Tibetan response to PRC's white paper on its minority nationalities policy

On 27 September 2009, the Chinese government issued a white paper on its minority nationalities policy. A Tibetan response has now been written by a group of officials of the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, a Dharamsala-based human rights watchdog, addressing four areas: 1) The Status of Learning, Using and promoting Tibetan Language; 2) The Status of Tibetan Cultural Preservation in Tibet; 3) The Status of Religious Freedom in Tibet; and 4) The Status of Modern Scientific Education and Development of the Media inside Tibet.

A forward to the report states that "a substantial amount of evidence has been meticulously put together to make a compelling case that the Chinese government has committed — and is committing — nothing less than cultural genocide on the world's roof. This evidence is sourced primarily from the documents brought out by the Chinese government itself, and also from the oral and written statements, opinions or suggestions made by Tibetans inside Tibet. Viewpoints of the Tibetan exiles and foreign experts or scholars on Tibet are deliberately not included."

Click here to read the full report in PDF format released on 13 November 2009.


Five political risks to watch in China

China has so far weathered the global economic downturn with its growth rate staying robust and no sign the government faces any major challenge to its rule. Following is a summary of key China risks to watch:


China's government has so far maintained general authority and control, despite predictions that the global crisis could spark widespread unrest among laid-off workers. Outbreaks of unrest have remained brief and localised, and recent economic data point to robust growth for the rest of the year and into next year. But with China's ruling Communist Party and global markets all treating political stability as a crucial issue, even limited challenges to the Party's control could have a impact on investor sentiment. A longer-term worry could be that the recent rapid economic growth cannot be sustained, as a burst of government-encouraged credit shrinks, leading to a rise in joblessness and investor disquiet and sapping government spending-power and ability to cushion these problems. Ethnic tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang have distracted the central government and drawn international concern, but not seriously threatened national stability. Calls from some activists and intellectuals for greater openness and democracy have so far failed to gain much popular traction.

Key issues to watch:

-- Emergence of any regional- or national-level protest movements. So far, protests in China have been tended to be localised and directed at local officials, rather than challenging the central government. Given China's strict controls, it is also very difficult for any organised movement to emerge beyond the local level.


Simmering disputes with the United States and other nations over trade barriers and the level of the yuan have the potential of escalating into more serious confrontations that could unsettle investors and capital markets. Most analysts believe that Beijing and Washington have too much to lose from a major escalation of trade and currency disputes, at a time when much rests on how these two big economic powers navigate the adjustments brought by the financial crisis. China has signalled that ultimately it wants a global financial order that is less dependent on the U.S. dollar. That remains a distant prospect and China is likely to maintain its huge holdings of U.S. Treasury debt for a long time, but currency markets have shown acute sensitivity to any signs, however mild or misrepresented, that China is looking to reduce its holdings. [ID:nN14510480]

Key issues to watch:

-- The rhetoric on trade from Washington and Beijing. Both sides want to avoid any serious economic dispute but also want to protect their domestic industry and maintain popular support at home. Signs that positions are hardening would hurt markets.

-- How disagreements are handled. The imposition of trade barriers usually results in retaliation from other nations. The key issue is whether a tit-for-tat spiral of protectionist measures gets out of hand, or whether diplomacy stops disputes from escalating and doing serious damage.


China has been scouring the globe for energy and commodities to feed its economic growth, and has sought to secure strategic long-term supply deals. Its resource needs have major long-term implications for commodity and energy prices. And across the world, China is not just buying raw materials but is seeking to invest in countries and companies that produce them. This has transformed China's global economic and political role -- and many other nations are getting worried. [ID:nPEK46626]

Key issues to watch:

-- Reaction to Chinese foreign investment. The U.S. decision to block CNOOC's takeover of Unocal on national security concerns, and the acrimonious aftermath of the collapse of Rio Tinto's deal with Chinalco, demonstrate how political issues may undermine China's economic aspirations. Markets will be watching to see if more major deals are blocked -- and how China responds.

-- Attitudes to China in developing world. Chinese investment has given a boost to many developing economies, but there are also signs of a backlash emerging in some countries.


China is central to efforts to win agreement on fighting climate change. Beijing has pledged to cut "carbon intensity" over the decade to 2020, but also says economic development must come first and developed nations should bear most of the responsibility for reducing global emissions. China's rapid growth is also causing a host of other environmental problems, and citizens have become increasingly vocal about health and other worries from lead plants and other polluters. [ID:nPEK320434]

Key issues to watch:

-- China's position on emissions. Markets will watch if China can agree an emissions policy without stifling growth.

-- Investors will also be looking for opportunities that arise from growing investment and government spending in clean and renewable energy.

-- Increasing environmental activism and stricter enforcement of standards could force some industrial projects to be closed or not built.


Corruption is an issue both for foreign investors in China and for national stability -- it has the potential to become a focus for social unrest if it is not adequately tackled. As well, with business and politics so closely intertwined in China, commercial negotiations and disputes can become embroiled in wider political and diplomatic friction. The claims of commercial spying by Rio Tinto have underscored these concerns.

Key issues to watch:

-- Corruption estimates. Investors will be watching to see whether China rises or falls in corruption perception rankings.

-- Investors will closely watch China's handling of the case involving four Rio Tinto staff, and also more general signs of how the government intends to handle the boundary between business deals and politics.

Compiled by Andrew Marshall and Chris Buckley
BEIJING, Tue Nov 3, 2009 (Reuters)



Can Beijing Bring Order to Its Restive Provinces?

Recent violence in China's western provinces shows that the state's dual policy of migration and development has failed. A political solution for Xinjiang and Tibet, however, could be closer than Beijing may think. Christian Le Mière, in this month's Foreign Affairs journal, argues that the best approach may already exist: China could expand the category of Special Administrative Regions (SARs), which now exist in Hong Kong and Macau, to the country's western provinces.

According to the laws establishing the SARs, the territories are afforded "a high degree of autonomy" and "executive, legislative, and independent judicial power." In addition, the SAR arrangement requires security forces to be comprised of local citizens, while residents inside SARs are granted protections covering freedom of speech, press, assembly, privacy, and, perhaps most significant if such a program were to be adopted in Tibet, religion. The checks and balances built into the SARs' governance allows for the guarantee of these rights far more effectively than under the Chinese constitution, which nominally provides similar freedoms.

The creation of SARs in Xinjiang and Tibet would not just be in the interest of local populations; the Communist Party leadership would also benefit. Beijing would retain control over foreign affairs and defense and keep the right to station military forces in the regions. Even more important, the law establishing the SARs dictates that the "land and natural resources within the [SAR] shall be state property."

Such an arrangement would remove another thorn in Beijing's side -- the international attention and opprobrium created by the Dalai Lama's ongoing exile. The Dalai Lama would likely accept such a solution; the SAR closely resembles his own "middle way" negotiating position, which cedes the claim to full Tibetan independence and instead calls for "genuine autonomy." In any future Tibetan SAR, the Dalai Lama would likely be less of a problem for Beijing in the region than outside of it.

Read the complete article here.


NYT Editorial: Beijing's tragic mishandling of ethnic minorities

The more Chinese authorities try to stamp out protests by repressed ethnic minorities, the fiercer those protests grow. Beijing should have learned that lesson after last year’s bloody anti-Chinese riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. It didn’t. This week, clashes in Xinjiang between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese have left at least 156 dead and more than 1,000 wounded.

This round of trouble began on Sunday when Uighurs took to the street to demand a government inquiry into an earlier brawl between Uighurs, the region’s largest ethnic group, and the Han, the country’s dominant group. We don’t know who is responsible for that protest turning violent. On Tuesday, Han Chinese clutching meat cleavers, pipes and clubs spilled down side streets of the Xinjiang capital looking for Uighurs to target.

The Uighurs have long been mistreated. Beijing has invested heavily over the last decade to exploit the region’s rich oil and gas deposits and at the same time financed a huge influx of Han migrants.

Amnesty International said recently that the Uighurs’ identity and well-being are being “systematically eroded” by government policies that limit the use of the Uighur language, restrict religious practices and foster job discrimination. It accused Beijing of arresting thousands of Uighurs on bogus terrorism charges.

We accept that the Chinese government must protect lives and property. But its efforts once again to control all information — cellphone and Internet services in Xinjiang have been cut while officials have escorted reporters to the scene so they can “spin” the story — are cynical and futile. So are its efforts to blame a Uighur activist living in the United States for the unrest (much like it blamed the Dalai Lama for the unrest in Tibet).

China must ensure a transparent investigation of the violence and respect the rights of anyone who has been arrested. It must work toward political solutions that give Uighurs, Tibetans and other minority groups more autonomy over their lives. Beijing’s rulers will never achieve the stability they covet until they deal with the root causes of these problems.

New York Times Editorial: "Now Xinjiang", July 7, 2009


Report Says Valid Grievances at Root of Tibet Unrest

A group of prominent Chinese lawyers and legal scholars have released a research report arguing that the Tibetan riots and protests of March 2008 were rooted in legitimate grievances brought about by failed government policies — and not through a plot of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

The lengthy paper is the result of interviews conducted over a month in two Tibetan regions. It represents the first independent investigation into the causes of the widespread protests, which the Chinese government harshly suppressed. The government blamed the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala for the unrest.

The government has quashed the expression of any dissenting opinions on the causes of the protests, which spread quickly across western China. The research paper was quietly posted last month on Chinese Web sites, and an English translation was released this week by the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group based in Washington.

The authors of the report are members of a Chinese group called Gongmeng, or Open Constitution Initiative, which seeks to promote legal reform in China. Lawyers in the group also tried to file lawsuits on behalf of families whose babies suffered in the tainted milk scandal last year, and two members have defended Tibetans in court this year.

The authors of the report concluded that Chinese government policies had promoted a form of economic modernization in Tibet that left many Tibetans feeling increasingly disenfranchised over the decades. The researchers found that Tibetans had enormous difficulty finding work in their homeland, while ethnic Han Chinese migrants seemed to have a monopoly on jobs in restaurants, hotels and stores. When violent rioting broke out in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on March 14, 2008, after four days of peaceful protests, businesses owned by Chinese were looted and burned. At least 19 people were killed, most of them Han Chinese.

“An important perspective for interpreting the 3/14 incident is that it was reaction made under stress by a society and people to the various changes that have been taking place in their lives over the past few decades,” the report said. “The notion that appears impossible to understand is the implication that reasonable demands were being vented, and this is precisely what we need to understand and reflect upon.”

The report also said: “When the land you’re accustomed to living in, and the land of the culture you identify with, when the lifestyle and religiosity is suddenly changed into a ‘modern city’ that you no longer recognize; when you can no longer find work in your own land, and feel the unfairness of lack of opportunity, and when you realize that your core value systems are under attack, then the Tibetan people’s panic and sense of crisis is not difficult to understand.”

The Dalai Lama said in an interview last week that migration by ethnic Han Chinese to the Tibetan plateau was one of the main threats to the future of Tibet, and he contended that the government in Beijing should allow a regional autonomous authority run by Tibetans to limit future migration as well as make policy on education, language and use of natural resources.

“Whether intentionally or unintentionally, some kind of cultural genocide is taking place,” he said.

Chinese leaders have long said that the Dalai Lama ruled over a feudal system that kept a majority of Tibetans enslaved. They argue that when the Chinese Communist Party dissolved the old Tibetan government in March 1959, about a million Tibetan serfs were set free.

The report also cast blame on the governing structure in Tibetan regions, saying that there had been problems adapting Tibetan culture and society to the “ruling state’s systems.” It also criticized the central government for putting into power incompetent Tibetan local officials who, the researchers said, play up the threat of separatist movements to acquire more power and money from Beijing.

The report quoted Phuntsok Wangyal, one of the founders of the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet, as saying, “They are unable to admit their mistakes and instead put all of their effort into shifting accountability onto ‘hostile foreign forces.’ ”

Xu Zhiyong, a member of Gongmeng, said in a telephone interview that the report had been submitted to the government, but that there had been no response.

Edward Wong, New York Times, DHARAMSALA, India

The full report in English can be found on the ICT website.


March 10th Statement of H.H. the Dalai Lama

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan people's peaceful uprising against Communist China's repression in Tibet. Since last March widespread peaceful protests have erupted across the whole of Tibet. Most of the participants were youths born and brought up after 1959, who have not seen or experienced a free Tibet. However, the fact that they were driven by a firm conviction to serve the cause of Tibet that has continued from generation to generation is indeed a matter of pride. It will serve as a source of inspiration for those in the international community who take keen interest in the issue of Tibet. We pay tribute and offer our prayers for all those who died, were tortured and suffered tremendous hardships, including during the crisis last year, for the cause of Tibet since our struggle began.

Around 1949, Communist forces began to enter north-eastern and eastern Tibet (Kham and Amdo) and by 1950, more than 5000 Tibetan soldiers had been killed. Taking the prevailing situation into account, the Chinese government chose a policy of peaceful liberation, which in 1951 led to the signing of the 17-point Agreement and its annexure. Since then, Tibet has come under the control of the People's Republic of China. However, the Agreement clearly mentions that Tibet's distinct religion, culture and traditional values would be protected.

Between 1954 and 1955, I met with most of the senior Chinese leaders in the Communist Party, government and military, led by Chairman Mao Zedong, in Beijing. When we discussed ways of achieving the social and economic development of Tibet, as well as maintaining Tibet's religious and cultural heritage, Mao Zedong and all the other leaders agreed to establish a preparatory committee to pave the way for the implementation of the autonomous region, as stipulated in the Agreement, rather than establishing a military administrative commission. From about 1956 onwards, however, the situation took a turn for the worse with the imposition of ultra-leftist policies in Tibet. Consequently, the assurances given by higher authorities were not implemented on the ground. The forceful implementation of the so-called "democratic" reforms in the Kham and Amdo regions of Tibet, which did not accord with prevailing conditions, resulted in immense chaos and destruction. In Central Tibet, Chinese officials forcibly and deliberately violated the terms of the 17-point Agreement, and their heavy-handed tactics increased day by day. These desperate developments left the Tibetan people with no alternative but to launch a peaceful uprising on 10 March 1959. The Chinese authorities responded with unprecedented force that led to the killing, arrests and imprisonment of tens of thousands of Tibetans in the following months. Consequently, accompanied by a small party of Tibetan government officials including some Kalons (Cabinet Ministers), I escaped into exile in India. Thereafter, nearly a hundred thousand Tibetans fled into exile in India, Nepal and Bhutan. During the escape and the months that followed they faced unimaginable hardship, which is still fresh in Tibetan memory.

Having occupied Tibet, the Chinese Communist government carried out a series of repressive and violent campaigns that have included "democratic" reform, class struggle, communes, the Cultural Revolution, the imposition of martial law, and more recently the patriotic re-education and the strike hard campaigns. These thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on earth. The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. The lineage of the Buddha Dharma was severed. Thousands of religious and cultural centres such as monasteries, nunneries and temples were razed to the ground. Historical buildings and monuments were demolished. Natural resources have been indiscriminately exploited. Today, Tibet's fragile environment has been polluted, massive deforestation has been carried out and wildlife, such as wild yaks and Tibetan antelopes, are being driven to extinction.

These 50 years have brought untold suffering and destruction to the land and people of Tibet. Even today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant fear and the Chinese authorities remain constantly suspicious of them. Today, the religion, culture, language and identity, which successive generations of Tibetans have considered more precious than their lives, are nearing extinction; in short, the Tibetan people are regarded like criminals deserving to be put to death. The Tibetan people's tragedy was set out in the late Panchen Rinpoche's 70,000-character petition to the Chinese government in 1962. He raised it again in his speech in Shigatse in 1989 shortly before he died, when he said that what we have lost under Chinese communist rule far outweighs what we have gained. Many concerned and unbiased Tibetans have also spoken out about the hardships faced by the Tibetan people. Even Hu Yaobang, the Communist Party Secretary, when he arrived in Lhasa in 1980, clearly acknowledged these mistakes and asked the Tibetans for their forgiveness. Many infrastructural developments such as roads, airports, railways, and so forth, which seem to have brought progress to Tibetan areas, were really done with the political objective of sinicising Tibet at the huge cost of devastating the Tibetan environment and way of life.

As for the Tibetan refugees, although we initially faced many problems such as great differences of climate and language and difficulties earning our livelihood, we have been successful in re-establishing ourselves in exile. Due to the great generosity of our host countries, especially India, Tibetans have been able to live in freedom without fear. We have been able to earn a livelihood and uphold our religion and culture. We have been able to provide our children with both traditional and modern education, as well as engaging in efforts to resolve the Tibet issue. There have been other positive results too. Greater understanding of Tibetan Buddhism with its emphasis on compassion has made a positive contribution in many parts of the world.

Immediately after our arrival in exile we began to work on the promotion of democracy in the Tibetan community with the establishment of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile in 1960. Since then, we have taken gradual steps on the path to democracy and today our exile administration has evolved into a fully functioning democracy with a written charter of its own and a legislative body. This is indeed something we can all be proud of.

Since 2001, we have instituted a system by which the political leadership of Tibetan exiles is directly elected through procedures similar to those in other democratic systems. Currently, the directly-elected Kalon Tripa's (Cabinet Chairperson) second term is underway. Consequently, my daily administrative responsibilities have reduced and today I am in a state of semi-retirement. However, to work for the just cause of Tibet is the responsibility of every Tibetan, and I will uphold this responsibility.

As a human being my main commitment is in the promotion of human values; this is what I consider the key factor for a happy life at the individual level, family level and community level. As a religious practitioner, my second commitment is the promotion of inter-religious harmony. My third commitment is of course the issue of Tibet due to my being a Tibetan with the name of the "Dalai Lama", but more importantly it is due to the trust that Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet have placed in me. These are the three important commitments, which I always keep in mind.

In addition to looking after the well being of the exiled Tibetan community, which they have done quite well, the principal task of the Central Tibetan Administration has been to work towards the resolution of the issue of Tibet. Having laid out the mutually beneficial Middle-Way policy in 1974, we were ready to respond to Deng Xiaoping when he proposed talks in 1979. Many talks were conducted and fact-finding delegations dispatched. These, however, did not bear any concrete results and formal contacts eventually broke off in 1993.

Subsequently, in 1996-97, we conducted an opinion poll of the Tibetans in exile, and collected suggestions from Tibet wherever possible, on a proposed referendum, by which the Tibetan people were to determine the future course of our freedom struggle to their full satisfaction. Based on the outcome of the poll and the suggestions from Tibet, we decided to continue the policy of the Middle-Way.

Since the re-establishment of contacts in 2002, we have followed a policy of one official channel and one agenda and have held eight rounds of talks with the Chinese authorities. As a consequence, we presented a Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People, explaining how the conditions for national regional autonomy as set forth in the Chinese constitution would be met by the full implementation of its laws on autonomy. The Chinese insistence that we accept Tibet as having been a part of China since ancient times is not only inaccurate but also unreasonable. We cannot change the past no matter whether it was good or bad. Distorting history for political purposes is incorrect.

We need to look to the future and work for our mutual benefit. We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Fulfilling the aspirations of the Tibetan people will enable China to achieve stability and unity. From our side, we are not making any demands based on history. Looking back at history, there is no country in the world today, including China, whose territorial status has remained forever unchanged, nor can it remain unchanged.

Our aspiration that all Tibetans be brought under a single autonomous administration is in keeping with the very objective of the principle of national regional autonomy. It also fulfills the fundamental requirements of the Tibetan and Chinese peoples. The Chinese constitution and other related laws and regulations do not pose any obstacle to this and many leaders of the Chinese Central Government have accepted this genuine aspiration. When signing the 17-point Agreement, Premier Zhou Enlai acknowledged it as a reasonable demand. In 1956, when establishing the Preparatory Committee for the "Tibet Autonomous Region", Vice-Premier Chen Yi pointing at a map said, if Lhasa could be made the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, which included the Tibetan areas within the other provinces, it would contribute to the development of Tibet and friendship between the Tibetan and Chinese nationalities, a view shared by the late Panchen Rinpoche and many educated Tibetans, cadres among them. If Chinese leaders had any objections to our proposals, they could have provided reasons for them and suggested alternatives for our consideration, but they did not. I am disappointed that the Chinese authorities have not responded appropriately to our sincere efforts to implement the principle of meaningful national regional autonomy for all Tibetans, as set forth in the constitution of the People's Republic of China.
Quite apart from the current process of Sino-Tibetan dialogue having achieved no concrete results, there has been a brutal crackdown on the Tibetan protests that have shaken the whole of Tibet since March last year. Therefore, in order to solicit public opinion as to what future course of action we should take, the Special Meeting of Tibetan exiles was convened in November 2008. Efforts were made to collect suggestions, as far as possible, from the Tibetans in Tibet as well. The outcome of this whole process was that a majority of Tibetans strongly supported the continuation of the Middle-Way policy. Therefore, we are now pursuing this policy with greater confidence and will continue our efforts towards achieving a meaningful national regional autonomy for all Tibetans.

From time immemorial, the Tibetan and Chinese peoples have been neighbours. In future too, we will have to live together. Therefore, it is most important for us to co-exist in friendship with each other.

Since the occupation of Tibet, Communist China has been publishing distorted propaganda about Tibet and its people. Consequently, there are, among the Chinese populace, not many who have a true understanding about Tibet. It is, in fact, very difficult for them to find the truth. There are also ultra-leftist Chinese leaders who have, since last March, been undertaking a huge propaganda effort with the intention of setting the Tibetan and Chinese peoples apart and creating animosity between them. Sadly, as a result, a negative impression of Tibetans has arisen in the minds of some of our Chinese brothers and sisters. Therefore, as I have repeatedly appealed before, I would like once again to urge our Chinese brothers and sisters not to be swayed by such propaganda, but, instead, to try to discover the facts about Tibet impartially, so as to prevent divisions among us. Tibetans should also continue to work for friendship with the Chinese people.

Looking back on 50 years in exile, we have witnessed many ups and downs. However, the fact that the Tibet issue is alive and the international community is taking growing interest in it is indeed an achievement. Seen from this perspective, I have no doubt that the justice of Tibet's cause will prevail, if we continue to tread the path of truth and non-violence.

As we commemorate 50 years in exile, it is most important that we express our deep gratitude to the governments and peoples of the various host countries in which we live. Not only do we abide by the laws of these host countries, but we also conduct ourselves in a way that we become an asset to these countries. Similarly, in our efforts to realise the cause of Tibet and uphold its religion and culture, we should craft our future vision and strategy by learning from our past experience.

I always say that we should hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Whether we look at it from the global perspective or in the context of events in China, there are reasons for us to hope for a quick resolution of the issue of Tibet. However, we must also prepare ourselves well in case the Tibetan struggle goes on for a long time. For this, we must focus primarily on the education of our children and the nurturing of professionals in various fields. We should also raise awareness about the environment and health, and improve understanding and practice of non-violent methods among the general Tibetan population.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to the leaders and people of India, as well as its Central and State Governments, who despite whatever problems and obstacles they face, have provided invaluable support and assistance over the past 50 years to Tibetans in exile. Their kindness and generosity are immeasurable. I would also like to express my gratitude to the leaders, governments and peoples of the international community, as well as the various Tibet Support Groups, for their unstinting support.

May all sentient beings live in peace and happiness!

The Dalai Lama
10 March 2009


50 years after revolt, clampdown on Tibetans

MAQU, China: Enraged nomads swooped into this windswept town on the Tibetan plateau a year ago this month, storming a Chinese police compound, setting fire to police cars and forcing security forces to flee. To the north, Tibetans on horseback galloped into a schoolyard, ripped down a Chinese flag and hoisted a Tibetan one, shouting "Free Tibet!"

Now, the authorities have imposed an unofficial state of martial law on the vast highlands where ethnic Tibetans live, with thousands of troops occupying areas they fear could erupt in renewed rioting on a momentous anniversary next week. And Beijing is determined to keep foreigners from seeing the mass deployment.

In monasteries and nomad tents, villages and grasslands, the fury of Tibetans against Chinese rule has raged continuously since last year's riots and the violent repression that followed. March 10 marks the 50th anniversary of a failed revolt against Chinese rule that led to the Dalai Lama's flight into exile in India.

Signs of simmering resistance abound: Just last week, many of China's six million Tibetans chose not to celebrate Losar, the Tibetan New Year, in order to mourn Tibetans who suffered during last year's clashes. Monks have held rallies in parts of Qinghai and Sichuan Provinces. Last Friday, a monk from Kirti Monastery in Sichuan lighted himself on fire in a market, prompting security officers to shoot at him, according to Tibetan advocacy groups. Local officials deny the shooting.

Chinese leaders have prepared for the worst, ordering the largest troop deployment since the Sichuan earthquake last spring. This reporter got a rare look at the clampdown because he was recently driven through the Tibetan areas of arid Gansu Province while being detained by the police for 20 hours.

Tibetan regions, a sprawling, lightly populated swath of western China that measures about one-quarter of the country's total territory, have become militarized zones. Sandbag outposts have been set up in the middle of towns, army convoys rumble along highways, and paramilitary officers search civilian cars. A curfew has been imposed on Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.

"The Tibetan ethnic situation is very serious," said a paramilitary officer after he stopped three foreigners on a snowy mountain road. "Tibetans are causing trouble. This is an extremely sensitive time."

The young officer and his half-dozen colleagues at the checkpoint were members of the People's Armed Police, the main Chinese paramilitary force. The officers said their unit was based in Beijing and had guarded the Bird's Nest stadium during the Summer Olympics in August, but had been sent here last month. Their mission included keeping foreigners out of the area.

Foreigners do not need special permission to travel in this region, and the police never offered an explanation for detaining this reporter.

The broad security measures undercut assertions by the Chinese government that serious ethnic tensions did not exist and that Tibetan nationalism was not widespread. They also show that Tibet remains one of the most sensitive political and security issues for China, though one that remains invisible in the developed cities along the country's east coast.

Last March, the largest Tibetan uprising against Communist rule in decades erupted after Chinese security forces suppressed a protest by monks in Lhasa. At least 19 people were killed in ethnic rioting in Lhasa, most of them Han civilians, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. In the ensuing crackdown, 220 Tibetans were killed, nearly 1,300 were injured and nearly 7,000 were detained or imprisoned, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile, which is based in Dharamsala, India.

The Chinese government accused the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, of fomenting the violence. The Dalai Lama advocates Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule, but disavows violence and says he does not favor secession.

Some of the worst rioting outside Lhasa took place here in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where the worlds of the Tibetans, Chinese and Hui Muslims converge. It is a dry area of herders roaming the plains and white-walled monasteries nestled against brown hillsides. At least 94 people — almost all policemen — were injured here last March, according to official news reports.

The most prominent monastery in eastern Tibet, Labrang, lies in the town of Xiahe, in western Gannan. There, more than 1,000 monks and lay people protested for two days and attacked government buildings last March.

There are no signs of protests now, residents say, because the town is completely locked down. Recent photographs taken in Xiahe show riot police officers marching in the streets.

"The security forces are everywhere, on every corner, day and night," said a Tibetan woman reached by telephone. "Don't come here."

She paused when asked her opinion about the current situation. "We Tibetans who do business, we're under a lot of pressure," she said. "We have to keep quiet. I can't say I disagree with the policies of the Chinese. It's their country, and we're only a minority."

Like others interviewed for this article, she declined to give her name for fear of government reprisal.

This reporter and two foreign companions entered southern Gannan by driving past several unstaffed checkpoints on a recent night before being stopped on a mountain road by the paramilitary officers. The foreigners and their driver were brought to the towns of Maqu and Hezuo for interrogation and then forced to drive to the provincial capital of Lanzhou to board a plane for Beijing.

A police officer in Maqu said rioters burned 18 patrol cars last year. The police headquarters now has a new fleet of white sport-utility vehicles. Official reports say more than 70 percent of shops here were looted or damaged, but those, too, appear to have been restored.

During the day, policemen or soldiers stand on street corners wearing helmets and green coats and carrying riot shields. The main road leading through town is watched by officers armed with assault rifles standing at checkpoints. The sound of troops' drilling can be heard in the early morning hours — louder than any chanting from monks.

"We're afraid that Tibetans who've returned from Dharamsala might cause trouble," a police officer said.

Farther north, in Hezuo, the seat of Gannan Prefecture, the signs of tension were just as clear. In the town's main traffic circle, the authorities had set up a circular sandbag emplacement overseen by a half-dozen officers, resembling a scene in a war zone. It was just south of Hezuo where nomads on horses and thousands of others rampaged through a schoolyard last year.

But local officials deny there is any hostility.

"There's no ethnic conflict here," Cairang Dao'erqu, a Tibetan official at the foreign affairs bureau who goes by his Chinese name, said over a lunch during this reporter's detention. "Look in the streets — everything is peaceful here. The Chinese, Tibetan and Hui people all get along."

Tibetans say they have no idea what might take place on March 10, the momentous anniversary of the failed uprising in 1959. Last week, the Dalai Lama urged Tibetans not to be provoked by the Chinese, saying any radical moves would give the Chinese government an excuse to take harsher steps.

"It is difficult to achieve a meaningful outcome," he said, "by sacrificing lives."

By Edward Wong
Thursday, March 5, 2009


Beijing blogger reports "civil disobedience" spreading in Tibet

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on 29th January 2009 and posted on her blog on 4th February 2009. As already documented by High Peaks Pure Earth, Tibetans not celebrating Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) or Tibetan New Year (Losar) this year has been the subject of much debate in the Tibetan blogosphere.

Woeser was an early observer of this phenomenon and was calling the No Losar movement an act of civil disobedience before Time Magazine or the McClatchy Group. The New York Times is calling the movement a boycott and quotes Woeser as saying "It's deeply connected with Tibetan culture, the idea that after such a horrible year filled with death, how can we celebrate? [...] Instead, it should be a memorial." Regular readers will remember that these were her sentiments as noted in previous blogposts 'Remember and Memorialise Louder Than The Gunfire!' and 'Let Us Make Lamp Offerings and Light Candles to Commemorate the Souls of the Deceased'.

A Great "Civil Disobedience" Spreading Throughout All of Tibet by Woeser

In recent days on my blog there have been a lot of opinions left about the Spring Festival and Losar. Han netizens have said, "You celebrate your Losar, we'll celebrate our Spring Festival there's no connection between the two. It's nothing to do with us whether you choose to celebrate Losar or not." No mistake, every nationality has its own festivals and shouldn't demand another nationality observe another nationality's festivals. It started in 1913 when Yuan Shikai was president of the Republic of China that the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar was set as the Spring Festival and the entire country had a holiday. Because the "Republic of Five Races" was advocated at the time, the main Han festivals, such as the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival were not made national festivals. It seems China's current leadership doesn't have the breadth of mind of even Warlord Yuan Shikai had. With the prevalence of the notion of "the peoples of China," the hack writers of China are calling for a unified "Chinese expression".

Since "Chinese expression" is wanted, "expressions" from other nationalities are deleted or substituted. But in order to evince the largesse and magnanimity of the Party's nationality policies, the Party often needs "expressions" by other nationalities as embellishment. Therefore, nationality festivals such as Losar are indispensable. It has not only been made into a holiday, but evening television events like those for Spring Festival are put on for the Tibetan New Year too. In some Tibetan areas in Amdo and Kham, Losar has been replaced by Spring Festival for many years now, and even though the Chinese new year is celebrated in basically the same way as the Tibetan new year; Han customs are being adopted more and more such as pasting couplets of poetry on doorways, hanging lanterns and letting off fireworks. These days, even when calls to abandon Spring Festival are growing, it'd be difficult to remove in such a short time these habits that have already become customary. Even though Losar has also been celebrated these past few years, compared to the Spring Festival it is less lively.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with celebrating Spring Festival. Some Han nietzens have said "If some Tibetans want to celebrate Han festivals or if some Han want to celebrate Tibetan Losar, they are free to do so. No one has any right or any reason to criticize them just because they are the same nationality as themselves." Such opinions as this sound rather reasonable, and I also agree with it. But the problem is, the reason why so many Tibetans are conflicted about this year's Spring Festival and Losar is less to do with both new year celebrations belonging to different cultural systems, and more to do with the levels of toleration in ones conscience and a religious sentiment full of compassion.

No matter whether it is Spring Festival or Losar, people who experienced what happened in Tibetan areas in 2008 do not want to celebrate as they had in previous years. As with last year's earthquake in Sichuan, when thousands and thousands of ordinary people died, their surviving families do not want to forget them in the New Year even as their corpses are not yet cold. A volunteer who spent the New Year in the disaster area said: "No one can stipulate that the atmosphere at Spring Festival has to be lively; it must be peaceful. True emotions, whether joyous or sad, all come from the bottom of one's heart." By the same reason, with events in Tibet that started last new year and still haven't stopped, there are countless ordinary Tibetans who died under the barrels of the PAP's guns, and countless ordinary Tibetans who are still behind bars, so how can their friends and families be in a happy mood to celebrate the New Year when their grief is still there?

The absurdity is that the authorities do not see this. They hope that the people will forget the hardships they created, thus, they have resorted to all manner of tricks that leave you not knowing whether to laugh or cry. For example, in Rebkong, the local government has gone house to house with documents requiring Tibetans to sign their name or leave their thumbprint on the documents which say: "I will ensure that there will be absolutely no demonstrations this year as there were last year, I will ensure I am obedient to the Party and government, and I will ensure that I will celebrate the new year." In the Tibetan areas of Labrang and Ngaba, the local government has given firecrackers to government workers and cadres, telling them to set the firecrackers off at New Year. And in Lhasa, Tibetans who put the word out not to mark the New Year are even being detained. Some Tibetan commenters have left such sarcastic remarks about this on my blog as: "The great Party is really close [to the people], it pays close attention to [whether people are] happy or not happy, and [whether they are] celebrating or not celebrating the New Year", "when it wants you to be happy, you're not happy. And that's a problem with your thinking, and it can even be contrived into making you a member of some 'clique' or other."

As citizens, Tibetans do not even have the most basic right to mark or not the New Year. Tibetans with their indomitable spirit who persist on their right not to mark the New Year are becoming a completely new kind of contention, the significance of which is a great "civil disobedience" spreading throughout all of Tibet.

January 29th 2009, Beijing


Secretary of State Clinton's statement on Tibet

Question for the Record submitted by SFRC Chairman Kerry, with answer by Secretary-designate Hilary Clinton.

Question 98. The government of China and the Dalai Lama of Tibet disagree on the issue of greater autonomy for the Tibetan Autonomous Region, which has been a stumbling block in their ongoing dialogue. Meanwhile, many Tibetans have lost faith in the possibility of a negotiated compromise, while Chinese leaders have expressed a deep distrust of the Dalai Lama’s intentions and foreign contacts. What options may be acceptable to both sides? What kinds of international pressure, if any, would be helpful in promoting a resolution?

Answer: The Obama Administration will speak out for the human rights and religious freedom of the people of Tibet. If Tibetans are to live in harmony with the rest of China’s people, their religion and culture must be respected and protected. Tibet should enjoy genuine and meaningful autonomy. The Dalai Lama should be invited to visit China, as part of a process leading to his return. We will condemn the use of violence to put down peaceful protests, and call on the Chinese government to respect the basic human rights of the people of Tibet, and to account for the whereabouts of detained Buddhist monks. We will also continue to press China on our concerns about human rights issues at every opportunity and at all levels, publicly and privately, both through our mission in China and in Washington.

Source: www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/clintonanswers.pdf