Elected leaders and activists across the globe called for a peaceful resolution through dialogue to the longstanding Tibet-China conflict on the 64th anniversary last week of Tibetans’ national uprising against China’s rule.
Tibetan Uprising Day on March 10, 2023 saw government officials issue statements in several countries, Tibetans and Tibet supporters protest in numerous cities, and Chinese authorities continue cracking down inside Tibet.
The day commemorated the Tibetan National Uprising of March 10, 1959, when Tibetans rose as one to challenge China’s occupation of their homeland.
Although Chinese troops eventually crushed their uprising, the Tibetans succeeded in helping their leader, the Dalai Lama, escape into exile, keeping the Tibetan cause alive for more than six decades since.
“We’re here today to remember the bravery that Tibetans demonstrated back in March of 1959,” Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Chairman of the new Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, said at a rally outside China’s embassy in Washington, DC. “Courage in protecting their spiritual leader, in fighting for their freedoms, their identity, their culture and their history.
“But today is not just about the past,” Gallagher added. “Today is also about the present.”
Watch Chairman Gallagher at the Tibetan Uprising Day 2023 rally outside China’s embassy in Washington.
China’s oppression in Tibet
With dozens of Tibetan Americans and Tibet supporters holding flags and signs behind him, Gallagher said the CCP used artillery to subdue Tibet 64 years ago, but now it is trying to subdue Tibetans’ minds.
“The nice word for this is ‘Sinicization,’” he said. “It’s a fancy term. But the real term, according to the Dalai Lama himself, is ‘cultural genocide.’”
The Congressman laid out egregious examples of the CCP’s oppression in Tibet, including its separation of nearly 1 million Tibetan children from their families, its attempts to interfere in the succession of the Dalai Lama and its efforts to bring Tibetan Buddhism under the control of the party.
Watch the Select Committee on the CCP’s video: “What Is the CCP Doing In Tibet?”
“[The CCP] have tried to eliminate the entire Tibetan identity… they are destroying all the natural resources of Tibet.” – rally organizers sound off on the CCP’s abuses. pic.twitter.com/MjofxRsuf5
— The Select Committee on the CCP (@committeeonccp) March 10, 2023
Gallagher noted that Chinese authorities have arrested Tibetans for contacting others outside their region. And, he said, the CCP keeps most foreign journalists and foreign tourists out of Tibet.
Just this month, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China reported that every foreign journalist in its 2022 survey who applied to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region—which spans most of western Tibet—saw their request denied by Chinese officials.
And on March 9, just one day before Tibetan Uprising Day, Tibet was again named the least-free country on Earth, sharing the bottom spot in watchdog group Freedom House’s annual global rankings with South Sudan and Syria. It was the third year in a row that Tibet placed worst on the list.
On the anniversary of the 1959 Tibet uprising, let us remember the ongoing struggle for freedom facing Tibetans. The territory remains one of the least free places on earth in @freedomhouse #FreedomInTheWorld 2023 report. #TibetanUprisingDay
— Freedom House China (@FH_China) March 10, 2023
Several organizations also documented increased surveillance and security measures in Tibet leading up to March 10, with China’s authorities apparently trying to avert protests for Tibetan Uprising Day. The International Campaign for Tibet reported that China closed the Jokhang Temple—the most sacred site for Tibetan Buddhists—to pilgrims from March 8-10.
“The CCP is turning Tibet into an open-air prison,” Gallagher said, “just like they did in Xinjiang,” known to Uyghurs as East Turkestan.
“Why?” Gallagher continued. “Because they think that if they can cut Tibet off from the world for long enough and Sinicize the population, then the world will forget about Tibet. That’s why we need to keep repeating what happened. That’s what today is all about.”
Gallagher commended the Tibetan Americans and Tibet supporters at the rally—who later that day marched through Washington and protested outside the White House—for their courage in speaking out.
“On behalf of the Select Committee on the CCP, I very much look forward to working with you going forward,” Gallagher pledged.
Gallagher was not the only US leader to show support for Tibetans on Tibetan Uprising Day.
Gov. Tony Evers declared March 10, 2023 “Tibet Day” in Wisconsin. And the Board of Supervisors of Contra Costa County, California passed a resolution recognizing Tibetan Uprising Day and affirming its support of the people of Tibet.
US House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., posted on social media: “64 years ago, the Tibetan people rose up & risked their lives to protect their freedom: religious, cultural & language. As we recognize their courage & resilience, let us continue to speak up against human rights abuses by the CCP & human rights abuses everywhere in the world.”
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., shared a statement for a Tibetan Uprising Day rally in his home state. McGovern also reportedly met with Tibetan exile leaders, as did Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
Last month, McGovern—along with Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Todd Young, R-Ind.—reintroduced the bipartisan Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act in Congress.
Known as the Resolve Tibet Act, the bill will pressure China’s government to resume negotiations with the Dalai Lama’s envoys to peacefully settle the conflict between the two sides.
Tell your members of Congress to cosponsor the Resolve Tibet Act!
All of us should stand up for religious freedom & human rights in Tibet. Proud to meet with Tibetan writer, poet and activist Tenzin Tsundue & Tibetan parliamentarian Thondup Tsering. The Tibetan people have a right to determine how they are governed! pic.twitter.com/ZwdGq9G3K9
— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) March 11, 2023
Leaders in other countries also called for renewed dialogue on Tibetan Uprising Day.
The Friends of Tibet groups in the Czech Republic’s Chamber of Deputies and Senate sent a statement to the country’s Prime Minister urging China’s government “to promote substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives on the future of Tibet and its genuine autonomy.” The statement also called on Beijing to stay out of the Dalai Lama’s succession and release the Panchen Lama, another high-ranking Tibetan Buddhist official who has been missing since Chinese authorities kidnapped him in 1995.
Tibetan flags hung in both chambers of Parliament in the Czech Republic on Tibetan Uprising Day, as well as in 866 town halls, 119 schools and the windows of many Czechs. One day later, 38 people—including International Campaign for Tibet Europe Board Member Martin Bursík—climbed the highest mountain in the Czech Republic, Snezka (1,603 meters), taking Tibetan flags to the top.
ICT was also involved in protests in several other European countries.
In Rome, ICT joined about 1,000 Tibetans and Tibet supporters in a march for Tibetan Uprising Day that featured special guest Dolma Tsering, Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
In Brussels, despite a national strike and bad weather, about 50 participants marched from Schuman to the Chinese embassy.
This year again, Tibetans of Belgium and their friends braved the rainy weather in #Brussels to commemorate the #TibetanUprisingDay! pic.twitter.com/ef7rdGoFjZ
— ICT Brussels (@SaveTibet_EU) March 10, 2023
Tibetans and Tibet sympathizers also braved the pouring rain and cold wind in The Hague for a protest in front of China’s embassy there.
There were also demonstrations in Berlin.
Mahnwache am Tag der Tibet-Solidarität: "Wir fordern die #Zeitenwende nicht nur in Bezug auf #Russland, sondern auch bezüglich #China.Deutsche Politiker:Innen müssen klare Aussagen treffen, gerade was #Tibet betrifft", so @kai_mueller11 (ICT) heute vor der chinesischen Botschaft. pic.twitter.com/whFkvgyP5b
— ICT-Germany (@savetibet) March 10, 2023
Learn more about Tibetan Uprising Day events in Europe.
Tibetan exile leaders
In Dharamsala, India, the exile home of the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration, Tibetan exile leaders spent Tibetan Uprising Day with foreign officials.
Over 30 members of a parliamentary delegation representing Mexico, the European Parliament, Lithuania and Taiwan joined the official commemoration of Tibetan Uprising Day in Dharamsala. The delegation honored Tibetan martyrs who stood up against China’s occupation of Tibet.
The delegation members also spoke at a press conference where they expressed solidarity and support for resolving the Tibet-China conflict.
The Kashag (cabinet) of the Central Tibetan Administration, released a statement on March 10 welcoming the reintroduction of the Resolve Tibet Act in the United States.
The statement also offered prayers for the long life of the Dalai Lama, noting that China “will lose the key to resolve the Sino-Tibet conflict if it fails to positively recognise the historic bond between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people and the reality of the current situation.”
The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile released a statement saying, “the Tibetan people have been continuous through the vicissitudes of time in protesting against the erroneous policies of the government of China. And this is a situation which cannot in any way come to an end so long as the just cause of the Tibetan people continues to remain unresolved.”
The Parliament added that, “we reiterate our call on the leadership of [the] government of China to seize the opportunity that exists today to resume the Sino-Tibetan dialogue.”
Penpa Tsering, the elected Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration, tweeted about the history of Tibetan Uprising Day and how Tibetans helped protect the Dalai Lama on March 10, 1959.
The Dalai Lama’s eventual escape to exile “laid an unshakable foundation for Tibetan freedom struggle,” Penpa said.
64 years ago today, His Holiness was invited to a theatrical show at Chinese military HQ in Lhasa. Against tradition, HH was ordered to attend with limited unarmed guards. Tibetans rose in mass uprising to implore HH not to attend the show & to protest PRC repressive policies.1/2
— Sikyong Penpa Tsering (@SikyongPTsering) March 10, 2023
#TibetanNationalUprising averted His Holiness’ visit to Chinese army camp, turning the fate of Tibetans. HH’s safe passage to exile guarded by deities, oracles & escorted by Tibetan National Army & Chushi Gangdruk laid an unshakable foundation for Tibetan freedom struggle. 2/2
— Sikyong Penpa Tsering (@SikyongPTsering) March 10, 2023