By Tenzin Sangmo
Last week China celebrated sixty years of peaceful liberation in Tibet which saw the Chinese national flag flying high in front of the Potala Palace in a flag raising ceremony with a crowd of around 5,000 people joining in for the Chinese national anthem. The historic date of 23/ 05/1951 marked a ‘special date that opened a new chapter in Tibet's history’, according to Xinhua.
Just days before that, more than 4000 kilometres away in Beijing, a seminar on ‘Commemoration of the 69th Anniversary of the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’ was held at China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC) with over 60 Tibet experts and scholars partaking in discussions on the Sino Tibetan Agreement also known as the 17 Point Agreement ushering a new era of liberation, abolishing serfdom in the region.
In this context, The Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) brought the discussion to students and others alike at the University of Auckland, Auckland. Tibet activist and Representative of HH the Dalai Lama in New Zealand Thuten Kesang was invited to speak at the event by Ben Smith, International Affairs Co-Ordinator AUSA which took place 18:00 01/06/11. The talk was attended by Chinese students, local Tibetans and others with a keen interest in the subject matter.
Thuten Kesang who also founded the Friends of Tibet, NZ in 1986 along with a few friends spoke in length about Tibet’s history and maintained that the Tibetan people’s grievance was not with the Chinese people but with the government in power.
The 17 Point Agreement he said was signed by the five member Tibetan delegation in 1951 under coercion and threat to person. That the Dalai Lama and the Kashag then tried to live within the structure of the Agreement but increasing military crackdown and violation of its terms led to His escape to India and the subsequent denunciation of the Agreement and the struggle for independence arose. This was the policy until the late 1970’s where China’s Deng Xiaoping met the Dalai Lama’s brother Gyalo Dhondup in February 1979 and said “The door is opened for negotiations as long as we don’t speak about independence. Everything else is negotiable”. All the Tibetan people want is to be able to live in peace, to preserve their identity and culture which is withering rapidly. He alleged that he wanted to go live in Tibet as a Tibetan and not as a Chinese.
Thuten Kesang went on to add that if anyone, Tibetans should be the first to celebrate the supposed liberation of ancient Tibet from serfdom and not China who goes to extreme lengths announcing to the world and spending huge amounts of money to prove just how great China’s rule in Tibet has been.
On being asked by a Chinese student what he thought the mainstream Chinese population’s view on Tibet was, he replied, “I think it is what is taught to them today; that Tibet is a part of China.” He said he always looks forward to discussions with Chinese students who study overseas and that they should make an attempt to study Tibetan history and take advantage of the resources that are available to them as opposed to ones who don’t enjoy the same freedom in China.
“Just be open minded and learn about things, that is why you are here to learn and that is why I am here to educate you. So that you can go back and have an open mind”.
Questions from the audience further included if Tibet was a feudal system, something which is still highly debated if Tibet did constitute that or if farmhands who worked on land owned by the rich and aristocrats were serfs.
The evening then concluded with Thuten Kesang briefing what Friends of Tibet (FoT) NZ does and what they stand for. He said it was a good way for those who didn’t know about Tibet to get acquainted with its history and the current struggle. He also encouraged everyone present to spread the word and to, “talk to people about Tibet, then my being here has served its purpose”.
FoT NZ: http://www.friends-of-tibet.org.nz