As a part of NGO introduction to its audience, the Radio Free Asia (RFA) Tibetan programme interviewed Tsering Passang, Founder and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM) about the new non-governmental organisation. The interview, conducted by RFA journalist Rigzin Chodon, was broadcast on Friday, 25th March on its channels.
Here is the gist of the interview compiled by the interviewee:
Tsering Passang gave an overview of the situation of Tibetan affairs in the UK and beyond. He began by explaining his over 20 years of service to the Tibetan cause mainly in the form of development work through raising funds to support Tibetan school children, university students, monks, nuns and old people in India, Nepal and Tibet as well as organising many cultural programmes and public talks, in addition to his community leadership roles in the UK. He said that the Tibetans in Exile have achieved a great deal in various fields since coming into exile in March 1959 but the main political resolution – to secure freedom for the Tibetan people has yet to be achieved.
He then spoke on the slow decline of Tibet supporters in the West, particularly in the UK. He also explained the situation of closure of Tibet-related organisations as well as the deaths of long-time Tibet friends/supporters due to old-age. Whilst many older supporters could no longer join Tibet protests in London he said that Tibetans and the remaining Tibet groups have not been able to draw in new/younger friends/supporters to the Tibetan cause.
Passang also said that since the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic a new opportunity has risen for Tibetans and all those who are being persecuted by the CCP regime and this should not be missed. He explained that the GATPM was started as an ‘online platform’ and the very first events were held in August 2020 in the form of a webinar with parliamentarians, scholars and activists; and a protest with submission of petition to the UN Secretary-General. Soon, Passang started lobbying MPs and giving them briefings. He said that the GATPM was formally registered as a company, non-profit in nature, in England and Wales, on 2nd November 2021.
He also said that the key objective of setting up the GATPM is to work with like-minded causes who are facing persecutions in the hands of the same brutal regimes. He explained that during his past Tibet activism a little attention was given to other causes such as Uyghurs, Falun Gong and more recently Hong Kong. With this new opportunity, Passang said that Tibetans and others have to come together and confront the Chinese regime which would be more effective to bring about some positive change to their respective causes. He also said that by working together with like minded causes they not only share their own experiences but support each other too. He said that the GATPM continues to develop new friends, alliances and connections.
He said that GATPM’s current programmes are conducted via various channels. He said that by working with parliamentarians, scholars, activists as well as others the GATPM hopes to raise the plight of Tibetans and other persecuted communities whilst exposing China’s ongoing atrocities. He said that the current programmes/activities are based on the significant dates for each community.
On budget and expenditure, Passang said that the GATPM has incurred very little expenses as it has no paid-staff and all works are done on voluntary capacity. So, any expenses incurred were all paid from his own pocket.
About Radio Free Asia Tibetan Programme:
RFA Tibetan programme has listeners in Tibet, India, Nepal and Bhutan. It also has reporters/stringers in India, Canada and Switzerland. In addition, the RFA transmits its programmes on radio, satellite channels as well as via website and social media channels. The programmes are accessible via its website – http://www.rfa.org/tibetan. The Washington-based Radio Free Asia is the leading Tibetan broadcasting channel outside Tibet, which is being funded by the US government.
In what seems to be a beginning of dialogue between a retired Indian Army General and an exiled-born Tibetan activist, Aadi Achint of DEF Talks invited Lt Gen Ravi Shankar and Tsering Passang on his show. They candidly discussed about Tibet, India and China.
Lt Gen Ravi Shankar is a retired Indian Army General. He is also an author and expert on Geo-political affairs.
Tsering Passang is the Founder and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM).
Soon after Tibet was invaded by Mao’s PLA troops, India and China came into direct contact on the Himalayan borders. These two Asian giants, with one-third of the world’s total populations, waged several wars since the 1960s. There is ongoing tension on the borders where both sides have deployed tens of thousands of armed personnel and military installations.
India is home to the Tibetan Government in Exile (officially known as the Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamsala, northern India). Dharamsala is also home to the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, since 1960. Some 80,000 Tibetans followed the Dalai Lama into exile exactly 63 years ago this month. The Dalai Lama and the Tibetan refugees stepped into Indian soil, via Tawang, north-eastern frontier, on 31st March 1959.
The Tibetan Government in Exile seeks dialogue with the Chinese leadership in Beijing to find ways to secure a lasting political resolution to the China-Tibet conflict. But, so far Beijing has not responded favourably. Like many Tibetans, Tsering Passang believes that they needed to keep the flame of Tibetan freedom struggle alive until an opportunity arises.
Update: Chinese Foreign Minister in Nepal and Tibetans feared being arrested
Tibetans in Tibet continue to experience severe travel restrictions in their own homelands. For example, Tibetans living in Kham (eastern Tibet) cannot travel to Lhasa (central Tibet) without a special permit issued by the Chinese authorities. Likewise, Tibetans in central Tibetan cannot travel to other parts of Tibet without special permits. However, any Han Chinese from any part of mainland China can travel freely across the Tibetan plateau with no requirements of any paperwork. Moreover, the Chinese authorities stopped issuing passports to Tibetans since 2012 to curb their foreign travel. This is the current reality for Tibetans in China’s occupied Tibet.
Meanwhile, Tibetans in Nepal face restriction on their movement and public gatherings. This is because the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is undertaking a 3-day State Visit to Nepal from 25th to 27th March. Over 10,000 Tibetan refugees live in Nepal. Notices were issued to avoid public gatherings and restrict their mobility during these three days. Local officials issued this caution to Tibetans to avoid being arrested by the police.
Women play important roles in any society. In Tibetan society too, Tibetan women have played and continue to play important roles in all aspects.
Exactly 63 years ago, on 12th March 1959, over 5,000 Tibetan women marched through the streets of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital, carrying banners demanding “Tibet for Tibetans” and shouting “From today Tibet is Independent”. They even presented an appeal for help to the Indian Consulate-General in Lhasa. At the time there were only a few foreign missions stationed in Tibet including from India and Nepal.
Mimang Tsongdu members and their supporters had erected barricades in Lhasa’s narrow streets while the Chinese militia had positioned sandbag fortifications for machine guns on the city’s flat rooftops. 3000 Tibetans in Lhasa signed their willingness to join the rebels manning the valley’s ring of mountains.
Only a few days earlier, on 10th March 1959, tens of thousands of Tibetans surrounded NorbuLingka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lamas, to protect the young Dalai Lama from the Chinese troops. Click here to find out Why Tibetans commemorate 10th March?
The Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM) is delighted to replay a discussion on ‘Tibetan Women’s role in their National Freedom Struggle’. Tsering Passang spoke with Tenzin Sangmo, a Tibetan activist based in England, in March 2021.
In August 2020, Tenzin Sangmo organised and led a 5-day peace march – “Walk for Tibet” from Bristol to London, covering over 150 miles with three other Tibetans to raise awareness of China’s occupation of Tibet. She is passionate and advocates for the rights of Tibetans and others who are persecuted by the Chinese communist regime.
On 10th March 2022, Sangmo gave a passionate speech outside the Chinese Embassy, London. Please watch it here.
Presently, Tibet is under the illegal occupation of the People’s Republic of China and is without any United Nations’ representation. A full-fledged embassy status would help to take their peaceful freedom struggle to the next level.
London-based Founder and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM), Tsering Passang has urged leading democracies including India, the UK, and the USA to recognise Dharamsala-based Central Tibetan Administration as the “Tibetan Government-in-Exile” and its overseas agencies (Offices of Tibet) as full-fledged Embassies. This, according to him, will give the Tibetan people the much needed footing to participate in “international platforms like the UN Human Rights Council and the WHO”.
Presently, Tibet is under the illegal occupation of the People’s Republic of China and is without any United Nations’ representation. The Department of Information & International Relations (DIIR) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), has representative offices in 13 countries. These offices act as de facto embassies of the CTA and are based in New Delhi, India; Kathmandu, Nepal; Washington DC, USA; Geneva, Switzerland; Tokyo, Japan; London, UK; Brussels, Belgium; Canberra, Australia; Paris, France; Moscow, Russia; Pretoria, South Africa; Taipei, Taiwan and Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“A full-fledged embassy status would help us to take our peaceful freedom struggle to the next level,” Passang stressed.
Passang was speaking to this journalist as a curtain raiser to the 63rd anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day that will be observed world over on March 10. The GATPM and Tibetans in the UK will demonstrate in front of the Chinese Embassy and its consulates. “But due to the Covid pandemic and fear of Chinese backlash on families back in Tibet, the participation has been unfortunately dwindling,” he lamented.
On this day in 1959, tens of thousands of Tibetans had banded together around the Norbulingka (the summer palace of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in Lhasa) to revolt, in defiance of the Chinese invasion that took place in 1949 and to protect their spiritual leader. This peaceful protest was violently crushed by China’s PLA troops soon after the H.H Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile, to India.
I must note here that while India has boldly demonstrated its practical assistance on the ground by way of inviting Tibetans to live in Dharamsala of Himachal Pradesh and set up their government in exile, whilst facilitating towards the education of young children as well as the preservation of their unique culture, the international powers that be, need to do much more than what has already been done. The minimum one can do in helping Tibet regain its past glory is to facilitate and declare its overseas representative offices (Offices of Tibet) as full-fledged embassies.
Although it might seem a long time in one’s lifetime that Tibet has not been freed for over six decades, Passang thinks the time is not too long considering it to be a freedom struggle of a nation. “After H.H the Dalai Lama was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Tibetan issue gained a greater attention from the international community. European countries and the US recognised our just and peaceful freedom struggle,” he pointed out.
However, he agreed that a lot needs to be achieved “peacefully without the loss of a single life on either the Chinese, Indian, or Tibetan sides,” considering that Tibetans believe in a peaceful resolution as advocated by their spiritual leader H.H Dalai Lama, a champion of peace and non-violence. “We know that there are tens of thousands of armed troops with military hardware installations on the borders of China’s occupied Tibet and India. A small misunderstanding on either side can lead to something that Tibetans don’t want for all sides,” he cautioned.
In fact, Passang is of the view that the Chinese, the Indian, and the Tibetan sides should all sit down and chalk out a peace plan in everyone’s interest. “Re-establishing Tibet as a buffer zone between the two big countries can de-escalate the tension whilst respecting and fulfilling the interests of all parties concerned. This is exactly what His Holiness the Dalai Lama has proposed in his ‘Middle-Way’ approach,” he said.
Notwithstanding this suggestion, Passang was suspicious of the Chinese regime. “It is also high time that Tibetans should be able to participate in major international bodies, at human level, say, the UN Human Rights Council and the WHO,” he added.
“China has been weakened due to the Covid-19 pandemic which originated in its lab in Wuhan. Nearly 6 million people have died as a direct result of COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the unprecedented levels of disruptions worldwide. The good thing that came out from this pandemic is that the international community has woken up to what China is capable of.” Passang argued with reference to the global Covid pandemic.
China grew with the support of the West and today the USA recognises the Frankenstine they and Europe have created. According to Passang, “It is clear that the western democratic and liberal values are in direct conflict with the Chinese regime’s closed society and its brutal repressions. The earlier hopes of certain western political and business leaders on China becoming a more liberal society after gaining a certain level of economic development has proved completely wrong. Leading democracies led by the US are now reversing what was done over the past four decades and allocating a huge sum of funds to counter China’s growing expansionism as it threatens their very basic democratic principles and liberal values.”
It is time for all those persecuted communities by the Chinese regime to come together and fight with unity. “Uighurs, Tibetans, Southern Mongolians, Hong Kong and perhaps Taiwan must join hands in the freedom struggle against China,” Passang said.
China’s expansionism into Tibet has been for strategic and economic reasons. “China is taking away all the natural resources available in Tibet, including the unpolluted waters which would have otherwise flowed down into countries to its south,” he revealed.
The major rivers that flow down from Tibet are Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra in India), Machu (Yellow River in China), Drichu (Yangtse in China), Senge Khabab (Indus in India), Phungchu (Arun in India), Gyalmo Ngulchu (Salween in Burma) and Zachu (Mekong in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), which makes the country a water source for many countries. But if China violates the right to natural resource like water to other countries, “they must protest jointly”, according to Passang,
Passang also argued that diverting the natural course of Tibet’s rivers into China’s hinterlands was against human rights and a “selfish act”, by China and must be addressed by countries lying to its south. It must be noted that India’s most sacred lake ‘Manasarovar’ and the most important pilgrimage site ‘Kailash’ are both located in China’s occupied Tibet.
Tibet is situated 4,000 metres or 13,000 feet above sea level and is 2.5 million square kilometres in size, which includes U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo provinces. The “Tibet Autonomous Region”, consisting of U-Tsang and a small portion of Kham, consists of 1.2 million square kilometres. The bulk of Tibet lies outside the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). The total Tibetan population in Tibet is 6 million. Of them, 2.09 million live in the TAR and the rest in the Tibetan areas outside.
If China is allowed to do as it wishes with Tibet’s natural resources, one can imagine what might happen to Manasarovar and Kailash. The fear of cultural genocide is real. It was reported on February 11 that China recently destroyed monasteries, learning centres for Tibetan Buddhists. It violently obliterated Buddhist statues and monastic schools in Kham Drango, eastern Tibet. Sikyong Penpa Tsering and the 16th Kashag had thanked the Super Samgha, an Association of Japanese monks for their solidarity in condemning China.
“Under H.H the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle-Way’ approach, Tibetans are not seeking independence. Keeping Tibetan Buddhist culture and its civilisation alive is the main goal,” Passang said for which a conducive atmosphere of “peace is necessary”. Following the footsteps of H.H the Dalai Lama, Passang and his fellow Tibetans are avoiding a violent confrontationist approach. “But the world has to take a serious note and reward the peace champions,” he added.
“History shows that great empires collapse. We know that the Roman, British, American and European empires have all collapsed,” observed Passang insinuating that China was not an exception. He was responding to a query whether Balkanisation of China was imminent or not.
As a show of solidarity and support to the people of Tibet, Cllr. Denise Hyland, the Mayor, on Thursday 10th March raised the Tibet Flag at the Town Hall, Woolwich with HE Sonam Tsering Frasi, London-based Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Woolwich is the headquarters of the London Royal Borough of Greenwich. This ceremony was attended by Cllr. Danny Thorpe, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and a small contingent of local Tibetan Community.
Tibetans recited Buddhist prayers for World Peace and the Long Life of the Dalai Lama. They also sang the Tibetan National Anthem whilst the Mayor and the Dalai Lama’s Representative hoisted the Tibet Flag.
This annual Tibet Flag raising was organised by the Mayor’s Office, Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG) and the local Greenwich Tibetan Association (GTA), of the Tibetan Community UK. The RBG is home to over 100 Tibetans, which is the single largest concentration of Tibetans in one borough in the whole of the UK.
Tsering Passang, Founder and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities, who is also a former Chairman of the Tibetan Community UK, coordinated the Tibet Flag raising ceremony on behalf of the Greenwich Tibetan Association. At the reception, whilst thanking the Leaders of the Royal Borough of Greenwich for their continued support and solidarity, Passang urged them to confer “Champion of Peace” Award to the Dalai Lama to increase the Council’s support for the Tibetan people’s non-violent freedom struggle.
The Tibet Flag was first raised at this English Town Hall in September 2015 to honour and welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to The O2 Centre, which falls within the boundaries of the RBG. The Tibetan spiritual leader was giving public talks and Buddhist teachings to over 10,000 people at this big venue in 2015.
On 10th March, Tibetans worldwide observed the 63rd anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising of 1959, when tens of thousands of Tibetans rose up against the invading Chinese forces in Lhasa. China’s invasion of Tibet forced the Dalai Lama into exile in India where he set up the Central Tibetan Administration (de facto Tibetan Government-in-exile).
Bharat Ratna for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is an appeal initiated by the students of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, in India.
We believe that Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, is an icon of all that is good in the world, and strives everyday to reinforce the human values that can make sentient beings happy. Values of brotherhood, ahimsa, karuna and compassion, kindness and forgiveness.
Through this initiative we are making a formal appeal to the Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi ji to nominate, and the President of India, Sri. Ram Nath Kovind ji, to confer the next Bharat Ratna on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.
The initiative is steered under the guidance of Dr. Anita Kamath Dudhane and Dr. (Prof) Renuka Singh. The initiative is supported by students and followers around the world of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama who have taken small and big tasks to make this program a success.
This initiative calls all citizens of India to participate in a voting process that supports the appeal for the nomination and conferring of the next Bharat Ratna on His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.
The voting process is both online and offline. Please follow the website for further details.
We the people of India earnestly request and appeal to the honourable Prime Minister to please confer the highest award, the Bharat Ratna, to His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Great 14th Dalai Lama, an Ocean of Wisdom, who was born in 1935 at Taktsar, Northeastern Tibet. His Holiness is the spiritual leader of Tibet and was formerly the temporal head as well. He took refuge in India and arrived as a guest of the Indian Government in 1959. In exile ever since, he calls himself a son of India — his body sustained by Indian food, and mind by ancient Indian philosophical wisdom. The intellectual and emotional lineage of Lord Buddha is alive and flourishing under his guidance. He has made an exceptional contribution to the preservation and promotion of Buddhist thought, principles, and values. A true ‘Chela’ of Aryabhumi (Mark of respect for India by the Tibetans as the land of Enlightened Beings since millennium ago), indeed, who has brought back the complete form of Buddhism to the land of its origin!
His Holiness is the embodiment of Avalokiteshwara, the Buddha of Compassion and is known the world over as a man of peace. Throughout his life, His Holiness has faced religious and political/cultural conflict with great poise, patience, non-violence and a kind heart. His is an enduring voice for universal brotherhood and responsibility that draws our attention to resolving exigent challenges such as Covid-19, the catastrophic effects of climate change, and divisive forces splitting our communities and humanity itself. Behind his intense compassion is the penetrating vision of a scientific mind.
His Holiness has been intensely engaged in dialogue with scientists around the world regarding emotional balance, the development of global compassion, and the roots of love, anger, and hatred. He has fostered inter-religious harmony through inter-faith meetings; his educational projects promote and preserve the ancient Indian knowledge and culture of the Buddhist Nalanda tradition. Each time you meet His Holiness, the freshness and fullness of his whole being touches your heart directly. His Holiness’s humility, simplicity, serenity and scholarship are equally captivating. He is a refuge for millions belonging to different religions, regions, classes and ethnicities, both within India and around the world. In response to the depressing and discouraging scenarios wrought by hyper-consumerism and by cultural and political strife, His Holiness has constantly advocated for people of all ages the Middle Way’s approach of love, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance.
His Holiness has openly, inclusively, and anonymously helped and supported many social, cultural and educational projects. He helps even those who wish to hurt him. Through His Holiness’s skill and goodness of heart, the harsh become gentle, the miserly munificent, and the cruel tender. Beautiful yet tranquil, brilliant yet not dazzling, powerful yet still, His Holiness is naturally inclined toward solitude, but his compassion has inspired him to meet and collaborate with countless multitudes of people. The wind cannot blow out the light of his flame. Blazing forth, he illuminates the world!
His Holiness emphasizes universal interdependence and the need for developing a pure mind that brings harmony and compassion to bear on human suffering. In his person he has embraced the wisdom of broadly diverse cultures, bridging multiple globalities with multiple modernities and creating a democratic liberal order, and yet always speaking truth to power. Besides authoring, co-authoring and contributing to over 160 books, and receiving countless international/national awards, His Holiness was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet, and his deep concern for global environmental problems. Even in the face of aggression, His Holiness has consistently advocated the policies of non-violence and the Gandhian notion of Satyagraha, bringing international repute and recognition to inspirational and aspirational India and its ancient wisdom culture. His kindness and compassion roar! We the people of India are indebted to His Holiness for his constant guidance, spiritual presence and deep investigation into the workings of the mind, pointing to the fact that material development has to go hand in hand with one’s inner development.
Ahead of the 63rd Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day, Tsering Passang, Founder and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities, spoke to Dr. Subroto Roy, who is the Founder and Chairman of OneAsia.
They discussed a range of issues pertaining to Tibet, China and India. Passang urges the Government of India to appoint a Special Coordinator for the Tibetan Affairs to up its support whilst calling on foreign governments to recognise Offices of Tibet as embassies of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.
A popular Tibetan singer named Tsewang Norbu has died after the February 25th self-immolation attempt. According to sources, Norbu shouted slogans and set himself on fire last week in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. The Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) broke the news on 4th March.
“Tsewang Norbu tried to protest the Chinese government by attempting to self-immolate and according to few of my reliable sources from inside Tibet, (he) has died,” a Tibetan living in exile told RFA. The date and place of his death could not be verified immediately. RFA also could not reach Norbu’s family and relatives in Lhasa.
Learning about this tragic news, Tenzin Bhagen, founder and tour leader of Tashi Delek Travel based in Washington DC, posted on his facebook page: “Another sad news. His mother, who I personally know, is the first China’s version of Tibetan Idol who won national music contest in Beijing and since then became one of the most well-known Tibetan singers. Her brother, or his uncle is the longest serving Tibetan political prisoner, Sogkhar Lodoe Gyatso, who is still in prison.”
Bhagen also wrote that Tsewang Norbu had “won many prestigious China’s national music awards. His father is said to be a well-known composer in Nagchu Prefecture.” He further added, “Tsewang Norbu constantly had to struggle with the Chinese authorities who were not happy about his name [being] written in Tibetan language and his songs titled in Tibetan and English, instead all in Chinese.”
According to Bhagen, Tsewang Norbu’s mother’s hometown is Sog, neighbor to Driru, which is the most restricted area within Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and communication in these areas has been completely blocked at least after 2013 protests.
This latest self-immolation by Tsewang Norbu, which took place in front of the iconic Potala Palace, the winter palace of the Dalai Lamas from 1649 until 1959, when the current 14th Dalai Lama was forced into exile to India, is a stark reminder of China’s continued repression in Tibet. Tibetans continue to resist Chinese rule even after seven decades of illegal occupation of their country by Communist China.
As the Chinese authorities do not allow any conventional form of protests in China’s occupied-Tibet, Norbu’s self-immolation is a desperate act to defy Chinese rule. Since 2009, over 158 Tibetans in Tibet have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule in Tibetan areas, and another eight have taken their lives in Nepal and India.
The timing of Norbu’s drastic protest comes ahead of a sensitive time for the Chinese government when its security forces in Tibetan areas are under high alert. On Thursday, 10 March, Tibetans worldwide will commemorate the 63rd anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day when tens of thousands of Tibetans in Lhasa rose up on this day in 1959 against the invading Chinese forces. [ Read this piece by Tsering Passang Why Tibetans worldwide Commemorate March 10th? ]
The comment section on Norbu’s social media accounts have been deactivated due to an abundant inflow of condolence messages, while many of his songs are now removed from many Chinese music apps, the source said.
A singer and composer of modern, ethnic, popular, traditional songs, Norbu released the songs “Tsampa”, “Dress Up” and “Except You” among many that were popular among the Tibet community at home and abroad.
The previous report of a self-immolation was that of a 26-year-old man named Shurmo, who set himself ablaze in September 2015 in the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Nagchu (Chinese, Naqu) county. His death was confirmed only in January of last year.
The dragonian grip in Tibet by the Chinese government means that the flow of information to the outside world continues to be much more difficult. The authorities deploy sensitive surveillance measures on mobile phones and online communication tools to stop the flow of information out of Tibet.
Within days of learning this tragic news of Tsewang Norbu’s self-immolation, the exiled Tibetan community has been engaging in Buddhist prayer as well as public protests around the world. Many share the story through their social media networks to help with educating others.
On her LinkedIn page, Tenzin W from London, wrote, “He was protesting against the brutal Chinese oppression in Tibet where there’s no freedom of speech, religion or action. Not since they invaded Tibet in 1959.”
She further added, “That’s why His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to escape to India that year, followed by hundreds of thousands of Tibetans over the years, including my parents. They were just kids when they fled and walked across the Himalayas at night, hiding from Chinese troops during the day. We were refugees in India.
“Since 2009, there have been 158 Tibetans who died by self-immolation. 𝟏𝟓𝟖 tragic lives lost in the most horrific way, because the world’s media and journalists aren’t allowed to see the real Tibet.
“As a nation of peace loving people, this is their desperate cry to remind the world about China’s brutality and the dire situation Tibetans are in.”
Tenzin W concludes by stating, “I’m sharing this photo of Tsewang Norbu because although the world’s media will not report about his death, I don’t want his untimely passing to be in vain.
“I want to help spread his message that Tibetans in Tibet have been suffering for 63 years, and despite China’s brainwashing and attempts at ethnic cleansing, we will always remain proud Tibetans, not Chinese.”
When the world witnesses the ongoing unprovoked aggression on Ukraine by Russia under Putin, for Tibetans this is clearly reminiscent of Communist China’s illegal occupation of Tibet under Mao Tsetung. Since China’s invasion of Tibet over 1 million Tibetans have died.
(On this day 63 years ago – 9th March 1959)
March 9, 1959. At 8.00 am two Chinese officers visited the commander of His Holiness the Dalai Lama bodyguards’ house and asked him to accompany them to see Brigadier Fu at the Chinese military headquarters in Lhasa. Brigadier Fu told him that on the following day there was to be no customary ceremony as His Holiness the Dalai Lama moved from the Norbulinka summer palace to the army headquarters, two miles beyond. No armed bodyguard was to escort him and no Tibetan soldiers would be allowed beyond the Stone Bridge – a landmark on the perimeter of the sprawling army camp.
By custom, an escort of twenty-five armed guards always accompanied His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the entire city of Lhasa would line up whenever he went. Brigadier Fu told the commander of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s bodyguards that under no circumstances should the Tibetan army cross the Stone bridge and the entire procedure must be kept strictly secret.
The Chinese camp had always been an eyesore for the Tibetans and the fact that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was now to visit it would surely create greater anxiety amongst the Tibetans.
Commemoration of the 63rd Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day in Lhasa
The London Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG) will raise the Tibetan National Flag on March 10th once again this year to show solidarity with the people of Tibet.
Cllr. Denise Hyland, the Mayor, and Cllr. Danny Thorpe, the Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, will be joined by HE Sonam T Frasi, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, based at The Office of Tibet, and members of the local Tibetan Community on Thursday morning at the Town Hall, Woolwich, south east London, to raise the Tibet Flag.
This annual Tibet Flag raising is organised by the Mayor’s Office, Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG) and the Greenwich Tibetan Association (GTA), of the Tibetan Community UK. The RBG is home to over 100 Tibetans, which is the single largest concentration of Tibetans in one borough in the whole of UK.
Tsering Passang, Founder and Chairman of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities, who is a former Chairman of the Tibetan Community UK, coordinated the Tibet Flag raising ceremony on behalf of the Greenwich Tibetan Association. The Tibet Flag was first raised at this English Town Hall in September 2015 to honour and welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to The O2 Centre, which falls within the boundaries of the RBG. The Tibetan spiritual leader was giving public talks and Buddhist teachings to over 10,000 people at this big venue in 2015.
Tibetans worldwide are observing the 63rd anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising of 1959 in Lhasa, when tens of thousands of Tibetans rose up against the illegal occupation of their country by Communist China. China’s invasion of Tibet forced the Dalai Lama into exile in India where he set up the Central Tibetan Administration (de facto Tibetan Government-in-exile).
Meeting Opposite: St Martin-In-The Fields Church (Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ) at 10:00. The vigil will begin at 10:30am, followed by a march to the Chinese Embassy at 31 Portland Place, Marylebone, arriving at around 12:00.
Speakers include: Tim Loughton MP and Sam Walton (Free Tibet)
11:00 am – 1.00pm
Protesters start marching to the Chinese Embassy
12:00pm to 1:00pm
Speeches and protest outside the Chinese Embassy
Speakers include: Cllr. Rabina Khan from London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Tenzin Sangmo (Tibetan activist)
Commemoration – Tibetan Cultural Event
Venue: YMCA Indian Student Hostel, 41 Fitzroy Square W1T 6AQ
Time – 1:30pm – 4:00pm
Speeches, Commemoration Songs, Momo and Tea
Speakers include HE Sonam T Frasi, Representative of the Dalai Lama and Tenzin Wangdu (Chair of Tibetan Community UK)
The Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities wishes to acknowledge and thank MPs and UK ministers for paying their attention to the deteriorating situation of Tibet under Communist China’s illegal occupation.
We thank our friends, supporters and partners including Free Tibet and Tibetan Community UK for raising the unresolved issue of Tibet directly with the MPs and government ministers.
“I am grateful to Bob Seely for securing this important debate. The eyes of the world may be focused elsewhere at present, but it is vital that we do not lose sight of other nations where people face abuses. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine today as they face aggression. Military aggression in Ukraine is not acceptable, and the House stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
I thank the Office of Tibet, Tibet Action and Free Tibet for their briefings ahead of this debate. I thank, too, the all-party group for Tibet for all the work that it does. I declare an interest as the vice-chair of the said all-party group. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet the Office of Tibet in London last year at the Labour party conference where I heard about the experiences of the Tibetan people.
Since it was annexed more than 70 years ago, occupied Tibet has been closed off to much of the rest of the world, preventing us from witnessing the repression against the people that live in the region. According to the Free Tibet campaign, the Chinese Government have been orchestrating a deliberate and systematic elimination of Tibet’s distinct and unique cultural, religious and linguistic identity through a sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism, its culture and its language.
Worryingly, those sinicization measures are reported to have increased in intensity over the past decade, reflecting the Chinese Government’s further attempts to subdue the Tibetans, who continue to resist the occupation. This process includes the Chinese Government’s bilingual education policy of replacing the Tibetan language—the common language of all Tibetans—with Mandarin. In the words of the Free Tibet campaign, this “strikes at the very root of the Tibetan identity”.
It was reported late last year that two teenage Tibetan students were detained for opposing Chinese-only instruction in their school. A Tibetan teacher was also arrested after her Tibetan-language school was forced to close. According to research by the Tibet Action Institute, as many as 900,000 Tibetan children are estimated to have been separated from their families, while the teaching of the Tibetan language has faced further restrictions, with limitations on monasteries that wish to provide language classes.
Last month, I asked our Government whether they had raised that exact issue, specifically regarding Chinese-run boarding schools in Tibet, with their counterparts in China. I must say that the response to my written parliamentary question was disappointing. Although I am encouraged to hear that measures are being taken to urge the Chinese Government to respect the rights of all its citizens, including those in Tibet, I appeal to the Minister today to push specifically on this issue to ensure that families do not continue to be coerced into sending their children to residential boarding schools.
Nor has religion emerged unscathed from this process, with the Chinese Government imposing a raft of restrictions that are almost certainly designed to make Tibetan Buddhism compatible with President Xi’s vision of “religion with Chinese characteristics”, as he has described it. In reality, that has meant limitations on the influence of Tibetan Buddhism in community life and monasteries repeatedly being placed under Government control and surveillance. In practice, that means all monasteries being forced to fly Chinese flags and hang portraits of political figures on their premises.
The Government are also accused of proactively coercing Tibetans into renouncing any allegiance to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a process that also extends to outlawing the portraits of His Holiness and arresting Tibetans who carry out seemingly small acts of resistance such as calling for his return to Tibet or singing songs that wish him a happy birthday. In the past three years alone, authorities have ordered Tibetans to place shrines to President Xi and other Government leaders inside their homes in place of religious figures. The Free Tibet campaign also reports that in some counties, authorities have gone to such lengths as physically inspecting households to ensure that that order has been carried out.
Finally, I will focus briefly on Drago county in eastern Tibet. Since last October the county, which is in Sichuan province, has been the site of a series of demolitions of sites of religious and cultural significance, accompanied by arbitrary arrests and alleged torture. One such example is reports of Government officials tearing down a Tibetan Buddhist monastic school that once housed more than 100 young Tibetan students. That was followed soon afterwards by the destruction of two Lord Buddha statues, including one that stood almost 100 feet tall, the construction of which was only completed in 2015 with funds donated by Tibetans and Buddhist disciples.
Further evidence of Government aggression and destruction includes the demolition of several monks’ residences, in addition to monastery prayer flags being removed and burned. It is clear to those who witnessed those incidents that, as well as lacking any free or informed consultation with the locals, the demolitions were carried out very deliberately to cause maximum distress, with members of the community in some cases ordered to assist in tearing down schools and statues, and others forced to watch. I hope the Minister will make a note of those ongoing events, given that the forced inspections continue to take place on an almost daily basis, which has led to the lives of all those involved rapidly deteriorating.
I want to highlight that 10 March is observed annually as Tibet Uprising Day. In 1959, hundreds of thousands of Tibetans banded together to revolt, in defiance of the Chinese invasion a decade earlier. That peaceful protest was violently crushed by the Chinese Government.
In closing, I urge the Minister to heed the concerns of hon. Members on both sides and push the Governments of China and Russia to ensure that all rights are respected, and that a way of life is not imposed on people that leads to the destruction and desecration of everything from the heritage to the culture, language and even the very identity of the Tibetan people. Their voices must continue to be heard.”
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent assessment she has made of the political situation in (a) Tibet and (b) Xinjiang.
Amanda Milling MP, Minister for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, replied on 4th February 2022:
“The FCDO monitors closely the situations in Tibet and Xinjiang. We are deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Tibet, including reports of severe restrictions on freedom of religion of belief, Tibetans dying in custody, coercive control, and labour transfer schemes.
We also have serious concerns about the human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang, including the extra-judicial detention of over a million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in “political re-education camps” since 2017, systematic restrictions on Uyghur culture and the practice of Islam, and extensive and invasive surveillance targeting minorities.
The UK Government continues to raise concerns about the human rights situation in China directly with the Chinese authorities at the highest levels. Most recently, the Prime Minister did so in a telephone call with President Xi on 29 October, as did the Foreign Secretary in her introductory call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on 22 October. I personally raised the situation with the Chinese Ambassador to London in our meeting on 15 December.”
Tibet: Boarding Schools
Tabled (UIN 114963) on 31 January 2022, Navendu Mishra, a Labour MP for Stockport asked the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister:
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether she has made representations to the Chinese Government on Chinese boarding schools in Tibet.
In her Ministerial Written Answer, Amanda Milling, who is the Conservative MP for Cannock Chase, replied on 8 February 2022:
“We have serious concerns about the situation in Tibet, including reports that Tibetan parents are being coerced into sending their children to residential schools. We continue to urge China to respect all fundamental rights across the People’s Republic of China, including in Tibet, in line with both its own constitution and the international frameworks to which it is a party. In June 2021, the UK and 43 other countries joined a statement at the UN Human Rights Council expressing deep concern about the human rights situation in Tibet, and calling on the Chinese authorities to abide by their human rights obligations.”