A Tibetan Parliamentary delegation headed by Speaker Penpa Tsering presented the following appeal letter to various embassies in New Delhi to seek their urgent and concrete action to end China’s policies which are pushing an increasing number of Tibetans to set themselves on fire in Tibet:
We came back again to you with much sadness to apprise you of the deepening crisis inside Tibet. When we approached you in January this year, the number of Tibetans driven to self-immolation in Tibet was 17 and now it has reached 51, out of which 41 have succumbed to their injuries. According to sources, so far 9 people have been shot and killed and some others were beaten to death besides numerous arbitrary and extrajudicial detentions, forced disappearances and long prison terms without due process of law, in the name of national security. In some cases only the ashes of the cremated bodies were handed over to the family.
Instead of looking into the real causes of such drastic acts, all that the Chinese authorities have come up with is fire extinguishers and iron hooks to add to the machine guns and electric batons that the security personnel carry. On the other hand, they have always tried various ways and means to demean the motivation of those who lost their lives by insinuating madness to theft to family problems as the causes of their action. And in the process, heap lie upon lie, to justify their intransigent position. Then they always have the convenient excuse to blame His Holiness the Dalai Lama or the Western forces or the separatist forces for the mess they have created. The atheist Communist authorities even extol the virtues and reinterpret Buddhism to suit their needs and mislead the ordinary Chinese and the international community by branding it as an act of terrorism.
The reasons for the Tibetans being driven to self immolations are obvious (attached translated copy of their last wishes) – China’s policy of assimilation, thereby destroying the very identity of the Tibetan people; the unique and ancient Tibetan language, religion and culture which has the potential to promote peace and harmony in the world (attached brief description of China’s policies in Tibet).
The number of young Tibetans sacrificing their precious lives for the interest of the larger Tibetan population and other suppressed people around the world has been alarming. This month alone 5 Tibetans have resorted to such drastic acts. Yet the Chinese authorities remain mute to the calls of the Tibetans asking for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, freedom for the Tibetan people and the protection of their unique identity. Albeit appreciating the support of the international community, the pressure on the Chinese authorities requires much to be desired.
We appeal to you again with the hope that your government will continue to stand for truth, justice, equality, freedom, human rights and human dignity that you so cherish. Such values cannot be held hostage to tyranny, suppression and inhuman treatment in the name of development nor in the face of growing China’s military, economic and political clout. Subjugation of these values will not only be encourage China’s authoritarian ways but will also be self defeating in the long run for a peaceful world, in the pursuit of short term national interests.
We have always adopted pragmatic approach based on reality and common interest in this inter-dependent world. We remain committed to finding a mutually beneficial solution through dialogue and non-violence. Therefore, we urge you and your government to immediately intervene and impress upon the Chinese leadership to look into the actual causes of the Tibetan people’s discontentment by yourself or in concerted effort with other nations of the free world, to redress those issues which will pave the way for seeking a peaceful and lasting resolution to the Tibetan Issue.
The responsibility of the exiled Tibetan community and the Administration is to make sure that the anguished voices of the Tibetans inside Tibet are heard by the international community and seek their help in resolving the issue. Watching the trend, it seems highly unlikely that self-immolations will stop in the immediate future and every time the phone rings, we are left wondering, who next?
We are running out of time. In another few decades, Tibet and Tibet’s unique culture could become a piece of literature that people can read but not experienced. It is still not too late to help!
Tibetan Parliament in Exile
China’s Policies in Tibet and its Consequences
Population transfer is the main tool of assimilation and China has done that successfully with Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. It is underway in Xinjiang and Tibet. Han Chinese have already become the majority community in almost all of the Tibetan cities and townships. The vast majority of the Tibetan nomads are being uprooted from their centuries old traditional pastureland forcefully to the nearby existing cities and townships. Judging by the rate at which the demographic aggression is taking place in the name of development in the last few decades, there is every possibility that only pockets of Tibetan towns will remain in Tibet. In a planned manner, Chinese officers and settlers are being provided with many incentives including higher pay, job opportunities and automatic promotions etc. to promote demographic onslaught.
Any form of action or expression that has some political connotations are being dealt with brutally in the name of national security. Particularly, influential Lamas, intellectuals, writers, environmentalists and singers are targeted. The difference in the manner in which the authorities deal with the peaceful Tibetan demonstrators and the Chinese demonstrators are clear evidence of racial discrimination.
The numbers of monks and nuns have been reduced drastically and in many cases, monasteries have become just tourist attractions rather than centers of learning. The religious practitioners are not only forced to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama during ‘patriotic education’ sessions but also has to adhere to regulations laid down by the atheist authorities and monastic management committees filled with communist henchmen. The movements and activities of the clergy are severely restricted. People are forced to pay their respects to the Communist leaders – Mao, Deng, Jiang and Hu, whose photos are forcibly placed alongside Buddhist images in the monasteries. Efforts are being made to set up communist branches in Monasteries and Nunneries. And most importantly, the atheist leadership wants to be responsible for the selection of reincarnated high lamas to meet their political ends, including that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. What an irony?
Freedom of Language
Tibetan language forms the basis of Tibetan identity and root of Tibetan religion and culture. Imposition of Mandarin as the medium of instruction and relegating Tibetan as just a language at the primary level coupled with demographic aggression will sound the death knell of the unique Tibetan religion and culture.
In the last more than 5 decades, destruction of the fragile natural environment and ecology of Tibet has caused irreparable damages that affects not only the plateau of Tibet but all the neighboring downstream countries in South and South East Asia including China. Unscrupulous extraction of natural resources without any consideration for environment will further exacerbate environmental woes. On the pretext of rejuvenating Tibet’s ecology, the government is confiscating nomadic lands and the nomads are being sedentarized on the outskirts of existing townships and cities. In the absence of dung manure, severe degradation and desertification of the grasslands are being reported. Seemingly, China is giving lot more importance to Tibet’s environment in the recent past but still falls short of using the centuries old wisdom of the Tibetan nomads on environmental stewardship.
Destruction of the Tibetan Way of life
Consequent to China’s occupation of Tibet and its policies, the traditional Tibetan way of life has undergone a sea change. China’s policy of demographic aggression in the cities and townships has marginalized the native Tibetans socially and economically. By resettling the Tibetan nomads into compact communities, it has not only deprived the Tibetans of their traditional livelihood but many of the young Tibetans are reduced to penury in the absence of proper vocational training for a new way of life. This will have serious implication on the livelihood of many Tibetans in the future.