Tag Archives: Tibet

Video Time: Tibetans on Tibet and the Olympics

Remember near the end of the year in grade school when your teachers got sick of teaching and showed vaguely educational movies? That’s sort of what this is like. We’re too busy to post something real at the moment, so we pass along this thirty-minute video we got from Woeser’s site. It’s not particularly new or anything, but it is interesting.


In unrelated news, readers of Chinese may want to check out this post, which follows up on this post of ours earlier about the still-missing Li Chunhua. We plan to translate it if we can find some time in the next couple days, but nothing is guaranteed.

“The 50th Spring: Free Tibet Concert”

This post is a partial translation of a post at Woeser’s site with some commentary following the translation. Photos are also lifted from Woeser’s site. The post is essentially a news article about a Free Tibet concert that happened in Taiwan on the 11th. A short opinion piece follows the translation.

Partial Translation

[…] At the concert a video was shown of the leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile, the Dalai Lama, saying, “In the life of people, freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law are [things] we all benefit from.” The entire audience erupted in thunderous applause. The Dalai Lama said, “The young people of Taiwan have a great responsibility for shaping the future of freedom, democracy, ideology, and material life in Taiwan.”

An excited mood prevailed at the concert. Singer Ba Nai said that his reason for participating in the concert was that he considered it a “personal favor” for [improving] the Tibet situation. Singer Da Zhi […], who uses songs to strive for freedom and democracy, said: “I sing to criticize idols, do you have the freedom to do this in China?” [Another singer said:] “As far as Taiwanese are concerned, we should do a bit more, whatever we can to help our brothers get freedom. Only when all of humanity is liberated can we finally liberate ourselves.”

The sponsor of the event, Freddy, leading everyone in making a T with their arms, representing “T for Tibet”,and screamed “Free Tibet! Free Tibet!” in a massive chorus that echoed through the clouds. There was international media there recording the concert, so “Free Tibet” can be spread throughout the world.

The Honorable Dalai Lama gave a speech for the concert [not in person], saying:

“Today, seeing these famous Taiwanese performers, I’m really very happy. Knowing that you’re commemorating the Lhasa uprising of March 10th and organizing a concert, I’m really very happy, as well as thankful, and at the same time I am praying that the event goes smoothly.

In the life of people, freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law are [things] we all benefit from. They are also our natural rights; your hosting this concert is also to let many people know all of this. That is a great thing, and because of it I congratulate you again [beforehand] on the smooth running of your concert. And I express my gratitude.

Additionally, freedom and democracy are intimately connected with the ideology and the efforts of humanity. This concert reveals that the young people of Taiwan have a great responsibility for shaping the future of freedom, democracy, ideology, and material life in Taiwan. I believe that this new generation, having grown up in an environment of free information, will use their wisdom, explore the truth, pay attention to what is good, kind, and morally just, thus striving in their hearts for peace, freedom, and happiness.

Just, kind spirit and behavior can fill one’s own life with renewed satisfaction and can also benefit others, [so] I hope everyone makes great efforts [to accomplish this].

Personally, I am a Buddhist monk, so I pay special attention to mercy and compassion. I hold that mercy and compassion towards all things is the true realization of the foundation of justice, freedom, and democracy. Personally I spare no effort in striving to make my life free, just, and democratic. You are a new generation, you must cherish the past and usher in the future. You must be resolute in mind and dauntless in spirit, you must struggle for the good of humanity. This is my hope/expectation. Thank you!“

Videos from the concert:

My Thoughts

Woven throughout this piece, and throughout much of the international discourse on China’s so-called domestic issues is the idea that Tibet, Taiwan, and sometimes Xinjiang all have something in common. On a basic level, this is true, however, if we hope to resolve any of these situations they cannot be treated as though they were the same. “Free Taiwan”, “Free Tibet”, and “Free Xinjiang/East Turkistan” are all quite nice sounding, and both the Dalai Lama and the performers at this event are clearly trying to link the struggles up with broad terms like “freedom” and “democracy”.

Unpopular as this idea is, we’ve said it before (although no one was reading this blog back then): an independent Tibet would be a disaster for the (common) Tibetan people right now. Here’s our imagining of what would happen if tomorrow, China handed Tibet over to the Dalai Lama to run as an independent nation:

The Dalai Lama and the rest of the exile community would probably return. They would arrive to find a society greatly changed from the one they ruled over half a century ago, and a people who have had little contact with them for decades. They would also find strong racial tensions that did not exist in the 1950s, and that has frequently erupted into violence in the past. The embittered remnants of the former Tibetan provincial government would likely also remain, and possibly position themselves in the way of anyone attempting to commandeer their bureaucracy. It seems unlikely that the exile leaders would actually be able to run a modern nation on their own; but even if they were theoretically capable, what money would they use?

As mentioned above, Tibet’s economic output is insufficient to support the region. The removal of all Beijing’s political infastructure would undoubtedly weaken Tibet’s economy further, leaving the new “nation” in the hands of an inexperienced relgious sect with little governing experience and no money.

Tibet would have almost no hope of finding support from other nations, either. China would certainly never [actively] support an independent Tibet, and other nations would also refuse support for fear of angering China and harming trade relations.

There seems very little reason to speculate that a “Free Tibet” wouldn’t quickly devolve into some third-world hellhole, complete with all the starvation and social instability that comes along with that title. At the end of the day, protesters calling for a Free Tibet must ask themselves what, exactly, it is that they want, and who they want it for.

Taiwan, of course, is a different story, and one that I don’t want to get into here because I feel ill-equipped to analyze that situation. The point here is that having a thousand people chant “Free Tibet!” and make the “T” sign is fun, but ultimately pretty meaningless. The situation is not going to be resolved, improved, or even productively influenced by black-and-white rhetoric that fails to take any shades of gray into account — and this applies to the Chinese government’s side of the story, too. As long as they continue to ignore the protests of ethnic Tibetans and paint the province as a racially harmonious utopia instead of genuinely addressing the problems there, unrest is going to continue.

Just the same, as long as the Tibetan exile community and international human rights groups keep demanding unconditional independence with no room for considering the actual situation on the ground, no progress is going to be made.

Same as it ever was.

“In the Name of Human Rights, Set Free All Tibetan Political Prisoners”

This is an original translation of this post from Tibetan blogger Woeser’s site. The site is currently blocked in Mainland China. Please note that I have no expertise in Tibetan, so I’ve just rendered the names in pinyin based on their Chinese characters.


Since the release of the National Human Rights Action Plan, the internal response in China has been large. It’s rare for a newspaper to dare to publish something like Nandu Daily’s [南方都市报] “In the Name of Human Rights, Make Public the Names of Those Killed in the Beichuan Earthquake” [“以人权的名义,公开汶川大地震震亡者大名单”], making reference to the clause in the plan that touches on the reestablishment of human rights in the wake of the quake, demanding the names be made public. In his article “Release Liu Xiaobo in the Name of Human Rights”, intellectual Ran Yunfei wrote: “…without action, only stopping for a second on the concept and doing nothing, well then ‘human rights’ can only remain a concept [in our minds, rather than a reality]…all those who have been locked up for something they said, all those who have been arrested and harmed even though their rights are protected under the constitution, including all those who [are arrested/beaten] while attempting to report [the crimes of officials] to higher authorities, officials should apologize to them, and set them free without condition. Like this we can put the Human Rights Plan into practice, turn it from conception into reality and, practically speaking, keep it from becoming another one of those often-heard-but-rarely-seen buzzwords on the tongues of fraudulent officials.”

So I will imitate; my main point here is to appeal: set free all those Tibetans who have been locked up for something they said, all those who have been arrested and harmed even though their rights are protected under the constitution. For example, there’s Zhuo Majia, sentenced to ten years for writing Disturbance in the Himalayas and a new book on the history of Tibetan geography in 2005, or Rongjie Azha, who was arrested on August 1, 2007 for calling for the return of the Dalai Lama, or Dangzhi Xiangqian, arrested in March 2008 for filming the documentary No Longer Afraid and showing the world the Tibetan people’s attitude towards the Beijing Olympics, or Longzhen Wangmu, sentenced to five years for sending emails about Tibet’s geographical situation in April 2008, etc. etc. And this year, once again, many Tibetan authors were jailed for writing articles promulgating the truth, they are: Gengga Cangying, Gongque Caipei, Zhuo Ri, Ci Cheng, etc. The list I’ve provided here is very short, very short indeed, but the actual list of names is very long, very long indeed.

International human rights group Reporters Without Borders said, in terms of reporters, dissidents, netizens, and activists jailed for fighting for freedom of speech, China is far, far ahead of other countries. And it seems as though from China’s large population and 56 minority groups, Tibetans seem to be far, far ahead of everyone else as well. Chinese intellectuals appeal to the authorities: “For the future of the nation, for the happiness of the people, for the image of the ruler, please quickly set free all political prisoners!” “Human Rights don’t just need to be promoted, they also need to be practiced, and be practically implemented!” “Merely saying good things is useless, human rights without action are just words on a piece of paper, a plan without action is just a piece of wastepaper!” Moreover, if they don’t respect their own National Human Rights Action Plan and arrest people who are putting the human rights plan into practice, isn’t that just deceiving oneself along with others, and going back on one’s word to feather one’s own nest?

Ronggyal Adrag
Early the year before last, Rongjie Azha was accused of “being involved in inciting [people] to overthrow the State” and sent to prison for merely attempting to speak his mind for a few minutes. Commenting on it on Radio Free Asia, I said that as far as Tibetans who are in jail because of so-called “political problems” are concerned, whether you just look at the numbers or other aspects of the problem, there has never been a half century like this one, with so many arrested, or with the arrests so widespread and endless. It’s all Tibetans that are filling the prisons being continuously built around the province. As for the tough response of unyeilding, exasperated authorities, on the surface it looks effective but it can’t last; rushing undercurrents always eventually break free and burst through the dyke. There’s concrete proof, this is not sensationalizing, last year and this year how many “Protecting Tibet” protest incidents have occurred, it proves the state of human rights in Tibet is truly grim, it certainly isn’t what officials at all levels brazenly describe as “the best time for human rights in Tibetan history.” If it were, how could it give rise to such widespread indignation and discontent? Only when there is practical improvement in the human rights situation across Tibet can a better age for human rights be realized.

2009-5-6, Beijing.

Post-Serfs’ Liberation Day Roundup

I hope everyone had a happy Serfs’ Liberation Day. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, you haven’t been reading the People’s Daily. In the past week or so, the government has launched a massive PR blitz on Tibet, even as security was tightened in the province and Tibetan ethnic regions and riots were reported.

In case you forgot to celebrate Serfs’ Liberation Day, here’s how it happened according to the VOA website:

The Chinese flag was raised at a televised ceremony in front of the Potala Palace in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa, and a crowd of 13,000 heard testimonials from Tibetans who praised the Chinese administration and denounced Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

A flag raising and testimonials? Sounds like my kind of holiday!

To be fair, the holiday was celebrated in other ways, too. There was an exhibition for foreign reporters who wanted to learn about Tibet, the traditional Chinese blocking of Youtube, a dramatic reveal of a massive spy system targeting the Dalai Lama’s computers, the publishing of yet another report on Tibet’s development, and, of course, a barrage of news stories like these:

And so on, and so on, and so on. There’s even a special channel on the People’s Daily website full of facts and figures in addition to a full complement of stories about the celebrations (There’s very little “story”, though, mostly photos of dancing women).

One wonders who all this propaganda is for, exactly. Does the CCP really expect foreigners to read this stuff and have a sudden change of heart?

Now that the holiday’s over, there’s something actually worth celebrating, though: Tibet is open to foreigners again:

“Tibet will resume receiving foreign tourists as of April 5, and we warmly welcome them,” Bachug, head of the tourism administration of Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China, told Xinhua.

“Reception work was suspended in March for the sake of travelers’ safety,” said Bachug.

“Tibet is harmonious and safe now. Travel agencies, tourist resorts and hotels are well prepared for tourists,” he said.

So far, more than 100 foreign tourist groups have been registered to visit Tibet, according to him.

Judging from that last bit, it looks as if the requirement that foreign tourists be part of a “tour group” with a guide will remain in place, but some access is better than none at all.

Also of interest:
-Speculation on what the world will be like if/when China is running it.
-John Pasden interviews Brendan O’Kane on being a translator as the first in his translator interview series.
-The Useless Tree contends that, despite what some conservative talking heads might say, Daoism is not an ideology.
-A letter-writer at Fool’s Mountain questions whether China exists.

In Defense of the Western Media in Tibet

At the risk of boring everyone and getting this website swept under the Great Firewall, we’ll add a few short thoughts about Tibet.

As the CCP keeps a lockdown on Tibet, information is scarce and hard to come by, even more than usual. There’s a certain sore spot on China’s part against the Western media for its coverage of Tibet. A China Daily article shortly after the riots last year quotes a Chinese netizen railing against Western media outlets, saying “To tarnish China’s image, the West is doing whatever they can, no mater how mean and vicious.”

On the other hand, the Chinese people aren’t the only ones that can have hurt feelings. That netizen’s words reflect the utter contempt that the Chinese government has for the Western media’s “ignorance and prejudice.”

If the Chinese government’s goal is to offend the Western media, they’ve accomplished their mission. Even ostensibly professional organizations like Time are letting their feelings show. A recent article offers a glimpse into their wounded sense of journalistic self. The overall tone of the article is that of someone both angry and frustrated at the government, on a personal and professional level.

And who can blame them? A journalists’ job is to report things, and the CCP doesn’t make friends with them by not letting them do their job. This is not meant to excuse biased reporting (which certainly exists) but to point out that in some ways the media has no choice. They can either pack up their backs and go home or take their facts from the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala. From a personal standpoint it’s easy to see what they’ll choose.

This leads to another problem: the tendency to only include the official Chinese government statements on Tibet and the official Tibetan government-in-exile statements. There’s no room for middle ground because the middle ground is often difficult for reporters to get to.

Take the following NYT excerpt that quotes Xinhua and Dharamsala in the same breath:

“Last March.…At least 19 people were killed in ethnic rioting in Lhasa, most of them Han civilians, according to Xinhua….In the ensuing crackdown, 220 Tibetans were killed….according to the Tibetan government in exile, which is based in Dharamsala, India.”

The situation now almost forces Western media to get the facts wrong, by forcing them to choose between one set of propaganda and the other. It just so happens that Dharamsala has a better PR campaign and so their propaganda wins out.

The Time article ends with a certain stab at the Chinese government. Written during the pre-Olympic media blackout in Tibet, the article says that only when the government opens Tibet up for reporting will Western media “be able to say — without bias — just what has been going on behind closed doors.”

Next time the Chinese government whines about the unfairness of the Western press, resist the temptation to feel a bit sorry for them and remember who started this mess. No one should blame the Western media for being outraged at the CCP expecting them to play along with their propaganda games.

All Quiet on the Western Front?

Today is March 10, the muchdiscussed anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising. ChinaGeeks has reported repeatedly on the security buildup leading up the anniversary, as have many other sources, but so far, there’s no sign of any major protest activity. If there were, it would be quite a surprise given the security presence there, which we’ve seen described as anywhere between “increased patrols” (China Daily) and “martial law” (New York Times).

Still, the day isn’t over, and smaller disruptions have already been reported, including this one in the New York Times:

Early Monday, a police car and a fire engine parked in a timber farm in a Tibetan area of Qinghai Province were attacked with homemade explosives early Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The emergency lights and roofs of the vehicles were destroyed, Xinhua reported, but no one was injured.

The attack occurred after forest police officers stopped a local timber truck on Sunday at a checkpoint to inspect cargo and licenses, Xinhua said. That led to an argument between the people in the truck and the police, which then resulted in dozens of local residents protesting at the police station.

The protest broke up at midnight. About two hours later, the explosives detonated, damaging the government vehicles, Xinhua reported. It was unclear if the conflict had political motives.

We will update this post as more information becomes available about what, if anything, happened in Tibet today.

Also of interest today:
-James Fallows has now dedicated several posts to the discussion of Chas Freeman, the newly-selected head of the US National Intelligence Council. Mr. Freeman’s views on China have been widely criticized. We’ll leave you to come up with a verdict on your own, but the pieces Fallows quotes and links to are definitely worth reading.

-The Chinese Navy is harassing — read: mooning — an American ship in international waters. Bizarre, and a bit inexplicable. (Shanghaiist)

Dalai Lama: Violence Looming, Chinese Citizens Armed

Everyone’s talking about the upcoming 50-year anniversary of the Lhasa uprising and whether something will happen. (OK, by everyone, I mean us). One guy who thinks something will happen? The Dalai Lama (h/t Fool’s Mountain).

In an interview with a German newspaper, the exiled Tibetan leader said of the upcoming anniversary, “I am very worried. Many Chinese citizens have armed themselves, and they are ready to shoot. It is a very tense situation. At any moment there could be an explosion of violence.”

As Fool’s Mountain has already pointed out, the idea that Chinese citizens are stockpiling firearms is a bit hard to swallow, although the Dalai Lama’s fears of violence are clearly still valid given last year’s…events.

Were they riots? Were they a government crackdown on peaceful protests? The Dalai Lama offers an intriguing third option, buried in the German original interview but unearthed by Fool’s Mountain with the help of Google’s webpage translator. Given the unreliability of such translation, I hope a more legitimate translation of the interview will come soon, but even from the robot translation, he appears to be offering a rather unique interpretation of the events of last March:

Let’s look back again to March last year: When the demonstrations were peaceful, the Chinese media did not report about them. Suddenly, on March 14, Chinese houses were set on fire and some Tibetans threw stones. But the Chinese army did not intervene at first, even though they had surrounded the quarter. Do you know why? They had staged these riots and sent the pictures of them around the world.

[Interviewer] Staged?

We have reports from eye witnesses. On March 12 and 13, they have seen Chinese trucks transporting people who were apparently Tibetans, but who were unknown to anybody. They were brought to Lhasa. Some hours later they could be seen setting buildings on fire. The Chinese want crises for which they can blame the Tibetans.

Were the riots staged? Is the Chinese population of Tibet armed with guns, awaiting this sensitive anniversary? We can hope that time will tell, but if the past is any indication, when it comes to Tibet, things only ever get less clear.

[Housekeeping note: In the interest of clarity, we’ve spelled out our commenting policy on this page. Essentially it boils down to “don’t be a dick”, but if you really want to read it, there it is.]