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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."

A Crucial Moment -- Paramilitary in the monastery

November 13, 2008

Paramilitary police clean their weapons in a monastery courtyard in
Lithang, Karze Prefecture. They are positioned such that any pilgrims
making the circuit to spin prayer wheels will need to pass them and
feel intimidated.
Agams Gecko Blog
November 11, 2008

An important meeting is to be held next week which may determine the
fate of a nation, one that forms an essential pattern in the fabric
of the civilised world. Tibetans from around the world will meet in
Dharamsala, India, responding to the call of their spiritual leader
to determine the future course of their long struggle, and the
prospect of their survival as a people.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked for this assembly before his
diplomatic delegation travelled to China on their latest fruitless
quest for understanding, and as his own faith in his lifetime efforts
on behalf of his people was dwindling.

This is an opportunity that cannot be wasted, while we still have the
Dalai Lama with us. He wants to hear all the criticisms of his
long-held Middle Way Approach with the Chinese communists, and to
have a full discussion of the alternatives. And why not? Since every
proposal of limited autonomy in specific fields (as outlined in
China's own constitution as the right of "nationalities") is rejected
by the CCP as merely "independence in disguise," why not call their
bluff and change the aspiration to what they will label it in any case?

He has become disheartened with his own efforts to find middle
ground, put forth with integrity over the span of nearly his entire
life. Try to imagine what that must feel like -- spending close to 60
years trying to work with them after they overrun your country,
believing you can find some grain of compassion and realism in their
leaders. Never getting a single thing in return, but still keeping
faith in their humanity. And finally realising they were lying to you
the entire time.

But his despair isn't for himself, but for his people.

"Tibetans are being handed down a death sentence. This ancient
nation, with an ancient cultural heritage is dying," he told a group
of reporters.

The Tibetans in exile are impatient after so many years with no
perceivable result. Those inside Tibet are absolutely fed up, as we
saw clearly in the sustained protests over months this year. Buddhism
teaches compassion and kindness, but not necessarily if it means
rolling over and dying without a struggle. Life and freedom also have
a place in Buddhism.

Three young monks in Markham County, Chamdo Prefecture (T-"A"-R) were
arrested over a power station blast in September.

On Oct. 24, police found Tenzin Rinchen, shot him in the leg, and
arrested him, Tibetan sources said. Ngawang Tenzin and Tenzin Norbu
"were detained yesterday, Oct. 30," one source said. "They were
arrested yesterday night and taken away."

Local sources told RFA of a huge military presence in the county.
Ngawang Tenzin's father was also arrested, as family members of the
accused often are. Tenzin Norbu's elder brother was taken while
ploughing his field, but he refused to talk. He was released on
October 27, unable to move his hands or feet.

Political cleansing has begun in Lhasa districts, with the removal of
any local government employees known to have relatives who are
current or former political prisoners, or who have fled abroad. An
ultimatum had earlier been released, warning that any Tibetans having
children studying in India would suffer similar consequences, such as
loss of jobs and pensions. Three monks in Barkham County, Ngaba
Prefecture were so badly mistreated that all sustained serious kidney
damage from beatings with iron bars. A Drepung monk held in detention
near Lhasa was so viciously beaten by guards that he vomited blood.

On October 18 an intermediate school student in Chentsa district
committed suicide by jumping from the school's roof. Lhundrup, 17,
had participated in the taking down and burning of the Chinese flag
from the school in March, and replacing it with a Tibetan one. He was
described as one of the best students in his class, and had left a
note to his parents, teachers and fellow students. Lhundrup made
clear that he had not done it for personal reasons, but

...as a proof for the world community that Tibetans are deprived of
Freedom and Basic Human Rights and he hoped that Tibetans would fight
consistently for the freedom of the Tibetans and further added that
the teachers and school mates should work hard for the preservation
of our native Language i.e. Tibetan.

Fourteen Tibetans were sentenced at the end of October to various
prison terms (up to 15 years) for participating in protests or
composing freedom leaflets. Those convicted were denied access to
family and legal counsel. Five people in Kardze have been given
sentences up to 10 years for such things as raising the Tibetan flag
or distributing leaflets. One of the five, Ngoega, 53, responded to
the verdict by saying:

"We did not commit any crimes of destroying or burning public
properties rather we were involved only in distributing pamphlets on
Tibetan cause. For that act I suffered torture, inhuman and degrading
treatment at the hands of security personnel that I regain my body
sensation only days after my [transfer] to the prison."

More long prison sentences are detailed here.

The Labrang monk who fearlessly recorded a video giving the details
of his own arbitrary arrest and torture in detention (discussed here
with links to the videos and Woeser's English translation) has been
arrested after returning to the monastery.

Jigme offered the only extended personal account of Chinese treatment
of detainees following the March uprising, and he was arrested on
that global day of hope, November 4. More than 70 security forces
including the paramilitary PAP were involved in the operation.

Police vehicles, their sirens wailing, drew up outside the monastery
just after midday. Armed officers poured out and entered Jigme's cell
near the front of the ancient edifice that sprawls up a hillside in
Gansu province.

He had been moving between safe houses since the video was made
public in August (it was broadcast on VOA's Tibetan service, Kunleng).

Friends told The Times that he decided to return to his monastery
after police, who had visited his family, said he would be safe from
arrest if he returned to his monastery. With the onset of winter, he
decided to believe the authorities.

Lesson number one: never trust the words of communist Chinese
authorities. TCHRD confirms the arrest from its own sources.

An Australian parliamentary delegation recently visited Tibet, and
even the pro-Beijing MP who led the group told his Chinese
counterparts that reconciliation must take place between the
authorities and the Dalai Lama. Chinese officials naturally told him
there was nothing to reconcile, since the Tibetans "enjoy full
rights" to "manage their own affairs." Luckily, there were two
intrepid Aussie journalists who tagged along to report on the huge
Chinese military presence in Lhasa.

Military personnel with machineguns are conducting routine patrols
around Lhasa's historic Barkhor district.

Snipers are also positioned on rooftops and stairwells.

During a four-day visit to the Buddhist kingdom, The Courier-Mail
also witnessed monks being bundled into a police van close to Lhasa's
historic Jokhang temple.

An official who spoke to reporter Steve Lewis indicated that the
increased military presence was due to a heightened indication of
"separatist activities." Cameron Stewart, writing for The Australian,
describes a grim military operation hidden from the world's eyes.
Heavily armed patrols roam the alleyways of the Tibetan quarter
through the night, and "glare at me as they pass, angry at the
presence of a foreigner."

When the sun rises, the soldiers do not melt away, but are replaced
by a new rotation of troops. The military stranglehold on Lhasa by
day is maintained with one chilling addition -- snipers are installed
on rooftops around the city's most holy site, the Jokhang Temple,
ready to train their guns on the hundreds of Tibetan pilgrims praying
in Barkhor Square below.

Cameron writes that the troops' heavy presence betrays Chinese
officials' unspoken fear -- that they are losing the Tibetans' hearts
and minds rather than winning them over. As for their spoken views,
well... koo-koo...

"The image of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan people's minds has already
gone away," says Bai Ma.

When Cameron can turn away from Bai Ma (vice-governor of the T-"A"-R)
and see the throngs of Tibetans waiting to pay homage at the Potala
or perform their religious devotions at the Jokhang, Bai Ma comes off
something like Saddam's old Information Minister denying the
existence of tanks rumbling along behind him.

Soldiers in the Barkhor

The reporters were not permitted to speak with senior Buddhist
figures, or with anyone who strayed from the party line. They asked
to visit Drapchi prison -- which was way out of bounds. So they
slipped away from their hotel at night, to find regular Tibetans to
talk to. It was still difficult to find people who were not fearful
of surveillance.

     "Detectives, they listen to what you say ... sometimes (Barkhor)
square is full of detectives listening in."

     He says Tibetans "feel very bad" about the situation but are
powerless to stop it. Another monk claimed that the Chinese had
installed listening devices in the main tourist sites where
Westerners might interact with Tibetans, and said no one felt safe
talking to foreigners about the political situation in Tibet.

On November 3 they witnessed monks being loaded into a police van and
taken away, but could not get any explanation for it. Officials told
them there was nothing to the reports that Tibetans are forced into
"patriotism education" sessions at which they are required to
denounce the Dalai Lama. Since this is already so well-documented,
the denials don't amount to much. Then there was this:

     "After our re-education program most of them will regret what
they have done," Tonga [deputy secretary-general of the Tibet
People's Congress] says. When pressed further on what this means he
adds: "A relevant government official briefed them on what was right
and what was wrong."

Nice, eh? They get "briefed" until they "regret what they've done"
(i.e. any manifestation of having a national identity - shouting
slogans, printing pamphlets, etc.). I wonder if these "briefing"
sessions can be done without leaving a scar.

Cameron was struck by the high degree of hostility these officials
hold toward the Dalai Lama and Tibetan institutions in exile. When he
gently suggests to one official that perhaps a degree of autonomy
might ease the tensions, it's off-handedly dismissed with, "Tibet
will not be reduced to a backwater society which features theocratic
rule." I guess Chinese officials don't get lessons in the rules of
logic. No straw-man is too big for these guys to construct.

You can listen to Cameron Stewart talking about his experiences with
an accompanying slide-show here, and a gallery of their photographs is here.

The United Nations Committee Against Torture heard testimony late
last week from a former Tibetan political prisoner about the inhuman
treatment and severe torture dealt out to her by Chinese authorities.
Phuntsog Nyidron Sanaschiga (one of the famous Drapchi 14 "Singing
Nuns") spent 15 years behind bars for expressing herself (she was
released two years early). Also present was Takna Jigme Sangpo, who
has previously given testimony of his 37 years in a Chinese prison.
Phuntsog Nyidron was 19 when she was arrested in 1989 for celebrating
His Holiness receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

     "Following my arrest I was sentenced to nine years of
imprisonment denied of legal representations. In 1993, along with 13
other political prisoners (all nuns) we secretly recorded songs in
the prison that were in praise of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
about the dire situation of the political prisoners. When the Chinese
authorities discovered our recordings, my sentence was extended by
eight years, making my total sentence 17 years. Through these songs,
we also wanted to communicate to our families that our spirits had
not been broken," she told the UN Committee Against Torture.

Among other illegal and immoral mistreatments described in her
testimony, was the evidence of prison authorities withholding
adequate medical treatments which sometimes resulted in death.
Medical care is routinely denied political prisoners.

Criminal prisoners are treated better than political prisoners, who
are permitted much less family contact and don't get the same
opportunities for vocational training, she said.

"I must say that when a State targets a woman through violence it
should be recognized as a criminal act. I say this because our
experience was that with impunity, security agents and police
officials beat us like punching bags, tortured the naked bodies of
Buddhist nuns with electric cattle-prods and killed our colleagues
through such inhuman methods. In some cases, even trained dogs were
set free to attack our naked bodies! There have been cases where
Tibetan women including nun have been "raped" by an electric-cattle prod!

"I conclude by urging you not to forget the very many Tibetans who
have been imprisoned this year, solely for voicing their strong
desire to preserve their religious, national and cultural identity
and for their belief in the non-violent freedom struggle of Tibet," she added.

Chinese lawyers, academics and activists also made a submission to
the Committee, under the umbrella coalition Chinese Human Rights
Defenders. Twenty years after China ratified the "Convention against
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment" in 1988, "all are routinely practiced by government
personnel," said the submission. The document contradicts China's own
report to the UN committee, which blames "occasional cases" on the
ever-present "bad apples" -- who are evidently very prolific in
dishing out beatings, forced labour, forced abortions and arbitrary
psychiatric detentions.

Yesterday, China simply refused to answer any detailed questions on
these issues from the committee. Claiming "zero tolerance" for these
standard practices of Chinese officialdom, China's UN ambassador Li
Baodong rejected the committee's requests for detailed information.
The Chinese side offered an answer to only a single issue, namely the
fate of the Panchen Lama (who, together with his family, were
"disappeared" by the state in 1995). An official of China's "Ethnic
Affairs Commission" declared that "they are leading a normal life and
they don't want to be disturbed." Which is precisely what they've
been saying for 13 years already. Gendun Choekyi Nyima is now 19
years old, whereabouts and well-being unknown.

Committee members criticized the Chinese secrecy, with one member
"perplexed" by the response, which amounted to highlighting the
relevant laws instead of offering the actual information the
committee expected to receive.

The Tibetan diplomats who visited the colonial power for talks at the
beginning of this month are holding back any comment on the results
until the critical Tibetan meeting convenes next week in Dharamsala.
The Tibetan side had presented a detailed memorandum on the types of
autonomy their people are looking for, as was requested by the
Chinese side. I don't know why they'd even bother requesting such a
thing when, true to form, they simply rejected it outright anyway.
Don't expect any diplomatic niceties from the ideologues at the
United Front Work Department, which is in charge of the "dialogue." A
senior Party official in the UFWD declared that China has no interest
in any sort of autonomy for Tibet.

"We merely talked about how the Dalai Lama should completely give up
his splittist opinions and actions and strive for the understanding
of the central authorities and all Chinese people so as to solve the
issue concerning his own prospects," he said.

"If he really were to gain power one day, he would without
compunction or sympathy carry out ethnic discrimination, apartheid
and ethnic cleansing."

And there it is. The Tibetans can give concession after concession,
the Chinese aren't interested in moving a single millimetre. The
whole exercise has been a decades-long stalling tactic, waiting for
His Holiness to die and expecting their problems to be solved. How
many times must he repeat that if autonomy is achieved, he would
gladly return with no powers whatsoever, to finish his days in
meditation? How many times must he repeat that the issue is the
Tibetan people and their fate, not his?

And how many times will these boneheaded communists premise every
response with the exact opposite of the Tibetan position? They'll
refer only to His Holiness' "own prospects," nothing further.
Laughably trying to convince others that he wants to "gain power" in
order to revert Tibet to a feudal system (which is but a fevered
fantasy of their own minds). And most despicably, to accuse him of
wanting ethnic cleansing and apartheid! Apartheid is practically what
the Tibetans are living under right now.

The charade is over. The Chinese government has no tolerance for
Tibetan aspirations, no empathy for the absolute misrule they've
forced Tibetans to live under, no intention of reaching any sort of
mutual agreement, and no plan to lighten the heavy duty repression
weighing upon them. The Middle Way Approach of His Holiness was
premised on the idea that Chinese leaders could be persuaded to have
compassion and see reality. They've made it clear that they can't,
and they won't. Thirty years of on-again, off-again "dialogue" was
simply their way of running out the clock.

Dalai Lama's brothers have begun to pass away, and the decrepit
Chinese leaders feel they're almost home. Let this be a lesson for
any future dealings with the CCP, by anyone. The better part of one
good man's entire life has been spent hoping for some good faith from
them. It just isn't there.

Let the Tibetans decide accordingly.
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