Sunday, 31 August 2014

China slams door shut on full Hong Kong democracy in 2017 vote

A Chinese national flag is seen in front of the chimney of a heat supply plant in Beijing July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon(Reuters) - China's parliament said on Sunday it will tightly control the nomination of candidates for a landmark election in Hong Kong in 2017, a move likely to trigger mass protests in the city's Central business district by disappointed democracy activists.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) said it had endorsed a framework to let only two or three candidates run in a 2017 vote for Hong Kong's next leader. All candidates must first obtain majority backing from a nominating committee likely to be stacked with Beijing loyalists.

The relatively tough decision by the NPC - China's final arbiter on the city's democratic affairs - makes it almost impossible for opposition democrats to get on the ballot.

"This is a legal, fair and reasonable decision. It is a dignified, prudent decision, and its legal effect is beyond doubt," Li Fei, the deputy secretary general of the NPC standing committee, told reporters after the decision.

Hundreds of "Occupy Central" activists, who demand Beijing allow a real, free election, will this evening hold a small protest to formally launch their campaign of civil disobedience, that will climax with a blockade the city's business district.

Political reform has been a constant source of friction between Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and the mainland since the former British colony was handed back to Communist Party rulers in 1997.

In nearby Macau, another special administrative region, leader and sole candidate Fernando Chui was "re-elected" on Sunday by a select panel of 400 largely pro-China loyalists in the tiny but wealthy former Portuguese colony.


The activists in Hong Kong stressed that they wouldn't paralyse the Central district immediately but would this evening lay out plans for smaller actions in the coming weeks leading up to a full-scale protest in the main business district.

Scores of police vehicles and hundreds of officers were deployed outside Hong Kong government headquarters as people began to gather, some chanting slogans.

Key government buildings, including the Chief Executive's office and a People's Liberation Army barracks nearby, were also ringed by high fences and barricades.

"It (the NPC decision) leaves no room for us to fight for a genuinely democratic system, and we will begin our campaign for peaceful, non-violent struggle," said Joseph Cheng, the convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, a coalition of groups advocating universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

"We want to tell the world we haven't given up. We will continue to fight," he said.

On the surface, the National People's Congress' decision is a breakthrough that endorses the framework for the first direct vote by a Chinese city to choose its leader. Beijing is already hailing it as a milestone in democratic reform.

However, by tightly curbing nominations for the 2017 leadership poll, some democrats said Beijing was pushing a Chinese-style version of "fake" democracy.

The NPC statement said all nominations would be carried out according to "democratic procedures" and each candidate would need "the endorsement of more than half" of a nominating committee that will be similar in composition to an existing 1,200-person election committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.

The proposed electoral framework will still have to be endorsed by two-thirds of Hong Kong's 70-seat legislature. With pro-democracy lawmakers holding more than a third of the seats, the proposal will likely be shelved.

Senior Chinese officials have repeatedly warned activists against their "illegal" protests and say they won't back down.

Some key members of the pro-democracy movement, including media magnate Jimmy Lai, have also come under pressure in the run-up to the Chinese parliamentary decision.

On Friday, China also repeated its warning against foreign interference, saying it will not tolerate the use of Hong Kong "as a bridgehead to subvert and infiltrate the mainland".

The Occupy Central movement has not yet won broad support among Hong Kong's middle class, who are concerned about antagonising China and disruptions to business, but strong measures by China or the Hong Kong police could change that.

China, Tibetan exiles work towards dialogue

The Dalai Lama met the participants of the conference and made clear that he had always encouraged Tibetans to reach out to their Chinese brothers and sisters.
Hamburg: With over 70 representatives from 15 countries, the "Finding Common Ground" Sino-Tibetan Conference in Hamburg concluded after deciding on a dialogue between the Chinese government and the Tibetan government-in-exile to end the current impasse.

The conference took place on August 26-28 and was attended by Tibetan Spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and participants from China the US and Australia, and also Europe. The conference was convened by the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) based in Dharamsala, India with the aim of setting in motion a process of exchange, interaction, cooperation and joint efforts between Tibetans and Chinese stakeholders in the pursuit of a peace and a fair resolution to the Tibet issue.

The Dalai Lama met the participants of the conference and made clear that he had always encouraged Tibetans to reach out to their Chinese brothers and sisters.

"I give special attention to contacts between the Chinese and Tibetan people and strongly support it. In the 1950s, I had expressed my wish to go to Mount Wutai Shan for a pilgrimage which has not yet materialised, but I still have the desire to go there for a pilgrimage", the Dalai Lama said during the meeting.

Wu Tai Shan is a sacred mountain in China for Buddhists.

"President Xi Jinping said that Buddhism has an important role to play in reviving Chinese culture. Being a Buddhist I can definitely make my contribution to this," the Dalai Lama added.

The meeting was was presided by Kalon Dicki Chhoyang, Head of Department for Information and International Relations of the CTA, who elaborated on the basic features of the Umaylam - the Middle Way Approach - adopted democratically by the Tibetan people as a policy in seeking a peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet.

In his keynote address, Lobsang Sangay, the democratically-elected Tibetan political leader, stressed that "in the long history of peaceful and harmonious relations between Tibet and China, the present tragic state of affairs represents an aberration and exception.

This aberration is the consequence of the military occupation of Tibet. Chinese participants expressed their respect and appreciation for Tibetan culture as well as for the Dalai Lama.

The participants said that the efforts for the Sino-Tibetan people-to-people dialogue should not be limited to the political sphere, but also include areas of religion, culture and arts and the issue of Tibet should have relevance to the future of Chinese and Tibetan people alike. They expressed grave concerns about the serious human rights violations in Tibet and the deteriorating legal system, democratic development and human rights situation in China.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Visiting Chinese president likely to raise Tibet issue with India

BEIJING: Chinese president Xi Jinping is expected to question the existence of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamshala during his India visit in September, a Chinese expert told TOI.

"I expect the Chinese president to raise the issue of the Dalai Lama's role in India," said Ma Jiali, an expert on India at the Communist Party School in Beijing.

"I think he will ask his Indian counterpart to make sure that New Delhi keeps its promise not to allow Tibetans to conduct political activity in China," Ma said.

When it was pointed out that India did not allow anti-China activities, and went to great lengths to stop Tibetan rebels from holding protests against any visiting Chinese dignitary, Ma said, "The Tibetan government-in-exile is a political activity against China...India should keep its promise about adhering to one-China policy and give no importance to forces trying to split China."

Asked if President Xi will specifically ask the Indian government to close down the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamshala, Ma said, "We wish to discuss this matter. I expect the Chinese president to raise this issue during his meetings with Indian leaders."

Chinese officials and the Dalia Lama's representatives have held nine meetings to resolve their differences. Representatives of the Nobel prize winning monk say China goes through the motions of negotiations but doesn't address the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people.

China says India-based Tibetan leader is an anarchist who refuses to accept Chinese control over Tibet. There can be no fruitful discussion unless the monk accepts the integrity of China including the Tibetan speaking areas, it says.

Recent reports from Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, suggest China is still in talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve differences. This is significant because Chinese leaders have repeatedly described the Tibetan leader as a separatist out to split China, and also a "wolf in monk's clothing".

"Dalai Lama talks about greater autonomy for Tibetan speaking areas. But he actually instigates the rebels to work for independence of Tibet," Ma said. "But we still want to talk to his representatives, and try to solve the problem."

Friday, 29 August 2014

Tibetan-Chinese Reconciliation an 'Urgent, Historic' Task: Exile Official

A peaceful resolution of Tibet’s struggle for greater freedom under Beijing’s rule must be accomplished soon if the Tibetan and Chinese people are to avoid open confrontation and violence in coming years, a senior Tibetan exile official said this week.

“The quest for a peaceful resolution through non-violence and dialogue is no doubt a very tough and challenging task,” Kelsang Gyaltsen, special representative to Europe of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, told a Sino-Tibetan conference in Hamburg, Germany, on Wednesday.

“But it is also clear that Tibetans and Chinese would have to pay a much higher price in terms of human suffering and political turmoil when this quest is abandoned.”

“The sad state of affairs in Tibet—if left unattended any longer—represents the breeding grounds for violence and bloodshed in future,” Gyaltsen said, adding that grievances, despair, and emotion may someday “spiral out of control” under the pressure of continuing abuses by China.

“It is against this background that our discussions in the coming days assume special significance and urgency,” Gyaltsen said.

The Hamburg conference, attended by over 70 participants from at least 10 countries and including Tibetans and many Chinese intellectuals, activists, and writers, is aimed at finding a common ground in pursuit of a "just and peaceful resolution to the issue of Tibet through dialogue and reconciliation," according to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government in exile in India.

Stalled talks

Divisions have long persisted in the Tibetan exile community over questions of how best to advance the rights and freedoms of Tibetans living in China, with some calling for a return of the independence lost when Chinese troops marched into the self-governing region in 1949.

Meanwhile, a Middle Way Approach proposed by the Dalai Lama and the CTA accepts Tibet’s present status as a part of China while urging greater cultural and religious freedoms for the Tibetan people.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India a decade after a failed national revolt against Chinese occupation, and the Chinese government has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule ever since.

Talks held on Tibet’s status between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Beijing stalled in January 2010, and there has been no progress in the discussions since then.

“I believe none of us here has any illusions about the challenges and difficulties of the task we are embarking on,” Gyaltsen said.

“However, as Tibetans and Chinese committed to the values of non-violence, justice and freedom each of us feels a personal responsibility and call to join in this historic task of bringing about genuine reconciliation and friendship between Tibetan and Chinese peoples.”

The Dalai Lama, who also spoke at the conference, again expressed a longstanding wish to visit China.

“I’ve always wanted to visit Wu Tai Shan,” he said, referring to the holiest of four sacred Buddhist mountains in China."

“I thought about going there in 1954. Then it came up during the talks with the Chinese in 2005, but was rejected," the Dalai Lama said.

He said that following Beijing’s crackdown on peaceful protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989, he has encouraged Tibetans “to reach out to our Chinese brothers and sisters.”

“This is the latest of several opportunities that have arisen since then,” he said, referring to the Hamburg conference.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Beijing’s rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date self-immolating to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tibetans in Forced Show of Respect for Beijing-Backed Panchen Lama-RFA

Chinese authorities in Tibet have forced villagers to turn out in large numbers this week to pay homage to a senior religious figure widely despised by Tibetans as a puppet of Beijing, sources say.

The move came as Beijing’s handpicked Panchen Lama—Tibet’s second most-senior monk after exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama—visited monasteries in Namling (in Chinese, Nanmulin) county in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Shigatse (Rikaze) prefecture, a local source told RFA’s TibetanService.

“On Aug. 24, the China-appointed Panchen Lama visited two Namling monasteries, including Ganden Choekor Ling, and gave religious teachings to the assembled people,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The young monk, Gyaincain Norbu, now in his mid-20s, was accompanied by armed police and public security officers, along with a party of 30 monks and the regional secretary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and other officials, the source said.

Chinese authorities had previously ordered 12 Namling villages to assign 80 people each “to come out and welcome the Panchen Lama wearing traditional Tibetan dress and holding ceremonial scarves in their hands,” the source said.

“They were warned that if they failed to show up to receive him, they would be punished for committing a political error,” he said.

Authorities registered the cell phone numbers and identification cards of Tibetans assigned to greet the Panchen Lama, the source said, adding, “Those not designated to see the Panchen were ordered to stay at home and were forbidden from looking out of their windows or from gathering on the rooftops or sidewalks.”

“Failure to comply with these orders would be quickly punished,” Tibetans were told, he said.

Lavish receptions

Monasteries scheduled for visits by the Beijing-appointed monk were given grants of 150,000 yuan (U.S.$24,360) each to prepare receptions, with money going mainly to the construction of thrones, purchase of religious items, and general clean-up, the source said.

“Additionally, monks were told to behave properly while the Panchen Lama was there,” he said.

Chinese authorities have had difficulty persuading Tibetans to accept Gyaincain Norbu as the official face of Tibetan Buddhism in China, and monks in monasteries traditionally loyal to the Dalai Lama have been reluctant to receive him.

Beijing named Gyaincain Norbu as the Panchen Lama in 1995 in a retaliatory action after the exiled Dalai Lama identified another child, six-year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima, as the reincarnation of the widely venerated religious figure.

Gyaincain Norbu made his political debut in May 2010 at the annual session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing, appearing as a national committee member of the top political advisory body.

He has also been made the vice president of China’s state-run Buddhist Association.

The boy selected by the Dalai Lama disappeared into Chinese custody together with his family in 1995 and has not been heard from since.

TWP-"China promotes mixed marriages in Tibet as way to achieve ‘unity’"

BEIJING — During their controversial six-decade-rule of Tibet, China’s Communist Party leaders have been accused by human rights groups of trying to tame the restive region by imprisoning Tibetan political prisoners, keeping in exile their leader the Dalai Lama and repressing Tibetan religion and culture.

Now, China has turned to interracial marriage in an apparent attempt to assimilate Tibetans and stamp out rebellious impulses.

In recent weeks, Chinese officials in charge of the Tibetan Autonomous Region have ordered a run of stories in local newspapers promoting mixed marriages. And according to newly published government reports, the government has adopted a series of policies in recent years favorable to interracial couples.

Urging officials to push mixed marriages harder, China’s highest official in the Tibetan region, Chen Quanguo, recently staged a photo op with 19 mixed families.

“As the saying goes, ‘blood is thicker than water,’ we should make our ethnic relationship like that,” Chen said at the meeting in June, according to the state-run Tibetan Daily. The government must “actively promote intermarriages.”
So far, the government push has seen some success.

In a report published this month celebrating such policies, the Communist Party’s research office in Tibet said mixed marriages have increased annually by double-digit percentages for the past five years, from 666 couples in 2008 to 4,795 couples in 2013.

While avoiding specifics, the report attributed the growth to favorable policies in areas such as social security, reproductive rights, vacations, prizes and special treatment for children born from such marriage, including education, employment and Communist Party membership.

The government has focused on Tibetans marrying Han Chinese.

Tibet’s population is roughly 90 percent Tibetan and 8 percent Han Chinese. Demographics for China as a whole is the reverse at 92 percent Han Chinese and less than 1 percent Tibetan.

The government has sold the effort in state-run media as a way to achieve ethnic unity, but critics argue that its true aim is to further weaken Tibetan culture.

In a phone interview, Tibetan poet Tsering Woeser, an activist who has frequently clashed with authorities, likened the promotion of intermarriage to the worst practices of colonization.
Ethnic Tibetan women attend a traditional wedding near Danba, Sichuan Province January 26, 2012. (© Carlos Barria / Reuters)

There’s nothing objectionable about couples from different backgrounds coming together naturally, she said. Woeser herself is married to a Han Chinese, dissident writer Wang Lixiong. But when the authorities use it as a tool and create policies to encourage it, she said, it feels wrong.

She compared it to Japanese police being encouraged to marry local women during Japan’s occupation of Taiwan.

For weeks, government-run newspapers in Tibet have featured happy mixed couples in which the children love both cultures and equally speak Tibetan and Mandarin.

But among Tibetans, there is great fear about losing their culture and traditions.

Government policy requires mixed couples to choose early on what ethnicity to designate their children in official documents. Many choose to name their children as Han rather than Tibetan, believing that it gives their children a chance at a better life, said a 28-year-old Tibetan woman who works at a local government department. She spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing her job.

Many also send their children to study in the better schools of mainland China rather than in Tibet, she said.

While the percentage of Tibetans who marry Han may be increasing there, the total number remains small, she noted.

At Chen’s meeting with mixed families on June 18, the party secretary of Tibet praised intermarriage, calling it recognition of the great motherland, Chinese as a people, Chinese culture, and the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, according to state media.

Chen called for government departments to use everything in their power and designate key officials to steer public opinion. Party and government officials should act as matchmakers, he said.

Nationwide, China has long offered ethnic minority groups favorable treatment as a way to try to integrate them into society, a policy that is often criticized by Han and ethnic minorities alike.

When one or both spouses are of ethnic minority, a couple can generally have up to three children, despite China’s one-child policy. Ethnic students are given extra scores for their minority status in college entrance exams. Intermarried families are also often awarded honors for being “models of ethnic unity” and are sometimes favored for government positions.

And Chinese history is dotted with examples of interracial marriage as a strategy to maintain peace. One of the most famous stories is the marriage between Chinese Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty and Songtsan Gambo, then king of Tibet, which sealed a peace treaty.

The story was turned into an outdoor musical last August, promoted by the government, and is showing in Tibet.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

‘Dalai Lama in talks to return’-The Hindu

Wu Yingjie, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party Committee for Tibet, said in Lhasa on Sunday that talks with the Dalai Lama were “ongoing and always smooth, but we are discussing only his future, not Tibet’s”. Photö: Special Arrangement
China’s government in Tibet claims that the Dalai Lama is in talks with Beijing through “personal envoys”, but the talks are only about the possibility of his return to Tibet.

Wu Yingjie, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party Committee for Tibet, told a group of Indian journalists in Lhasa on Sunday that the talks with the Dalai Lama were “ongoing and always smooth, but we are discussing only his future, not Tibet’s.”

‘Many Tibetan leaders had chosen to return’

Mr. Wu said many Tibetan leaders had chosen to return to Tibet in recent years, giving the example of a senior Lama in Chengdu who returned from Switzerland.

“All Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama and the people around him, can return if they accept Tibet and Taiwan as part of China, and give up ‘splittist’ efforts,” he said.

When asked about the political talks with envoys from Dharamsala, that broke down after nine rounds in 2010, he termed their demands unacceptable. “How can the Dalai Lama demand that China withdraw its army from Tibet?” asked Mr. Wu. “The army is a symbol of our state. Will India agree to withdraw its Army from Arunachal Pradesh?” he said.

Mr. Wu also rejected the proposal by the Prime Minister of the self-styled “Tibetan government in exile”, Lobsang Sangay, for a larger region to be included in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

India’s concerns on rail line allayed

Rejecting concerns in India over the newly-inaugurated 250-kilometre rail-line from Lhasa to Shigatse that runs close to the Indian border in Sikkim, he said India, Nepal and China should cooperate on “letting railways cross over borders as they do in Europe.”

Responding to a question from The Hindu, he said, “Rest assured however many railway lines China builds, it will abide by the Panchsheel principles of coexistence.”

India has twin worries over the new constructions in Tibet, which will run close to Sikkim on the western line to Shigatse, and on the eastern line to Nyngchi, close to the Arunachal border, which are due to be completed by 2016. To begin with, the high-speed trains will facilitate quicker movement of military personnel and hardware to the Chinese side compared to India’s abilities at its border. Also, the Nepal government had asked for the Shigatse line to be extended to Kathmandu to ease travel from Nepal, Mr. Wu revealed.

Mega infra mission

The rail lines are part of China’s mission to build infrastructure on a large-scale in Tibet by 2020, indenting for 1,300 km of railway tracks, 1,10,000 km of roadways and several airports, with an investment of more than $13 billion in the last two decades.

Environmentalists have pointed out that the barrelling of tunnels through mountains will lead to soil erosion and have other ecological impact as well. Tibet’s Director General of Environmental Protection Jiang Bai, however, has said the construction process goes through “strict” environmental checks. “In the past too, if we are advised against disturbing one part of a mountain, we take a detour,” he said.

Friday, 22 August 2014

China's new rail line lures tourists, workers to Tibet

BEIJING — Travelers in the Himalayas can now bypass some of Tibet's hazardous roads by using a new railway line that has renewed fears about Tibet's cultural identity and deepened concerns about China's ambitions in the strategic, high-altitude region.

Passenger services started Saturday on the railroad's just opened $2 billion extension line from Lhasa, Tibet's capital, to Shigatse, Tibet's second -largest city, and a major pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists.

The new rail line, which follows the completion of the Beijing-Lhasa line in 2006, connects the two cities in just two hours, compared with a five-to-seven-hour road trip on National Highway 318, "which is said to have many safety hazards," the state-runChina Daily newspaper said.

Indeed, on Monday, at least three passengers on a tour bus were killed and another 15 were missing after their bus plunged into a river southeast of Tibet, Chinese state media reported. The accident followed a similar tragedy nine days earlier, when 44 Chinese tourists died after their bus crashed off a cliff in southern Tibet. Monday's accident occurred on Highway 318, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Rescuers work around an overturned tour bus after it fell off a cliff in Nyemo County, southwest China's mountainous region of Tibet Aug. 9, 2014. Xinhua reported the bus carrying about 40 people careened after it crashed in a pileup involving a sports utility vehicle and a pickup truck on a state road.(Photo: AP)

Tibet's government- in-exile argues that the rail extension threatens further cultural assimilation and environmental damage, as it may accelerate the mass immigration of Han Chinese -- China's majority ethnic group -- into Tibet. It may increase mining of Tibet's abundant mineral reserves including gold, chromium and coal. The line will allow easier transportation of mineral products but environmentalists worry about the effects of mining on Tibet's fragile eco-system.

Across the border with India, south of Shigatse, some Indians worry about the new extension and plans to connect China's railway to India, Nepal and Bhutan by 2020.

Tibet's growing rail network "is likely to leverage Beijing's claim over the disputed border region" with India, warned the PTI, India's largest news agency, as it cuts travel time for Chinese armed forces. The new rail infrastructure also greatly speeds China's own resource extraction from the potentially mineral-rich region, mining executive Zhu Bin told the People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's newspaper, last month.

China asserted authority over Tibet in 1951. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959 and established a government in exile. Beijing has brought Tibet into the modern world, yet its sometimes repressive policies have angered many Tibetans still committed to the exiled Dalai Lama. Chinese authorities accuse him and exile organizations of plotting the self-immolation protests by Tibetans, which began in 2009 and now number over 130, mostly fatal, incidents.

The Beijing-to-Lhasa route was the world's highest railroad when built. Chinese officials and media have celebrated the new, shorter line as another miracle. The 156-mile route, a third of which runs through tunnels, defeated permafrost, bitter temperatures, earthquakes and low oxygen levels, at a cost of nearly $2,500 a foot, according to Xinhua. On board, passengers can access a free supply of oxygen under each seat to cope with heights of more than 13,000 feet. Two doctors also ride each service.

After a forum on Tibet's development last week, Chinese officials released the "Lhasa Consensus", a statement reproducing Beijing's rosy views about the "happy life" and religious freedom Tibetans enjoy. Western media, barred from independent reporting in Tibet, is "biased", while "the Dalai clique's statements on Tibet are distorted and incorrect", the consensus said.

The International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group, said the consensus statement was circulated as news emerged that paramilitary troops had two days earlier shot and seriously injured at least 10 unarmed Tibetans in eastern Tibet.

China's government has responded to five years of self-immolations "by intensifying the military buildup in Tibet and strengthening the policies and approaches that are the root cause of the acts, such as aggressive campaigns against loyalty to the Dalai Lama," the International Campaign for Tibet said.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

It’s in Chinese interest to give Tibetans more autonomy: Lobsang Sangay

Dharamsala, Aug 4 (IANS) Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile Lobsang Sangay says the people in Tibet will be happy if they are given more autonomy by China “within the Chinese constitution”.

The 46-year-old Harvard educated elected head of the Central Tibetan Administration, who completes three year in office Aug 8, believes that the Tibetans will be happy if the Chinese give them more autonomy.

“Yes, it would be in China’s own interest as we are seeking genuine autonomy within the Chinese constitution for the people in Tibet,” Sangay told IANS in an interview here.

“We do believe in ‘middle-way’ that even international leaders, including US President Barack Obama, and many Chinese intellectuals, such as imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, support.”

About China’s seriousness over the issue, he said: “China should be serious over the issue because its sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability are all addressed if the genuine autonomy is granted to

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet with many of his supporters and took refuge in India when the Chinese troops moved in and took control of Lhasa in 1959.

“We hope the Chinese government will review its hardline approach and introduce liberal policies towards Tibetans. I hope that President Xi Jinping will accept dialogue as the only way to resolve the Tibet issue peacefully,” Sangay said.

The Tibetan administration, headquartered in Dharamsala, launched a campaign June 5 to reach out to the international community to counter the Chinese ‘misinformation campaign’ on its ‘middle-way approach’.

Sangay said the response from the international community has been positive towards resolving the issue. “Many including the US Senate and the European Union passed resolutions over the issue.”

But Sangay believes in dialogue.

Asked about his initiatives to resume talks between the Dalai Lama envoys and the Chinese, Sangay said: “After the devolution of political authority by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (in 2011), one of our main objectives was to ensure a smooth transition in the aftermath.”

“I am happy to say the transition has been as smooth as it could be.”

China and the Dalai Lama’s envoys have held nine rounds of talks since 2002 to resolve the Tibetan issue.

During the last round of talks – the ninth one – held in Beijing in January 2010, the government-in-exile submitted an explanatory note to the Chinese leadership to clarify its stand on autonomy for the Tibetan people.

At the end of the round, the statement which the Chinese side issued said the two sides had “sharply divided views, as usual”.

Monday, 4 August 2014

US reports severe suppression of religious freedom in Tibet

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the release of the 2013 International Religious Freedom Report at the State Department in Washington, Monday, 28 July 2014/AP
DHARAMSHALA: The Chinese government imposed severe repression on the religious freedom of Tibetans across Tibet, the US said in its 2013 International Religious Freedom Report.

The report said the Chinese government’s respect for and protection of religious freedom in the Tibetan areas were poor, with widespread official interference in religious practice, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.

Repression was severe and increased around politically sensitive events and religious anniversaries, the report said, adding that official interference in the practice of Tibetan Buddhist religious traditions continued to generate profound grievances.

“They (Chinese authorities) arrest Tibetan Buddhists simply for possessing the Dalai Lama’s photograph,” the Press Trust of India quoted US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters after releasing the report.

There were reports of detention, sentencing (including two death sentences, one with a two-year reprieve), three deaths attributed to police, and other government-initiated violence related to religious issues. According to reports by journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 26 Tibetans, including monks, nuns, and laypersons, self-immolated, it said.

Tibetans face societal discrimination in employment, while engaging in business or when traveling, but because Tibetan Buddhists’ ethnic identity is closely linked with religion, it can be difficult to categorize incidents of intolerance as purely ethnic or religious, the report said.

“Tibetans, particularly those who wore traditional and religious attire, regularly reported incidents in which they were denied hotel rooms, avoided by taxis, and/or discriminated against in employment opportunities or business transactions,”it said.

“Many ethnic Han Buddhists were interested in Tibetan Buddhism and donated money to Tibetan monasteries and nunneries. Tibetan Buddhist monks frequently visited Chinese cities to provide religious instruction to ethnic Han Buddhists. In addition, a growing number of ethnic Han Buddhists visited Tibetan monasteries, although officials sometimes imposed restrictions that made it difficult for ethnic Han Buddhists to conduct long-term study at many monasteries in ethnic Tibetan areas,” the report said.

The report said “the US government repeatedly urged authorities at multiple levels to respect religious freedom for all faiths and to allow Tibetans to preserve, practice, teach, and develop their religious traditions. The US government raised individual cases and incidents with the Chinese government. US officials urged the Chinese government to engage in constructive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, as well as to address the policies that threaten Tibet’s distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity; such policies are a primary cause of grievances among Tibetans.”

The report said the ability of US diplomatic personnel to speak openly with Tibetan residents and members of the monastic community was severely restricted during their visits to Tibet.

Secretary Kerry submitted the 2013 International Religious Freedom Report to the US Congress. Mandated by Congress, the International Religious Freedom Reports help inform US government policy and foreign assistance. They also serve as a reference for other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organisations, legal professionals, scholars, interested citizens, and journalists.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Dalai Lama Photo on Open Display at Tibetan Horse-Race Festival

In open defiance of authorities, Tibetans set up a portrait of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at a traditional horse-racing festival in China’s Sichuan province this week, inviting festival-goers to pray before the photo and make offerings, sources said.

The popular festival, held this year on July 27 in Dziwa village in Bathang (in Chinese, Batang) county in the Kardze (Ganzi) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, opened with the Dalai Lama portrait’s formal installation, a Tibetan living in exile told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.

“Though Chinese authorities imposed restrictions on the festival, the Tibetans brought in a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and placed it on a throne,” Tsultrim Choedar said, citing local sources.

“The organizers also invited Tibetans gathered at the festival to view the photo and offer ceremonial scarves,” he said.

“They prayed for the long life of the Dalai Lama and other prominent religious teachers, and also prayed for a resolution of the question of Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959, is reviled by Chinese leaders as a dangerous separatist who seeks to split the formerly self-governing region from Beijing’s rule.

In what he calls a Middle Way Approach, though, the Dalai Lama himself says that he seeks only a meaningful autonomy for Tibet as a part of China, with protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture.

A popular tradition

Horse racing festivals date back to the time of the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century, and are still popular in Tibetan rural nomadic areas—especially in the historical southeastern Tibetan region of Kham, which has largely been absorbed into Chinese provinces, Choedar said.

“This time, when the horse race was organized in Dziwa village, the festival began with an invitation to all who came to the festival to participate in the installation of Dalai Lama’s portrait and to receive blessings,” he said.

Most of the horse-racing events are held annually “but in some places the event is organized twice each year.”

Many travel for days to attend the festivals, he said.

In September 2012, Bathang-area Tibetans also defied authorities by parading large portraits of the Dalai Lama during the enthronement of a local religious leader, Tibetan sources told RFA in earlier reports.

Several thousand Tibetans, many on motorbikes, took part in the enthronement ceremony to welcome the young lama, one source said, adding, “Many displayed huge photos of the Dalai Lama on their motorbikes and paraded in the ceremony.”

And in March this year, a 31-year-old nun named Drolma self-immolated near a monastery in Bathang to protest Beijing’s rule, sources in the region and in exile said.

Sporadic demonstrations challenging Chinese rule have continued in Tibetan-populated areas of China since widespread protests swept the region in 2008, with 131 Tibetans to date setting themselves ablaze to oppose Beijing’s rule and call for the Dalai Lama’s return.