Friday, 31 January 2014

Tibet's Panchen Lama: 25 Years After

By - Thubten Samphel
        Director, Tibet Policy Institute
On 28 January, 25 years ago, the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet died at the age of 51. Popular Tibetan opinion commonly refers to the 14th Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Lama as the "sun and moon" of the Tibetan Buddhist firmament. They are the center of Tibet's Buddhist civilization which draws in its sphere millions of non-Tibetans. The importance of the 10th Panchen Lama to the Tibetan people was that his short life encapsulated the political tragedy and spiritual triumph of Tibet. The challenge Tibetan spiritual leaders grapple with even today is how Tibetan Buddhism can co-exist with a system that brooks no rival in its desire for total dominance.

On his part, the Panchen Lama while working within the Chinese communist establishment chose to be its most vocal critic. How he did it is a story of courage, personal tragedy and how Tibet in his view could productively co-exist with modern China without losing its Buddhist soul.

For many years after the failed 1959 uprising that forced the Dalai Lama and about 87,000 Tibetans to flee to India, Tibetans took a dim view of the Panchen Lama. In this exodus, almost the entire Tibetan Buddhist church, the Tibetan equivalent of the pope, cardinals, bishops and the clergy relocated in India. The dim view the Tibetans had then of the Panchen Lama was based on the fact that he was the lama who 'stayed back in Tibet', implying that he had sided with the Chinese Communist Party.

But unknown to the Tibetans outside or those in Tibet, in 1962 the Panchen Lama, 24 years old, presented to the top Chinese leaders, including Mao Zedong, his 70,000-character petition, a document that constitutes the most detailed and comprehensive Tibetan critique of the nature of Chinese rule in Tibet. Jasper Becker in his book, Hungry Ghosts: China's Secret Famine, says in this report, "Tibet's second highest religious leader came close to accusing the Chinese Communist Party of attempted genocide."

In his petition, the Panchen Lama documented the unprecedented famine and starvation that devastated Tibet. He documented the arbitrary arrests and imprisonment of thousands of Tibetans on the slightest suspicion of involvement in the armed uprising. In his report, the Panchen Lama said Tibetan Buddhism, which constituted the foundation of Tibetan culture, was on the verge of extinction because of the irreparable damage done to the monastic education system that continuously refreshed and sustained Tibet's Buddhist civilization. The Tibetan population was decimated. The Panchen Lama said the Tibetan language struggled to survive or stay relevant within a Chinese-language dominated education system.

Mao Zedong called the Panchen Lama's petition "a poisoned arrow" shot at the Chinese Communist Party by "Tibet's feudal lords." The Great Helmsman condemned the Tibetan spiritual leader as "a class enemy." The young lama was publicly denounced, subjected to severe struggle sessions. He spent 14 years in prison.

But the Tibetan leader wasn't done as yet. During 14 years of his disappearance, many in Tibet did not know whether he was alive or dead. This doubt was cleared up when on 26 February 1978, Xinhua, the official news agency, announced his presence at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing. In 1980, the Panchen Lama was reinstated as Vice-Chairman of the National People's Congress, China's parliament.

The years of public humiliation and solitary confinement had not dimmed his trenchant views on China's Tibet policy or sapped his energy. Given the new relative freedom and his political rehabilitation, the Panchen Lama bounced back in the fray. Speaking to a gathering of Tibetans during the Monlam Festival (the Great Prayer Festival) in Lhasa in 1985, the Panchen Lama said, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I are spiritual friends. There are no difference between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and me. Some people are trying to create discord between us. This will not succeed."

On 9 January 1989 the Panchen Lama visited Shigatse, Tibet's second largest town and the traditional parish of the Panchen Lamas, to consecrate the newly-renovated mausoleums from the Fifth to the Ninth Panchen Lamas at his main monastery of Tashi Lhunpo. On 24 January in his address to the monks of his monastery and the people of Shigatse, the Panchen Lama said that the Chinese rule in Tibet had brought more destruction than benefit to the Tibetan people. 
The Panchen Lama survived his 70,000 character petition. But this his last judgment on Chinese rule in Tibet cost the Panchen Lama his life. On 28 January, five days after delivering this blistering criticism of Chinese rule, the Panchen Lama was found dead at his monastery. His death followed the drama of two Panchen Lamas, one recognised by the Dalai Lama and another appointed by Beijing. This story is told in riveting detail in Isabel Hilton's The Search for the Panchen Lama.

In May 1995, the Dalai Lama recognised a six-year- old boy in Tibet, Gedun Chokyi Nyima, as the authentic reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. China bundled off the boy and his family to Beijing. Till now no one knows where Tibet's real Panchen Lama is, the state of his mental and physical health or that of his education. In November that year, Beijing appointed Gyaltsen Norbu, another six-year-old boy as its Panchen Lama. He too lives in Beijing because the monks of his monastery, Tashi Lhunpo, are too hostile to Beijing's candidate to allow him to reside and study within the compound of his own monastery. Beijing's grooming of its Panchen Lama is aimed at snatching the ultimate prize: controlling the recognition of the 15th Dalai Lama. Whether Gyaltsen Norbu will allow himself as a pawn in such a blatant manipulation of his spiritual weight will test his character and loyalty to his spiritual heritage in the years to come.

But the greatest legacy of the 10th Panchen Lama could be the piece of advice he gave Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, a charismatic Buddhist leader, who was keen to revive Tibetan Buddhism in the relative freedom and liberalisation of Deng's China. He wanted to establish a monastery in Tibet which taught the spiritual teachings of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Panchen Lama encouraged Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok in this initiative, but the Panchen said to circumvent the party's ban on new monasteries, Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok should call his school a "hermitage."

Khenpo Jigme Phuntso set up the Serthar Buddhist Academy in 1980 in Larung Valley in the predominantly ethnic Tibetan area of Kandze in Sichuan province. Soon the academy attracted students not only from all over Tibet but from Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the mainland itself. By 2001, when a nervous provincial authorities in Chengdu, forced the demolition of residences of monks and nuns and expulsion of all who did not belong locally, the academy had attracted 10,000 students, about 1000 of them from mainland Chinese. 
Serthar Buddhist Academy survived the destruction. Now it has a greater number of student body and more mainland Chinese students. This perhaps is the late Panchen Lama's legacy and a triumph of sorts of spiritual Tibet over material China.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

China Completes Controversial Nomad Relocation in Tibet

China says it has completed its massive relocation project of Tibetan nomads into new settlements in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The controversial project has been denounced, though, by Tibetans living in exile and by Chinese environmental activists.

Since 2006, China has been moving nomads into crowded new settlements in various places, including the Tibetan Autonomous Region [TAR] and Qinghai Province.

China's official Tibet TV website announced this week that 2.3 million people in the TAR have been moved into new houses. According to Qinghai province's five-year plan, 90 percent of the nomads living in that area are due to be relocated by the end of this year.

China is now encouraging nomadic herders to join livestock "cooperatives."

An editorial in the state-run Qinghai Online News this month said, “Local nomads [have begun] enjoying a new modern life in their crystal-clean new homes while all of their livestock are raised in the endless grassland under a cooperative style [system]."

China has said moving nomads into permanent homes provides them with a better life and could help the fragile environment of Tibetan Plateau. Critics say the program ignores environmental realities, however, and is really a way for authorities to control the livestock and land that belonged to the nomads.

Chinese environmental activist and journalist Wang Yongchen, who has been researching environmental changes on the Tibetan Plateau, said she has found that nomadic culture has sustained the area's environment. She added that only major environmental issues, such as air pollution in China's cities, have prompted environmental scientists to examine the Tibetan nomads' culture.

“Before, the Tibetan minorities’ way was friendly to nature, but nobody cared about it," said Wang said. “But after we got into serious environmental issues, we found that ‘Oh, the Tibetan minorities, they are very friendly with the nature. So, they’ve saved the water, sky and the food.'”

Wang said her group, Green Earth Volunteers, is raising its concerns with government officials in Beijing, as well as its belief that Tibetan nomads' traditional lifestyle helps preserve the environment.

Mogru Tenpa, a member of Tibetan parliament in exile who grew up in Qinghai Province, told VOA the state takes control of nomads' land once they join a cooperative.

“They call it cooperation but they are run by government officials,” said Tenpa. “They say the government is not taking it away from people, but managing it for people. But in reality, once government takes it over, individuals can no longer use their land.”

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Chinese Police 'kick, punch' CNN reporter David McKenzie

CHINESE police have been caught assaulting a CNN reporter and his camera crew and pushing them into a van while they were in the middle of filming.

CNN reporter David McKenzie was in Beijing to report on the trial of Xu Zhiyong, an activist accused of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order" after he organised protests against China's elite.

His trial is being closely monitored by Chinese authorities, who are trying to keep the media away.

The footage shows McKenzie reporting from the middle of a public street before a policewoman puts a stop to the report.

He frees himself - but then more security agents in uniforms and plainclothes gang up around the journalist and his crew.

McKenzie and his cameraman are kicked and punched as he tries to tell them they are able to report from a public place.

"We are reporters. We are reporting in a public space," McKenzie pleads, before he is shoved in to the side of a nearby van.

"This really shows how much China wants to manage the message," McKenzie said after he and his crew were taken away from the courthouse.

Spying Chinese officials on Tibetan WeChat users revealed

DHARAMSHALA, January 23: A Tibetan woman using WeChat, the China based popular messaging application, has received a twenty second-long suspicious voice message in Mandarin which appears to have been spoken by an official entrusted with the duty to monitor messages. 

Tseten (name changed) living in India was having a conversation with the members of a group dedicated to his family members last week when he was told by his aunt that she received a voice message from him which he had not sent. However, at the time when Tseten’s family discovered the suspicious message, the whole conversation of a day was found missing from his WeChat. 

Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute, a New York based group that works towards cyber security for Tibetans, said, “We have grave concerns about the potentials for widespread surveillance on the entire Tibetan community because WeChat is a Chinese messaging app and its servers are in China and the potential of surveillance is great, complete and 100 percent.”

On October 11, 2013, a Tibetan woman Kalsang from Tsala Township in Driru was arrested for allegedly expressing "anti China" sentiments in social networking app WeChat and kept "banned pictures of the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama" in her cellular phone.

WeChat is a text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in 2011 and is widely used by Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. It has become the most used mode of communication through its walkie-talkie style messaging facility. However, activists and experts fear that the app’s voice-messaging service enables security officials to monitor user’s movements in real time and access other information shared via the app.

Tencent is one of China’s largest companies with a market capitalization of approximately USD 100 billion and 700 million-strong user base. The company—like many private sector actors in China—has a very close relationship with the Communist Party of China (CPC), a report by Citizen Lab. "For example, Ma Huateng, chairman and CEO of Tencent, recently became deputy of the National People’s Congress, the main legislative body of the state," a report by Citizen Lab said. 

Chinese dissident Hu Jia expressed concerns that the domestic division of China’s Public Security Bureau is actively surveilling WeChat based on suspicions that security officers were following his movements through WeChat. In addition, there were reports from his colleagues that messages transmitted through WeChat were recited back to them by authorities in full detail almost immediately after they took place.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Chinese Activists Test New Leader and Are Crushed

Xu Zhiyong, center, was indicted last month for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and faces almost certain conviction. Greg Baker/Associated Press
BEIJING — The 20 or so activists gathered at an isolated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital, leaving their cellphones behind to avoid detection by the police. China’s first leadership change in a decade was fast approaching, and the group saw an opening for a movement to fight injustice and official corruption.

That day, in May 2012, they began work on a plan to expand the New Citizens Movement, an ambitious campaign for transparency and fairness that would eventually draw as many as 5,000 supporters, inspire street protests across the country and provide the first major test to help gauge the new leadership’s tolerance for grass-roots political activism.

They were heartened when China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, came to power that November, vowing to stamp out corruption, promote judicial fairness and respect the Constitution, goals tantalizingly close to their own.

Now, 14 months later, they have their answer.

About 20 people associated with the group have been detained. Three members have been tried and await judgment. And the rights lawyer who organized the guesthouse meeting, Xu Zhiyong, was indicted last month for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and faces almost certain conviction.

Launch media viewer
Liu Ping is among those who have been jailed in China recently for their activism. Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

The crushing of the New Citizens Movement is just one stark example of the new leadership’s refusal to countenance any stirrings of opposition.

Since Mr. Xi assumed control, the Communist Party has used the state news media to denounce perceived ideological threats, sought to rid the Internet of politically unwelcome rumors and opinion, and tried to silence rights lawyers and muckraking journalists. Wen Yunchao, a Chinese rights activist studying at Columbia University, estimates that 160 activists have been arrested over the past year, not counting the Tibetans and Uighurs detained on separatism-related charges.

These events have largely flown under the radar, drawing little notice at home or abroad and only muted international protest. But taken together, they amount to a sweeping crackdown that experts say is broader and more concerted than other recent assaults on dissent.

“The new leadership has been much more systematic and strategic about how it cracks down,” said Maya Wang, a researcher in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch, noting simultaneous efforts to rein in traditional news media and online commentary and stamp out even the smallest street rallies. “The government is basically sending a signal in dealing with these people that it has the upper hand.”

Mr. Xu, 40, is hardly a radical firebrand. As a young lawyer, he earned a national reputation for forging social change on the edges of the system. In 2003, he won a seat as an independent candidate on a district People’s Congress, a council stacked with party-appointed officials. Photogenic and articulate, he was celebrated by the domestic news media and appeared on the cover of the Chinese edition of Esquire magazine.

He emerged as a dogged legal activist during a popular backlash against the practice of forcibly relocating people without proper residence permits. In 2003, after the fatal police beating of a young designer in the southern city of Guangzhou, Mr. Xu and two other legal scholars publicized a petition to the government demanding an end to the system. To their surprise, Wen Jiabao, then prime minister, abolished it months after assuming office in 2003.

That case and others crystallized into an approach to activism combining litigation and government appeals on specific cases with public lobbying in the media and the rapidly expanding Internet. Mr. Xu and his colleagues took up the cases of death-row prisoners, parents of children poisoned by adulterated milk powder and a woman raped by officials. The movement came to be called “rights defense,” or weiquan in Chinese.

“You could think of the weiquan rights defense movement as an unintended consequence of legal reforms and the spread of the Internet,” said Eva Pils, an associate law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “They allowed the genie to come out of the bottle.”

But the movement soon drew official hostility. The police, courts and the party-run body that oversees lawyers prevented them from taking sensitive cases, refused to allow their suits to move forward or revoked their law licenses. In 2009, the government shut Mr. Xu’s advocacy and research organization, the Open Constitution Initiative, and arrested him on tax evasion charges. After a public uproar, he was released on bail and the matter was dropped.

Rather than subdue the movement, the pressure convinced many activists to shift away from the increasingly fruitless battles in party-run courts and toward broader and more public campaigning for political change.

Chinese citizens were increasingly aware of their legal rights, and willing to challenge the government to assert them. The Internet, especially social media, magnified public awareness of abuses.

Mr. Xu and other activists decided it was time to advance their ambitions through a more cohesive effort. By 2012, they named their effort the New Citizens Movement and issued a manifesto, urging supporters to adopt its ideals and symbol — a distinctive blue and white logo declaring “Citizen” — and to form groups that would meet regularly.

“This is a political movement whereby this ancient nation bids ultimate farewell to autocracy and completes the civilized transition to constitutional government,” Mr. Xu wrote that May.

The new leader’s promises about corruption and fairness were not the only signs that bolstered the movement’s resolve. Mr. Xi also downgraded the post of domestic security chief, suggesting to some that the police would have to pay more heed to legal restraints.

The party’s initially mild response to a protest over censorship at the Southern Weekend newspaper in early 2013 also fed expectations that the government would tolerate more concerted activism, said Chen Min, a former editor at the paper.

“The impression left with some people was that there would be more space for street-level, organized rights defense, even if there would always be risks and setbacks,” said Mr. Chen, who is better known by the pen name Xiao Shu.

Supporters also saw an advantage in the movement’s lack of clearly defined leadership, which they feared would provoke a government ban. Meetings were informal, often over dinners at restaurants.

Mr. Xu “believed in the power of the people to make a change,” said Guo Yushan, a reform-minded scholar. “He thought he would succeed, and that once he stepped out, others would follow him.”

In early 2013, supporters organized public demonstrations on the streets of Chinese cities. Some wore T-shirts and pins with the movement insignia and its slogan “Freedom, Justice, Love.” They posted pictures of their rallies online.

As awareness of the group spread, it began drawing grass-roots activists like Liu Ping, a former steel mill worker from China’s southeast Jiangxi Province.

Ms. Liu and two others remain jailed as they await sentencing for illegal assembly and other charges, but in a telephone interview, her daughter, Liao Minyue, said Ms. Liu’s activism was initially spurred by unpaid wages and the beating of a relative. “Over time, she became interested in other people’s problems, she became more involved and more aware, and she saw the New Citizens Movement as way of realizing her ideals,” Ms. Liao said.

The Communist Party has partly endorsed some of the changes demanded by rights advocates, like ending re-education through labor, a form of imprisonment without trial. But behind the scenes, Mr. Chen and others said, the gatherings fed leaders’ fears that the growing clamor for reform could crystallize into a threat to the party’s authority.

During secretive meetings last spring, security and propaganda officials concluded that they had to take a tough line, Mr. Chen said. In April, the leadership approved an internal directive identifying seven ideological threats, including rights defense activists and civil society advocates.

The detentions appear to have effectively stymied the movement. In addition to a core of longtime activists, the authorities in October arrested Wang Gongquan, a wealthy venture capitalist who supported the group.

In their indictment, prosecutors described Mr. Xu as the “ringleader” of several of the 2013 protests. On Monday, as he sat in a Beijing jail, his wife gave birth to a daughter.

“This time, I think Xu is going to prison, and not for a short time,” said Mr. Guo, the scholar. “Xi needs to put on a big show. He feels confident right now. He needs to show people who’s boss.”

Thursday, 16 January 2014

China to begin second Tibet railway extension work this year

2014 will not only see the completion of China’s building of the first extension railway project in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), but also the beginning of a second one. The second extension will run between Tibet’s capital Lhasa and Nyingtri Prefecture in southeastern TAR. China earlier said Jan 1 that the first extension line, running between Lhasa and Shigatse in the south over 253 km, will be completed this year.

Losang Jamcan, chairman of the TAR government, made the announcement in his government work report presented to the second session of the 10th TAR Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, which was held from Jan 8 to Jan 12, reported China’s online Tibet news service Jan 14.

Losang has said the project was currently at the feasibility study stage with two designs going southward and northward being under discussion.

Both the extensions are of great strategic importance to China not only in terms of consolidating its rule and strengthening its control over Tibetans but also for geostrategic reasons. Shigatse is located close to occupied Tibet’s border with Nepal while Nyingtri adjoins India. Both the railways will facilitate movement of arms and troops as well as transport of mineral resources from Tibet to China.

Land Grab case against 210 Tibetan Families in McLoed Ganj

DHARAMSHALA: Kalon Dolma Gyari of the Department of Home, Central Tibetan Administration, left for New Delhi after the National Green Tribunal in Shimla set March 27, 2014 as the next hearing date for the case of alleged illegal occupation of forest land by 210 families in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala.

Home Kalon Dolma Gyari will appeal the concerned authorities of the Indian government to repeal the case against the 210 families for encroaching on forest land.

The Shimla court in July, had ordered the state government to set up a committee to probe the charges against the Tibetan families.

The report submitted by the committee after their investigation, claimed that the Tibetan families have illegally encroached on forest land, cut trees and built houses. Tibetans in Mcleod ganj are also accused of carving rocks with religious inscriptions and tying flags on trees, causing serious destruction to the natural environment.

The Tribunal has directed the corcenred forest authorities to file a report citing how many demolitions are affected and how many orders of eviction have been passed between today and next date of hearing.

Home Kalon Dolma Gyari, earlier on 1 October, apprised Shri Virbhadra Singh, honourable chief minister of Himachal Pradesh at Shimla about the eviction notices faced by the Tibetan families. She informed the chief minister that these Tibetans will have no place to live if their homes are demolished. She made it clear that Tibetans harbour no intent whatsoever to claim the ownership of the area as they would vacate the area the day Tibet issue is resolved and all Tibetans are able to return to Tibet.

The chief minister has assured, at that time, that he will explore a way to resolve the issues related to Tibetan settlers and vendors. A joint appeal by various local Indian associations was also made to the Deputy Commissioner against the proposed demolition drive in September last year.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Xi Jinping has tightened grip on military

New York: Chinese President Xi Jinping has greater control of the military than his predecessor did, and that increases the need for a strong White House relationship with him, former US defence secretary Robert Gates said.

Mr Gates, 70, said in an interview today that former president President Hu Jintao "did not have strong control" of the People's Liberation Army. The "best example," Mr Gates said, was China's rollout of its stealthy J-20 fighter jet during a visit he made in January 2010. The event seemed to catch Mr Hu unaware, Mr Gates said, recounting a story in his memoir Duty.

China posed few crises for Mr Gates during his four and a half years as defence secretary. Tensions have grown since the Obama administration announced plans to step up military and political engagement in the Pacific -- a strategy announced after Gates left office -- and China stepped up its territorial claims off its coast.

President Xi's stronger control is "both a good-news and a bad-news story," Mr Gates said. "Before, when the Chinese did something aggressive or risky, you could say 'that's the PLA acting on their own.'"

"Now when they do something like declare" a new air defence identification zone in the East China Sea in November, "you've got to assume President Xi approved that and is on board" and not that "this is just the PLA misbehaving or strutting its stuff," he said in the interview in New York.

Mr Gates said China's declaration was a "real provocation in the current environment" and "meant to send a signal."

Mr Xi's control of the PLA means his relationship with President Barack Obama "matters a great deal, and managing this relationship is going to be a big challenge for both countries."

Mr Gates wrote in his book that years of on-again, off-again diplomatic meetings and military-to-military contacts "cannot mask the reality" that China continues to invest a growing portion of its budget on new military hardware "designed to keep US air and naval assets well east of the South China Sea and Taiwan."

Last month, a US Navy guided-missile cruiser had a confrontation with a Chinese military ship in the South China Sea, underscoring the rising tensions in the region over China's new air defence zone. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel called China's behaviour "irresponsible."

The US Pacific presence is being countered by a growing Chinese navy that "while far inferior" to the US globally, "could be a serious problem for us in Northeast and Southeast Asia" as it develops "highly accurate cruise and ballistic missile, diesel and nuclear submarines and stealthy fighters," Gates wrote.

"Beijing learned from the Soviet experience, I believe, and has no intention of matching us ship-for-ship, tank-for- tank," and "thereby draining China financially in a no-holds barred arms race," he wrote.

Instead, "they are investing selectively in capabilities that target our vulnerabilities, not our strengths," Mr Gates wrote.

Will ‘strongman’ Xi Jinping lead China into armed conflicts with rival neighbours?

China's President Xi Jinping
South China Morning Post
Monday, 13 January, 2014, 9:23am
Minnie Chan

President’s assertive tone and focus on military power of growing concern in region, experts say.

China has become more willing to show off its military might since President Xi Jinping came to power as he wants to send a message to people at home and abroad that he is a strongman willing to take tough action, military and political analysts said.

But international relations experts fear this is raising concerns that China might use force to solve its territorial disputes with its Asian neighbours.

“Xi said his personality and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s were very similar when he visited Moscow early last year, hinting that he would be as strong as Putin when dealing with domestic and foreign affairs,” Beijing-based political commentator Zhang Lifan said.

“When looking back at what he has done over the past year or so, I think Xi is trying to abandon the party’s long-standing collective leadership tradition designed by Deng Xiaoping during the 1980s economic opening and intends to make himself a master of neo-authoritarianism.”

Xi, the son of the revolutionary hero Xi Zhongxun, served as personal secretary to former defence minister and Central Military Commission secretary-general Geng Biao early in his career and has a closer relationship with the People’s Liberation Army than his two predecessors Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao .

When he became chairman of the military commission, the army’s top brass, in November 2012 he called on the PLA to turn itself into a modern combat force through intensified military drills, the upgrading of technology and weaponry and by overhauling the way it is commanded.

Under his leadership, the PLA, the world’s biggest army with 2.3 million personnel, has become more high-profile and willing to show off its achievements in modernising its military on land, air, and sea.

This has included giving details of some of the latest military technology developed in China, such as the J-20 and J-31 fighter jets; its first unmanned combat aerial vehicle the Lijian or “Sharp Sword”, as well as the so-called “aircraft carrier killers” the YJ-12 supersonic anti-ship missile and the YJ-100 anti-ship cruise missiles.

Beijing also announced at the end of last year that it has set up another aircraft carrier base at Sanya on Hainan island, close to disputed regions of the South China Sea.

This comes after China took delivery of its first carrier, the Liaoning in September 2012 which is normally based at the eastern port of Qingdao .

A naval expert described the new base as a launching point in the south for future aircraft carrier fighting groups.

The PLA also appears to be have intensified its naval drills since Beijing announced in December it had set up an air defence identification zone close to disputed areas of the East China Sea. At least four naval drills have been held since then.

“As a ‘second generation red’, Xi needs to show he is different to Jiang and Hu because they were too flabby and timid when dealing with territorial disputes during their terms,’’ Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong said.

“He wants to be a strong leader like Mao Zedong who worshipped violence. That’s why Xi repeatedly urges the PLA to be well-prepared for real combat and for victory.”

Xi’s tough political style has worried many of China’s neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region, foreign military experts said.

“Any country near China has been particularly concerned about China’s growing military might,’’ said Dr Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“Even countries that are normally not afraid of China such as South Korea may be having second thoughts and certainly increasingly see China as a real threat.

“I think Xi is very much playing the nationalism card of late. It allows China to be intransigent and uncompromising,’’ he said.

Dr Rajeswari Rajagopalan, a defence analyst at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank, said India has also raised concerns over China’s growing military might, although she said its naval reach was still limited.

“China thinks it no longer needs to hide or be reticent about its capabilities,’’ she said.

“China’s capability acquisitions and new strategies have a direct bearing on India especially because there is an unresolved border issue. The air defence identification zone initiative is one more example of the Chinese opaque decision-making process that has repeatedly led to strategic surprises for those dealing with China,’’ she said.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Tibet Plateau senses global warming

Data from the Waliguan Atmospheric Background Station in Northwest China's Tibetan Qinghai Province shows that the annual mean value of carbon dioxide intensity in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has increased from 360 parts per million (ppm) in 1994 to 395 ppm in 2013, up by 9.5 percent.

"A direct influence will be increased temperatures, which will affect the ecological degradation and reduce water resources on the plateau," said Liu Peng, a special observer at the station.

The Waliguan station is one of the 24 global atmosphere watch baseline observatories in the world.

"The plateau is extremely sensitive to climate change and has a very important status in securing the national or even global ecological balance," said Huang Jianqing, another special observer with the station, adding that temperatures on the plateau would continue to increase.

Chinese troops enter Ladakh every 14 days

NEW DELHI: Chinese troops have been making incursions in Chumar, Rakhi Nullah and Takdip areas in Ladakh almost every fortnight in the past few months, according to security sources. Apart from incursions in Depsang plains of Chumar on December 19-20 and the more recent incursion in the first week of January in Takdip, Chinese incursions had been spotted on December 13 as well in the same areas. 

Sources said the Chinese troops are merely asserting dominance in the area and don't stay for more than an hour because of the bitter cold. Sources said there is nothing alarming in the movements even though incursions have been more frequent in recent months. 

The fact that Chinese side has fully developed road network in these sectors helps them to make frequent visits using vehicles. 

In the first week of January, Chinese troops entered Takdip area of Chumar sector early in the morning and went back only after Indian forces asserted their presence in the area. Troops had made two similar incursions in the Depsang plains on December 13 and December 19 that led to face-offs with troops of Indo-Tibetan Border Police ( ITBP). 

"In the past few months, they have been making cross-border patrols almost every fortnight. They drive their vehicles to the area, stay out for about an hour and then go back after Indian troops march. The bitter cold has prevented them from pitching tents in the area. It's nothing alarming and is in keeping with the tradition of Chinese troop movement in the area," said an officer from the security establishment. 

An escalation of border tensions was seen during April-May last year when a 21-day face-off between Chinese and Indian troops in the same sector had to be resolved through hectic diplomatic negotiations. 

Sources said the tension had been aggravated and went past traditional intensities because of a few structures erected by the Indian Army in disputed parts of the border which was not agreeable to China. The resolution of tension took place only after these structures were dismantled. 

India recently signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement with China to ease such border tensions which are often attributed to overzealous field commanders.

China shut down three monasteries in Driru, Tibet

After keeping them surrounded by the paramilitary People’s Armed Police Force (PAPF) for weeks, China in Dec 2013 shut down three monasteries in Driru (Chinese: Biru) County of Nagchu (Naqu) Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, reported Radio Free Asia (Washington) Jan 7. No exact reason has been stated for the shut down order on the Dron Na, Tarmoe, and Rabten monasteries which has been reported earlier by other sources as well.

The closure order came as the PAPF was assigned to enforce political re-education in the county which has been under great turbulence ever since late Sep 2013 when the Chinese authorities ordered the Tibetans to make a manifest show of allegiance to the communist ruled China by flying its red flag on the rooftops of every home and monastery. Tibetans not only refused but also trashed the flags that were issued to them, leading to a vicious cycle of protests and violent repressions in which there were killings, large-scale detentions and disappearances, and a number of jail sentences.

The Chinese authorities have particularly targeted the monasteries in the current repression, with each monk being vetted to evaluate their political correctness and reliability. The three monasteries obviously failed the tests.

The report said that the closing down of the Dron Na monastery was preceded by the detention, on Nov 19, of its lead cultural education instructor Kalsang Dondrub. And then on Dec 26, all the rooms in the monastery were sealed and the resident monks turned out, with an order forbidding their return.

China has declared Driru a “politically unstable” county which if not contained will affect the rest of Tibet. It has therefore launched an “intense and thorough” political re-education campaign, including with the villagers and monastic residents being subjected to indoctrination meetings day and night.

It remains impossible to draw a detailed and coherent picture of the situation in Driru due to the Chinese government’s tight controls on flow of information and severe restrictions on the residents’ freedom.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Dalai Lama urges World Parliament of Religions to resolve religious conflicts

Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has called for the resolution of the long-standing Tibetan issue and urged the World Parliament of Religions to remain active and to solve religious conflicts. Dalai Lama expressed this on the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Expressing concern over religious conflicts, Dalai Lama said that the World Parliament of Religions should try to minimise the clashes. "Occasionally, some international, this sort of meeting, is not sufficient. I think in the name of World Parliament (of) Religions, some sort of active organisation or office, wherever there are religious conflicts, should send some delegation and try to minimise these sort of conflict," the Dalai Lama said. Violence has flared in Tibet since 1950, when Beijing claims it "peacefully liberated" the region. Many Tibetans say Chinese rule has eroded their culture and religion. They are agitating for the Dalai Lama's return from exile in India, and genuine autonomy for their homeland. The Chinese Government denies trampling Tibetan rights and boasts of having brought development and prosperity to the region. Since 2009, at least 121 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China in protest against Beijing's policies in Tibet and nearby regions with large Tibetan populations. Most were calling for the return of the Dalai Lama. 

As shocking as the first suicides were, the people who chose to burn themselves did so, Tibetan scholars say, in reaction to specific instances of abuse at particular monasteries. Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are often under surveillance and subject to raids by Chinese security forces. Beijing considers the Dalai Lama, who fled China in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule, a violent separatist. The Dalai Lama, who is based in India, says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland. During the event, Dalai Lama was optimistic that the Tibet issue would be resolved very soon. "There are sort of different policies according to new reality. So, the same communist have the ability to act according to new reality. So, I am hopeful." Since 2009, at least 121 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China in protest against Beijing's policies in Tibet and nearby regions with large Tibetan populations. Most were calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.

Tensions have mounted between Tibet and China since 2008, after riots that broke out in the Tibet Autonomous Region and the Tibetan parts of China, which led to a government crackdown.

Dalai Lama hopeful of solution in Tibet

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tuesday expressed hope that a solution would be found for the problems being faced by Tibet and Tibetans from China.

"I am hopeful" (of finding a solution to the problem)," Dalai Lama told reporters while replying to a specific question on the condition of Tibetans at the present regime in China.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was here to participate in the 150th birthday celebrations of Swami Vivekananda.

When asked about the self-immolation by Tibetans over the rights issue, Lama said "it is very very sad. However, this is a very sensitive and political issue. From 2011, I have completely retired from politics."

To another question whether he was taking any initiative to revive the World Parliament of the Religions, Lama, said though the Parliament still existed, it was not very active now.

Earlier, unveiling a 7.2 feet tall marble statue of Vivekananda at Vattamalai, about 90 Kms from here, through video-conferencing, Dalai Lama said India should demonstrate to other nations that despite having a huge and diverse population of various religion and caste, it upheld the highest ethics of secularism.

Attributing India's strength to its very old tradition and culture, Lama said all major religions and people of different faiths in the world co-existed in the country with peace.

Though there were some problems in some pockets, it was negligible considering the huge population and being the largest democracy, all citizens lived together.

"Ahimsa and religious harmony were the major factors for making India the largest democracy, despite some drawbacks and problems," he said.

Friday, 3 January 2014

A Glance at the year 2013

Today, the time on the clock is although past the midnight hour, the mood is still young with the cracks of the fireworks and the out pour of messages on the phone welcoming yet again another new year. It feel like the 2013 started just yesterday and today I am bidding my farewell. We have faced with the phrase, time flies and we can realize it only after the time have actually flied. Though there is nothing new about a new year, it is still filling me up with fresh hopes and determination as well as a gratitude for having survived for another year on this hectic world. 

I started the year 2013 with the end of my third semester exams and yet again I am starting 2014 with the end of my fifth semester exams. It really feels just a routine and nothing so new. However, there is still so much new this time, the memories down the lane are little more stacked up than last year, much more changes in the way I look up to the world and a little more evolved person I feel today. There is this feeling that I am growing a year older and feel like gaining another ring like that of a tree. 

Having a glance at the past year is not at all easy! The easiest way to define that year is that I don't remember much and just like that, forget it. Hmmm... that sounds so cowardice to me... The past is always the best teacher in my opinion and I can not let it get just swept out of the memory. To a great extend, the past year had been much the same personally, having to attend the classes and going through the same routine. But the world had seen a lot of great changes... There were many moments of joy as well as pain too. 
My own cause, the Tibet issue have so vibrant and popped out at the headlines around the world much more often than the past years. With the very sensitive and heart lurching act of self immolations cout touching upto 26 people most of whom passed away. This is rate is more than a couple of Tibetan commiting to self immolation every month in the year 2013! 
However, the 2013 also saw the assuming of the offices of Beijing government by another set of new generation leaders presided by Mr. Xi. This transition of power in Beijing turned out to extremely critical from around the world, spreading various rays of hope for a slight change in the one of the most media censored and corrupted country in world! This hope grew stronger with some prominent amendments of their governing policies during the Third Plenum that was conclude quite recently.
The year 2013 had been more updated to me personally which could implicate that I have been connected to this imformation age. The hazards of monsoon in India have created historic imprints upon the impression of Indian governance system, unvieling the cracks and crevices neglected by the governments across India in the stream of public safety. The presumed death toll during this hazard is said around 5700 from which about a thousand are considered to be locals of the regions and the rest includes tourists, pilgrims and so on... When these memories reflect back in my mind, I can only pour my prayers for the coming years to be free of such hazards.
The mysery of 2013 can neglect the fact of the civil war going on in Syria where an alleged use of sarin, a deadly chemical weapon against the protesters created fuzzes acround the world. Amidst this unrest in Syria rendered about 2 millions refugees and about 120,000 killed! The count for the myseries that unrooted out in 2013 is never ending here.

The year passed is always a mark of human civilization whether that has good stories or extremely painful ones to be heard. Personally, the Tibetans in Tibet have actually had a tough year. There were extreme repression, torture and restrictions in their daily lives when all they have been doing was demanding the basic human rights that too in their own country! The call for the justice of Tibetans especially inside Tibet has been going on around the world and this is going to spread, expand and grow in the future too.

So today is a day of mixed emotion. There is a bit of sadness or nervousness that another year of my life has flown away taking me a little closer to the day of final ceremony of life while at the same time, there is this happiness and excitement that I have lived another year in this uncertain world! With this clear completion of a year I am now yet again entering into a blank idea of another year ahead. So, this is must be the right moment to make the choices I guess. Lets choose to be more hard working and more serious with the passage of everyday time too because time flies and we might just keep watching it. Lets have a rock and roll year 2014 with the world.