China Raises Reward for Informants in Tibet

China Raises Reward for Informants in Tibet
2019-08-08

Chinese authorities in Tibet are offering large cash rewards to informants in a bid to stamp out online activities considered threatening to Beijing’s control over the restive Himalayan region, with amounts paid out now tripled over amounts offered last year, sources say.

Rewards of 300,000 yuan (U.S. $42,582) are now being promised for information leading to the arrests of social-media users deemed disloyal to China, according to a notice issued on Feb. 28 by three government departments of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Behaviors specified as illegal include online activities aimed at “attempting to overthrow [China’s] socialist system,” “advocating extremism,” “destabilizing national security,” and “defaming the People’s Republic of China,” according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by RFA’s Tibetan Service.

Also banned are online expressions of support for exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way Policy,” which calls for greater autonomy for Tibet while acknowledging Beijing’s sovereignty over Tibetan areas now part of China.

Attempts to send information on conditions in Tibet to foreign contacts will also be severely punished, the document says.

Authorities in Tibetan areas of China frequently monitor online discussions and search cellphones for what they consider politically sensitive content, and foreign news broadcasts are heavily restricted.

‘No space left for anyone’

“Under these new regulations, the Chinese government is basically curbing the free flow of online information from within Tibet,” Tsering Tsomo, director of the Dharamsala, India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), told RFA in an interview.

“And though [the authorities] have linked these regulations to the protection of cybersecurity and national security, in fact they are just another way to keep people uninformed and to bar them from expressing their views,” Tsomo said.

“Raising the amount of the reward to informants from 100,000 yuan in 2018 to 300,000 yuan this year is a threat to citizens who are simply exercising their freedom of expression,” Tsomo said.

Also speaking to RFA, Sonam Topgyal, a researcher at the Dharamsala-based Tibet Watch, said that similar restrictions on internet activities have already been in force in Tibetan areas of China “for a long time.”

“These laws have even been implemented in elementary schools in Tibet,” Topgyal said, adding, “The Chinese government has left no space for anyone to criticize the government in any way, and has deployed informants within different parts of the Tibetan community.”

China’s roll-out in February of the raised reward amount comes amid the launch of a separate Tibet-wide campaign against organized crime and “black and evil forces” that sources in the region say is being used as an excuse to crack down on Tibetans and has led to mistrust within local communities.

The campaign has resulted in the “detention, arrest, and torture of human rights and environmental activists and of ordinary Tibetans promoting the use of the Tibetan language,” TCHRD said in a report released in May.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Tibetan Monk Sentenced, Two Others Missing in Detention

Tibetan Monk Sentenced, Two Others Missing in Detention
2019-08-14

A Tibetan monk enrolled in Sichuan’s restive Kirti monastery has been sentenced to four years in prison, with his present whereabouts and the charges made against him still unknown, Tibetan sources in exile say.

Lobsang Thamke, age about 37, was sentenced on July 30 after being arrested last year, Kanyag Tsering—a monk living at Kirti’s branch monastery in Dharamsala, India—told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Wednesday.

“But other than that, no details are available regarding what he was charged with and where he is now imprisoned,” Tsering said, citing sources in Sichuan’s Ngaba (in Chinese, Aba) county, a part of Tibet’s historical eastern region of Kham.

Thamke, a son of Lhade Gongme Lokho, had previously graduated from the Buddhist Youth School formerly attached to Ngaba’s Kirti monastery but later closed by Chinese authorities, added Lobsang Yeshi, also a monk at Kirti’s branch in India.

“They said they would not allow the school to operate as a part of Kirti, and they transferred it to the county’s jurisdiction. But after having a lot of difficulty it was finally closed at the end of 2002,” Yeshi said.

Missing in detention

Two other monks from Ngaba have meanwhile gone missing after being taken into custody by Chinese police, Tsering and Yeshi said.

Lobsang Dorje, age about 36 and also a monk at Kirti, was arrested sometime around August 2018, with his present whereabouts unknown. And Thubpa, 32, was taken by Chinese police at night from Ngaba’s Trotsik monastery sometime toward the end of 2017.

“His whereabouts are also unknown,” Tsering and Yeshi said.

Thubpa had previously been arrested for shouting political slogans and burning the Chinese flag during a period of widespread protests in 2008, and his father Kalsang was arrested and jailed for shouting slogans on March 16, 2011 against China’s rule in Tibetan areas, Tsering and Yeshi said.

Ngaba’s main town and nearby Kirti monastery have been the scene of repeated self-immolations and other protests in recent years by monks, former monks, and other Tibetans calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Owing to strict clampdowns on communications by authorities in Tibetan areas of China, news of protests and arrests is frequently delayed in reaching foreign news outlets and other outside contacts.

Reported by RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Benpa Topgyal. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Jailed Tibetan Language Rights Advocate is Refused Visits From His Lawyers

Jailed Tibetan Language Rights Advocate is Refused Visits From His Lawyers
2019-08-02

Jailed Tibetan language rights advocate Tashi Wangchuk was denied a visit from his lawyers this week, with Chinese prison officials saying Wangchuk is being punished for being “uncooperative” in prison, one of his lawyers said.

Wangchuk’s lawyers Liang Xiaojun and Lin Qilei were barred from Donchuan prison in northwestern China’s Qinghai province on Aug. 1 despite presenting “all relevant paperwork” needed to permit the visit, attorney Liang told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Friday.

“The prison officials accepted our documents and left the office, and then returned about 30 minutes later to say that what he had given them was not enough, and that we needed a letter from the Ministry of Justice in Beijing,” Liang said.

After reminding prison officials that the Justice Ministry had no mandate to authorize visits, the officials replied that “we would not be allowed to meet with Tashi Wangchuk in any case,” Liang said.

Liang and Lin then went to Qinghai’s Bureau of Prison Administration, where a junior official told them that Wangchuk had never accepted that he had committed a crime, and was uncooperative in prison.

“Given his attitude toward his sentence, you will not be allowed to meet with him,” the official told them, adding that because Wangchuk’s case was “sensitive,” his lawyers should act carefully or risk damage to their careers, Liang said.

“Tashi Wangchuk does not accept his guilty verdict and has told us again to file an appeal, so that’s why we came to see him,” Liang told RFA. “But without meeting him in person, we can’t accomplish many of the tasks required for the appeal.”

Third year behind bars

Wangchuk has now marked his third year behind bars after being convicted on a charge of separatism for promoting the use of his native language in Tibetan areas of China.

He was sentenced on Jan. 4, 2018 by a court in Qinghai’s Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture following a controversial trial in which the prosecution based its case on a video report by the New York Times documenting the activist’s work.

Wangchuk  was arrested on Jan. 27, 2016, two months after the Times ran its report, and was handed a five-year prison term on Jan. 4, 2018 by a court in Qinghai’s Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

His sentence of five years will include his time already spent in detention.

In the video, Wangchuk is seen traveling to Beijing to press his case for the wider use of the Tibetan language in Tibetan schools. Prosecutors used this as evidence at his trial, despite his repeated disavowals of separatism and his stated intention to use China’s own laws to protect the Tibetan language.

Writers, singers and artists promoting Tibetan national identity and culture have frequently been detained by Chinese authorities, with many handed long jail terms, following region-wide protests against Chinese rule that swept Tibetan areas of China in 2008.

Language rights have become a particular focus for Tibetan efforts to assert national identity in recent years, with informally organized language courses typically deemed “illegal associations” and teachers subject to detention and arrest, sources say.

Reported by Sonam Lhamo for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

“As long as China is relevant, Tibet issue is relevant” : CTA President at Parul University, Vadodara

“As long as China is relevant, Tibet issue is relevant” : CTA President at Parul University, Vadodara

August 7, 2019

Published By Tenzin Choetso

Vadodara, Gujarat: President of Central Tibetan Administration Dr Lobsang Sangay as a part of the official tour to Gujarat visited Parul University in Vadodara, Gujarat. President Sangay was warmly escorted to the dais of the university auditorium.

The moderator of the event delivered a welcome speech and gave a brief bio-data of the President for the general audience and guests in the hall.

Dr Devanshu Patel, President of Parul University presented a book of Mahatma Gandhi who is an epitome of non-violence to the Sikyong as a token of welcome.

President Dr Lobsang Sangay addressed the Students, faculty members and guests gathered in the auditorium.

In his address, President expressed gratitude to the government and people of India for the love and kindness they have shown not only by hosting the Tibetans for the last 60 years but doing the most they could for the Tibetan freedom struggle. President Sangay called it a law of karma which has bounded India and Tibet over time and still persists to bound together. President Dr Lobsang Sangay reflected back to the 7th and 8th century when Tibetan scholars came to India and learned Sanskrit language and brought back Buddhism to Tibet.

President further noted that India has given birth to great leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi who was a consequential advocate of non-violence and said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one great admirer and follower of the principles laid out by Mahatma Gandhi.

“We Tibetans also follow Non-violence (Ahimsa) as our path to seek our basic freedom,” said President Sangay while admitting the unique connection of spiritually, environmentally, historically and geographically between India and Tibet.

President asserted that though India is the guru and the Tibetans are its Chela (student) in this equation but for India, there is no better student like the Tibetans as they have successfully preserved the ancient knowledge of Buddhism.

As for the relationship concerning the environment, the President commented on the major river that flows down from Tibet into Asia and where India draws its major source of livelihood from these major rivers as Tibet is known as the third pole or water tower of Asia.

Speaking on the situation inside Tibet, President Sangay pointed out that Freedom House Index report lists Tibet as the second least free country in the world for three consecutive years after Syria.

He further spoke about monasteries and nunneries in Tibet that were destroyed in the 1950s and 60s by the Chinese Communists, Monks, and Nuns that were disrobed. At a time when Tibet was dealing with the depraved situation, the kind help of India came into Tibet’s rescue. Gradually, monasteries and nunneries were built brick by brick in India, Nepal, and Bhutan due to which Buddhism civilisation revived all through the Himalaya belt. President, therefore, expressed gratitude towards India for their generosity.

“Although China has destroyed and demolished monasteries in Tibet, Tibetans practices Buddhism in their private space and social space so Buddhism still remains strong in Tibet”, informed President Sangay.

President further proclaimed that just as India prevailed against the Britishers under the leadership of Gandhi, Tibet too shall prevail and succeed under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He then urged the support and cooperation of India.

President Sangay concluded by thanking and lauding the President of Parul University, Dr Devanshu Patel and his family for investing in education.

Followed by a series of questions from the audience. Dr Sangay answered all the questions enthusiastically.

In his answers, President talked about the importance of culture in the preservation of one’s identity. He further advocated the need for education of heart with modern education to become successful in one’s life.

President Sangay noted that education is the number one priority of the Central Tibetan Administration and asserted that education is the foundation of any nation. He further spoke about China’s policy in various countries which is leading to the same situation as what has happened to Tibetans.

“As long as China is relevant, Tibet is relevant,” said, President Sangay

Since India and Tibet are very much connected, President urged to work and grow together as a team.

Finally, Dr Devanshu Patel, President of Parul University delivered a vote of thanks and lauded Dr Sangay for being an exuberant leader and promised to help and extend help to Tibetan students or any other help that they can provide.

Dr Devanshu Patel felicitated President Dr Lobsang Sangay with Symbol of Peacock, National bird of India which signifies prosperity and divinity.

After the event, while addressing the local media of Vadodara, Dr. Sangay expressed his sadness and offered his condolences on the demise of former External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj Ji.

-Filed by Tenzin Seldon

Do business with China, but be careful — Tibetan President Lobsang Sangay advises India

Do business with China, but be careful — Tibetan President Lobsang Sangay advises India

August 8, 2019

By Nayanima Basu, Read the original article here.

Lobsang Sangay, President of the Tibetan government-in exile, says we are never against doing business with China or against having diplomatic relationship with it.

New Delhi: Lobsang Sangay, President of the Tibetan government-in exile, has said that India should be careful and study the “Tibetan blueprint” before doing business with China.

“Be careful. Study Tibet. Look at the blueprint of Tibet. How it all started. Then you started Australia. You start with trade and then it become politics and then it becomes security then it becomes social and it becomes academic and it becomes everything,” Sangay told ThePrint when asked about the ongoing talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact — an inter-sessional ministerial meeting among 16 countries to negotiate a mega free trade agreement.

Speaking at an event organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents (IAFAC) in Delhi, Sangay said India should be able to create a “balance” and understand if it is bringing China into the international fold or “becoming more like” the latter.

According to Sangay, China has now completely taken over Australia in business and has good cultural ties with it too.

He, however, also added that they should do more trade and business with China.

“We are never against doing business with China. We are never against having diplomatic relationship with it. You must have a relationship with China. It cannot be isolated,” added Sangay.

His remarks come at a time when Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal avoided attending the last round of ministerial meeting of RCEP that took place in Beijing last week. Goyal, instead, had sent Commerce Secretary Anup Wadhawan for the meet.

While all member countries are keen to sign the proposed mega trade agreement by December this year, India has said it will not be able to continue the talks in its present form.

Indian industry and farming community has asked the government not to move ahead with the RCEP talks since it will open “floodgates for Chinese goods”.

The RCEP is a proposed mega free trade agreement (FTA) that is presently being negotiated between 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — and their six trading partners India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

Selection of next Dalai Lama

On the issue of the recent controversy surrounding China’s claim that Beijing and not New Delhi will select a successor to Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, Sangay only said, “It is Dalai Lama’s business how and in what form his reincarnation will happen.

“If the Communist Party of China decides on the next Dalai Lama, who will follow their own Dalai Lama? It is China’s plan to have two Dalai Lamas, like what they did with Panchen Lama.”

He also said that Tibet has already won the struggle “spiritually”, which it has been waging against China.

On the issue of conferring the Bharat Ratna to the Dalai Lama, Sangay said while the spiritual leader received several accolades around the world, he has never been given any award by India.

“This has been our wish. We will be happy if he gets it. We will also not have complaints if he is not conferred the award.”
Kashmir an internal matter

“As a guest of India, I will not comment on the internal matters of India,” Sangay said on the issue of scrapping Article 370 and proposing to turn Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into Union Territories.

He added that Tibetans only want to achieve genuine autonomy within China peacefully through dialogues.

UK Lawmaker Proposes Bill For Reciprocal Access to Tibet

UK Lawmaker Proposes Bill For Reciprocal Access to Tibet
2019-07-24

A British lawmaker submitted a bill to the House of Commons this week that would bar entry to the UK for any Chinese officials found to block freedom of travel to Tibet by British citizens.

The bill submitted by Conservative Party MP Tim Loughton on Tuesday mirrors a similar bill now passed into law in the U.S., and requires that a report be made to Parliament each year, listing instances where British politicians, diplomats, and other travelers have been denied entry to Tibet.

“My Bill would emulate in the UK what the US has done,” Loughton, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet, said on a video clip posted on Facebook on Tuesday, citing concerns over what he called China’s “horrendous human rights abuses” in the Himalayan region.

“To say to China: You need to open up, we need to expose these human rights abuses. You need to treat Tibetans fairly around the world and within China itself, and if you don’t, don’t expect the people responsible for that to be able to come to the UK,” he said.

“It may seem like a remote issue, but it’s an important principle for human rights of minorities throughout the world,” Loughton said. “And the Tibetans have suffered for far too long.”

Details on when Loughton’s bill will come up for debate in the Parliament were not immediately available.

‘A positive move’

Speaking on Wednesday to RFA’s Tibetan Service, London-based Free Tibet campaign advocacy manager John Jones welcomed the submission of Loughton’s bill to the UK Parliament.

“We think it is a positive move. We were excited when the Reciprocal Access bill had success in the U.S., and we thought it was good for other countries to replicate that, to send a message to the Chinese government,” Jones said.

“If they are going to impose travel restrictions on people from the UK to Tibet, then those people imposing the restrictions need to be held accountable themselves.”

In a move pushing for greater U.S. access to Tibet, now largely closed by China to American diplomats and journalists, President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2018 signed into law a bill denying visas to Chinese officials responsible for blocking entry to the Beijing-ruled Himalayan region.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 requires the U.S. Secretary of State to identify Chinese officials responsible for excluding U.S. citizens, including Americans of Tibetan ethnic origin, from China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and then ban them from entering the United States.

The law also requires the State Department to provide to the Congress each year a list of U.S. citizens blocked from entry to Tibet.

‘Wrong signals’

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying slammed Trump’s signing of the bill into law, saying the new law sends “seriously wrong signals” of support to what she called forces working to separate Tibet from Chinese rule.

“If the United States implements this law, it will cause serious harm to China-U.S. relations and to the cooperation in important areas between the two countries,” she said.

A formerly independent nation, Tibet was taken over and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, following which Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India.

Chinese authorities now maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

Reported by Guru Choegyi for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.

China’s white paper on national defense; a sugar-coated sabre

China’s white paper on national defense; a sugar-coated sabre
July 26, 2019

Published By Tenzin Saldon

by T. G. Arya*

Amidst the growing turmoil in Hong Kong Island and the surging voice for independence in Taiwan; the repression and cultural genocide in Tibet and Uighur, and the escalating US trade war, China has on 24th July, issued a white paper titled “China’s National Defense in the New Era”. Faithful commentaries and justifications followed immediately in their official mouthpiece, Xinhua News and the Global Times.

The fifty-one paged English translation of the white paper has some six chapters justifying the need for China to build a fortified national defense and a strong military. The purpose of the white paper, it says, “To expound on China’s defensive national defense policy and explain the practice, purposes, and significance of China’s efforts to build a fortified national defense and a strong military, with a view to helping the international community better understand China’s national defense.”

It says “Peace is a common aspiration of people around the world”. The white paper has many things about peace, cooperation and development to justify the activity of the Chinese military and the role of the People Liberation Army (PLA). Along with this, it has issued a stern warning to Taiwan and noted Tibet and Uighur as a national security risk. Hong Kong has been left out deliberately, the tacit immediate target.

It is a piece of welcome news that China has said that “it will never seek hegemony, expansion, and sphere of influence” in the white paper, how we all wish if this could be true. Unfortunately, given the factual and historical distortion that China has deliberately made in the white papers issued on Tibet in the past, China observers and the International community will not take this statement at its face value.

It talks about China not seeking hegemony, but what about the regions already under its illegal occupation, like Tibet. What about those 12 developing nations whose ports, media, economy and civil authority that China has taken over through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)’s debt trap. [“Chinese Malign Influence and the Corrosion of Democracy” International Republican Institute (IRI) 2019 Report]

The paper says, “No matter how it might develop, China will never threaten any other country or seek any sphere of influence.”

Chinese interference in Nepal to keep the Tibetans leashed, dumb, immobile and out of the country has crossed the limit of sphere of influence. The recent deportation of a Tibetan-American with a similar name with the former Speaker [PenpaTsering] of Tibetan Parliament in exile by Nepal immigration has demonstrated the extent of Chinese dictatorial authority in the civil administration of the land.

China will never threaten – Just recently, China threatened India by warning that it should stand by the dictates of communist China about the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama.

The white paper says, “Since its founding 70 years ago, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never started any war or conflict.”

Was Tibet not illegally occupied in the 1950s, and what caused the death of 1.2 million Tibetans and the flight of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetans into exile? What about the unprovoked Chinese aggression against India in 1962, the so-called Sino-Indian war, and the numerous border intrusions that India has experienced, the most recent being the Doklam standoff in 2017.

Now, the important question is: what prompted the communist regime to issue a white paper on national defense at this time? If we analyse the fact surrounding the current situation, it betrays China’s plan to use military and its PLA army in containing civil unrest, Hong Kong people should be wary of it. While it warns Taiwan on its independence drive in a belligerent tone, Tibet and Uighur are just shown as a threat to China’s national security and social stability.

It has openly challenged and attacked the US for its unilateral policies. It criticised Trump administration for its increased activity based on the so-called freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea. But China should reflect what has caused this increased activity? Who initially disturbed the peace in this otherwise peaceful South and the East China Sea? What country in the regions is not in loggerheads with China?

What is dreadful about the white paper is how explicitly its purpose is explained in the Global Times, it said, “The white paper also for the first time defined that PLA’s missions and tasks are to provide strategic support to consolidate the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the socialist system, safeguard national sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity, protect China’s overseas interests, and promote world peace and development.”

The above statement forebodes bad times ahead for those in odd with the communist regime. Tibet and Uighur, although totally under the military control, it warns further repression involving the PLA army is in the offing. There is already news of Uighur type of detention centers or gulags coming up in Tibet. The immediate target of the white paper in Hong Kong and Taiwan and China is indirectly seeking international approbation to the military action about to happen in the regions. It is a clear message from China to notify the international community that very soon it’s military and People Liberation Army (PLA) would be in the Hong Kong Street, and later in Taiwan.

* T.G. Arya is the Information Secretary of Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Central Tibetan Administration. Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Climate emergency in Tibet

Climate emergency in Tibet

Michael Buckley
| 19th July 2019

Tibet Climate Action

The Tibetan Plateau, or ‘third pole’, is the forgotten part of the climate crisis conversation.

By some calculations, the planet has twelve years left. By other calculations, just seven years left. And according to Prince Charles, we have just eighteen months left. What’s at stake here is how long we have before climate crisis is irreversible.

England declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. Followed by Ireland. The Pope declared a Climate Emergency. Some 7,000 universities and colleges around the world have united to declare a Climate Emergency.

China and India have not indicated any leanings to join in, as both nations are sitting on economies that depend on copious numbers of coal-fired power-plants. Neither nation has any intention of weaning-off coal. Both nations mention vague figures like reducing coal consumption by 2030 – far too late.

Third pole

Lying between the world’s most populous nations, China and India, sits Tibet—an occupied region, under China’s iron-fisted rule since 1950. Tibet is the forgotten part of the climate crisis conversation.

There is a lot of press about Arctic melting and Antarctic melting, but precious little about meltdown at ‘the Third Pole’, meaning the Tibetan Plateau.

This vast region does what the other two poles cannot—it supplies a dozen nations downstream with freshwater. In fact, the rivers sourced in Tibet supply freshwater to over 1.5 billion people downstream–which represents a fifth of the entire global population.

That supply of water starts with dripping glaciers in Tibet. Which are melting twice as fast as originally thought, according to recent research that compares spy satellite mapping from the 1970s with satellite mapping from today.

Tibet sits on the largest area of permafrost outside of the Arctic and Antarctic–and that is rapidly thawing too, which could release large amounts of methane–a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than CO2. Tibet’s vast swathes of grassland are highly effective carbon sinks–and these grasslands are under attack from rampant Chinese mining ventures–which have accelerated since the arrival of the train in Lhasa in 2006. This has led to encroaching desert taking over grasslands.

Melting glaciers

Why does this matter? In the short run, rapidly melting glaciers do not pose a threat, except from major flooding. In the long run, melting glaciers pose a threat that has never been seen before—never in thousands of years.

If the glaciers vanish, the rivers of Tibet will run dry, only fed by monsoon rainwater. And the dozens of China’s megadams on the rivers of Tibet will cease to operate. Billions will be without river water.

China and India have groundwater supplies, but these have been tapped to the point where precious little remains.

Some scientific surveys say that fifty percent of meltdown of Himalayan glaciers is caused by CO2 emissions, with China responsible for around thirty percent of the global total for emissions of this deadly greenhouse gas, and India responsible for around seven percent.

The other 50 percent of meltdown could be due to the rain of black soot on the Himalayas, from both sides—from the Chinese side and the Indian side.

Black Soot, aka Black Carbon, is not a greenhouse gas, it is a rain of minute particles from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, wood, and from sources like diesel engines. Minute black particles, the PM2.5 particles, are highly hazardous to human health because they can get into the lungs—and stay there. Deadly for humans–and deadly for glaciers.

Black soot

Glaciers are adversely affected by the same particles, whether PM2.5 or PM10 versions. Black soot lands on the glaciers and stays there—which then attracts the sun. The ice and snow of glaciers reflect the sun, but the black particles absorb the sun, leading to more rapid meltdown.

Black soot is a totally solvable issue. If the burning of fossil fuels in both China and India were to stop, black soot would disappear. Improved cookstoves, for instance, can greatly reduce the impact of billions of people in China and India using wood, charcoal and coal for cooking.

But neither China nor India has taken any substantial steps to even reduce the output of black carbon from coal-fired power plants—despite both nations making pledges at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

On this basis alone, it is time to declare a Climate Emergency in Tibet. China has never participated in any mass demonstrations targeting the Climate Crisis, such as those sweeping Europe via school strikes for global action and Extinction Rebellion.

India has participated in such protest, with a number of NGOs involved. But a lot more needs to be done to galvanize politicians and leaders into action to solve the issue of meltdown in Tibet.

Otherwise, the planet faces a stark choice: our very survival is at stake. Across Asia, disasters like flooding and cyclones are becoming more frequent, resulting in hundreds of thousands of climate refugees on the move.

What happens in Tibet is much more than an Asian problem: it will have major impact for the entire planet. We no longer have the luxury of procrastination: the time to act is now.

This Author

Michael Buckley is author of Meltdown in Tibet and the digital photobook Tibet, Disrupted. He has long researched environment issues in the Himalayan region.

‘The future Tibet should be a genuine democracy’

‘The future Tibet should be a genuine democracy’
July 9, 2019

The 14th Dalai Lama, who turned 84 on 6 July, talks about his 60 years of exile in India, his commitment to the cause of Tibetan freedom and his vision for the future in these excerpts from interviews he did with Vijay Kranti over the last four decades.

On 6 July, Tenzing Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet celebrated his 84th birthday. Three months ago, he completed his 60 years of exile in India. A lot of water has flown through the Brahmaputra, locally known as Tsangpo in Tibet, since this monk ruler escaped from his China-occupied country in March 1959 to save his life from the People’s Liberation Army that crushed the Tibetan uprising at a cost of over 80,000 Tibetan lives (as per UN documents). In the meanwhile, China has emerged as a military and economic superpower and has successfully converted its newest colony into a fortress with a huge network of cantonments, airbases and nuclear stations in addition to a flood of Han settlers who have already outnumbered the ethnic Tibetan population.

Even though the Dalai Lama’s “government in exile” at Dharamshala has yet to get its first recognition from any world government, Chinese rulers expose their helpless vulnerability on the faintest mention of the words “Dalai Lama” or “Tibet” in any world forum or capital. In their over enthusiasm to stamp their final control over Tibet by installing the next incarnation of the current Dalai Lama, Beijing’s two religious search committees, each headed by a senior communist leader, have already completed two dry runs by identifying the new reincarnations of Panchen Lama and the Karma Pa over the past two decades. They have made innumerable attempts to woo the Dalai Lama to return and settle in Beijing to give moral and political legitimacy to China’s rule over Tibet that Beijing misses miserably.

I have been frequently meeting and interviewing the Dalai Lama over the past 47 years since 1972, about his opinions on various issues related to Tibet, religion, philosophy and the Dalai Lama himself. On his 84th birthday, the Tibetan leader answered an assortment of questions on a range of issues. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

Q. How has your life as a refugee affected you personally?

A. Generally speaking, these years have been a sad period. For the Tibetan nation as a whole, this is the darkest period in history. But then difficulties and problems also help you come closer to reality. They also increase your inner strength. If China had not occupied Tibet then I might have been living in comfort. In that case, I may have been a superficial Dalai Lama.

You see, Tibetans never had as many photographs of previous Dalai Lamas as they have of this Dalai Lama. And none of the previous Dalai Lamas were ever interviewed by the BBC or the international press. Who did it for me?  The Chinese government! So don’t you think I should be thankful to them [laughs]? That is why the present Dalai Lama has become the most needed, most pivotal personality. But also the saddest Dalai Lama ever.

Dalai Lama meditating in his personal prayer room at his exile home in Dharamshala in 1990.

Q. And what about Tibet?

A. In the early Sixties, some of our sincere friends expressed fears that the Tibetan issue was dead and that Tibet would disappear forever. But we steadfastly maintained our determination. As a result, Tibet is still alive. The issue is far from dead. Some credit goes to the Chinese themselves. They were ruthless. That strengthened the Tibetan determination. Tibetans should be thankful to the Chinese for at least this contribution.

Q. Did your Nobel Prize help the Tibetan cause?

A. Sure. Tibetans and their cause are now better understood by people who did not know much about Tibet. Everyone now wants to know about Tibet and about the Dalai Lama. It strengthened our people’s determination.

Q. But if the Tibetan issue remains unresolved for long, don’t you think it will frustrate the Tibetan youth and they may adopt the path of violence?

A. My answer is quite simple. If the situation goes out of my hands, or if the Tibetan freedom movement takes a violent turn, the only thing I can do is to quit. Non-violence is the only way.

Q. As the 14th Dalai Lama, which of the previous Dalai Lamas impressed you most?

A. If I look at the overall personality of each Dalai Lama, the fifth impresses me the most. The most impressive thing about him was that he was not at all sectarian. He was very domineering though. That way I represent a sharp contrast. I think I am too soft. I always feel myself a part of the crowd and not someone who is the head of a nation, or a big man. That feeling is always there. However, on spiritual grounds, I especially like the first and the second Dalai Lamas.

Q. Now that Tibet is occupied by China, what will happen to your reincarnation? China can manipulate the entire affair after your death.

A. I think this is not a big problem. First, history shows that all Dalai Lamas have not necessarily been from Tibet. For example, the fourth Dalai Lama was from Mongolia. The most important thing is that the world is always changing. Tibetan customs, Tibetan institutions, the way of living and thinking would keep on changing. Presently, the institution of the Dalai Lama is like a symbol of Tibet. Therefore, some friends of Tibet start fearing that without a Dalai Lama the Tibetan nation may not exist. The truth is that any institution, including that of the Dalai Lama, may or may not exist, but the Tibetan nation is going to stay. Yes, it will.

Q. A few years ago, you had stated that you may be the last Dalai Lama….

A. Yes, I did say that if the institution of the Dalai Lama does not serve the interests of Tibet, then there is no need for maintaining it. I had also said that whether this institution should continue would completely depend upon the wishes of the Tibetan people.

However, current circumstances show that it is necessary that there should be another Dalai Lama after me. And here I want to make it very clear that the reincarnation or rebirth of the present Dalai Lama will never fall into Chinese hands because the Dalai Lama—I mean the present Dalai Lama—deliberately left his country owing to pressing circumstances. This fact makes one thing very clear: that if the present Dalai Lama takes rebirth, his reincarnation will be for a very specific purpose.

Since his predecessor left his own country, Tibet, deliberately, and for a specific purpose (to live in India), his reincarnation will also definitely reappear in that area and not in Chinese hands. That is definite. Otherwise, there is no logic behind my coming into exile and working for Tibetan freedom.

Q. But what prompted you to say that you could be the last Dalai Lama?

A. There were political reasons behind that. At that time, and even now, the Chinese government had been trying desperately to show as if the entire Tibetan problem is limited only to the Dalai Lama as a person, or the institution of the Dalai Lama. This was a very clever attempt to divert the world’s attention from the real Tibetan issue. That is why I always say that the actual issue is not Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, or for that matter, the next Dalai Lama. The real issue is the six million Tibetans—their future, their identity, their welfare, and happiness.

Whether the institution remains or not, my own rebirth will continue. It is a different matter whether people designate him the next Dalai Lama. In one of my daily prayers, I always say that as long as space remains, and as long as the living beings’ sufferings remain, I shall be there to serve them and to dispel their misery.

Q. And now I want to ask you just the opposite question. If Tibet becomes free in your lifetime, what role have you thought for yourself in the new Tibetan government?

A. In 1963, our government-in-exile adopted a draft constitution for Tibet. In this constitution, I had made it very clear that the powers of the Dalai Lama can be abolished by a two-thirds majority vote among the Tibetan people’s deputies. Our idea has been quite clear that the future Tibet should be a genuine democracy.

I would then live peacefully like an old monk. Wearing thick glasses and walking with the help of my stick [laughs]… And if my friends provide me with a helicopter, I would love to move around in my country, meeting people [laughs]… The main thing is that I should remain outside of power. Like Mahatma Gandhi, I too should not hold any public office. He remained there as long as he was needed in the national independence movement. Once it was achieved, he moved away. That is a great thing.

Q. How long do you intend to fight for the freedom of your country?

A. Like any other nation, Tibet and Tibetans are entitled to human rights, including the right to preservation of their separate identity and way of life. To achieve this goal, they would continue to struggle for as long as they remain under foreign military occupation. Free will is the only real basis of determining the destiny of our six million people. Until this right is restored to my people, there shall be no peace in their hearts and minds. Tibetans have endless faith in themselves, as well as in the righteousness of their struggle. We won’t stop till the goal is achieved.

Q. Do you think there could have been a better way of handling the situation during the 1950s in Tibet?

A. No, no. I think whatever we should have done between 1951 when the Chinese forced the Seventeen Point Agreement on us, and the uprising of 1959, was done. That was the best that could have been done in the given conditions. But it seems that things had gone wrong much before that. I always feel sad about that.

Q. Would you please elaborate?

A. I will give you a simple example. When India got Independence, our Tibetan government should have acted properly. In view of our centuries-old ties, and for being the most friendly neighbour rather a brother country, we should have sent the biggest delegation to participate in the Independence celebrations of India. If they thought I was too young, a 12-year-old boy, then the Tibetan delegation should have been headed by the Tibetan Regent. They should have also met Mahatma Gandhi, Pundit Nehru, other Indian leaders, and freedom fighters. This would have, at least, registered our independent status as a nation.

Q. Do you still think that leaving Tibet in 1959 and going into exile was the right decision?

A. Yes. Because that was the only way left. I still believe so. Some of my own friends, including a member of my cabinet, the “Kashag”, had doubts about the wisdom of this decision. It was only when the Cultural Revolution started that he admitted in one of our meetings that till that day he had some doubts whether it was really necessary for the Dalai Lama to leave Tibet. I have never had any doubts about it.

Q. The Chinese government has been inviting you to return and stay in Beijing. What is your response?

A. They believe that once I return on their terms, the entire Tibetan problem would be solved. That is why they have been insisting that I should return and settle down in Beijing. But like any other self-respecting human being, I also regard the freedom of thinking, movement, and speech as more important than any personal comfort. Here in India, I have these freedoms. Therefore, I would prefer to live as a poor refugee with these freedoms than live in luxury in Beijing as a puppet without freedom. I am very clear about it.

Q. Some Tibetans believe that India has not done much for the cause of Tibet. Do you agree with that?

A. No, I don’t agree with that. If any Tibetan thinks so, it is not out of anger but because of his affinity with India, sense of belonging and greater expectations. When you live in a family, you can expect something more than what you can get. You sometimes complain without bothering about the other problems of the family. India has really done a lot for us. The government of India has done everything that could have been done within its limitations.

–Vijay Kranti is a senior journalist, Tibetologist, and chairman, Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE). Link to the article here.

Exclusive interview: ‘Reincarnation’ isn’t important, says the Dalai Lama

Exclusive interview: ‘Reincarnation’ isn’t important, says the Dalai Lama
July 8, 2019

At the age of 16, you lost your freedom; at 24 you lost your country. You have been living in India for the past 60 years. What was on your mind when you fled Tibet, carrying the hopes of so many people?

As Buddhist monks, in our daily meditation, we think as sentient beings, what we also call mother sentient being. So, my daily prayer is, “So long as space remains, so long as sentient beings remain, I remain in order to serve them.” Acharya Shantideva (one of the great ancient acharyas) said these words… There are other galaxies in this universe where we have no connections and we can only pray for them (the beings there). But we have a connection with this galaxy; within the galaxy, with this world. And within this world, with the human beings, animals and birds. We can communicate with human beings but not so much with animals. …The human mind can [help us] communicate with each other. So when we pray, [we pray for] all the sentient beings; [for] the seven billion people on this planet. I am one of them. My effort is to make a small contribution towards the wellbeing of the seven billion human beings. By wellbeing, I mean not just at the physical level, but also at the mental level.

You have personally known several Indian leaders, starting with Jawaharlal Nehru. How close have you been to them?

Pandit Nehru was very kind to me; he advised me under difficult circumstances. I followed his advice, and it was very practical. I came to India in 1956, during Buddha Jayanti. At that time, many Tibetan officials told me that I should stay in India and not return. They were fearing the Chinese troops. I discussed with Pandit Nehru, who said that it was better if I returned to Tibet. He carried a copy of the 17-point agreement [of 1951 between the Tibetan leadership and the Chinese government]. With his own pen he marked a few points and told me [that] on those points [I] could struggle within Tibet. I followed his advice. I had also been carrying out my own investigations through divination. I returned to Tibet in 1957. I tried my best [to maintain peace with the Chinese], but after some time… there was uprising in eastern Tibet and then northeastern Tibet. These gradually spread to the whole of Tibet. In 1959, things went out of control and I decided to escape from Tibet.

When I was close to the Indian border, I sent two groups of emissaries to India and Bhutan. The quickest and more favourable response came from India. When the Central government in India came to know that I had already left from Tibet, the Indian cabinet held a meeting. One cabinet member expressed concern that if they accepted the Dalai Lama, it could impact India-China relations. But Pandit Nehru decided that they must receive the Dalai Lama. It was Nehru who himself took a stand. Many years later one old Indian official, before his death, came here and [told me] this.

How was the reception in India, politically?

In 1959, I became a refugee in India. President Dr Rajendra Prasad, Dr S. Radhakrishnan, whom I knew since 1956, and Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant were all wonderful persons. In the opposition, there were politicians like Acharya Kripalani and Ashok Mehta, who were all staunch supporters of Tibet. All of them helped me. After I had taken refuge, Nehru advised me that in order to keep the Tibetan issue alive, raising the matter in the United Nations was all right, but what was important was to give proper education to the young generation of Tibetans. Over lunch at Nehru’s house, education minister K.L. Shrimali was called, and Nehru gave him instructions that a committee be created for the education of young Tibetans. The entire expense was borne by India. Second was the issue of our settlement. Nehru wrote to chief ministers to find out who had the land available. The best response came from S. Nijalingappa, the chief minister of Mysore. I knew him since 1956. So it was Nehru’s initiative in all these matters, and all the great Indian leaders supported me.

How did you know Nijalingappa?

In Bangalore, there is a garden in which there is a Glass House (Lalbagh). Once I was having lunch there with a Chinese delegation, and Nijalingappa was sitting next to me. During our discussions with the Chinese, Nijalingappa whispered to me that he supported Tibetan independence. I was surprised and afraid of what would happened if the Chinese sitting there had heard him (laughs). So, me and Nijalingappa go a long way back. Today, Mysore has the biggest refugee settlement in Karnataka. Then there are settlements in Bhandara in Maharashtra, Odisha and, of course, Himachal Pradesh and other states as well.

Nehru had said dialogue with China was important to resolve the Tibet issue. Earlier, your envoys used to meet Chinese officials, but for the past several years there have been no talks with China. What is the way forward?

There is a growing feeling among the top leaders in China that their policies have not been able to solve the Tibet issue in the last 70 years. So they should follow a more realistic approach. Even though Tibet was an independent country, politically China occupies Tibet today. Under the given circumstances, I have been saying for some time now that there is a need to focus on preservation of Tibetan culture, religion and identity. It is no longer a struggle for political independence.

Why not?

Political independence is mainly meant for the happiness of the people. But, does it alone guarantee happiness? As long as the Tibetan people can preserve their thousands of years old cultural heritage, religion and identity, it will bring them inner peace and happiness. For this, I really admire the Indian Union for its unity in diversity. In a similar way, the People’s Republic of China and Tibet can coexist keeping Tibet’s cultural, linguistic and religious identity. Independence, on the other hand, will also mean demarcation of the border. Historically, Tibet was a large kingdom, but recent history shows that some Tibetan areas had come under Chinese jurisdiction. For example, my village may not fall under Tibetan jurisdiction, and the Chinese can then say, “Send the Dalai Lama back to China.” I feel Tibet should be governed by one administration. So, both China and Tibet [would benefit] if they co-exist peacefully and learn from each other. Tibet will get economic benefits from China while the Chinese will benefit from our knowledge. In China, particularly [among] the scholars, there is a realisation today that the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is the authentic Nalanda tradition.

The Tibetan spirit inside Tibet is very strong. As refugees in India, we are keeping the Tibetan spirit, language and knowledge alive. Before we came to India, many scholars thought of Tibetan Buddhism as Lamaism, not genuine Buddhism. In the last 60 years, the whole world has come to recognise Tibetan Buddhism as Buddhism of the Nalanda tradition. There is a saying in Tibet, “When unfortunate things happen to you, sometimes they are a blessing in disguise.”

Have you met Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

Yes, I have met him before and once after he became prime minister. I have known him very well. It is understandable that he has to think seriously about good relations with China. I have not had a formal meeting yet, but that is all right. Recently, after the elections, I wrote to him and I received a very good reply. We are in no hurry. I know I am anyway a refugee. I am the longest [staying] guest of the Indian government. Sometimes, I jokingly tell Indian officials, “If you say one day that Dalai Lama is no longer a guest of the Indian government, then I will have to think of my complicated future.”

Do you get that feeling?

No. I consider myself a son of India because my entire way of thinking has been shaped by the works of the great masters of the historical Nalanda university, which I have studied since childhood. My body has been nurtured by Indian rice, dal and roti. Therefore, I feel a real bond with this great country and a constant concern for its welfare. I am fulfiling three commitments—promoting human values, promoting religious harmony and reviving ancient Indian knowledge. I want to help people develop inner peace, and strengthen the concepts of ahimsa (nonviolence) and karuna (compassion). So many Indians are showing genuine interest. I feel India is the only nation that can combine modern education and ancient learning. The modern education developed by the British does not know how to deal with emotions. But people like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Radhakrishnan knew how to deal with human emotions. Nehru may have been more westernised (laughs).

Do you think Modi is more Indian than western?

Perhaps yes. But I need to research closely to comment. I do not know.

What are your commitments today?

My first commitment is to try and promote basic human values. Some scientists say the basic human nature is more compassionate. When we are born, without the mother’s love and affection, we cannot survive. Mother’s milk is a symbol of affection. Our life started that way. Some scientists say that constant anger and fear are eating our immune system. When we are angry, our peace of mind is lost. Our face does not look beautiful (laughs). That is part of human nature. When we are children, we appreciate warmheartedness. Children do not care about nationality, caste or religion, and consider human love, affection and friendship as the key factors. But once they join the educational system, impressions are created in their mind about different nationalities, castes and family backgrounds. As a result, basic human values are neglected. I always tell people that [along with] physical hygiene, it is equally important to inculcate hygiene of emotions in children. This should be done not as a religious matter, but as an academic subject for improving health, for creating a happy individual, a happy family, a happy community and happy humanity.

That is one commitment. What else?

My other commitments are promotion of religious harmony and revival of ancient Indian knowledge. I am a Buddhist monk and I live in India where different spiritual traditions have developed over 3,000 years. Later, different religious traditions also came in from middle-eastern countries. In India, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jains, all live together. Take the example of Parsis who follow Zoroastrianism. They are less than a hundred thousand, but this very small community has its own religion and lives without fear. They are very peaceful people and, from that community, people like Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and the Tatas have made significant contributions to the country. Mumbai city is another example of religious co-existence. This is India.

On the other hand, we have our next door neighbour where Muslims are killing each other in the name of Shia and Sunni. In Egypt, there is problem between Christians and Muslims. Unfortunately, in Burma, there is the Buddhist-Muslim problem. When I hear these things, I feel sad. All different religious traditions, despite different concepts of philosophy, carry the message of peace, forgiveness and love. That is why I feel India’s centuries-old tradition of religious harmony stands out as a great example.

If all religions promote peace and nonviolence, why are human beings killing each other?

It is when religion becomes superficial and only concerned with ceremony that such things happen. It is because of the kind of education we impart that sometimes religion becomes more like a fashion symbol and the people lead a materialistic life.

When did you first learn ancient Indian texts?

Historically, in the Tibetan minds, India is the land of the Noble ones. It is a sacred and holy land. For a Tibetan, a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya once in a lifetime was considered important. This kind of a mental attitude has existed over hundreds of years. So, India and Tibet have very close links. As a Tibetan, I studied and learnt texts written by the Nalanda masters. I feel we are the students of the Nalanda tradition. At a very young age, we memorised different texts and received explanations with commentaries of Nalanda masters. In my case, I learnt them at the age of six. On my own, I had little interest in memorising them, but it was compulsory and my teachers were strict (laughs). The writings of Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Shantideva, Shantarakshita and Dharmakirti were considered very important. Some of these texts on logic are available in Tibetan language and not in Chinese. Among the Buddhist countries, only Tibet and Mongolia have the tradition of learning from these Nalanda masters.

Are Buddhism and science compatible?

Buddha asked his followers not to accept his teachings simply out of devotion or faith, but after thorough investigation. While science also propagates research, investigation and experiment, it has its limitation. But Buddhist teachings have no limitation. It inculcates [in us] three different learnings—understanding the obvious through our empirical experience, the second by reflection and inference, and the third by resorting to testimony. So there is a lot of common ground with modern science.

Do monks learn science? Can modern science co-exist with traditional learning?

Nearly 40 years ago, I started discussions with modern scientists and noticed that science is something useful. I felt that it should be introduced in our monastic institutions. So now, in important monastic institutions, science is included as a subject. Today it is widely appreciated but in the beginning, when I expressed the idea, there were sceptics who felt that learning science was dangerous, especially in English. But now they feel that many useful things are learnt from modern science and [vice versa]. The wider knowledge provided by the Nalanda tradition provides greater understanding of subjects like physics and psychology.

Millions of lives have been touched by your teachings and people continue to seek your guidance. Will there be a 15th Dalai Lama, your reincarnation?

I can only be concerned about this life; the next is not my concern. What is important are the teachings, the institution of Dalai Lama comes after that. The teachings of the Buddha are important. If reincarnation was so important, then why did the Buddha not have a reincarnation? All these Nalanda masters’ reincarnation should have been there. However, despite [there being no reincarnations of the masters], even after thousands of years, their teachings are still relevant. So we should give more importance to the teachings. Sometimes, I also feel the lama institution has some connection with the feudal system and isn’t relevant today.

Why do you say it is feudal?

If we take the example of some countries, their kings sometimes carry twin responsibilities. Political and religious. Their king is the final authority on religion. So I feel it is something like the feudal system. But it is up to the will of the people. Tomorrow if one child expresses convincingly about past life, then people may realise that this is a reincarnation of a particular person, but there is no certain institution for it. If you investigate, there are some lamas who are not properly qualified, but they take the name of the higher lama. Since the reincarnation system started in Tibet, there have been many good reincarnated Lamas who served Buddha dharma, but sometimes there have also been cases where someone recognised as a reincarnation turned out to be a disgrace, which is very sad. The point is that the guru may sometimes give teachings of a very dignified nature but if you investigate deeper, he may be looking to gain something.

Is Tibet the final frontier of Buddhism?

Buddhist history is the real holder of Buddha Dharma. In Tibet, the big monastic institutions have done rigorous study, and I think like Nalanda, they really hold Buddha dharma, which is why the Drepung Monastery in Tibet is called the second Nalanda university. The second Dalai Lama joined that monastery, and since then the Dalai Lama institution became one important institution of that monastery. In Tibet, we have complete knowledge of Buddha dharma because of these institutions, and not because of an individual Lama who carries on a funny way of life (laughs). Some old Tibetan people, when I met them, requested me to return. But some other Tibetans said they feel it is better that the Dalai Lama remains in a free country and spreads Tibetan culture.

Will the people of Tibet ever get freedom?

Once I was in Manipur and someone mentioned to me that Manipur wants independence. Should the Union of India dissolve east India and grant freedom to Manipur? Or to south, west or north? It is better they remain a part of the Union of India. If you go to any part of the country, there are different languages, different scripts, but they all remain happily within the Union of India. If India separates any part, it will become weak. Today, this country is the most populated democratic country in the world. The recently concluded general elections have demonstrated that spirit of freedom, despite political parties criticising each other.

But how can Tibetans expect China to give them freedom to practise religion?

The reality of China is changing. From being a socialist country, China’s reality is very different today. Once when I met Israel’s president Shimon Peres, a Nobel laureate and a staunch socialist. He expressed a strong sympathetic feeling towards China and, in some cases, was even ready to defend it. After several years, I met him in Jordan in 2009. This time I asked him whether he still thought of China as a socialist country. He said that it is no longer a socialist country and suffers from the worst kind of capitalism.

Is Buddhism compatible with Marxism?

I have always admired original Marxism. Karl Marx stood for workers’ rights and against exploitation. So, as far as socio-economic theory is concerned, I am a Marxist. But I think it was Lenin who spoilt the original and pure Marxism. With the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin became more negative and militant, and emphasised ruthless suppression, which led to totalitarianism. Then came Stalin and so on. Chinese communists consider Lenin and Stalin as their teachers. Once a Chinese friend recounted a meeting between Mao Zedong and Stalin and joked whether it was Mao Zedong who was learning from Stalin. I think what both of them learnt was totalitarian suppression. So, with time, Communism will also not survive. We must remember that for any human being and country to develop, individual freedom is very important. There cannot be any progress at the national level without individual freedom because it hampers creativity. So, [freedom] starts from the individual to the national to the international level.

You recently said US president Donald Trump has a lack of moral principle. Has egotism become a dominant trait in world leaders like Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping or Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

I recently heard Russian president Vladimir Putin saying that the western style of democracy has become outdated. I do not know what he exactly meant. But when US president Donald Trump says “America First”, I feel it is wrong. America has been the leading nation of the free world. When we talk of ego, it has a deeper meaning. Generally, we see the entire human evolution is [driven] with ego, else you remain like a vegetable and there will be no progress. The feeling of survival of an individual or community is the prime mover of human evolution. But human beings have a brain and they must use ego with wisdom.

Is selfishness a negative emotion?

Genuine socialism, which is altruism (concern for others) is the best way to fulfil your own interest. So, I usually say that if you are selfish, you should be wise-selfish [rather] than foolish-selfish. More practice of altruism is the best way to fulfil your own interest.

You have expressed concern about climate change.

Today, global warming is becoming a major concern for countries. The other day I was told that animals were dying in Mongolia. In Tibet, I am told by the elder people that the snow-capped peaks no longer have a lot of snow. I was concerned when president Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord.

Tibet is known as the world’s third pole as it holds the largest number of glaciers and snow after the Arctic and Antarctic. If Tibet becomes a desert, India will face a lot of problem. Sometimes, I describe Tibet as the supplier of water to India. It is from the Himalayan mountains that the rivers Ganga, Brahmaputra and Indus are flowing. Today, politically, Tibet is a part of China. But there are also millions of users of these rivers in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and these countries have a right to express concern over Tibet’s ecology. The concern should be not only at the government level, but at the public level [also].

Today, the young Tibetans are going to the west. Is that a concern?

I think that is also one sign that modern education is creating a desire for more money and economic wellbeing. So, young Tibetans are going to America, Canada and Europe. Some of them settle down there, but a lot of them are also returning after making some money. I see nothing wrong in that. I think as far as preservation of Tibetan identity and culture is concerned, we have preserved it quite well here as refugees.

Do you get emotional when you see suffering?

Yes, I feel sad. Compassion or karuna is also a kind of emotion, but compassion combined with wisdom is good. However, compassion combined with ignorance is wrong. So, a certain level of attachment is good, like feelings of loving kindness, but attachment with anger, hatred or fear becomes harmful. Eventually, loving kindness should be extended to all seven billion human beings.

Do you think India is doing enough to learn about and preserve its ancient culture and tradition?

In India, there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Once, when I was in Gujarat, I came to know that so many farmers were committing suicide as there was shortage of water. There are so many rich families living in big cities like Mumbai and Kolkata and if those people decide to help, they can certainly make a change.

The rich people in India should pay more attention to the study of Indian philosophy and texts rather than just uttering ‘Ram Ram’ and doing puja. I was crossing some villages once and I saw temples where people were worshiping various gods. I do not think doing that alone is much helpful. It is better to create small libraries and learn about ancient Indian philosophy and psychology than just praying without any knowledge and performing rituals without understanding them.

In Tibet, we have over 300 volumes of all Indian texts translated into the Tibetan language. In the seventh century, the Tibetan emperor married the Chinese princess and she brought the most important Buddha statue to Lhasa. I feel that while the Tibetan emperor enjoyed all the material pleasures from China, ate the Chinese food and married the Chinese princess, he found the Chinese mode of writing too complicated. So he preferred that they use the Indian Devanagari script to develop their own Tibetan script. Then, in the eighth century, the Tibetan emperor whose mother was Chinese decided that he wanted to learn about Buddha dharma directly from India. He invited the topmost scholar Shantarakshita of Nalanda. Shantarakshita accepted the invitation to visit Tibet and he advised the emperor that since they had their own writing, they should translate all the 300 volumes of Indian texts into the Tibetan language, so that they could study through their own language all the sophisticated Indian philosophy.

Do you have a message for India?

I am grateful to the Indian government [and leaders such as] Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Narasimha Rao and the [later] generation of leaders, and also Indian officials who have been very sympathetic towards Tibet. Today, India and Tibet are very close not only for political or economic reasons, but also spiritually and emotionally. I always say, historically, we consider India as our guru and we Tibetans as chela (follower). Through centuries of shared history, Tibetan people have showed India that they have kept its tradition safe, especially at the time when British rulers in India neglected it. So, we have showed India that we are not only chela, but the most trusted and reliable chela.

What do you want to tell the Tibetan refugees today?

For over 60 years the Tibetan refugees have carried the Tibetan spirit with them. Wherever they have lived, in America or Europe, the Tibetan spirit has been strong and has served as an example to the rest of the people who have praised them. They have shown the world that we are honest, truthful and peaceful.

China has called you a separatist. Even after 60 years, they look at you with suspicion.

Let them say I am a separatist. That will be helpful as I will continue to live in India peacefully. If they sincerely ask me to return—although on many occasions to some Chinese individuals I mentioned that I prefer freedom—and if I return to China, I [will be] put in a big house with no freedom. There is no use. I am happy to live in India for the rest of my life. I can live in this country and utilise the Indian freedom to fulfil my commitments towards immediate revival of ancient Indian culture, and promotion of human values and religious harmony. India has shown to the world that it is a great nation, historically. Among all civilisations—whether it is Chinese or Egyptian—it is the Indus Valley civilisation that has produced the best thinkers and philosophers. I consider Buddhism and Hinduism as twin brother and sister. India’s civilisation is something wonderful and should be known for its contribution to the world.

By Namrata Biji Ahuja