UPDATE: The Ngaba Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Dhonkho and Buddha to four years in prison, and Kelsang Jinpa to three years, for “incitement to split the nation,” according to a source from Tibet cited by Radio Free Asia. The same source reported that the sentences were handed down on December 30, 2010, with the defendants, their families and lawyers all being denied the opportunity to speak in court during the time of the sentencing.
Three young Tibetan writers from the Tibetan area of Amdo who were detained in June and July this year after they wrote about the protests in March, 2008 in a publication that is now banned, have been tried. The verdict is expected soon. According to a report by Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan service on October, 30, there were moving scenes in the courtroom in the Tibetan area of Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) in Sichuan on October 21 when the three young men, Dhonkho, Buddha and Kelsang Jinpa, were allowed a few minutes with their families. Buddha tried to pick up his two year son but failed because his arms were chained. He told his wife that she should make every effort to ensure their son studied Tibetan before he and the two other writers were taken away by security police.
The three writers, Dhonkho (official name on his ID: Rongke, pen name: Nyen), Buddha (pen name: Buddha the Destitute), and Kelsang Jinpa (pen name: Garmi), all in their early thirties, wrote powerful essays about the crackdown in Tibet in the Tibetan journal Shar Dungri (‘Eastern Snow Mountain’) in 2008. This collection of writings was the first known material in Tibetan on the 2008 protests to have been published in the People’s Republic of China. The magazine was quickly banned, but not before copies had circulated in areas of Qinghai and Gansu provinces and beyond. The ‘Eastern Snow Mountain’ writers offered a unique and critical perspective from inside Tibet reflecting a prevailing despair, loss and darkness, but also a way forward.
The three writers were put on trial by the Intermediate People’s Court of Ngaba prefecture, according to the Radio Free Asia report, but no verdict was announced. It is expected shortly. RFA reported that the charges may be of “separatism” and the families were informed that they could not have lawyers of their choice, although the three writers did have some legal representation.
According to RFA the three writers denied the charges of “separatism,” with Buddha challenging the notion of their writings as “evidence” by saying: “I don’t think this is criminal evidence. Many Chinese writers have written similar articles, like Wang Lixiong and Yu Jie, for example. There are many, but because they are Chinese, there is no punishment. Since we are a minority people, you are considering this a crime. If this is the reason for which we are guilty by law, then we are not treated equally as Chinese citizens and it is a heavy load on our hearts.”
The writers, all from the Ngaba area of Sichuan province, wrote their essays for Shar Dungri in the Amdo dialect of Tibetan, which is renowned in Tibet for its lyricism and eloquent turns of phrase. In the collection, a copy of which is now circulating in exile, the poetic language is matched by the substance and analytical nature of the prose, grounded in an understanding of the political framework of Chinese policies and law as well as knowledge about both Chinese and Tibetan culture. The ‘Eastern Snow Mountain’ writers frequently frame their arguments with compassionate insights into the sufferings of ordinary Chinese people and their own struggles against the state.
The internationally renowned Tibetan writer Woeser recently featured the three writers on her blog, providing information about their personal backgrounds and their detentions (Posting translated by High Peaks, Pure Earth).
Buddha, aged 34, is a medical doctor by profession who works as an editor and writer in his spare time. He was detained on June 26 at the hospital in the county town of Ngaba where he works. Buddha, who graduated from medical college in Chongqing, was editor of the “I of the Modern Age” periodical. Buddha published the essay ‘Hindsight and reflection’ under the pen name ‘Buddha’ in Shar Dungri (see below for translation or p. 83 of ‘A Great Mountain Burned by Fire,’ ICT, March, 2009). In his essay Buddha questioned some of the fundamental assumptions being made in China’s depiction of the Tibetan protests: “On TV and in the newspapers they say that the demonstrations were intended to obstruct and oppose China’s emergence as a great power and the improvement of the living standards of the Tibetan nationality. Supposing that such things were true, some questions must be asked. If the living standards of Tibetans had really improved so much, why would they feel so unhappy as to try to stop this? If Tibetan living standards are so developed, and the demonstrations were exclusively Tibetan, why should their not enjoying a “decent standard of living” be greeted with such dismay?”
Dhonkho, a prize-winning poet and writer, was born in 1978 and established a highly-regarded Tibetan daycare center with his friends in their home area of Khyungchu in Ngaba. Author of books such as ‘Red-minded’, ‘Zombie’ and ‘Skill’, he is also the director of the county government’s local history research committee. He was detained from his home on June 21, 2010. Dhonkho published the essay ‘What human rights do we have over our bodies?’ in Shar Dungri under the pen name ‘Nyen’ (the ‘Wild One’) (see below for translation or p. 92 of ‘A Great Mountain Burned by Fire,’ ICT, March, 2009). Dhonkho explained why he felt compelled to take the risk of speaking out in his essay: “When the sweet lives of monks, students and ordinary people are dragged from this world into darkness, when those sweet lives which have prayed so hard for the swift fulfillment of their aspirations are confiscated by the state, I for one cannot remain silent, and the connection between their sad fates and my pen is a profound one.”
Kelsang Jinpa, a poet and writer originally from Sangchu county, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu, was detained from his home by the Ngaba Public Security Bureau on July 19. He studied for a short time at Kirti monastery in exile. Kelsang Jinpa, together with Buddha, was an editor of the “I of the Modern Age” periodical. Writing under the pen name ‘Garmi’ (‘the Blacksmith’), Kelsang Jinpa published ‘The case for lifeblood and life-force’ in Shar Dungri (see below for translation or p. 99 of ‘A Great Mountain Burned by Fire,’ ICT, March, 2009). Placing the challenges Tibetans face within the broader issue of human rights as well as in relation to what the Chinese themselves have faced in their own history, Kelang Jinpa writes: “Basically, just as all that an individual is ultimately looking for from the time he or she is born is nothing other than happiness, and such terms as democracy, freedom, and equality have themselves become synonymous with human happiness. And the ultimate aim of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was to become the fundamental principle promoting the wellbeing of all humans living on the planet.
“However, in the invasions and persecutions seen in human history, wasn’t the end result of breaking down people’s ability to think, and their hope, just the suffering of becoming subject to a dictatorial power? For instance, in the Chinese students May 4 movement [of 1919], wasn’t it because the dictators trampled on democracy, freedom and equality that those young students lost their lives form the common cause? And thus, who would not put the case for these sufferings of lifeblood and life-force before the ears of those who favor honesty and actuality?”
The Shar Dungri essays give personal and deeply moving accounts of loss and bereavement in the crackdown following the 2008 protests, including the story of a man beaten to death, two young monks who were driven to suicide, and the chilling consequences of a student protest in Sichuan on March 17, 2008, written just a few days later; those things which Buddha describes in his essay as that “which gave one shivers to witness and made one disturbed to hear about.” A theme of some of the writing in Shar Dungri is frustration at the Chinese Communist Party’s biased media misrepresentation of the nature of the protests and the Tibetan protestors, and the refusal by the Chinese authorities to even consider the possibility that the protestors had credible and deep-rooted grievances.
One of the editors of Shar Dungri, Tashi Rabten (pen name: The’urang), was detained on April 6, 2010 and is believed to be still in detention in Chengdu, according to unofficial sources. Tashi Rabten, who was due to graduate this year from the Northwest Nationalities University in Lanzhou, also wrote an unauthorized collection of work on the 2008 Tibetan protests called ‘Written in Blood.’
Both despite of, and because of, the severe crackdown, there has been a literary and cultural resurgence in Tibetan areas since March, 2008, particularly in Amdo, where the three writers are from – an area known for its scholars. The Shar Dungri writers are representative of a new generation of young Tibetan intellectuals who were brought up in a Chinese-ruled Tibet and did not experience the trauma of Tibet’s takeover by China or the excesses of the Cultural Revolution. A common theme of their writing is the solidarity of Tibetans across the plateau and a pride in their unique cultural and religious identity. ‘Eastern Snow Mountain’ is produced by a group of Tibetan intellectuals associated with the Northwest Nationalities University in Lanzhou, known for their progressive, secularist and compassionate views. Several of the writers use Marxist terminology and ideas to attack the Party itself as “reactionary” as opposed to the Tibetans it depicts in this way.
Kelsang Jinpa, or Garmi, writes: “Rather than presenting the people of the world with an even marginally honest account in accord with the actual situation, the top CCTV news channels tried to put as much blame as they could on a ‘few wicked troublemakers’, making various allegations in an extremely bullying tone…Unable to bear this, and in accord with the saying, ‘The weight of a single letter imbued with truth is heavier than the whole world’, I would like to make things clear to the dictatorship through an honest account of my own experiences and perceptions, and to present a short discussion respectful of the truth, in so far as I am able.”
Hindsight and reflection
Life is a precious jewel hard to obtain and of inestimable value, so we feel no end of grief when one is lost, whoever they are. But why is the government of a large and populous nation unable to accept valid actions of dissent?
1. The painful memory of March
“Fearlessness is the most praiseworthy attitude”
March 2008 was an extraordinary moment which made the whole world watch wideeyed. On March 14, the public and mostly ordinary people in the great city of Lhasa in upper Tibet rose up and demonstrated. Following that one after another, like the ripples sent by a stone thrown into a lake, many more demonstrations of similar nature and aspect took place in many other places in Tibet.
In the case of my homeland, Ngaba in Amdo, for days before March 16 there were lots of soldiers carrying guns, and indeed weapons the names of which are unknown to me, putting on an intimidating show of military force, rows of them filing up and down through the marketplace, day and night, shouting slogans in loud voices, supposedly keeping watch on security threats.
On March 16, a group of monks and laymen started a protest march from the main road in front of Kirti monastery (the junction of the south market street and Chatang road), and made a circuit of the town centre. But the government took this as nothing other than beating, smashing, looting and burning, and the attempt to tag Tibet, the land of snows, with this negative label is a grave mistake. For example, the aim behind attaching such a damning label to the 3–14 incident of beating, smashing, looting and burning in Lhasa, and the 3–16 incident of beating, smashing, looting and burning in Ngaba and so on, which attributes a different nature to these protests is unambiguous. If it is inappropriate or forbidden, in the course of revolt against a government, to smash and burn the things it produces, what about the many revolts in Chinese history when student-led mobs piled up goods made in foreign countries in heaps like mountains and set fire to them, to arouse passion for their cause? Many people with unforgettable wounds from the founding of the New China, when relations between our country and Japan became dangerous, at times went and attacked Japanese shops and diplomatic missions, so why the condemnation and fault-finding this time? And if the main objective of the demonstrations this time was to beat, smash, loot and burn, that would be powerful testimony on the extremely poor living standards of the Tibetan people. If that were so, wouldn’t the claim that the living standards of Tibetans had undergone dramatic development comparable with the reversal of earth and sky be a lie?
Following the 3–16 protests, a huge number of soldiers came, established checkpoints at each intersection and monitored the public. The military turned every room in the Kirti Ganden Lekshe Ling monastery inside out, and the official media reported that they had found significant quantities of arms in the temples, which they said was contrary to Buddhist teaching, and made a big deal out of it. In fact this is saddening, but also something to be angry about. What is sad is that the Chinese and Tibetan peoples have been neighbors throughout history, and since the foundation of the New China half a century ago, the Tibetans have been constituted as one of the 56 nationalities. After such a long history as neighbors up to today, did they not realize that Tibet is a land of religion and the Tibetan people are devoted to religion? Monasteries are places devoted to the study and contemplation of the teachings of the great saints of the past like Buddha Shakyamuni and Shenrab Miwo, the peaceful luminaries of humanity, the keys to the search for human happiness and ultimate deliverance, and the sinister activities conducted by the military inside the monastery shows nothing more than a mind entirely uninspired by peace and a despicable attitude lacking in mutual respect. What makes one angry is that sending soldiers into a monastery, claiming to have found lethal weapons in the temples, and misrepresenting things just as they please, isn’t that intended to crush our nationality under the heel with no respect for our beliefs and values?
Guns and other weapons are left in temples as a signifier of the power and wrath of the worldly spirits and as a pledge not to use them again by some people who have taken the lives of wild animals or people, after recognizing their sin and repenting, and this is something known even to small children.
This keeping of weapons in the shrines of the mundane deities is not exclusive to Tibetans and was even traditional among the Chinese. Doesn’t the protector they call Kuan Yu carry a long-handled knife? If the mere presence of weapons in a protector chapel signifies sinister violence, even Kuan Yu is liable to prosecution. In Chinese monasteries the monks even teach martial arts and keep weapons, so isn’t that contrary to the teachings of Buddhism?
In short, such talk is without the slightest justification for anyone who checks reality and is aware of cause and effect, and even for someone from the opposite way, the two are so similar that your criticism rebounds on yourself.
On TV and in the newspapers they say that the demonstrations were intended to obstruct and oppose China’s emergence as a great power and the improvement of the living standards of the Tibetan nationality. Supposing that such things were true, some questions must be asked. If the living standards of Tibetans had really improved so much, why would they feel so unhappy as to try to stop this? If Tibetan living standards are so developed, and the demonstrators were exclusively Tibetan, why should their not enjoying a “decent standard of living” be greeted with such dismay?
If development means even the slightest difference between today’s standards and the living conditions of half a century ago, why the disparity between the pace of construction and progress in Tibet and in mainland China?
During the war of resistance to the Japanese, under the general circumstances of a world united in opposition to Nazism and Fascism, and through the particular efforts of the Chinese people, the Japanese were defeated. But when Japanese forces occupied most of the Chinese territory, called it the “East Asian Commonwealth” and propagandized about the Japanese and Chinese peoples sharing weal and woe, didn’t the Chinese rise up in revolt, unprepared to live a miserable life and unable to bear the mental suffering of occupation? Under the Manchu empire, the long history of Manchu military control over the territories of the Zhongyuan, the living standards of the Han nationality are said to have been excellent, as is confirmed by the writings of many Chinese historians. But if living standards were so great, what was the need of a concerted revolt against the Manchu state? The motivation in all of these cases was love and loyalty for one’s people, patriotism and the quest for happiness.
During the 3–16 period in Amdo Ngaba, there were many things which gave one shivers to witness and made one disturbed to hear about. For many reasons, there is no way to get clear information, but these things were not reported even partially on TV or in the newspapers. On the other hand, they did record how the People’s Liberation Army and other security forces did not hesitate to risk their own lives in the face of the violent and dreadful actions of the Tibetans, for the sake of the nation and the lives and property of the masses, sacrificing their lives and suffering injury, and played it over and over again.
Life is a precious jewel hard to obtain and of inestimable value, so we feel no end of grief when one is lost, whoever they are. But why is the government of a large and populous nation unable to accept valid actions of dissent?
I recently read a thought-provoking article in the widely-known Chinese periodical Reader about a group of more than ten illegal Chinese migrants being smuggled into the European Union (EU) and dying of suffocation in the truck on the way. Instead of ignoring it, those EU authorities interrupted what they were doing to discuss how to stop these activities. There was no other reason for doing so than that these people, although not its citizens, were nonetheless human beings, and since it is the way of those foreigners to regard everyone as equal and to operate on the terms of mutual respect, they treated the matter with concern. However, in the case of the Tibetans, one cannot say they are not PRC citizens since they are counted among the 56 nationalities, and yet one cannot say that they are since they lack even the basic rights of citizens.
Are Tibetans excluded from the over six billion members of humanity? If Tibet’s mountains, rocks and rivers, the vast grasslands, the forest mountains, holy mountains and mountains of precious mineral deposits figure on the map as a part of the nation’s territory, their erstwhile masters, the Tibetan people, surely require similar recognition. Sadly, the real situation is not like that, and their attitude even less so. Labeling Tibetan demonstrators as terrorists and violent barbarians, they claim to ‘punish’ them accordingly. This unpalatable ‘punishment’ would cause any reasonable observer to sigh in despair and shed tears.
As children, we were taught that the Socialist system is superior to all others. It is a system in which people have great affection and respect for each other. They enjoy a good standard of living with bright prospects for the future. More recently, the great wave called ‘harmonious society’ has washed over the whole of China, enveloping the rural areas which lack even transport facilities. One might respond that if one wishes to meaningfully implement Socialism, the primary condition is to take the attitude and outlook of equality for all as fundamental. Otherwise, continuing to put on the performance of current practice is dictatorialism. Even the ‘harmonious society’ is nothing other than this. Thus, to speak in actual terms, if one calmly and collectedly adopts the attitude of mutual equality and observes from that high vantage point, then one can clearly see what is there. If the awareness of one’s own faults at all times and in all aspects is a most important awareness for any individual to have, what need is there to add that such awareness is also indispensable for the government of a nation?
Material endowment is a crucial matter for anyone, and likewise spiritual / intellectual endowment is also crucial. For a government, material endowment is not the only sphere to be supported and encouraged through policy and regulation, and if significant attention is paid to spiritual and intellectual endowment, people could not remain half-alive and oblivious to reality. Thus we do not only want our living environment to be enriched by the material benefits of modernity, for if higher thinking and behavior naturally reside in the minds of each of us, that is something beautiful. There is no one who does not wish to be happy, and no one who would knowingly jump into a pit of fire. However, to apply the example of others to ourselves, carrying on calmly despite a host of constraining factors is the overwhelming norm, and most people seem to forget about this reality, or not to be concerned about it. In the history of peoples in this world, through the accumulation of countless defeats and historical experience, people become wise and reach towards freedom. Whoever clings on to the mentality of “punishment” and has no intention of renouncing it would return us to the dark ages and reverse the spiritual and intellectual progress won through ten thousandfold human sufferings.
I say to all fraternal Snow Mountain dwellers: we have been struck by unimaginable suffering and torment, but if we get nothing more than hatred and resentment from this suffering and torment, we might earn the reproach of many of those whose precious lives have been lost. In fact, with the truth and core principles of humanity behind us, undaunted we can set alight the embers of freedom.
2. How can the dust-cloud settle?
Dedicated to the weeping spirits of the thousands caught up in the great May 12 earthquake
in the foothills of Rido (Chinese: Wenchuan)
On May 12, an earthquake measuring 8 points (on the Richter scale, earlier reported as 7.8) struck the foothills region of Ngaba prefecture with its epicentre in Wenchuan, also known as Rido or Lungu in Tibetan. It was followed by many aftershocks, also affecting places including Chundo [Chinese: Dujiangyan], Chengdu, Dakpo [Chinese: Beichuan]., Mao Xian, Zungchu [Chinese: Songpan], Tashiling [Chinese: Li Xian], Yaknga [Chinese: Ya’an] and Qinchuan, causing grievous loss of life and property.
When the media reports news of the earthquake, one involuntarily pays attention with all five senses. We may not be able to avert natural disasters through human effort, but they can be anticipated. This earthquake raised a great many issues for us.
a) the practice of ignoring warnings
Before the May 12 earthquake struck, people were going about their business as usual, unaware of the disaster that was about to befall them. It came suddenly, carrying off many precious lives in the space of a few minutes. Ruined buildings, broken highways and cities filled with rubble resounded with tears and curses. How depressing that in the midst of a serious natural disaster, tears and cries are the only consolation there is. But on further reflection, the thought that the government’s response was not all that it might have been arises irrepressibly.
The 2008 calendar published by the TAR Mentsikhang includes the following warning: “Due to the interaction of Drangsong Göngönchen with the Chu and Dre constellations from the 3rd lunar month until the end of the year, and because it remains in the same house all year long, be warned of the danger of dust storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters in the southeast.”
If those in charge had paid due attention to this warning, if they had immediately informed the public, if those with the titles of “expert” and “leader” had given the matter thought, if…
In general, this is a case of relegating the benefits of a science capable of saving tens and thousands of lives to the surplus stock corner of a bookshop as if it were rubbish. This situation also helps us to understand that all these conferences on Tibetology research and Tibet Research Centers and those holding high qualifications in Tibetan studies are of no more practical use than bags full of wind. In real terms, what a disappointment, but ultimately, mustn’t any undertaking that can save even a single life be something filled with a thousand joys?
b) Paper-thin buildings and the poor school children
What is so unforgettable about the earthquake are the school buildings and school dormitories that collapsed so easily. What is so saddening are the many schoolchildren like budding flowers taken away from us forever.
It is no exaggeration to say that in all the earthquake-hit areas, the first buildings to collapse were schools and school dormitories. Seeing the terror and incomprehension of those children on TV, one cannot help but curse from the depths of one’s mind the rotten leaders who brought them into such miserably constructed buildings. Let’s give an example: suppose there is a family with one son and one daughter. If the parents do not take good care of them so that they die or feel neglected, that family will have no future legacy or will not know happiness.
The crucial nature of education and the importance of schoolchildren’s welfare is something known to all, from government level down to family level, which does not need to be proven by research. But to know it and not act upon it is surely as bad as not knowing. When one recalls the “nine-year compulsory education campaign” that was spread in our region with such fervor last year and the year before, one wonders whether in reality it was just an empty exercise.
Why were the buildings in which children study and sleep built to collapse as easily as if they were made of paper? Could nothing better be built with the many tens of thousands of yuan available? If it could, then where did the money go? Virtually none of those schools were undamaged by the earthquake, so why was it that very few of the government buildings in those areas collapsed? Of course, state offices are like the hands of government administrative work, and thus important, but schools are the hope for the future, are all that there is, so if one makes no effort and takes no care of them, why regard the rest as anything more than rainbows in the sky?
It might make one sad, or angry, or could be taken as black humor, but the People’s Government building in the Sichuan provincial capital Chengdu was built with a budget of about 1.2 billion yuan. It is said to be the costliest government building anywhere in the world. It is an inexplicable contrast, like that between sky and earth, that in a province and a city with a world-famous government complex, the schools are built as flimsily as if they were made of paper. One is the office of city administration, and one is a school for the continuation of knowledge. How to explain…? How to account for this…?
Whichever way one looks at it, the government is an organization in the service of society, where a few words will suffice, not a place of elaborate discourse requiring a fancy and well-appointed mansion. The degree of care taken with school construction shows the level of understanding and caliber of a state.
The parents of children who did not escape this tragedy are surely thinking: “If the quality of school buildings could be taken for granted, my dear child would be here with me now.”
Those poor departed children have not only cast shame on society, their precious lives have brought many issues to light.
In any case, in the context of our future life and direction, other than praying that no unwanted or unhappy circumstances befall the people of the world, there seems to be nothing that any of us can do. (In general, if state laws and regulations were thorough, tears and wailing would not be the sole means of consoling people’s mental anguish, and there would also be no need to resort to praying out of desperation.) Are such desperate thoughts circulating in the minds of so many of us? What a sad state of affairs.
June 25, 2008
What human rights do we have over our bodies?
“Now that the minds of our people, monastics and laypeople, men and women, are like snowflakes in the wind, in the face of gun-barrels and horsewhips, will we not call on the truthful eyes of the world to look our way for a moment?”
– Nyen, ‘the wild one’
Have you ever heard that our land does not have the benefit of human rights? Because our human rights over our own bodies is dead. Even this year, who does not know that our monks and laypeople, men and women, each lost their precious lives? Northern land of snows, long accustomed to swallowing tears of grief, fellow countrymen of the three provinces, surviving patiently in the confines of a straitjacket, filled with terror, fear and anguish, on whom is their humble gaze fixed? The great snow mountain thirsting for freedom, democracy and equality is once more streaked red with blood. The long binding rope of non-fulfillment of the perennial aspirations for livelihood and prosperity has again pulled each of them back into the lap of mother earth. Is this the ‘fierce red wind’ that we have not yet been able to forget, starting to howl once more? Is this the gloom of the ‘darkness’ which has not yet vanished from the inner recesses of our minds, starting to gather once more?9 If you have eyes, do you not see that many, many of our fellow countrymen went forth with the dream of our nation in their minds? How is it that in this land we have absolutely no ground to plead even for the dear lives of our countrymen? This darkness and cruelty, occupation and oppression will surely spill every drop of blood in our homeland down to the last dewdrop on a blade of grass. Likewise, now that the minds of our people, monastics and laypeople, men and women, are like snowflakes in the wind, in the face of gun-barrels and horsewhips, will we not call on the truthful eyes of the world to look our way for a moment?
The smoke that filled the sky over Lhasa on March 14 was the smoke from 50 years of patient endurance. It was the smoke that the fraternal inhabitants had persistently held inside for 50 years. If that smoke is held inside for exactly 50 years, isn’t it bound to be let out? Our homeland is saddled with a burden of sorrow. There is definitely a relation between myself and those fellow countrymen and women I have never met. There is definitely a firm relation between myself and those fellow countrymen of the three provinces of Tibet. Have the many, many years of bullying and abuse in every town and village, examples of which are endless, the spiteful games, visible and invisible, of “pretending to kiss someone then smearing snot on them,” the many, many years of resentment of the systematic brutality meted out using the law as a pretext, within a system ostensibly governed by law, the many, many years of “digging the earth and upturning rocks” and “cutting, chopping and whittling,” blurring distinctions between public and private, constantly revolving on the spear-tip of false accusations, eloquent trickery, bias and face-saving, falsehood propping up falsehood, blaming the innocent and alternating rough with smooth, has all this incited rage in the Tibetan people? The Tibetan people, without refuge or protector, without forces or allies, have risen up out of desperation, for the cause of human rights, without even thinking of bringing Communist rule to an end. They are undeniably ‘rebels’ against the system of a government blind to Karmic cause and effect, unwilling and unable to spare the lives of those at its mercy.
Those who trampled on the precious lives of my countrymen for all to see were again well-armed Red Army soldiers, the fearsome “men dispatched and arrow fired” by the central government, playing with human rights before discarding them, although investigation of guilt and liability finds none. On closer consideration, even if this current disturbance can be quelled with armed force, the wounds thereby inflicted and stench of the blood spilled have filled the minds of the coming generation. A government that responds only with shows of armed force does not have even a sesame seed’s-worth of prestige in the minds of ordinary people. One might say that the prospect of a government that uses displays of armed force to intimidate the people is a great tragedy for humankind.
Swift to cover up an incident, skilled in ‘spinning’ an incident, ready to cover up and dress up the protruding backside of falsity, habituated to shifting the blame for one’s own faults onto others, practiced at talking crooked and acting crooked in full knowledge, fond of reversing the order of things, with eyes open to lying and fakery, trickery and deception, committing wholesale slaughter at the scene of an incident, but making it look as if not a single drop of blood was shed afterwards. The widespread contagion of blaming any and all incidents on the meek is a special game played by those in power, but those with eyes, like sheep that will not graze in the presence of a wolf, surely see. In a society where ideals like freedom, democracy and equality are never even heard of, confronting arms directly before one’s eyes is a choice-less choice. The greatest mental suffering of Tibetans is not that there is no place to complain about their sufferings but that they are not allowed to complain. To the extent that this mental suffering can be suppressed inside, there will be compliance with Communist ideology.
The present contradiction between Chinese and Tibetans in their respective territories is directly related to the Communist state. Not only have the delayed consequences of the state’s failure to resolve ‘old issues’ become the principal cause of instability in Tibetan society generally, an unthinkable calamity has been inflicted on the precious lives of ordinary people on both sides. The so-called unity of nationalities constantly proclaimed by the state has now reached the point of a ‘you die, I live’. The attitude of the Red faction, which values individual lives in the case of the big nationality but crushes under heel the valuation of the lives and rights of others, is always going to provoke opposition, and the incredibly violent suppression, beating and killing of the fellow countrymen of a nationality swallowing back tears of grief is an episode that can never be forgotten. A society habituated to strangling the voices of the humble is one constantly filled with terror, fear and anguish. However, urged on by the prospect that by striving for human rights and freedom like a thirsty person seeking water, an unintimidated survivor may emerge in the wake of death, we fellow countrymen and women, sharing each others’ joys and sorrows, with the trauma of a first-hand encounter with hell in our minds, must apply ourselves to all the tasks before us as the responsibility has fallen unavoidably on our shoulders.
After Lhasa, the beating and killing was carried out perfectly through Kham and up to the nomads of Amdo – so grateful! – and once the sorrowful lips of the people of the snow mountain realm were sealed, not one word of truth was allowed to reach the rest of the planet. We must also not forget to be grateful to the spiritual teachers and incarnate lamas of we ordinary folk who have been appointed to nominal positions in Tibet and who collectively bear on their shoulders the large and weighty responsibility for leadership and research into Tibetan studies, and who on behalf of the Tibetan people on TV and in the newspapers, distinguishing black from white and bearing witness to the truth, rubbed salt into the wounds of their fellow countrymen.
At the same time, it seems to me that they should be recalled here, as recorded on the Xinhua news website:
“On the afternoon of March 21, the officials responsible for Tibetan Buddhist affairs in Kanlho [Chinese: Gannan] prefecture assembled for a meeting in Sangchu [Chinese: Xiahe] county. In his speech, member of the National People’s Congress (NPC) standing committee, vice-chairman of the Chinese Buddhist Association, principal of the China Tibetan Buddhist higher studies college, vice-chair of the standing committee of the provincial people’s congress and chairman of the provincial Buddhist Association, the current incarnation of Jamyang Zhepa10 stated ‘We are aware in all respects that the current wave of violence is a direct conspiracy by the Dalai clique. In actual fact, nationality and religion is the flag they fly to deceive people, to destroy stability and progress inside Tibet, and to wreck discipline within Tibet’s monasteries, and the present situation proves that this is their real objective.” (Xinhuanet, March 22, 2008.)
On March 23, vice chairman of the national CPPCC Ngabo Ngawang Jigme spoke about the recent disturbances in Lhasa in an interview with a Xinhua journalist, saying “It is a necessity for the concerned departments to deal with the situation in a timely and appropriate manner using legal means.” (Xinhuanet, March 23, 2008.)
Director of the China Tibetology Research Centre Lhakpa Phuntsog said that: “It is really excellent how after the outbreak of the March 14 incident the government responded immediately to bring the situation under control.” (Xinhuanet, March 24, 2008.)
TAR CPPCC member, head of the research unit at the Tibet Academy of Social Science and famous Tibetologist Drongbu Tsering Dorje said that “Having just arrived in Lhasa from Beijing, being in the street and taking in the shops, vehicles and public facilities smashed and burned by the criminals, a barely expressible rage grew in my mind.” (Xinhuanet, March 26, 2008.)
Doesn’t looking back at these short speeches and writings explain everything? Those short speeches and writings are now excellent tools. They are the ones who defend the fundamental interests of the people. They are the ones who go on TV and in the newspapers as representatives of the Tibetan people to give the “correct view.” They are actually speaking out “with growing rage” on many things in tune with the sentiments of our fellow countrymen. When the going gets rough, those who will speak truthfully about the dear lives and welfare of their fellow countrymen are rare as stars in daylight, but now our leaders, Lamas and incarnates, and Tibetologists are speaking the “undistorted truth.”
Listening to these speeches makes me think of the 10th Panchen Lama, whom the central government commended for “loving the nation and loving religion.” It makes me think of something he said. In the conclusion of the “70,000 character petition,” he wrote: “I vow not to leave any legacy in my personal career which will tarnish even slightly the good name of the brave and dedicated Tibetan people.” And it makes me think of the loyal sons of the Tibetan nation in recent history, those who, at a consultative meeting of high Lamas called in Beijing before the selection of the 11th Panchen Lama, raised their hands in front of the concerned departments of the central government in defense of our rights and viewpoint, including the likes of Alak Gungtang-tsang, Baba Phuntsok Wangyal who suffered 18 years of hardship in prison, and the iron-willed Yidam Tsering, who has never allowed anyone to tread on his neck. What they loved was the land under our feet. Our country may be a barren desert, but they loved it. What they loved dearly was our spoken and written language.
How deplorable are the “correct words and correct views” of today’s high Lamas, senior leaders and great scholars, yes-men eager for personal gain, power and reputation? They who “bang the gong while their fathers are put to death” should not be forgotten by future generations. Those who defile our image can be considered guilty of historic crimes. These well-fed ‘tools’ have made the charge that “Destruction is now their real objective,” and “Dealing with them appropriately in a timely way is essential.” What is so essential? Was it essential for ordinary religious and laypeople, men and women, to lose their lives? Or was it essential to beat and kill them? The scholar said “It was really excellent that measures were taken immediately to bring the situation under control.” Do you actually know what “measures were taken” immediately? Do you mean coming in with tanks and guns, or do you mean that surrounding and shooting into crowds of civilians with guns was “excellent”? It is extraordinary that Drongbu Tsering Dorje, an exponent of Buddhist philosophy could be made so “angry.” Getting into “an inexpressible rage” because a few shops got burned down while shrugging off the intimidation of masses of your fellow countrymen by armed forces, is that the reaction of a great mind? These betrayers of those who stand for the common cause, ready to hang their own mother out to dry, these avid sellers of their own souls who value nothing higher than their own positions, has the time not come to unmask these opportunists? Finally, what I want to say is simple: the connection between the consciousness of a people and the consciousness of individuals is a firm one.
Whoever tries to cover up the loss of the precious lives of our people, lay and monastic, men and women, it cannot be hidden from history. Why is it that the Tibetans must undergo such unthinkable bullying, abuse, misery and torture on the soil of their ancestral land? The many households and couples who have been separated will ultimately not be excluded from the reckoning of our people’s suffering, and those who gave their lives for the land trodden by their ancestors, religious and lay, men and women, should not be forgotten. Everyone cherishes their own life and values nothing higher, so in which eventuality have they been obliged to go so far as to renounce it? Is it not the misery of being unable to bear seeing the excessive cruelty of those in power? If those who trample on human lives always disregard people’s rights, that is a crisis bound to affect us. When the sweet lives of monks, students and ordinary people are dragged from this world into darkness, when those sweet lives which have prayed so hard for the swift fulfillment of their aspirations are confiscated by the state, I for one cannot remain silent, and the connection between their sad fates and my pen is a profound one.
Shikalo, a man in his forties from Charo Xiang in Ngaba county, was beaten to death on false charges. His precious life has fizzled out. This father and cornerstone of his household leaves behind him a widow and three orphans, weeping inside. This life-demeaning disaster has ruined life for one household. To say that someone has been beaten to death, isn’t this something that should never have to be said in this day and age? To say that someone has been beaten to death is something that recalls the terror of the “Democratic Reform” era (of the late 1950s and early 1960s). Generally speaking, no one enjoys “vengeance” or continuing “old feuds.” But for the young generation, the murderer of their father leaves an impression that cannot be forgotten as long as they live. That is the certain outcome of repression, beating and killing. We have no wish for ‘revenge’ or ‘feuds.’ We call for reaching a time in which the younger generation will have no “revenge” to seek or ‘feuds’ to settle. The young generation has not come into this world for revenge or to settle feuds, but to see the spectacle of a brighter tomorrow, to seek refuge in a place enjoying the bright spring of freedom, democracy and equality.
Then there was the story of two monks from Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Toesam and Jinpa, who were driven by the present desperate situation to take their own lives in prison. Why should we have to witness such a depressing event? When one thinks carefully, they are not at all to blame. Who would not be traumatized? Who would not be traumatized by the unimaginable pain of torture not grounded in humanity?
Unable to bear the pain and terror of torture, that unthinkable Karmic fruition, those two monks came to the point of ending their own young lives while still wishing to live. Those two monks as living human beings found themselves compelled to take their own lives. For a person to find the determination to take his own life is by no means easily done, yet in the face of incredible suffering, it must have seemed the only option. Who could put up with the kind of physical threat to life suffered by these Tibetans? Who are the ones who would invite the darkness of such suffering on the humble minds of a defenseless people?
May the young men and women of the future become smart enough not to be misled by others into accepting defeat and contempt. I am confident that having recalled and reflected on the wounds and sorrows of the present, those men and women will find another ‘open road.’
If one just sat watching the official TV news, it would scrub your brain clean. That news channel sullied our image so much that Tibetans watching it would be depressed by its oblivious attitude. That is precisely its power and its effect. Those displays of falsehood propping up falsehood are confident of presenting that “distortion of history” as truth. Saying “The actual nature of the incident was this,” they are seeing whether they can establish that perception in your mind, easily or by force of repetition, and through the intoxicating effect of these broadcasts, end up with us wearing the most unthinkable of hats. One or two violent incidents occurring in the course of a popular uprising are normal events in such disturbances in any other country. Like the Tibetan proverb “Getting angry with the Yak but whipping the horse,” although it was by no means a contradiction between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples, opposition to the state soon became a fight between the two peoples. In any case, those who came to know about the incidents from the TV and newspapers and those who witnessed them at first hand differ in many respects. The TV, newspapers and so on have just become tools for the power-holders to defend themselves, and anyone who thinks that they tell the truth or distinguish black from white must be out of their mind. That the media can produce a big effect in a short time through supporting in endless ways the leveling of all the accusations and labels one can think of goes without saying. (The attribution of virtue to the state is done in the same way.) Relying on the power and influence of these broadcasts to perpetrate an unimaginable defamation of the reputation of this nationality is something we absolutely cannot accept. If stability is to be restored to Tibetan society through force alone, that means a society stabilized by the same oppression, exploitation and contempt, and it means that we will not see the real light of day.
Human rights apply to the political, economic, social and cultural spheres; their essential characteristic is freedom and equality, and their basic nature and concern is human life and progress. Since people cannot live or progress as humans without freedom and equality, it is hardly worth saying that this is even more true of human rights. The present situation in our society is that people are hiding indoors with pain in their hearts. Our pleas for freedom, equality and a happy life are considered illegal and criminal. Those who strive for freedom, equality and happiness are in for so much physical degradation and trauma. What is our real reason for living? Isn’t this place where we live the place where the ancestors turned the cosmic wheel of joy and sorrow? And even in the present time, it seems to me that the desperate thirst of our beloved people, monastic and lay, men and women, for a brighter future, supported by an extraordinary “consciousness,” is indeed a premonition of the future realization of our hopes. We should recognize not only that human rights always and in all aspects are something we ourselves strive for, but that this struggle is for the benefit of tomorrow’s generation, and that it is ensuring that tomorrow’s generation can live a life dignified with human rights, freedom, equality and happiness that gives meaning to our present lives. If they can live a life without oppression, exploitation and brutalization, they will be free of the hardship and dictatorial control of the present, they will enjoy vitalized human rights.
From this point of view too, what human rights do we presently have over our bodies?
Responsibility for this article lies solely with the author, and not the editorial office of the ‘Eastern Snow Mountain’ (Shar Dungri) or any individual editor (although it is in keeping with the magazine’s long-standing aims). May the ‘Eastern Snow Mountain’ be more popular than ever before! (July 2008).
The case for lifeblood and life-forceThis title is copied from the political news section on the Qinghai Tibetan language radio website
By Garmi, ‘the blacksmith’
On the evening of March 14 China’s CCTV news channels hastily announced to the world the outbreak of “beating, smashing, looting and burning” by Tibetans in Lhasa, saying that it was an organized conspiracy by the Dalai clique. Rather than presenting the people of the world with an even marginally honest account in accord with the actual situation, the top CCTV news channels tried to put as much blame as they could on “a few wicked troublemakers,” making various allegations in an extremely bullying tone. Unable to bear this, and in accord with the saying “The weight of a single letter imbued with truth is heavier than the whole world,” I would like to make things clear to the dictatorship through an honest account of my own experiences and perceptions, and to present a short discussion respectful of the truth, in so far as I am able.
The Tibetans, whose lifeblood has been constantly drained and whose life force is struggling for breath after 50 years under the dictators, have now begun a spontaneous movement by reviving the nearly exhausted desire for democracy, freedom and equality. And when terrifying suffering, unimaginable and unrecountable, came down once more on the black-headed Tibetans, the value of the lifeblood and life-force of those great people who gave their lives for the sake of happiness and truth became visible.
On March 16, this movement began in Ngaba county in Amdo. At that point, it was clear that to the dictators, there was no difference between a peaceful demonstration and “beating, smashing, looting and burning.” The 16-year-old schoolgirl Lhundrup Kyi (just one example among many) lost her life that day: on her way to school, she became a target for the policemen’s guns.16How could a girl like this still growing up under her parents’ care be so suddenly extinguished? The mainstay of her parents in old age, how are her poor parents to accept that she will not be coming home? Dear girl, now that you have been plucked from the comfortable surroundings of your parents, siblings, relatives and friends like a hair from a lump of butter, and the warmth of proximity to your friends and loved ones fades like a mirage, it is so sad that your life can neither be bought back with any amount of wealth, nor commanded to return by the most powerful of rulers.
Likewise, the monks who took their own lives under the oppression of an armed force permitting no freedom of movement (as I heard from Ngaba county, two monks committed suicide at that time), the students imprisoned in dark cells (Konchok and others from the Barkham Teacher Training college), and the ordinary farmers and nomads imprisoned for life (such sentences have been passed on ordinary citizens in Ngaba county), these lives at the mercy of a cynical dictatorship which does not regard them as human, how pathetic and expendable they are.
From what I heard, Tashi, one of the 20 or more young people shot dead on 3-16 –boys and girls, whose lives appeared to be no more than a worm to be crushed underfoot – said that with the evidence of Tibet’s history presented to the world, the wings of truth can fly. If one thinks about these people ending their lives not for their own sake but in solidarity with the community, throwing themselves in front of armed troops for the cause of truth, one may recall the principles of Marxism-Leninism that “Marxism-Leninism requires strict equality between nationalities, and absolutely opposes the oppression of nationalities. Where there is no such equality, Marxism-Leninism regards it as legitimate for minority nationalities even to seek secession.” When the Tibetan people, under the oppression of the dictators and with no strict equality, show some signs of dissent, why must it be branded political subversion and subject to crackdown and inquisition? Why must stories of bloodshed be written on the clean white sheet of paper known as “World Peace”? Why? Why?
Similarly, have the dictators ever heard of Lenin’s statement that “Anyone who does not support or respect the equality of nationalities and languages, who does not oppose the oppression of nationalities and fight against inequality is not a Marxist, and can not even be considered a Socialist”? Aren’t those people who have fallen into your hands the real Socialists, the real heroes and heroines? In particular, those who say “The instigators of the riots are pulling their nationality down by the leg” are not only not Socialists but even anti-Socialist.
At the moment, when Tibetans receiving a government salary (officials with university degrees who comment on nationality affairs) and writers (the writers of Qinghai and Kanlho, etc) concerned with nationality and humanity are not incapable of telling how things are but have retreated from telling the true account and gone as silent as a broken needle buried underground, they are rendered into a position of reflecting in sorrow and hopelessness.
The clubs and truncheons which are always awaiting us in the prisons of the dictators have come down on the heads of the monks and laypeople. At the entrance of the People’s Court which pays only lip service to legality and rights, these people (the three said to be tortured to death in Ngaba prison) became toys of dictators who have no belief in cause and effect relations, are permanently separated from us. Would not each of the blows that turned their whole bodies to a bloody pulp make you flinch, dear reader? Similarly, those who went through horrific beatings and the considerable number who lost their lives in the midst of the present uprising, mainly in Lhasa, and then in Kardze in Kham, Ngaba in Amdo, Kanlho, Qinghai and so on (I apologize to the reader for not being able to specify the county and local designations of each place right now), were they not saying to you, if you are Tibetan, “Loyal son!”, dear reader?
Does the government not claim that “The human rights situation is in the best period ever known in the history of the Tibetan nationality”? Does it not claim that “You (the nationality) have the legal right to self-protection”?
However, in this civilized era when world governments voluntarily respect human rights, the improvement of human rights under the Socialist system may have happened somewhat for the Chinese people, but Tibetans living under constant bullying and oppression never get to even hear the words “human rights,” and ultimately legal rights are only written on paper, and although we have tongues in our heads we do not have the power to speak out, indeed it is before the law that misfortune usually strikes us.
So the saying “One does not have to listen to what is said, one has to look at what is achieved” is really true. Looking at what the dictatorship has achieved for Tibetans, and in which way, that is correct. For instance, during the current uprising, without having to listen to what the dictators had to say, we saw what they did, heard, and the entirety of it all impressed itself painfully and terrifyingly on our minds.
And the crooked statement that “While dealing with this incident according to law, the public security and armed police always exercised restraint, upheld the law, enforced the law in a civilized way, and throughout the decision process they have never carried or used lethal weapons,” isn’t that even harder to take? Similarly, each time the dictatorship gives a false account, at odds with the actual situation, for the ears of the world public, and similarly, each time the dictatorship denigrates and violates the standard of individual rights, I wish Mao Zedong’s statement that “If one has not examined the actual condition of any matter, or its historical background and has not thoroughly understood it, whatever one says about it will be blind talk. That such blind talk has no meaning, everyone knows” would hit you on the head like a stone. Anyway, no matter how much deceit and cunning you use to give a false account and vilify the truth, “White and black cannot be interchanged. The facts can be hidden but not removed. Falsehood cannot become truth Truth,” is in the human heart, and I propose that these words of the dictators are applicable to the dictators themselves.
Basically, just as all that an individual is ultimately looking for from the time he or she is born is nothing other than happiness, and such terms as democracy, freedom, and equality have themselves become synonymous with human happiness. And the ultimate aim of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was to become the fundamental principle promoting the wellbeing of all humans living on the planet. However, in the invasions and persecutions seen in human history, wasn’t the end result of breaking down people’s ability to think, and their hope, just the suffering of becoming subject to a dictatorial power? For instance, in the Chinese students May 4 movement [of 1919], wasn’t it because the dictators trampled on democracy, freedom and equality that those young students lost their lives for the common cause? And thus, who would not put the case for these sufferings of lifeblood and life-force before the ears of those who favor honesty and actuality?