Monday, April 2, 2012

Tibet Under Siege - Part 2

This article was published at NationofChange at: All rights are reserved.

Tibet Under Siege

Resolution Heading to Senate; Authorizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Question China About Tibet's Current Restrictions

March 19-20 was Tibet Lobby Day in Washington, DC, during which time 140 participants (including former Tibetan women held in prisons) visited 120 US Congressional offices, to appeal to Congress for substantial leadership on their part to bring about policy change in Tibet. They requested an immediate concerted action by Congress to send a strong signal to Tibetans inside Tibet (and to the Chinese authorities) that the world is watching and aware of the "dire situation Tibetans are facing."

The Tibetan activists requested additional support for Senate Resolution 356, which nine members of the US Senate were already sponsoring, entitled, "A Resolution Expressing Support for the People of Tibet." It calls on China to immediately end the crackdown in Tibet and to "address the legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people." They also highlighted concern that Voice of America's Tibetan language radio was proposed for elimination in the Presidential FY2013 budget, a threat that could further cut off communication for Tibetans.

Bringing attention of the immediate situation in Tibet, online lobbyists also appealed to Congressional offices by producing thousands of messages to the 470 Congressional offices.

Efforts were realized on March 27 when the US Senate for Foreign Relations Committee approved the Resolution, and sent the Bill to the Senate to be approved. It calls on China to ease the restrictions occurring in Tibet, and to free Tibetan prisoners. The Senate Resolution will also "mourn" the Tibetans who have died, renounce the repressive policies which target Tibetans, and seek for China to release "all arbitrarily detained" Tibetan peoples. It is to be hoped that it will also address the specific release of three monks from Tsang Monastery sent to prison for ten years on March 17, 2008.

However, the bill will not threaten any repercussions for China, but would authorize Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to question China for a "full accounting," especially regarding monks and nuns forcibly removed from Kirti Buddhist Monastery, and also to recommend that Beijing allow journalists and diplomats access to Tibet.

Tibetan Women's Association Rallies for Political Prisoners

On March 12, there was also a huge march in Dharamsala, India, in honor of the National Tibetan Women's Uprising Day. Tibetan nuns, school girls, and women all gathered to remember the two Tibetan women who this past year were part of self-immolation protests, but also to commemorate the Tibetan women's uprising of 1959 in Lhasa, which following a Tenth of March uprising against Chinese forces.

The Tibetan Women's Association issued a statement commemorating the uprising, and expressed concern for those inside Tibet today. They stated, "We remain gravely worried about the 850 known Tibetan political prisoners languishing in Chinese prisons, and fear for those living under the constant threat of arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and the ruthless military control of Tibetan areas.

"The undeniable presence of armed security confirms China's open declaration of 'War' against Tibetans, and has created a cauldron of tensions amongst the international community..."

Meanwhile, inside Tibet during this current blackout, many protests are occurring. On March 15, in Ba Thunte (Tibet's Amdo Province), monks from Shingtri Monastery marched holding Tibetan flags and were joined by thousands of Tibetan lay people. The security forces arrested 50 monks, which reportedly caused 2000 Tibetans to demand their release the next day. On March 18, a 12-year-old child died in Ba County (Tibet) when tear gas and explosives were used by Chinese security forces to disperse a peaceful protest in Tibet.

The Bora Monastery in Sanghu (Eastern Tibet), is also under lockdown.

In other incidents, on March 16-17, a 44-year-old farmer, Sonani Dharoyal, committed self-immolation. Another monk, Jamyang Palden, also set himself on fire in Rebgong. Reportedly, he is recuperating at the local Rongbo Monastery, though Chinese authorities have been pressuring his relatives to surrender the injured monk.

These actions rallied approximately 2000 Tibetans who took to the streets in Sogdzong (Northeastern Tibet) in the Malho region. This rally was led by monks from Tsang Monastery, and armed paramilitary forces intervened and arrested 17 of the monks, and put the area into heavy military lockdown.

In Hindsight, Wisdom From an Elder Tibetan Nun, Imprisoned and Tortured by China

As a journalist, I can't help but remember the late Tibetan nun Ani Panchen, whom I interviewed in California in 2001. Ani Panchen had endured twenty-one years in a Chinese prison, as she was imprisoned for leading 700 Tibetan farmers and nomads on horseback against the invading Chinese People's Liberation Army in the 1950s. I interviewed this profound nun, considered by many to be Tibet's Joan of Arc, when she walked 600 miles (with other former Tibetan political prisoners) from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the "March for Tibet's Independence," to shed light on human rights violations against Tibetans in China's prisons, and to call for the release of the young Panchen Lama, whom the Chinese had abducted and held incommunicado. She started her walk on his 11th birthday, since the Chinese government had held him for five years at that time, incommunicado. She then walked from Nice, France, to Geneva, Switzerland, to protest at the United Nations about the permanent trade status being granted to China.

In my interview with her, she stated, "As a direct result of that invasion in the 1950s, there was massive destruction and desecration of Tibet's culture. There were 6000 monasteries destroyed.... They were the treasure houses for Tibetan sacred artifacts and relics ... and that is why the monasteries became the first line of attack. They were looted, and the artifacts, gold, and valuables were sold in Hong Kong to raise more money for China's weapons to continue the invasion and conflict in Tibet. China destroyed our heart and soul by burning our holy scriptures."

She also noted, "As a direct result of this invasion, 1.2 million Tibetan people died. There was no sparing of women, children, nuns, or monks.... I resisted the Chinese military movement into Tibet, and I tried to defend my Motherland. That's why China arrested me and put me into prison for 21 years."


She also shared her accounts of torture in prison. She stated, "I had two incidents that were unbearable. The worst punishment was putting very heavy shackles around my ankles for one year and one month, 24 hours per day for that duration. In the winter, it was excruciating, because I felt they were cutting into my skin, like a burning sensation, because the iron got so cold.

"I also had to live in a hole for nine months in solitary confinement. I was put underground and had to live in my own feces. It was a difficult time; it was totally dark. I couldn't see any light and I had to just imagine whether it was day or night. I would sometimes hear a bird singing its song and assume it was daytime. It was a terrible punishment - solitary confinement in total darkness. Some nuns have to endure that punishment for years."

Addressing China's human rights records, she stated, "China not only violates the human rights of Tibetans, but also of its own people. So by being granted this special trade status, China is now being rewarded while conducting such atrocities. China breaks all rules framed by the United Nation for basic human rights. The permanent trade status for China will enslave Tibet more, and more child labor will be used to profit Beijing."

Ani Panchen continued to focus on the role of the United States in this crisis. She stated, "From a personal perspective for Americans, it is not good for America's moral strength and your sense of being a moral nation and peacekeeper in the world. All people who are striving toward independence from Communist nations, all people who are fighting for truth and justice, all people who are fighting for basic human rights as Tibetans are doing, are totally discouraged by this act of the US Congress [of granting permanent Most Favored Trade Status to China]. Therefore, I feel that it is a great concern not just to the Tibetan people, but for Americans too. What do you stand for? What does your nation really stand for morally and ethically in the world?

"Yes, America usually fights for human rights around the world, but when you reward China when they are so blatantly violating such rights, then the basis for your stance is weakened and you lose your moral strength and character to speak to other nations about human rights violations worldwide.

"We are struggling for life and death now in our history. We called for the release of the Panchen Lama, whom China had had under house arrest for five years, incommunicado, at the time. I started my walk from San Francisco on his 11th birthday. He plays an integral part in the survival of Tibetan culture, and the Chinese government was practicing child abuse when they kidnapped him four days after the Dalai Lama identified him as the important lineage holder of Tibetan Buddhist traditions."

Ani Panchen also addressed the World Bank loan to China that Congress approved in 2001. She emphasized, "That loan should have been halted immediately, because it included a $40 million portion to resettle non-Tibetans into the heartland of Tibet. This is cultural genocide, leading Tibetans to become a minority in our own country, a form of ethnic cleansing and a violation of the Genocide Convention."

Addressing conditions for Tibetan women and children, Ani Panchen concluded, "International lawyers have documented illegal detention, mistreatment, torture and imprisonment of Tibetan children.... Because of these conditions, there are 3000 to 4000 refugees yearly crossing the Himalayas to flee the brutal force of China.

"I bore a lot of suffering, but it's not like what Tibetans suffer today. Tibetan women have had to endure coerced abortions and sterilization to avoid imprisonment of their husbands. Women and children are being abused using painful electric batons to their mouths and genitals. Nuns in prisons are being brutally raped. The Chinese Army would forcibly take blood from the nuns in prison. They would tell us it was for the Army hospitals, but it would make us very weak because they would take so much blood an also beat us. Prison sentences are sometimes expanded for ten more years if we sang songs of Tibet. Pictures of the Dalai Lama are still banned, and he's a Nobel Peace Laureate! Many are arrested and tortured if they possess a picture of him."

She concluded, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama told me and the other peace walkers that we were touching Americans' sense of liberty and justice in our efforts. I hope you Americans will vote for political leaders who make human rights a priority." Ani Panchen died of heart failure a few months later at her home in Dharamsala, India.

 Trade Status, Economic Power, and Human Rights

In closing, the US permanently granted China Most Favored Nation trade status when Tibetans were alerting the world that it was the last negotiating tool to hold China accountable for human rights violations in Tibet. But pro-business interests pushed it through, stating that human rights issues could be addressed later, after China was more involved in the worldwide financial markets, and thus accountable to international standards.

When I interviewed H.H. the Dalai Lama in 1995, he told me, "China is important and shouldn't be isolated. They must be brought into the mainstream of the world. But about human rights, the world must be very firm and consistent about human rights violations. The world must be clear what is right and wrong."

The Tibetans are still turning today to the United Nations to alert the world about human rights abuses by China, and to request some sort of intervention or support to bring about a change and/or justice. But even with the prestigious committees established at the UN, that body has also played a role in reinforcing China's ability to squash the testimonies of religious persecution. Remember when the Dalai Lama was invited to the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights? He was asked to speak about Tibet by the host Austrian government but was barred from speaking due to pressure on the UN from Beijing. China had extended its UN Security Council power and was able to actually interfere and stop the Dalai Lama from speaking about Tibet at a major international United Nations Human Rights convention.

It's been many years since that squelching of the testimony of H.H. the Dalai Lama. The world has welcomed and embraced him and acknowledged the beauty, value and worth of the precious Tibetan Buddhist culture. H.H. the Dalai Lama has become a Nobel Peace Laureate, and the US awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Hopefully, now with this current crisis in Tibet, the United Nations will handle these 5 Requests from the Tibetan hunger strikers with all the integrity and power the international body can muster.

In 2009 the Obama administration established the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, but human rights issues have not been integrated much into the talks. The Obama administration has acknowledged "deterioration" in China's human rights conditions, but rarely prioritizes human rights in discussions with China, and does not refer to any consequences if abuses continue to escalate.

Former Director of Amnesty International Bill Schultz told me years ago in an exclusive interview, "The US believes that China will inevitably change if we simply continue to engage in trade with China and open up a free flow of communication.... No one in the human rights community wants to isolate China, but the US can continue, in a stronger way, to pass resolutions condemning China's human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva."

Schultz warned, "Every time China takes one of these aggressive steps to restrict free speech and free assembly, if we don't give an appropriate response in the West, then surely China is encouraged to believe that trade trumps every other concern on the agenda, and that will certainly lead to more human rights violations."

According to the Weiss Report, China's economy is potentially becoming larger than America's, and the United Nations, IMF and other international organizations are calling for the end of the reign of the US dollar (in favor of the Chinese Yuan).

It appears that now is a crucial time to act on the reprioritizing of human rights in the event China becomes the #1 economic super-power in the future. This would result in China being in a position to dictate economic policies to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, these economic policies might also totally overshadow human rights priorities, resulting in the erosion of the remaining religious freedoms of the Tibetan culture and jeopardizing the remaining six million Tibetans who are now cut off from the rest of the world and in dire need of protection.

This article was originally posted at Reader Supported News.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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