Tibetans and their supporters staged a peaceful vigil outside the London-based Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, on 17th May from 6pm to 8pm. The day is marked by the Tibetan diaspora and their supporters worldwide as the 28th anniversary of the forced “disappearance” of their spiritual leader – The 11th Panchen Lama. They were demanding the Chinese authorities to release their spiritual leader.
On 14th May 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (born 25th April 1989) was recognised as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as per the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Within days of his public recognition, on 17th May, then six-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima disappeared with his parents and Jadrel Rinpoche, Head of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse (Tibet). Jadrel Rinpoche was secretly in touch with the Dalai Lama in India regarding the 11th Panchen Lama’s search. He was appointed as the Head of the Panchen Lama Search Committee, entrusted by the Chinese Government. [Read more on why China Must Return the Stolen Tibetan Child – The 11th Panchen Lama]
Posted on social media, India-based Tashi Lhunpo Monastery stated that they’re very concerned “about his wellbeing”. They pray for their spiritual leader’s safe return “back to the seat of the Panchen Lama, Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.”
Support for the Tibetan Buddhist leader is growing worldwide. The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Tibet in the UK Parliament released a Statement of concern on this 28th anniversary. The Group said: “On 17 May 1995 China disappeared the then six-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who was recognised by the Dalai Lama, along with his family. He became the world’s youngest political prisoner then. He has not been seen since. Today marks 28 years since he went missing.”
The Parliamentary Group for Tibet further added, “We are deeply concerned about Tibet’s 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who recently turned 34 years old.
“In line with the demands by Reverend Zeekgyab Rinpoche, Abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of Panchen Lama, who recently visited the UK parliament, we would like to urge the Chinese government to provide details about his whereabouts and welfare and call for his immediate release.”
Tenzin Kunga, Chairman of Tibetan Community UK and gave an opening speech and introduced the speakers.
Mr Enghejirgalang Uriyanghai, Chairman & Founder of the Voice of Southern Mongolia (VOSM) UK gave a short speech. Whilst sharing solidarity with the Tibetan people, Enghejirgalang stated that Southern Mongolia will always stand with the people of Tibet. He said that the Panchen Lama is also a spiritual leader for the Mongolian Buddhists and called on the Chinese authorities for his immediate release.
During their two-hour vigil outside the Chinese Embassy, Tibetans and their supporters shouted loud slogans such as – “Release Release Panchen Lama”, “Free Panchen Lama”, “Free Tibet – China Out of Tibet”.
Tenzin Kunga, Chairman of the Tibetan Community in Britain, said: “It is outrageous that China blatantly disappears a Tibetan child along with his family from the face of earth, keeping them incommunicado for the past 28 years, and yet it is not held accountable by the international community for its actions in denying basic rights to a child. For far too long the Chinese communist regime has escaped meaningful scrutiny. It is high time the UN and the international community demand China to provide the whereabouts of Tibet’s Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and release him immediately.”
Adding his voice on this poignant day, Tsering Passang, Founder and Chair of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities, said: “We need to keep up the pressure and call out China for its continued gross violation of human rights including the freedom of religion in Tibet. We will keep coming back to the Chinese Embassy and send a loud and clear message to China’s brutal regime that we will not forget the atrocities and crimes committed against the Tibetans. Our resistance will continue until justice is secured for our people in Tibet as well as for all those who are still facing persecutions in China and its occupied territories.”
Tibetan National Anthem was sung at the start of the rally. The peaceful vigil ended with a Buddhist Prayer of Truth, specially composed by the 14th Dalai Lama.
UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Questions China on Situation of Tibetan Women in Tibet
Geneva: A group of 23-member expert committee reviewed China on the implementation of the UN International Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, on 12 May 2023, in the ongoing 85th session of the Committee commenced on 8 May 2023. In line with the review of China by the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in its 85th session, Tibet groups, namely the Tibet Bureau, Tibetan Women Associations and Tibet Advocacy Coalition group made submissions to the committee on Tibet, individually. Furthermore, an oral joint statement to draw the committee’s attention to the situation of Tibetan women was delivered on the first day of the session held on 8 May 2023.
Representative Thinlay Chukki and UN Advocacy Officer Kalden Tsomo of the Tibet Bureau along with President of Tibetan Women Association Tenzing Dolma and Tibet Advocacy Coalition’s coordinator Gloria Montgomery took part in the review session on China.
With reference to the situation of Tibetan women in Tibet, the experts questioned China on a wide range of pertinent issues, including the forcible removal of Tibetan nomads and herders; Tibetan women subjected to military-style vocational training, low-skilled and low-paid employment; participation of women in public and diplomatic service, including Tibetan women; legal grounds for confiscation of passports, including women in Tibet; access to education in Tibetan language and issues on mental health safeguard for Tibetan children in residential schools.
During the day-long review session, the UN experts raised numerous pressing questions to the Chinese delegations concerning the situation of women in China and regions under its control including Tibet, and in special administrative areas: Hong Kong and Macau. More than 40 members of Chinese delegations attended the session. However, the delegations, yet again, failed to give sufficient responses to the experts, resulting in repeated interventions from the chair and the country’s rapporteur reminding the delegations to provide “specific replies” to the questions raised by the experts.
Raising the issues of forcible removal of Tibetan nomads, farmers and herders from their ancestral land, the expert raised, “In the name of creating employment opportunities, Tibetans, including women are subjected to military-style vocational training in Tibet”. She further referred to the findings by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of Slavery that an extensive labour transfer program has shifted mainly farmers, herders and other rural women workers into low-skilled and low-paid employment. In light of these issues, the expert asked China to a) provide concrete figures of Tibetan farmers, herders and nomads who have been forcibly removed from their lands within the last decades and provide gender aggregated data; b) Reasons for providing Tibetan rural women workers with low skilled and low paid employment training under labour transfer program; c) Indicate a number of Tibetan women subjected to forced labour transfer program across China. The large team Chinese delegation could not respond to the issue raised by the expert during the session.
In accordance with the state’s obligation to take necessary measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life, the expert raised the issue of circumstances surrounding the limited participation of women in political and public spheres. The expert asked China to indicate efforts to increase women participation or candidates for political positions and in the diplomacy corps, including Tibetans. Responding to the Chinese delegation’s hazy replies to the question raised by an expert, the chair rapporteur had to point out the delegation’s response to explicitly raise “how many of these (Chinese women) in public life are Tibetans, Uyghur…”?
The expert asked Chinese delegations to clarify and provide information on issues related to the confiscation of passports and identity documents. While acknowledging the experts’ awareness of problems faced by women, including in Tibet, on restrictions of movement, the expert asked Chinese delegations on conditions under which individuals are restricted to travelling abroad; legal grounds that state agents confiscate the passports and identity documents of the individuals. Following the un-concise response by the Chinese delegation, the expert promptly flagged-up that the question raised by the expert had not been answered.
In light of ongoing large-scale assimilatory policy by China in Tibet through residential schools, the expert raised the issue of mental health and aggregated data of Tibetan children in “forced residential schools” in Tibet.
Furthermore, the experts questioned China over the situation of women subjected to state-led interethnic marriages, the situation of women human rights defenders, including protection from harassment, punishment and retaliation against their work and the state’s support to the work of civil society organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations.
The Peace Garden was commissioned by Tibet Foundation and built on land kindly provided by Southwark Council. It has been donated to the people of Britain for all to enjoy.
The Tibetan Peace Garden honours one of the principal teachings of His Holiness – the need to create understanding between different cultures and to establish places of peace and harmony in the world. It is hoped that it will create a deepening awareness of His Holiness’s thoughts and words.
This Garden of Contemplation (Samten Kyil) is a place where anyone can come and enjoy a time of peace and tranquillity. For the spiritually minded, this is no longer an ordinary place, because it has been both consecrated and blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to have a spiritual life of its own.
Reminder, symbol, sanctuary, offering, zone of peace and inner content, or simply just a garden – it is our aspiration that you enjoy the Tibetan Peace Garden and find in it a place of inspiration and delight.
The Garden serves to create a greater awareness of Buddhist culture. At its heart is the Kalachakra Mandala (2) associated with world peace. Merely to gaze on this Mandala is said to confer something of its blessing and power to transform, and here, cast for the first time in bronze, it rests as the central focus for the garden.
Near to the Garden’s entrance, is a stone pillar known as the Language Pillar (1). Carved into each side of this pillar is a special message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama (see below) in Tibetan, English, Chinese and Hindi. The pillar design is based on the Sho Pillar, a 9th-century treaty stone in Lhasa acknowledging the rights of both Tibet and China to co-exist in peace. The three carved steps at the top of the pillar represent peace, understanding and love.
The contemporary western sculptures (3, which are set on a north, south, east, west axis), representing the four elements Air, Fire, Earth and Water, and the language pillar with its carving in four languages of a message for the millennium by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, form a symbol of the harmony that can be created between different people and cultures.
Around the Mandala are 8 meditation seats which represent the noble eightfold path: right view, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.
The garden also stands as a monument to the courage of the Tibetan people and their patient commitment to the path of non-violence and peace. It will remind us too that Tibet’s culture is a treasure of our common heritage, and how vital it is that it be kept alive.
The inner gardens (4) are planted with herbs and plants from Tibet and the Himalayan regions, while the pergola is covered with climbing plants, including jasmine, honeysuckle and scented roses. The surrounding area is landscaped and planted with trees in a collaborative venture that involved the Borough of Southwark and the local community.
Message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama inscribed on the Stone Pillar in four different languages: Tibetan, English, Hindi and Chinese.
The Tibetan Peace Garden has a unique location. The park in which it is built houses the Imperial War Museum and so attracts large numbers of visitors from all over the UK and abroad. It is within walking distance of Waterloo Station and is close to the Houses of Parliament, Lambeth Palace, the London Eye, the South Bank Centre and Tate Modern.
The Tibetan Peace Garden
Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park
St George’s Road
London SE1 6ER
Mainline train: London Waterloo; the garden is around 10 minutes’ walk from the station
Parking: There are very few parking facilities nearby, and we do not advise driving to the garden. The nearest NCP is at Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, Elephant Rd
The Man Behind the Tibetan Peace Garden– Phuntsog Wangyal
The story of Tibetan Peace Garden is incomplete without the introduction of the key figure behind this peace monument initiative in the heart of London – Phuntsog Wangyal.
Phuntsog Wangyal was a founding trustee of Tibet Foundation, a UK charity that has made a significant contribution towards education, health-care and economic and spiritual development amongst the Tibetan communities across Asia. He served as the charity’s Chairman and Director for many decades.
Born in 1944, Mr Wangyal became a monk and studied Buddhism in Tibet at a young age. In 1959 he escaped amid an arduous journey to India, where he was educated at St Joseph’s College and later at Delhi and Jawaharlal Universities, graduating with an MA and MPhil in Politics and International Relations. Following this he became the Assistant Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala established by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In 1973 he came to London where he conducted research on the life of the 13th Dalai Lama and the concept of reincarnation, and taught Tibetan language at SOAS. For many years he served the Tibetan community as a council member and later as its chairman. In 1980 he returned to Tibet as a member of a pivotal delegation sent at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as part of a fact-finding delegation, followed by interviews and accounts of his visit including the BBC documentary series ‘The World About Us’. In 1981 he was appointed the London Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the Office of Tibet was established.
In 1985 Mr Wangyal founded Tibet Foundation, which has since become one of the most highly respected Tibetan charities to date, offering practical, long-term support to Tibetans living both inside Tibet as well as India and Nepal.
He has also catalysed support for Mongolians in the revival of their Buddhist tradition and practice across Mongolia. In July 2009 he was awarded the “Friendship Medal” by the Mongolian President for the Foundation’s significant contribution to the development of cooperation between Mongolia and the United Kingdom, in recognition of efforts to restore its traditional culture and spiritual heritage.
Mr Wangyal has travelled internationally and written many articles on Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, including ‘The Influence of Religion on Tibetan Politics’, The Tibet Journal 1975; ‘The Tibetans: two perspectives on Tibetan-Chinese Relations’, Minority Rights Group 1983; ‘Tibet and Development’, Tibet Foundation Newsletter 2004; ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, Encyclopaedia of Peace 2008.
Mr Phuntsog Wangyal received an honorary doctorate at the 2014 SOAS Graduation Ceremony, University of London. The Tibet Foundation was set up in 1985 and closed in 2021.
Tibetan Peace Garden and Lelung Dharma Trust
Before its closure in 2021, the Tibet Foundation approached the Lelung Dharma Trust via-a-vis the Tibetan Peace Garden and the two organisations agreed to ensure the upkeep of this peace initiative in cooperation with the Southwark Council.
On its website, the Lelung Dharma Trust said: “We are committed towards preserving and supporting this important Tibet landmark in London through close coordination with the Southwark Council.” In 2022, a major event was hosted at the Tibetan Peace Garden by the Lelung Dharma Trust. A short video taken during a joint visit to the Tibetan Peace Garden by concerned officials from Southwark Council, Tibet Foundation and Lelung Dharma Trust.
On Wednesday, 24th May from 12.30pm to 1pm, Tashi Lhunpo monks will pray for world peace at the Tibetan Peace Garden as part of the 24th anniversary. All welcome.
Born 25th April 1989, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognised as the true reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as per the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, on 14th May 1995.
Within days of his public recognition by the Dalai Lama, on 17th May 1995, the six-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima disappeared with his parents and Jadrel Rinpoche, Head of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse (Tibet), who was in secretly in touch with the Dalai Lama in India regarding the 11th Panchen Lama’s search. Jadrel Rinpoche was appointed as the Head of the Panchen Lama Search Committee, entrusted by the Chinese Government.
Last month, on the 34th birth anniversary of the 11th Panchen Lama, the Office of India-based Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Central Association for the Panchen Lama released a three-page official Statement. They said: “As devotees of the Panchen Lama Lineage and in general Tibetan Buddhism, it is our birth right to practice our faith and since the Panchen Lama is our Root Teacher, and since he is vital to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan Buddhism, we shall continue to fight for his release from the clutches of the Chinese Communist designs.”
Press Event and Demonstration in Geneva, Switzerland
As part of the global campaign to secure the release of the Tibet’s spiritual leader who has been missing since 1995, a Press Event is being planned at the Geneva Press Club on 16th May from 11am to 12pm.
Organised by the Tibetan Community of Geneva, the Press Event will be addressed by Thinlay Chukki, Geneva-based Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Tibet Bureau, His Eminence Zeegkyab Rinpoche, Abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in South India, and Adrien Zoller, President of Geneva for Human Rights.
The Tibetan Community of Geneva will also stage a public demonstration at the Place des Nations, UN, Geneva on 17th May from 11am to 3pm, where over a thousand Tibetans are expected to take part.
Geneva: The Tibet Bureau and the Tibetan Women’s Association delivered a joint statement on the situation of Tibetan Women in Tibet during a UN public briefing for the 85th session of the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CEDAW), held on 08 May 2023. The 23-member expert committee will review the status of the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women by China on Friday, 12 May 2023.
Representative Thinlay Chukki along with the UN Advocacy Officer Kalden Tsomo and the President of Tibetan Women’s Association (Central) Tenzing Dolma participated in the meeting and met with the UN committee’s members and apprised them of the situation of Tibetan women in Tibet under China’s control.
During the window of a two-min oral briefing opportunity, on behalf of the Tibet Bureau and Tibetan Women Association, UN Advocacy Officer of the Tibet Bureau Kalden Tsomo highlighted Chinese discriminatory policies and patterns impacting the Tibetan women in Tibet, disproportionately. Concerning the issues of residential schools in Tibet aimed at assimilation of Tibetan children into Han majority culture, she raised harassment and sexual abuses in residential schools in Tibet are “alarming”. Furthermore, she brought forward the UN experts’ attention to the situation of Tibetan rights defenders; the continued enforced disappearance of XIth Panchen Lama of Tibet Gedhun Choekyi Nyima along with his mother Dechen Choedon and the forced eviction of Tibetan nuns from Yachen Gar, one of the Tibetan Buddhist learning centres for female Buddhist practitioners. She said, “Between 2017 and 2018, over thousands of Tibetan nuns from Yachen Gar were evicted, subjecting them to military drill training sessions”. Since 2009, 159 Tibetans, including girls and women, have self-immolated as a political protest against Chinese repression in Tibet, she added.
In conclusion, she urged the committee to press China: to stop persecution and discrimination against Tibetans, including women and girls; to allow Tibetan children to learn its culture, language and religious traditions and to reassess its discriminatory policies and suppression of Tibetan people, which have led to a cycle of protests and unrest in Tibet.
In view of the review session of the treaty body, the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CEDAW), The Tibet Bureau and the Tibetan Women’s Association have made a detailed written submission on the situation of Tibetan women in Tibet under China’s rule. Click here for written submission of the Tibet Bureau Geneva and click here for report submission of TWA.
China signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1980. The treaty body’s experts held the last review of China in 2014. The ongoing 85th session of the CEDAW commenced on 8th May and will be concluded on 26th May. The Tibet team will take part in the remaining China-related sessions in a public and private setting as well.
This report, filed by the Tibet Bureau (Geneva), was first published on Tibet.net
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has publicly expressed concerns about reports of China gathering DNA from Tibetans, making him the senior-most US official to raise the issue to date.
As the featured speaker at Freedom House’s annual Freedom Awards on May 9, 2023, Blinken stated: “We’re also concerned by reports of the spread of mass DNA collection to Tibet as an additional form of control and surveillance over the Tibetan population.”
In September 2022, Citizen Lab reported that China’s police may have gathered about 920,000 to 1.2 million DNA samples in the Tibet Autonomous Region—which spans around half of traditional Tibet—over the prior six years. Those figures represent one-quarter to one-third of the region’s total population.
That same month, Human Rights Watch said that China’s authorities were systematically collecting DNA from residents of the TAR, including by taking blood from children as young as 5 without their parents’ consent.
Blinken’s statement met with an accusatory response from China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson. However, the International Campaign for Tibet welcomed the Secretary’s remarks.
“Throughout its brutal occupation of Tibet, China has used Tibet as a laboratory for relentless methods of social control, including this horrific campaign of mass DNA collection,” said ICT, an advocacy group based in Washington, DC and Europe.
According to Citizen Lab, China’s DNA collection program is unrelated to criminal justice. “[O]ur analysis indicates that for years police across Tibet have collected DNA samples from men, women, and children, none of whom appear to be criminal suspects,” Citizen Lab says in its report.
Police are also not targeting specific groups like activists or government critics. Instead, they are collecting DNA from entire communities.
Similarly, Human Rights Watch says in its report that, “There is no publicly available evidence suggesting people can decline to participate” in the DNA collection, “or that police have credible evidence of criminal conduct that might warrant such collection.”
Some of Human Rights Watch’s most disturbing findings involve blood collection from children. That includes the taking of blood from kindergarten students in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa, and the collection of DNA from all boys ages 5 and older in a Tibetan township of Qinghai province.
At a press briefing today, May 10, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin responded to a question about Blinken’s remarks by claiming they “mean nothing except manufacturing sensational news items.”
Wang then accused the US military of collecting genomic data of Chinese, Arabs and “European Aryans.”
Earlier this year, Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of Congress reintroduced a bill that can help peacefully resolve the occupation.
The Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act will pressure China to resume negotiations with the Dalai Lama’s envoys for the first time since dialogue between the two sides stalled in 2010.
The legislation will recognize that Tibetans have the right to self-determination and that Tibet’s legal status is yet to be determined under international law.
6th May 2023 | Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, HP, India –
On the auspicious occasion of his coronation His Holiness the Dalai Lama has written to King Charles III to offer his warm congratulations.
“May Your Majesty live long,” he wrote, “and the peoples of the United Kingdom enjoy happiness and prosperity.
“Having been privileged to enjoy your friendship for many years, I am confident that you will continue to accomplish this great responsibility with kindness and affection, dedicated to the service of others.
“Today,” His Holiness added, “the international community is going through very challenging times. I believe we must make concerted efforts to achieve a more compassionate, peaceful world by resolving problems like the gap between rich and poor and protecting the natural environment of this planet that is our only home, in the spirit of the oneness of humanity.
His Holiness concluded his letter: “I wish you every success in meeting the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the British people and contributing to the creation of a more peaceful world, free of violent conflict.”
Until recent weeks, the thought of having to defend the moral character of the Dalai Lama would have seemed absurd. Ever since he led the Tibetan people as a 24 year old through the shattering crisis of China’s invasion of Tibet, he has been one of the world’s most enduring symbols of moral leadership. He has lived his entire life in the public eye as a hardworking global champion of peace and nonviolence. Even now in his twilight years, he continues to spread his message of compassion and kindness every passing day.
Yet recently, along with Tibetans around the world, I felt an urgent need to speak up on the Dalai Lama’s behalf as the global media rushed to publish sensational headlines suggesting indecent behavior. With little heed to due diligence, media organizations pounced on an opportunity to cast an incriminating spotlight on an awkward public encounter with a young boy in India. The televised event took place on stage in Dharmasala on February 28th. A month and a half later, a selectively edited video surfaced online accompanied by salacious text that created the impression of sexual impropriety.Overnight, defamatory headlines appeared in respected publications world-wide and public slander exploded online with allegations of sexual abuse.
The viral video was in fact a short clip from a much longer interaction that was extraordinary for very different reasons. With his mother and grandfather seated on stage beside the Dalai Lama, the young boy first receives an affectionate bump on the forehead for formally presenting gifts on behalf of the honorary guests assembled. The Dalai Lama then looks up and reflects out loud that this exchange brings to mind his early childhood with his late brother Lobsang Samten — his one designated friend and playmate during an otherwise isolated childhood as a spiritual leader-in-training that began at the age of four. He proceeds to demonstrate how he and his brother once tussled with their heads.
Later in the program, the young boy approaches the microphone once more and requests a hug from the Dalai Lama. While the mother feigns exasperation and the audience is amused, the Dalai Lama acquiesces with a warm embrace. Then the 87-year old awkwardly makes an attempt at a jocular display of affection. He first requests a peck on the lips and then — to the shock of the world — he blithely sticks out his tongue and says in his halting English, “suck my tongue.”
Seen through the norms of our hypersexualized global culture, the video of the interaction is uncomfortable to watch. Even though the boy and his mother have both given media interviews expressing joy in having had this encounter with the Dalai Lama, the viral video depicts an imbalance in power that leads viewers to associations with the well-known history of child abuse in many religious contexts. There is also a slow-motion uncertainty as both the Dalai Lama and the boy seem not to know how to conclude this awkward performance of affection. Then by sticking out his tongue, the Dalai Lama reaches back to a gesture of play from his Tibetan traditional culture that can only be seen as bizarre for the rest of the world.
But for Tibetans from the Dalai Lama’s generation — those like my parents who had spent their formative years in an isolated Tibet — the episode was utterly free of any suspicion of abuse. In a traditional culture that does not sexualize the tongue, they could not discern what the world found offensive in this video. It was bewildering for them to learn that this innocuous encounter had turned the world’s opinion against the Dalai Lama. Many of the Tibetan elders who were asked to watch the video — from New York to Ladakh — did not hear a lewd request, but rather an innocent tease to a young boy. He was being asked to “chele sa” (eat my tongue) as was the way grandparents expressed to small children, “That’s it — all I have left to give you is my tongue.”
Taken out of both cultural and situational context, this tragic collision of norms points to a vast cultural gap that Slavoj Žižek has weighed in to describe as an otherness that is an “impenetrable abyss.” What looks disturbing through one cultural lens is seen as entirely innocent through another. This ineradicable gap, together with the information economy of the digital media and the herd mentality that comes with our short modern attention span, presented a perfect storm for discrediting the symbol of the Tibetan movement.
The point of the viral video clip, it goes without saying, was to damage the image of someone China’s leaders have long publicly reviled and quietly feared. Since the Tibetan government was declared to continue in exile in India in 1959, an ongoing campaign has been conducted to malign the Dalai Lama as a respected public figure and the symbolic leader of Tibet.
This time, the attack on the Dalai Lama struck a chord. Within ten days of the public uproar, the BBC ran a breathless story on the Dalai Lama incident reigniting “Tibet’s ‘slave’ controversy.” While the term ‘slave’ appears in the sensational headline, the author buries inside the article an oblique acknowledgement of common knowledge that slavery did not exist in Tibet. Rather, Tibet’s society was comprised of people working on “estates owned by nobles, monasteries or the state” to whom taxes were paid. This desultory revelation, along with historian Tsering Shakya’s commentary on the absence of enslavement in Tibetan society, comes after a BBC shout-out to the Chinese government for recently creating ‘Tibetan Serf Emancipation Day.’ Chinese nationalist propaganda has now been dignified in mainstream media as “a long-running controversy over Tibetan history.”
The startling uptick in anti-Tibet political sentiment converges with an underlying bias in the global public discourse that has contributed to the traction of the recent controversy surrounding the viral video. With the issue of Tibet stereotyped as a politically correct and hackneyed cause célèbre of global celebrities, and the Dalai Lama himself typecast as a globe-trotting religious figure carrying a message many see as naïve and underwhelming against the hard-nosed political challenge of the rising superpower of China, the real moral and political stakes of the question of Tibet have long been eviscerated by the chattering classes.
For Tibetans everywhere, this episode has felt like a collective near-death experience. Never before had it been so clear how little the Dalai Lama was understood. Over decades in exile as the world’s most famous refugee, he has often been depicted as a caricature: so much was projected onto him and so often his name was invoked and used for the interests of others — vast and small, institutional and geopolitical. And at the end of his astonishing life, the world seemed ready to abandon him without a second glance.
For Tibetans, the Dalai Lama was never the two-dimensional figure who appeared on magazine covers or who smiled back from billboards. We all grew accustomed to his buoyant manner of speech as he spoke to thousands in packed arenas in his lurching, disconnected English sentences, often punctuated by his laughter at his own linguistic limitations.
But in the world of his native Tibetan language, the Dalai Lama appeared as an entirely different person. In Tibet, he was legendary by his early 20s. No one could remember a rising intellectual star who shone so brightly and at the same time possessed the ineffable qualities to carry the weight of a nation on his shoulders. From my youth, I remember how he spoke with transcendent grace at lightning speed, in thrilling glass-cut paragraphs, with the kind of precise, incisive clarity that left no doubt that his was the sharpest mind in the room. Even today, when he speaks in Tibetan, the Dalai Lama’s voice drops several registers and his personality transforms. His lighthearted demeanor is gone. In its place is a gravitas and unyielding focus that shows us that the suffering of others is fiercely present in his heart. All through his lifetime, he has commanded authority not only because of his political and spiritual inheritance but also because of his ability to convince a tired and beleaguered people to join him on his personal moral journey.
It has been in the Tibetan language that the Dalai Lama has transmitted a set of instructions on finding a pathway through an indifferent world as a dispossessed people. Even under brutal and paralyzing oppression, he modeled a vision of forgiveness as a form of empowerment. It was a lesson that both defined the Tibetan movement and touched the struggles of dispossessed people in every forgotten corner of the world.
I have seen this in my fieldwork as a researcher of territorial autonomy and self-governance. I saw it in the eyes of the Kurdish community organizer I met in a tiny nonprofit office just over an hour away from Mosul, Iraq, during the height of the suicide bombings. He had been working in obscurity painstakingly translating the Dalai Lama’s works into the Kurdish language. “This,” he said, “is what our people need to know.” He proudly showed me his manuscript.
I also saw it in the Karen spiritual leader I met deep inside the war-torn Karen state, in what had been the world’s longest-running insurgency in modern times before a ceasefire was established in their armed conflict against the Myanmar government. After a day of sitting in meditation alongside a thousand meditators, he called me in so he could recount the importance of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause for his own reimagining the Karen fight for self-determination.
And I felt this in the intensity of the Sahrawi law student I met in the Moroccan-occupied territory of Western Sahara. He had been missing classes and was on track to drop out because he spent all of his time at bloody protests that went unnoticed by the world. As he pressed a book about the Sahrawi people into my hands, he said that knowing how the Dalai Lama had made the Tibetan struggle visible to the world gave him a reason to continue to fight for his people — through law instead of violence on the streets. He now felt less alone.
In other words, what the Dalai Lama passed on to Tibetans has spawned a movement of movements, teaching the dispossessed everywhere to see themselves not as victims, but as empowered by their own intrinsic seeds of potential in an interdependent reality that is in a constant state of motion and change. His model has shown a vision of how to inhabit this imperfect world, how to transcend the staggering injustices of global politics and the arbitrariness of history, and how to honor and remain committed to goals that cannot be completed in a lifetime.
Nowhere has this wisdom spread so far or flourished so deeply as in Tibet itself. In the three decades that I have been working inside Tibet, I have witnessed the bright faith of Tibetans grow only more self-assured and more determined. For every self-immolator who perishes calling for the long life of the Dalai Lama, there are countless other Tibetans who grow even more determined to choose a life-affirming path for remaking the Tibetan world.
They teach the Tibetan language at night when they are barred from teaching during the day. They travel as far as needed to provide decent healthcare to all remote Tibetan communities when the state apparatus has long called it quits. They convince their communities to join them in protecting the land and the wildlife even when it requires putting their lives on the line. Tibetans inside Tibet, in other words, are doing the hard work of preparing themselves to become the best stewards of their homeland when no one else seems to believe in their capacity to self-rule.
This Tibetan determination has been fueled by a resolute faith in the vision of the Dalai Lama. It was not surprising when Tibetans in Tibet reacted with joy when the decades-old ban on the Dalai Lama’s image was suddenly lifted so that the viral video and the international condemnation could circulate in the Chinese cybersphere. Overnight, the viral video garnered over 180 million views inside the PRC. But for Tibetans in Tibet, the storm of global moral censure simply underlined how little the Dalai Lama was understood, even internationally.
For Tibetans in exile as well as the peoples across the Himalayas, this global controversy has brought them closer not only to the Dalai Lama but also to each other as a struggle. For the first time, mass rallies and demonstrations in support of the Dalai Lama have spontaneously broken out from Ladakh to Sikkim to the disputed territory of Arunachal Pradesh. The global condemnation may have caused a collective near-death experience for many Tibetans. But it also created a new sense of time and space across all Tibetan and Himalayan communities — inside and outside Tibet — that is giving rise to a regeneration of the Tibetan political movement.
The question that remains is what the symbol of the Dalai Lama and his ideas will mean for the rest of the world. One of the tragedies of his defamation is that it grows out of a caricature that was manufactured by those who never understood him or had any sense of the true measure of his life. Will the Dalai Lama be seen through their cynical eyes and be projected as a declining global celebrity open for ridicule as media clickbait? Or will the world find the decency to rise above its worst impulses and honor a life that has been given entirely to the task of growing the best of ourselves as living beings on this planet?
After all, this global moral crisis in truth illuminates less about the character of the Dalai Lama than it does about ourselves and the kind of human community we are choosing to become.
Tashi Rabgey, Research Professor of International Affairs, George Washington University
 Media organizations reacted instantaneously to a statement made by the Private Office of the Dalai Lama expressing regret for the incident. The apology was not an admission of wrongdoing but a regret that the meeting might have caused any hurt. This aligns with the Tibetan cultural practice of putting the needs and interests of others first and taking on the burden of negative sentiment, regardless of the circumstances.
 The edited video clip was uploaded with salacious text to the Twitter account YinSun@NiSiv4 on April 8th, 2023. The clip itself had first appeared days earlier on YouTube and on Change.org in a petition created by, among others, “Joseph R. Biden.” Within days, bots propelled the video clip to 7 millions views.
 For survivors of child sexual abuse, it is understandable that the optics of the viral video could trigger traumatic responses. However, many civic organizations have now condemned the allegations against the Dalai Lama of any such abusive intent, including from the RAHI Foundation, a nationally prominent and pioneering organization in India for survivors of child sexual abuse. Their statement on 22nd April states that there is no indication of sexual abuse, in intent or impact, in the encounter between the Dalai Lama and the boy on stage. https://drive.google.com/file/d/17wEL5ZtZRwFrtwkTVe_5qctjy44ClR4h/view?lt_utm_source=lt_admin_share_link See also Joshua Brallier Shelton, ‘Opinion: We need to think about the Dalai Lama’s actions very carefully,’ Tricycle, April 17, 2023.
Tashi Rabgey is Research Professor of International Affairs at the Elliott School where she directs the Research Initiative on Multination States (RIMS) and the Tibet Governance Lab (Tibet GovLab).
Rabgey’s primary research focuses on asymmetric governance, territoriality and the problems of contemporary statehood in the People’s Republic of China. Her interdisciplinary work draws on the fields of political and legal anthropology, international legal theory, contemporary Tibetan studies and comparative Chinese law. In conjunction with RIMS, she is also developing comparative research on asymmetric statehood, regional autonomy and self-governance in Kurdistan (Iraq) and the Basque Country (Spain).
From 2008-2014, Rabgey led the development of the TGAP Forum, a research initiative that engaged policy researchers from the Chinese State Council in Beijing, as well as global academic partners including Harvard, Université du Montréal à Québec (UQÀM), McGill and the University of Oslo. The seven-year TGAP process developed new insights and strategies for developing research into the institutional structure and dynamics of China’s policymaking in Tibet.
Her current writing projects include a long term political study of the Chinese state, as well as studies of territoriality, the rescaling of governance, the regionalization of public interests and demands in the People’s Republic of China. She is also completing a project on legal pluralism, nationality law and the effects of sovereignty in post-democratization Taiwan.
Before joining the Elliott School, Professor Rabgey was a faculty member of the University of Virginia East Asia Center where she was co-director of the University of Virginia Tibet Center. She held a lectureship in contemporary Tibetan studies and taught in comparative politics and global development studies. She is also cofounder of Machik, a nonprofit organization that has been developing strategies for creative development and social innovation in Tibet for over twenty years.
She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University, as well as law degrees from Oxford and Cambridge where she was a Rhodes scholar. Following her LL.M. in public international law, she pursued advanced studies in comparative Chinese law at the Center for Asian Legal Studies at Faculty of Law of University of British Columbia.
She was a Fellow in the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on US-China Relations from 2011-2013. Rabgey is currently Visiting Professor at the University of Kurdistan in the KRG (Kurdistan Region of Iraq).
On this auspicious remembrance of Lord Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and mahaparinirvana, I am pleased to convey my greetings to fellow Buddhists across the world.
Vajrasana, the Adamantine Seat, as Bodhgaya is known in our scriptures, is the most sacred of Buddhist pilgrimage sites associated with Shakyamuni Buddha, our compassionate and founder-teacher of our spiritual tradition. It was here that the Buddha attained Enlightenment (Mahabodhi), following which he bestowed teachings on the Four Noble Truths, the Thirty-seven Factors of Enlightenment, and others. The key to his teachings are instructions to discipline the mind for the benefit of sentient beings as infinite as space.
The heart of the Buddha’s teaching is the combined practice of compassion and wisdom. The practice of bodhicitta, the altruistic spirit of enlightenment, is the essence of all his teaching. The more we become acquainted with a concern for the welfare of others, the more we will regard others dearer than ourselves. We will recognise our dependence on each other and will remember that all 8 billion people in the world today are same in wishing to be happy and to avoid suffering.
Therefore, on this special occasion, I urge my spiritual brothers and sisters to be warm-hearted and lead a meaningful life, to be dedicated to the welfare of others. Warm heartedness is the key to peace and harmony in the world.
Activists and supporters of the Southern Mongolia are staging a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in London to mark the International Southern Mongolia Support Day.
This protest will be held on Sunday, 7th May 2023 from 5pm to 6.30pm, which is organised by Voice of Southern Mongolia, Inner Mongolian People’s Party and Save the Mongolian Language. (Venue: Chinese Embassy, 49-51 Portland Place, London W1B 1JL.)
Southern Mongolia is a region occupied by the Chinese authoritarian regime, where five million Mongolians live. Under the CCP’s authoritarian rule, Mongolians in China have no right to national self-determination, freedom, or human rights.
The Voice of Southern Mongolia (VOSM) was established in London, UK in May 2022. It is a non-governmental organisation aimed at advocating for democracy and independence in Southern Mongolia. Its members are located in London, New York, Tokyo, and other places.
OSM’s history can be traced back to 1995 when the Southern Mongolian independence activist, Mr Hada, founded the underground newspaper Voice of Southern Mongolia, which was later forced to shut down by the Chinese government.
The founding purpose of VOSM is to spread the most authentic voice of Southern Mongolia to the free world and establish a human rights information network for Southern Mongolia.
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