A letter from Tibet
FIRST of all, I would like to extend my greetings to the Tibetan leaders in exile, especially His Holiness the Dalai Lama and heads of Tibetan Buddhism, and also Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, the political head of the Tibetan people and Tibetan scholars. May they all live a long and healthy life and may their work for [our country] bear greater fruits. I also pray for the spontaneous fulfilment of the wishes of Tibetans inside Tibet. May Tibetan people inside and outside Tibet be reunited soon, and may His Holiness the Dalai Lama return to Tibet to be enthroned at the Potala Palace!
It is evident that the Tibetan people inside Tibet have no other choice than to comply with the machinations of the red Chinese Communist Party. Therefore, you Tibetans in exile, through unity and solidarity, must propagate, in clear and precise terms, the suffering of the Tibetan people in freedom and democracy-loving countries of the world. This is important.
Many Tibetans in Tibet, for the sake of our nation and people, in other words, for the sake of our religion, culture and politics, are setting themselves on fire. They are burning themselves alive because our people, who have been completely deprived of freedom and kept at the mercy of a foreign power, are searching for a measure of happiness. More than a hundred brave Tibetan patriots who sacrificed their bodies had to endure the height of suffering, having been deprived of all options, and out of desperation, have had to resort to such extreme measure. This is crystal clear.
There are some Tibetans who have directly opposed the acts of self-immolation and consequently expressed mild disagreement. However, those of us in Tibet, who love our nation and people, have never opposed and expressed words of disagreement about self-immolations; we remain solidly defiant and firm in this position.
The Tibetan Government-in-Exile, the voluntary organizations and individuals working for the welfare of Tibet and the Tibetan people should be aware that in some remote areas of Tibet, the Chinese, by resorting to various means of trickery, are forcefully changing the identity of Tibetan people through acts of Sinicisation, reducing them to the status of ‘neither-Tibetan-nor-Chinese.’ As you all know, we are not given a hair’s breadth of opportunity to intervene in these matters; only journalists from foreign countries will be able to visit directly and report on these issues, so it is my hope that Tibetan Government-in-Exile and individual Tibetans will take interest in these issues.
All the grasslands of the nomads and the farmlands in the valleys have been surrounded with fences, causing enormous disputes among the Tibetan people. For instance, these fences have become a source of new conflict even between father and son. Regarding these issues, I have to share a few tragic stories here. All these Chinese strategies, as I alluded to before, are specifically aimed at sowing discord and conflict among the Tibetan peo-ple. This year, a new programme has started in the nomadic areas: to sell nomadic lands owned by the nomads at a price of Chinese yuan 2000. We must seriously ponder over this issue from all perspectives, because many Tibetans see this as the Chinese government’s plot to grab all our lands. I don’t think our concerns are being expressed without any reasonable foundation. As far as I am concerned, I consider this a subtle political stra-tegy on the part of the Chinese to lure the Tibetan people in their trap. It is not only the lands, but also that every nomadic family is being provided with enormous sums of Chinese money to construct new concrete dwellings. Moreover, unnecessary roads are being constructed, so that every monastery and village can be accessed directly. These are causing damage, for which we will have to bear enormous costs in future.
The Chinese first trap us with guile, then with money, and finally with violence. Therefore, the path the Chinese have laid for us to walk in the meantime is like an ‘invisible dagger’, against which we are presumed to not have many alternative strategies. This is because even if we refuse Chinese money, other pretexts are invented to make sure that we are arrested. These sufferings and hardships are the norm rather than an exception at present.
The Chinese are also exploiting natural resources by digging mines; government cadres are dispatched to various Tibetan towns and villages to oppress and grab our lands. This has become routine. Another serious issue is the plight of the Tibetan monasteries, schools and other institutions – centres of Tibetan learning. Officials responsible for the management of monasteries are being bribed to ensure their complicity, thereby putting severe restrictions on religious activities. The grievances of the monks against the Chinese government’s negative attitude toward the monasteries are real and justifiable and not merely an excuse to criticize them.
The same problem also besets our schools. Under Chinese compulsion, most teachers have now abandoned teaching Tibetan. Moreover, there are also cases where students attending schools in Tibetan autonomous areas are not allowed to speak in their native tongue. The medium of instruction in Tibetan schools is the Chinese language, and to graduate to higher classes, students are almost entirely dependent on how they perform in Chinese. For instance, a student securing five per cent in Tibetan, sixty per cent in Chinese, and 30 per cent in mathematics is eligible to graduate to the next class. In some schools, even if the student fails to secure a single star (form of grading in Tibetan schools), she would not encounter any serious obstacles in graduating to the next class. As a teacher I can attest to these problems from my own experience, having voluntarily served as a Tibetan teacher for one month at a school in Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Area.
The students I taught in that school, 120 in all, were in the sixth standard. Of them, we had seven students who were totally ignorant in Tibetan language – they could not even write their names in Tibetan! Although they were supposed to be in the sixth grade, their standard of Tibetan was that of the first grade. When I made inquiries with the school teachers as to why they fared so poorly in Tibetan, they confirmed what I stated earlier, that a student simply needs five per cent in Tibetan, compared to sixty in Chinese and 30 in mathematics, to graduate to the next class. When I asked the teachers how it was possible that some students who couldn’t even secure five per cent in Tibetan appear in sixth grade, they replied, ‘Some students are given special consideration to graduate to the next class.’
What is clear from these examples is that the Tibetan language doesn’t enjoy any autonomy even in the Tibetan schools established in Tibetan Autonomous Areas. Such pathetic conditions have made our lives unbearable; so it is extremely important for the government-in-exile and the Tibetan people to be aware of these problems. These are clear indications that Tibetan people have no freedom whatsoever to pursue their own religion and culture. Therefore, we must strive for freedom and should be able to experience the joys of freedom, which will be possible only when we struggle and resist.
Since the pursuit of freedom is an act of struggle, mere lip service and publicity campaigns outside Tibet will not help. What we require, above all, is the courage and pride to ‘think, speak out and achieve.’ Consequently, we must show determination to pursue all kinds of campaigns. As advocated by Tibetan scholars in Tibet, the pursuit of Tibetan learning, including Tibetan Buddhism, culture, history, literature, folk customs and traditions, are not only acts that advance freedom, but also help regain the bla srog or life-soul of Tibet.
History has shown that merely preserving one’s religion and culture by itself doesn’t ensure freedom. Freedom is secured only through acts of non-violent struggle and resistance; we must not only keep in perspective the long-term suffering of the Tibetan people, but also regard the immediate crises afflicting us as our top most concern. To uphold our duties voluntarily is a responsibility placed on our shoulders by this century. If Tibetans in and outside Tibet carry out their duties with pride and initiate campaigns around the world, I have no doubt that a time will come when justice would be restored to our people. What is indispensable for us at this moment is unity and solidarity. Tibetans in exile must have the courage to set their sights at a single goal; this is our expectation. The life of our nation and its freedom is directly and deeply intertwined with, and dependant on, you all.
Although we have thoughts about unity and solidarity, we have little freedom and no place where we can speak about the tragedy and fate of our people. Even if we speak to the Chinese, there are only a few who are willing to think about what we say. This is understandable as there is a fear of arrest. Second, most Tibetans find it difficult to speak their minds, in part due to a fear of the many Tibetan running dogs, the many spies, who are seduced by Chinese wealth. Third, there are many who consider their own security more important than the welfare of their people. Tibetans who nurture a sense of Tibetan-ness in their flesh and bones, however, without any fear of their lives, actively participate in the struggle.
For the pursuit of freedom since 1958, more than a million Tibetans have given up their lives through resistance against the Chinese communists. To this struggle, bereft of any feelings of solidarity, many Tibetans have an attitude as if they are stories of myth and legends. Therefore, after having conducted much research and investigation of Tibetan reality, I came up with a book tentatively titled Black Annals, in which Tibet’s tragedy and suffering are documented.
No matter how much the Chinese communists oppress us, we must not be cowed down in fear and pursue a narrow and pathetic path that simply gives us personal security. What we must set our sights on, above all, is to wrest control from the oppressive Chinese apparatus to have the right to pursue our own religion, culture, tradition and language. We must also pledge to uphold our duty to expose the poisonous nature of the shadowy Chinese communist political system. Although we are committed to defend our land from Chinese encroachments, nevertheless, as the Tibetan saying goes, ‘Neither will the horse appear, nor the rains fall at the moment you desire them.’ So there are certain limitations.
Still, to be the source of inspiration and pride to a coming generations, we are ready to give up our lives for the welfare of our nation and people. In view of this, we have founded an independent organization called ‘Struggle for Truth through the true meaning of the Middle-Way’, which would strive towards the preservation and promotion of Tibetan religion, culture, language, folk customs, traditions and other aspects of life, and through them, struggle to pursue the values of freedom, equality, human rights and so on. By opening up the hundred doors of diverse campaigns, we are preparing for various forms of struggle to arrive at a defining moment.
Our organization will target the Chinese political apparatus, and we would both inquire into and advocate the plight of any innocent Tibetan arrested under the system. This will be our primary goal. Second, in Tibet, the Chinese, lured by bribes, imprison many patriotic Tibetans. This is a tremendous loss to our nation; so we must do every-thing possible to find a different stra-tegy that will help us keep track of Chinese spies. Our third goal is to awaken the Tibetan nomads and far-mers from their slumber of illiteracy to educate them in our country’s history, so that a true national consciousness is implanted in their souls. Apart from this, various campaigns are being initiated to eradicate illiteracy among the Tibetan children who have been deprived of opportunities to pursue basic education.
All this reflects the attitude of ordinary Tibetan monks who honestly believe that there is no other greater purpose in life than to be of service, no matter how small, to the Tibetan people. I am hopeful that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetan scholars, thinkers, and the enlightened ones would extend their reflections towards these ends.
With profound respect.
* The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy translated this letter written by a Tibetan monk (26 August 2012), teacher and activist inside Tibet. TCHRD has used a pseudonym for the writer to protect his identity.