What Tibet Wants - The Dalai Lama asks his followers to chart their own course

2008.11.16 Wall Street Journal Asia. As leaders of the Tibetan exile community convene in Dharamsala, India this week to discuss Tibet's future, their task is not easy. Seven months after protests across the Tibetan plateau, Lhasa remains under military lockdown; the Tibetan community abroad has grown more deeply divided; and the Sino-Tibetan dialogue is in tatters.

Yesterday the Tibetan government in exile released its "Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People." The memo was presented to Beijing during the latest round of formal negotiations earlier this month. It lays out in unprecedented detail the Dalai Lama's vision for an autonomous Tibet and explains how these aspirations fit within the scope of the Chinese constitution.

The memo promises that the Tibetan government in exile will be dissolved once an agreement is reached and says the Dalai Lama will not seek political office. It advocates more autonomy for the Tibetan regional government, and pledges not to expel non-Tibetans. In response, Beijing called the document a disguised plan for independence with one official saying the Dalai Lama was intent on "ethnic cleansing." Such vitriol is not encouraging to those who advocate more compromise.

The Dalai Lama's peaceful "Middle Way" policy has failed to improve the situation inside Tibet. A growing number of Tibetans believe a less conciliatory position would improve their negotiating power; some advocate full independence or orchestrated campaigns of nonviolent "noncooperation" inside Tibet.

A stronger stance would carry risks. Not least, it would make it harder for the international community to support Tibet. One glimmer of encouragement on that score has recently come from Europe, where French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the EU Parliament announced they will meet the Dalai Lama next month.

For the moment, it looks like China is winning in what is essentially a waiting game. Beijing is betting that when the Dalai Lama, 73, passes away, the Tibetan community will be divided and weak. Meanwhile, Han Chinese continue to stream into the Tibetan plateau, and Tibetan children are being educated in Mandarin and groomed for assimilation.

As the Dalai Lama meets with his followers this week, we hope Beijing will be listening -- and will realize that that his vision for an autonomous Tibet within China's borders is the best path to a peaceful solution.


Repression continues in Tibet, foreign media still unable to investigate

Reporters Without Borders deplores the Chinese government’s lack of goodwill towards foreign journalists trying to visit Tibet and its repressions of Tibetans who dare to talk about what has happened to them. A Tibetan monk, for example, was arrested three days ago after speaking openly in a video and answering a foreign journalist’s questions about the torture he underwent in prison.

“The simple fact that the freedom of movement and freedom to interview granted to foreign journalists are not been applied in Tibet shows that a state of exception still exists in the province,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The foreign journalists who have managed to get into Tibet confirm that a heavy military and police presence has imposed a climate of fear for most Tibetans. The news blackout is designed to prevent journalists from carrying out an independent evaluation of the toll from last March’s unrest.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We above all urge the Chinese government to allow foreign journalists to travel freely to Tibet. The government must also, as a matter of urgency, release all Tibetans held for expressing their views or for providing information about the situation in the province.”

Jigme Guri, a Buddhist monk at Labrang monastery (in Gansu province) was arrested by about 50 police and soldiers on 4 November after recording a video in which he spoke openly about the torture to which he was submitted after being arrested in March. He also answered an Associated Press reporter’s questions in September, explaining how he was hung by his arms and beaten to make him confess to leading the March protests in Labrang. The authorities have not provided any information about him since his second arrest.

The Chinese authorities announced on 17 October that rules allowing foreign journalists freedom of movement and freedom to interview would remain in force. But these rules do not apply to the Tibetan region, which the press can only visit after obtaining the agreement of the local authorities. Very few of such permits are given to foreign reporters.

In August, Agence France-Presse reporters tried to visit the Tibetan region of Garze, in Sichuan province, where soldiers had opened fire on demonstrators a short while before. They managed to get as far as Kangding, but it proved impossible to continue to Garze. On the instructions of the authorities, all drivers were refusing to take foreigners there. The reporters saw a significant military presence in both the cities and the countryside, and strict police control around Buddhist temples.

There are many police controls around Tibet and provinces with a Tibetan population, as well as around the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, where a permit has to be obtained in order to travel to Shigatse or Gyantse.

No foreign journalist has been able to cover the trials of Tibetans accused of participating in the March riots. According to a recent statement by a Chinese official, at least 55 people have been given prison sentences.

Several foreign journalists have told Reporters Without Borders it has become much harder to work in Tibet since the riots. “Far fewer people dare to talk now,” said a European journalist who went to Tibet in August.” “And investigating what happened in March is an ordeal. You can read the fear on their faces.” Like the other journalists, she travelled to Tibet on tourist visa.

“The massive army and police presence and the cameras installed in many parts of the city create a general feeling of mistrust and paranoia,” another European reporter said. “The Tibetans know they are taking a big risk if they talk to a foreigner.”

A journalist who recently returned from Lhasa said: “Many of the people living in Lhasa are convinced there are microphones and cameras at street corners, in the shops and in taxis. Everyone is suspected of being an informer so they avoid answering questions. People are less afraid in the rural areas.”

She added: “Some monasteries are almost empty. It is easy to see that certain monks and guards are there to keep you under surveillance. They try to prevent direct conversations with foreigners.”

Tibetan writer and blogger Woeser also described this climate of fear during a visit to Lhasa in August, before she was arrested and forced to leave Tibet.

Although some Internet caf├ęs in Lhasa allow foreigners to visit them, websites such as Facebook are often inaccessible. A Tibet specialist living in France said Tibetan online chat forums are much less active since then March events.

It has meanwhile been reported that Ludrup Phuntsok, a 23-year-old monk living at Achog Tsenyi monastery in Ngaba, was sentenced on 28 October to 13 years in prison for helping to edit the book “Mahseng Zhedra.” Three other monks at the same monastery received prison sentences for unknown reasons. Documentary filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen and local TV presenter Washu Rangjong are still being held without trial.


Alice Walker to Obama References His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Open letter from Alice Walker to Barack Obama
November 6th, 2008

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people's enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely.

However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, "hate the sin, but love the sinner." There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people's spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to "work with the enemy" internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,

Alice Walker


The Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure seeks Nominees

The Rowell Legacy Committee is currently accepting nominations for The Rowell Award for the Art of Adventure which will honor that adventurer whose artistic passion illuminates the wild places of the world, and whose accomplishments significantly benefit both the environment and the people who inhabit these lands and regions. Nominations will be accepted from now through December 31, 2008 and can be sent via email, fax or regular mail. The $15,000 annual cash award will be presented to an individual selected by a panel of active and influential members of the outdoor adventure world at the annual Rowell Lecture Series in spring 2009 at an event in San Francisco. This event is co-presented by The Yosemite Fund and the Commonwealth Club of California. For more information about the Rowell Award and to obtain a nomination form, please visit www.rowellaward.com.

In August 2002, famed adventurers, writers and photographers of wild places Galen and Barbara Rowell died tragically in a plane crash near their home in Bishop, California.. The Rowell Legacy Committee was formed to commemorate the lives and preserve the spirit of the Rowells. Its hope is that Galen and Barbara’s work and the award will inspire in others the love of the human experience in the environment and the desire to protect the wild and special places on our planet. The Committee is excited to present this unique award to an individual who exemplifies the hallmarks of Galen and Barbara – adventure, art and giving back.

The Rowell Legacy Committee Honorary Chairs include: Conrad Anker, Tom Brokaw, Greg Mortenson, Rick Ridgeway and Erik Weihenmayer.

The Rowell Award Judging Panel includes: Conrad Anker, Richard Blum, Dick Dorworth, Frans Lanting, Doug McConnell, Chris McNamara, Duane Raleigh, Corey Rich, Nicole Rowell Ryan, and Steven Werner.

October 28, 2008

Media Contact:
Brian Thysell, Director
The Rowell Award
c/o The Yosemite Fund
155 Montgomery St., Suite 1104
San Francisco, CA 94104
415-434-1782, ext. 329