Beijing Hinders Free Speech in America

Beijing Hinders Free Speech in America (op-ed by Wang Dan)

I spent nearly seven years in a Chinese prison for being a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. I was freed in 1998, and the Chinese government let me leave the country. I chose to go to the United States, where I could freely speak my mind without fear of being thrown in prison. I earned a doctorate in history in 2009 and took a teaching position in Taiwan. I taught contemporary Chinese history and led a weekly seminar — a “China salon” — of open discussions about Chinese society and politics. Many of the seminar topics, like the 1989 protest movement and political reform, were taboo in the mainland but safe for public discussion in Taiwan. The salons drew large numbers of mainland students attending Taiwanese universities on exchange programs who were hungry for the truth about China’s past. Many of them wondered about the Tiananmen Square crackdown, for example, because there is little mention of it in China’s history books.

I returned to the United States earlier this year and brought the salons to American universities. Given the long tradition of free speech in the United States, I assumed that the forums would fare even better in America, where some 329,000 Chinese students attend college. I hoped that public discussions of topics off-limits in China might challenge visiting Chinese students and encourage them to embrace Western democratic values. But instead, over the past three months, my efforts on American campuses have been stymied. The Chinese Communist Party is extending its surveillance of critics abroad, reaching into Western academic communities and silencing visiting Chinese students. Through a campaign of fear and intimidation, Beijing is hindering free speech in the United States and in other Western countries.

The Chinese government, or people sympathetic to it, encourage like-minded Chinese students and scholars in the West to report on Chinese students who participate in politically sensitive activities — like my salons, but also other public forums and protests against Beijing. Members of the China Students and Scholars Association, which has chapters at many American universities, maintain ties with the Chinese consulates and keep tabs on “unpatriotic” people and activities on campuses. Agents or sympathizers of the Chinese government show up at public events videotaping and snapping pictures of speakers, participants and organizers. Chinese students who are seen with political dissidents like me or dare to publicly challenge Chinese government policies can be put on a blacklist. Their families in China can be threatened or punished. When these students return to China, members of the public security bureau may “invite” them to “tea,” where they are interrogated and sometimes threatened. Their passport may not be renewed. One student told me that during one of his home visits to China he was pressured to spy on others in the United States.

And in one egregious example of intimidation, in March 2016, the police in China abducted the relatives of the Chinese journalist Chang Ping, who lives in exile in Germany, after he published an article in a German publication that was critical of President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on free speech. Chinese students abroad hear these stories and, with good reason, tread carefully. Many have become too afraid to attend open forums like my salon, and those who do show up mostly keep a low profile.

Not all Chinese students in the West condemn their government. Many, in fact, actively support Beijing, often by shaming their fellow students who criticize Beijing. Nationalism is rampant in China and many students, who grew up subjected to the full force of the Chinese government’s “patriotic education program,” carry it abroad. They blame Western powers for causing a “century of humiliation” before the Communist takeover in 1949 and for instigating trouble and constraining China’s growth as a global power. These “patriotic” students and scholars team up with the Chinese consulates to sabotage protests critical of the Chinese government. Many resort to online harassment of Beijing’s critics.

In a typical example, Shuping Yang, a Chinese student at the University of Maryland in May praised the “fresh air of free speech” in the United States during her commencement address and then faced a barrage of threats online from Chinese citizens and the state media for “insulting the motherland.” The China Students and Scholars Association encouraged people to rebut Ms. Yang’s views. Under the pressure, Ms. Yang issued a public apology, asking for forgiveness and declaring that she did not intend to belittle her country. Even Western educational institutions that have benefited from Chinese government funding, student enrollment and Chinese private donations have succumbed to pressure from Beijing. Some have canceled activities or programs, and others have resorted to self-censorship. Springer Nature, which publishes prestigious science magazines like Nature, recently blocked access to some articles from China to avoid being banned in the country.

The country’s growing influence abroad has received a lot of attention in Australia, where journalists have detailed how Chinese money has infiltrated the political process. Chinese students in Australia can come under heavy pressure and shaming from other nationalist Chinese students for criticizing Beijing. Recently, Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics in Australia, said that his publisher delayed the release of a book of his that investigates the rising influence of the Chinese Communist Party in Australia for fear that the Chinese government may sue for defamation. We can be certain that Mr. Hamilton’s name has been added to a list of Western scholars who are banned from China, another common tactic used against outspoken China scholars whose work the Chinese government dislikes.

These threats to free speech should prompt Western politicians to stand up to China. I’m disappointed that President Trump chose to focus mainly on trade, rather than human rights, during his recent trip to China. There appear to have been no attempts to push back against Beijing’s increasing proclivity to commit rights abuses beyond its borders. Such appeasement will only embolden Mr. Xi, further threatening Western democratic institutions. In recent months, the Trump administration has restarted talks with its allies in Asia about how to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region. It is equally important for the United States to shore up its policies at home to stop China from undermining core democratic values — both on campus and beyond.

US lawmakers slam China for ‘repression, rights violations’ in Tibet

US lawmakers slam China for ‘repression, rights violations’ in Tibet
December 11, 2017

Press Trust of India, December 7, 2017 – Top American lawmakers, across the aisle, joined by eminent experts on Thursday slammed China for the “continued repression and human rights violations” in Tibet, even as they praised India for accommodating Tibetan refugees. “Tibetans inside Tibet continue to live in very, very challenging times indeed,” top Hollywood star Richard Gere, chair of the International Campaign for Tibet, said in his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. During the hearing, lawmakers and experts testifying before the subcommittee called for reciprocal access, religious freedom and human rights in Tibet. Congressman Ted Yoho, who chaired the hearing, supported the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2017 which proposes to deny US visas to Chinese government officials involved in restricting access to Tibet. Alleging that human rights and personal freedoms in Tibet were “already in a poor and worsening state”, Yoho said the government of China engages in “severe repression” of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic heritage by and “strictly curtailing” the civil rights of the Tibetan population, including the freedom of speech, religion, association, assembly and movement.
The authorities have used “heavy-handed and violent tactics” to maintain control in Tibet, especially in response to unrest, including “extra-judicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial detentions and house arrest”, he said, he said. “Tibet remains extremely isolated. The flow of information in and out of Tibet is tightly restricted. Tibetans are prevented from obtaining passports and moving freely, and foreigners, especially journalists and officials are frequently denied access,” he said. Congressman Brad Sherman demanded that Congress must act quickly to counter China’s “repressive tactics and policies” toward Tibet. “This is important for our own standing as leaders in world human rights,” he said, as he praised India for accommodating Tibetan refugees.
“We’re trying to build a strategic relationship and partnership with India, and we’ve got to commend India for providing refuge to over 90,000 Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama himself, who have had to flee Chinese repression,” he said. According to Congressman Steve Chabot, China’s “decades- long oppression of Tibet is a constant example of its total disregard for religious freedom and human decency”. “Just this past weekend, another Tibetan monk set himself on fire to protest China’s ongoing tyranny. China has systematically marginalised Tibet for over 50 years now,” he said. America’s own national security interests dictate that it oppose China’s “increasingly repressive policies” on Tibet and that the US work toward a negotiated solution and start making the treatment of the people of Tibet an important factor in our relations with Beijing, asserted Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Congressman Jim McGovern, author of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2017, said the Dalai Lama can play a constructive role in negotiating a better future for the Tibetan people, but China “clearly doesn’t see it that way”. “China is waiting him out and counting on his eventual departure to remove Tibet from the international agenda, so we need to move now, and we need some leverage, and that is why earlier this year, along with a bipartisan group of members, I introduce HR1872, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act,” he said. “If China wants its citizens and officials to travel freely in the United States, Americans must be able to travel freely in China, including Tibet. “But allowing travel to Tibet is only one step China needs to take, and there are others. Most especially, China should permit His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, to return to Tibet for a visit if he so desires,” McGovern said. Gere told lawmakers that reciprocity is an important principle in diplomatic relations that should be implemented not only when it comes to trade, but also to freedom of movement and freedom of information. “If they (Chinese) want to be the superpower they claim to be and the world leader they claim to be, these norms are to be followed,” he said. Gere said another important part of the Tibet Policy Act was to encourage the negotiations between the Dalai Lama and his representatives and the Chinese government. “We have not done that recently, and this needs to be the forefront of what our policy is with China. It’s not unreasonable, and it’s actually good for China. To resolve this Tibetan issue is good for everyone, especially the Chinese,” he said.

Lithuanian MPs establish a support group for Tibet

Lithuanian MPs establish a support group for Tibet
December 11, 2017

The Baltic Times, December 09, 2017 – Chonpel Tsering, representative of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in Northern Europe, the Baltic states and Poland, has thanked Lithuanian parliamentarians for establishing a group of support to Tibet. “Merely setting such a group is an act of solidarity itself. I think Tibetans in exile and in Tibet will get to hear of this that itself gives them comfort, reassurance that their fight was not forgotten, even in a county far far away in Europe, many Tibetans not necessarily have heard of. For Tibetans to learn that there is a parliamentary group in the Lithuanian parliament will be a great source of strength to them,” Tsering told a news conference at the Lithuanian parliament on Friday. Andrius Navickas, conservative MP who heads the group of solidarity with Tibet, said the main objective was to keep the Tibetan issue on the agenda. Lithuania’s parliamentarians intended to set up a group for parliamentary relations with Tibet, however, did not get a green light from the Seimas leadership, as Vilnius considers the Tibetan region in the Himalaya Mountains part of China. An ad hoc group of support was established, as it does not need an official go-ahead from leaders of the parliament. Leaders of the group said the situation resembled the Soviet era, however, the representative of Tibet said the group’s statute did not matter, all that matters was the determination to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Tibet. “The name is irrelevant, what is important is will, determination and the support of the parliamentarians,” said Tsering, the envoy of the Tibetan government in exile. At the same time, he emphasized Tibet did not seek to separate from China, adding it only wanted an operating autonomy that would ensure freedom of culture, religion and speech. The Tibetan envoy said that even possession of the Dalai Lama’s photograph could put Tibetans in prison for years. Lithuania fell into China’s disfavor after President Dalia Grybauskaite met with the Dalai Lama in Vilnius in 2013. Negotiations with China on various issues stalled until Beijing issued a statement in February 2015, stating its willingness to develop good ties.

Future of electric cars is at the bottom of Tibetan salt lake

Future of electric cars is at the bottom of Tibetan salt lake
December 11, 2017

Nikkei Asian Review, December 10, 2017 — The world is on the brink of an electric vehicle revolution. The widespread use of electric cars will depend on the availability of lithium, which is crucial for electric vehicle batteries. China is the world’s second-richest country in lithium reserves, after Chile. Countries are now scrambling to secure supplies of the valuable metal, but where is it found? I visited a remote area of China, about 3,000 meters above sea level, that is one of the world’s largest lithium-producing areas and which the Chinese government considers a strategic region. “Huge amounts of capital are rapidly flowing into the town,” a local resident said. In late November, I took a full day to travel from Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, in southern China, to Golmud in the country’s inland province of Qinghai. The air is thin in the area, located high in the mountains between the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, and I could walk only a little way before I was short of breath. “This airport was completed only a little over a month ago. It’s brand-new,” said an official. I assumed it had been built in anticipation of rapidly growing lithium demand. I got into the four-wheel-drive Land Cruiser that had come to pick me up, and, soon after leaving the airport, I saw a vast expanse of salt marsh extending as far as the eye could see. “The elevation here is high, but in ancient times all this area was under the sea. Crustal movements lifted it up,” the driver, a local man, told me. While I marveled at the grand scale of the landscape, we traveled about an hour and a half to Chaerhan Salt Lake, which takes its name from a Mongolian word meaning “world of salt.” At an elevation of nearly 3,000 meters, in the freezing cold and clear air, the vast lake sparkled in the sunlight. Surrounded by large volumes of dried salt, it looked like it was wearing snow makeup. The locals call the lake the “mirror of the sky.” The area centering on Chaerhan Salt Lake, is home to 83% of China’s lithium deposits, found within several meters of salt sediment on the lake floor. No living things inhabit the lake or its surroundings, so silence reigned. However, soon 10-ton trucks loaded with heaps of salt recovered from the lake began rumbling by, and the lithium-producing area appeared to suddenly come to life. After traveling a little farther along a bumpy road built of pressed salt, I spoke to a man named Li Jingwei, 47. He said he had worked for a plant of a state-owned company by the lake since he was 16, and called himself an experienced old hand. “The salt lake provides lots of precious resources. Attention is now on lithium, which is used in electric vehicles,” he said. “Small developers have been driven out, and over the past three years, state-owned enterprises have come in and investment has become active. This is such a remote place, but many dignitaries come here.” I wondered which dignitaries visited such a remote place, and was surprised to see the photographs on a wall of the plant where Li was working. The photos showed Wen Jiabao, Zhang Dejiang, Li Changchun, Zhao Leji, Li Keqiang and other high-level dignitaries. They even included one that showed President Xi Jinping encouraging the employees during his visit in August last year. “Jiang Zemin also came, though there is no photograph of him here. This is a front-line base for China’s resources,” Li said proudly. The auto industry is already ramping up for what is expected to be a rapid shift from gasoline to electric vehicles, and as a result, lithium prices have already soared. On Shanghai’s metals market, lithium carbonate is trading at around 170,000 yuan ($25,700) per ton, more than three times the level two years ago. “The price of lithium has risen, and business is good. We expect even better times,” said a factory worker of BYD, China’s biggest electric vehicle manufacturer. BYD moved into the area a year ago, realizing that Chaerhan Salt Lake holds the key to electric vehicle growth, and has succeeded in securing a concession for recovering lithium. It jointly set up the factory with a local state-owned enterprise, and is hurriedly preparing to start production. In China, the world’s biggest automobile market, electric vehicles still account for only about 2% of new car sales. However, the country’s electric car market is expected to grow rapidly and reach 5 million vehicles by 2025 — comparable to Japan’s entire market for new cars. Preparations are already underway in this remote area of China. A massive wave of business activity that will influence the world is about to spread from the quiet city of Golmud.

Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar Back Away From Chinese Projects

Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar Back Away From Chinese Projects
4 December 2017,

BEIJING — In the short space of just a few weeks, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar have canceled or sidelined three major hydroelectricity projects planned by Chinese companies. The rejection of the three projects, worth nearly $20 billion, comes as a serious jolt to China’s ambitious trade-linking project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Pakistan cited tough financing terms imposed by China as its reason for canceling the $14 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam project.

Nepal’s deputy Prime Minister recently announced a decision to scrap a $2.5 billion contract for a hydroelectricity project, accusing the Chinese company of financial irregularities. And Myanmar, which halted a $3.6 billion Chinese-backed dam three years ago, declared last month that it no longer is interested in big hydro-electric power projects.

The decisions by China’s neighbors could mean a serious loss of image for BRI, which involves plans to build infrastructure across the globe, including in developed countries like the United States and those in Europe.

While there are also diverse local political and economic reasons behind the three decisions, there is a growing realization among poorer countries that Chinese proposals to build massive infrastructure projects come at an extremely high price, analysts said.

Asked about these decisions by Pakistan and Nepal, the Chinese foreign ministry said it was not aware of it. “I am not aware of this information,” Geng Shuang, foreign ministry spokesman, said at a media briefing. “China and Nepal have sound relations and bilateral cooperation covers a wide range of areas.”

“Against our Intehttp:

According to the local media accounts, Muzammil Hussain, chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) in Pakistan told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament that the Chinese company involved in the project there had imposed very difficult financing conditions, which included pledging the new dam, as well as an existing dam, as loan security.

“Chinese conditions for financing the Diamer-Bhasha Dam were not doable and against our interests,” Hussain said.

Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, a New Delhi based NGO, said, “For Pakistan, the biggest ally has been China. …They [Pakistanis] would not take out this project without consulting them [the Chinese].”

Indeed, China and Pakistan frequently describe their relationship as “all-weather” and “iron brothers.”

“As far as Pakistan is concerned, they really want financing for this project,” Zorawar Daulet Singh, an analyst at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi said. Singh said he would not take the Pakistani official’s statement at face value. Islamabad had approached the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for funding but was turned down, he pointed out.

It is the Chinese, which do not want to go ahead with the project in the face of Indian protests, he said. India has been objecting to the Chinese constructing projects in the sensitive Kashmir area, which it claims as its own, because that amounts to backing Islamabad’s view of the Kashmir issue.

“They are probably wanting to sort of put this on the backburner for the moment,” Singh said adding, “I think there is some sort of policy debate within the Beijing establishment on how can they modify feedback to make it somewhat more acceptable to rest of the subcontinent, particularly India, of course.”

China even tried to save face for Pakistan he said.

“They [Chinese] gave the Pakistanis sort of face-saver, that okay, ‘we let you withdraw this but we actually don’t want to get into this now’,” Singh said.

Salvo from the Himalayas

In Nepal, deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa recently took to Twitter to announce, “The agreement [with China], marred by irregularities with the Chinese company – Gejuwa Group regarding the construction of Budhi Gandaki hydropower project, has been scrapped in a cabinet meeting as directed by the parliamentary committee.”

Thapa said the agreement had been signed with the Chinese company “illegally and haphazardly.”

Both the awarding and cancellation has resulted in political controversies in Nepal. The cancellation came immediately ahead of an election, which will take another two weeks to complete.

“The contract for 1200 MW dam project was awarded to a Chinese company some six months ago by the coalition government comprising [the] Maoist Party and the Nepali Congress, but in a manner that was not clearly transparent,” said Yubaraj Ghimire, an analysts of the Nepal political scene.

“There were questions raised about the transparency. You know it was quite a controversial deal. That was six months ago. Then, a parliamentary committee recommended that this deal be scrapped, but nothing happened.”

Talking about the latest decision to scrap the contract, Ghimire said, “What has caused controversy now is that this is a election [time] government which is not expected to take major decisions. It has generated debate and criticism.”

One of Nepal’s political leaders and a contender for prime ministership has even said he would reverse the decision if he comes to power.

China’s Reasons

Some analysts said there is also some rethinking in Beijing in favor of scrapping projects that offer a poor return on investments. China has come a long way with its BRI plans since it tried to sell projects to neighbors like Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

It is now looking at a large part of Europe and the Americas as potential markets.

China is also keen on exporting its hydroelectricity related machines and construction services across the globe. But it is taking a different view in the case of projects in neighboring countries which are mired in political conflicts and instead focusing on other markets like Latin America and Africa.

“They [Chinese] are looking for markets in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia, those regions where neighboring considerations are not very strong, they are looking for industry and machine [exports],” Thakkar said.

Incidentally, it is the same Chinese company, Gezhouba Water and Power (Group) Co Ltd. (CGGC), which won the contracts and was consequently rejected by Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar.

“I am not sure we can blame the company for this. They are more [due to] investment and political considerations,” Thakkar said.

The recent project cancellations also show a growing realization among governments that the cost of per unit electricity produced in hydropower projects is a lot more than those coming from other sources of renewable energies like solar and wind power, Thakkar said.

In the case of Myanmar, the country’s Construction Minister told Reuters in an interview last month that big hydropower projects are no longer a priority in tackling the problem of power shortages.

Instead, Construction Minister Win Khaing said Myanmar is looking to LNG and smaller dams as an alternative solution.

Security clampdown in Kardze following 151st self-immolation

Security clampdown in Kardze following 151st self-immolation
December 4, 2017

Radio Free Asia, November 29, 2017 – A Tibetan monk set himself ablaze and died on Sunday in western China’s Sichuan province in a challenge to Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, Tibetan sources said.

The protest brings to 151 the number of self-immolations by Tibetans living in China since the wave of burnings began in 2009.

Tenga, aged 63 and a monk at a monastery in Sichuan’s Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) county, set himself alight on Sunday, Nov. 26, and died of his burns, a Tibetan living in exile in South India told RFA’s Tibetan Service, citing sources in Kardze.

While burning, Tenga called out for freedom for Tibet, a second source said, speaking on condition of anonymity from inside Tibet.

“Security officers and armed police quickly arrived at the scene and took his body away,” the source said.

“Afterward, there was a heavy security clampdown in the area, with family members in Dando village placed under watch by Chinese police.”

“With police now stationed around his house, and phone calls not getting through, it is difficult to assess the current situation,” he said.

“Police have not returned [Tenga’s] body to his family yet,” a third source said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

Communications clampdown

News of Tenga’s fiery protest on Sunday was briefly delayed in reaching outside media contacts due to communications clampdowns imposed by Chinese authorities in the Kardze area.

Telephone and online social media connections are now blocked in the area where the incident occurred, RFA’s source in South India said, adding that a phone call he had made to Kardze seeking information ended abruptly when the phone line was cut.

“But what we know for sure is that he burned himself for the Tibetan cause, and that he demanded freedom for Tibet,” he said.

The second of four siblings in his family, Tenga had worked as a volunteer teacher before joining the Kardze monastery, another local source said.

“He was very popular in several villages in his hometown, where he was respectfully called ‘Teacher’ by the villagers,” the source said.

A total of 151 people have now set themselves ablaze in Tibet and Tibetan-populated counties in western China. Their protests have featured 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 Lhuboom, Pema Ngodup, Dawa Dolma, and Lobsang Choephel for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.



Free Tibet press release, for immediate use

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A 63-year-old monk named Tenga set himself on fire on 26 November in Kardze County, eastern Tibet (1).

A one-minute video (2) of Tenga’s protest shows him lying on a path in flames in front of a crowd of onlookers, some of whom are quietly reciting prayers. A group of security officials then rush to the scene and attempt to smother the flames before one uses a fire extinguisher to put them out. At this point the camera cuts.

According to a friend of Tenga who was at the scene of the protest (3), Tenga shouted “We want freedom in Tibet” as he set himself on fire.

After security personnel arrived on the scene they took Tenga’s body away. It is not clear at this point whether or not Tenga survived his protest. Free Tibet’s research partner, Tibet Watch, is currently working to confirm these details.

Authorities responded to the protest by immediately putting the region under heavy security by deploying significant numbers of police and People’s Armed Police to the area. Tenga’s home village, Dhadho, has also been put under police watch.

Tenga formerly lived and practiced in Kardze Monastery before health problems forced him to leave. Since then he has been living at his home in Dhadho Village, where he conducted prayer teachings for local Tibetans, who gave him the honorary title Gen Tenga (4). Tenga was said to have followed global and Tibetan affairs with keen interest.

Kardze County has been one of the main centres of Tibetan resistance to the Chinese military occupation, with a number of demonstrations and self-immolation protests taking place there in recent years. In April this year, Wangchuk Tseten, another resident of Kardze, carried out a fatal self-immolation protest (5).

Tenga is the fifth Tibetan known to have carried out a self-immolation protest in Tibet this year, an increase on last year. Among those to have set themselves on fire this year is Chakdor Kyab, a 16-year-old Tibetan student and one of the youngest Tibetans to have carried out a self-immolation protest (6). Two Tibetans have also set themselves on fire in India this year (7).

Since 2009 over 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the occupation (8), which has been in force since 1950, as well as human rights abuses and restrictions on Tibet’s religion and culture carried out under Chinese rule. The majority of these protests have been fatal.

Free Tibet’s Campaigns and Communications Manager, John Jones, said:

“The images and video of Tenga’s protest are shocking. Some might want to look away, others may wonder how anybody could be driven to carry out such a drastic act. But we must not ignore what is happening here. It is a sobering thought that the majority of Tibetans, whether they are 16 years old like Chakdor Kyab, or 63 years old like Tenga, have only known life under occupation. Their country was snatched away from them by the Chinese army before they were born and they have grown up in a world of daily injustices and human rights abuses. It is these injustices and abuses that motivate self-immolation protests. Tenga’s cry as he set himself on fire: “We want freedom in Tibet”, was clear and decisive. We owe it to Tenga, and his fellow Tibetans, to heed his cry and understand why he carried out his protest. Governments around the world must use all of their diplomatic weight to push Beijing to change course, and allow the Tibetan people to live in freedom.”


Taiwan Parliament Passes Bill to Dissolve Mongolia Tibet Affairs Commission

Taiwan Parliament Passes Bill to Dissolve Mongolia Tibet Affairs Commission
November 28, 2017

Dharamshala: According to a report filed by the Office of Tibet, Taiwan, the Taiwan Legislative Yuan has today approved a bill to dissolve the Mongolian Tibet Affairs Commission (MTAC).

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party legislator Lee Chun-yi, also a member of the committee for dissolving the commission, said, “As things change with time, our concerns for issues regarding Mongolia and Tibet should have changed course much earlier. What we should do is protect the Mongolian and Tibetan community in Taiwan, and guarantee that Mongolian and Tibetan culture will continue to be respected in Taiwan. Here we ask to disband the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission. The remaining 46 members of the commission will be transferred to the culture ministry and the Mainland Affairs Council, so we can officially dissolve the commission. Let us respect the people of Mongolia and Tibet and their culture. This is what we should do.”

Member of Taiwanese Parliament Kolas Yotaka, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who was among the legislators to table the bill attended the Five-Fifty Forum organised by Department of Information and International Relations in October this year. Speaking at the concluding session, MP Kolas reassured the audience that the bill to dissolve the Mongolia Tibetan Affairs Commission will be passed in less than two months time.

Welcoming the historic move, President of Central Tibetan Administration Dr. Lobsang Sangay said, “MTAC has been a sore point and source of misunderstanding between Tibetans and Taiwanese. Personally, I have opposed MTAC since my college days and I am glad to see it shut down.”

Members of the Taiwanese Parliament who tabled the bill are Tsai Yi-Yu, Chen Chi-Mai, Xu Guoyong, Kolas Yotaka and Lai Jui-lung. The bill won with a majority of 65 votes against 30.

On 14 August, the Taiwan Executive Yuan announced that the MTAC would be dissolved by the end of the year. It was also disclosed that no budget would be allocated to the MTAC for 2018.

Originally set up as a bureau under the interior ministry of Taiwan, the commission was renamed to MTAC in 1929 in accordance with the Nationalist Government Organizational Law. The founding of the MTAC can be traced back to the Qing dynasty in 1636, when it was founded as the Mongolian Bureau.

China bets on mega projects in Tibet

China bets on mega projects in Tibet
November 27, 2017

By Atul Aneja

The Hindu, November 26, 2017 – China’s well-tested mantra that has powered its economic rise – build quality infrastructure and the rest will follow – is in full play in Tibet. The Qinghai-Tibet railway, the 1,956-km track passing over bridges and through tunnels, has already made history. An offshoot of that railway, also called Lari railway, is now being stretched from Lhasa to the extremities of Tibet. Trains have already reached Xigaze, the terminus of this line. That is not far from Tibet’s border with Nepal. Another track from Xigaze will head towards Yadong, a Chumbi valley town made famous by the 1904 Tibet expedition led by Francis Younghusband, a colonel in the British Indian Army. Yadong is on the doorstep of Sikkim. The Nathu La, the point of entry in Sikkim, is only 34 km away, approachable by a road from Yadong.

Apart from railways and roads, Chinese planners are also focussing on hydropower plants. Tibet is well-known as the water tower of the world. Several major rivers — the Yangtze, the Yellow river, the Lancang (better known as the Mekong), the Nu river and the Yarlung Zangpo, which becomes the Brahmaputra once it enters India — originate in Tibet. Chinese plans for massive hydro projects have triggered much concern among environmentalists, who are worried about the possible damage that this may cause to a fragile ecosystem in this natural wonderland.

Those inclined to view change purely within the spectrum of geopolitics are also nervous about Beijing’s plans. They fear that water can become a weapon for exercising China’s influence over countries that share these rivers. The Yarlung Zangpo flows into Bangladesh and India. The Lancang is the lifeline of much of Southeast Asia. The Nu flows into the Andaman Sea through Myanmar.

In tune with its plans, China has announced the construction of the Suwalong hydropower station on the Jinsha river, which forms the upper reaches of the Yangtze. The Suwalong project is located in Southwest China — on the border of Tibet’s Mangkam county and Batang county of the neighbouring Sichuan province.

Colourful history

Incidentally, Mangkam county, especially its Yanjing valley, has a colourful history. It is known for its traditional salt wells and over a 100 hot springs, of much therapeutic value. The area also hosted part of the famous trans-Himalayan Tea-Horse trade route that wound its way from China’s Yunnan province en route Tibet to India. With trade, came culture and religion. Earlier this year, Chinese archeologists unearthed eight Buddhist statues in Mangkam county.

Once completed, the Suwalong project would generate 2,000 MW of power, which would be channelled into the country’s well-off eastern region. The Suwalong project’s design capacity is double that of the Zangmu hydropower plant, established on the Yarlung Zangpo river. State media is signalling that right now, the Nu and Lancang could be the immediate focus of hydro projects in Tibet, rather than the Yarlung Zangpo (Brahmaputra) — the bone of contention between China and India.

Nu and Lancang rivers converge in the Mangkam county, which could well become one of Tibet’s energy production hubs. According to other official media reports, China’s ongoing 13th five-year plan is concentrating on hydropower development along the Jinsha, Nu and Lancang rivers, in view of lower electric transmission costs to high demand zones in neighbouring provinces.

In tune with its infrastructure plans for Tibet, China has announced the construction of the Suwalong hydropower station on the Jinsha river, which could generate 2,000 MW of power.

Citing fatigue, Dalai Lama appoints personal emissaries

Citing fatigue, Dalai Lama appoints personal emissaries
November 20, 2017

Voice of America, November 16, 2017 – The Dalai Lama says he has appointed emissaries to attend international engagements or speak on his behalf indefinitely.

Citing increasing physical fatigue, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader made the comments while meeting with a group of international youth leaders brought to Dharmsala, India, by the Washington-based Institute of Peace.

“I’m 82 years old, and since last year [my] feeling of tiredness has been much increased,” he told the group during video-recorded meetings last week.

Because he may not be able to maintain a regular international travel schedule, he said, the president of Tibet’s current government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, along with prominent Buddhist scholar and former prime minister in exile, Samdong Rinpoche, would act as his official emissaries.

These “trusted friends, they know my thinking,” he said. “Our work, continuously, should be more active [and internationally engaged], so in these two persons,” he said, pointing to Lobsang and Samdong, “I have full trust.”

Looking to the dialogue moderator, USIP President Nancy Lindborg, the Dalai Lama said: “If your side … or your government’s side” has concerns, “then these two persons, either one, can participate as my representative or my personal emissary.”

Penpa Tsering, representative for the Office of Tibet in Washington, which represents the Tibetan government-in-exile, downplayed the significance of the Dalai Lama’s statement.

“I think this was more of a general statement,” he told VOA. “His Holiness is sometimes too tired to travel, and his April visit to the United States has been suspended indefinitely, but he will continue to travel in India, and Europe is only a seven hour flight.”

Adding that Lobsang’s presidential term is limited to five years, and the fact that Samdong has long served as a kind of unofficial deputy to the Dalai Lama, he said the November 6 comments do not represent a major diversion or change in Dharmsala’s official representation on the world stage.

However, Carole McGranahan, a University of Colorado anthropologist and historian of Tibet, says although prioritizing the Dalai Lama’s health requires a reduction in his international travel schedule, his physical absence from global engagements cannot be substituted via proxy.

“So much of the goodwill and attention Tibet receives in the world is due to His Holiness, and specifically due to his personal interactions with world leaders and with the large audiences he draws around the world. His deep wisdom, his humor and charisma, his serious attention to pressing world issues, and, of course, his model of compassion and leadership, make a deep impression on people,” she told VOA’s Tibetan Service via email.

“For so much of the world, the Dalai Lama is the symbol of Tibet. Will his trusted emissaries be able to achieve the same effects? Of course not, as no one can truly stand in for the Dalai Lama,” she wrote. “They will be able to represent him, but no one can embody the message of Tibet as he does. His holiness’s stepping back from international travel will signal a new era of Tibetan diplomacy in the world.”

Robert Barnett, director of the Modern Tibet Studies Program at Columbia University, says the decision may be a signal to Beijing.

“Of course, there’s always the possibility that this move is intended as a post-19th Party Congress signal to Beijing of increased openness to a resumption of talks, or possibly even a response to a request from there,” he said. “It certainly should make Zhang Yijiong happier,” he added, referring to Communist Party’s Tibet working group chief, who told reporters on the sidelines of a party congress that there could be no excuses to meeting the Dalai Lama.

“Except that it seems unlikely that warhorses of that type can ever be appeased,” Barnett said.

In the United States, a California-based Tibetan monk named Tenzin Dhonden, who chairs the non-profit Friends of the Dalai Lama and was secretary of the Dalai Lama Trust, a charitable organization chaired by the Dalai Lama, has acted as a gatekeeper between the Dalai Lama and American philanthropists, scholars, celebrities and donors.

Late last month, Dhonden, who falsely named himself Personal Emissary of Peace for the Dalai Lama in 2005, was suspended from the trust over corruption allegations.

This story originated in VOA’s Tibetan Service. Pete Cobus contributed original reporting.