Join our Mailing List

"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Editorial notebook: Forced silence in Tibet

October 24, 2007

The Sacramento Bee, USA
October 22, 2007

On the bus from the airport to the city of Lhasa, the guide cautioned
us to remember two things while in Tibet: don't talk politics, and
don't mention the Dalai Lama.

The 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people,
enrages the Chinese government, while he inspires the world, as I saw
last month in Tibet and we saw last week in Washington, D.C. The Dalai
Lama's private meeting with President Bush, along with his being
awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, infuriated the Chinese communist

The Dalai Lama, exiled in 1959, has called for the restoration of
democratic freedoms in Tibet but now asks for a compromise and
"meaningful autonomy." The government believes he aims to undermine
political unity.

In the Jokhang Temple, the holiest temple in Tibet, and in the Potala
Palace in Lhasa, the Chinese government has tried to remove all
vestiges of the 14th Dalai Lama. You can see photographs, shrines and
the tombs of previous Dalai Lamas dating back hundreds of years. But
it's hard to find any trace of the current Dalai Lama.

There was one mention of the 14th Dalai Lama at the Tibet Museum,
built by the Chinese government as "a gift" to the Tibetan people. A
magnificent jade bowl is displayed as "a gift" from Chairman Mao to
the Dalai Lama.

My wife and I saw many "gifts" to the Tibetan people from the Chinese
government. Even the Chinese invasion in the early 1950s seemed to be
portrayed as a gift: the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet. But armed
troops posted at several buildings belied that version.

To find what the Dalai Lama means to Tibetans, you have to venture
into the narrow alleys and tiny shops of old Lhasa. One young woman
proudly showed us a treasured pendant she wore around her neck.

"It was a gift from the Dalai Lama," she said quietly in broken
English. She had met him once, and the pendant had become an
inspiration in her life.

The Dalai Lama has inspired thousands with his commitment to human
values, promotion of religious harmony and quest for justice in Tibet.

Yet in his former home, the quest to regain autonomy seems
overshadowed by Tibetans' struggle to retain their cultural identity.
I left struck by the joy in the faces of many, a happiness that
persisted despite hardship and loss.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank