What’s Next? by Bhuchung D. Sonam
“What happened in Tibet last year and the terrible Chinese crackdowns have left me angry and frustrated. I want to do something. But there’s nothing that I can do,” I heard a young Tibetan say to his friend in a Dharamsala restaurant recently.The problem is not that there is NOTHING to do. The difficulty is not knowing when and how to do what where. In this sense, the sentiment expressed by the young man is pervasive among the exile community.This is understandable given the fact that for over a year following the massive peace protest throughout Tibet in 2008, Tibetans in exile and supporters around the world have been taking to streets, sitting on hunger strikes, signing countless petitions, languishing in to jails, being beaten by policemen and climbing up the walls of many Chinese embassies and consulates. Many joined our Long Walk. Now the worn out shoes, creased flags and tired Free Tibet T-shirts stare at us as if to invoke another bout of street marches.After the peaceful protests up on the plateau were heavily silenced by the Chinese Authorities, and severe restrictions were placed on travellers and correspondents going into Tibet, the world’s attention — which invariably follows the media — shifted away from Tibet. We are left to ourselves again. A mirage of apparent normalcy crept into our exile lives, broken by sporadic news ofarrests, torture and execution in the occupied Tibet.
|‘White Wednesday’ Tibetan Vigil at Harvard Square (Boston USA) in freezing weather. This is probably he longest on-going vigil in exile, started in March 2008 and will go on until Tibet will be free.|
A freedom struggle is much like an advertising campaign — forgive me for the terrible analogy — where the short-term gains are intangible. After pounding your eardrums and bombarding your consciousness with a barrage of sweet jingles, super-rich video clips and clever catchphrases, the brand gradually gets imprinted in your psyche. It eventually reaps dividends — sales go up, so do profits.A year in the struggle for freedom is like a few seconds in a commercial campaign. Straining of our vocal chords, aching of our muscles and the tears of anger and frustration, and most of all the sacrifices of Tibetans inside Tibet, did not go in vain. Many years later, when we will have a chance to look back, we will see the miles that we covered.The Chinese Authorities have executed Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak for their part in peaceful demonstrations; Kunga Tsangyang, a young Tibetan writer, blogger and photographer was sentenced to five years for his writing and 228 Tibetans died under the crackdowns. Since March 2008, 371 Tibetans were jailed; 4657 Tibetans were either arrested or detained; 990 Tibetans have disappeared and 1294 were injured during the peaceful protests. The other day, Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche was sentenced to 11 years.”Every year is the same. Nothing changes and China gets stronger each year,” said my friend ruefully. Well, not quite.Under the neo-Leninists’ state China has achieved material success. As a result world leaders, including the new Nobel laureate, Barack Obama, befriend China with salivating tongues. Everyone wants a piece of the Chinese cake.But the financial gains came at a high cost. All is not well with Beijing.Tainted milk, rural discontent, urban unrest, unemployment, an extreme gap between rich and the poor, severe damage to the environment, pollution and the instability in East Turkistan (Chin. Xinjiang), and tension over Taiwanese and Tibetan resistance gradually shake the new empire. Furthermore, exports of cheap good and cheaper labour are causing frictions with many countries around the world; rampant corruption throughout the rank and file in the Communist system is crippling society in China.So, what’s next?We must have persistent creativity, dogged determination, endless patience and a judicious dose of rewa or hope that Tibetans are known for. But most of all we must invest in knowledge — to know what to hit when, and how to hit where the hardest.When I was in the US for two years, I was amazed by the dedication and sacrifice that young Tibetans, born and raised in exile, undergo to work for Free Tibet campaigns and activism. But many of them lack deeper knowledge on the issue and have little understanding of historical backgrounds and present realities in Tibet.If a reporter asks you, “Why are you here?” You cannot justify your being in streets by simply chanting, “I love Tibet.” Lots of people love Tibet.
|Tibetans and Tibet Supporters protesting in front of Chinese Consulate in Washington, DC, March 2009|
Or if an overseas Chinese comes to you and yells, “Tibet has always been a part of China and there is complete freedom in Tibet. So what are you shouting about?” it won’t be enough to shout back all the invectives you can muster. We must have intellectual depth to respond sensibly and cleverly with reason.”You cannot bomb knowledge,” said Mohamed Elbaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Newsweek recently. He was commenting on the possible military actions against Iran’s nuclear programs. “Bomb them and they will go on a crash course…” He could have said that to a young Tibetan.Of course, I am not encouraging us to acquire bomb-making know how. The point is knowledge is enduring. It can withstand brutal crackdowns, it can confront police batons, it can even stand years of solitary confinement. And when you are on the streets, knowledge is a must to face reporters and the Chinese who always want to know why we shout, “China Out of Tibet Now!”Using breakthrough technology the US is all set to build “drones (tiny remotely piloted planes) the size of a hummingbird, which would be able to pursue targets into homes and buildings.” Incredible!So, to the young man who said, “But there is nothing that I can do,” I would say read, read, debate, debate, reason, reason, find, find, think, think, question, question and then act act. If you still won’t know what to do by December 2010, come and punch my face.Otherwise Happy New Year, cheers to all the books that you are bound to gobble up.
–The writer can be reached at email@example.com
Disclaimer: Views expressed in Exile Scape do not reflect those of the Central Tibetan Administration.