News and Views on Tibet

Opinion: Tibet in the Year of the Tiger

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By Phuntsog Wangyal

Tibetans are now celebrating Tibetan New Year (3rd March). End of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to reflect on questions once again raised on what Tibetans could or could not do for their ’cause’ and how China managed to overcome their adversaries. To understand what I am referring to, I suggest you view two outstanding documentaries, one made by the BBC, referring to the United Front Works Department (UFWD) as “China’s Magic Weapon” (available on BBC Iplayer). The UFWD was first created during the Chinese Civil War. Later “United Front” became an important policy of the

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to co-opt and neutralise sources of potential opposition to the Party.

And other film is “The Sun Behind the Clouds”, a White Crane Films production. This is a film about Tibet’s struggle for freedom. You may view it on the link:

This Tibetan New Year is the Year of the Tiger. I would like to share with you a slogan “PAPER TIGER” that I first heard in the early 1950s in Lhasa when I was a student in a Chinese school. During one of my visits to Lhasa University some 30 years later I discovered that the school was a “Chinese Cadres’ School”. I don’t remember how I got admitted into it.

The story is about a slogan, “America is a Paper Tiger”. We students had to march often in streets waving red flags and shouting slogans like “We support the people of Chaoxian, Imperialist America is a paper tiger, Victory to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)”, etc. At that time, we had no idea what ‘Chaoxian’ (Korea in Chinese) meant and where America was in the world either. But we knew tiger, one of the symbols of power we often see in Tibetan prayer flags. What the Chinese meant was that America is like a Tiger drawn on a piece of Paper. It looks fearful – but it is just an image that has no real strength.

Looking at the victory by the PLA in the Korean War, America’s defeat in Vietnam and Afghan wars, America’s inability to defend the People of Hong Kong in its recent turbulent history, all raised once again the question if America is truly as powerful as we like to believe in a situation the people within the countries in question lack sufficient confidence and determination to defend their positions. Can anybody, including Tibetans, really rely on America for its support without people standing up with a clear objective and determination?

The Year of the Tiger is an ideal time for the West to prove that they are real Tigers that could stand up against the Chinese Dragon or the Russian Bear to defend freedom and democracy, and for the Tibetan people and their leadership to stand up united with a clear objective.

Phuntsog Wangyal in Lhasa, picture from the Second Fact Finding Tibetan Delegation Monk in Gadhan, picture from Tibet Foundation documentary, “Getza – Helping others”.

Another question is, do we really realise how the CCP works effectively through its “Magic Weapon”. We should remember how China’s Magic Weapon succeeded in making the Chinese Nationalists join the Communist Party fighting against Japan. That in the end led the Nationalists losing power to the Communists. How the Magic Weapon succeeded in making Americans choose the People’s Republic of China and offering them a seat in the Security Council. That in the end facilitated China to be able to grow in power posing a great threat to Western Democracy. How the Magic Weapon misled the Tibetan Administration choosing not to fight for independence. That in the end consolidated the Chinese claim over Tibet as a part of China, thus making any matter related to Tibet an internal issue. And similarly, no matter how hard Tibetans individually and personally struggle as so many are already doing even sacrificing their lives, the Magic Weapon continues to be able to create confusion in the minds of Tibetans on what they are to focus on fighting their adversaries.

“The Sun Behind the Clouds” clearly illustrated that until Tibetans and their leaders together are able to unite to fight for one objective, resolutely and united they are just playing in to the hands of the CCP who are waiting for the Tibetan Sun to set, while clouds of doubt and confusion over the whole Tibetan issue continue covering the Light of the Truth.

(Views expressed are his own)

The author is a former representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in London and a former member of the Tibetan Parliament in Dharamshala.

4 Responses

  1. It is hoped many young Tibetans who are born in foreign lands understand what happened to Tibet in 1951. Tibet was forcibly occupied by communist China through the barrel of the gun just as Putin of Russia is doing the same to Ukraine. Just as Ukraine is an independent nation, Tibet was an independent nation with three thousand year history and a mighty empire to boot. However, just as Putin has concocted and fabricated history and made regressive claims on Ukraine, the Chinese communists did the same and conquered Tibet through military might.
    Ever since 17th of March 1959, Tibet has been under brutal Chinese occupation. Totalitarian regimes have no respect for human rights. The Tibetan people have been treated with extreme cruelty. Those who have no idea of the ghastly brutality should read Dr Tenzin Choedak’s “THE RAINBOW PALACE” especially the chapter “in the hell of the Chinese prison”. If your blood doesn’t boil, probably, you are not a real Tibetan!
    Tibet was plunged into a hellish nightmare where our freedom, rights, country and dignity were trampled under the jackboot of communist China.
    After the death of Mao, contacts were opened and so we are told that Deng had told Gyalo Dhondup: “except independence, anything can be discussed”. The Chinese communists have rejected this. Under this premise, independence goal was given up and the “Ume-Lam came into existence. It’s more than four decades since Ume-Lam was billed as the goal but it has brought nothing that has in any way improved quality of life in Tibet, such as free movement inside the country, freedom of speech, freedom of religion or cultural freedoms to speak of. On the contrary, things have got even worse and now cultural revolution like destruction is being perpetrated to obliterate Tibet. Besides, in exile, it has killed the resistance movement by discrediting Rangzen advocates and smearing their reputation. It has paved the way for communist infiltration into Tibetan community and create discord to weaken the movement. It has unnecessarily drove a wedge between Rangzenpas and U-Lampas.
    The question is do we want to be ruled by a foreign power who regards us as uncivilised barbarians and is hell bent to destroy our precious religion, culture and religion or do we fight just like the people of Ukraine who doesn’t want to be ruled by totalitarian Russia no matter what? It must be acknowledged by now that the Chinese communists are not going to tolerate our seperate identity and is determined to wipe us out as a people. To put it bluntly, in the end, Tibet will be history even if we choose to remain in association with China. The late Thupten Jigme Norbu, (The Dalai Lama’s elder brother) had openly stated that Tibet’s culture, religion and identity will not survive without independence. We are seeing it with the demolition of giant Buddhas and monasteries recent times. This cultural genocide will continue until there will be total annihilation of Tibet.
    Nobody doubts that independence is a daunting task but how is it right to give up one’s own nation to the occupier? The leader and people of Ukraine are fighting a mighty army by saying “this land belongs to us”. This is the crux of the matter. Is it a noble deed to give away what belongs to us and deprive future generations the right to our country? If we don’t fight for what is rightly ours, would it not be a disgrace to the whole Tibetan nation?
    All empires crumble in the end and communist China is no exception.
    With Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, America’s support for the Tibetan guerrilla movement ended yet half a century later, we are back to square one. The US, China bromance is over and are in virtually at each other’s throat. India, unlike the 1950s is also at loggerheads with communist China. We have to once again rekindle the US-Tibet historical connection to rejuvenate the mission that was envisaged during the last Cold War. Tibetans must watch events in Ukraine carefully and both learn and get inspired to reignite the valour, courage and sacrifice of our ancestors and take upon ourselves the responsibility to free Tibet from foreign occupation and subjugation. Without independence, Tibet will forever be enslaved and oppressed and ultimately dumped in the dust bin of history.

  2. Thank you for your lucid comments on your thoughts at the commencement of the year of the water tiger, 2149. Losar Tashi Deleg.

  3. Its a pretty interesting article to read. There are couple of factors to reflect upon. But here i am gonna touch just one point. Regarding any foreign power to help regain Independence for Tibet is a mere dream. Yes, there are humanitarian things that they can do. But on the point of any foreign country solving sino-tibet political issue is out of control. The crucial fact here is that china does not accept any foreigners even to touch this issue. there are several incidences in the past. But i am not going to elaborate here. Foreign powers are more of a blockage on the path than a conducive element. Only Tibetans and Chines have to deal with the issue.

    1. The Ukraine situation is not really that different from Tibet either in some sense. Liberal democracies have also been known to support authoritarian leaders in places where there is a geopolitical advantage. Perhaps why so many in poor countries are somewhat wary of what is perceived as “Western puppets”. Whether they are in fact puppets or not may sometimes be up for debate. However if the leader is unable to do more than just parrot Western agenda without having the ability to empathize with its common people and not just the elite, there is room to create doubt. Just take a look at Burma under Aung San Suu Kyi.

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