60th Anniversary of the 10th March 1959 Tibetan National Uprising Day and its Origin

(This article was specially written for Tibet Foundation Newsletter Spring 2019 Issue No. 74 by Tsering Passang.)

Soon after the Communist Party of China (CPC) came to power in October 1949, the People’s Republic of China was established and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers marched into Tibet.

On 23rd May 1951, the “Seventeen-Point Agreement” was signed between the representatives of the independent Tibetan Government in Lhasa and the Chinese Communist Government in Peking. Tibetans have always maintained that the agreement was signed by the Tibetan representatives under the duress. His Excellency Lukhangwa, the lay Tibetan Prime Minister, plainly told Chinese Representative Zhang Jingwu in 1952 that the Tibetan “people did not accept the agreement”.

Nevertheless His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, who was a young teenager at the time, decided to work with the Chinese “in order to save my people and country from total destruction”, wrote in his memoir. For eight years, the Dalai Lama tried to abide by the terms of that document. He even relieved his Prime Minister Lukhangwa from the post, who made no secret of his staunch opposition to Chinese rule.

In 1954, the Dalai Lama visited Peking. During his nearly 6 months’ stay he had met with many Chinese leaders including Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Chou En-lai on a few occasions. Both of them gave assurances to him on Tibet’s good future.

In 1956, at the invitation of the Mahabodhi Society of India, the Dalai Lama travelled to India to join the 2500th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Lord Buddha. During his India trip, the Dalai Lama met the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and expressed his intention to seek asylum in India. Nehru advised the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. At the same time the Chinese Premier Chou En-lai travelled to Delhi where he met both Nehru and the Dalai Lama and had urged the young Tibetan leader to return to Tibet. Finally, the Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa.

By early 1959 a large number of PLA soldiers, about 20,000 were stationed in Lhasa alone. The tension was now rising in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa. Tens of thousands of Tibetans from east Tibet were retreating towards Lhasa while fighting continued in the east. In early March 1959, the PLA invited the Dalai Lama to attend a planned cultural show at its headquarters without any Tibetan bodyguards. The date for the theatrical show was set for 10th March. The general public in Lhasa became suspicious and over 30,000 Tibetans gathered at the Norbu Lingkha, the summer palace for his security and requested him not to attend.

The Dalai Lama, who was then 24, faced a difficult dilemma. In his autobiography, ‘My Land and My People’ the Dalai Lama wrote, “…as if I was standing between two volcanoes, each likely to erupt at any moment. On one side, there was the vehement, unequivocal, unanimous protest of my people against the Chinese regime; on the other hand, there was the armed might of a powerful and aggressive occupying force.” Three Tibetan ministers tried to reach some agreements with Chinese generals but failed.

With the huge crowd surrounding the Norbu Lingkha palace, it was almost impossible for the Dalai Lama to leave. On the night of 17th March, the Dalai Lama decided to leave Lhasa. According to his autobiography, the Dalai Lama disguised as an ordinary soldier and marched out of his summer palace on a horseback “unchallenged [and moved] towards the dark road beyond”. He reached safely into exile in India on 31st March 1959 after two weeks of treacherous journey. Some 80,000 Tibetan refugees followed him into India, Nepal and Bhutan.

The young and charismatic Dalai Lama re-established Tibetan Government-in-exile based in Dharamsala, northern India. A staunch believer in democracy, the Dalai Lama introduced this western democratic system into the Tibetan society, stage by stage since 1960. In 2011, the Dalai Lama decided to fully relinquish his previously inherited political leadership, for nearly 400 years by the Dalai Lama Institution, by passing the historic seal to the directly elected Sikyong (or otherwise known as the President) Dr. Lobsang Sangay (a legal scholar from Harvard University), of the Central Tibetan Administration (de facto Tibetan Government-in-exile).

Under his amazing leadership, the Dalai Lama established a network of Tibetan settlements, schools, hospitals, monasteries, nunneries as well as cultural institutions to provide vital education, healthcare, welfare needs and cultural preservation in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Internally, his visionary leadership in exile for the Tibetan society has kept its identity and culture alive. Externally, especially after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, exactly 30 years ago, the Dalai Lama gained new celebrity status on the global stage which helped to promote the Tibetan issue. His message of peace and non-violence for resolving conflicts, promotion of religious harmony and human values got greater recognition. Today, the Dalai Lama, aged 83, is not only a Tibetan spiritual leader but he is a highly respected moral leader too on the world stage.

Since coming into exile, Tibetans in India and around the world observe this poignant 10th March anniversary every year to condemn China’s repression in Tibet whilst remembering those who died in their struggle for freedom. In Dharamsala as well as in major Tibetan settlements across India, the official functions include recitation of Buddhist prayers and singing of political Tibetan songs. Every year, the President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in exile issue official political statements on this day. These are available on the CTA website www.tibet.net and also it’s live webcast on http://www.TibetOnline.tv.

Non-governmental Tibetan organisations such as the Tibetan Youth Congress, which call for Rangzen (Independence of Tibet), often organises political demonstrations around this historic date. This can include demonstrations at the Chinese Embassy in Delhi or engaging in hunger strikes in front of the United Nations buildings in New York to draw their attention to the Tibetan plight.

Nepal is currently home to about 10,000 Tibetan refugees. Due to the Chinese pressure on Nepal, their activities including the celebration of the Dalai Lama’s birthday are strictly controlled. Unable to observe this year’s 10th March commemoration event, many Tibetan youth activists from Nepal travelled to Delhi to join the political demonstrations organised by the Tibetan Youth Congress.

In London, this year, several hundred members of the Tibetan Community and Tibet supporters gathered opposite Downing Street. After a short rally with speeches, the demonstrators marched through central London to the Chinese Embassy by chanting loud slogans – calling for human rights, religious and political freedoms in Tibet. Later, an evening function was organised at the Indian YMCA where the visiting Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament from Dharamsala and London-based Dalai Lama’s Representative gave addresses. 

Tibetans in the UK often try to reach out to the British politicians to secure their support. Messages of support from several British MPs and MEP were read out at the evening function. In addition to the statement of support from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet (APPGT), Ms Karen Lee, a Shadow Minister from the Labour Party sent her support in her own words. She wrote:

Karen-Lee-MP“I’d like to apologise for my absence today, but I’d like to send my solidarity to all of those still struggling for the freedoms of Tibetans. 

Today is a historic day of commemoration. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the uprising in Lhasa. Together we remember 85,000 people who gave their lives for their beliefs and in order for future generations to be proud Tibetans.

As a socialist, I wholeheartedly believe in a community’s right to self-determination. The right of Tibetans to determine their own political, economic and cultural future. 

The courage of peaceful protesters across Tibetan territory is admirable, especially at a time when Tibet is being squeezed and oppressive measures are tightened. The current struggle is in aid of advancing freedoms and human rights, but in the 21st century, these should already be afforded to Tibetans.

Many do not remember a time before Chinese rule, but this does not deter them from protecting Tibet’s proud cultural heritage.

I’d like to end by sending my support to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all of you in attendance today. I am sorry for my absence, but my thoughts, and those of many others around the world, are with those in Tibet, and one day you will be free.”

 

Tibetan President on Official Visit in UK

lobsang sangay-in parliament-november 2017(London, 22 November 2017)

Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay arrived in London on Wednesday morning for a two-day official visit.

The President of the Central Tibetan Administration (also known as Tibetan Government-in-exile) was accorded very warm reception at the world’s busiest airport – London Heathrow. Dr Sangay was received by Chonpel Tsering, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his colleagues at The Office of Tibet as well as by members of the Tibetan Community in Britain.

A further reception was accorded by Phuntsok Dalu, Culture Secretary, on behalf of the Council of Tibetan Community UK at the London Paddington station. The Sikyong arrived in the British capital by Heathrow Express, a 15-minute high-speed train journey from the world’s busiest airport. After a short drive, the Sikyong arrived at the hotel where a small contingent of Tibetan Community members accorded their final and formal reception.

In the capital, the Tibetan Leader has scheduled meetings with the parliamentarians and government officials. It is unlikely that he will meet with the British Prime Minister. During his last visit to the UK a year ago, Speaker John Bercow has met with the Sikyong. He was later acknowledged of his presence during a live parliamentary debate in the House of Commons, which was broadcast on the BBC Parliament.

As part of his current five countries’ tour, the Sikyong earlier visited Denmark, Sweden and Norway, which was coordinated by the London-based Office of Tibet. The Sikyong arrived in London from Canada. This is Sangay’s third official visit to the UK in the last six years after he was first elected in 2011. He flies back to Delhi on Thursday night.

Tibet, the 19th Party Congress and China’s United Front work

dr tshering chonzom bhutiaBy Tshering Chonzom, PhD, Associate  Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies

What does a powerful Xi Jinping as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China mean for the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) various minority nationalities, especially the Tibetans? The nature and extent of authority accorded to the United Front Works Department (UFWD) that handles nationality, religious and overseas Chinese affairs, during Xi’s second term is an important starting point for analysis.

The UFWD organized a press conference on 21 October 2017 on the sidelines of the 19th Party Congress, in which its leadership saw the organization as an important player in Xi’s new formulation of ‘new era’. For instance, the various conferences held under its aegis in the past five years – such as the Second Central Xinjiang Work Conference (May 2014), Central Nationalities Work Conference (September 2014), 6th Tibet Work Forum (August 2015), National Religious Work Conference (April 2016) – are retroactively characterised as work convened ‘under the guidance of the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics’. Indeed, at the national religious work conference that was held from 22-23 April 2016, Xi called upon the UFWD to take the lead in coordinating responsibilities with various organisations. In his report to the 19th Party Congress, he likens United Front work to a ‘magic weapon’ that will ‘ensure the success of the party’.

Hence, it is not surprising that on taking up the mantle of General Secretary of the CPC and President of the People’s Republic of China in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Xi turned his attention to the UFWD. A UFWD website report informs that the highest level of CPC leadership, that is the PBSC, initiated an effort to draft regulations for United Front work, encompassing delineation of its ‘principles, frameworks, priorities and progress’. The regulation finally came into effect on 18 May 2015 and is touted as being historic, marking the entry of united front work into a ‘new stage’.

In this context, we may turn to the statements of Zhang Yijong, the deputy head of UFWD (and former deputy party head of the TAR from 2006 to 2010) during the press conference mentioned earlier which has caught the attention of quite a few (ICT and Reuters).[1] In the four-hour long press conference, the transcript of which is available online (in Chinese), the term Tibet is mentioned 20 times and Xinjiang six times. As expected, his statement calling upon ‘governments around the world (to) speak and act with caution and give full consideration (to) their friendship with China and…respect…China’s sovereignty’ while meeting the Dalai Lama received widespread coverage. Zhang’s responses lasting half an hour were made in five parts in response to a question posed by Phoenix TV, one of the few broadcasters with permission to broadcast inside China.

Another comment by Zhang was about Tibetan Buddhism’s origins: that it ‘originated within China’ and ‘didn’t come in from the outside’.

Notably, discussion on religion/religious figured 29 times during the press conference. Compared to three mentions in Hu’s 2012 report to the 18thParty Congress, Xi’s report to the 19th Party Congress had eight references to religion/religious work, wherein he avows that ‘we will fully implement the Party’s basic policy on religious affairs, uphold the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt themselves to socialist society’.

At the national religious work conference mentioned earlier, Xi had reiterated the need for adaptation of China’s religions to its socialist society and further, called for studying of the ‘new situation and new problems’ facing the party’s religious work and development of ‘socialist religious theory with Chinese characteristics’.

The implication of the above, along with the revised regulation on religion that was promulgated earlier this year on 26 August 2017 is going to be far-reaching from a Chinese perspective. For one, the question of the Dalai Lama’s succession that has been making headlines for quite a number of years will be dealt under its rubric.

The UFWD has also been an important institutional contact for the Tibetan leadership in exile during the three decades long intermittent Sino-Tibetan dialogue process (1978-2010). The UFWD officials have also been in the forefront in making statements on anti-separatism/splittism, the ‘Dalai clique’, and so on. Many have wondered if officials like former UFWD deputy head, Zhu Weiqun, who has been the most vocal in the Chinese as well as international media in attacking the ‘Dalai clique’, command the confidence of the Chinese central leadership. His inability to secure a seat in the CPC Central Committee in 2012 was interpreted as a sign of his insignificance. At the same time, his absence from the Central Committee has not necessarily translated into a moderate approach on Tibet.

REFERENCES

[1] Zhang Yijong was joined by UFWD Vice Minister Ran Wanxiang, and Guo Yezhou, vice minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee (See Xinhua. 2017. ‘Press conference held on CPC united front, external work’, 21 October,   http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-10/21/c_136695451_4.htm)

(Source: https://icsdelhiblogs.wordpress.com/2017/11/01/tibet-the-19th-party-congress-and-chinas-united-front-work/)

Being Tibetan in the West: How much to adapt, How much to not adapt

On Wednesday 3rd May 2017, I joined with two former Tibetan MPs from North America and Europe on a Live TV Talk show hosted by anchor Namgyal Shastri (who is also a former Tibetan MP) on the Voice of America (VOA) Tibetan language programme from their London News Centre. The Live programme runs from 3pm to 4pm on Wednesdays and Fridays with news bulletin for the first 20 mins or so.

The key topics for this talk show: ‘Being Tibetan in the West: How much to adapt, How much to not adapt’.

It is predicted that soon about half of the current Tibetan population in exile is expected to be based in western countries, outside the Indian sub-continent (excluding Tibet and China).

Currently, there are about 150,000 Tibetans in Exile, scattered across some 25 countries. India is the main base for Tibetans in Exile, followed by Nepal. The Tibetan Government in Exile is based in Dharamsala, northern India.

In the past two decades or so, an increasing number of Tibetans have chosen western countries as their new adopted ‘homes’. Whilst educated Tibetans seek to secure better opportunities for their children the challenges lay ahead in maintaining their rich cultural heritage in western societies, which has become an issue.

Efforts are being made by Tibetan communities in these countries to address this issue…

Challenging China: Former Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region faces tough questions from Tibetans in Exile

China’s Top Tibetan Legislator Challenged during University Talk in London

[Tsering Passang, London]

Padma Choling (Baimachiling in Pinyin in Tibetan or Pema Thinley), Member of The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC; Chinese: 全国人民代表大会常务委员会) and a Vice Chair of the Ethnic Affairs Committee of NPC members, led a delegation including of at least three other senior Tibetan and two Chinese officials from the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Beijing to the UK.

Choling, who spent nearly five decades of his life in Chinese military and politics, was a former Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region (from 2010 to 2013). Choling is notoriously known for his rhetoric against the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama and Dharamsala-based Tibetan Government-in-exile.

He continues to say that there’s no Tibet issue; Dalai Lama must stop Tibetan independence activities; and the Tibetan spiritual leader must recognise Taiwan as a part of China.

Choling began his four-day of UK tour in the morning of Saturday 25th March, when he met with Councillor Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council.

Padma Choling said that China’s people’s congress at different levels stands ready to strengthen communication with their counterparts in Britain and Manchester City and to promote the exchanges between the two countries and its peoples.

Councillor Murphy said that she was happy to see the cultural diversity in China and hopes to visit Tibet.

On Monday 27th, Choling attended an hour-long afternoon session, at the request of the Chinese Embassy in Westminster University, London.

Professor Dibyesh Anand chaired the session, titled “Development in Tibetan Regions” with Padma Choling.

The Indian-origin International Relations professor started by saying that the Westminster University has previously welcomed Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay of the Tibetan Government-in-exile. He also said that the University has previously invited many other Chinese and Tibetan scholars.

“In this university, and also in other academic institutions in the UK,” Anand said, “I hope that the platforms we provide for different views to discuss their arguments would help to reach agreements.” He further said, “Even if agreements are not reached, at least, we should respect each other’s point of views.”

“In this light,” Anand added, “we are happy to host Padma Choling, a senior Tibetan official from China” to share his perspective on Tibet.

Choling spoke very briefly about his visit goals and introduced his delegation team.

Choling said that during his current visit he hoped to learn how the UK maintains its policies on ethnic relations. He was pointing out that Tibet is one of the 56 minorities in China.

Choling’s presentation included a short video propaganda – Beautiful Tibet – which was about 8 minutes long. He said that the film captures the “development and happy lives of the Tibetan people in Tibet” under Chinese rule.

The propaganda video was extremely impressive with very bright and colourful, even the Tibetan farmers are wearing brand new clothes when they work in the farms.

After the film screening, Anand thanked Choling for his presentation and raised several points before inviting questions from audience.

The audience was mostly filled by the Chinese delegation side including their embassy officials and media team. Less than 20 Westminster University’s staff, students and others including London-based Tibetans attended the afternoon session which lasted about 75 minutes.

Choling was asked why the Chinese Government has not produced any Tibetan Party Secretaries in Tibet even after 50 years of the Chinese rule. He was also asked whether any discrimination against the Tibetan people by the Han Chinese prevails which forbid the ethnic minority to reach to the top level leaderships.

Choling responded by saying “There are many Tibetan Party Secretaries in county and prefectural levels but the current Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region is half-Tibetan.” He added, “There are no discriminations against the Tibetan people in China.”

Tsering Passang, an exiled-born Tibetan challenged Choling by saying, “I disagree with your response on the discrimination issue.” He added, “As a matter of fact, there are discriminations against the Tibetan people by the Han Chinese in Tibet.” The former top Communist Tibetan official was made aware that the exiled Tibetan respected his response. Passang also said that he understood the official government position that Choling holds.

Larung Gar Demoliations

Passang then asked Choling about the ongoing demolitions at the Larung Gar Institute. He said: “We are very deeply concerned by the ongoing demolitions and the forced removal of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns from the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute. We often hear that the Chinese government put a lot of efforts towards the preservation of the Tibetan culture: yet; this includes the Tibetan Buddhist heritage? Can you please shed some light on the ongoing destructions at the Larung Gar? Why is the government involved in the destruction of this Tibetan Buddhist culture and heritage site, in contrast to its claim on the preservation of the Tibetan Buddhist cultural heritage? Can you please urge the senior Chinese leaders, policymakers and decision makers in Beijing to not go against their own statement of preserving the Tibetan culture?”

Choling replied by saying that Tibet has “1700 temples including several mosques in TAR”.

He said that there are 40,000 ‘professional’ monks. “Government has allocated huge funds for the maintenance of spiritually significant Tibetan cultural sites including the Potala Palace and the Jokhang temple.” He said that a number of Tibetan historical sites are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage.

Instead of answering the demolitions and removal of monks and nuns from the Larung Gar Institute in Serta, Choling said that it does not fall within Tibet (meaning the Tibet Autonomous Region). Ironically he also chose to even told-off the exiled Tibetan to be mindful with asking question to the right person next time, indicating the question should be asked to someone who comes from Serta where the Larung Gar is located and not the TAR.

More questions followed.

SinoTibetan Relations

On the ten rounds of dialogues between Beijing and Dharamsala, Choling said that the status of talks should be asked to the Dalai Lama’s former representatives – “Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen” – directly on why this did not move forward. He said that the Central Government conducted ten rounds of talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. He added, “The Central Government hasn’t changed its position.”

Choling stated that “Dalai Lama must renounce Tibetan independence; accept Taiwan as part of China; and he must stop splittist activities.”

He further added that “Lobsang Sangay is not qualified to contact with the Chinese Government” as he allegedly “leads an illegal organisation.”

Lesson on Ethnic Relations

Choling was asked what lessons he has learned on ethnic relations whilst in the UK from its dealings with Scotland and Wales, referring to his own opening remarks on learning from the UK during the tour. He responded by saying that the delegation arrived in London from Manchester and following his further engagements in London, he was leaving the country the next day.

Choling said that he had met with the deputy leader of the Manchester City Council. He also said that he did not get enough time to learn about the ethnic relations this time.

About Chinese Communist Party

Choling was also asked, instead of being so critical of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-exile, as a Communist Party member for nearly 50 years, what did he really know about the Chinese government.

To which, Choling replied, “I joined the party in 1970”. From birth to present, Choling said that he is “deeply proud to be harmonious with the 56 ethnic groups in China”. He said, “I myself have benefitted a lot from my work, servicing the Tibet Autonomous Region, in the fields of development and reconstruction.”

Choling also said that his “mother is still alive and is in her 90s, who is a believer in Buddhism.” “My mother doesn’t interfere in my belief and I have never interfered in her belief.”

SelfImmolations in Tibet

On Self-Immolations, Choling acknowledged that “over 100” have engaged in this action. He said, “These took place in Tibetan inhabited areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. There was only one case of self-immolation near the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. That person was from Gansu Province.” He also raised the question of the role Sikyong Lobsang Sangay in relation to the self-immolations.

Spiritual Life in Tibet

On Spiritual belief in Tibet, Choling acknowledged “a good question.” “Many people asked me this question. The majority of the people in Tibet believe in the Buddhist belief to support their life.” He added, “But it is not their pillar of life. I used to tell Tibetans in rural areas. First, you should live a good present life.”

Responding to a student’s question, Choling said that “since the peaceful liberation and the founding of TAR [1965], Tibet is now fully integrated into China.” He added by saying, “When I was in the Office [as TAR Chairman], I used to say, ‘I want Tibet to be the role model’ for the development of ethnic relations in China.’”

Meeting Dalai Lama and Chinese Visas

Whilst summing up the session, Professor Dibyesh Anand, asked, “If the Dalai Lama comes through this door, would you respect him or … leave the building?”

Choling replied, “I don’t want to see that man, to be honest.”

The moderator repeated his earlier assertions by saying, “In this university and in the UK academic institutions, we very much welcome and encourage frank and open discussions even though we may not agree with each other.”

Anand then asked, “Can we expect the same treatment in China? Can our straight-talking students get visas for China or not?”

Choling replied, “Exchanges are good and communications are important.”

Anand continued, “So … do you want our students to come to China.”

Choling responded by saying, “We will invite you to China at an appropriate time. As you know, there are red tapes in China.”

Further engagements

On Tuesday 28 March, Padma Choling and his delegation met with Crispin Blunt MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and Richard Graham MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for China.

China’s Outreach with Tibetans Overseas

After the four-day UK trip during which they met with a small number of UK based Tibetans, who were invited to a dinner, courtesy of the Chinese Embassy, Choling and his delegation left for Switzerland on Tuesday, where they were also expected to meet with some Swiss-based Tibetans.

The Chinese Government in recent years has been increasing their outreach with Tibetans living in western countries. Unfortunately, this has directly implicated Tibetans in these western countries engaging less on Tibet’s political struggle as well as other mundane community affairs.

In addition, the dedicated Chinese Embassy officials in these countries maintain regular contacts with some of the Tibetans to undermine Tibetan freedom movement and damage their unity.

Special Interview with the President of Tibet’s government-in-exile

sikyong-londonneyA special interview with Honourable Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President of the Central Tibetan Administration in India. Dr Sangay was re-elected during the recent election and he is currently serving his second five-year term in the office.

During his six-day official visit to the UK from 29th October to 3rd November 2016, the Londonney Tibetan Productions were pleased to secure an interview with the President of Tibet’s government-in-exile. This special interview was conducted by Tsering Passang on 1st November. 

Who will get my 2016 Sikyong Vote?

sikyong election 2016Your-Vote-Counts

(By Tsering Passang, London)

In May 2011, I told Honourable Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay in Dharamsala that I did not cast my vote to him during the 2011 Kalon Tripa election. He simply returned a smile. And then I said, ‘Majority of the Tibetan people elected you to lead the Tibet Movement as the Executive Head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and it is now your responsibility to fulfil their aspirations. I accept the election result and I will now be supporting you as my political leader as well’.

The incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay won the 2011 election with a big margin against the two heavyweight candidates – Trisur Tenzin Namgyal Tethong and Kasur Tashi Wangdi, who both served in the Kashag (Tibetan cabinet). Sikyong Sangay recently stated that he still enjoys a good and cordial relation with the two CTA veterans, who between them had accumulated over 70 years of public service in the Central Tibetan Administration.

In the 2016 final Sikyong election, there is only one challenger against the incumbent Sikyong Dr Sangay, who is seeking his re-election to complete the foundation of works he started during his first term. The contender is the incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile, who comes across as a strong Middle-Way advocate. Tsering bagged just over 10,000 votes in the preliminary round last autumn whilst Sangay scored over a massive 30,000 votes.

Last year, Tshoktso Penpa Tsering publicly stated that he would refuse to share platforms with the Rangzen (Tibetan independence) advocate, Mr Lukar Jam, who secured third in the Sikyong’s preliminary election. The former Tibetan political prisoner failed to make it to the final round of Sikyong election due to new rules set out by the Central Election Commission.

Unlike the incumbent Speaker, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay chose not to take the hard-line stance against the former Tibetan political prisoner, who is also the current President of GuChuSum, a well-respected Tibetan NGO representing ex-political prisoners, who all escaped from Tibet into exile. The GuChuSum changed its political stance from Rangzen to Middle-Way approach in recent years.

In this 2016 Sikyong election, we have been witnessing a big change compared to the 2011 Kalon Tripa election. Unlike the previous elections, the current two Sikyong candidates criticise each other, which is acceptable as this is a part of the democratic practice. What is unfortunate is that there are strong negative campaigns on both sides compared to the 2011 election. These were primarily initiated and carried out by the candidates’ respective supporters/camps; some are utterly baseless, which are uncalled for. The Tibetan democracy and the Tibetan electorates deserve better than this.

My personal observation on the incumbents Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Tshoktso Penpa Tsering

The Tibetans in Exile have a wonderful opportunity to elect their Political Leader who can represent them both at home and abroad. We should be able to place our confidence in the chosen candidate, who will be serving the Tibetan people during the next five years as our Sikyong.

In my view, it is better to look objectively at what these two candidates have done in the past, at least during the past four to five years in their respective offices and then analyse and decide whether the candidates are likely to deliver what they said they would do for the Tibetan people to secure freedom and justice in Tibet whilst getting the Dharamsala-based Central Tibetan Administration and its affiliated bodies in the Indian sub-continent and abroad, in order or not during the next five years as Sikyong.

The Incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering 

penpa tsering
Tshoktso Penpa Tsering

I think Tshoktso Penpa Tsering has done an amazing job as Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament who conducted its affairs in good order during this last parliamentary term. There was only one exception when he briefly walked-out of the parliament after a Chithue raised a previously unfounded allegation against the Speaker.

Tshoktso Penpa Tsering has travelled extensively with his parliamentary colleagues and promoted the Tibetan cause in many countries in addition to his parliamentary duties in Dharamsala.

Tshoktso Penpa Tsering also seems to have some good ideas on strengthening the Tibetan communities outside the Indian sub-continent amongst his other initiatives but we have not heard these in details.

We would like to know how Tshoktso Penpa Tsering intends to implement those good ideas into practical actions, including raising the required capital funds.

We would also certainly like to hear more of his plans and policies to bring about alternative change to the incumbent Sikyong’s legacy rather than dwelling on the Kalachakra postponement and other less important issues.

Tshoktso Penpa Tsering did say that he was unable to organise the planned International Convention of World Parliamentarians for Tibet this past year due to some technicalities but nonetheless he did organise such conventions in the past, drawing international parliamentarians’ support for Tibet, which shows his capabilities.

The Incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay

lobsang sangay
Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay

Over the past four years, I have been observing Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and his administration very closely. Surprisingly, the Harvard legal scholar, who had no previous experience in administration, impressed me tremendously especially with his smart move as the ‘People’s Sikyong’ both at home and abroad.

To start with, Sikyong Sangay formed a great Kashag team, who delivered the public services beyond expectation. The only unfortunate news is the untimely resignation of Kasur Dicki Chhoyang from the Kashag.* (Please see the postscript section at the bottom of the article for details on the resignation issue.)

Some of the achievements observed over the past four years:

Honourable Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay knows how the media world works. He uses it effectively to raise the plight of Tibet throughout the world.

Sikyong Sangay sets his aims and objects high when visiting foreign countries. He is unafraid to meet with foreign leaders, senior officials and politicians to garner support for Tibet and the Tibetan people both politically and through other practical means.

As alumni of Harvard, Sikyong Sangay has an added advantage which he uses unashamedly in his favour to share the story of Tibet and the Tibetan people to influential people. He was invited by numerous high-profiled Think Tanks and delivered lectures on Tibet in various countries in addition to speaking in front of over tens of thousands of students, a move likely to engage new young supporters for Tibet.

Sikyong Sangay said that he wanted to build direct link between Washington and Dharamsala, which he did. The New York-based Office of Tibet was moved to the newly acquired office buildings in Washington.

Evidence of improved ties with the United States is visible after President Obama publicly supported the Middle-Way policy, championed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 2014.

More frequent visits by international dignitaries to Dharamsala observed in recent years. Institutional grants, US government and other foreign grants increased during Sikyong Sangay’s administration to support the Tibetan refugee community.

Most importantly, relations with the Indian Government both at the central and the states level have developed further under the incumbent administration. Thanks to the amazing work of Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and his star colleague Kalon Gyari Dolma, who fully supports the incumbent Sikyong’s re-election.

These all show that the incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay is capable of garnering increased political as well as other practical support from countries such as the US, Canada and India, who are close allies of Tibet and the Tibetan people.

Department of Home:

(Useful source: http://tibet.net/2015/10/home-kalon-thanks-govt-of-india-for-40-crore-financial-aid/

The FRR Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has recently provided a grant-in-aid of Rs. 40 Crore for a period of 5 years commencing from 2015 – 2016 to 2019 – 2020 to the extent of Rs. 8 crore per annum. The aid is provided to supplement the administrative expenses incurred by Tibetan settlements in India.

This is an amazing work of the CTA’s Department of Home towards the sustenance of the Tibetan settlements in India.

Department of Education:

  • Increased scholarships for Tibetan students in India, Nepal and Bhutan;
  • Increased and reserved scholarships for Tibetan students in Nepal

What it shows is that the Sangay’s administration can raise funds to support the education of young Tibetan students in colleges or universities with a long term goal to create a self-reliant community, once educated/qualified.

The previous yearly scholarships of 150 for college/university students, is now increased to over 630 scholarships per year. This is a massive increase!

Department of Finance:

(Useful source: http://tibet.net/2015/03/state-of-cta-finance-is-good/ )

In four and half years, the CTA budget has increased by over 100%. That is amazing achievement. In 2010, the annual CTA budget was just over 1 billion Indian rupees. In 2015-2016, the CTA budget increased to just over 2 billion Indian rupees. In 2016-2017, the CTA budget will increase to 2.2 billion Indian rupees.

The incumbent Sikyong recently stated that based on needs of the exiled community and from his past record, he is confident of sourcing new untapped funds to reach the annual budget to 2.5 billion (2500 million) Indian rupees by the end of the next Sikyong’s office term.

Department of Security:

Securing enhanced security services for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in human resource as well as financial and high-end technologies that enable the landing of plane ferrying His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Gaggal airport in the outskirt of Dharamsala during the poor weather from the concerned State and Central governments is a massive contribution.

Department of Health:

(Useful source: http://tibet.net/2016/01/tibetan-medicare-system-tms-announces-70-subsidy-to-the-most-vulnerable-sections-of-the-tibetan-population-in-india/ )

“In 2009 CTA survey, it was found that over 45% of the Tibetan exile community suffers from diseases such as Cancer, Tuberculosis, Liver cirrhosis, Diabetes and heart diseases, which require a high degree of secondary and tertiary care. Lack of an adequate healthcare coverage has been a major cause of high mortality as well as a primary cause of poverty and financial insecurity amongst the community.

Under the leadership of the Kashag of Honorable Sikyong Dr.Lobsang Sangay, the Department of Health had launched the implementation of TMS Health Plan on 1st April, 2012. Since then, TMS is being implemented successfully, for close to four years now and has provided an equitable and comprehensive healthcare coverage to the Tibetans living in India. During last four years, 49,000 Tibetans have enrolled in the TMS and more than 2000 have availed the benefits till date.  However, more participation of the Tibetan public is crucial to build TMS stronger and self-reliant; and to pre-empt financial constraints faced by the Tibetans during medical emergencies.

The revised TMS Health Plan got operational from 1st April 2015 and aims to further strengthen health care mechanisms by providing sustainability to the existing TMS Health plan. With this, the revised TMS Health Plan proposes to cover all the exile Tibetan population in India.”

Conclusion

Based on these findings, Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay has finally earned my vote in 2016! Although I extend my best wishes to both candidates but I will be praying for the incumbent Sikyong Dr Sangay’s victory in this forthcoming election which will be held on 20th March.

In the next five years, I would like to see Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay to complete his unfinished tasks and pursue more political as well as related practical support for Tibet and the Tibetan people from Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

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*Postscript: Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay formed a great Kashag team in 2011. The only unfortunate news is the untimely resignation of Kasur Dicki Chhoyang from the Kashag. It is a blow to the Sangay camp as Chhoyang’s resignation comes at a critical moment of weeks before the final election which is to be held on 20 March. The erstwhile Kalon chose to submit her resignation on a weekend by visiting the Sikyong’s residence. She immediately called a press conference after tendering her resignation to the Sikyong.

In politics, resignations, back-stabbing and defection take place. It’s nothing unusual but the calm and unshaken Sikyong Sangay knows how to handle the situation. After the urgent meeting of his Kashag team on the same day of Chhoyang’s resignation, the incumbent Sikyong called a press conference and updated the latest development to the public.

Many speculated implosion within Dr Lobsang Sangay’s Kashag team after Kasur Chhoyang’s resignation but the remaining Kalons reassured their full support and trust in the incumbent Sikyong Sangay for his outstanding leadership as well as for his re-election.

Days later Kasur Chhoyang released a written document outlining qualities of a Sikyong. Chhoyang said that she supports the incumbent Tshoktso Penpa Tsering as the next Sikyong. There is no doubt that her defection is a carefully planned political move to take vengeance against the incumbent Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay. It may well be that she knew Sangay was not going to reappoint her as a Kalon in the next Kashag.

To be fair we do not know the ins and outs of the situations and decision that led Kasur Chhoyang to resign from the incumbent Kashag but I did learn from a non-Tibetan a few years ago that Chhoyang was unhappy in her role as a Kalon at the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR).

One can safely conclude that Kasur Chhoyang was unhappy with the Sikyong and therefore she carefully planned her defection for weeks, if not for months, to disrupt Sangay’s re-election. I do not think Sikyong Sangay expected this unpleasant news at the critical moment but this betrayal did shock Chhoyang’s other former colleagues.

 

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Useful Links:

https://lobsangsangay.wordpress.com/meet-dr-lobsang-sangay/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobsang_Sangay

http://www.sikyong2016.com/biography-of-penpa-tsering

General Election 2015: How do immigrants from Britain’s smallest minorities feel about one of the hottest issues affecting the polls?

The immigration debate has fixated on hotspots such as Eastern Europe. So how do new arrivals from Tibet, Tristan da Cunha and other countries feel when they land on these shores?

Simon Hemelryk

tsering

Tsering Passang, Tibetan Charity sponsorship co-ordinator, 39. Now in Bexley, Passang has lived in Britain since 1996

Tsering Passang: ‘It’s sad when politicians play up the problems of immigration and certain nationalities’ (David Vintiner)

‘Though I am Tibetan, I was born and raised in a refugee camp in Nepal. My father, a nomad, had fled the Chinese regime.

“The Tibet Relief Fund was organising scholarships for young Tibetans to come and study at Weston College in Somerset, and I was lucky enough to get one. I did a BTEC diploma in computer studies.

“I think meeting me was a bit of a culture shock for some people in Weston-super-Mare. I had to explain to them that Tibet was the place with the Himalayas and the Dalai Lama. But that didn’t worry me. After all, as a Buddhist, I was ignorant about Christianity when I arrived here.

“I’ve read about racism in Britain in the papers, but I’ve not encountered it myself. I have easy access to lots of Buddhist centres and temples here to practise my beliefs, and I’ve never sensed any religious tension. Sometimes you might have teenagers throwing something at a bus you’re on. But when you’re a teenager, you’re just playing; you don’t mean anything by it.

“It’s sad when politicians play up the problems of immigration and certain nationalities. Nigel Farage and Romanians, for instance. If we focus on the positive stories and people in these communities, it will give their members more role models – and that will benefit everyone.

“I feel very fortunate to be able to live in and contribute to this country. I now work for the Tibet Relief Fund and I’m chairman of the Tibetan Community UK association. There are only about 700 Tibetans living here, but we are trying to share our Buddhist teachings, language and performing art and, as a peace-loving nation, I think we’ll help build a stronger society. I’m a proud British Tibetan!”

‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ Initiative Launched at London Imperial Hotel

The Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust was founded by a small dedicated members and supporters of Tibetan community in Britain in 1986. Ever since its founding, the Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust has been focussing its work primarily in the field of education for Tibetan refugees. The Trust is being managed by successive elected members of Tibetan Community in Britain Council, who serve a two-year term on pro bono.

Over the past 29 years, the Trust has raised and spent £400,000 to support the education of Tibetan refugee children in the Indian sub-continent. The Trust’s main partner agencies are the Department of Education (Central Tibetan Administration) and the Sambhota Tibetan Schools Society based in Dharamsala, northern India.

In recent years, the Trust has been sending between £15,000 and £20,000 annually to its partner agencies to support the education of Tibetan children. Currently, the Trust supports 86 Tibetan refugee children in various schools.

‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ Initiative Launched

The incumbent Council of Tibetan Community in Britain recently launched a major initiative – ‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ to drive their community members to adopt child sponsorship through the Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust. To lead by example, each Council member committed to sponsor a Tibetan child.

The formal launch of this important community initiative was initially planned for the Benefit Dinner with Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, Central Tibetan Administration on 1stFebruary at the London Imperial Hotel. Despite the cancellation of Sikyong’s UK trip at the eleventh hour, the Council went ahead with the official launch, which was blessed and declared open by Mr Chonpel Tsering, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama based at The Office of Tibet, London.

Dr Tamdin Sither Bradley, who is currently serving on the Council as Sponsorship Secretary, is aiming to double the child sponsorships over the next two years. Soon after the official launch of the ‘Tibetans Helping Tibetans’ initiative, members and supporters of Tibetan Community in Britain committed to sponsor 25 children through the Trust. At least further 20 members expressed their interest as well as agreed to consider their support.

Great Success and Thank you!

The elected Council regards the launch of this good cause a historical event with great success, and extends sincere gratitude to all those who have committed to support the education of Tibetan refugee children through the Trust.

Afternoon Tea with Supporters
 As a token of appreciation, the Council of Tibetan Community in Britain hosted an Afternoon Tea for supporters of Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust on Sunday, 1st February 2015 at the Imperial Hotel, London.

We invited child sponsors, founding trustees and former sponsorship secretaries, who have been supporting the work of Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust over the past 29 years.

Since its inception in 1986, the Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust has raised and spent £400,000 for Tibetan children’s education in India and Nepal. Our partner agencies are he Department of Education (Central Tibetan Administration) and Sambhota Tibetan Schools Society based in Dharamsala, northern India.

Tsering Passang (Mr)
Chairman
Tibetan Community in Britain & Tibetan Refugee Charitable Trust

(This material is taken from Tibetan Community UK’s website. For full link please visit: https://tibetancommunityuk.net/upcoming-events/tibetan-community-in-britain-tibetans-helping-tibetans/

Briton Radio Broadcaster Remembered for Service in Tibet

Briton Radio Broadcaster Remembered for Service in Tibet

(28 September 2013, London)

Image
(Photo credit: Tibetan Community in Britain – Tibetan Prayer Service at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London)

Sir Robert Ford, who was serving the Tibetan Government when Communist Chinese forces began their invasion, died in London on 20th September 2013 at the age of 90. The Englishman was working as a radio officer in Kham for the government of Tibet in the 1940s, in charge of setting up Tibet’s first broadcasting station and training Tibetan radio operators.

On hearing the sad news, members of Tibetan Community in Britain organised a special prayer service led by Geshe Tashi Tsering, Spiritual Teacher at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London on Thursday 26th September. A few members of Robert Ford’s family attended the Tibetan prayer service.

Whilst conveying condolences, Thubten Samdup, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama paid a fitting tribute to the Briton by saying, “Sir Robert Ford had a special relationship with Tibet and the Tibetan people. He had extensively engaged in raising the plight of Tibetan people after his retirement from the British civil service through public lectures. He was the last living Westerner who witnessed Tibet before she was invaded by China.” Samdup then delivered messages from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan Political Leader.

Robert Ford presented with ICT's Light of Truth award by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in April 2013
(Photo: ICT – Robert Ford presented with ICT’s Light of Truth award by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in April 2013)

In his personal message to Sir Robert Ford’s family, The Dalai Lama wrote, “On this sad occasion, I join Robert Ford’s many other friends and well-wishers in paying affectionate respect to a man who lived a long and meaningful life.

“Robert Ford occupies a special place in the history of Tibet. Not only was he the first Englishman employed as an official by the Tibetan Government then, but he later became the only European to be captured by Chinese forces. He was imprisoned for his service to Tibet and held for nearly five years until his expulsion in 1955.

“His memoir ‘Captured in Tibet’ gave its readers a clear understanding of the tragedy that befell Tibet. This record of his time in the Land of Snow had the great value of being a realistic eye-witness account in which he revealed not only the Tibetan qualities he admired, but also the short comings that contributed to our vulnerability.”

Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay wrote, “Tibet has lost one of its truest and oldest friends. He was one among the very few Westerners who witnessed a free and independent Tibet, having worked for the Government of Tibet as a radio broadcaster in 1947. He will be remembered by Tibetans for being a tireless advocate for the Tibetan cause for over half a century.”

Appreciating the special Tibetan prayer service, Giles Ford, one of the two sons of Robert, said, “My father spent some of the happiest days of his life in Tibet … a free and independent Tibet. The Tibetan people were very close to my father’s heart. I know that he would be so honoured and touched by this wonderful ceremony tonight and I am sure he is smiling down on us.

“My father leaves a huge gap in our lives … but thankfully we have so many special memories to cherish. One of those is the wonderful 90th birthday celebration the Tibetan community gave my father. He was so very, very moved by the occasion and the affection shown to him.”

Acknowledging the Briton’s contribution, Tenzin Samphel, Chairman of Tibetan Community in Britain, said, “We cannot forget our dedicated supporter. We pay tribute and recognise Robert Ford’s contribution to the Tibetan cause”. Earlier this year, The Office of Tibet hosted a reception in celebration of Robert Ford’s 90th birthday in London.

In April, Sir Robert Ford received International Campaign for Tibet’s (ICT) Light of Truth award from the Dalai Lama in acknowledgment of his tireless advocacy on behalf of Tibet for more than half a century. After accepting the award, Mr. Ford said: “I am a member of a rather exclusive club of Westerners who have the privilege and good fortune to see, know and witness a free Tibet before 1950. I spent some of the happiest days of my life in Tibet. The Tibet that I found when I first went there in 1945 was vastly different to the Tibet of today. It was an independent country with its own government, its own language, culture, customs and way of life. … To me as an outsider, the most remarkable feature of Tibetans was their devotion to their religion and their unswerving support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Another striking feature was their remarkable self-reliance both in the material and the spiritual sense. Tibet valued its self-imposed isolation and independence. Its simple wish was to be left alone to run its own affairs in the way that it thought best.”

Ford is survived by his two sons, Martin and Giles, and three grandchildren, Emma, Candice and Nicholas.

(This report is compiled by Tsering Passang for Tibetan Community in Britain.)

< End >

Brief biography

Robert Ford was born on 27 March 1923, in Staffordshire, England. He served in the Royal Air Force as a radio technician during World War II in England and in India, and in 1945 he joined the British Mission in Lhasa as a Radio Officer. There is a unique historical relationship between Britain and Tibet because Britain signed treaties and conducted diplomatic and military relations with an independent Tibet, and so had an influence that no other Western country enjoyed. At the time, British influence across the Himalayas was an important counterweight to China’s for Tibet.

In late 1945, Mr. Ford transferred to the Political Office in Gangtok, Sikkim and remained there until 1947, when India became independent. It was then that he was able to fulfil an ambition to return to Tibet. He was asked by the Government of Tibet to join its service, to start Tibet’s first broadcasting station, train Tibetan radio operators and set up a radio communications network throughout Tibet. He was the first Westerner to be employed by the Government of Tibet and given an official rank. In Britain, newspapers at the time dubbed Ford “the loneliest Briton in the world” because of his remote posting.

He was captured by advancing PLA troops in 1950 after an earthquake cut off a planned escape route. During nearly five years of imprisonment, Ford was subjected to interrogation and ‘thought reform’ and was in constant fear of execution. He spent four years in jail before the Chinese allowed him to write a letter home to his mother telling her he was alive. After being sentenced in 1954 to a 10-year term for “espionage,” he was released in 1955 and expelled.

Following his release, in 1957 Ford joined the British Diplomatic Service. During his career he served in the Foreign Office in London and at various posts around the world; in Vietnam, Indonesia, the USA, Morocco, Angola, France, Sweden, and finally as UK Consul-General in Geneva, Switzerland, from where he retired in 1983. In 1982 Mr Ford was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).

Ford married Monica Tebbett, a childhood friend from a nearby village in Staffordshire who was at the time working for the United Nations in New York, in 1956. “We met again and fell in love,” said Ford, according to a local village website. They were married for 55 years.

Ford remained active in retirement, enjoying hiking and travel, and only stopped skiing at the age of 86. His retirement also allowed him more time for active support to the Tibetan cause. He was a council member of the Tibet Society and remained a Vice President for the rest of his life. He wrote extensively and lectured on all aspects of Tibetan and Chinese affairs in the UK, the rest of Europe, Australia, and the United States.

In 1996, Ford organised the first meeting between the Dalai Lama and a member of the British Royal family. His Holiness met the late Queen Mother together with Ford at Clarence House.

(Biography credit: ICT)