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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Olympic Torcher

June 20, 2008

By Greg Harman
San Antonio Current (California, USA)
June 18, 2008

Today, protests were expected to erupt across Tibet as the Olympic
torch passed through the Central Asian region. A last-minute
cancellation, however, now has the Tibetan leg of the relay on hold.
Political activists had been preparing for major actions intended to
draw attention to China's ongoing human rights abuses at the "roof of
the world."

Inside a small apartment in North San Antonio, a young Tibetan Lama
spoke with me about growing up as an exile in India, the struggles of
the Tibetan people, and Buddhism's place in the West.

Lama Passang Gelek, a member of the Gelupga path, one of four streams
of Tibetan Buddhism (that happens to include His Holiness the Dalai
Lama), lives and teaches in San Antonio. His current residency is
co-sponsored by the PeaceCENTER of San Antonio, which is screening a
film this weekend about Tibet at the Jump-Start Theater, to be
followed by a Q&A with Lama Passang. (Info at

China invaded Tibet in 1959. Since that time an estimated 1.2 million
Tibetans have been killed as a result of the invasion and continuing
occupation, according to the Government of Tibet in Exile.

Q: Have you been to Tibet?

A: No I have not seen my home country at all. It's very hard for
someone like me to get into Tibet. You have to have a passport, a
Chinese passport from India -- It's hard to get.

Q: What do people tell you today? Obviously the period in the '50s
when the Chinese came was very, very turbulent. Since that time, do
you believe conditions have improved?

A: Improved in some ways, I'd say yes; improved in some ways, I'd say
no. Things have been modernized a little bit ... But the point is
that people are still not happy. They are not happy under the
Chinese-government policy. That is the point, I think. As long as
people are happy, then it is OK with us. But people are not happy.
They are not satisfied. They don't enjoy religious freedom, political
freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and so forth. So
this is the problem we still have in Tibet.

Q: We just saw in Myanmar monks demonstrating to change and reform the country.

A: If [Tibetans] do that and do stand against and protest against
their policy, they get arrested and then they will be lost. You won't
have any information about where they are or how long they're going
to be imprisoned and what kind of treatment they're going to have.
You don't get this information. That's why I said you don't have
human rights as well as democratic freedoms like they claim that they
have in Tibet.

The point is, the Tibetan people, they are religious people, and they
love their religion and their culture, their Buddhist culture. They
love it very much. So when they are not allowed to have freedoms in
that regard … they are unhappy.

Q: Still, the Tibetans have a government in exile with His Holiness
the Dalai Lama. And some activists want him to go farther to
encourage more protest, but he's been very cautious.

A: We have some young Tibetans that we call Tibetan Youth Congress.
They seek and they want total freedom — independence. The policy that
His Holiness has adopted is the middle way, self-rule, an autonomous
region. There's a little bit of compromise in self-rule. He wants to
build Tibet as a peaceful autonomy with a five-point peace plan. To
remake Tibet as a zone of peace. Demilitarization. Disarmament. No
military force. No weapons. We don't want these things. We don't
believe in these things.

Also, he wants environmental protection in Tibet. It was very well
protected before.

We know that environment is very, very crucial for our survival as
well. So we don't destroy our environment. Since Tibet got occupied
by Communists they started exploiting our environment … using the
land to produce this metal and dumping this metal and nuclear waste.

Q: So they do a lot of their dumping, they take it to Tibet?

A: That's some information I read sometimes in Tibet political news.
I have not seen it with my eyes, but that's what I read. These
activities pollute the environment in Tibet and also it pollutes the
rivers. There are five or six major rivers that run into neighboring
countries …

When Chinese, they do population transfer. They send a lot of people
to Tibet. They settle down into Tibet. As a result, the Chinese
population now outnumbers the Tibetan people. The Tibetan people have
already become a minority in their own country.

Q: The Soviets under Stalin did a lot of that.

A: Yes. The Communists, they applied this policy to some other
countries, with the Mongolians, with some other countries they did
that. They are doing that. It's a cultural genocide.

Is that their hope, that the Tibetan people will be washed away in time?

I think so. Gradually, the Chinese people will keep increasing. Also,
they will get totally mingled with the Tibetans, as well. Gradually,
we will be lost. This is their Final Solution, I guess, to clean the race.

Q: What can people in San Antonio do to encourage or assist the
Tibetan people in the effort for autonomy in China?

A: I think the people in San Antonio, people in general, people of
the world, they can write their application or their petition to
their state or their leader. Many of the Tibetan supporters, they
have been doing this in many ways. San Antonio people can do that, too.

We have no sense of resentment [against] Chinese people in general.
What we are against, we are against the Communist political leaders'
policy — their unfair policy. That's the one thing we don't accept.
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