By Geshe Jampel Senge
It has to be understood that Tibetans at no point invited or accepted Chinese rule. The Chinese communists invaded Tibet in 1949 and occupied the country against the will of the Tibetans.
The Chinese Imperialists, as well as their Communist successors, made absolutely baseless claims of entitlement over Tibet. They invented flimsy historical connections to attempt to justify a brutal invasion on a country that previously existed as a recognized sovereign nation……….while the world looked on in silence.
Threatened by violence and reprisal, the governing body at the time was FORCED to capitulate into signing a most unfortunate treaty. Various events lead to this point, culminating in 1959, when the communist party systematically dismantled the Tibetan Government, and attempted to weaken its potency with a devious plan to kidnap the Political and Spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A ploy was concocted to lure His Holiness (who at this time was still a young man) to a Chinese theatrical performance without His body guards. The Tibetan people however were highly suspicious of this, and gathered in their thousands to safeguard Him while visiting the Chinese military barracks where the show was to be held. The crowd that gathered to protect the Dalai Lama included people from all walks of life, and by its sheer size created a virtual blockade around Norbu Lingka, the summer Palace of the Dalai Lama. Tibet had for a long time been an independent and peaceful nation, and this incident caused great concern to HH the Dalai Lama as He could see that emotions were running very high among the Tibetan people.
It was now obvious to the Chinese Occupation that Tibetans would defend their leader at all costs. Having initially portrayed themselves as friends, the delegates of the People’s Republic of China soon disclosed their true intentions – to make Tibet part of China. With accelerated force they began to take over the country. The aggressors showed little or no respect for the sensitivities of the Tibetan people, their culture, their religious beliefs or their rights. The Chinese government took all matters of Tibetan governance into their own hands, without the slightest regard for the spirit in which the Treaty between Tibet and China had been made.
This fuelled a growing anger among the Tibetans as they realized their country and all that identified them would soon be lost. There was a stand-off between the Chinese invaders and the Tibetan People. HH the Dalai Lama and The Government of Tibet tried their utmost to calm the situation by keeping dialogue open between themselves and the Chinese Military Commissioner (through the Tibetan collaborator Ngapo Ngawang Jigme). However, instead of trying to understand the volatility of the situation, the Chinese implemented extreme force to try and quell what they saw as a revolt. Using the principal of ‘power flows through the barrel of a gun’, the Chinese PLA began shelling Norbu Lingka, which was surrounded by unarmed Tibetans who had gone there to protect the Dalai Lama. Incensed at the audacity of the Tibetan population to stand up to them, the Chinese forces showed no mercy and many lives were lost. This mode of force and violence against an uprising was common to different Communists regimes. The late American President John F Kennedy stated in 1963, during a meeting with Chiang Ching-Kuo, the son and political heir of Nationalist China, that ‘Communist China poses a tremendous danger to world peace because it is a Stalinist internal regime determined on war as a means of bringing about its ultimate success’. It stands true to this day. By their own admission 87,000 Tibetans were killed during the Tibetan National Uprising in March 1959 in and around Lhasa alone. This culminated in the fleeing of HH the Dalai Lama to India.
From the very beginning, as events have demonstrated, Tibetans have never accepted Chinese rule over Tibet. The Tibetans in Norbu Lingka chanted ‘TIBET BELONGS TO TIBETANS, CHINESE GO BACK TO CHINA’.
It stands just as true today, where, since September 2011, 62 Tibetans have burned themselves in protest of Chinese rule in Tibet. The Chinese communists have committed extensive and shocking atrocities behind the wall of the Himalayas since Tibet was invaded and occupied. Little of this has come to light due to the persistence of China’s iron curtain mentality that is symptomatic of outmoded totalitarian regimes.
The world remained a silent spectator as Tibet was reduced to rubble in a frenzy of Maoist madness from 1966 – 1976 in the so called Cultural Revolution. Tibet’s spiritual centres and monasteries, the very core of their identity, were bombed to rubble and razed to the ground.
When the Afghan Taliban blew upon the Bamiyan Buddha, the world was understandably shocked. To bring the point home, the Chinese communists have been doing the same thing in Tibet, over and over again. Branding them as icons of religious superstition and backwardness, they have methodically bombed and dynamited Tibet’s irreplaceable treasures. The wanton destruction of Tibet’s holy shrines, the repositories of Tibet’s ancient treasure of wisdom, archives, art and architecture has been the most savage attack on any civilization – let alone the Tibetan Nation. Just imagine what an outcry there would be in the world if ancient Roman architecture or the Acropolis were blown up?
Because of its isolation, the world has been spared footage of Tibet’s destruction, so the outcry has been minimal. Tibet has been reduced to a wasteland under communist China’s occupation for the last sixty years. The Internatioinal Committee of Jurists has found Communist China guilty of having committed genocide in Tibet. HH the Dalai Lama has been saying all along that ‘whether deliberately or not, genocide is being committed in Tibet’.
Self-immolation is a direct result of Chinese Communist Government strategies that aim to achieve the complete colonization of Tibet – strategies that have resulted in genocide.
Self immolation is an act of desperation born out of oppression.
Tibetans within Tibet have no way of objecting to what has happened to their country. Protests are crushed before they can be witnessed, and self immolation has emerged as a shocking manifestation of this abomination to, if only to reach the wider world.
Tibet for Tibetans is now like a series of concentration camps - the Tibetan people have no freedom and are living under constant fear and intimidation. Western reporters who have snuck into Tibetan regions in the East have confirmed that it’s like a ‘war zone’ - with Chinese military in full riot gear, armed with water hoses and spiked truncheons used to threaten and beat Tibetans.
ABC reporter, Steve MacDonald, reported the region was ‘crawling with military personnel’. Whatever the injustice - whether it’s a cement factory spewing dust that contaminates the drinking water, or the mining of areas sacred to the Tibetans, or mining that pollutes drinking water - killing live stock, or nomads displaced by having their land given to Chinese settlers – complaints are punishable by beatings, arrests, torture or death. There is absolutely no way to air grievances. The military and police forces may arrest, torture and kill Tibetans with impunity. There seems to be no laws regarding the treatment of Tibetans. Many examples of this have filtered out - A monk was beaten to death by Chinese police – it could have been racially motivated or a robbery. Another monk named Tsering Gyaltsen from Dragko was arrested on 9th of February and after being tortured for four months was murdered by the Chinese police. Two brothers, Yeshe Rigsel and Yeshe samdup were killed in cold blood for protesting peacefully against Chinese rule. Their mother, Ama Sanglha suffered bullet wounds when she tried to protect her sons from being killed. Another lay Tibetan, Dorje Rabten was murdered in a guest house in Siling City when the Chinese found he was going to set himself on fire. His son was told to collect his body, but when he went to the authorities, he was given his father’s ashes and told not to say a word. The minute any Tibetan says something in protest, even if it’s a proven truth, they can be beaten to death. This was confirmed during an interview with a lady in Kubum monastery with ABC reporter Stephen McDonald who snuck into the area to investigate the situation.
Under such barbaric rule, some Tibetans feel they will be killed anyway for complaining about their treatment, and burn themselves to death as a way of protesting Chinese repression.
The world must understand the back ground story of the Tibetan self-immolators so they will see the utter desperation of the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation. Tibetans who have burned themselves have often shouted ‘Freedom for Tibet;’ ‘return of HH the Dalai Lama’. These two messages clearly explain the reasons for self immolation. The freedom they want can only be under the rule of a Tibetan leader. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama was the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet before the Chinese occupation and that is why they are calling for his return – it is a clear rejection of Chinese rule as it stands today.
Historically speaking, Tibet had not been under foreign domination before the Chinese invasion of 1949. The Mongols did not invade Tibet or rule Tibet. Kublai Khan returned Tibet to the Tibetans when he became a Buddhist under the tutelage of the Sakya Lama, Dogon Choegyal Phakpa. The communist Chinese claim that Tibet was part of China from this time is a myth and a figment of their imagination. The British Viceroy in India, Lord Curzon (1859-1925), said ‘CHINESE SOVEREIGNITY OVER TIBET IS CONSTITUTIONAL FICTION, A POLITICAL AFFECTATION WHICH HAS ONLY BEEN MANTAINED BECAUSE OF CONVENIENCE. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE TWO CHINESE (i.e Manchu Ambans) AMBANS AT LHASA ARE THERE, NOT AS VICEROYS, BUT AS AMBASSADORS’. Lord Curzon was one of the British Raj’s most noted figures. He had travelled to Persia, Turkistan, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, China, Korea and Japan. He earned a reputation as a shrewd observer and analyst of Foreign Policy. He knew what he was talking about.
Kublai Khan was Mongolian, not Chinese. When Kublai Khan ruled China, China was under Mongol occupation. It was not even able to attribute sovereignty to its own territory, let alone Tibet. The Chinese perceived Mongol rule as foreign domination then, just as they perceived Manchu rule over China for more than 260 years, as foreign domination. It is therefore a myth that the Chinese have created to fulfill their long held imperialistic design on Tibet by successive Chinese Governments. The stone pillar in front of the Potala Palace to this day is a testimony to Tibet’s independence. It contains a bilingual (Tibetan and Chinese) inscription concerning the mutual agreement between Tibet’s King Trisong Detsen, and Chinese King Hwang Te. It reads: ‘The great King of Tibet, Tsenpo and the great king of China, the Chinese ruler Hwang Te, having consulted about the alliance of their dominions have made a great treaty and ratified the agreement. In order that it may never be changed, all gods and men have been made aware of it and taken as witnesses; so that it may be celebrated in every age and in every generation the terms of agreement have been inscribed on a stone pillar. Both Tibet and China shall keep the country and frontiers of which they are now in possession. The whole region to the East of that being country of Great China and the whole region to the west being assuredly the country of Great Tibet, from either side of that frontier there should be no warfare, no hostile invasions and no seizure of territory’.
If we were to attach any credence to such frivolous and dubious claims that the Chinese are making today, then most of Europe can be claimed by Italy as the Roman Empire spread to most of Europe, the Mongols can claim China and many parts of Europe as Genghis Khan conquered most of Asia and parts of Europe. Turkey can claim many parts of Western and Eastern Europe because they were once a part of the Turkic Ottoman Empire. Austria and Hungary can claim many parts of Europe because they were under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The British can claim three quarters of the whole world because at the zenith of their power, they ruled three quarters of the world. Such claims only invite ridicule and have no basis whatsoever.
Communist China’s modus operandi continues to play itself out today with threats to the peace of the Asia Pacific region and the world at large. There are territorial issues with many sovereign nations: Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia and India. Ever since the communists came to power in 1949, they have been nibbling away other people’s territories.
As the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said on December 7th 1950, ‘IT IS NOT RIGHT FOR ANY COUNTRY TO TALK ABOUT ITS SOVEREIGNITY OR SUZERAINTY OVER AN AREA OUTSIDE ITS OWN IMMEDIATE RANGE. THAT IS TO SAY SINCE TIBET IS NOT THE SAME AS CHINA, IT SHOULD ULTIMATELY BE THE WISHES OF THE PEOPLE OF TIBET THAT SHOULD PREVAIL NOT ANY LEGAL OR C ONSTITUTIONAL ARGUMENTS. THE LAST VOICE IN REGARD TO TIBET SHOULD BE THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE OF TIBET AND OF NOBODY ELSE.
Suffice to say it IS the birth right of the Tibetan people to decide about the fate of their nation. The struggle is therefore a struggle against Chinese imperialism and colonialism.
This statement is not anti-China or anti-Chinese. The Chinese people have suffered tremendously under this regime and Mao is one of 20th centuries more prolific murderers. According to Chinese writer Jung Chang who wrote Wild Swans, Mao ‘killed 38 million people in the greatest famine in history. In all, well over 70 million Chinese perished under Mao’s rule – in peace time’.
Today, Tibetans are being forced to put Mao’s photograph alongside Buddha Sakyamuni in the monasteries!! This is sacrilegious and blasphemous. How would the Jews feel if they were asked to adorn their synagogues with an image of Adolf Hitler?
Such utter disregard for the Tibetan people’s sensitivities and blatant disrespect for their religious beliefs is undeniably the reason for so many hapless Tibetans being driven to despair. Life under a recalcitrant regime that rules through terror and intimidation must seem hopeless and endless.
Ironically part of the Chinese constitution states: ‘ALL NATIONALITIES ARE EQUAL….. DISCRIMINATION AGAINST, OR OPPRESSION OF ANY NATIONALITY, OR ANY ACT THAT UNDERMINES THE UNITY OF THE NATIONALITIES, IS PROHIBITED. ALL NATIONALITIES HAVE FREEDOM TO USE AND FOSTER THE GROWTH OF THEIR SPOKEN AND WRITTEN LANGUAGES, PRESERVE OR REFORM THEIR OWN CUSTOMS OR WAYS’.
Unfortunately, like all other communists States which have been consigned to the dust bin of history, the Chinese communists adopted texts of bygone communist parties, without the intention of putting them into practice.
While the Tibetan people are discriminated against on all levels and subjected to inhuman treatment, the Chinese constitution is not worth the paper it is written on.
A crucial tool for the colonization of Tibet has been the completion of the Railway Line from China to Tibet. It has been an instrument of plunder – conveying Tibet’s rich resources to mainland China and returning with multitudes of people in order to permanently change the demographic within Tibet – with the ratio of Tibetan people diminished, the colonization is complete.
This is a demographic ethnic cleansing that the world must not allow. In the guise of development, millions of Chinese people are pouring into the three traditional provinces of Tibet. In the Tibetan capital Lhasa, the Chinese population has overtaken the Tibetan population - this was announced officially by the Chinese communists themselves. As the American writer John Avedon succinctly put it, China’s final solution to the Tibet issue is to drown the Tibetan native population in a sea of Chinese. A secret document emerged in the early nineties which revealed China’s plan to transfer 20 million Chinese into Tibet. With only six million Tibetans on the Tibetan Plateau, such a mammoth number of foreign inhabitants will sound the death knoll for Tibet.
It is this heart-wrenching scenario that drives Tibetans to desperate actions in an effort to save the sacred religion, culture, environment and the Tibetan race from extermination by communist China.
These are dire times for the Tibetans. 62 Tibetans, young, old, male, female, monks and nuns, lay alike have sacrificed their most precious life for the freedom , religion, preservation of the Tibetan culture, identity and dignity of the of the Tibetan people and the Tibetan Nation.
Mothers are left to grieve for their children, wives and children are left behind to grieve for their husbands or fathers, brothers are left behind to grieve for their wives and sisters. Children are orphaned or semi -orphaned owing to the death of their father or mother.
The Chinese Government has no sympathy for these tragedies and propagandizes blame onto Tibetans in exile, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for inciting and encouraging these incidents. There have been hundreds of arbitrary arrests, torture and sometimes executions of surviving family members. There was even a case where the Chinese police demanded compensation from the deceased’s family when his clothes were burnt in an attempt to douse the flames of a Tibetan self immolator. Attempts are made by the authorities to hide each self-immolation as they happen. The families are forced to perform hasty funeral rites. More starkly the truth is twisted – calling these brave Tibetans derogatory names to belittle their sacrifice. Surviving family members have also been offered bribes to tell the world that the immolation was in fact caused by a family problem, not an act of protest – which contradicts the claim that they were inspired by outside influences.
If the authorities truly believe that the self- immolations are a foreign inspired protest, why don’t they allow International observers to the affected areas? Why not invite the United Nations under Navy Pillai to go into Ngaba, Kubum, Zachuka and other areas and investigate why Tibetans are burning themselves, and who is really responsible for it?
These horrific acts - of Tibetans setting fire to their bodies - are a desperate plea to the International community to have some spine in challenging an authoritarian and repressive regime in denial.
What has China to hide in this situation? This is a challenge to the Chinese Government from the Tibetans living in exile. Lies and deceit cannot prevail, and it is futile to defend the indefensible. The communists have recurring history of shifting the blame for their crimes. When the Tibetans revolted against Chinese occupation in Lhasa in March 1959, India was blamed for orchestrating the Tibetan National Uprising. When Mao launched the so-called Cultural Revolution and caused mayhem in both China and Tibet, it was blamed on the Gang of Four. The student Democracy Movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was crushed with brute force killing hundreds if not thousands of students, and the United States Government was blamed for the rebellion - finding a scapegoat delays the necessity to face the truth.
It is apparent that the prevailing concern of the Communist Party of China is to protect the Party at any cost - no matter what happens to the people. Some people fear their regimes, but all regimes fear the people – which lead them inevitably to escalating acts of oppression. The communist regime in China lives in fear of its own people, and despite military might and burgeoning economic success, they face an uncertain future. Hu Jintaos reign was devoted to enforcing stability, but in the process caused instability. There are many examples of flawed governments that have faced failure by finally facing the truth.
Geshe Jampel Senge was born in Tibet and educated in India. He was invited to teach in Australia in 1996 where he founded the Tashi Choeling Tibetan Buddhist Centre. In 2004, he was posted to Switzerland by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, where he continues to teach across Europe. Article submitted by the author.
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