post-Olympic challenge for Tibet
The Olympic Games generated a lot of attention for the Tibet issue and the
handling of human rights in China. The big question is what will happen now the
Olympics have come to an end.
During the Olympic Games in Beijing
there have been daily peace rallies in Dharamsala. On August 24, the day of the
closing ceremony, hundreds of Tibetans and supporters took part in a rally from
McLeod Ganj to lower Dharamsala.
“We urge the international community and especially members of the media, not to
divert their attention from China after the Beijing Olympics, as the Chinese
authorities are likely to intensify their hostility towards Tibetans
post-Olympics,” Tenzin Choeying, National Director of Students for a Free Tibet
– India, told a huge gathering at the main temple.
His Holiness the
Dalai Lama during his visit to France on August 13 was quoted by French
parliamentarians as saying there was a risk China would accelerate the
settlement of one million Han Chinese in Tibet immediately after the Olympic
Games, Reuters wrote. However, in an interview with Euronews on August 22 the
Dalai Lama denied any changes in the middle way approach and repeated his plea
for autonomy, except in foreign affairs and defence matters.
community in Dharamsala also doesn't have a solution at hand for after the
Olympics. This became clear during a discussion between scholars on the future
direction of Tibet on August 22, organised by the Women's Association, Gu Chu
Sum, Students for a free Tibet and the Tibetan National Democracy Party. The
five scholars only came up with one concrete suggestion. Kelsang Gyaltsen,
Member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile and researcher of Chinese politics on
Tibet said that Tibetans should unite with minority groups in China, such as
Uyghur and Mongols. He also advised Tibetans in China to cooperate with
prodemocratic movements and Falun Gong - the spiritual practice.
member of the association of ex-political prisoners Gu Chu Sum, thinks it is
really difficult to say what to do. "The peace marches don't have a lot of
effect. All over the world individuals support us, but they couldn't do much for
us because most countries have strong economic ties with China." He agrees with
the middle way approach and says that protests have to continue, "so that the
world doesn't forget about Tibet."
The Tibetan Government in Exile says
that the Tibet issue has to be resolved, Olympic Games or not. "The issue is
critically important and it has been for 50 years," Thubten Samphel, Secretary
of Information said in an interview with Contact magazine. Asked what he thinks
of the suggestion of Kelsang Gyaltsen to cooperate with other minority groups he
says: "Yes we can, only under the precondition that this cooperation is
nonviolent." What will the focus be in the next round of negotiations with
China, planned for October? "We have explained to China that our demands are
reasonable. China can resolve the Tibet issue in one day." He laughs when asked
if he thinks the next round of negotiations will have a positive result. "I
don't think so, but if it does, it's very good."
"When we refuse to fight for freedom,
how can we expect the world to fight for our freedom?", says Lhasang Tsering,
owner of the book shop 'Bookworm' and a former president of the Tibetan Youth
Congres. To each customer he hands out a bookmark saying that Beijing is guilty
of genocide and so never deserved to host the Olympics. As for Tibet's future he
thinks time is running out. "If we don't fight for a free Tibet, then our
culture and our nation will be wiped out for sure. In Buddhism suicide is a
greater evil than murder. So what do you think about national suicide?" Violence
isn't the answer as 20 Tibetans will be killed for one Chinese. He suggests
massive sabotage inside China to make China implode. "If a girl cuts the power
supply or communication lines at night, what Tibetan are the Chinese going to
arrest in Tibet?"
He also thinks that His Holiness the
Dalai Lama could campaign for Tibet to be turned into a United Nations trust
territory. "If only we could make the world leaders understand the size of
Tibet: 2.5 million square kilometres, then Tibet could become a world issue.
It's time to start a campaign to free the ‘Roof of the World’. If you were to
renovate a house, what would you start with, the roof or the carpet? China today
is making a hole in the ‘Roof of the World’!"
For China he has one message: "Take a
map and look where the Great Wall is. If you had a plot of land, would you make
the fence in the middle or at the edge? The truth is that Tibet has never been
part of China."
This article was published in the August 2008 issue of Contact
Magazine, a Dharamsala community publication.
Check out the following link for pictures of Dharamsala:
Impressions of life in
the Tibetan community in exile,
Dharamsala, Northern India (Dutch)