News From Tibet, and The World – 2008

Tibet 6 Months After The Riots
(September 20, 2008)
TIBET – BEIJING – Almost six months have passed since what is known as the “3/14 incident” – the worst anti-government violence to convulse the Tibetan capital in two decades. The appearance of normalcy has returned to this holy city.

But ever-present armed paramilitary troops and police, and a few remaining charred shells of shops torched in the March unrest, are vivid reminders of an undercurrent of fear and discontent.

The events of mid-March remain contentious and murky. Peaceful marches by monks on March 10 – the 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule – somehow spiraled over the days into violent protests against the police. These then turned into attacks on ethnic Chinese property and people.

Beijing says 22 were killed in the riots but the Tibetan government-in-exile puts the death toll at around 80. Scores of rioters have been put away and hundreds of monks are being given “patriotic education” – in which they are required to denounce the exiled leader the Dalai Lama – at the key monastery of Drepung, locked down till last week.

The aims of the Lhasa protesters were not clearly articulated. But in the days and weeks that followed, a wave of up to 100 protests swept across Tibetan-inhabited areas in three nearby provinces of Gansu, Sichuan and Qinghai. Some slogans called for the return of the Dalai Lama. Reports estimated that some 30,000 people took part. The authorities said they detained more than 6,000 people.

China has repeatedly accused the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, of fomenting riots and anti-China protests to disrupt this year’s Beijing Olympic Games.

“Unlike what the Chinese say, the unrest was not orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, and most Tibetans here want him to return” – is the opinion of majority of local Tibetan population in Lhasa.

Tibet’s government-in-exile wants China to account for the large number of Tibetans missing following the March uprising, and says it remains unclear how many Tibetans have been killed, injured or detained by Chinese authorities since then.

China’s harsh response met worldwide criticism, and several world leaders even threatened to boycott the Beijing Olympics, which ended last month. The US Senate just passed a resolution urging Beijing to hold serious talks with supporters of the Dalai Lama, provide genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people, as well as allow more religious freedom in Tibet.

The eighth round of formal discussions between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the representatives of the Chinese government is planned for October 2008, and will focus on the implementation of national regional autonomy in Tibet as enshrined in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

Tibetan leaders say the Chinese made unacceptable demands on the Dalai Lama at the last round of talks. They say if the October dialog yields no progress, the Tibetans will likely not continue the discussions, which began six years ago.


Olympics in Crisis
(April 10, 2008)
TIBET – BEIJING – Crisis. Disarray. Sadness. Four months before the opening of what was supposed to be the grandest Olympics in history, the head of the International Olympic Committee is using words that convey anything but a sense of joyous enthusiasm.

The protest-marred Olympic torch relay and international criticism of China’s policies on Tibet, Darfur and human rights have turned the Beijing Games into one of the most politically charged in recent history and presented the IOC with one of its toughest tests since the boycott era of the 1970s and ’80s.

“It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said Thursday.

At the same time, Rogge called on China to respect its “moral engagement” to improve human rights and to fulfill promises of greater media freedom. He also reaffirmed the right of free speech for athletes at the Beijing Games.

Rogge spoke in Beijing just hours after the completion of the torch relay in San Francisco, where the route was shortened and the flame diverted to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters.

Three pro-Tibet demonstrators climbed cables on the Golden Gate Bridge on Tuesday to condemn China’s government in advance of the Olympic torch’s run through San Francisco.

The demonstrators unfurled a giant banner reading “One World, One Dream” and “Free Tibet 08”, while at least one of the daredevil protesters could be seen carrying a Tibetan flag, television images showed.

A New York environmental activist selected to carry the Olympic torch, Majora Carter of the Bronx, signaled her solidarity with Tibetan protesters by unfurling a Tibetan flag soon after she was handed the torch in San Francisco yesterday afternoon.

Ms. Carter said that after she pulled the flag from her sleeve the torch was quickly taken from her and she was pushed out of the Olympic entourage.

Ms. Carter foreshadowed her action when she spoke Tuesday night at a candlelight vigil staged by Tibetans and pro-Tibet activists. “I’m going to be carrying that torch because I do see it as a light for freedom and for justice. I know that I’m getting the kind of love that I’m feeling from all of you tonight, that a little bit of that love is going to transfer into that flame and it is going to go all the way to China,”she said at a candlelight vigil at San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza.

Reaction from International Olympic Committee Chairman Jacques Rogge’s can be gauged by his use of the word “crisis”, which he used to describe the torch relay. The Belgian orthopedic surgeon’s comments usually are measured and low-key.

He cited previous crises — the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the boycotts of the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Games.

After the chaos caused by pro-Tibet demonstrators during torch relays in London and Paris, IOC officials were relieved the North American leg passed without any injuries.

The head of the committee organizing the torch run in Indonesia said the route will be significantly shortened because of Chinese concerns it might attract pro-Tibet protests.

Hong Kong newspapers reported Wednesday that officials may shorten the route.

The relay also is expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi, India, which has a substantial Tibetan population, and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop tour before arriving in mainland China on May 4.

The Olympics begin August 8, 2008.

Rogge, who has come under pressure from critics to speak out on China, was asked whether he had second thoughts about awarding the games to Beijing seven years ago.

“I’ve said that it is very easy with hindsight to criticize the decision,” he said. “It’s easy to say now that this was not a wise and a sound decision.”

But Rogge insisted Beijing had “clearly the best bid” and offered the strong pull of taking the Olympics to a country with one-fifth of the world’s population.

“That was the reasoning for awarding the bid to Beijing.”

When Beijing was seeking the games, Rogge noted, Chinese officials said the Olympics would help advance social change, including human rights. He called that a “moral engagement” and stressed there was no “contractual promise whatsoever” on human rights in the official host city contract.

“I would definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement,” Rogge said, in one of his most pointed comments on the subject.

Rogge reported having “very frank and open discussions” with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on a range of Olympic issues Wednesday. He declined to elaborate.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be attending the opening, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering staying away. U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have called on President Bush to boycott the ceremony.

Rogge said free expression has been enshrined in the Olympic Charter for more than 40 years as a “basic human right.” However, the charter also forbids any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in any Olympic sites or venues.

“I’m very clear on the fact that athletes have ample opportunities to express themselves without hindrance, but just by respecting the sacred environment of the Olympic village, the Olympic venues the podium and so forth,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama said he is willing to support the Beijing Olympics, but China cannot suppress protests in Tibet with violence or tell those calling for more freedom in his homeland “to shut up.”

During a stopover in Japan on his way to the United States, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader strongly denied Chinese allegations he and his followers have been fomenting unrest before the Olympics. He said he has supported China’s hosting the Olympics from the start.

“Right from the beginning, we supported the Olympic Games,” he told reporters in Japan.

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since a failed 1959 uprising in Tibet, said he would even like to attend the opening ceremony if the Tibetan crisis is resolved. “If things improve and the Chinese government starts to see things realistically, I personally want to enjoy the big ceremony,” he said.


Tibet Protests Chinese Rule;
Dozens Killed in Tibet
(March 10-18, 2008)
TIBET – China ordered tourists out of Tibet’s capital while troops on foot and in armored vehicles patrolled the streets, two days after riots that a Tibetan exile group said left 100 protesters dead.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported at least 10 were killed Friday when demonstrators rampaged in Lhasa, setting fire to shops and cars.

“The victims are all innocent civilians, and they have been burnt to death,” Xinhua quoted an official with the regional government as saying.

The Dalai Lama’s exiled Tibetan government in India said it had confirmed Chinese authorities killed at least 80 Tibetan protesters but added the toll could be as high as 100. There was no confirmation of the death toll from Chinese officials and the numbers could not be independently verified.

Government workers in Lhasa said Chinese authorities have been prevented from leaving their buildings.

Tourists were told to stay in their hotels and make plans to leave, but government staff were required to work.

Some shops were closed, said a woman who answered the telephone at the Lhasa Hotel.

“Burned cars, motorcycles and bicycles remained scattered on the main streets, and the air is tinged with smoke,” the report said.

Streets in Lhasa were mostly empty Saturday as a curfew remained in place, witnesses said.

The demonstrations against Chinese rule of Tibet are the largest and most violent in the region in nearly two decades. They have spread to other areas of China as well as neighboring Nepal and India among other countries.

In the western province of Gansu (China) police fired tear gas Saturday to disperse Buddhist monks and others staging a second day of protests in sympathy with anti-Chinese demonstrations in Lhasa, local residents said.

The protests led by Buddhist monks began Monday, March 10 in Tibet on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. They turned violent on Friday when demonstrators burned cars and shops. Witnesses said they heard gunshots on Friday and more shooting on Saturday night.

The eruption of violence comes just two weeks before China’s Olympic celebrations kick off with the start of the torch relay, which passes through Tibet. China is gambling that its crackdown will not bring an international outcry over human rights violations that could lead to boycotts of the Olympics.

Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics in August has already brought scrutiny of China’s human rights record and its pollution problems. But so far, the international community has reacted to the crackdown in Tibet only by calling for Chinese restraint without any threats of an Olympic boycott or other sanctions.

In another security move, China notified tour operators this week that Mt. Everest would be closed to climbers this year until May 10. Although the letter of notification cited environmental concerns, analysts say the Chinese want to avoid a repeat of an incident last year, when climbers made a video of themselves on Everest with a “Free Tibet” banner, and posted it on the Internet.

China maintains rigid control over Tibet, foreigners need special travel permits to get there and journalists rarely get access except under highly controlled circumstances.

On Friday, the Dalai Lama appealed to China from his home in exile in Dharamsala, India not to use force and to respect Tibetan aspirations.

Pockets of dissent were also springing up outside China.

In Zurich, Switzerland, police said they fired tear gas at pro-Tibet demonstrators who tried to storm the Chinese consulate. Hundreds of people took part in the protest against the Chinese crackdown. Swiss police said they fired the tear gas when several protesters attempted to break into the consulate.

Tibetan groups want the Swiss government to press China on its human rights record.

In Australia, media reported that police used batons and pepper spray to quell a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney. The Australian Associated Press reported that dozens of demonstrators were at the scene and five were arrested.

Dozens of protesters in India launched a new march just days after more than 100 Tibetan exiles were arrested by authorities during a similar rally.

And in Katmandu, police broke up a protest by Tibetans and arrested 20.

Violence in Tibet spilled over into neighboring provinces Sunday (March 16) where Tibetan protesters defied a Chinese government crackdown.

Protests against Chinese rule of Tibet were reported in neighboring Sichuan and Qinghai provinces and also in western Gansu province. All are home to sizable Tibetan populations.

The Dalai Lama warned Tibet faced “cultural genocide” and appealed to the world for help.

Lhasa appeared to remain under a curfew on Sunday, though some people and cars were seen on the streets during daylight. The government has not announced the curfew but residents said authorities have warned them not to go outside for several days now.

The Dalai Lama threatened Tuesday (March 18) to step down as leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile if violence in his homeland spirals out of control.

The Dalai Lama, speaking to reporters, urged his countrymen to show restraint. He said that “if things become out of control” his “only option is to completely resign.”

Later, one of his top aides clarified the Dalai Lama’s comments. “If the Tibetans were to choose the path of violence he would have to resign because he is completely committed to nonviolence,” Tenzin Taklha said. “He would resign as the political leader and head of state, but not as the Dalai Lama. He will always be the Dalai Lama”.

China’s deadline for protesters to turn themselves in or face severe punishment was Monday at midnight. Hours after that deadline passed, the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia on Tuesday quoted an unnamed witness as saying that authorities in Lhasa had began arresting hundreds of people. No details were given and the report could not be independently confirmed because of China’s tight control over information and ban on trips by foreign reporters.

Los Angeles Times; Associated Press;
Tibet, Beijing, India, Nepal.


Tibet: Happy Losar!
(February 7, 2008)
Tibetans around the world celebrating New Year known in Tibetan as Losar, marking the year of the earth mouse 2135.

Below is an article published written by Venerable Salden of Namgyal Monastery and published by Phayul:

Happy Losar (Tibetan New Year)!

It is time again for Tibetans around the world to celebrate their Losar; this time- the Year of the Earth Mouse 2135.

Tibetans and all Buddhists around the world will celebrate Losar on Thursday, February 7, 2008. The celebration normally lasts for three days, and it all means time for greetings, togetherness and abundant festivities, and time for prayers as well.

The word Losar is a Tibetan word for New Year. LO means year and SAR means new.

The celebration of Losar can be traced back to the pre-Buddhist period in Tibet. During the period when Tibetans practiced the Bon religion, every winter a spiritual ceremony was held, in which people offered large quantities of incense to appease the local spirits, deities and protectors. This religious festival later evolved into an annual Buddhist festival which is believed to have originated during the reign of Pude Gungyal, the ninth King of Tibet, and it may have been the first celebration of what has become the traditional farmers’ festival. It was during this period that the arts of cultivation, irrigation, refining iron from ore and building bridges were first introduced in Tibet. The ceremonies which were instituted to celebrate these new capabilities can be recognized as precursors of the Losar festival. Later when the rudiments of the science of astrology, based on the five elements, were introduced in Tibet, this farmer’s festival became what we now call the Losar or New Year’s festival.

The calendar is made up of twelve lunar months and Losar begins on the first day of the first month. In the monasteries, the celebrations for the Losar begin on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month. That is the day before the Tibetan New Year’s Eve. On that day the monasteries do a protector deities’ puja (a special kind of ritual) and begin preparations for the Losar celebrations. The custom that day is to make special noodle called guthuk. It is made of nine different ingredients including dried cheese and various grains. Also, dough balls are given out with various ingredients hidden in them such as chilies, salt, wool, rice and coal. The ingredients one finds hidden in one’s dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one’s character. If a person finds chilies in their dough, it means they are talkative. If white-colored ingredients like salt, wool or rice are inside the dough it is considered a good sign. If a person finds coal in the dough it has much the same meaning as finding coal in one’s Christmas stocking; it means you have a “black heart”.

The last day of the year is a time to clean and prepare for the approaching New Year. In the monasteries it is a day of preparations. The finest decorations are put up and elaborate offerings are made of called “Lama Losar”. In the early dawn of this day, the monks of Namgyal Monastery offer a sacrificial cake (Tse- tor) on top of the main temple (Potala in Tibet) to the supreme hierarchy of Dharma protectors, the glorious goddess Palden Lhamo. Led by the Dalai Lama, the abbots of three great monasteries, lamas, reincarnated monks, government officials and dignitaries join the ceremony and offer their contemplative prayers, while the monks of Namgyal Monastery recite the invocation of Palden Lhamo. After the completion of this ceremony, all assemble in the hall called Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana for a formal greeting ceremony. Seated on his or her respective cushions, everyone exchanges the traditional greeting, “Tashi delek”.

In order to wish the His Holiness the Dalai Lama good luck for the coming year, consecrated long-life pills (tse-ril) made out of roasted barley dough are offered to him by the representatives of the three great monasteries, the two Tantric Colleges, etc. Then entertainers (garma) perform a dance of good wishes. And two senior monks stage a debate on Buddhist philosophy, and conclude their debate with an auspicious recitation composed especially for the event, in which the whole spectrum of Buddhist teaching is first briefly reviewed. A request is made to His Holiness and to all holders of the doctrine to remain for a long time amongst beings in samsara in order to serve them through their enlightened activities. The official ceremony of the day then concludes with a ceremonial farewell to the His Holiness, who then retires to his palace.

The second day of Losar is known as King’s Losar (gyal-po lo-sar) because officially the day is reserved for a secular gathering in the hall of Excellence of Samsara and Nirvana. His Holiness and his government exchange greetings with both monastic and lay dignitaries, such as representatives of China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and other foreign visitors.

Then from the third day onwards, the people and monks begin to celebrate and enjoy the festive season. In Tibet before the Chinese came, Losar had been celebrated for fifteen days or more. In India today we celebrate for three days, and in America we have minimized it to one day. In this way the three days of the New Year celebration officially concludes.


Beijing 2008: Race for Tibet
(International Campaign for Tibet)
2008 Olympics: A Race for Tibet ICT urges Beijing to end human rights abuses and resolve the issue of Tibet through negotiations with the Dalai Lama.

News Archive:

News From Tibet 2007

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