of Northern California
Tibetan Association of Ohio and Michigan
Tibetan Association of Santa Fe
Tibetan Association of Philadelphia
Tibetan Association of Southern California
Tibetan Association of Washington
Utah Tibetan Association
Wisconsin Tibetan Association
Bay Area Friends of Tibet
Boston Tibet Network
Committee of 100 for Tibet
International Campaign for Tibet
International Tibet Independence Movement
Los Angeles Friends of Tibet
Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey
San Diego Friends of Tibet
Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet
Seattle Friends of Tibet
Sierra Friends of Tibet
Students for a Free Tibet
Tibet Committee of Fairbanks
The Tibet Connection
Tibet Justice Center
Tibet Online
U.S. Tibet Committee
Western Colorado Friends of Tibet