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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

A female Dalai Lama

December 1, 2008

That is one chance the present Tibetan leader might take
By Syed Nazakat
The Week (Malaysia)
December 7, 2008 edition

Beaming at a large group of devotees at Tsuglagkhang temple in
Dharamsala recently, the Dalai Lama said, "Our strength is our
culture, our faith." He cheered the devotees with his habitual
hopefulness: "If you are true to yourself, God is always with you."

The Dalai Lama's words might bring momentary comfort to the Tibetans
but the anger and frustration of his long-suffering people are only
increasing. As they complete 50 years in exile next March, the mood
of Tibetan refugees is one of impatience. After years of exile they
are nowhere near freedom from China's rule. Ever since the Dalai Lama
fled Tibet with some 80,000 followers in 1959, the only thought that
kept them going was the hope of eventually returning to their
homeland. Dharamsala-like 36 other settlements the Indian government
has allotted to Tibetans-was meant to be a temporary asylum. But
Tibetans still live in exile.

"I sit here before you as a refugee now, as my parents were when they
came here in 1959. Nothing has really changed for us," says Mingyur
Yodon, as she looks out over the mountains in Mcleod Ganj in
Dharamsala, where she was born in exile, 35 years ago. She has known
no other life.

All along, Tibetans in exile have looked to the Dalai Lama as their
only hope. But since he had surgery for an abdominal ailment in Delhi
in October, they are worried about his health. They often discuss
life after him. Such talk has been all the more commonplace in recent
years, especially after Beijing passed an edict last year giving the
Chinese government a role in approving new incarnations of the Dalai Lama.

Aware of the controversy that could surround the reincarnation after
his death and to undermine any attempt by China to appoint its own
Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama has long said he may not be reincarnated
at all. On November 23, he went further, indicating that the next
Dalai Lama might be chosen in his lifetime and that his successor
could even be a girl. He also made it clear that he would not retire
from the Tibetan cause, but that he was ready to pass on his political role.

Early in November, the Dalai Lama's representatives met the Chinese
for an eighth round of dialogue where China denounced an autonomy
proposal. This was followed by a six-day meeting in Dharamsala where
500 Tibetan leaders decided that no further talks would be held with
China unless Beijing responded positively to their demands. It was
also decided that whether seeking independence or autonomy, the
Tibetan people would maintain total commitment to non violence in
their struggle for freedom.

Since 1988, the Dalai Lama has dropped his long-held demand for an
end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and said that he was willing
to settle for "genuine autonomy" for Tibet within China. But this
official position has divided his people.

Said Dhondup Dorjee, vice-president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, a
pro-independence organisation with 30,000 members and 80 offices
worldwide: "To free Tibet is our aim, and we'll employ any means to
achieve it."

Dorjee is a kind of hero to a young generation of Tibetans born and
educated in India-a generation that is beginning to question the
Dalai Lama's non violent struggle against China. They have no
experience of what it is like to live in Tibet under China's rule.
However, according to Dorjee, they still hate China for "what it is
doing to Tibetans".

Said Sonam N. Dagpo, international relations secretary of the Tibetan
government in-exile: "Since March 2008 [the 49th anniversary of the
Tibetan Uprising of 1959], there have been a lot of protests and,
then, international sympathy during the Olympics. A great change has
been taking place during these days. And we shall have to review the
situation and our future course of action."

To refugees, the fact that they are unsafe in their homes in Tibet
has been the most frustrating aspect of the situation and many
escaped to India to save their lives. According to the Tibetan
Reception Centre [TRC] in Dharamsala, every year more than 3,000
Tibetans risk capture, gunfire, frostbite and hypothermia to reach Dharamsala.

Said Kusang Sonam, 29: "After the March uprising [this year] I saw
Tibetan boys hauled out of their homes by troops, beaten ruthlessly
and bundled into a bus and driven away. I feared the same fate and
escaped from Tibet."

The Tibetan settlements in Dharamsala are a grim example of refugee
life with extremely limited resources. The refugees are almost
entirely dependent on aid for their survival. India, the US, Canada
and Switzerland are the major donors.

But, amid the uncertainty some hope persists. The Tibetan Children's
Villages are one of the success stories of the Tibetan exiled
community. The Dalai Lama established the first school for Tibetan
refugees in 1960. Today there are 85 Tibetan educational institutes
in India, Nepal and Bhutan, which together have more than 30,000
students. "Our future and hopes are in the hands of these children,"
said Tenzin Yaston, who teaches at the TCV school in Dharamsala.

Most of the students work for the Tibetan government in-exile or with
NGOs. Some are employed by Indian and multinational companies.
Others-like Yaston-have decided to give something back to the
community. "It gives me great satisfaction that I'm doing something
for my community," she said. "Those who have been educated here are a
big challenge to China. They know what it is like to live in a free
country. They will never accept slavery," said Yaston as she walked
up to some of her students and whispered in their ears, "Long live
the Dalai Lama and long live Free Tibet!"
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