A Tibetan man jailed for 14 years released for 2008 protest against Chinese authorities released before serving full term

A Tibetan man jailed for 14 years released for 2008 protest against Chinese authorities released before serving full term
September 18, 2018

Radio Free Asia, September 11, 2018 - Authorities in northwestern China’s Gansu province have released a Tibetan man jailed for ten and half years for his role in mass protests that swept Tibetan areas of China in 2008, according to a Tibetan source.

Gonpo Tseko, 39, was freed on Aug. 10, about three and a half years before his 14-year sentence was due to end, and returned to his home in the Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Machu county, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service this week.

Tseko’s sudden release “left many Tibetans in the dark until he had returned to his native place,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.\

“Chinese authorities warned his family not to organize any gathering to celebrate and welcome his release, and the condition of his health is still unknown,” the source said.

Authorities routinely impose communication blocks in Tibetan areas, and news of the arrest of Tibetan protesters and of their later release from custody is frequently delayed in reaching outside contacts.

“Gonpo Tseko was arrested sometime in October 2008 in connection with Tibetan protests in Machu, of which he was accused of being the ringleader,” RFA’s source said.\

Handed a 14-year sentence for his role in the protests, Tseko was held at a prison in Gansu’s provincial capital Lanzhou until his release ahead of schedule last month, he said.

In March 2008, a riot in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa followed the suppression by Chinese police of four days of peaceful Tibetan protests and led to the destruction of Han Chinese shops in the city and deadly attacks on Han Chinese residents.

The riot then sparked a wave of mostly peaceful protests against Chinese rule that spread across Tibet and into Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces.

Hundreds of Tibetans were detained, beaten, or shot as Chinese security forces quelled the protests, sources said in earlier reports.

Tibetan filmmakers bring “Crazy Stateless Asians” to TIFF 2018

Tibetan filmmakers bring “Crazy Stateless Asians” to TIFF 2018
September 18, 2018

Now Toronto, September 13, 2018 – The fact that this year’s TIFF is screening, perhaps for the first time in the festival’s history, two feature films directed by Tibetan filmmakers (one from inside Tibet and the other from the exile community) is noteworthy. In the wake of the unprecedented success of Crazy Rich Asians and the discussions that it engendered around representation, these two films offer interesting viewpoints on our way to reaching new heights of visibility for Asian peoples here.

As two tiny, independently produced films from outside North America, they cannot hold a candle to the Hollywood blockbuster that is Crazy Rich Asians. But they do shine a light on the question of what representation means for those of us who are minorities within minorities.

There is a scene midway through the The Sweet Requiem, produced in India by the filmmaker duo Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, that stayed with me long after the credits. It’s during a flashback of the main character Dolkar (Tenzin Dolker) as an infant among a group of Tibetans attempting to cross a Himalayan pass to enter India from Tibet.

The group, led by the reluctant guide Gompo (Jampa Kalsang) who was persuaded against his better judgment to shepherd them through this journey, suffers a setback when one of the travellers is unable to carry on. The old monk, referred to as Ghen-la (Nyima Dhondup), is exhausted and refuses to burden the group anymore.

He implores his acolyte to carry on without him, and makes the young man promise that he will deliver a small statue of the Buddha that Ghen-la had hoped to offer to the Dalai Lama. The young man refuses at first, but eventually, he relents.

“It was my dream to offer this to the Dalai Lama,” the old monk says. “But it’s not in my karma to do this.”

This invocation of “karma” is a recurring theme in The Sweet Requiem. Characters allude to it when trying to explain misfortunes and grievances beyond their control. It is used as a crux to justify actions and their consequences.

Karma, a multi-faceted Sanskrit word that has been distorted in modern parlance as shorthand for justice, is also a motif that is felt in Pema Tseden’s Jinpa. The film, produced within Tibet and China, focuses on the eponymous truck driver, Jinpa, who picks up a stranger on the road. The stranger, also named Jinpa, reveals that he is on a mission to avenge his father’s death. After dropping off the hitchhiker, the driver attempts to retrace the steps of his mysterious transient companion. In the process, their fates become intertwined, even if only momentarily.

This dreamy, languid treatise on destinations, spirituality and promises – a trademark of Tseden’s work – is starkly different from its counterpart in India. While The Sweet Requiem lays bare the motivations of its characters or the ghosts that haunt them, Jinpa is more sedate and seductive. The former moves across sequences back and forth in an almost metronomic pace, while the latter is framed in a 4:3 screen ratio and sometimes lingers on a set piece, inviting the audience to fixate on the arid landscape, matted hair, the commotion of a tea house and stray dogs.

There were similarities, too, of course, between these two Tibetan films. The aforementioned exploration of karma is very prominent in each; both films feature characters who are trying to reckon with their destinies. Buddhism is prominent, too. There are political statements as well: in The Sweet Requiem, Dolkar is shown watching actual footage of self-immolations from inside Tibet; Jinpa understandably plays it more coy, considering the immense hurdles Tseden has to clear in order to get approval for his screenplays from the Chinese Censorship Board.

Art is inherently political, anyway. Many have argued that the success of Crazy Rich Asians should be celebrated as a cultural milestone for all Asians. The epigraph of the movie, though, is a quote attributed to Napoleon: “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.”

For people like me (Tibetans or Uyghurs or others), China’s reveille has been a reality for many decades; displacing us physically, and erasing our languages and identities whether through popular culture or re-education camps.

The success of the two Tibetan films playing at TIFF becomes important in this context. It affirms the urgency of creating art and space that we know will be otherwise subsumed and erased by this other dominant group. I hope Chinese Canadians see these films and recognize the universality of the human struggles contained in them, just as they were able to identify with the shenanigans of the Singaporean billionaires in Crazy Rich Asians.

That they understand how our stories also matter.

Domestic tourism booms in Tibet but restrictions on foreign tourists remain

Domestic tourism booms in Tibet but restrictions on foreign tourists remain
September 18, 2018

Hindustan Times, September 18, 2018 - As tourism fuelled by domestic visitors booms in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), provincial authorities are looking to encourage sustainable high-quality tourism in a region known for its natural beauty and fragile eco-system.

Making tourism a priority area in Tibet – and a way to alleviate poverty – was in focus at last week’s “China Tibet Tourism and Culture Expo” in Lhasa.
“In terms of policy, projects and funding, we will set up various supporting mechanisms so as to establish tourism as the leading priority industry of the TAR,” the region’s chairperson, Qi Zhala, said at beginning of the tourism summit on Saturday.

“The expo is a very good way to promote tourism in Tibet,” Jigme Wangsto, director of the TAR government’s information office told visiting journalists. “The regional government actively promotes sustainable development of the tourism industry in Tibet and special efforts are made to seek harmony between development and protection,” the TAR government said in a statement.

It’s a careful balance that needs to be maintained as tourism numbers are going up.

The region, according to official Xinhua news agency, received a record 25.6 million domestic and foreign tourists in 2017, up 10.6% compared to the previous year.

“Tourism revenue during the year reached 37.9 billion yuan ($5.9 billion), with a year-on-year increase of 14.7%,” the report said.

“Statistics showed that in the first five months of 2018, Tibet received 5.6 million tourists, up 38% year-on-year. Total revenue rose 41.4% to 7.1 billion yuan (about $1.1 billion),” Xinhua reported.

The government also plans to build three new airports to promote tourism and economic growth, it was announced earlier this year. The airports will be in Shannan, Xigaze and Ali, according the regional government and the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The aim is to attract more than 30 million tourists by 2020.

Much more, however, needs to be done to attract foreign tourists.

The region is not easily accessible for foreigners, who need visitor permits through registered Chinese travel agencies and are almost always part of supervised travel groups. Diplomats and journalists are not allowed to enter TAR without government permits.
Wangtso said policies restricting foreign tourists coming into Tibet were not formulated by the TAR government but by central authorities.

Four Tibetan monks detained over land protest Ngaba

Four Tibetan monks detained over land protest Ngaba
September 18, 2018

Radio Free Asia, September 17, 2018 – Authorities in western China’s Sichuan province are holding four Tibetan monks in detention for launching a public protest against construction of a housing project near their monastery, Tibetan sources say.

The four—Nyida, Kelsang, and Nesang, and their former chant master, Choeje—were all residents of Gomang monastery in Sichuan’s Ngaba county, a former monk living now living in India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing contacts in the region.

A fifth monk, Shakya, was taken into custody with the others on Sept. 11 but was released after being held for two days, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The other four are still in custody, and have now been taken to Khyungchu county,” the source said.

The monks’ protest was sparked by news that Chinese authorities were planning to build a housing estate near Gomang, the source said.

“The monks from Gomang monastery lost no time to protest against the construction plan, and appealed to the authorities on Sept. 8 to halt the development,” he said.

Monks told to disperse

In a video obtained by RFA, Chinese officials are shown ordering the protesting monks to disperse and asking them to send five representatives to discuss the group’s concerns.

It is unclear whether the five later taken into custody were the same five selected to represent the rest.

Gomang monastery is one of the most tightly controlled Tibetan monasteries in Ngaba county, Tibetan sources say.

In March 2015, Tibetans taking part in a prayer festival at Gomang held up flags bearing photos of the Dalai Lama and other exiled Tibetan leaders in defiance of Chinese orders forbidding displays of the images, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008.

Tibetan pilgrim sees restrictions and heavy police presence in Lhasa

Tibetan pilgrim sees restrictions and heavy police presence in Lhasa
September 11, 2018

Radio Free Asia, August 31, 2018 – A Tibetan man making his first visit to Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa returned home earlier than planned this week after encountering police checkpoints and restrictions on his movements in the city, a popular destination for pilgrims from across Tibetan areas of China.

“My original plan was to stay much longer,” the man told RFA’s Tibetan Service, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But after arriving at the Lhasa train station, the native of northwestern China’s Qinghai province was forced to hand over his personal ID for a temporary permit before being allowed to enter the city, the man said, adding, “Without this, you cannot even stay overnight in the hotels.”

“The next morning, when I went to visit the Jokhang Temple, I could see Chinese police stationed everywhere. They search and frisk pilgrims one by one at several checkpoints before allowing them anywhere near the Barkhor,” the man said, referring to an inner ring road and market area in the city’s Old Town.

In the Barkhor and in front of the Potala Palace, winter home of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, “large crowds of people were milling around, and I saw battalions of armed Chinese police patrolling every corner and street of the city,” he said.

“After seeing this heavy security presence in Lhasa I couldn’t bear it any longer, and I left the place much sooner than I had intended,” he said.

China regularly blocks travel to Lhasa by foreign visitors and Tibetans living in western Chinese provinces during important political gatherings in Beijing and especially in March, a month of politically sensitive anniversaries.

On March 10, 1959, Tibetans in Lhasa rose up in protest of Beijing’s tightening political and military control of the formerly self-governing Tibetan region, sparking a rebellion in which thousands were killed.

And in March 2008, a riot in Lhasa followed the suppression by Chinese police of four days of peaceful Tibetan protests and led to the destruction of Han Chinese shops in the city and deadly attacks on Han Chinese residents.

The riot then sparked a wave of mostly peaceful protests against Chinese rule that spread across Tibet and into Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces.

Hundreds of Tibetans were detained, beaten, or shot as Chinese security forces quelled the protests, sources said in earlier reports.

Liverpool ends sponsorship deal with Tibet Water after strong campaign by Tibet supporters

Liverpool ends sponsorship deal with Tibet Water after strong campaign by Tibet supporters
September 11, 2018

Inside Sport, September 9, 2018 – Premier League club Liverpool have dropped the controversial sponsorship deal with Tibet Water.

The top flight Premier League club has parted ways with the controversial Chinese brand, sportspromedia.com has reported. Free Tibet, a London-based organisation fighting for Tibet’s freedom from the Chinese occupation, has confirmed in a tweet that Liverpool have dropped the sponsorship. The club, however, has not made an official announcement.

The club has been facing protests and was subjected to various campaigns ever since the signing of the deal in July last year to designate Tibet water as club’s regional water partner in China.

Campaigns against the deal had asked Liverpool “to stand with Tibet” and terminate the sponsorship contract.

In April this year, 25 Members of British Parliament have sent a letter to Liverpool Football Club, raising concerns about their controversial agreement with Tibet Water Resources Limited. “TWRL is only able to take resources from Tibet because the brutal Chinese military occupation allows it to — it owes its profits to the repression, torture and denial of political freedoms that have become commonplace there,” the MPs had written to Liverpool.

Tibet Water Resources Limited was accused of exploiting the natural resources of Tibet with the help of the Chinese military occupation. Protesting groups have been questioning Liverpool FC for signing the sponsorship deal with the company.

In October last year, a petition calling for Liverpool to scrap the deal citing the ‘repression, torture and denial of political freedoms’ in Tibet received over 80,000 signatures, while the tie-up was also the target of protests.

China is boldly tackling corruption but must focus on inner training: His Holiness the Dalai Lama

China is boldly tackling corruption but must focus on inner training: His Holiness the Dalai Lama
September 11, 2018

Central Tibetan Adminsitration, September 7, 2018 – His Holiness the Dalai Lama applauded the anti-corruption campaign led by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, saying that the leadership is “tackling corruption with boldness.”

He added, however, that the “best way to tackle corruption is to focus on transforming human emotions, cultivating transparency in work, truthfulness and self-discipline in individuals. Tackling corruption from outside is difficult.

His Holiness was addressing a group of South East Asian devotees in an interactive Q&A at his temple, Tsuglagkhang this morning.

“China is historically a Buddhist country and follower of Nalanda tradition. Xuanzang, a Chinese scholar and translator, travelled to India in the 7th century and brought Buddha dharma according to Nalanda tradition to China. In the Chinese mind, Buddhism is something close to their minds.

“According to a survey by Peking University a few years back, the Buddhist population in China was known to be 300 million. It is rapidly increasing,” he said.

His Holiness proposed that the ancient Buddhist thoughts if revived in form of academic values, could serve the entire humanity and bring peace. He pointed out that China and India had the opportunity to lead the initiative.

“We have to revive this combination of ancient Indian knowledge which brings inner peace and wisdom with modern education that brings us physical comfort and material development. If we successfully revive in India, China with another one billion human beings will definitely pay attention.

“It will also attract other countries like Vietnam, Korea and the rest of the Asian Buddhist countries to adopt the same in their countries as well. India and China has an opportunity to serve millions of people.

“Now many Indian universities and educationists are paying attention. Recently I had a meeting with 150 Vice Chancellors. Numbers of Indian institutions and scholars fully realise the importance of revival of the Nalanda tradition.

In between, His Holiness reiterated that the revival of Buddhist thoughts and philosophy must not be understood as revival of Buddhist religion.

The session concluded with a photo session with His Holiness. In the afternoon, Geshe Thupten Palsang will do a review session with the devotees.

Tibetans Celebrate Dalai Lama’s Birthday in Defiance of Restrictions

Tibetans Celebrate Dalai Lama’s Birthday in Defiance of Restrictions
July 16, 2018

Radio Free Asia, July 11, 2018- Defying restrictions by Chinese authorities, Tibetans living in northwestern China’s Qinghai and Gansu provinces gathered privately last week to celebrate the birthday of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, burning incense and offering prayers in small groups, sources in the region said.

Some drove far from settled areas to evade scrutiny by the police, one source in Qinghai told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“Tibetans living in the towns and cities drove into the grasslands and pastures to hold picnics,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Others hiked up to hill-tops on their own to make offerings of incense and prayers for [the Dalai Lama’s] long life,” the source said.

The Dalai Lama, who turned 83 on July 6, fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed national uprising against Chinese rule, and displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo or public celebrations of his birthday have been harshly punished in the past.

Restrictions imposed ahead of this year’s birthday included warnings issued to the managers of social media chat groups, urging them to watch for attempts to organize celebrations for the Tibetans’ spiritual leader.

In Qinghai’s Tsolho (in Chinese, Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, the Tibetan social media platform WeChat was nevertheless “buzzing with birthday greetings and good wishes on the morning of July 6,” the Dalai Lama’s birthday, RFA’s source said.

“Many WeChat users shared a customized birthday card showing a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he was very young and carrying the words, ‘Greetings to the Great Being!’” the source said.

“The reason for these covert communications was that other, more conventional, honorific names for His Holiness are banned and censored online,” he said. “And even this greeting could lead to punishment if the authorities catch the persons sending it.”

Also speaking to RFA, a Tibetan living in Machu (Maqu) county in the Kanlho (Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture said that the date of the Dalai Lama’s birthday is “well known by all Tibetans.”

“Therefore, they try to make religious offerings, including offerings of prayers and incense, and eat vegetarian food, according to their individual wishes,” he said.

Public celebrations of the spiritual leader’s birthday cannot now be seen anywhere in Tibetan areas of China, he said.

“The Chinese authorities’ ban is felt all over Tibet, and the Chinese have now deployed large numbers of armed police in the towns and cities where self-immolation protests and other demonstrations have taken place.”

“This is to prevent events like these from taking place again,” he said.

Speaking to RFA in an interview, Beri Jigme Wangyal, a Tibetan writer living in exile, said that for several days before July 6, he had seen “a flurry of birthday greetings on WeChat by Tibetans living in Tibet, composing and sharing poetry honoring the Dalai Lama’s wishes, accomplishments, and thoughts.”

“Their sentiments were so intense and deeply emotional that they brought tears to my eyes,” Wangyal said.

“I don’t want to share any of the details here out of concern for the writers’ safety,” he said.

China Forces Young Tibetan Monks From Their Monasteries

China Forces Young Tibetan Monks From Their Monasteries
July 16, 2018

Radio Free Asia, July 10, 2018- Chinese authorities in a Tibetan-populated region of Sichuan are forcing Buddhist monks aged 15 and under to leave their monasteries, placing them instead in government-run schools, Tibetan sources say.

The move has been backed by threats to punish monastery administrators and the monks’ parents and religious instructors in cases of noncompliance, a Tibetan living in New York told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday, citing reports in Tibetan social media.

“The Chinese government has ordered many monasteries in Dzachuka to enroll novice monks under the age of 15 in Chinese-run government schools, and they have started to expel the young monks from their respective monasteries,” RFA’s source named Kunga said.

“If these young monks refuse to abide by the order, China has threatened to shut the monasteries down,” Kunga said.

Around 20 novices have already been removed from Jowo Ganden Shedrub Palgyeling monastery in Dzachuka, an area in historic Tibet’s eastern region of Kham, Kunga said, citing a report by a resident circulating on social media.

Many had already enrolled in the monastery’s courses in Buddhist logic and philosophy, and some were top students in their class, the resident, quoted by Kunga, said.

“Many of the parents of these young monks are unhappy about what the Chinese are doing,” Kunga said.

Meanwhile, authorities forced around 200 novice monks from Dzachuka’s Dza Sershul monastery on July 10, according to a Tibetan social media report titled “Current News Under Red Chinese Oppression, Really Feel Like Dying,” Kunga told RFA.

“These young monks were seen leaving their monastery unwillingly and with tears in their eyes,” one blogger quoted by Kunga said.

“The scene was very disheartening.”

Chinese authorities have long sought to restrict the size and influence of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, traditionally a focus of Tibetan cultural and national identity, sources in the region say.

Authorities have strictly limited the numbers of monks and nuns enrolled there and forced those allowed to remain to take part in classes promoting loyalty to China and the ruling Chinese Communist Party, sources say.

What Future For Tibet? – OpEd

What Future For Tibet? – OpEd
July 16, 2018

EuroAsiaReview, July 9, 2018- As an ardent admirer of Tibet’s traditional and cultural values and a well wisher of Tibetan cause, I am submitting my loud thoughts in this article. This is not a criticism of state of affairs but a clarion call for redoubled efforts with sustained faith in the cause for liberation of Tibet from the stranglehold of unethical Chinese leadership.

It is a distressing fact that many countries in the world including India seem to have concluded that Tibet would stay as a part and province of China for all time to come. None of them seem to be concerned that a grievous wrong has been done to Tibet, by China aggressively occupying the Tibetan territory and holding on to the ill gotten region for several decades now. Leadership of several countries in the world know in their heart of hearts that China has occupied Tibet in violation of human rights and without respecting Tibet’s sovereignty but they are suppressing such views in their anxiety to keep China in good humor for the sake of their economic and political gains.

By ignoring the cause of Tibet, the world conscience has gone for a toss.

Since Tibet has been under China’s occupation for more than six decades now, the recent generations of Tibetans born and living in Tibet do not have the opportunity to enjoy the freedom that the Tibetans traditionally enjoyed and reap the benefits of the traditional culture and value system of Tibet. The aggressor China has been systematically brain washing the Tibetans now living in Tibet and making them think that Tibet is no independent entity and Tibetans are really Chinese nationals.

Thousands of Tibetans who left Tibet in the wake of Chinese occupation and aggression several decades back, have now spread themselves in different countries particularly in India, USA, Canada and West European region and quite a number of them have got citizenship in the countries, where they entered once as refugees. Most members of their families, born after Tibet’s occupation by China, have not seen Tibet, though it must be deep in their minds that they are Tibetans.

Of course, there are thousands of Buddhists living around the world belonging to different countries and these Buddhists too have not cared to speak effectively and forcefully for the liberation of Tibet from Chinese occupation. The glaring example is that of Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, which has even refused to give a visa to the respected the Dalai Lama to visit Sri Lanka, fearing incurring the wrath of China.

There are many Tibetans in India enjoying reasonable level of freedom and independence and are treated with dignity. Of course, the Tibetans now living in India and section of the people of Tibetan origin living in different countries have been voicing protest against Chinese occupation of Tibet, without making much impact on the world opinion. There is a Tibetan parliament and office bearers in exile operating in India and they too seem to be representing only a symbolic presence.

The recent view expressed by respected the Dalai Lama that he has no objection to Tibet being a part of China enjoying autonomy within China has created considerable uncertainty among the Tibetans living outside Tibet and friends of Tibet ,about the prospects of Tibet getting independence at any time soon. Many wonder how the ruthless Chinese leadership would agree to provide autonomy for Tibet and even in the unlikely event of agreeing to provide autonomy, will China refrain from suppressing freedom and liberty and really respect the autonomy status?

Under the circumstances, one has to think as to where Tibet stands now and what will be its future.

All said and done, Tibet is historically a respected traditional country, representing the best of Buddhist philosophy and culture. In spite of reckless efforts of Chinese leadership, the idea of Tibet as an in dependent country cannot be erased or destroyed.

What we need today is that the torch of freedom for Tibetans has to be kept lighted and the morale of the Tibetans living outside Tibet must be kept high to achieve independence for Tibet.

What is very important now is that greater efforts to spread awareness among the world community about the injustice done to Tibet by China must be continued with greater vigor. The voice of Tibet must be heard in all corners of the world.

While the governments in several countries may not come forward to support the cause of Tibet due to political reasons, there must be millions of people in these countries, who would raise their voice for Tibetan cause, if only they would be made aware of the ground realities.

Sustaining the torch of freedom is the most vital need today and Tibetans and their friends should keep their hopes and faith alive and move on to achieve the ultimate independence of Tibet without slackening the efforts. Every individual Tibetan and the friend of Tibet needs to play.