China trains carefully chosen Tibetan monks to represent the views of the Chinese Communist Party

China trains carefully chosen Tibetan monks to represent the views of the Chinese Communist Party
November 7, 2018

Radio Free Asia, November 1, 2018- In a new move aimed at bringing Tibetan Buddhist monasteries more closely under the control of the Chinese state, authorities are now grooming carefully chosen monks to learn and represent the views of the ruling Communist Party, a rights group said this week.

The program is part of a campaign of “Sinicization of religion” launched during the first term of Chinese president Xi Jinping, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in an Oct. 30 news release.

Under a “Four Standards” policy introduced this year in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, monks and nuns must demonstrate not only religious learning, but also “political reliability,” “moral integrity,” and a readiness to play “an active role” in blocking Tibetan protests against Chinese state policy, HRW said.

Speaking to RFA’s Tibetan Service, Sophie Richardson—China director at Human Rights Watch—called the new policy an attempt to turn Tibetan Buddhist practitioners into propagandists and “cheerleaders for the regime, which is deeply problematic.”

“I think that if these kinds of policies continue unabated, or if they accelerate, you will see in Tibet what’s already happened in Xinjiang, which is that the practice of [religion] as its adherents understand it and want to practice it will effectively become illegal,” Richardson said.

“I think that Xi Jinping’s goal is to refashion beliefs and institutions and policies and practices in ways that ensure that the Communist Party remains in power, and that he in particular remains in the leadership,” she said.

A new approach

The Four Standards policy follows earlier attempts, deemed largely unsuccessful, to reshape monastic life in Tibet by introducing work teams into the monasteries to conduct political training and by requiring monks and nuns to denounce exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, HRW said.

And later efforts brought in thousands of party cadres to manage the monasteries themselves, the rights group said.

Tibetans attending teachings by the Dalai Lama in India have since been detained for re-education on their return to Tibetan areas of China, and senior monks trained in Indian monasteries have been banned by Chinese authorities from teaching.

“Politics, law and history” are now a required part of the training for senior religious teachers, called Geshes, seeking qualification under Chinese law, HRW said, citing Chinese media reports.

Now, the use of specially trained monastics to promote the views of the party and state may prove more effective than earlier campaigns, China’s Global Times newspaper said in a recent report cited by Human Rights Watch.

“They have a better understanding of the thoughts and habits of their group,” the state-linked paper said.

Canada prepared to stall trade deal with China until its behaviour is ‘more reasonable’

Canada prepared to stall trade deal with China until its behaviour is ‘more reasonable’
October 30, 2018

CBC, October 26, 2019- Canada’s ambassador to China says a trade pact with Canada likely won’t be reached until China shows flexibility on certain controversial policies.

John McCallum says most of the work he is doing in Beijing right now is focused on bridging policy gaps between Canada and China on agricultural market access, wages and gender equity, and on addressing issues with the Asian nation’s human rights record.

“We are doing our best to persuade China to behave in what we would regard as the more reasonable way,” McCallum told Chris Hall, host of CBC Radio’s The House, on Thursday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet spent time in China in December working toward a free trade agreement, but left empty-handed.

Renewed efforts are now underway. Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr will be attending high-level business meetings in Beijing next month with Chinese political and business leaders.

But those efforts alone won’t be enough to make a deal, McCallum said.

The meetings next month should be treated as “building blocks,” he said, because even though Canada wants an agreement, it needs to see improvements in China’s human rights record before signing any papers.

McCallum added there’s potential in the future for China to join the soon-to-be-ratified Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CP-TPP) trade deal.

McCallum said he’s had conversations with other ambassadors in recent days about the challenges posed by China’s approach to human rights and other issues.

This fall, the UN blasted China over “deeply disturbing” allegations of large-scale re-education camps in Xinjiang province, where up to a million ethnic Uighurs have been detained, and a Human Rights Watch report that shed light on the Chinese suppression of Turkic Muslims in that same province.

However upsetting China’s actions are, McCallum acknowledged that “at the end of the day, China will do what China wants to do.

“China has to be a very important part of our strategy because China is so huge.”

In the absence of a formal free trade deal, McCallum said, the government is touching base with Chinese officials to talk about how Canadian companies can get involved in infrastructure projects in their nation.

After the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was announced, China criticized a clause in the trade deal limiting the leeway given to USMCA nations to negotiate trade deals with China, calling it a political dominance move by the U.S.

Section 32.10 of the USMCA requires the signatory countries to notify each other if they enter into trade talks with a “non-market” economy. Some experts argue the clause gives the Americans veto power to stop Canada from signing a free trade deal with China.

Trudeau has said Canada is open to doing more business with China now that a trade agreement with the United States and Mexico has been finalized.

Tibet at the centre of environmental and geopolitical tensions between the most populated regions in the world

The Interpreter, October 23, 2018- In the last few decades, state-making projects have transformed life in the Himalaya. Infrastructure development intended for troop deployment along disputed borders has, more recently, enabled large-scale transport and extraction projects and a tourist rush in this globally influential region.

Geopolitical analyses of China-India-Pakistan tensions have focused on the likelihood of violent conflict. Yet this is only one of the region’s many problems. It is home to a mosaic of ethnic groups. Its ice-deposits (the world’s third largest) feed most of Asia’s large rivers. Militarisationand unchecked development threaten these vulnerable communities and fragile ecologies. To make matters worse, the Himalaya is experiencing climate change at twice the global average.

The Himalaya’s precarious geopolitics are transforming the region politically, culturally, linguistically, and environmentally.

An Indian Army convoy envelopes their own anti-litter sign in diesel fumes in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir (Photo: Ruth Gamble)

The 2,400 kilometres of the Himalaya range marks several state borders. It begins on the disputed Pakistan-India border in Kashmir, curls southeast through the disputed China-India border, the undisputed China-Nepal border, the disputed China-Bhutan border, and finally the Eastern section of the China-India border dispute.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir. The region remains restive. Aksai Chin, a large high-altitude desert between Ladakh (India), the Tibetan Autonomous Region (China), and Xinjiang (China), is administered by China, and claimed by India. In the East, Arunachal Pradeshis administered by India and claimed by China, appearing on Chinese maps as Nan Tsang (Southern Tibet).

Since the contemporary Indian and Chinese states emerged in the 1940s, they have struggled to solidify control over the Himalaya. China-India cooperation was shattered by a 1962 border war. Although the war was short, tensions have remained. China (1964), India (1998), and Pakistan (1998) have all become nuclear-armed states. This has enabled a seemingly permanent state of low-level but persistent tension.

This normalised state of border scuffles escalated last year in the Doklam standoff when China tried to wrest a piece of high-ground on the China-Bhutan border from Indian troops. Both Bhutan and Nepal have been placed in difficult positions by India-China tensions. India incorporated a third small Himalayan kingdom, Sikkim, into its territory in 1975, which China only recognised in 2003. There are still skirmishes along the nominally resolved China-Sikkim border. China’s Belt and Road development plans in Nepal and Pakistan have exacerbated regional tensions.

This friction has led to both the militarisation and competitive development of the region. Hundreds of thousands of troops are stationed across the mountains and all Himalayan states are engaged in competitive, un-checked development projects aimed at least in part at solidifying territorial control.

This situation is not socially, culturally, or environmentally sustainable.

The Himalaya’s difficult terrain has helped to maintain a rich diversity of languages and cultures. However, the borders’ militarisation and competitive developments are threatening local cultures and exacerbating tensions among the region’s ethnic groups.

The minority languages of the Himalaya are threatened. Unless carefully managed, state-sponsored militarisation, nationalisation, urbanisation, and development projects will jeopardise their existence. Loss of linguistic diversity disrupts cultural transmission, erases traditional ecological knowledge, and often leads to minority disenfranchisement. All of which spells more potential strife.

The region’s religious and cultural balance is also under threat. Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and local traditions are all practised in the Himalaya, and many people combine traditions and beliefs from various religions. Religious groups often have uneasy relationships with each other and nation-states. There are, furthermore, complex relationships between languages and religions in the region that defy easy governmental categories.

In northern Pakistan, Kashmir, and the Tibetan Autonomous Region there are many Muslims who speak Tibetan languages, usually associated with Buddhism. Darjeeling is home to a large community of Hindi-speaking Buddhists. In cosmopolitan cities like Kathmandu, Lhasa, and Srinagar many people combine languages and religious practices in their daily routines.

Environmental degradation poses an even greater threat to the region’s geopolitical status-quo. The whole region is considered to be a biodiversity hotspot. It constitutes the headwaters of most of Asia’s major rivers, including the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze. The ice-pack that clings to this “third pole” not only feeds these and other rivers but also moderates the monsoon rains that provide the other primary source of freshwater for drinking, agriculture, and manufacturing to South, East, and Southeast Asia. The mountains, rivers, and the rains work together to deposit silt and moisture on the fertile river plains of lowland Asia, which are home to approximately 40% of the global population.

Even slight changes in water flow will have dramatic impacts on regional (and global) economy and security. The presence of armies, tourists, and accelerated and unsustainable development are effecting this change, and contributing to the region’s higher than average rates of global warming. Glaciers are melting and rain patterns are shifting, increasing the likelihood of flash floods and landslides that are killing soldiers as well as civilians.

International cooperation is needed to mitigate the effects of climate-change on both local environments and the greater Himalayan watershed. Instead, geopolitical tensions have fed into, and been exaggerated by, water crises in Pakistan, India, and China. Rather than co-operating to ensure river flow is stabilised, Himalayan states are involved in competitive and controversial, large-scale hydro-power schemes and water-transfer projects. After Doklam, China even refused to grant India the water flow data it needed to prepare for monsoon floods.

Regardless of the likelihood for conflict, the militarisation of the Himalaya is already creating disastrous results. Any analysis of India-China-Pakistan tensions that does not take these circumstances into account distorts its realities.

Temperatures significantly rise on the Tibetan plateau

Temperatures significantly rise on the Tibetan plateau
October 30, 2018

Reuters, October 27, 2018- Temperatures in the northeastern part of China’s vast Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, often dubbed the Roof of the World, have risen more than three times faster than the global average, Chinese data shows.

The plateau, which spans more than 1,000 km (620 miles) north to south and over 2,000 km east to west, is the source of many of the world’s longest rivers including the Yangtze. It also houses a fragile ecosystem sensitive to global warming.

The average temperature in the Qinghai section of the plateau has climbed 0.43 degree Celsius per decade, compared with the global average of 0.12C per decade, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported, citing monitoring data from Qinghai province.

The statistics reveal that the area has also become wetter between 1961 and 2017, with the average annual precipitation rate increasing 8.0 mm per decade.

At the present rate of warming, the world’s temperatures would likely reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 after an increase of 1C above pre-industrial levels since the mid-1800s, according to a United Nations report earlier this month.

The report said society would have to enact “unprecedented” changes to how it consumes energy, travels and builds. [nL8N1WO02N]

Glaciers on the entire Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and neighboring regions have shrunk 15 percent in the past half a century, state media cited scientists as saying last month.

The melting glaciers, as a result of rising temperatures, have expanded lakes and increased water flows in rivers originating from the area.

Thawing permafrost on the plateau, which accounts for up to a quarter of China’s land carbon sinks, could release earlier trapped carbon and further hasten the warming in temperatures.

Qinghai Lake, China’s largest, has expanded to 4,400 sq km, its biggest surface area in almost two decades, according to provincial monitoring data published in 2017.

Chinese workers attack Tibetans protesting against land grabbing

Chinese workers attack Tibetans protesting against land grabbing
October 30, 2018

Radio Free Asia, October 17, 2018- Chinese workers building a solar panel installation in Qinghai province last week attacked a group of Tibetans protesting their intrusion into nearby grazing areas, dragging one a short distance by truck before leaving him injured on the ground, Tibetan sources say.

The assault occurred on Oct. 11 when work crews arrived in Choeje village in the Tsolho (in Chinese, Hainan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture’s Chabcha (Gonghe) county, a local source told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“The Chinese contractors had to take heavy machinery and other vehicles through Tibetan grassland to reach the site, called Choeten Thang, and the local Tibetans demanded that they pay compensation or sign agreements with them,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“When the Chinese refused, there was a clash,” the source said.

In a video of the incident sent to RFA, a Tibetan protester attempting to stop work on the project is struck by a Chinese worker’s pickup truck, and the vehicle then speeds away with the Tibetan still clinging to the front.

Later, a Chinese worker approaches the man, now lying unconscious on the ground, and kicks him in the head while other workers shove and beat Tibetans coming to the help of the injured man.

“When more Tibetans arrived to fight back against the workers, Chinese police arrived on the scene,” RFA’s source said, adding, “For now, the solar panel installation project has temporarily been put on hold.”

Also speaking to RFA, a second local source said that two Tibetans had been injured in the assault, and that police had taken several Chinese workers into custody.

“Details of their current status remain unknown,” he added.

Chinese development projects in Tibetan areas have led to frequent standoffs with Tibetans who accuse Chinese firms and local officials of improperly seizing land and disrupting the lives of local people.

Many result in violent suppression, the detention of protest organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government’s wishes.

European Parliament’s Intergroup ranks China amongst worst violators of Freedom of Religion

European Parliament’s Intergroup ranks China amongst worst violators of Freedom of Religion
September 7, 2018
Published By Tenzin Choetso

Filed by UN, EU and Human Rights Desk, Department of Information and International Relations
The European Parliament’s Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance has categorised China under “severe violations” group. China is also ranked amongst the worst violators of Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance in the World. The report has also categorised China in the “Lowest Focalness” group denoting China’s lowest respect for Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The Intergroup in its fourth annual report has analysed 122 countries on quantitative basis with 30 focal countries assessed both on quantitative and qualitative perspectives. The first group of focal countries were selected based on the countries’ track record of being the worst FORB violators and China is part of this. The assessment criteria of the Intergroup were “drafted on the basis of international law”, which in principle means that countries like China which is categorised as “severe violations” “are likely to be in breach of international law” where there are “systemic attacks against person exercising Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The Intergroup in its report has raised specific concerns about the “severe restrictions faced by Tibetan Buddhists in the country including outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).” The Tibetan Buddhists are “not free to venerate the Dalai Lama openly, to proselytise in public or meet in unregistered places of worship.” The destruction of the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in 2016 was “Beijing’s desire to eviscerate the teaching and study of Tibetan Buddhism.” It further noted that the Chinese Government during 2016 has “repeatedly vilified the Dalai Lama and accused him of blasphemy and reinforced its restrictions against lawyers and human rights defenders” and also highlighted its concern of China using the new Counterterrorism law to “criminalise peaceful expressions of religious belief.”
It further raised concerns about the severe societal discrimination faced by Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists in employment, housing and business opportunities and that the Government of China physically abuses, detains, arrests, tortures, sentences to prison or harasses adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices. It has reported the documented evidences that “at least 65,000 organs each year are extracted from prisoners of conscience, primarily Falun Gong prisoners (and) are sourced for wealthy Chinese citizens and foreigners.”
The intergroup presented the report to the European Parliament and has recommended the European Union (EU) to “use its dialogue with China to raise concerns about the deteriorating situation.” In the light of the pending negotiation process between EU and China on the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, the Intergroup has recommended that “EU should ensure that a chapter on human rights includes a meaningful dialogue between the EU and China on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as laid down in international human rights instruments.”

US Vice President Mike Pence expresses concerns for human rights in Tibet

US Vice President Mike Pence expresses concerns for human rights in Tibet
October 16, 2018

Central Tibetan Administration, October 5, 2018- Washington: “America had hoped that economic liberalization would bring China into greater partnership with us and with the world. Instead, China has chosen economic aggression. In recent years, it has taken a sharp U-turn toward control and oppression,” US Vice President Mike Pence said in a loaded criticism of Beijing’s homeland and foreign policy at Hudson Institute.

In his remarks this Thursday, Pence alleged Beijing’s malign influence and interference in American democracy, businesses, academic institutions and media organizations.

“China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential election,” Pence said at the Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank.

“To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working, and China wants a different American president. China is meddling in America’s democracy.

President Donald Trump first charged the Chinese government with meddling in the U.S. election last week during a United Nations Security Council session.

“To that end, Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies. As a senior career member of our intelligence community recently told me, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.”

In a sharp critique of Beijing’s policy towards religious freedom in its own homeland, Pence said, “Beijing is also cracking down on Buddhism. Over the past decade, more than 150 Tibetan Buddhist monks have lit themselves on fire to protest China’s repression of their beliefs and culture.

“A new wave of persecution is crashing down on Chinese Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims…Last month, Beijing shut down one of China’s largest underground churches. Across the country, authorities are tearing down crosses, burning Bibles, and imprisoning believers. And Beijing has now reached a deal with the Vatican that gives the avowedly atheist Communist Party a direct role in appointing Catholic bishops. For China’s Christians, these are desperate times.

“In Xinjiang, the Communist Party has imprisoned as many as one million Muslim Uyghurs in government camps where they endure around-the-clock brainwashing. Survivors of the camps have described their experiences as a deliberate attempt by Beijing to strangle Uyghur culture and stamp out the Muslim faith.”

“Today, China has built an unparalleled surveillance state, and it’s growing more expansive and intrusive – often with the help of U.S. technology. The “Great Firewall of China” likewise grows higher, drastically restricting the free flow of information to the Chinese people. And by 2020, China’s rulers aim to implement an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life – the so-called “social credit score.”

“In the words of that program’s official blueprint, it will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven, while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

Pence also accused CCP of using rewards and coercion to influence American businesses, universities, and think tanks, and government officials. He said, for instance, that China threatened to deny a business license for a major American corporation unless it spoke out against the Trump administration’s trade policies.

“Beijing compelled Delta Airlines to publicly apologize for not calling Taiwan a ‘province of China’ on its website. It also pressured Marriott to fire a U.S. employee who liked a tweet about Tibet,” the vice president said.

Pence implicitly warned that a new consensus is rising against Beijing.

“More journalists are reporting the truth without fear or favour, and digging deep to find where China is interfering in our society, and why – and we hope that more American, and global, news organizations will join in this effort.

“More scholars are speaking out forcefully and defending academic freedom, and more universities and think tanks are mustering the courage to turn away Beijing’s easy money, recognizing that every dollar comes with a corresponding demand. We’re confident that more will join their ranks,” the Vice President added.

Pence urged that Google should immediately end development of the “Dragonfly” app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.

He further accused China of “reckless harassment” of the U.S. Navy during operations in the South China Sea. And noted that China has used “debt diplomacy” to expand its influence in Africa and elsewhere, offering billions of dollars in infrastructure loans aimed at benefiting China’s access to ports and other key transit hubs.

India’s top columnist and novelist Shobhaa De writes about Dr. Lobsang Sangay’s optimism and his personality

India’s top columnist and novelist Shobhaa De writes about Dr. Lobsang Sangay’s optimism and his personality

October 16, 2018

The Week, October 15, 2018 – The biggest star of the just concluded Himalayan Echoes literature festival (third edition) in Nainital was the articulate, dynamic and dishy Lobsang Sangay, elected president of the Tibetan-government-in-exile. Inviting him to the festival was indeed an inspired idea—good work, Janhavi Prasada (director of the festival). During her opening remarks, Prasada introduced the man, whose name means “kind-hearted lion”; the same man was once called a “hopeless son” by his father. Today, he is a globally sought-after leader passionately articulating the cause of his people.

At 50, Sangay cuts a dashing figure. Impeccably and fashionably attired, the Harvard-educated human rights law expert speaks his mind with clarity and fluency, especially when he describes the plight of his fellow Tibetans. He talked about his childhood in Darjeeling, where he was born to refugee parents, and sold sweaters to make ends meet. Despite the early hardships, he managed to win scholarships and come up the hard way. As the political spokesperson for Tibetans, he has an enormous responsibility on his hands. He says he gets all the guidance from the spiritual leader, the venerated Dalai Lama, who has anointed him the Sikyong (ruler or regent). It is a role he takes most seriously, as was obvious when our flight from Delhi landed in Pantnagar and a contingent of local Tibetans rushed to greet him and seek blessings.

At the festival, he was relaxed and charming, frequently cracking jokes at his own expense. During a conversation with author Patrick French, who has visited Tibet more than once and written about it, the sikyong reeled off several anecdotes of his many travels, narrating how many times important meetings at government levels were cancelled at the last minute because of pressure brought on organisers by the Chinese. His message of peace and non-violence translating into the eventual goal—Tibet for Tibetans—is delivered firmly with admirable determination. He talked about patience being the key attribute, one which Buddhism preaches and propagates. He cited examples of the Berlin Wall coming down when nobody expected such a development to ever take place. He mentioned the break-up of the Soviet Union, and stated that a similar turning point would come for Tibetans, too.

Listening to him in rapt attention were several prominent citizens of Nainital. Given the festival’s emphasis on the environment, ecological issues and the furthering of cultural arts and crafts of the region, the venue was appropriately festooned with Tibetan prayer flags and dotted with stalls showcasing local, artisanal produce.

Driving to the ever popular China Peak (aka Naina Peak), which is a popular place for trekking and camping, I thought of the irony of the name given by the British to the picturesque site. Here was Sangay informing us about the many injustices Tibetans faced at the hands of Chinese oppressors, and here we were, enjoying the salubrious climate and making plans to visit China Peak on our next trip! I want to suggest a name change to Prasada—why not lobby with local supporters and rename the popular picnic spot? Why China or Naina Peak? Why not Tibet Peak? That would please Sangay. He could be invited back to Himalayan Echoes with his wife and three-year-old daughter. Who knows, anything is possible, like he said. Tibet may yet reclaim its freedom. Till then, a strong, independent and distinct identity will have to do!

US state of Wisconsin adopts Tibetan as official minority language

US state of Wisconsin adopts Tibetan as official minority language
March 5, 2018

The Tibet Post, March 5, 2018 – According to reports from the United States, Tibetan has been officially adopted as a minority language in the state of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Tibetan Association announced on Wednesday, February 28, “We are very happy to announce here that the Common Council has unanimously adopted Tibetan being one of the official minority language! This has been a big achievement to the community.” announced the WTA Facebook page on Wednesday.

Madison’s city common council held a meeting on February 27th, with regard to the approval of compressive language access plan by the City of Madison where representatives of the Tibetan community presented cases on the “importance as well as the need to have the Tibetan language recognized due to the increase in its usage in this city.”

The capital city of the State, Madison city, has a long history with the Tibetan immigrant community dating back a few decades. On Thursday (March 1), the Tibetan community commemorated the 25th anniversary of the US-Tibetan Resettlement Project. There is a sizable Tibetan community in the city of Madison which is the second-most-populous municipality in Wisconsin state.

Tibetan leader Dr. Lobsang Sangay: It’s either China transforms you, or the world transforms China

Tibetan leader Dr. Lobsang Sangay: It’s either China transforms you, or the world transforms China
March 5, 2018

The Japan Times, February 28, 2018 – Japan and the international community should pressure China to find a peaceful solution to its long-standing conflict with Tibet, the president of the Tibetan government-in-exile told The Japan Times in a recent interview in Tokyo.

“It’s either China transforms you, or the world transforms China,” Lobsang Sangay said.

“It’s important that the international community … coordinates (its) approach on China,” said the 49-year-old leader, who was on a weeklong visit to Japan in February.

Sangay said China, which controls Tibet, is a threat to “real democracy and freedom of speech,” while noting that many Tibetans, including monks, have set themselves on fire to protest Beijing’s rule over their homeland.

When he spoke to Japanese lawmakers during the visit, Sangay expressed concern that more and more countries are shying away from the Tibet issue amid China’s increasing economic clout, as exemplified by its “One Belt, One Road” initiative to build networks of trade and infrastructure in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, according to Jiji Press.

The interview with the most powerful Tibetan leader after the Dalai Lama was held on Feb. 20, just days before the Communist Party of China said it plans to abolish the two-term limit on the presidency. The ruling party’s proposal, announced on Sunday, paves the way for Xi Jinping, 64, to stay in office beyond the end of his second five-year term in 2023.

As China continues to insist that Tibet has always been part of its territory —while Xi further cements his grip on power — Sangay believes the next five years will be critical for his cause.

He has been traveling the world in an attempt to win support for the nonviolent struggle of the Tibetan people.

“Xi Jinping is on a second term. Normally on a second term, you try to do something big, something for your legacy,” Sangay said. “That’s why it is the next five years that the international community should press China to find a peaceful solution on the issue of Tibet.”

China claims Tibet has been part of its territory since the mid-13th century, while many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of their history.

The Dalai Lama and a large number of his followers have been living in exile in India since they fled Tibet after a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Sangay, born in a refugee camp in 1968, became the head of the Central Tibetan Administration in 2011, the same year the Dalai Lama stepped down as head of the government-in-exile. Sangay was re-elected in 2016.

The Harvard-educated leader said there is also a plan to find a successor to the Dalai Lama, who is 82. Speaking also on Tibet’s vision for the next 50 years, he said, “We must start brainstorming as to how to preserve our identity, our culture, our language, our religion.”

He said his people must also consider how to provide improved education to younger generations “so they become more sophisticated” and learn how to become effective leaders.

He said the 50-year plan also needs to address “how we make ourselves economically sustainable — in exile or inside Tibet.”

The latest visit to Japan by Sangay was his fourth as Tibetan president. He first visited Japan in 2012 and then once a year since 2016.

To deepen ties with Japan, which has the world’s largest parliamentary support group for Tibet, he said, “I promise that I will keep coming back every year.”

China displays a major show of military force in Tibet during Tibetan new year

China displays a major show of military force in Tibet during Tibetan new year
March 5, 2018

International Campaign for Tibet, March 3, 2018 – A major show of military force was in evidence today (March 2) during an important prayer festival at Kumbum monastery in eastern Tibet as Tibetan New Year (Losar) rituals draw to a close. Footage from Kumbum shows marching ranks of black-uniformed troops in riot gear, giving the impression of a war zone rather than a peaceful prayer festival, the Monlam Chenmo.

Footage and images circulating on social media showed celebrations of the Monlam Chenmo across the Tibetan area of Amdo over March 1 and 2 (2018), with a particularly strong military presence at the ancient Kumbum monastery (in present-day Qinghai), where thousands of devotees gather each year to offer prayers and view the famous butter sculptures.

The images also show airport-style scanning gates at the entrance to Kumbum, and People’s Armed Police troops in camouflage gear marching in front of the traditional Tibetan Buddhist butter sculpture offering. The intimidating display of military force is consistent with celebrations of Monlam Chenmo over the past few years; in 2015, the ranks of uniformed paramilitary police appeared to outnumber religious devotees at the festival, which is one of the most significant religious gatherings in Tibet, attracting thousands of pilgrims. Footage and images from 2015 showed troops in riot gear carrying guns jogging into the monastery.

Other images from across eastern Tibet show crowds of thousands of pilgrims gathering to mark the Monlam Chenmo, or Great Prayer Festival, which is observed in the first Tibetan month that started on February 16 this year. Gatherings of this size for Monlam Chenmo are a testimony to Tibetan resilience and the determination to express their religious identity, even in the face of an intimidating security presence and increasingly pervasive ‘grass roots’ surveillance measures.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the first half of the first month (ending this year on March 2) is described as the ‘Festival of Miracles’, celebrated as part of the Great Prayer Festival.

In a teaching on March 2 (2018) in Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama told devotees: “The Day of Miracles is celebrated as part of the Great Prayer Festival that has been held in Lhasa for almost 600 years. It commemorates an occasion during the Buddha’s life when he defeated other ascetics in a display of miraculous feats.”

The Tibet Autonomous Region is currently closed to foreign visitors in what has become an annual closure linked to the sensitive political anniversary of the 1959 Uprising on March 10. This year also marks the ten-year anniversary of the wave of overwhelmingly peaceful protests that swept across Tibet from March 10, 2008.