Petra's homepage


Experiences of a Dutch Journalist





The post-Olympic challenge for Tibet

By Petra Wijnsema

Dharamsala - 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.

The Tibetan 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.

Khedup Gyaltsen, 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)