Open Letter from Shenpenn Khymsar

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To all Tibetan Elitists, Pseudo-Activists and Status-Quo Preservers in Gangkyi

I speak to my fellow Tibetans today, having felt compelled to address our people directly, and bring attention to our disturbing political status. I have grave concerns for Tibetans and for the future of Tibet. I feel that if I do not lend my voice to the grave urgency of our current situation, no one else may speak frankly and honestly.

It is high time for patriotic and like-minded Tibetans to join me in expressing their fears and anxieties. My Buddhist values, my conscience, and my Tibetanness does not allow me to sit comfortably on the sidelines. For the sake of six million Tibetans and our noble cause I want to speak candidly about the disaster that is the Central Tibetan Administration, which was not too long ago our Exile Government. Those of us who consider ourselves honest and unafraid must speak out and be heard, without fearing “their” retaliation or intimidation. We must address the current crisis that we Tibetans are facing, without hesitation or self-censorship.

We as Tibetans know that our people and our cause are facing major threats, both internally and externally. There has been a systematic fragmentation of the Tibetan political movement, brought about by the misleading falsehoods of pseudo-politicians and opportunists.


These are the present facts: Kalon Tripa-Sikyong-Prime Minister-President Lobsang Sangay and former Speaker Penpa Tsering, are equally guilty of fueling the nasty and bitter partisanship we are currently experiencing in our society. They too know what was posted on their behalf all over WeChat.

Other secondary religious figures have chosen to influence the public negatively, neglecting their spiritual obligations by misleading Tibetan exile community and creating panic and confusion over the years, dangerously implying that Rangzen followers were “more dangerous” than Dolgyal cultists or Chinese Communists. These statements were backwards, dishonest, and an unwarranted theocratic influence on our vulnerable society.

These politicians have turned their back on their own countrymen for the sake of partisan politics, regional and sectarian power grubbing, and totally neglected the legitimate debate on Tibetan national policy as one expects in any healthy democracy. We as Tibetans must openly oppose this. There is no Middle Way problem. There is no Rangzen problem. There is no Buddhist problem. There is only a Tibetan problem. One that is paralyzing us from the inside out, more and more each day.

The ostracization and de-facto banishment of pro-Independence voters and political parties from our exile Democracy during the last election has greatly harmed and weakened the legitimacy of Tibetan democracy and the national cause. Even our non-Tibetan allies and advisers have observed this in the last 2016 election. We have also been giving China the space to manipulate those currently in power for the sake of stalling our efforts to fight them head on. In the past we have sought to reach a negotiated agreement with China. Our enemies have taken this kindness for weakness, sending possible spies and fraudulent messengers to Dharamshala to make us give up our freedoms. Even now we have allowed such individuals posing as Buddhists, to come into our communities and assault our own elected Parliamentarians. Right outside the Tsuglakhang in Dharamsala.

Without any sweet words or clever rebranding: the Middle Way policy has been in crisis and has lost credibility years ago – in 2010 to be precise, after years of failing to achieve its stated purpose of obtaining Tibetan autonomy within the framework of the Chinese system. Despite the so called “12 rounds of talks” the envoy Lodi Gyari was not able to achieve this goal. Neither has Kalon Tripa-Sikyong-Prime Minister-President Sangay been able to do this. Hong Kong, the very model for this failed policy, has itself fallen into darkness and dictatorship. The days when Tibetan leaders can cite ‘One Country-Two Systems’ as a viable example have now ended. Tibetans can ask the brave Hong Konger’s who are fighting the Chinese regime on the streets of Hong Kong. Tibetans can ask Joshua Wong, who is currently sitting in prison about this system we Tibetans were supposed to follow. There is no other way of wording this but as a total policy failure that cannot be changed or re-marketed to Tibetan voters.

The Communist Party of China, the United Front Work Department and countless fraudulent “Chinese sympathizers” have used the window we have opened to collect valuable intelligence and insight into the Tibetan leadership – eagerly using active means to manipulate our entire political discourse and decision making from the top down. This opening has worked to their advantage. We have wasted precious time, waiting for Chinese mercy.

This policy failure is not a reflection of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as our spiritual leader, nor is it for a lack of our own righteousness and moral superiority as a people. The Chinese government, not the Tibetan people as a whole, ultimately carry the responsibility for failing to reach a negotiated settlement. We have been more than compassionate, reasonable and open to compromise. Those offered compromises, need to be rescinded and taken back by Tibetans, if we are to maintain our dignity, self-respect and goal of restoring Tibetan nationhood.

While President Sangay asks Tibetans every few years to “wait and see what happens at the next Party Congress” in Beijing, nothing actually changes in our favor. No Tibetan leader currently or formerly in office, has a magic crystal ball which will allow them to see if China will ever come to the negotiating table, or even agree to our demands. They can claim nothing more than wild speculations and day- dreaming. Not even our revered Oracle Nechung can tell us our fate. Tibetans need to remember this and not be misled by sweet and clever words on the podium.


The tensions along the border between China and our Indian allies are only increasing by the day. This military tension is only a small preview of what is to come in the next five or more years. The war drums are beating faster than ever in Asia. North Korea may test a Hydrogen bomb and threaten our America with war. The United States, India, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, and India are coordinating every day to counter the ever-present threat of a rising China in the Pacific. A New Cold war is rising between major powers, and Tibetans are very much in the middle of it, as we once were many years ago. Our refugee settlements in India and Nepal may be affected by the tensions in the coming years. Times have changed.

Xi Jinping has recently reinforced his role as China’s dictator and ‘core’ Party leader during the 19th Party Congress. This super-wealthy, brutal dictatorship is now expanding its influence all over the world. It is self-evident. China is working hard to become the dominant superpower in Asia, as it builds new military bases all over the region. It seeks to surpass the United States and Russia ten-fold. It seeks to control the sky, the seas, and the ground of the Asian continent.

China seeks to expand its power globally, using our ancestral Tibetan lands, and that of the Uyghur’s to our north, for a ‘One Belt-One Road’ empire. An empire built on the blood that stains the Tibetan plateau. Our country is becoming the launch pad for the Chinese empire to expand into Central Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. We are not just being occupied by a foreign invader. Our homeland is becoming the tool and the means by which this totalitarian empire can assert its will against other people around the world, and proudly enrich itself because of our suffering and national humiliation. In the eyes of China, we either totally submit to their oppressive rule, or we choose to resist to the bitter end, whatever the cost, for as long as necessary.


A few Rangzen figures have chosen to abandon the larger Rangzen movement for the sake of individualism and performative representation with the Dharamshala elite. Tibetans should know that these individuals do not represent the wider views of the common Tibetan, nor do they represent the majority of the Rangzen voting bloc. Individual “leaders” have been given space to become egotistical icons, false prophets, fundraisers, and poster children at the expense of tens of thousands of Tibetans who demand a new way forward. They shy away from speaking honestly to the public, where they would be held accountable for their views. This blinded collaboration has been to the detriment of the wider Tibetan resistance movement.

We must reject our ego driven political culture if we are to advance ourselves in unison. The status quo is destroying the Tibetan cause from the inside out, and the very foundations of its origin and its future.

Some powerful Tibetan leaders, have for years privately orchestrated the exclusion and political persecution of pro-Independence parties using extreme and divisive fundamentalist, anti-nationalist, anti-progressive witch hunting tactics. Honorable scholars, intellectuals, writers, innovative thinkers, true Tibetan patriots, loyal students of HHDL, former political prisoners, and outspoken Tibetan critics who have dared to question the failing policies of our government have been directly targeted, sometimes threatened with violence, for not conforming to or supporting the failing political policies of CTA. Our leadership has encouraged this political persecution among the public, openly and without any regard for democratic rights that we Tibetans are entitled to. This is a unique form of political persecution that the Dharamshala elite have used to their benefit for many years. We cannot ignore these blatant tactics being used against our own countrymen for the sake of the few elitist politicians who believe they have a lifelong monopoly on holding office.

They have irreparably harmed those who believed Tibetans should have their own country, simply because they saw these patriots as a threat to their personal advancement in the CTA. These politicians are responsible for silencing and ousting hard working, loyal Tibetan patriots; those who would before any Chitue or Kalon, sacrifice their lives and freedoms for the sake of their country.

As loyal Tibetans, we will no longer tolerate ever being called anti-Dalai Lama, or a ‘radical’ ‘militant’ fringe. We will not allow these selfish politicians to manipulate our people using religion, superstition and sectarianism. We will not allow our noble struggle against China to be hijacked by internal politics. We will not waste time being damaged by their narcissism and desperate grip on power. We will no longer allow our elected officials to remain unaccountable for their role in divisive, prosecutorial tactics. We, as loyal Tibetan patriots, will not be further marginalized or denied any space for political expression and activity. Tibetans will not live in fear of having their voices heard, especially not by their own Exile Government in India. It is not some secret plot from China that is causing it. It is our own elected leaders, who will ultimately carry the historic shame for being responsible.

The ongoing dilution of our people’s demands for nationhood and dignity have withered into meaningless schemes in Washington D.C. and New Delhi, with backdoor deal making and lobbying, all detached from the obvious political reality on the ground. The ground where the majority of impoverished, stateless Tibetans live and suffer everyday. Our people are struggling everyday with major economic hardships, with Tibetan families scattered all over the world, working to just put food on the table, looking for other freedoms and opportunities in the West. We do not have the capital, nor the means as a people to continue on like this for another 50 years. Every Tibetan knows this deep down.

While the Tibetan elite debate the new ‘5/50 Policy’ behind closed doors, they leave out the obvious and unadulterated truth. They have no more practical solutions or answers, nor do they have any idea of what to do next in terms of leading the Tibetan resistance movement. They are not trying to rebuild our nation, but merely to negotiate it away for the lowest offer. This secretive closed door Forum, was a well staged political exit for our elected leaders, and a means of shirking their direct role in the current ditch we are stuck in. The precious time we have allotted them has already been wasted since 2011. President Sangay is talking about a ’50 year’ policy of living in Exile on a Saturday, but cannot even directly address the vicious, open anti-Tibetan refugee threat that took place in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday. He is not capable of meeting these threats to our people. Now is not the time for hiding or cowering. The stakes are too high for wasting an entire year (2018) bending over and saying “Thank You”. We must thank our allies by aggressively waging our struggle against Chinese occupation, not by using formalities and large parades in Dharamsala, with fanfare and empty speeches.

If our elected leaders are not able to beg China to come to the negotiating table by 2022 (all without any preconditions), they implore us stateless Tibetan refugees to resign ourselves to ’50 years’ of the same status quo and political stagnation. It is clear more than ever before. They have failed to achieve their campaign promises, and have also failed in understanding the intentions of our Chinese oppressors. They cannot deny this any longer. They refuse to be truthful with the Tibetan public about their policy and its apparent failures. The ball is in their court in explaining to the Tibetan public what they have to show for the last 7 years. What progress with China can we speak of? What vital political alliances and aid from the rest of the world have we gained?

We demand answers concerning the status of negotiations with China. We demand answers about the future of our cause. This is not a religious issue or a subject that should be debated ideologically. This is not an issue about loyalty to His Holiness the Dalai Lama or loyalty to our Exile Government. This is not a Buddhist debate. The diplomatic and political reality on the ground, are staring everyone in the face and cannot be ignored. The era of negotiations are over. John F Kennedy once said, “You cannot negotiate with people who say what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”

We must reject President Sangay’s previous statements over the years. We do not want to live with the Communist Party of China ruling over us. We Tibetans had our own independent country. And yes, we demand our own Democracy, not false freedom under the evil Chinese system.

The time when corruption and selling out Tibetan national demands need to end. Not tomorrow. Not in five years. Today. Right now.

We have no time left for hand wringing and waiting. We Tibetans have yet to play real politics with China, and the rest of the world, even though dramatized in Dhasa to give the impression we have been doing so. In reality what CTA and the upper echelon of the Tibetan world has done so far, is play the appeasement and begging game with the international community, with of course the signature Tibetan “humble” front.

We have to face an uncomfortable truth – we must confront this regime directly, intelligently, strategically, and creatively using whatever means we have at our disposal. It is time to form effective and highly intelligent bodies to calculate ways to gradually dismantle the Chinese grip on Tibet, and get the International communities to renegotiate their own policies with China, be it economic, foreign and international policies. We Tibetans have to stop being naive in expecting the world to help us without any vested interests or benefits for them. What we have been getting so far is sympathy, and that does not save lives and it definitely will not save a nation.

We are at a most dangerous juncture in our political history. Political leaders from around the world see no room for the realization of Autonomy through negotiations. Josh Rogin, a reporter from the Washington Post has written on the matter very clearly since his departure from 5/50 Forum in Dharamsala. Time is running out for Tibetans!

Any room for blunder of the repeated dishonest, corrupted mistakes of the past decades will destroy our just cause. There is no other option, but to directly confront and resist collectively as a people, against this Chinese occupation of our country. We will have to protest. We will have to march. We will have to foster a revolutionary spirit, and support our brothers and sisters in Tibet, no matter the cost it demands. There are no promises we can be given. We can only rely on hardship and the comfort that our sacrifice is for our just cause. Our movement will change the world. David can defeat Goliath. Tibetans will in the end, prevail over this tyranny.

As Tibetans we will face a long and difficult road ahead, but we shall not compromise our dignity and promise to live as a free people, in our own country, in our ancestral homeland, with our own Democracy. The time for REAL CHANGE is NOW.


Before we undertake our struggle to end the Chinese occupation, we must fully prepare ourselves now, by reforming our Exile Government (CTA) and repair the poisonous divisions that have been systematically spread amongst our people by those in power. In order to achieve this, we must first begin with these unifying solutions:

1)Tibetans should realize that our ONLY enemy, is the Chinese Government, NOT Tibetans who believe in the restoration of our national Independence.

2)We must exhibit the courage to question and hold our elected leaders in office accountable for their campaign promises, and political policies which directly affect the future of our movement and our condition in Exile. Political progress must be measurable and visible to us as voters.

3)We Tibetans must fully embrace secular democracy, and reject theocratic politics, transitioning us into the 21st Century. It is no longer acceptable for Tibetan politicians or members of the public to conveniently and frequently use and abuse the good name of His Holiness Dalai Lama, for the sake of political advancement, self-gain, or the defaming of political adversaries in our society.

4)Our elected leaders need to speak transparently and honestly about the questionable legitimacy of the Middle Way policy, as it currently stands. Appointed members of the Middle Way Task Force must prove to the Tibetan public that measurable diplomatic progress with China has been made in the last four decades since its inception. Secrecy, vague proclamations, and grand ceremonies will no longer suffice as an answer.

5)In order to realize our goal of a truly vibrant, and pluralistic, multi-party Democracy in Exile, the CTA must fully guarantee the inalienable rights of Tibetans who wish to exercise their right to demand complete independence. Pro-Rangzen political parties shall be guaranteed full rights to participate in any election without any exclusion whatsoever. This cannot be negotiable.

6) Finally – let us leverage our strengths, and play real international politics with China and the world like we have never before.

Thank you,

Shenpenn Khymsar

The writer is a filmmaker and a musician currently based in LA.


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