The people of Tibet need help now

By Ven. Thepo Rinpoche at 6:00 am Wed, Mar 6, 2013

Sunday marks the most important date for all Tibetans; those inside Tibet as well as those in diaspora across the globe. March 10 is Tibetan Uprising Day, and we who live in the free world shall protest in front of Chinese consulates and other sites, to amplify our voices on behalf of all who are voiceless inside Tibet.

Ever since China's military invasion of Tibet in 1949-1950, the religion, the cultural heritage and sovereignty of the Tibetan people have been severely compromised.

With the signing of the 17-Point Agreement with the Chinese signed under duress on May 23, 1951, Tibet surrendered its sovereignty to the Chinese for the first time in its long history. Tibetans hoped that Beijing would comply with the Chinese side of the agreement. But that did not happen.

The situation inside Tibet deteriorated progressively, year after year following the invasion. The human rights of Tibetans were not honored.

In 1956, violent protests began in the Kham region of Tibet. Many natives of that region, who are known as Khampas, left their homes and took refuge up in the hills with their weapons.

They attacked Chinese posts whenever the situation was tactically favorable. Gradually, our Khampa warriors left Kham, and banded together in the vicinity of Lhasa and the Lhokha (southern) region.

The situation in Tibet worsened by the day, and many skirmishes between the Tibetans and Chinese forces erupted throughout Tibet.

During this tumultuous period in Lhasa, the Chinese military general invited the Dalai Lama to the local army headquarters for a dance performance. They insisted that the customary entourage and security detail not accompany His Holiness.

Lhasans were stunned and suspicious. They smelled danger. They were convinced that as soon as the Dalai Lama entered the military headquarters, the Chinese would kidnap him and fly him to Beijing, just as had happened with many other Tibetan freedom fighters who disappeared after accepting similar invitations from the Chinese.

On March 10, 1959, tens of thousands of Tibetans in Lhasa gathered to protest in defiance against the Chinese military, demanding they go back to China and leave Tibet to the Tibetans.

The demonstrators surrounded the Norbulingkha palace, to protect the Dalai Lama. The angry crowd even stoned to death two Tibetans identified as spies, who were on the special Chinese payroll.

The author, Thepo Tulku, at the re-established Ganden Monastery University in South India in 1975 at roughly 19 years of age.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama escaping Tibet to take political refuge in India in March, 1959, courtesy tibetoffice.org

On the night of March 17, 1959, the Dalai Lama disguised himself as a Chinese soldier, slipped out of his summer palace, and headed south toward India. He was escorted by his loyal entourage, and by Khampa warriors.

At the time, I was five years old. I was living in the Ganden monastery in Tibet, as a reincarnated Tulku.

Word of the escape spread quickly. As people throughout Tibet learned of the Dala Lama's flight, many decided to make the perilous choice to try and follow him to India.

Some of our monastery elders fled, and they took me along with them to exile in India.

I was separated from my mother and father.

I never saw them again.

Thepo Tulku: "I am in the front row, second position from left to right. It was 1960, and I was about 6 years old, at the Tibetan Young Lamas Home School (which included all five different sects of Tibetan Buddhism), in New Delhi, India."

I have worked for my people's cause all my life. I do my best to serve as a conduit between our younger generation and older folks. I'm a follower of the Middle-Way Approach endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I believe that this approach makes the most sense in our ever-changing geopolitical environment.

On March 10, 2013, I will join Tibetans around the world in protest. On that day, I will attend protests in the Bay Area, then fly to Washington DC to lobby American lawmakers to support human rights in Tibet, on March 18 and 19. There will be many Gangchenpas (“People from the Land of Snow”) in DC for our lobbying efforts, from some 20 cities throughout North America.

I urge every Tibetan reading this message to make an effort to join us in Washington, DC, for our lobbying efforts. We need the participation of as many Tibetans as possible.

The Tibetan self-immolations, which are occurring mostly inside Tibet, are our people's desperate call for justice and support from the international community. This began as a contemporary phenomenon in Tibet starting around 2009. In early 2013, the number of Tibetans who have burned themselves alive surpassed 100. In a brutally occupied land where there is no freedom of speech, immolation has emerged as a most desperate form of expression.

Each of those 100 fellow human beings demanded the restoration of fundamental human rights in Tibet, such as the freedom to practice one's spiritual beliefs in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha. They all call out as one voice for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet.

The author, at a pro-Tibet protest in the United States.

All of my fellow Tibetan families and children are suffering so much inside occupied Tibet. It is important for all conscientious netizens of the global community to amplify our collective voices on behalf of the voiceless in Tibet.

We are united in our desire to raise the awareness of the international community. We want the world to hear and see the atrocities being committed against Tibetans solely for the crime of speaking their minds; the crime of human expression. We want to continue our spiritual practices in line with the teachings of our great gurus, not under the dictates of a state entity that does not believe in the right of religious freedom, or freedom of thought.

I urge world leaders to give us a hand. We want China to abide by globally-recognized principles of basic human rights and freedoms for the people in Tibet, as enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

China, give us genuine autonomy and there will be harmony.

FREE TIBET.

PEACE ON EARTH.

Thepo Tulku

The author, with a young fellow Tibetan

Published 6:00 am Wed, Mar 6, 2013

About the Author

VENERABLE THEPO RINPOCHE was recognized as the 8th Thepo Tulku and trained in the Ganden Shartse Monastery in Tibet. From 1975 to 1980, he worked at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India, and served as a special cultural advisor for the Smithsonian Institution Tibetan Library. In 1983, he moved to Northern California, and has worked as an activist for the Tibetan cause in various capacities: as a founding board member of the Bay Area Friends of Tibet in 1983; a board member and co-founder of the Tibetan Association of Southern California in 1990; President of the Tibetan Association of Northern California in 1994; and as Coordinator for the Tibetan Resettlement Project beginning in 1993. He is currently a board member for the Tibetan Association of Northern California and the Santa Barbara Tibet Summit. Email: thepo@msn.com.

13 Responses to “The people of Tibet need help now”

  1. Thebes42 says:

    A 17-point agreement they were forced to sign on the 23rd of the 5th month?

    Hail Eris, All Hail the Dalai Lama.

  2. monkey says:

    It’s a very sticky situation in Tibet. Tibetans are second class citizens there and those born there consider themselves Tibetan even though they are ethnically Chinese. Disinformation runs rampant in the country and few people care about what’s going on in the country because it does not garner front page reporting in a world that is more interested in celebrity lives and political sniping than genocide in an impoverished country on the other side of the globe.

    If people were engaging in self immolation in Chicago, Miami or Boise, people would sit up and take note, demand action. Sadly, I am not so sure these immolations are from pure motivation but rather from frustration and the desire to make the biggest statement possible to people who are not really listening.

    EVERYONE deserves basic human rights.  Starting with basic human rights in Tibet would be a start. 

    • Stephan says:

      For a start it would be helpful to not claim a genocide where there is none.

      I know many Tibetans in Sichuan who married Han Chinese (the Tibetan region expands far into the bordering provinces of the autonomous province).

      According to this often repeated genocide argument this would make my friends active supporters of a genocide (or even worse “race traitors”), which is a pretty backwards argument to make, to put it politely. I prefer people to mate with whomever they are attracted to for whatever the reason they chose to be the reason.

      Also, just as a reminder, all Chinese citizens are second class citizens until there is better representation of the people in government in all parts of the country. Things have been improving steadily over the last three decades. It does not mean that there where no setbacks but there is a good argument for optimism to be made regarding the development of China.
      This will positively affect the situation in Tibet and other ethnic minority regions.

      • Jonas Le_Soleil says:

        Then why is China STILL closing Tibet for foreigners? (Canadian ambassador, Australian ambassador, etc. check the news)? Is there any reason for that? I mean, what areas does your country seclude from foreigners to access? Military areas, nothing else, is there?

    • K-9 says:

       Agreed, but exactly what “action” do you propose?  The Chinese cannot be forced, bribed, bullied or shamed into capitulation. Even if they could be what would happen next? At a guess I’d say it was a tossup between an authoritarian theocracy or civil war. Are either of those an improvement?  No way am I endorsing Chinese rule of a people who don’t want it, but what would a workable solution look like?

      • Stephan says:

        The middle way approach as mentioned in the article is the best way of action:

        http://www.dalailama.com/messages/middle-way-approach

        No independence but real autonomy.
        This is achievable once the one party system in China transitions to a multi party system with real representation of the people.

        How to achieve that? I guess nobody knows.

      • Jonas Le_Soleil says:

        How do you know, that there would anyone want to have a theocracy? Who told you so? Take a look at the Tibetan Government (in exile) to know how a Tibetan Government (in Lhasa) could look like. – There is nothing like theocracy in there!

      • Jonas Le_Soleil says:

         Solution would be that they allow everyone to go there and check things out independently. (At this point in time, you are not allowed to roam around freely and talk to the people)!

      • Dael Morris says:

        “At a guess I’d say it was a tossup between an authoritarian theocracy or civil war”

        surely that’s up to Tibetans to decide? 

  3. Stephan says:

    You mean like an exclusive holiday destination for rich people and closed to backpackers?
    Not bloody likely.
    Lhasa has American and Chinese hotel chains popping up everywhere to cash in on the ever growing Tibet travel boom among mainlanders and in anticipation of a full opening to foreigners from all over the world.

    That was in response to the comparison of a hypothetic independent Tibet with Bhutan.
    (Lrn2Disqus…)

  4. Sam Ley says:

    While I see your point, I’m unsure about your attitude that somehow people must prove that they are able to create a perfect nation of peace and harmony in order to be granted cultural, religious and political freedom. Asking what someone has done to “deserve” basic human rights is an odd way to approach the situation. Give them their freedom – they won’t be perfect, just a bunch of humans, after all, but that is no reason not to give it to them.

  5. Bhutan would be a good example of what Tibet could have been and could be.

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