China and India renew war of words over Tibet

China and India renew war of words over Tibet
April 24, 2017

By Lucy Hornby and Aliya Ram

Financial Times, April 20, 2017 – China and India have renewed a war of words over the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, a Tibetan Himalayan region claimed by Beijing, after China said it would “standardise” six place names in the territory.

The announcement of the new romanised spellings for three towns and three mountain passes by China’s ministry of civil affairs is the country’s latest move to stake its claim over an area that came under formal Indian control in a series of 19th-century boundary agreements between the Manchu Qing empire and the British government in India.

India responded on Thursday by insisting that Arunachal Pradesh was “an integral part” of India. “Nothing can change that,” the foreign ministry in New Delhi said. “We have an established bilateral mechanism to discuss the boundary question with China and it has made progress. We seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question.”

Beijing’s current claims over Arunachal Pradesh — which it calls South Tibet — rest on its control over the rest of Tibet, the vast mountain territory it invaded and seized in 1950. The decision to release new names follows a dispute over a visit to a Buddhist monastery in Arunachal this month by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in exile in India.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the “standardisation” was in line with Chinese regulations on the management of geographical names: “These names reflect from another angle that China’s territorial claim over South Tibet is supported by clear evidence in terms of history, culture and administration.”

Earlier this week Mr Lu said India-China relations had been damaged for some time.“What is imperative now is for the Indian side to take concrete actions to honour its solemn promises on Tibet-related issues”, he said, calling on New Delhi to “never again use the 14th Dalai Lama to undermine China’s core interests”. The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 when he fled Lhasa following a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. The influential leader is reviled by Beijing, which views him as a threat to China’s control of Tibet.

After a previous visit to the Tawang monastery in Arunachal Pradesh by the Dalai Lama in 2009, China stopped recognising the Indian passports of people born in the state. Rather than normal visas, it issued travel permits stapled into their passports. The dispute escalated as both countries included maps in newly issued passports showing the conflicting claims.

The ageing Dalai Lama has resisted attempts by Beijing to put forward its own candidate for his reincarnated successor. He has said the reincarnated spiritual leader will not be born in Chinese territory.

An alternative option of identifying his successor in Mongolia — which the Dalai Lama visited late last year — seems to be ruled out by China’s growing political and economic influence over its landlocked neighbour.

The place name “standardisation” adheres to a playbook China has followed in the case of other border territories it claims, for instance the uninhabited Tokyo-controlled islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, and atolls in the South China Sea. According to the process, a first step is to have the territory in question recognised as “disputed” by an international audience.

“The motivation might be to show historical claim and historical ownership of the disputed territory,” said Jian Zhang, associate professor at the University of New South Wales. “Naming does carry significance in terms of a country’s claim to a disputed territory.”

Additional reporting by Emily Feng in Beijing

Five detained following self-immolation in Tibet

Five detained following self-immolation in Tibet
April 24, 2017

Radio Free Asia, April 19, 2017 – Police in western China’s Sichuan province detained five Tibetans following the April 15 self-immolation of a 39 year-old father of four, severely beating at least three suspected of close ties to the protest, Tibetan sources say.

Three of those taken into custody were identified as Konchok Gyaltsen, Nyima Tsering, and Tsering Gyatso, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“They were detained on an allegation that they had possession of the mobile phone of Wangchuk Tseten, who self-immolated on April 15,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

All three were severely beaten during questioning, the source said.

Before staging his protest, Tseten had called the three to tell them where his phone could be found, the source said.

“Two of them were later released, but the third is still being held,” he said, adding, “The police took the phone away, and they never learned what information was contained on it.”

Two other Tibetans, still unidentified, were also detained on suspicion of having filmed video of Tseten’s protest, the source said.

‘Engulfed in flames’

Tseten, a native of Nyagrong (in Chinese, Xinlong) county in Sichuan’s Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, set himself ablaze at about 7:00 a.m. in a public square of the main town of the prefecture’s Kardze county, sources told RFA in earlier reports.

“It seems that he drank a large quantity of kerosene before he lit himself on fire, and also poured it over his body,” another local source said.

“His body was completely engulfed in flames, so it seems there is little chance that he survived.”

As he burned, Tseten called out for the long life of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, RFA’s source said.

“His body was taken away by the police,” he said.

Security forces were quickly sent to question Tseten’s relatives, “raising tensions in his home town,” the source said.

Tseten’s protest brought to 148 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of fiery protests began in 2009. Of these, 125 are known to have died.

The previous protest was on March 18, when a 24-year-old Tibetan farmer named Pema Gyaltsen, also from Nyagrong, set himself on fire in Kardze. His fate remains unclear.

Most protests feature demands for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from India, where he has lived since escaping Tibet during a failed national uprising in 1959.

Reported by Kunsang Tenzin and Sangye Dorjee for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Tibetan refugees to get Indian passports

Tibetan refugees to get Indian passports
April 24, 2017

By Abhinav Gargi

Times of India, April 18, 2017 – Tibetan refugees born in India during 1950-87 will soon be able to get Indian passports, according to a new policy by the Centre.

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) accepted a Delhi high court ruling from last year that had asked for Tibetan refugees to be considered Indian citizens. The government informed Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva that it has accepted his September 2016 verdict that nationality of Tibetans, born in India during the specific period, cannot be questioned under the Citizenship Act.

The policy change came into effect from March 2017 and is expected to benefit thousands of Tibetans living in India in forced exile.

The MEA directed all passport offices in India and abroad to process pending applications of Tibetan Refugee applicants born in India between 26/01/1950 to 01/07/1987 for the issue of passports, and treat them as Indian citizens by birth.

Latest rules also specify that if the police verification report in the cases of such applicants from local police or security agencies of the government is received as “adverse” because the refugee is not an Indian citizen by birth, it will be treated by the authorities as “cleared.”

Earlier the home ministry had argued that it considers requests for citizenship by Tibetans residing in India on a case-by-case basis, but the HC ordered it to consider applications of all Tibetans and not ask them to certify their nationality. Till then the MHA was issuing identity certificate/ residential permit instead of passports to the Tibetan Refugees.

With MEA issuing new rules, HC declared five petitioners before it to be Indian citizens and entitled to a passport, asking the government to issue them travel documents in four weeks. The petitioners had gone to court arguing they were wrongly denied passports despite having other proofs of citizenship including voter ID cards.

Tibetan activist sues Swiss authorities over unfair treatment at rally

Tibetan activist sues Swiss authorities over unfair treatment at rally
April 17, 2017

SwissInfo.ch, April 13, 2017 – A Tibetan activist has filed a lawsuit against Bern’s cantonal police as well as the capital’s security director. He says that Tibetan demonstrators were treated unfairly during the recent visit of the Chinese president.

The Swiss News Agency, reported on Wednesday night that the Tibetan man has accused the Bernese cantonal police and the city of Bern’s Security Director, Reto Nause, of abuse and coercion. The man was among the Tibetans who gathered for a rally in Bern during Xi Jinping’s state visit in January.

The police presence was particularly strong, partly to prevent scenes such as those that accompanied the visit of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 1999 when Tibetan demonstrators unfurled “Free Tibet” banners on parliament square.

So this time, Tibetans were not allowed to gather on parliament square – unlike a Chinese group that stood there to welcome their president with flags. Instead, the city of Bern permitted the Tibetans to hold their rally on a nearby square before Xi’s arrival on January 15. Hundreds held a loud but peaceful protest. They called on Xi to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and to stop the torture of Tibetan prisoners.

Later in the day, a group of young Tibetans started a second demonstration without city permission. Police stopped the demo and arrested some of the protesters. Critics, including left-wing politicians, have complained that the Swiss desire not to offend the Chinese took precedence over the Tibetans’ right to freedom of expression.

As Nause pointed out in January, the Tibetans had permission to demonstrate at Waisenhausplatz, the square on the opposite side of the street from parliament square. Police had been ordered not to tolerate any additional rallies.

“One China” Policy Should Exclude Tibet?

“One China” Policy Should Exclude Tibet?
Apr 10, 2017 Sri Lanka Guardian Columnists, Diplomacy, Feature, N.S.VenkataramanNo comments

Tibet has been an independent country for hundreds of years and was occupied by China by force. Many Tibetans including the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet to protect their safety and stay alive to fight for Tibet.

by N.S.Venkataraman

( April 10, 2017, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the wake of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, China has conveyed it’s objection to India and has sharply criticized the visit of the Dalai Lama. However, India has ignored such protests from China and the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh has taken pace with dignity and amidst warm reception from the people. The visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh has been noted by the media all over the world, which has only angered China.

In his speech in Arunachal Pradesh, the Dalai Lama said clearly that the acts of repressive measures employed by China in Tibet are similar to the atrocities committed by Polpot’s in Cambodia, when more than a million Cambodians were massacred in 1970s. The Dalai Lama has also accused China of sending wrong information about his visit to Arunachal Pradesh. Further, the Dalai Lama has slammed China for making a bid to name his successor in Tibet. He further said that the Chinese people were being fed with wrong information about him and the totalitarianism in China has done great damage to the Chinese people who have every right to know the reality.

Millions of people around the world are convinced that Tibet has been wronged by China and justice must be done to the people of Tibet. The world conscience is clearly disturbed by the aggressive behavior of China in Tibet and China is well aware of it, which has made China feel jittery. The Tibetans living across the world are longing to go back to Tibet and live in Tibet , maintaining the traditional value systems that the Tibetans are associated with.

While China is militarily and economically strong and many world governments think twice before antagonising China on any count, nevertheless the fact remains that the world knows that China’s position on Tibet is unjustifiable and unacceptable. The world opinion is bound to assert itself in one form or the other sooner or later that will make China quit Tibet. The history of the world have repeatedly revealed that the truth and fair dealings alone triumph ultimately.

While the world opinion is certainly in favour of a liberated and independent Tibet, the recent reported statement of the Dalai Lama that he has no issues with the “One China” policy, ensuring economic benefit to Tibet and providing the right to preserve their culture and language in Tibet has surprised everyone.

This reported statement has sent a confusing signal amongst millions of supporters of Tibet all over the world , as to whether the Dalai Lama has accepted that Tibet would function under China as part of China. He was also reported to have said that he would return to China if China would show the green light. The reported statement of the Dalai Lama that the “whole world knows that I am not seeking independence of Tibet” has dismayed supporters of the Tibet.

I appeal to his Holiness the Dalai Lama to clarify his stand in the matter and confirm as to whether his statement has been misreported in the media.

Tibet has been an independent country for hundreds of years and was occupied by China by force. Many Tibetans including the Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet to protect their safety and stay alive to fight for Tibet.

Tibet being a part of China under “One China” policy is an unacceptable stand, as Tibet has all the claims to be an independent country following it’s own policies and programmes and beliefs. Tibet should never be a part of “one China policy”

Tibetans across the world and supporters of Tibet’s cause are waiting eagerly to know as to whether the Dalai Lama really meant what he was reported to have said.

Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh has India asserting itself to China

Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh has India asserting itself to China
April 10, 2017

By Subhajit Sengupta

CNN News18, April 4, 2017 – On March 30, 1959, the Dalai Lama and 20 of his guards escaped China and entered India through Kinzmane. He was then brought to Tawang where he was accorded a grand welcome before being finally taken to Dharamshala, the capital of Tibet’s government-in-exile.

Three years later, the Chinese decided to attack India through the same area. China claims Arunachal Pradesh to be part of south Tibet. This week, the Dalai Lama is back at Tawang on a religious tour. He was to have started the visit on Tuesday but overcast conditions forced him to abandon the chopper and travel by road. He is now scheduled to reach Tawang on April 7.

Any visit to Arunachal by Dalai Lama has always been controversial and has led to stiffening of relations between India and China. Though he visited the state in 1983, 1997, 2003 and 2009, never has the visit been so political and bold. Even during his weeklong visit in 2009, the then chief minister of Arunachal went on record to say that the Dalai Lama would stop at discourse, his was a purely religious visit and had nothing to do with politics. This time, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju would be escorting him in Tawang.

The government, too, it seems, has decided to make a subtle push towards asserting itself. While the programmes in Arunachal are strictly religious, in Assam he was made the guest of honour at the Namami Brahmaputra event where he spoke about the spiritual link with the river, which originates in his homeland Tibet.

Brahmaputra, like certain parts of Arunachal, has been a sore spot in India-China relations. India has raised objection to the fact that China has blocked a tributary of the Brahmaputra in Tibet as part of the construction of a hydro-power project and has said that it may impact the water flow into the country, especially in states like Assam.

At the festival, India chose to flaunt how the spiritual head of Tibet was escorted to India from Zuthangbo on the Sino-India border by the guards of Assam Rifles in 1959. At an interactive session of Namami Brahmaputra, the last surviving member of the Assam Rifles who escorted him to India was invited. A visibly moved Dalai Lama embraced the retired jawan, Naren Chandra Das, after saluting him.

This even as China has issued three warnings in the wake of this visit, the last being on Friday when it said that the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh will cause “serious damage” to bilateral ties. Lu Kang, the foreign ministry spokesperson of China, asked India to make a ‘choice’.

“China and India are two major developing countries and we are close neighbours. It is very important for the two peoples to maintain sound and steady China-India relations…. But such a relationship has to be built on certain foundations. Such visits will have deep damage on China-India relations. We have asked India to stick to its political pledges and not to hurt China-India relations. It will come down to India to make a choice (sic).”

But India was quick to brush aside the Chinese objection with MoS Home Kiren Rijiju, who is known for his hard-line stand against China, telling the media: “We are not interfering in the internal matters of China and that country should not interfere in ours.”

Dr Alka Acharya, former director of the Institute of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and currently professor at the Centre for East Asian Studies in JNU, agrees that India is more assertive now than it was in the past. Acharya, however, says that it is also the current ambience adding to it. “The context is far more volatile this time with the India-China relations going through a rough patch because of Pakistan, the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and Masood Azhar.”

She maintains that India’s decision might sour the relation between the two countries further. “There is always that certain level of tension and turbulence between China and Tibet. The Chinese leadership always wants to be seen in control. While India is not raising the issue of Chinese conduct within Tibet, we are not averse to bringing in the spotlight something that detracts from China’s stature internationally. These occasions bring the Chinese to the point where they oppose or condemn his activities and this once again enhances their authoritarian and intolerant position.”

As MoS Home Kiren Rijiju escorts Dalai Lama across Arunachal, it is important to note this visit in the context of what has been happening in this sector. Whether the very public inauguration of IAF Advanced Landing Ground at Tuting, in Upper Siang, Arunachal in December or sanctioning of an estimated Rs 50,000 to 70,000 crore for construction of railway lines between Tawang (Arunachal), Silapathar (Assam) and Bame (Arunachal), and Murkongselek (Assam) and Pasighat (Arunachal), India is seen to be shoring up the defences on the eastern front . While it has not gone for a direct confrontation with China, India is seen to be making a quiet assertion by making it clear that Chinese overtures in Arunachal are definitely not welcome.

Dalai Lama succession a high-stakes collision of the metaphysical and the geopolitica

Dalai Lama succession a high-stakes collision of the metaphysical and the geopolitical
April 10, 2017

By Gordon Fairclough and Niharika Mandhana

Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2017 – Tens of thousands of Buddhist faithful poured into the remote Himalayan monastery town of Tawang in northeast India this week—many traveling days over rough roads from distant mountain valleys—for a chance to see and hear a man they consider an embodiment of the divine: the Dalai Lama.

Defying repeated protests from China—which claims Tawang as part of its territory and decries the Tibetan spiritual leader as “a wolf in monk’s clothing” bent on fueling separatist unrest—the Dalai Lama was due to begin three days of public religious teachings there on Saturday.

Beyond the lessons on meditation and Buddhist belief, some see a larger aim in the visit of the increasingly frail, 81-year-old Dalai Lama. Anticipating his own death, he may wish to signal that he could choose, as Tibetan tradition allows, to be reborn in Tawang—still part of the Tibetan cultural sphere but safely outside China.

“It’s a way of subtly sending the message on reincarnation,” says Jayadeva Ranade, a former Indian government official and an expert on China and Tibet. “That’s why the Chinese are so anxious.”

Reincarnation is the traditional means of determining the succession for Tibet’s most important sacred and secular leaders. The Dalai Lama’s rebirth represents a high-stakes collision of the metaphysical and the geopolitical.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk, who lives in exile in India, is a global celebrity and a forceful advocate for Tibetans in China, campaigning for autonomy, religious freedom and human rights.

China, which sees Tibet as strategically critical, is determined to control the reincarnation process. Beijing fears agitation against its control of Tibet, and China’s officially atheist leadership says that the choice of the next Dalai Lama is theirs to make.

But in a March interview with John Oliver on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” the Dalai Lama said, “As far as my own rebirth is concerned, the final authority is my say, no one else’s. And obviously not Chinese communists.”

The Dalai Lama—the 14th in his lineage—has indicated that he won’t be reborn in any place under Chinese control. He has also hinted that he might opt not to be reincarnated at all. Asked by Mr. Oliver if he might be the last Dalai Lama, the monk replied that it was “very possible.”

Tenzin Taklha, a spokesman for the Dalai Lama, said that the religious leader was in Tawang at the invitation of devotees eager for him to teach. “There is no other message to anyone,” Mr. Taklha said. He also declined to discuss the issue of reincarnation, pointing to a statement from the Dalai Lama that refers to Chinese efforts to direct the selection of reincarnate lamas as “brazen meddling.”

In recent months, the Dalai Lama has traveled to the two spots on China’s periphery where the only previous non-Tibetan incarnations of the Dalai Lama originated. In November, he visited Mongolia, where the fourth Dalai Lama—the grandson of a Mongol ruler—was born in 1589. The trip drew a sharp response from the Chinese. Under pressure, Mongolian officials apologized and pledged not to invite the Tibetan leader back.

This week, the Dalai Lama made the arduous journey to Tawang, less than 25 miles from India’s disputed frontier with China, where the sixth Dalai Lama—a child of a local nobleman—was discovered in the late 1600s. He is planning to visit a small monastery at his predecessor’s birthplace.

When the current Dalai Lama fled China in 1959, he passed through Tawang. He has visited several times over the years, most recently in 2009. The town now has a population of around 50,000, most of them Monpa, who speak a language closely related to Tibetan.

Tawang has had close ties to Tibet for centuries. The town’s monastery, part of the Dalai Lama’s Gelug school of Buddhism, houses more than 500 monks.

Some locals say that they are impressed by Beijing’s infrastructure-building spree in Tibet. In Tawang, the roads are abysmal, power outages are a daily occurrence, and phone connectivity is spotty. But they also talk about Tibet’s lack of democratic and religious rights and the fact that scores of Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest the Chinese government’s domination.

“The Dalai Lama is the face of Tibetan struggle,” said Chombay Kee, the president of Yuva Arunachal, a local NGO assisting youth. “If the Dalai Lama is reborn in Tibet or China, they can install a fake one,” he said. “But if he is reborn outside China, outside Tibet, how is it possible for them to control him?”

China asserts that Tawang and other parts of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh rightfully belong to it—claims dating back decades that India rejects. Beijing reacted angrily to the Dalai Lama’s visit.

“Do you seriously believe that Dalai is only a religious leader?” Chinese foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing this week. “We demand that India stop this move of undermining Chinese interests.” Kiren Rijiju, India’s minister of state for home affairs, said that India “is a democratic country” in which people are free to travel and worship as they please.

Foreign-policy experts see the quarrel over the Dalai Lama’s visit as a sign of increasingly strained ties between the two Asian giants. India objects to a Chinese project in Pakistan, its longtime rival, that would (among other things) build infrastructure on lands claimed by India. India also blames China for obstructing its entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which

controls trade in nuclear technology. Meanwhile, China is unhappy with India’s deepening defense ties with the U.S. and Japan.

“The message is—if China doesn’t show sensitivity toward issues that matter to India, India is going to return the favor,” said Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

In 2007, China’s State Religious Affairs Bureau issued new regulations, which it termed “management measures for reincarnation,” that laid out a system of government approval and permits for rebirths. Reincarnations of key religious figures must be approved by China’s cabinet. In a swipe at Tibet’s exiled establishment, China’s rules forbid any “disruption or control” of reincarnation by “any foreign organizations or individuals.”

In 1995, the Dalai Lama recognized a young Tibetan boy as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, No. 2 in the hierarchy of his school of Buddhism. Soon after, Chinese security forces detained the child and his family. They haven’t been seen publicly since.

China then chose a different Panchen Lama, a boy named Gyaincain Norbu. Now an adult, he supports Beijing and urges Tibetan Buddhism to adapt “to socialist society with Chinese characteristics.” But he hasn’t found much of a following among believers in China or outside. “We don’t believe in their Panchen Lama, we don’t carry his photographs,” said Mr. Kee in Tawan

Larung Gar expulsions complete as demolitions continue

Larung Gar expulsions complete as demolitions continue
April 10, 2017

Radio Free Asia, April 7, 2017 – The forced removals by Chinese authorities of monks and nuns from Sichuan’s Larung Gar Buddhist Academy have now ended, with the last of a final group of 250 nuns having left the institute by April 6, according to a local source.

All had come originally from neighboring Qinghai province and were sent back to different areas there, RFA’s source said.

“Among them, some went to Golog [in Chinese, Guoluo] prefecture in Qinghai, where they are being allowed to stay at Tsida monastery, which is led by Khenpo Rigdar,” the source said.

“This was done at their own wish and was made possible with help from members of Larung Gar’s management committee,” he said, adding, “Other groups returned to their home towns and have joined local monasteries there.”

Around 5,000 monks and nuns have now been expelled from Serthar (Seda) county’s sprawling Larung Gar complex, which was founded in 1980 by the late religious teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok and is one of the world’s largest and most important centers for the study of Tibetan Buddhism.

On March 30, a group of Chinese officials led by Sichuan provincial governor Yin Li arrived at Larung Gar to observe the ongoing state-ordered demolition of monastic dwellings there, another local source told RFA.

“He also convened a meeting of Larung Gar’s management committee and reminded them that the reduction in numbers of monks and nuns living there and destruction of their homes had been ordered by higher authorities,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“He added that anyone working against this plan would be breaking the law,” he said.

“He also pointed out that the houses remaining to be torn down would not be limited to the smaller dwellings, but would include some of the larger structures as well.”

The expulsions and demolitions at Larung Gar, along with restrictions at Yachen Gar, another large Buddhist center in Sichuan, are part of “an unfolding political strategy” aimed at controlling the influence and growth of these important centers for Tibetan Buddhist study and practice, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a March 13 report, “Shadow of Dust Across the Sun.”

“[Both centers] have drawn thousands of Chinese practitioners to study Buddhist ethics and receive spiritual teaching since their establishment, and have bridged Tibetan and Chinese communities,” ICT said in its report.

Reported by Lhuboom for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Written in English by Richard Finn

China should halt re-education of monks and nuns evicted from Larung Gar

China should halt re-education of monks and nuns evicted from Larung Gar
April 3, 2017

Human Rights Watch, March 29, 2017 – Chinese authorities should halt the expulsion and political re-education of monks and nuns from a major Tibetan religious institution, Human Rights Watch said today. According to a statement by an abbot of the institution, Chinese officials announced on March 12, 2017, that 3,225 homes at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist institution, would be torn down by April 30.

Many of the monks and nuns already expelled from Larung Gar and the nearby religious community at Yachen Gar, both in Tibetan areas of Sichuan province, have been forced to return to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and subjected to exceptional restrictions on their liberty and to degrading treatment. In November 2016, the authorities forced at least one group to undergo political re-education and apparent public humiliation in Nyingtri (Linzhi in Chinese), in southeastern TAR.

“China is aggressively dismantling religious freedom along with religious life at Larung Gar by subjecting many expelled monks and nuns to forced re-education,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The restrictions imposed on former residents should be removed so they can exercise fully their rights to religious practice, including freely joining religious institutions and observing religious rituals.”

A senior abbot said in a speech to the community on March 23 that the monks and nuns “who have left had never wanted to leave… And whether or not they had some place to go, they still had to leave.” He added that “the demolitions and expulsions come from the policy of the senior levels of government, and cannot be discussed” and called on all monks and nuns to “show great forbearance and not react with protest, suicide and the like.”

China is aggressively dismantling religious freedom along with religious life at Larung Gar by subjecting many expelled monks and nuns to forced re-education.

Foreign media reported that the TAR authorities subjected 100 monks and nuns, believed to have been expelled from Larung Gar, to political “re-education” in Nyingtri municipality in November. A video circulated on social media shows 25 young Tibetan women with shaven heads, who appear to be nuns, dressed in military jackets and standing in rows inside a police or government office decorated in Tibetan style. The women are chanting in unison, “The Tibetans and the Chinese are daughters of the same mother, the name of the mother is China,” part of a song often used by officials in Tibet to propagate the view that Tibetans are genetically or culturally Chinese. A photograph circulated at the same time shows the same women, dressed in full military fatigues, carrying out a military-style exercise inside a walled compound.

A second video, circulated a few days after the first, shows 12 Tibetan nuns dancing on the stage of a theater in front of what appears to be an audience of officials. The nuns, dressed in religious robes, perform a choreographed dance routine to the song, “The Song of the Emancipated Serfs.” The song is associated with official Communist Party celebrations and was originally performed in front of Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1959. A banner above the stage reads “Graduation Art Show for the Law and Politics Training Course for Buddhist Monks and Nuns, Kongpo Gyamda County.” Kongpo Gyamda county (Gongbujiangda in Chinese) is in Nyingtri municipality, and the video is believed to have been filmed there on November 10, 2016.

The women are chanting in unison, “The Tibetans and the Chinese are daughters of the same mother, the name of the mother is China,” part of a song often used by officials in Tibet to propagate the view that Tibetans are genetically or culturally Chinese.

The timing and circumstances of the two videos and the photograph indicate that the women pictured are Tibetan nuns expelled in 2016 from Larung Gar or Yachen Gar. Buddhist nuns usually make a commitment to “refrain from singing, dancing, and viewing entertainments” as the sixth of the 10 sramenerika or novice vows taken by nuns or monks when they are first ordained. This strongly suggests that these performances were coerced and that officials required these nuns to sing and dance to humiliate or embarrass them. The use of forced singing and dancing as part of political re-education for expelled nuns is not known to have occurred previously in the TAR.

The government’s apparent treatment of these nuns violates their rights to freedom of religion but also amounts to degrading treatment prohibited under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which China is a party.

In late summer 2016, two nuns known to Human Rights Watch, who had been expelled from Larung Gar and returned forcibly to the TAR, were not allowed to remain in Lhasa, where they had previously lived for many years, but were forced to return to the village of their birth in a rural area of southern Tibet. The authorities required them to report at regular intervals to the local police station and did not allow them to join any nunneries or institutions in the TAR or elsewhere.

Other sources have told Human Rights Watch that no former monks and nuns who have been returned to the TAR are allowed to join any monastery or nunnery there, which means they are considered to be “mobile religious personnel.” Since an official announcement in September 2012, such unaffiliated monks and nuns are not permitted to carry out religious rituals in the TAR outside their own homes unless they have a special permit. This means that the returned monks and nuns cannot carry out religious services for others, which would constitute their normal source of income, and that Tibetans in the TAR face increasing difficulties in finding religious practitioners to recite prayers at funerals and other family events.

In June 2016, the local government in Serta county, Sichuan, ordered the monks running Larung Gar to begin reducing its occupant numbers to a maximum of 5,000 by September 2017. The institution is estimated to have had between 10,000 and 20,000 occupants before evictions began. It is unclear whether the March 12 decision requiring the demolition of 3,225 homes includes the 1,500 or more homes that have already been demolished. So far, 4,500 residents have been forced to leave, according to the March 23 statement from a senior abbot.

Authorities appear to have made certain concessions in response to requests from the monastery regarding the demolition and eviction procedures at Larung Gar, including unconfirmed reports that some monks and nuns there were compensated for their demolished homes, and that approximately 1,200 expelled nuns have been rehoused in four temporary camps in neighboring counties within Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. But the demolitions and evictions remain a violation of the community members’ rights of religious freedom and practice.

In November 2016, seven experts from the United Nations wrote to the Chinese government requesting detailed information regarding the mass expulsion of Tibetan, Chinese, and other monks and nuns from the monastic settlements at Larung Gar and Yachen Gar. The statement also asked the government to provide information about the legal grounds for the demolitions and expulsions, and what steps had been taken to resettle or rehouse those made homeless. It also requested an explanation about the reported lack of consultation with local religious leaders, the rationale for involving government officials in monastic affairs, and what steps authorities would take to ensure the right of religious freedom.

The UN has said that the Chinese government replied to these requests on December 5, 2016. The UN should publicly release China’s reply.

“China’s conduct at Larung Gar and Yachen Gar shows a cruel and unyielding disrespect for religious freedom,” Richardson said. “Chinese authorities can undo some of the harm by halting the destruction of this community, fairly addressing the needs of the religious community, and providing transparent explanations about its conduct at Larung Gar and in Nyingtri.”

Swiss parliamentarians vow continued support for Tibetan cause

Swiss parliamentarians vow continued support for Tibetan cause
April 3, 2017

By Lobsang Wangyal

Tibet Sun, March 31, 2017 – Six members of the Swiss parliamentary support group for Tibet on a visit to the capital of the Tibetan Diaspora in McLeod Ganj expressed their continued support for the Tibetan people’s quest for a free Tibet.

The parliamentarians, accompanied by members of the Swiss Tibetan community and the Swiss Tibet Friendship Association, met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama with a 45-minute meeting on Wednesday. The delegation had met with Sikyong (the Tibetan political leader) a day earlier.

The delegation is on a week-long tour, and was impressed by what the Tibetans have achieved. “We are deeply impressed by how Tibetans have been successful in developing and implementing democratic processes and institutions. We don’t know any other so well-organised society in exile carrying such hardship but still going on hopefully with peace in mind and heart,” said Maya Graf, member of Swiss parliament and a former speaker.

Graf said that they support the “Middle-way” policy of the Tibetans to achieve freedom in Tibet, and will encourage restarting the dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama.

She further said that they are aware of the deteriorating environmental and climate change issues in Tibet, and that Switzerland could help raise these issues on a multinational level for immediate action.

After the signing of a Free Trade Agreement between Switzerland and China in 2013, the Swiss attitude towards Tibetans has changed to the extent of officially describing Tibetans as from China, as opposed to from Tibet as they did earlier. This started in June 2015, with many Tibetans objecting to it.

Bilateral trade between Switzerland and China totaled more than 22.5 billion USD in 2013.

Ms Graf said that the Swiss Government’s change could be due to greater pressure from China. “It’s the administration’s decision. We will try to find out why they did that.”

There are about 7,000 Tibetans in Switzerland today, with the majority of them having integrated into the Swiss system and taking its citizenship. However, a few hundred are facing trouble getting legalised in the country.

Last month a 27-year-old Tibetan woman named Yangdon Chorasherpa seeking asylum in Switzerland was deported to Nepal by the Swiss immigration authorities. She first came to Switzerland in 2014. She was said to be imprisoned in Kathmandu despite having a health problem.

“Tibetans coming directly from Tibet will not have trouble getting their asylum request approved, but it’s the Tibetans coming from India and Nepal who have a problem because they have already lived in these countries, and getting asylum approved is difficult as these two are safe states,” Graf said.

However, Graf assured the audience that Yangdon’s would be the last case of deportation.

The first Tibetans to have settled in Switzerland were in the early 1960s after the Swiss Red Cross made arrangements for 300 Tibetans refugees to resettle in Switzerland. In addition, about 150 Tibetan orphans were adopted by Swiss families at that time.