DEBATE IN THE UK PARLIAMENT: SUPPORT THE DIPLOMATIC BOYCOTT OF BEIJING 2022 WINTER OLYMPICS
On Thursday, 15th July there will be an important debate in the UK Parliament.
Tim Loughton MP, also a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and Co-chair of The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Tibet, issued an important Statement (please follow this link) on 23rd June 2021 – the Global Day of Action – Boycott Beijing 2022 Olympics. Tim calls for a diplomatic Boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Tim Loughton has now secured a Backbench Debate in the parliament on a Motion relating to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and the Chinese Government sanctions on UK parliamentarians. The debate will be held in the parliament on Thursday, 15th July.
ACTION: Please encourage your MPs to join this important debate and urge them to support the motion. It is very important that we send a strong message to the Chinese dictators in Beijing that they cannot silence our elected representatives in this country for simply standing up for human rights around the world including in China’s occupied territories.
On 7th June, Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP, also a Co-chair of Inter-Parliament Alliance on China (IPAC), tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM: 149 UK representation at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics), calling on the government to decline invitations for state officials to attend the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
ACTION: Please ask your MPs to sign this EDM as soon as possible. We should try to secure as many MPs to support this EDM before 15th July 2021.
“That this House notes with concern that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will take place alongside a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Uyghurs and other minority groups are subject to widespread forced labour, sterilization, political indoctrination and arbitrary detention; reaffirms its opinion that Uyghurs and other minority groups in the Uyghur Region are victims of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity; reminds the International Olympics Committee that the Olympic Charter’s principles of solidarity and non-discrimination are hard to reconcile with holding the 2022 Winter Games in a country whose Government stands credibly accused of perpetrating Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide; affirms that the International Olympic Committee’s desire to stay above politics does not permit turning a blind eye to mass atrocity crimes; urges the International Olympics Committee to initiate an emergency search process for suitable replacement facilities for the 2022 Winter Games; calls on the Government to decline invitations for state officials to attend the 2022 Winter Games so long as Beijing remains the host venue; advises the Government to discourage companies operating in the UK from acting as commercial sponsors for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics; recognises that individual athletes have the right to choose whether to participate in the Olympic Games or not and urges them to think carefully about whether they should take part; and encourages the Chinese Government to work with international partners to take verifiable steps to improve the human rights situation of Uyghurs and other persecuted groups.”
Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, turns 86 this year. The Tibetan Spiritual Leader was born on 6th July 1935, in Taktser (Amdo), north-eastern Tibet.
The Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM) extends His Holiness the Great 14th Dalai Lama a very Happy Birthday. May His Holiness live a long and a very health life.
The GATPM is also very delighted with the presence of Mr. Alexander Norman, a prominent British author, who paid a special fitting tribute to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the 1989 Nobel Peace laureate, on this special occasion. He also added that China’s interference on Dalai Lama’s reincarnation a “completely ludicrous claim”.
Alex Norman is the Founder and Director of Oxford-based Dalai Lama’s Centre for Compassion. He holds a BA in Philosophy and Theology and a Masters in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford.
An acclaimed scholar on Tibet and The Dalai Lama, Alex Norman is a long-time associate of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, having worked closely with the Tibetan leader on his autobiography, Freedom In Exile (1990).
His other works: –
Ethics For The New Millennium (2000)
Holder Of The White Lotus: Secret Lives of the Dalai Lama (2008)
Beyond Religion: Ethics For a Whole World (2011)
The Dalai Lama: An Extraordinary Life (2020)
Alex has also served as a speechwriter for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and on the Tibetan leader’s Special Review Committee.
He is the President of The Help Tibet, a British charity, which helps Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal.
Prior to his Tibet involvement, Alex served in the British Army, as an Officer. As a journalist, he wrote for The Spectator, a leading weekly British magazine on politics, culture, and current affairs. The Spectator is the oldest weekly magazine in the world. Alex first met the Dalai Lama in 1987, when he interviewed the Tibetan Leader for The Spectator.
The GATPM extends its sincere appreciation and thanks Alex Norman, NorTse and his band for taking part in this special event. Tsering Passang, Founder of the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM), presented this special event.
Since Beijing first began bidding to host the Olympics, I have argued that the international community should reject Beijing’s hosting of the Games because of the lack of change in Chinese Communist dictatorship since the Tiananmen massacre and the continued deterioration of human rights in P R China. The peaceful protests across Tibet in March 2008 were brutally cracked down five months before the opening of the Beijing Olympics. But many leaders, business and media tycoons and academic influential in democratic countries were not willing to take action to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They argued that the Games would bring positive change to China.
Fourteen years on, the assumption that positive change would happen in China through the Olympics has proved to be totally wrong. The 2008 Beijing Olympics have only encouraged the Chinese dictatorship to repress even more atrociously on human rights defenders, democracy movement and self-determination campaigns in China, East Turkestan, Hong Kong, Southern Mongolia and Tibet. Dozens of Charter 08 signatories received long prison sentences, including Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo was the first Nobel Peace Prize laureate to die in prison since Nazi Germany. Dozens of prisoners of conscience including Cao Shunli and Tenzin Delek Rinpoche also have died in prison.
In past fourteen years, more than 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest against the cultural genocide in Tibet. The Uighur area has been turned into an open-air prison through street surveillance and police checkpoints after Urumqi bloodshed created by the Chinese authorities. Uyghur scholar Ilhaam Tohti has been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014 after advocacy for the rights of the Uyghurs. Since 2016, millions of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims have been imprisoned in “re-education” concentration camps, where they are subjected to forced labour and their slave products have been sold across the world.
Over the past dozens of years, many democracies have seen their democratic principles have eroded and human rights standards lowered after attempted to gain economic advantage with China. During Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK, the British police were pressured by the Chinese and British governments to detain peaceful protesters, raid their homes and confiscate their electronic equipment. To this day, the British government and police continue to cover up the inside story of their dealings with the Chinese dictator and refuse to take responsibility.
The international democratic community must unite to boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics. If human rights and democracy continue to be sacrificed to elites’ economic interests and business of sport, then finally we will lose democracy and more rights. To boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics, uplift our humanity and consciousness, safeguard our own democracy and freedom, fight for human rights and equality for all.
(Dr. Shao Jiang, a scholar, Chinese dissident, and survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, lives and works in exile in London. He is the author of Citizen Publications in China before the Internet. This Statement was released to Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM) on 23rd June 2021 for the Global Day of Action – Boycott Beijing 2022 Olympics.
Follow Dr Shao Jiang on twitter: @shaojiang
NoteApple Daily, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper targeted by a national security police raid last week, will shut down online at midnight today (23 June) and will print its final edition on 24 June 2021.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have made a serious error of judgement in awarding the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing. They have not learned the lesson from their previous error of judgment in awarding the summer Olympics to China in 2008.
Back then, the IOC said that hosting the summer games would help the cause of human rights in China, as the spirit of the Olympics – tolerance, equality, sportsmanship and the rest – would have a positive influence on the dictatorship.
The Chinese Communist Party – the CCP – had other ideas. They did indeed promise concessions about human rights before being awarded the honour in 2008: foreign journalists, for example, would be allowed unrestricted access throughout China. But, like many of the words that have come out of the mouth of the Chinese Communist Party, now as in the past, these promises were just lies – told to help bring the Games to China.
The Chinese Communist Party is good at lying. Their regime is founded on propaganda and suppression of the truth. The CCP have signed up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but of the 31 basic rights enshrined within the Declaration, 25 are denied to Tibetans. Most ordinary people within China are little better off.
Since 2008, the oppression within China has increased. The regime`s human rights record is so bad that President Xi has earned the title “Butcher of Beijing”. In deciding where to award the 2022 Winter Olympics, the IOC seem to have overlooked a number of inconvenient truths about modern day China:
Between 1 and 2 million Uyghurs and 500,000 Tibetans have been detained in 3,000 barbed wired compounds which the Chinese Communist Party call re-education centres. There, they are brutalised, starved, beaten and tortured until they are broken. When they are let out, they are dispersed around China as forced labour. The CCP have openly said that their intention is to destroy the Tibetan and Uyghur identity and culture. IOC, you have given the Winter Games to one of the most racist regimes on the planet.
Tibetans know all about cultural genocide: 98% of Tibetan places of worship and traditional education have been destroyed by the Chinese Communist Party since the 1950 invasion. IOC, are you blind?
When the Chinese Communist Party outlawed the Buddhist meditation association Falun Gong in 2000, they “disappeared” 500,000 practitioners. 10,000 of these political prisoners a year are estimated to be murdered to order by the regime, to steal their organs and sell them for transplant. “Body snatching”, commercially organised by the Chinese government. A nice little earner for the CCP. IOC, you are tainted with industrial scale killers.
People within China “disappear” at the will of the authorities. Torture is not only condoned by the CCP, it is a part of the dictatorship`s policy – to control by fear. IOC, why did you look the other way?
Mass surveillance and racial profiling are the new normal in many parts of the country. Is that in the Olympic Charter, IOC?
The Chinese Communist Party have broken International Law whenever it suits them – witness “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong; and their efforts to turn the East and South China Seas – international waters each the size of the Mediterranean – into Chinese territory. Threatening military flights over Taiwan. Seizing the Scarborough Shoals, 1000 km from the mainland and within Philippines territorial waters. Has someone lined your pocket, IOC?
And let me ask the IOC this: diversity is held to be an Olympic ideal. So, if it IS such a good thing, why are the Chinese Communist Party hell bent on destroying it within China? And why is the IOC turning a blind eye and rewarding these policies by awarding the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing?
The IOC should remember how another aggressive dictatorship used the Olympic Games to glorify their political system: the Nazi Games of 1936. Will they never learn?
This is the background to the Boycott Beijing movement. Please support it by writing to your MP, writing to the UK government or to your own government if you live outside the UK; joining protests on the ground or on social media; writing to your local or national newspaper. Join people of goodwill around the world. Boycott Beijing!
Let us FREEZE China out of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
A former British Minister from the ruling Conservative Party joins the call on international boycott of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Tim Loughton, Co-Chair of The All-Party Parliament Group on Tibet (AGGPT), who was recently sanctioned along with other British politicians by the Chinese government for highlighting China’s continued abuse of human rights in Tibet and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (aka East Turkistan), has released a statement on the international community should boycott 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Mr Tim Loughton’s Full Statement:
“In response to sanctions against us we pledged to call out China’s human rights abuses even more loudly. Boycotting the 2022 Olympics will show China that democracies cannot be bullied, and human rights matter.
On Christmas Eve in 1979 Russia invaded Afghanistan. As a result of that unprovoked act and the subsequent brutal oppression of any Afghanis who got in the way of the occupying Russian forces, 65 countries carried out a full boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games held in Moscow the following summer. Amongst those nations supporting the boycott were strange bedfellows like the US and Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and China.
Whilst governments of countries like the UK, France and Australia supported the boycott they left the final decision to National Olympic Committees and individual athletes. As a result, some British athletes competed whilst our equestrians and hockey players stayed at home. We competed under the Olympic flag and the Olympic anthem replaced the national anthem at the few Gold Medal ceremonies we participated in (in those days.)
My overriding memory of the 1980 Olympics was a triumphant and emotional Daley Thompson collecting his world record beating Decathlon gold medal and belting out God Save the Queen from the podium to the tune of the choral cantata that is the Olympic Hymn.
So, in February 2022 the Winter Olympics are due to be back in Beijing and China really cannot be surprised if this time a bit of what goes around comes around, aimed at them. That is why I have applied to hold a debate in the Commons, including a vote committing the UK to exercise a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games if an alternative venue is not found and if Chinese state terror is still being meted out to the Uighurs, Tibetans and others. Additionally, it would be conditional on the Chinese government not lifting sanctions on we 7 Parliamentarians, a British academic and lawyer and sundry British right of centre human rights’ groups.
In response to those extraordinarily inept and counter-productive sanctions against us, the Speaker granted an urgent question debate in which we pledged to call out China’s human rights abuses even more loudly. Subsequently Nus Ghani guided a vote through Parliament recognising the Uyghur genocide; we have heard shocking testimonies of torture at the Westminster Uyghur Tribunal hearings and virtually every week the issue of China’s totalitarian government is raised in Parliament in some form.
We cannot endorse the appalling abuse by sending ministers, royalty and diplomats to join the applauding crowds
In addition, we have been in regular Zoom calls with parliamentarians from the US to Australia, from the European Parliament to the IPU, whose response to China’s attempts at gagging democratically elected politicians is to turn up the volume and impose consequences.
One of those consequences is an internationally co-ordinated diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics. Throughout this month similar motions and debates will be put to parliaments and ministers in initially 11 countries, with a high chance of success. If we can pass a similar motion in the Commons, we will be at the vanguard of showing China that democracies cannot be bullied, and human rights matter.
To China, hosting the 2008 summer Olympics was a huge propaganda coup. They used it to try to convince the world that China was a modern emerging superpower and had changed. It may have emerged since then, but it has certainly not changed. A million Tibetans dead and imprisoned since the 1959 occupation then, a million Uyghurs incarcerated and tortured now.
China should never have been selected as hosts in the first place and whoever thought them fit to uphold the Olympic values of ‘excellence, friendship and respect’ needs sanctioning too.
We know from the Moscow Olympics that the biggest victims of a full sporting boycott were the athletes themselves and so we are not asking them to make that sacrifice. But we cannot endorse the appalling abuse by sending ministers, royalty and diplomats to join the applauding crowds.
By staying at home, a strong message will be sent and we know from the threats they have already made against an anticipated US boycott that they take seriously the loss of face it would represent. That is the least they should be suffering and I hope enough colleagues agree and step forward with their vote to get this motion through Parliament.”
My name is Tsering Passang. I am Tibetan and was born in a refugee camp in Nepal as my country, Tibet, was occupied by force by the People’s Republic of China after the CCP came to power in 1949. Along with HH the Dalai Lama and some 140,000 of my fellow-countrymen I continue to live in exile rather than under communist occupation.
As refugees we seek justice and freedom. Since 2009, more than 155 Tibetans, young, old, monks, nuns and lay-people, have died by self-immolation in a determined attempt to draw attention to the repression, exploitation and military occupation of Tibet which was a peaceful and devout country before the Chinese takeover.
Before 1950, not a single Chinese soldier was stationed along the entire Himalayan border and Tibet was a peaceful buffer state between the world’s two most populous countries – democratic India and totalitarian China. Last year saw serious clashes on that border, and both India and China (nuclear powers both) have tens of thousands of troops confronting one-another in battle readiness.
Tibet and East Turkestan
In a welcome development after the Foreign & Development Ministers’ Summit last month in London, the G7 Statement highlighted China’s on-going abuse of human rights in Tibet and Xinjiang (East Turkestan). It is well-known that Party Secretary Chen Quanghuo, currently responsible for the oppression of the Uyghurs, learnt his trade in Tibet – named by Freedom House earlier this year as the least free country on Earth (in a tie with Syria).
The South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southern (Inner) Mongolia
Democratic Taiwan and democracy-loving Hong Kong are constantly threatened and harassed by China. Buddhist Inner Mongolia, like Tibet and Xinjiang, has been flooded with immigrant Han Chinese in a deliberate attempt to extinguish its identity. The USA and its allies must now patrol the South China Sea to prevent its military domination by China.
Redress via the UN is impossible because of the veto exercised by China and supported by its beneficiaries.
The Central Asian Plateau/Tibet (the ‘Third Pole’) and Climate Change
What happens in Tibet and the Central Asian Plateau affects the whole of Asia and the planet itself. Ten of the world’s major rivers flow from Tibet to India and China – including the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze and Mekong. Half the world’s population depend on these rivers for irrigation and food. Irresponsible policies of the CCP, including the damming of rivers, threaten the melting of glaciers and permafrost and cause irreversible damage to the fragile eco-system. Along with its pollution, China alone can cause environmental catastrophe and can trigger mass migration.
What can be done?
On behalf of the peoples currently unwillingly under CCP control, and including the peoples of Taiwan and Hong Kong, we call on G7 leaders to:
prioritise the Central Asian (Tibetan) Plateau in the international discourse on tackling climate change;
support a UN-supervised and legally binding international agreement (similar to the Antarctic Treaty System) to address the threats to Asia’s water supply;
establish a Scientific Committee on Central Asian/Third Pole research to share data and develop strategic plans to preserve scarce freshwater resources;
urge the UN to declare the entire Tibetan Plateau an environmentally sensitive area, ensuring minimal infrastructure projects and a complete cessation of mining, deforestation and dam-building;
urge the People’s Republic of China to stop the persecution of environmental conservationists and declare the entire region a Zone of Peace.
I thank you for your attention.
Founder & Convener,
Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM)
By Tsering Passang, Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM)
An independent tribunal in Britain aiming to establish whether the Chinese government’s alleged rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (aka East Turkistan) constitute genocide saw dozens of witness testimonies during its first public hearing in London.
The first set of hearings was held at Church House Conference Centre in Westminster, near the UK Parliament, from 4 to 7 June 2021. The hearings were streamed live via the World Uyghur Congress’s Youtube and Twitter channels.
According to www.UyghurTribunal.Com, Mr Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress formally requested in June 2020 that Sir Geoffrey Nice QC establish and chair an independent people’s tribunal to investigate ‘ongoing atrocities and possible Genocide’ against the Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim Populations. The Uyghur Tribunal was then launched on 3 September 2020 with assistance from a non-governmental organisation, the Coalition for Genocide Response.
Written witness testimonies include submissions from people who have had direct experience or tangential experience, alleging relations or family members are missing in addition to a substantial number of expert witness accounts. some were not published earlier. On each day of the hearings, the Witness Statements were published on the Tribunal’s website.
Researchers for the tribunal sifted through about 1,500 documents and pieces of evidence submitted from different countries. Over 30 witnesses and experts gave evidence at the first public hearing. After the second hearing, which is scheduled for mid-September 2021, the eight-member panel of the Uyghur Tribunal hopes to issue a judgment by the end of the year.
Rights groups and researchers estimate that China has rounded up a million or more Uyghurs and other minorities into prisons and vast indoctrination camps that the state calls training centers since 2016.
An increasing numbers of parliaments and governments around the world have been showing great concerns over the treatment of Uyghurs by China and have declared “genocide” committed by the Chinese state.
After the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Press Conference on Xinjiang-related issues held on the 9th June 2021, the Uyghur Tribunal released a press statement on its website. It said, “To date the PRC cannot be dealt with over allegations of genocide because it joined the Convention on terms, as allowed, that allow it to avoid being dealt with at the ICJ [International Court of Justice] for genocide. It can easily and immediately change its position and withdraw those terms. In which event it would be open to another bold country to take it to the ICJ for genocide.”
The press statement further added, “The Uyghur Tribunal’s primary concern is the impact on the wellbeing of the witnesses who gave evidence at the recent Tribunal Hearings in London and to the relatives and a neighbour of those witnesses who appeared at the PRC conference.
“The Tribunal notes the statements made by the relatives and a neighbour and the Tribunal extends an invitation to them to attend the Tribunal’s next Hearings in September of this year. We would invite the PRC to confirm that they are at liberty to travel to the UK if they so wished.”
Inviting China’s cooperation once again, the Uyghur Tribunal said, “The Tribunal will continue with its work in seeking the truth in an impartial manner. To that end, we would, again, request that the PRC provides any evidence that it may possess to the Tribunal.”
Before the first hearing, Nick Vetch, Vice Chair of the Uyghur Tribunal, said that the tribunal had written to the former and current Chinese ambassadors to London to request the Chinese government’s presence and cooperation, but so far received no response.
This is not the first time such a tribunal was held to investigate crimes against humanity by the Chinese government. In 2018, the China Tribunal, an independent people’s tribunal, was established to inquire into forced organ harvesting from, amongst others, prisoners of conscience in China and to investigate what criminal offences, if any, have been committed by state or state-approved bodies, organisations or individuals in China that may have engaged in forced organ harvesting. The hearings were held in December 2018 and April 2019. Led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, the Final Judgement was made on 1st March 2020 in a 562-page report.
The Uyghur Tribunal, which doesn’t have government backing, was chaired by prominent barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who previously led the prosecution of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and worked with the International Criminal Court.
Dr. Lobsang Sangay, who was first elected in 2011, completed his second-term as President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) on 26th May.
On the final day of his duty, the outgoing Sikyong Lobsang Sangay addressed the official thank you function, and said, “To fulfill my mandate as Sikyong, I formulated new strategies to elevate CTA’s profile and to express our willingness to restore dialogues with China to obtain genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people based on the Middle Way Approach. I met with various foreign government officials in small coffee shops, private offices, and other public locations. I gave priority to substance and relationship-building while making concerted efforts to upgrade protocol and level of meetings whenever I could.”
Prior to joining the CTA in 2011, Sangay, who grew up in a small Tibetan refugee settlement near Darjeeling, West Bengal, was a Senior Fellow at Harvard University. Sangay’s sudden rise and his adoption of western leadership-style came across as a disruptive Tibetan leader to the more conservative Tibetan society to an extent.
His supporters say that Sangay’s direct jump to the highest office with no prior experience in CTA public service had raised eyebrows and drew criticisms from many Tibetan quarters including senior bureaucrats and elite political class from the start. However, Sangay was much admired by the younger generation, drawing big crowds during Tibetan public gatherings in India and overseas. He speaks plain Tibetan with no jargon, and reaches out to the masses at ease. Youth aspires to change and shake-up the CTA and they believe Sangay was their man to do that job.
Of his many achievements during the ten-year period, as President of the CTA, Dr. Lobsang Sangay highlighted the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020. He said, “Finally, during the last months of my term, I was able to visit the US State Department and the White House as the Sikyong of the CTA, and as the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people. These developments, along with the passage of the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 by the US Congress, mark a new turn in the relationship between the US and the CTA. I hope our relations with other countries take a similar turn.”
Like in any administration, President Lobsang Sangay too faced some challenges including resignation of ministers towards the end of his first term in office. Whilst acknowledging his colleagues, President Sangay stated, “I would like to thank my colleagues in both the 14th and 15th Kashag, senior advisors, and the dedicated and hardworking staff of the CTA. We worked together through the historic devolution of political and administrative power from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to an elected Tibetan leadership. Together, we strengthened support for Tibet from various governments and legislatures across the globe. Together, we invested in education, ensured the financial resiliency of the CTA, and the Tibetan refugee community.”
Sangay, who was once a leader of the largest network of Tibetan youth, the Tibetan Youth Congress, based in Dharamsala, said, “My role as the Sikyong ends today, but my resolve to fight for the Tibetan cause will continue and will remain strong forever. I was born a freedom fighter and I will die a freedom fighter.”
There were no shortages of appreciation and recognition awards from Tibetan communities both in India and overseas to Dr Lobsang Sangay for his outstanding leadership, commitment and hard work during his two terms as the Sikyong. Even Tibetans from inside Tibet as well as those in exile composed songs and paid tributes to what they call the “people’s Sikyong”.
In a good human society, it is reasonable that Sangay’s public service is accorded with respect and that the Tibetans in diasporas extend their warm appreciation to him for his political leadership. Sangay may not have achieved all the things that he said he would do ten years ago, but no Tibetan can deny the fact that Dr. Lobsang Sangay had not worked hard to advance the cause of Tibet on the global stage. Sangay was often praised for his savvy media engagements and outreach via new global platforms. The Cabinet Office has recently released a report detailing ten major achievements under Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay’s ten-year leadership, published on www.tibet.net, the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration.
One major task that Dr. Lobsang Sangay would have liked to achieve during his Sikyong-tenure, is the revival of the Sino-Tibetan Dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government. However, this did not materialise despite efforts put by Sangay and his administration. Sangay often pointed out that the dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing had stalled in 2010, before he joined the CTA.
Handover of Sikyong Seal to President Penpa Tsering
The official swearing-in ceremony of the new Sikyong, Mr. Penpa Tsering, held on 27th May, in the Office of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission, was administered by the Chief Justice Commissioner, Mr Sonam Norbu Dagpo.
The ceremony was blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama via a video-link, which was broadcast live on Tibet TV, the official media channel of the Central Tibetan Administration. The outgoing Sikyong, Dr. Lobsang Sangay was seen handing over the Sikyong Seal to the incoming Sikyong Penpa Tsering at the official ceremony, ensuring a smooth handover of power. Due to COVID restrictions, the swearing-in ceremony’s attendance was limited to the Secretary of Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission and the Cabinet Secretary in addition to the outgoing Sikyong. In 2011, Dr. Sangay received the Sikyong Seal from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, representing the official transfer of inherited political authority of the Tibetan people in Tibet, to the directly elected exiled political leader.
The Tibetan spiritual leader then gave a special address after extending congratulations and commending both political leaders for their service. The Dalai Lama once again reiterated his full faith in the “Middle-Way” approach which he said would bring great benefits to both Chinese and Tibetan peoples when liberal Chinese leaders accept the pragmatic proposal. Under this proposal, Tibet is to remain within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the whole Tibetan regions should come under one single entity, which is to be governed by the Tibetans themselves. Beijing is to command foreign relations and defence whilst the Tibetans themselves should enjoy genuine self-rule internally. But, so far, the Chinese leadership in Beijing has not accepted the Dalai Lama’s proposal.
Inaugural address by Sikyong Penpa Tsering
In his first official address after taking the oath of office, Sikyong Penpa Tsering said, “In response to the trust and expectations of the majority of the general public in this election, I reiterate my commitment to direct all my energies in carrying out the responsibility of finding a lasting solution for the Sino-Tibet conflict and looking after the welfare of the Tibetan people.
“We shall not dither from pointing out the gross mistakes of the Chinese government’s policies and programs and seek to redress, withdraw or amend the wrong policies.”
Responding to the latest Chinese government’s white paper ‘Tibet Since 1951, Liberation, Development and Prosperity’ published on 21st May, Sikyong Penpa Tsering added, “All I can say today is that we are open to sending people to verify all the claims made in the white paper.”
He appealed to the Tibetan people and said, “We lost our country and are political refugees. We all share the common goal of resolving the Sino-Tibet conflict. To resolve issues and disputes within the community, all of us have the right and the means to resolve such issues as per norms, rules and regulations. The executive shall not only respect the right to freedom of expression and listen to reasonable opinions but also respond appropriately. I earnestly request the general public for better cooperation and responsibility.”
Tibetan General Elections 2021
The Tibetan people went to the polls in January (preliminary round) and April (final round) 2021 to elect their Sikyong (President) and 45 Chithue (MPs). Penpa Tsering, a former Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, secured the highest votes in both rounds.
On 14th May, the Central Tibetan Election Commission declared Mr. Penpa Tsering as the new Sikyong, who narrowly beat Mr Kelsang Dorjee Aukatsang. Aukatsang, friend of Dr Lobsang Sangay, served as a close aide in his administration in various roles during the past ten years. He secured strong personal backing from Sangay but narrowly lost in the Sikyong elections by just over 5000 votes. Some 77% of the 83,000 registered Tibetan voters across 26 countries took part in the recent elections to elect their President and MPs.
The Central Tibetan Administration (aka Tibetan Government-in-exile) serves as the headquarters for the Tibetans in diasporas. Dharamsala-based CTA was established soon after His Holiness the Dalai Lama reached India in March 1959, following China’s occupation of Tibet.
*Tsering Passang is the Founder & Convener at the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM). With 20 years experience in development and advocacy work on Tibet and human rights, Tsering most recently served as Tibet Foundation’s Director. He was elected Chairman and led the Tibetan Community UK from 2014 to 2016. Between 2014 and 2018, Tsering served on the Council of Tibet Society and later as its Special Adviser. Tsering’s blog: www.tsamtruk.com Twitter: @tsamtruk
For the past 26 years, followers of Tibetan Buddhism have been waiting patiently for a glimpse of their spiritual leader, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, The 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet. This is still yet to materialise.
Born 25th April 1989, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognised as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as per the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, on 14th May 1995. Within days of his public recognition, on 17th May, the six-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima disappeared with his parents and Jadrel Rinpoche, Head of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, 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.
Six months later, China announced its own 11th Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu as the reincarnation of the previous 10th Panchen Lama.
For Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama’s recognised 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is the true reincarnation of Tibet’s second highest spiritual leader. Despite repeated requests for access, the whereabouts of the Dalai Lama’s recognised Panchen Lama is not still known to anyone to this day, except to the Chinese authorities. At the time of his disappearance in 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima became the world’s youngest political prisoner.
The mysterious death of the 10th Panchen Lama in 1989 is still a fresh memory to many of his followers. Tibetans suspect foul play by the Chinese authorities over their spiritual leader’s untimely death 32 years ago.
Significance of The Panchen Lama
The successive throne holders of the Panchen Lama lineage have contributed immensely to the temporal and spiritual traditions of Tibet. Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, founded in 1447 by the 1st Dalai Lama, is the traditional monastic seat of the Panchen Lama. It is a historically and culturally important Buddhist monastery based in Shigatse, Tibet’s second-largest city.
The 10th Panchen Lama’s significant contribution to the cause of the Tibetan people both in temporal and spiritual traditions, especially at a time of critical danger of being wiped out by the Chinese Communist regime cannot be discounted easily.
Following the illegal invasion of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China, and with the subsequent escape of the Dalai Lama into exile in India, in March 1959, the Chinese government courted the 10th Panchen Lama and appointed him as Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the establishments of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). In 1960, Beijing named him Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in order that he acts as the spokesperson for Chinese policy in Tibet.
Formally established in 1965, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) became Beijing’s newly-designed political entity aimed at splitting the whole Tibetan Nation into several regions. Other traditional Tibetan regions including Amdo (north-east) and Kham (east) were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces such as Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Sichuan. For Tibetans, Tibet comprises Dotoe (Kham), Domed (Amdo) and Utsang (central) – the three Cholkhas.
The Panchen Lama’s 70,000-character petition
After official tours across various places in Tibet, the 10th Panchen Lama started documenting his findings, started in Shigatse and completed in Beijing. Along with his recommendations, the Panchen Lama submitted the findings to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1962 – widely known as the 70,000-character petition.
In his official report, the Panchen Lama denounced the draconian policies and actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Tibet. He also criticised the Great Leap Forward and a multitude of “inept orders” on the part of the CCP which had caused chronic food shortages.
In Beijing, the Panchen Lama also urged Mao Tsetung to “put an end to the abuses committed against the Tibetan people, to increase their food rations, to provide adequate care for the elderly and the poor, and to respect religious liberty.” Mao listened to him but did nothing to address the matters raised.
According to British journalist Isabel Hilton, the 70,000-character petition remains the “most detailed and informed attack on China’s policies in Tibet that would ever be written.”
For several decades, the Panchen Lama’s petition remained hidden from all but the very highest levels of the Chinese leadership, until one copy surfaced in 1996. In January 1998, to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the birth of the late 10th Panchen Lama, an English translation by Tibet expert Prof. Robert Barnett entitled A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Report of the 10th Panchen Lama, was published by the London-based Tibet Information Network (TIN), now a defunct news research agency on Tibet.
In 1964, the 10th Panchen Lama was publicly humiliated at Politburo meetings, dismissed from all posts of authority, declared ‘an enemy of the Tibetan people’, and later imprisoned. At the time he was 26 years old. The Tibetan spiritual leader’s situation worsened when the Cultural Revolution started. The Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, who was a former Red Guard, published in March 1979 a letter under his name but written by another anonymous author denouncing the conditions at Qincheng Prison, where the 10th Panchen Lama was in captivity. In October 1977 the Panchen Lama was released, but held under house arrest in Beijing until 1982. After his release, the Panchen Lama served as Vice Chairman of the National People’s Congress.
Tseten Wangchuk, a senior Tibetan journalist working for the Voice of America’s (VOA) Tibetan section in the United States, reported that during a 1980 meeting between the Secretary of the Communist Party Hu Yaobang and the Panchen Lama, the latter told Hu “how much he was moved by his reforms, and remarked that had the suggestions of the 70,000-character petition been put in place when they were proposed, the problems in Tibet would not have endured.
The 70,000-character petition was founded on the principle that the specific characteristics of Tibet should be taken into account. This premise was central to the policies of Deng Xiaoping in China during the 1980s and allowed the Panchen Lama to introduce numerous liberalisations into Tibet. However, in early 1992, the CCP removed the concession concerning the “specific characteristics” of Tibet, and current policy monitors religious practices and the monasteries, limits the instruction of Tibetan language, and has since suppressed some of the religious and cultural liberalisations implemented by Hu Yaobang and requested by the Panchen Lama.
In March 1999, during the annual commemoration of Tibetan National Uprising of Lhasa in 1959, the Dalai Lama declared that “the 70,000-character petition published in 1962 by the former Panchen Lama constitutes an eloquent historical document on the policies carried out by the Chinese in Tibet and on the draconian measures put in place there.”
In brief, pushing aside his own personal safety issues, and for the sake of the Tibetan people’s identity, spiritual practice and survival of the unique way of life, the 10th Panchen Lama struggled fearlessly and unrelentingly for their preservation and promotion. He rebuilt Tibet’s religious and cultural heritages and worked hard in the interests of Tibetans, for which he gained high prestige among the Tibetans. His efforts have spread far and wide from Tibet into the Himalayan regions, and through these into the wider world. The previous 10th Panchen Lama has dedicated his whole life to Tibet and Tibetan people.
So, why is China interfering in the religious affairs of Tibetan people?
The “Article 36” of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China guarantees “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.”
In the “Note on the Memorandum of Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People”, a follow-up clarification note submitted by the Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Chinese Government after the eighth round of talks in 2008, it states, “The spiritual relationship between master and student and the giving of religious teachings, etc. are essential components of the Dharma practice. Restricting these is a violation of religious freedom. Similarly, the interference and direct involvement by the state and its institutions in matters of recognition of reincarnated lamas, as provided in the regulation on management of reincarnated lamas adopted by the State on July 18, 2007 is a grave violation of the freedom of religious belief enshrined in the Chinese Constitution.”
The Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama share a warm and friendly relationship and have previously served as mentors and apprentices. They hold the highest decision-making power on the issue of reincarnation, and each had participated in the process of recognising each other’s reincarnation. If one of them passes away, the other has undertaken the responsibility of searching for the reincarnated soul boy of the other and vice-versa.
In his memoir, “Surviving The Dragon: A Tibetan Lama’s Account of 40 Years Under Chinese Rule”, Arjia Rinpoche, former member of the 11th Panchen Lama Search Committee, wrote, “As for the people of Tibet, no matter how politics changed, for them the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama remained the sun and the moon. To this day they believe that the reincarnations of both must be mutually recognised to be valid.”
Arjia Rinpoche, Abbott of the renowned Kumbum Monastery in Amdo, north-east Tibet, who had come to the United States via Guatemala as a political exile, wrote in his memoir, “Tibetans clearly wanted the Fourteenth Dalai Lama to be the final arbiter of the identity of the true reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.”
The real intention of the Chinese Government’s appointment of Gyaincain Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama as opposed to the Dalai Lama’s chosen candidate is crystal clear – a political matter.
After the Chinese government’s official announcement of its 11th Panchen Lama on 29th November 1995, Arjia Rinpoche, who was to become his personal tutor, recalled the remarks made by Ye Xiaowen, Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, “When the Dalai Lama announced the name of his chosen candidate, the government immediately sent out charter jets, usually reserved for members of the Politburo, to the birthplaces of the three final candidates in the Naqu district of Tibet. They put the boys and their families on the three jets and whisked them away into hiding.”
On their return to Beijing from Lhasa, in the chartered plane, dumbfounded Arjia Rinpoche recalled Ye Xiaowen stating, “When we made our selection we left nothing to chance. In the silk pouches of the ivory pieces we put a bit of cotton at the bottom of one of them, so it would be a little higher than the others and the right candidate would be chosen”. Gyaincain Norbu’s parents are CCP officials.
In 2019, Gyaincain Norbu was made Head of the China Buddhist Association. The Chinese government will use its chosen Panchen Lama to tour the world and is expected to speak on freedom of religion enjoyed by everyone in China.
During Ye Xiaowen’s directorship at the State Administration for Religions Affair, not only did we see persecutions of Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Falun Gong followers but he was instrumental in appointing Gyancian Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama.
Further under Ye’s watch, he declared “State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5” that attempted to reduce the influence of the 14th Dalai Lama and other foreign groups on the reincarnations in Tibet.
Chinese government over the years has made concerted efforts to bring down the image of the Dalai Lama by labelling him as “separatist”. The CCP has also banned the photos of the Dalai Lama and possessing his photos is considered as an act of crime.
At the heart of all these things is the issue of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. For years the Chinese government has been grooming its own Panchen Lama. It is most likely that he will play an instrumental role in deciding the reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama in China. This is expected to lead to two Dalai Lamas in the future if the current Dalai Lama decides to keep the tradition of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama continues.
The fact of the matter is that the issue of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is not limited to China and the Dalai Lama but it now has larger geopolitical consideration with security implications in the Himalayan regions.
The US has shown its full support for Tibet on the reincarnation issue i.e. whatever the Tibetan people decide to choose. It has, in late 2020, passed the Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA) and it sends a strong message to China that the US stands steadfast with the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration (aka Tibetan Government-in-exile) on the issue of Tibetan reincarnation.
Home to millions of Buddhists, especially Tibetan Buddhism, the great nation of India too can play a supporting role to His Holiness the Dalai Lama as well as to the Central Tibetan Administration towards the continuity of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation system as per the Tibetan tradition.
(Tsering Passang is the Founder & Convener, Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities. This piece was first published in https://www.ians.inon 20th May 2021)
A Live Webinar on Monday, 17th May 2021 from 3.30pm to 4.30pm (London time)
For the past 26 years, Tibetan Buddhists have been waiting patiently for a glimpse of their spiritual leader, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama. This is still yet to materialise.
Born on 25th April 1989, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognised as the reincarnation of the previous 10th Panchen Lama, on 15th May 1995, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as per the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.
Within days of his recognition the six-year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima disappeared, on 17th May 1995, with his parents and spiritual mentor, Jadrel Rinpoche.
Six months later, China announced its own Panchen Lama, Gyaincain Norbu as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama.
Despite repeated requests for access, the whereabouts of the Dalai Lama’s recognised Panchen Lama is not known except to the Chinese regime. At the time of his disappearance in 1995, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima became the world’s youngest political prisoner.
To coincide with this anniversary, the Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM) is hosting a webinar titled – “China: Freedom of Religious Belief”.
Our panel of experts include:
Jim Shannon MP, Chair of The All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (UK Parliament);
Dr Tenzin Dorjee, Associate Professor at California State University, Fullerton; Former Chair, The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF);
Benedict Rogers, CEO of Hong Kong Watch, Vice Chairman, Conservative Party Human Rights Commission;
Kate Saunders, Author, Writer, Tibet specialist, former Research Director at International Campaign for Tibet
Please join us at this free event and also share this post!
Monday, 17th May 2021 from 3.30pm to 4.30pm (London time)