Worries grow of reprisals in Tibet
Montreal, January 10, 2000: Tibetans living in Canada and Canadian Buddhists, have welcomed news that His Holiness the 17th Karmapa has arrived safely in India. As head of the Kargyupa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Karmapa is revered by Tibetans the world over as a teacher and representative of Tibet's threatened cultural and spiritual heritage. Buddhists in many countries, including Canada, believe they will finally have access to Karmapa's teachings - access which until now has been frustrated by Chinese restrictions on Karmapa's travel and on westerners wishing to study Buddhist philosophy in Tibet.
"The facade of religious freedom in Tibet has been shattered," said Thubten Samdup, President of the Canada Tibet Committee. "Now that Karmapa is safe in India, the attention of the international community must turn towards the safety of his family and monastic supporters who remain behind inside Tibet. This is a time for vigilance and it will be a test for the engagement policies of western governments, especially the government of Canada".
In December, a delegation of Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade visited Lhasa, Tibet's capital city and met with regional authorities to raise human rights issues including religious freedom. Another departmental delegation as well as a possible government-sponsored church delegation is expected later this year. Canada's engagement with China on the issue of Tibet and the upcoming delegations place the Canadian government in an privileged position to monitor possible reprisals in and around Tsurphu Monastery, the traditional home of Karmapa Lamas.
"Buddhists across the country are rejoicing at the news of the Karmapa's escape from a very repressive environment in Tibet", said Judy Cutler, Executive Board member of the Rigpe Dorje Foundation in Canada. "He risked a lot by undertaking such a treacherous journey, a sign of how important it was for him to leave. It is essential that the Karmapa receive full traditional Buddhist education and training. This was not possible in Tibet. The Karmapa is a major source of instruction and inspiration to thousands of followers around the world. He can now fulfill his role as leader of one of the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism".
Last week, the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), based in Dharmsala India, released a 140-page report citing renewed crackdowns on religious freedom in Tibet, including the continuing detention by Chinese authorities of the 10-year old Panchen Lama, Gendhun Choekyi Nyima. The child prisoner has been held incommunicado for nearly 5 years. Members of his monastery, Tashilhunpo, as well as his immediate family have also been detained and held, some without charge or trial. The Canadian government delegations to Tibet have been unable to obtain any information about the safety or whereabouts of the child prisoner.
"Tibetans are fighting for their survival as a people", Samdup said. "We are sad and disappointed that conditions in Tibet remain such that our spiritual leaders and so many of our people are forced to leave their homeland in order to protect and preserve our cultural heritage".
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Thubten Samdup, President, Canada Tibet Committee, 514-867-6770 (cell)
Judy Cutler, Executive Board Member, Rigpe Dorje Foundation, 416- 967-9227
For news releases on the Karmapa's escape to India and information about the TCHRD's report "Tightening Control", please see World Tibet News (WTN) archive at http://www.tibet.ca.
For background on the Rigpe Dorje Foundation in Canada, please contact Judy Cutler at the above number.