PRESS RELEASE: China loots the Potala again
DHARAMSALA, 21 April, 2001: Tibetans appeal to world to stop China from emptying Tibet of its religious wealth
“We are shocked that the Chinese authorities are again shipping priceless religious artifacts from the Potala Palace to Shanghai,” said Thubten Samphel, a spokesperson for the Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamsala, north India.
“We appeal to the international community to stop China from emptying Tibet of its religious treasures,’ the spokesperson said. “The Potala Palace is declared a world heritage monument and comes under the protection of UNESCO. We appeal to UNESCO to prevent the Chinese authorities from looting the religious wealth of the people of Tibet,” he said.
The Tibetan exile spokesperson was responding to reports coming out of Tibet that China is involved in shipping specific religious artifacts from the tomb of the 7th Dalai Lama to Shanghai.
The reports say a five-metre bronze and gold statue of Maitriya, the future Buddha, that showcases the tomb of the 7th Dalai Lama, is being shipped to Shanghai, the Chinese commercial and financial capital. This discovery together with the news that statues and artifacts from another shrine in the Potala Palace are being readied to be shipped as soon as possible to Shanghai is causing deep pain and anxiety to the people of Tibet.
“The significance of China shipping the five-metre tall statue of the future Buddha to China may lie in China’s intention of hijacking the future of Tibet,” the spokesperson added.
This is not the first time that China has looted the treasures of the Potala Palace, treasures which were accumulated for more than 3,00 years. Even Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, a vice chairman of the National People’s Congress at a meeting in August 1988 expressed his shock at the discovery that most of the religious treasures of the Potala Palace were already shipped to China. He said, “For example, from 1964 to 1965 I was the acting chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the Tibet Autonomous Region. Till then I did not know a word of the emptying of the treasures of the Potala Palace. That was the first time that I had heard that the Namse Bangzo, (the Tibetan government treasury housed in the Potala Palace, containing mountains of gold and silver and other precious items stocked up century after century) was denuded of its treasures.”
Tsering Dorje Gashi, the author of New Tibet – Memoirs of a Graduate of the Peking Institute of National Minorities, published in 1980, states in his book, “Priceless works of art, literature, and religious relics and works that were of model of Tibetan artistic perfection and achievement were taken out of the Potala and other monasteriesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Idols and images made of gold, silver, brass and precious stones and metal were taken to China and eventually they found their way in the market of Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo where antique-collectors from the West bought them for exorbitant prices. A rough estimate of the foreign exchange earned by China from the sale of Tibetan religious and art objects is more than 80 billion American dollars.”
Department of Information & International Relations
Central Tibetan Administration