News and Views on Tibet

In conversation with Tsewang Rigzin, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress

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The issue of Tibet was highlighted in every prominent newspaper and newschannel after the March unrest. As a newly elected President, how difficult was it for you to embrace all the attention and tackle grave subjects?

The recent historic uprising by Tibetans all over Tibet beginning March 10th put the issue of Tibet on the world stage like never before. We in exile are forever grateful for the continuing sacrifices for Tibet’s Independence by Tibetans inside and we must all promise and work towards Tibet’s Independence so that their sacrifices don’t go in vain. At the time, we did our best and as we continue to do so, to disseminate to the international community the true aspirations of the Tibetans inside and the horrible atrocities being committed on them by the Chinese Communist regime. The most challenging was the Chinese propaganda covering up the facts and not allowing international and independent media to report on the ground reality which is why we still do not have an accurate number on how many Tibetans are killed, arrested and imprisoned.

What changes or new strategies do you intend to bring about during your term of office?

TYC being an organization with a deep rooted democratic setup, the strategy guidelines are formulated and adopted as resolutions during the Working Committee Meetings and the General Body Meeting. As an organization, it is very important to review what was done in the past and we must also be in tune with the current global situation and accordingly formulate policies or campaigns to further strengthen our movement and move ourselves closer to regaining Tibet’s Independence.

China’s People Daily (Online) carried a report on April 18 claiming that in an interview with Milanbased Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera, you said for the cause of "Tibetan independence", the use of human bomb for revenge is a direction of development. What is your response to the allegation?

If you refer to the original interview in Italian it will become clear that this allegation is completely baseless. TYC in the last 39 years has never resorted to violence and it is clearly reflected in all the campaigns we have organized so far.

Why did TYC join hands with other organizations for Tibetan People’s Mass Uprising Movement (TPUM) and now TYC did the hunger strike without the other NGOs, why this on and off collaboration?

TYC joined hands with other organizations in organizing ‘March to Tibet’ under the banner of Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement. We feel that it is important to work together for our cause where we can and this is not the first time TYC joined hands with other NGOs. In a democratic set up, each NGOs has to organize campaigns reflecting their stand and resolutions. TYC organized the hunger strike on our own which is a part of the Tibetan People’s Mass Movement. This campaign was organized per our resolution. Also, there will be more times than not when each NGO will initiate campaigns on their own and there is nothing wrong with that. We need more campaigns and we all must be grateful to whoever is working for our cause.

How different would you say was the second phase of Tibetan People’s Mass Movement from the first which began last year as a one year countdown to the Beijing Olympics?

The striking difference I believe was in the fierce urgency of the nature and timing of the campaigns. This year for the first time ever in our struggle in exile, we organized hunger strike without food and water participated by 18 Tibetan patriots in all. Also, a huge number of Tibetans took part in the campaigns in Nepal led by TYC Centrex and Regional Tibetan Youth Congress chapters there. But personally I felt that it was the abiding similarities and not the differences that brought us all together and promises to bring us all together under different campaigns until Tibet is independent.

Do you believe TYC has achieved its goal with the Movement? Was the organization successful in spreading its message and did it help in any way?

TYC will never have achieved its ultimate goal until we regain our Independence from China. With this campaign, we have been able to highlight the plight of the Tibetan people to the Indian public and internationally as well. Also, the campaign has encouraged many young Tibetans to be an active part of the struggle which we believe has taken us closer to our goal. TYC has over the years contributed to our cause in many ways and we will to continue to spread our message in different ways.

Why was there very less participation from the masses this year as compared to last year’s phenomenal turn out?

Since the historic uprising inside Tibet in March this year, Tibetans everywhere have voluntarily contributed their time and energy in organizing as well as participating in numerous campaigns. I remember addressing the crowd one time during the Hunger strike at Jantar Mantar where I told them that the struggle of Tibet will be kept alive even if there is only one Tibetan remaining on this planet. So, regardless of how many turn out or not and when, the fact is that Tibet is still under Chinese occupation and Tibetans inside are brutally suppressed everyday. So it is the duty of Tibetans in exile to continue to be the voice of the voiceless inside.

The Beijing Olympics has come and gone. So has the second phase of the Tibetan People’s Mass Movement. What is next on the cards for TYC?

Beijing Olympics was an important opportunity but that was not the last opportunity for our struggle. We still have the opportunity and the duty to struggle until Tibet is Independent and this was reflected by our protest at the Chinese Embassy on August 25th. We know the road to Independence is a marathon and not a sprint and requires sacrifices for which we are prepared and will continue with the same courage and determination. The situation inside Tibet is worsening after the recent historic uprising inside Tibet and it remains a cause of great concern for us. TYC has always believed that Tibetans outside Tibet should be able to represent the true aspirations of our brethren inside Tibet and TYC will endeavor to do justice to the sacrifices that they continue to make for our cause. We also have many resolutions to implement.

China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC)’s Senior Tibetologist Liu Hongji has accused TYC of actively engaging in training its armed forces and reserve troops as well as seeking mutual support from international terrorist organizations such as AlQaida and East Turkistan groups. He even labeled the group as a terrorist organization. Your reaction?

For China observers and people who have dealt with the insecure nature of the Chinese government, such baseless accusations from the CCP are nothing new. After CCP began its latest round of denouncing His Holiness the Dalai Lama it was but natural that TYC was its next target. All these are nothing but fallacious allegations and attempts to disrepute TYC by the CCP. We have issued official statements on April 24th and July 16th to refute the baseless allegations and they are posted on our website China will never succeed in their goal to denounce and destroy TYC and TYC will continue to lead our nonviolent struggle for Tibet’s Independence.

Do you think talks between China and Tibetan envoys will ever yield result or is China only keeping up appearance to save face?

China has effectively used the talks so far to save face diplomatically but for how long is the question. We haven’t seen any tangible result since the talks began in 2002 and I do not see any hope of result oriented talks due to Chinese insincerity. Even after the seventh round of dialog, Dong Yunhu, the director general of the Information office of the China’s state council said “The central government will never discuss the future of Tibet with the Dalai Lama”. And he further said, “I don’t think he is qualified to represent Tibet. If he ever did, it was before 1959”. TYC vehemently condemns such irresponsible statements. His Holiness is still the undisputed leader of the Tibetan nation and its people and the issue of Tibet is an issue of the six million Tibetan people.

How restless are the Tibetan people today?

Everyone who carries Tibetan blood should be restless until we regain our Independence but that doesn’t mean you get out of control. Having said that, the fact remains that it has now been almost sixty years since the Chinese occupation of Tibet, almost fifty years of separation for Tibetans and decades of immense suffering of Tibetans inside Tibet, so naturally Tibetans in general are restless and more so the younger generation. This is evident from the recent historic uprising inside Tibet led mostly by the younger generation.

What in your opinion will happen to the dissidents now that attention has shifted from China? What awaits Tibetans inside Tibet?

For the last almost sixty years, Tibetans inside have lived a life of fear, tears and blood under Chinese occupation. Since the uprisings in March followed by the Olympic torch relay in Lhasa and the Olympics in Beijing, the situation in Tibet has systematically deteriorated. All the while when the Olympics were being played in Beijing, Tibet was transformed into a virtual prison with Chinese police and security personnels guarding the streets, homes, monasteries and keeping a check on the movement of the Tibetans. Those brave Tibetans who stood up against the Chinese regime knew the consequences that they would face and we fear the worst for them. TYC will continue to lend our eyes, ears and heart to the Tibetans inside and will always stand up for them.

Were all activists who were arrested for protesting in New Delhi this month released from judicial custody? If not, what is TYC doing to secure their release?

Yes, all our activists have been released.

Interviewed by Tenzin Sangmo

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