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Tibetans Make A Decision, China's Abuses Continue

November 26, 2008

Agam's Gecko Blog
November 24, 2008

The week-long conference of free Tibetans has concluded in
Dharamsala. With roughly 600 delegates from all across the world and
representing (as far as possible) the full range of views among
Tibetan exiles, the event itself could serve as an example to
ideologically straight-jacketed regimes (such as the "People's"
Republic) of modern, democratic principles.

The meeting opened on November 17 -- the same date on which, in 1950,
a fifteen year-old boy was officially enthroned as the Fourteenth
Dalai Lama of Tibet, who took on his responsibilities sooner than was
the custom due to the then imminent Chinese invasion. Now, Tibetans
living outside the occupation were asked to gather together and
assess where the freedom movement has taken their country fifty-eight
years later.

The Tibetan leader absented himself from the deliberations in order
to avoid unnecessary deference to his own "Middle Way" path, which
seeks genuine autonomy rather than the return of Tibet's historical
independent status. He wished for a free-wheeling exchange of ideas
and strategies to be conducted among the delegates, and understood
that his presence might have an inhibiting effect on this debate.
Those who advocate for the goal of full and complete independence,
and who favour stating this goal plainly to the Chinese government,
were reportedly pleased with the open reception their views received.

Due to the composition of the delegations -- mainly from the Tibetan
exile establishment -- the full independence-seekers comprised a
youthful minority in the meetings. Many participants were reportedly
concerned that dropping the Middle Way would result in a loss of
international support, which remains a very strong asset in the
Tibetan struggle. China does care what the world thinks, and it
received many clear messages about that during the Tibet crisis this
year. Charting a course between the "Middle Way" and going "All The
Way" involves trade-offs on both sides. This is the basic nature of politics.

The convention ended on Saturday, but a final resolution has yet to
be released to the public. [UPDATE: The document can now be found
here.] It is expected to include a tougher stance on China's blatant
insincerity during the previous rounds of bilateral dialogue, and
will likely adopt certain conditions for the continuation of that process.

The most basic condition of any meeting should be the expectation of
some degree of seriousness from both sides. China appears to want the
dialogue process to continue, yet it displays not a shred of
sincerity or flexibility. If these meetings serve only as occasions
for Chinese officials to harangue and denounce the Tibetans in the
state-owned press, to lie about the Dalai Lama and to deny the
existence of any problems with their misrule, what's the point?

The Tibetan representatives reaffirmed their "faith and allegiance"
to His Holiness' leadership and agreed to continue following the
Middle Way path to genuine autonomy -- which the Chinese have
consistently labelled as "independence in disguise." If that attitude
doesn't change very soon, the Tibetan policy will be revised accordingly.

Among other things, the report also suggests that the talks by Dalai
Lama's envoys with China should be stopped until Chinese leadership
is serious about resolving the Tibetan issue. The report further says
there was a strong opinion from the meeting that consideration must
be given in seeking "independence" if such a move does not bring any
result within a short time.

Whether the goal becomes the recovery of Tibetan independence, or it
remains for a true autonomous region within China, the Tibetan people
will maintain total commitment to their non-violent freedom struggle.

Tibetan Parliament Speaker Karma Chophel said that the convention has
called upon China to finally cease defaming the Tibetan leader, which
is something the Chinese have done continuously for many years, and
which they have stepped up with a deranged ferocity since March.

"The meeting has concluded that China must accept that this year's
unrest in Tibet is a result of its misrule and wrong policies adopted
against the Tibetan people for the last many decades. China has said
it has evidence to prove that Dalai Lama's exile groups have
instigated the riots in Tibet, but they have already failed to show
any evidence to prove their accusations," he added.

Chinese communists never need any evidence, but they should get a
grip on themselves anyway. This behaviour only cements their
reputation as uncivilised thugs in the eyes of the world. The
Tibetans are offering constructive advice here.

Chophel also revealed that during the latest bilateral talks early
this month, the Tibetan envoys had challenged the authorities to
allow independent opinion polling in Tibet. While any normal
government would be pleased to know what its people are actually
thinking, the Chinese government does not fall into this category.
The last thing they're interested in is what the Tibetan people think.

Maura Moynihan, who lived in India as a child when her father was the
US ambassador, has been sending dispatches from the Tibetan special
meeting. In her second dispatch (the first one is here), she sought
to clarify the issue of Deng Xiao Peng's promise to the Dalai Lama's
elder brother in 1979, which the current Chinese communists now deny.
In discussing this issue, Gyalo Thondup touched upon the apparent
reason that Chinese leaders are not interested in what the Tibetans think.

"I don't understand the new hard-line in China. The world is
changing; China is changing. But my Chinese friends tell me that the
regional officials treat Tibet like a private pocketbook. They don't
want any dialogue, any solution, because they are making a fortune
exploiting Tibet."

The now-disputed statement by the successor of Mao has formed the
basis of Tibetan hopes for a mutually agreeable solution with China
for nearly 30 years. Deng told Gyalo Thondup, now 80, that "except
for independence all other issues can be settled through
discussions." Deng's successors are now reneging on that promise.

"Comrade Deng Xiaoping had never made such statement. It is a
falsehood made by Gyari and is a complete distortion of Deng
Xiaoping's statement," Zhu [Weiqun, executive Vice-Minister of
China's Central United Front Work Department] said at a press
conference organised by Information Office of the State Council in
Beijing on November 10, 2008.

Gyalo Thondup confirmed that on his first visit to China, Deng Xiao
Peng had indeed made that exact statement to him personally on March
12, 1979. He also pointed out that various other Chinese officials
had made the same statement, including premier Li Peng in an
interview with Xinhua on 19 May, 1991. This officially-stated policy
is what had originally prompted the Dalai Lama to renounce
independence in favour of genuine autonomy within China. Now the
Chinese will apparently deny their own history, in the interest of
continuing Tibetan subservience under their colonial rule.

So it seems we are set for many more of the same tiresome
denunciations from Chinese state officials and their propaganda
organs which have charmed people the world over, such as this one.

The Chinese state-run Tibet Daily newspaper yesterday ruled out
granting Tibet the kind of autonomy enjoyed by Hong Kong. It
described the middle way as "a naked expression of Tibet independence
aimed at nakedly spreading the despicable plot of opposing the tide
of history". The official Xinhua news agency said the Dalai Lama
aimed to set up a "covertly independent" political entity on one
quarter of Chinese territory.

If anyone could hazard a guess as to what "covert independence" might
possibly look like, I'd love to hear it. Suggestions from communist
cadres are also welcome. I keep getting the image of a Tibetan in a
concrete dungeon somewhere, recuperating between interrogation
sessions with eyes closed, contemplating his or her covert freedom.
"My body is chained but my mind is free like a bird." In that sense,
given what we've seen this year, perhaps Tibet already has "covert

The Tibet Daily editorialist's fixation with nakedness is
interesting, in light of the revelation that Chinese policy regarding
the dialogue process was rendered momentarily naked following a
security breach of a hardline state official's personal computer. Bi
Hua was a bureau director in the Communist Party's United Front Work
Department before she was sacked and put under investigation for the
loss of classified documents relating to the Tibet - China dialogue
process, reportedly due to "hacking."

"She is under investigation," one source told Reuters. "But she
insists she has done nothing wrong."

Her computer was hacked by unknown individuals, and classified
documents stolen, the sources said.

It enabled the Dalai Lama's representatives to have a heads-up as to
Beijing's bottom line toward talks.

"It was a major leak," a second source said...

"People are very surprised. She was very hardline," the second source
added, referring to her dismissal. "Even the old Communist Tibetan
cadres could not stand what she was saying."

Payback for all those denial of service attacks and assorted hackery
on Tibetan organisations' websites this year? Oh, and all that other
cyber-spying too? It would be nice to think so.

Pilgrims under arrest

Meanwhile, back in their foreign-occupied country, sentencing
continued for Tibetans arrested during the spring protests. Earlier
this month, Ngaba People's Court sentenced five Tibetans to four year
prison terms, with a sixth person receiving a bump up to six years
for opening his mouth in court. Ra-Tsedak had reminded the court
that, beyond their precious "state financial losses," many Tibetans
had actually lost their lives. Two extra years for saying that.
During several days of sentencing hearings, hundreds were given
lesser punishments, while the heavier sentences would be "kept for
later," according to local sources.

In southern Amdo, two monks were given ten years each for "splittism"
and communicating to the outside world. In Dartsedo, Kardze
Prefecture, five nuns were each sent down for four years and another
nun for three years. Two of them told the court that, since the only
hope for them to see the Dalai Lama's return was through
independence, they would continue to strive for independence. All six
are nuns from Drakkar Nunnery in Kardze.

Also in November, three monks in Dzoge County, Ngaba were sentenced
to two years in prison for demonstrating in March. Their monastery,
Thangkor Sogtsang, is under heavy surveillance while living quarters
for police and other security forces are being built on the premises.
Three other monks who protested on June 6 in Drango County, Kardze,
were given 3, 4 and 5 year sentences by the Dartsedo court. They had
distributed leaflets bearing the Tibetan national emblem, the snow lion.

Tashi Woeser of Chamdo asked his relative in Lhasa, over the phone,
when Tibet would get its independence. The call was heard by security
agents; Tashi was sentenced to one year in prison.

The Dartsedo court also handed down a six year sentence to a monk
from the Golog Serthar Buddhist Center for taking part in protesting
of Chinese rule in May.

"The family members of those Tibetans who were sentenced were neither
informed [of the trial] nor offered a chance to find lawyers to
defend the cases," a source in Draggo county [in Chinese, Luhuo] said.

Re-education is running full swing at schools in Lhasa.

"For example, students in some schools were told to write essays
about the events of March 14. Those who wrote that these events
involved [the rights of] ethnic nationalities were expelled and
punished," the source said. "In Lhasa, the police are always looking
for monks and nuns. If any are found, they are sent home, while those
who are suspected of anything are taken away. In this way, we have to
live unhappy lives."

Re-education is also being attempted via SMS broadcast of
anti-independence text messages.

A group of 20 Tibetan students escaped into India last week, bringing
with them accounts of some of the Chinese atrocities committed in
their country since the spring uprising. Most Tibetan towns,
according to the liberty-seekers, are "swarming" with soldiers who
will arrest people for simply mentioning Dalai Lama's name. Homes are
frequently raided at night, hundreds of people remain missing, and
beatings by the security forces are common, said members of the group
which had avoided military checkpoints while trekking for weeks over
the frozen Himalayan mountain passes.

"Soldiers picked up my uncle from his house, dragged him by his hair
and kicked him in the face and stomach," Tsomo, a 30-year-old woman
using only one name, told Reuters on Saturday.

"Later we learnt that he died in a lock-up."

The escapees confirmed reports which have filtered out of their
country in recent months, telling reporters that Chinese atrocities
have been increasing, along with the weight of China's smothering
repression. Parents support their children's flight as it's the only
way for them to avoid Chinese ideological indoctrination.

"These days we speak in hushed tones about Dharamsala and His
Holiness in Tibet. The authorities do not allow us to even carry a
photograph of our leader," Gyaltsen, 17, another escapee, said.

"We were not happy in Tibet. Life there is miserable as we have to
constantly live in fear of being arrested," Tsomo said.

For Tibetans under the Chinese boot, fear of arrest is largely the
fear of what comes along with the arrest, namely physical abuse and
torture. On Friday, two weeks after its members criticized China for
failing to provide requested information and refusing to answer
questions, the UN Committee Against Torture released its findings on
China's compliance with the Convention Against Torture (which China
"ratified" 20 years ago). [All documents and submissions are
available from this page, and the final report is this one (pdf file).]

The Committee criticised China for the "routine and widespread use of
torture and ill-treatment" of suspects, especially in extracting
confessions. The panel also raised the issue of "secret detention
facilities" which are used to detain human rights petitioners.

"(China) should investigate, disclose the existence of any such
facilities and the authority under which they have been established
and the manner in which detainees are treated, and make reparations
to the victims of enforced disappearances where appropriate," it said.

Many Tibetans have been forcibly "disappeared" this year without a
trace. These seriously abusive and illegal practices are corroborated
by "numerous Chinese legal sources," the Committee said. It includes
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Eleventh Panchen Lama kidnapped by the
state in 1995, as being among these enforced disappearances.

The report directly addresses the severe repression in Tibet, and
states that there are "longstanding reports of torture, beatings,
shackling and other abusive treatment, in particular of Tibetan monks
and nuns," while noting that no inquiry has been made into the
"arrests, firing on crowds of peaceful demonstrators, torture or
cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment during the recent repression
in Tibet." Let the news agencies please not overlook the more than
200 Tibetans who were actually killed during the brutal crackdown,
for which the UN panel calls on China to conduct inquests.

The Committee also thought it would be really nice if China would
apologize for slaughtering her own democracy advocates back in 1989.
Which of course it would, and which of course they won't.

The International Campaign for Tibet was one of the organisations
(along with the Tibetan Government and TCHRD) which submitted reports
to the Committee (all available from here). ICT welcomed the panel's
recognition that China has "failed to respond according to its
international obligations."

"We are especially pleased that the Committee has called for a
'prompt, impartial and effective investigation' of the situation on
the ground in Tibet, an appeal that the Dalai Lama has been making
since March and that his envoys travelled to China to directly convey
to Chinese officials.

"Governments around the world should take serious note of the
Commission's findings and bring them into their human rights
discussions with China and resolve to press Beijing to ease its hard
line policies and engage with the Dalai Lama in good faith," said
Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT Europe.

The International Campaign draws attention to the Committee's
specific "expressed concerns" related to Tibet:

* The large number of Tibetans arrested after March 2008 and the
"reported lack of restraint with which persons were treated";

* The failure by the Chinese authorities to investigate deaths of
Tibetans "from indiscriminate firing by the police into crowds of
reportedly largely peaceful demonstrators" in Kardze county, Ngaba
county and Lhasa;

* The failure to conduct independent and impartial investigations
into the use of torture, as well as China's refusal to allow
independent investigators, including the UN and Red Cross, into Tibet;

* China's failure to inform the Committee of the whereabouts of "a
large number of persons" who have been arrested since March, but
whose fate remains unknown.

This then is the context in which those Tibetans fortunate enough to
live in liberty had gathered last week, with a mission to chart a
course forward for their civilisation's very survival. This is what
they are up against.

If there exists a more patient and accommodating nation on the face
of this planet, I've never heard of them.
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