UK SFT ISSUE 6
Chinaâ€™s Olympic Legacy
Can London 2012 repair the damage China did to the Olympic principles?
Students for a Free Tibet UK, Unit 9, 139 Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 3HF, Non-profit organisation, number 08107379
SFT UK news
Dear Tibetans and supporters,
Contents News 3-9
-New resistance -CCP cracking up -Dalai Lama in UK -Chen escapes -More news
10-11 Get active!
-No more Yoko -Middle Way out? -More stories
-13 Feature 12 -2012 Games: Can we repair the damage Beijing 2008 did?
It’s been a busy few months for us at SFT UK, with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit and the next steps of the Enough! campaign in London and Vienna. As the UK gears up for the Olympics, we remember the freedoms we have, which are denied in Tibet. There have been changes at SFT UK too as one of our strongest Tibetan leaders in the UK, Pema Yoko, left for Dharamsala to fulfill her Lhakar pledge of perfecting her Tibetan language. Just back from India myself, I’ve been happy to cover Pema’s role for a month, and we’ll be appointing a new permanent National Director soon.
But one thing that can’t wait is the situation in Tibet, which worsens day by day, and where the Tibetan people continue to amaze us as exiles and the world as a whole by stepping up their non-violent resistance in the face or brutal oppression. There have now been over 40 self-immolations in Tibet, and every day we hear new stories about brave protests and acts of civil disobedience from people from all walks of life and all ages. In the comfort of the outside world, we have the luxury to talk politics like the Middle Way approach versus independence, and can debate whether self-immolation inspires us, shocks us or just confuses us. But we’re gazing through a frosted looking glass and in the end our views don’t matter. What matters is Tibetans in Tibet. These people aren’t asking for anything; these people aren’t negotiating anything, these people aren’t begging for anything. These people aren’t looking to saviours for help, whether that be us, Western governments, reformist voices in the CCP, the Chinese people or the UN. Of course we on the outside should push for all of those to stand up for Tibet, but because they should support Tibet, not because Tibet won’t be free without them.
14-17 Campaigns Tibetans inside aren’t looking for sympathy, they’re looking for victory, and it’s our
-Independence -Book Fair -More stories
-Cyber war -China’s hacks -More stories
20-21 Grassroots -Tiananmen -SFT training -More stories
22-23 Regulars -Prisoner focus: Wangdu -Notice board
Cover: Self-immolations, nomad resettlement, religious repression, no language rights, no free expression; no Olympic principles in Tibet
The SFT UK team
duty to get behind them. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said recently that Tibetans in Tibet are our boss, and we have to respect that. They are the experts, the leaders and in the end they will be the game changers. Sometimes people say ‘well there’s no point in pushing for independence; China isn’t going to give Tibetans that’. The reality is China isn’t going to give Tibetans anything. But it’s clear that Tibetans inside understand better the answer to that comment; China doesn’t have to give Tibetans anything; Tibetans are going to take it.
So we’re building for the future at SFT UK. We can almost afford a paid staff role now, and the idea is to build a strong, active, dynamic, Tibetan-led SFT force in the UK. With your help, we’ll get bigger, making the pressure on China stronger. So we want to hear from you, especially if you’re Tibetan. Come to our trainings, our conference, our events and get involved. You are the future, and the future is an independent Tibet. You can also join our rangzen circle from £3 a month; be a part of the resistance and help us grow. And share the www.standupfortibet.org petition; over 50,000 have signed and 40 countries have made strong statements. Talk is one one thing, action is another. We’re seeing Tibetans inside challenge the CCP every day; it’s our job to back them up. Pema Dolma, Interim Director
Photos: His Holiness at the Tibet solidarity rally in Vienna, Pema Dolma with rights campaigner Bianca Jagger SFT UK: Pema (Interim Director), Gabriel, Liam, Sonam, Tsephel, Dolly, Lisa, Fenya, Yusra, Penpa, Katie.
The resistance continues
It’s been over a year since Phuntsok Juratsang set himself on fire in protest against Chinese rule, but there’s been no let-up in self-immolations in Tibet, with over 40 cases since. Most of those who have done so have passed away. Monasteries like Bora have been put under siege and it’s likely thousands have been arrested or gone missing. Yet the self-immolations continue, including those of monks Tenpa Darjey, Chimey Palden, Lobsang Tsultrim, Jamyang and Sherab, Ngawang Norphel and Tenzin Khedup, whose flag-waving twin self-immolation was caught on camera, mother of two Dickyi Choezom and father of three Sonam Dhargey, who 8,000 turned out to support; the biggest gathering since 2008. There have also been attempted immolations; a disabled man named Tsekhong and 17-yearold Thinley, who both poured kerosene on themselves before being detained, while Rinpoche Thubten Nyandak and niece Atse are suspected to have self-immolated; dying in a house fire after saying they were going to act for Tibet.
In recent months, self-immolations have spread from Amdo and Kham to Lhasa, which the regime has placed on complete lockdown, rounding up around 600 suspected activists after Dorjee Tsetan and Dhargye self-immolated. China has now ‘banned foreign tourism indefinitely’ to prevent further news getting out. And during Hu Jintao’s visit to New Delhi, 26-year-old exile Jamphel Yeshi died after setting himself alight in a dramatic incident which (unlike in Tibet where state controls make it hard to take and distribute photos), made front pages across the world. It isn’t just monks and nuns who are self-immolating; a nomad in his fifties named Tamding Thar set himself on fire on 15th June in front of the People’s Armed Police camp in Chentsa, Malho and 33-year-old mother of three Rikyo set herself alight on 30th May. Their cases are particularly significant as they were from families forcibly moved from the grasslands to desolate resettlement ghettos, showing that contrary to China’s claims, nomads are not happy with this policy and are prepared to lay down their lives to show it.
Tibetans who set themselves alight are also leaving lasting reminders in the form of notes, letters and pamphlets. These blow out of the water China’s propagandist theories about why Tibetans are taking this drastic act, showing these are rational individuals who are directing their actions towards the Chinese state; they are not thugs, depressives or under the sway of outside forces. We continue to hear telling phrases; unity among Tibetans, support of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence. Tamding Thar left a note saying “with the hope that peace prevails on Earth, with the yearning for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his land, for Tibet to be ruled by Tibetans, I set my body on fire as an offering of light” while Sonam and Choephag Kyab left a recording saying “for the restoration of freedom in Tibet, both of us in sound mind, are setting ourselves on fire. The Tibetan people’s suffering due to denial of freedom if far greater than the tragedy of setting our bodies on fire.”
Meanwhile scores of Tibetans are being beaten, some shot dead and others arrested and sentenced for resistance, including Sonam Lhundup, jailed for life and 15 others for shorter terms for protesting in Drango in January, monks Kendhup, Samgyal and Jamsem for 9-11 years, Sonam Dhargyal 10 years and 6 for shorter terms, businessman Tamdin, sentenced to two years for protesting in Nangchen in February, Sonam Gonpo, arrested when he complained that the state was building illegally on his land and Tsering Dhondup, detained for displaying a poster of the faces of those who have self-immolated. Once arrested, Tibetans are being abused by Chinese forces, such as a young woman named Yulshul who died in a police station after demanding to know the whereabouts of her brother, abbot Khenpo Gyewala, murdered monks Drakmar Phelgye and Karwang (who resisted to his last breath, dying of torture while refusing to confess to putting up independence posters), 10 Tibetans beaten by police who shut down a village unity-building project in Kardze and 100 beaten for protesting against the state’s honouring of corrupt officials in Ngaba. And on 28th June, 17-year-old Jigmey Dolma was arrested for chanting ‘free Tibet’ and ‘all political prisoners must be released’, denied contact with her family and tortured. When her father finally saw her, her hand was covered in cloth and she couldn’t walk straight, saying she was “very frightened as she was alone in prison and had been tortured harshly”.
China would like to claim all are isolated incidents; that self-immolation has become a trend which doesn’t represent Tibetan feeling as a whole. But in almost every case, local Tibetans are rallying around those who self-immolate, and their protests are inspiring more to make their own voices heard. China is panicking, responding with violence. Not only is policing the situation more and more costly, it’s strengthening Tibetans’ resolve to be free of Chinese rule.
PHOTOS from top: Rikyo, Sonam Dhargey, Tenpa Dhargyal, Chimey Palden, Ngawang Norphel & Tenzin Khedup, Tamding Thar, Jamyang Palden, Dorjee Tseten, Tsering Dhondrup, Sonam, Choephal Kyab, Jigmey Dolma, Ngawang & Tenzin’s self-immolation
Monk stands up to Chinese court
Khedrub Gyatso of Bongtak monastery in Themchen county carried out a brave act of defiance on 29th May when he called into question the legitimacy of his charges and of the court by declaring that he was guilty of no crime.
Damchoe Sangpo died after setting himself alight on 17th February after Chinese authorities cancelled a prayer festival and filled the area with troops. Following his death, Khedrub Gyatso and eight others were detained, with Konchok Gyatso and Sherab Sangpo receiving 18 month sentences and Konchok Dargye being handed a longer, unknown sentence for sharing information with contacts outside Tibet. But when it came to the trial of Khedrub Gyatso and five others, the senior monk stopped the court in its tracks by declaring that he had been unjustly detained for over 100 days and that “I will not accept even one more day in jail.” The court was shocked by the statement and suspended the trial immediately, saying the case would instead be passed on to a higher authority. Part of the widespread corruption within the Chinese judicial system, local courts often ignore the rules when detaining and sentencing Tibetans, leading to long periods of detention without trial and other abuses. Since the state turns a blind eye to corruption, and quite likely encourages it, it’s unlikely Khedrub Gyatso will be spared a prison sentence, but by standing up to the Chinese regime and highlighting it’s weaknesses, he has exposed again the weaknesses and injustice of the Chinese system as a whole. A system which can’t even follow it’s own regulations is a system which will not stand the test of time.
In response to the continuing resistance seen at Tibetan monasteries, the CCP has launched a new wave of ‘patriotic re-education’ and ‘legal education’. The aim is to bring monasteries in line with CCP thinking, to ‘enhance stability’ and ‘promote harmony’. In other words, to remove dissenting voices from monasteries and make them and the monks still allowed to live in them puppets of the Chinese state. ‘Patriotic re-education’ has been taking place since 1996, and has led to the arrest, torture and expulsion of many monks and nuns and the closure of monasteries as restriction on movement during lengthy sessions can make supplying them with food impossible. The sessions have been stepped up since 2008, and affiliations with monasteries abroad banned since 2010 to prevent contact. In 2011, new requirements were brought in including that monasteries display portraits of Communist leaders and Chinese flags. The aim may be to control monasteries, but the fact that so many controls are needed shows than in fact the Chinese state is not in control of these monasteries at all.
‘Strike hard’ drive Authorities in Kanlho issued a new ‘strike hard’
campaign in March after publishing a public notice telling the public to report any activities which ‘harm social stability and national unity’. Unsurprisingly, the note was sent on 9th March; a day before Tibetan Uprising Day. Kanlho, where Chinese troops massacred at least 12 people in 2008, where students have continued protests for language rights and 18-year-old Tsering Kyi self-immolated earlier this year, is an area known for strong Tibetan resistance. In China, ‘strike hard’ campaigns are generally used to crack down on drug dealers, gangs, fraudsters and robbers, but in Tibet it’s all about politics. During the campaigns, hundreds of extra troops descend on areas, raiding homes, shops and businesses often in the dead of night and without any reason other than that the owners are Tibetan. Thousands at a time can be detained, while many are tortured, and others are fired from jobs. Locals are often threatened or bribed into giving information about Tibetans who are outspoken against the regime.
Bucking the trend
Support for Tibet is worldwide, and that includes in China, where an unnamed Chinese skate boarder, a finalist at the Asian X Games, was snapped with a board emblazoned with a ‘free Tibet’ graphic and wording.
The board, designed by pro Bucky Lasek, is a great testament to what the attitude of boarders has traditionally been about; standing up for what you believe in despite the consequences. The authorities demanded the Chinese boarder cover up the wording with stickers, and it seems no further action was taken, but it shows again how the CCP’s attempts to make Tibet an ‘us and them’ issue has failed; being pro-Tibet and anti-CCP isn’t the same. Being anti-Chinese. It’s an important difference; the CCP is encouraging a stronger national pride among Chinese, and often uses it to paint groups like Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians as ‘the other’. But the Chinese nation and the Chinese Communist Party are not the same thing; the former can survive without the latter.
PHOTOS from top Kedrub Gyatso, who challenged the state in court, a CCP ‘patriotic re-education’ session, Chinese ‘boarder backing Tibet.
Dalai Lama UK visit
His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited the UK this June; his first full trip since 2008 and also the first since he deferred his political role to the elected position of Kalon Tripa, held by Lobsang Sangay. The Tibetan spiritual leader made two visits to the UK in as many months after a fleeting trip to collect the prestigious Templeton Award in May. In June, he was here for a series of public and private talks and meetings with students, businessmen, politicians, religious figures and members of the Tibetan community mainly in London, Manchester and Edinburgh; with his main aim to inspire young people to adopt peaceful means to work out problems.
Strangely for many, His Holiness was introduced on stage in Manchester by controversial comedian Russell Brand, who often references Tibet in his stand-up sets. Many celebrities seeking to build international careers shy away from showing support for Tibet as some, like Bjork and Oasis, have been banned and lost their huge Chinese markets as a result. When asked if he felt meeting His Holiness would damage his films’ chances in China, Brand said "you've raised a point that I'd not previously considered. I suppose one has to ultimately think, what's more important, the freedom of a nation or the career of one person? And I suppose, really, the freedom of a nation in most people's minds would be more important.”
As always, media attention for Tibet perked up during his visit, with His Holiness interviewed in publications as diverse as the Guardian, Metro and Big Issue. And as always, the Chinese authorities complained that any meetings between His Holiness and UK politicians amounted to ‘meddling with China’s internal affairs’. The regime really decided to throw it’s toys out of the proverbial pram when His Holiness visited Leeds, the location for the Chinese Olympic team’s base this summer, demanding that Leeds council cancel the visit or that the Chinese team would pull out. It was a curious approach for a country which spent most of the build-up to the Beijing Olympics demanding that other nations should not ‘politicise’ the Games. But overall China’s reaction to the visit was less outspoken that usual; there were very few public criticisms of His Holiness thrown out into the press (or maybe reporters just weren’t biting) and there were no Chinese flag waving protesters, or Shugden supporters, at his Albert Hall talk. Perhaps China is finally realising that the rest of the world respects the Dalai Lama and any criticisms merely expose China as a spoilt bully not getting it’s way. Or maybe China was just too concerned with it’s own internal fallout to notice.
The only words of warning came when His Holiness met Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Nick Clegg after receiving the Templeton prize, but the meeting had already happened by the time threats over trade relationships emerged, and Downing Street responded that His Holiness had met former Prime Ministers so would also meet them. His Holiness was later invited to address MPs, and attended a lunch hosted by the House Speaker. China would’ve been seething at all of these meetings, and of every positive mention of His Holiness in the British media. China is investing more in exporting its propaganda ‘news’ services abroad, but the fact is that popularity doesn’t cost anything; just a little bit of integrity.
And speaking of integrity, one of the most historic moments of the Dalai Lama's visit came when he met heroic Burmese democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. It was the first time that the two Nobel Peace Prize winners had ever come face-to-face. SFT UK is proud to support Ms. Suu Kyi in her struggle for human rights and democracy in Burma, which we all hope has turned a corner, but as Ms. Suu Kyi has continued to reiterate, there’s some way to go yet. But the important thing to remember is that change does happen. It’s something His Holiness always teaches, and which is central to Buddhist belief; driving what way things change is up to you, but change does happen; it will for Burma and Tibet. So after a successful SFT UK stall at His Holiness’ Manchester talks, inspiring events with His Holiness, film screenings by the Edinburgh Tibet Society and wise words digested by us, Tibetans, supporters and the British public, we’re all reminded that peace will prevail.
PHOTOS from top: His Holiness meets David Cameron and Nick Clegg, welcoming him at the Royal Albert Hall, on stage with Russell Brand, meeting kids in Scotland, with members of Edinburgh Tibet Society and others, SFT UK’s Katie asks a question, with Aung San Suu Kyi.
CCP: regime on a knife-edge
‘Stability’ is of primary importance to China, and as a one party state beset with corruption and egotistical leaders jockeying for position, it looks like the build-up to the leadership change this year may prove less ‘harmonious’ than the CCP would like.
Cracks in the Party started to unravel in February, when Wang Lijun, Deputy Mayor and Police Chief of Chongqing, arrived at the US consulate in Chengdu to seek political asylum. The US refused, and Wang was removed by Chinese state security. It was thought Wang was fleeing because he was guilty of corruption, but the way the state conceals information from public view makes it difficult to know the truth. In fact, analysts say “many in China are now so cynical about the level of censorship that they will not believe what comes from the party's mouthpieces even if it is true.” In March, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao publicly criticised Wang’s boss Bo Xiliai, Commuist Party boss of Chongqing and an elite party member seeking a high post in the leadership reshuffle later this year, saying cryptically "such historical tragedies as the Cultural Revolution may happen again”. But then Bo Xilai was suspended from the Party, while his wife was also implicated in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, which caused international embarrassment for China.
But the intrigue continued when Domestic Security Chief Zhou Yongkang, the man in charge of China’s courts and spy networks and responsible for the imprisonment of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche and countless others, appeared to have been removed from his post. He was due to step down later this year, and it’s quite possible he was allowed to keep his title until then in name only to save face for both himself and the regime… or to prevent a further ripple in the Party which could tear it apart. Zhou was also forced to make a ‘confession’ to the other eight standing committee members who run the CCP over his support of Bo, and will no longer be allowed to choose his own successor. Some observers even speculated that Bo and Zhou had actually been removed for attempting a coup to unseat the other Communist Party leaders. The fact that the speculation was taken seriously shows how deep divisions between Hu Jintao, who controls the military, and Zhou, who controls the police, has become. There were rumours that the military had seized power, tanks had been seen in Beijing and shots were fired at Communist Party HQ. Some have said that inside the CCP, Hu and Zhou’s factions are battling over control of CCTV, Xinhua and other propaganda systems, and web searches for information on Bo are now blocked in China. Chinese forums were saying “something big has happened in Beijing”, but it was unclear quite what.
One thing is clear though; the splits in the Chinese Communist Party, presented as a ‘unified’ group, are beginning to grow beyond the secretive halls of Beijing and are splintering out into public view. Wen and Hu, having come through the Communist Youth League, are on one side and the ‘princelings’ like Bo and China’s next leader Xi Jinping are on the other. Hu and Wen are due to step down for Xi later this year, making infighting between what is effectively the current and future leadership a worrying sign for the survival of the CCP. Will Hu and Wen go quietly when the time comes to surrender leadership? And the tensions at the top filter all the way down China’s social classes. The country’s ‘New Class’, the growing number of middle earners who are driving the economy, are showing signs of frustration at the lavish lifestyles of the descendents of Mao’s generation. Is the accumulation of wealth for their families a sign that they need an economic back-up plan; are they looting the ship, knowing it’s about to go down? If and when the CCP’s end comes, it may well be complete, unexpected and spectacular.
And let’s not forget China’s huge problems with corruption. Everybody knows about the poorly built schools which collapse in earthquakes, the harmful chemicals found in dairy products and the people thrown out of their own homes to make way for government projects. China is far from the ‘people’s’ republic; the elite don’t care about the people at all, and the infighting will most likely anger ordinary Chinese people further. The state does itself even less favours by protecting corrupt officials and preventing corruption being exposed, like in April, when the residents of the Tibetan village of Adhue were told they had to pay 90,000 yuan for ‘free’ state homes; a scheme to embezzle money from locals. Instead of cracking down on the officials, trucks of troops rolled in and beat Tibetan protesters. This kind of thing is also happening to Chinese citizens; no wonder the state is spending £70 billion on ‘internal security’ this year; more than on China’s vast army. They must be expecting to have to silence a lot of people. China’s double-act leadership style only serves as a smokescreen to what is really still a one party dictatorial system. Hu and Wen have been criticised as weak by some in the party, and China’s next leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang may end up being more so. With infighting rife in the CCP, the upcoming leadership change may be a chance for renewal, but could also be an opportunity for the entire system to implode.
PHOTOS: Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, the kind of military-grade weapons being bought up by China’s internal security forces. Read more about the complicated structure of the CCP at www.chinese-leaders.org
Blind dissident one-ups regime
Chen Guangcheng, the blind human rights activist who has been under house arrest since leaving jail in 2010, has caused major embarrassment to the Chinese regime by escaping to the US. After watching the movements of around 100 Chinese security guards who have surrounded his house for many months, slipping over a wall and walking for hours, he put a battery into his phone and called fellow rights campaigner He Peirong, who came and drove him to Beijing. Arriving at the US Embassy, he took refuge for six days as China demanded the US stop ‘meddling in it’s internal affairs’. Chen then accepted China’s assurances of safety and left the Embassy only to board a plane to the US and finally escape the state which has kept him prisoner, beaten and abused him and his family for many years.
The Chinese state has reacted to being outfoxed by Chen in typical fashion. Chen’s brother was tied to a chair and beaten for three days in retaliation, lawyer friend Jian Tianyong was beaten so heard he lost his hearing and Chen’s nephew is facing an attempted murder charge after apparently wounding security with a cleaver when they invaded his home. Chen said "they have been retaliating against my family in a frenzied way... (my brother and nephew) were very severely beaten. They broke the axe handles as they were beating them." Meanwhile He Peirong, who has been beaten by state security before, was arrested and released but is being monitored. She said "(Chen) has done more than you could expect from any individual … Although he has experienced so much injustice and so many threats, he sticks to his beliefs."
He later told the BBC that he had planned the escape for some time, even trying to dig a tunnel at one stage. He said “a night-time escape was no problem for a blind man, though of course I did fall a few times.” Speaking freely for the first time in New York, Chen addressed his comments to Hu Jintao, saying “you are supposed to be in charge of law and order (but) if you are not going to observe the law, how do you expect people to observe the law?”
Chen became an enemy of the CCP when he began to expose the government’s horrific practice of the forced sterilisation of women, both Chinese and Tibetan, including the case of Ji Yeqing, who was abducted from her home by Chinese authorities when she became pregnant with a second child. She was dragged down four sets of stairs while her husband was beaten by security when he tried to protect her, then held down on a bed in a clinic while the abortion was carried out. When she woke up she found that a metal IUD device had been implanted in her to prevent her from getting pregnant again. Later she said "after the abortion, I felt empty, as if something was scooped out of me. My husband and I had been so excited for our new baby. Now suddenly all that hope and joy and excitement disappeared”. Ji and her husband were also told they would face a heavy fine and be fired from their jobs for attempting to have a second child, and when she later escaped to the US she was told she had developed an infection due to unsanitised conditions during the two forced abortions she suffered in China.
Sadly Ji Yeqing is just one of many examples of how the CCP carries out forced sterilisation to enforce its ‘one child policy’, and Chen was jailed for 4 years for leading a lawsuit for the victims of forced sterilisation against the CCP’s ‘Family Planning Commission’ in the 90s, accusing the state of 7,000 forced sterilisations and abortions in Shandong province alone. There are 13 million abortions in China every year, 35,000 a day, and it’s unknown how many are voluntary and how many forced. Even when not forced, the policy has led to some parents aborting fetuses identified as female (as males get better opportunities in society) and to midwives strangling female or disabled babies, identifying them as ‘stillborn’ so that the mother can try again for another male child. Female infants are often more likely to be abandoned in rural areas where they may be born outside the state hospital system. Some women are forced to abort six months into pregnancy, also risking the mother’s death, and in April there was a case where a woman nine months pregnant was forced to abort, with the baby born alive but drowned in a bucket by the authorities. Photos shared by Chinese netizens online sparked anti-CCP anger. Fellow activist Hu Jia said "Chen may be safe for the moment, but the women for whom he risked everything are not,” while a Women’s Rights campaigner summed up most people’s view of China’s forced sterilisation and abortion program; "forced abortion is not a choice, it is official government rape." In January, Hu Jintao again denied that China carries out forced sterilisations, yet the Chinese state is still determined to silence activists like Chen, who seek to raise the issue. Congressman Chris Smith said "nothing in human history compares to the magnitude of China's 33-year assault on women and children; today in China, rather than being given maternal care, pregnant women without birth permits are hunted down and forcibly aborted. ... For over three decades, brothers and sisters have been illegal; a mother has absolutely no right to protect her unborn baby from state-sponsored violence." Chen Guancheng is determined to continue the fight for rights in China, on this issue and on farmers rights and corruption. He has been awarded a fellowship in the US and seeks to study law then return to China.
PHOTOS from top; Chen Guangcheng, He Periong
As the diversification of Tibetan resistance continues, so does the detention of cultural figures. In April, popular Tibetan comedian Athar was sentenced to three years for weapons-related charges after an confession obtained through torture was accepted by a Chinese court; a process illegal under both Chinese and international law. He planned to release a DVD in which he said Chinese rule has “gone down the wrong path”, urged unity and called for Tibetans to strengthen their sense of cultural and national identity. The popular musician Lolo, from Jyekundo, was detained on 19th April for writing Tibetan freedom songs. His album ‘Raise the flag of Tibet’ was dedicated to those who have self-immolated and contained calls for independence and unity among Tibetans, saying “For the complete independence of Tibet, With a realised understanding of our objectives, Raise the flag of Tibet, sons of the snow.” Singer Ugyen Tenzin was also sentenced to two years in March after being beaten in custody, reportedly leading to mental and physical disability. His songs promoted the Tibetan national identity. The 25-year-old had also been detained for protesting against mining in 2008.
It comes at a time when the movement lost one of it’s most dedicated celebrity activists; Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Yauch’s work for Tibet will be remembered and will continue until the dream of freedom is realised, both for brave musicians like Lolo and Ugyen Tenzin and for the Tibetan people as a whole.
Farmers defy the state
Eight villages in Ngaba have been taking part in a civil resistance campaign to show solidarity with those who have self-immolated by refusing to cultivate their land. They’re calling for the release of those detained for protesting against crackdowns, saying “all those members of their community detained by Chinese police (should be) released.” On 1st May, one woman from each family in the villages also marched on state offices to demand releases. China is still fighting resistance from farmers in other areas, such as in Inner Mongolia, where hundreds blocked bulldozers destroying their land; again showing occupied peoples do not regard the land as China’s.
Children in the line of fire
There are few depths the Chinese state won’t stoop to in their attempts to silence Tibetans. On 5th March, a young child named Tsewang Norbu wrote the word ‘China’ on the wall of a community hall during a film screening then crossed it out and wrote ‘free Tibet’. For this, the child was arrested by Chinese police. Though the boy was released, his father apparently suffered a heart attack on hearing about the arrest and passed away. In Ba county on 18th March, a 12-year-old Tibetan boy was killed when Chinese forces threw grenades at unarmed protesters. Tibetans had gathered at a judicial building to demand the release of 50 monks when police attacked with tear gas and explosives, killing the unnamed boy and severely injuring seven adults. The monks had been arrested two days earlier for protesting for freedom for Tibet and the return of the Dalai Lama. The regime also closed down a Tibetan school in April and an orphanage in May, arresting four teachers. The closures were due to both promoting the Tibetan language. Students of all ages continue to protest against China’s discriminatory education system. Uyghur children have also suffered in recent incidents. When armed police set off tear gas as they raided a school deemed ‘illegal’ by the regime, Uyghurs set off explosives to combat them, causing both police and 12 Uyghur children to suffer burn wounds. Children at the school had been learning the Koran; a process vital to Muslim children’s learning but something the CCP seeks to eradicate. Almost fifty adults were arrested in the raid.
Worrying signs in India
It’s the world’s largest democracy, one of the biggest threats to China’s future dominance as a superpower and the nation which has been more supportive to the Tibetan people than any other. But this March even India showed signs of towing the Chinese Communist Party line when it came to dealing with protests during Hu Jintao’s visit. With a huge Tibetan exile population, people were always going to want to voice their opposition during the Chinese President’s trip, and when Jamphel Yeshi carried out a dramatic self-immolation to draw world attention to Tibet’s cause, tensions became more frayed. Indian authorities arrested hundreds of Tibetans, with some being beaten by Indian police in New Delhi. India has supported Tibet’s refugee community for many years and has a vested interest in keeping expansionist China at bay, not only for territorial but ideological reasons. China actively seeks to dictate the politics of other countries, as seen in Africa and Nepal, which recently sentenced Tibetan activist Tseten Dorjee to 5 years jail for taking part in a march towards Tibet. If India is to maintain its integrity, strength and possibly even independence, it must not bow to China’s demands to detain Tibetans. PHOTOS from top: Athar, Lolo, Adam Yauch, Jamphel Yeshi’s self-immolation in India, Indian police pepper-spray Tibetan protesters during Hu Jintao’s visit
Rightly or wrongly, China is often associated with fake DVDs, but one thing that’s for certain is that the Chinese state runs a huge industry dedicated to fabricating the truth. The CCP has a vested interest in both blocking balanced reporting about what happens in Tibet and in convincing the Chinese people that Tibetans are the enemy. Otherwise Chinese people might start to see that they have some common grievances with Tibetans when it comes to how the state denies them rights and freedoms, and that’d mean game over for the regime. After the 2008 Tibetan uprising, China called the first protest ‘14/03’, apparently in deliberate reference to Western media terms for terrorist attacks ‘9/11’ and ‘7/7’. State news reports contained snippets of footage of Tibetans burning a shop and kicking it’s doors while ignoring the film and photos of unarmed Tibetans beaten, shot and killed by Chinese security forces. The state’s images were compiled into DVDs sold on the streets and are still used often in China’s media to portray Tibetans as violent and a threat to Chinese citizens. The DVDs interchangeably blamed the state’s imaginary overseas ‘terrorist’ masterminds ‘the Dalai Clique’ and mentally troubled Tibetan ‘hooligans’.
But state propaganda experts have struggled to demonise Tibetans who have self-immolated in the same way. In the end, it’s difficult to convince people Tibetans are a threat to Chinese when they are only harming themselves. And whereas random acts of violence can logically be attributed to troublemaking youth, self-immolation begs the obvious question; ‘why’? China doesn’t want it’s people to ask that question, because the answers will inevitably highlight the oppression of the Chinese state. On 7th May, state TV broadcast ‘the Dalai Clique, self-immolations and violence’, a film which tried to convince Chinese viewers again that Tibetans are violent, but it seems to have largely backfired. One Tibetan commenting on the film said “thanks to CCTV for this 41-minute film… (showing) those who have self-immolated engraves on each Tibetans’ heart the faces of (these) warriors for a free Tibet.” The film included faces of Tibetans who had self-immolated in recent years which had not been seen by the outside world before, increasing support for them and showing some had survived. Watch the dodgy documentary on YouTube: http://bit.ly/MMNLlL
Religion banned for cadres
Chinese authorities in the so-called ‘Tibetan Autonomous Region’ have banned Party members from taking part in Tibetan religious events. The ominously named Committee for Discipline Inspection and Supervision Department said that members who join events such as Saka Dawa celebrations would face severe punishment due to ‘serious violations of political discipline and stability’. The notification also criticised retired Party members who may cross into India to attend teachings by the Dalai Lama, stating that the department would “uphold and enforce political discipline (and) strictly and quickly investigate the behavior of party members and cadres who follow the Dalai Lama clique to undermine national unity and endanger the unity of the motherland”. This year, 19 officials have been demoted or fired for not following such directions, but the high level of focus on this issue reveals one thing; China is still petrified of the influence of the Dalai Lama and the ideals he represents.
In another example of state corruption, the CCP has warned foreign embassies to stop publishing independent reports on air pollution in Chinese cities. The US Embassy in Beijing has systems on its roof which monitor air quality and publishes the results on its website. Unlike Chinese state statistics, the resulting data tends to show air pollution in Chinese cities is seriously high. And though the US Embassy itself states that it’s figures should not be taken as definitive, Beijing residents have also voiced their distrust of the Chinese state’s figures, prompting the government to amend it’s monitoring techniques earlier this year.
Hunger strike triumph
Hunger strikers Shingza Rinpoche, Yeshi Tenzing and Dorjee Gyalpo scored a victory in the push for UN action on Tibet when their 30-day hunger strike action at the United Nations ended with senior UN officials bringing them a letter promising to look into the lack of rights and freedoms in Tibet. Hopes of success had been lowered after Dorjee Gyalpo was removed by New York police and taken to hospital, where he continued his strike. The three had put their lives on the line for their country and forced UN action. President of the Tibetan Youth Congress Tsewang Rigzin said “what you all just saw is a victory for the Tibetan people.” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has an open invite to visit China and Tibet, and Tibet groups have continued to urge the UN to take firm action on the worsening situation, including asking for a fact-finding mission to Tibet and passing a strong resolution on the issue.
PHOTOS from top: Front and back covers of the ‘dodgy DVD’ and the realities on the ground in Tibet; truckloads of troops in Tibetan areas to intimidate the public, monks displaying Dalai Lama pictures as they mourn those who’ve self-immolated, Lhasa today, hunger strikers
Momo Yoko has left the building
Pema ‘Momo’ Yoko, a long term SFT UK board member, National and Executive Director, left the UK in May to study in Dharamsala, fulfilling her Lhakar pledge to improve her Tibetan language skills. She’ll continue to work for SFT and the Tibetan cause, but as SFT UK was losing it’s most dynamic representative, we thought she’d better go out in style!
The ‘Momo & Shapaley’ event saw an evening of food, music and dance, including video messages from people who’ve seen Pema grow from a screaming kid at protests to a leader of the movement... or in other words a screaming adult at protests. To be honest, the CCP spies at the Embassy could probably make a bigger scrapbook of photos of her than we ever could, but they probably wouldn’t dare in fear of having ketchup thrown over them or being told to ‘shut up’. Momo Yoko has had some memorable moments at SFT UK, from hanging a banner off Westminster Bridge to ferrying tent poles up and down the motorway between festivals to meeting everyone from Foreign Office ministers to Chinese passport control officers who didn’t click that somebody who’d been in the press for being detained for Tibet activism so many times might try to get into Beijing to protest on a Japanese passport instead. It’s been emotional; almost as emotional as one of Pema’s speeches about nomad rights, but sadly it’s all come to an end. So for Pema’s leaving fundraiser, we were joined by ‘Mr Shapaley’ himself, Swiss-Tibetan rapper Karma Emchi, who performed his hits ‘Shapale Song’ and ‘Made in Tibet’ on a night where first-time contestant Dhondup was crowned SFT UK Momo Eating champion in the third annual speed eating competition. It really was a menu of momo and shapaley. So with Pema leaving, SFT UK is again seeking more young Tibetans and more dedicated activists to get involved with us and help take us to the next level. Pema will continue to shape and influence new Tibetan leaders and so will we; goodbye for now is never the end; it’s not over ‘till Tibet is free!
Middle Way: end of the road?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has for decades pursued dialogue between Tibetan and Chinese representatives with a view to establishing genuine autonomy for Tibet. The tireless efforts of His Holiness and his envoys have been honest; conceding Tibet's independence, which His Holiness previously advocated, in order to reach a compromise which would limit the daily suffering of the Tibetan people at the hands of Chinese human rights abuses. But the Chinese side has not been honest in return, ignoring His Holiness' willingness to meet them in the middle by claiming he is a 'splittist' and refusing to discuss the real issues on the ground in Tibet. Foreign governments, eager to back this consolatory approach so as to both appease China and encourage a solution to the Tibet problem, have backed the dialogue, but with only one of the two parties willing to get around the negotiating table, the Middle Way approach has resulted in nothing. Now His Holiness himself has stated in a BBC interview that the approach is "a complete failure", and his two most senior envoys have quit their posts.
Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen led talks between Tibetan and Chinese representatives since 2002, but in June they resigned together, saying that the frustration at China's unwillingness to engage properly had made their positions untenable. China had also refused to respond to the Tibetan government-in-exile's submission of a proposal for genuine autonomy. In a statement, they said "given the deteriorating situation inside Tibet since 2008 leading to the increasing cases of self-immolations by Tibetans, we are compelled to submit our resignations”. The move is further evidence that we are entering a new phase in the movement for Tibetan freedom. The Tibetan government-in-exile have been rational, reasonable and compromising, but these key figures themselves now state that this approach has not worked. Since 2008, Tibetans in Tibet have stepped up what is increasingly a diverse resistance movement. Compromise is impossible with an opponent which refuses to do so; only by seeking the just, historically and legally legitimate goal of independence can freedom be realistically achieved. The game has changed for foreign governments too; with the Dalai Lama himself stating that the talks on autonomy have failed, there is no longer any legitimacy in backing them. Tibetans in Tibet are calling again and again for an end to Chinese rule and Tibetans in exile, who now elect their own non-secular leader, are debating the issue. Foreign governments must get behind Tibetans to echo this call. The resources needed to keep hold of Tibet are expensive both in terms of money and reputation; China has for a long time had the opportunity to arrange a way to carry on ruling Tibet under a system of genuine autonomy, but has refused to discuss it. This opportunity is now coming to an end.
PHOTOS from top: Pema gets her last taste of cockney Tibetan food, Mr. Shapaley himself, Fenya jazzes up the music for the kids, you look confident now but..., Dhondup wins the momo eating contest, Pema bows out, His Holiness’ envoys quit, Hague: still backing the dialogue
Whose power is it anyway?
People say China is too powerful and nothing will change. They said that about the Soviet Union, about the Roman Empire, the British Empire. They’ve said that about every colonialist superpower that's ever existed, but the truth is none of these are superpowers anymore. Countries are overthrowing dictators all the time, like in Egypt and Tunisia last year; Tibet’s day will also come. People say China is too big, but it’s also clumsy. China is too rich, but it’s also corrupt. China is too strong, but it’s also paranoid. If China thinks it’s too powerful to be challenged, that’s great for those who dare resist them because complacency leads to defeat.
People say China holds all the cards, but you don't win by holding a lot of cards, you win by holding the right ones. China is wrong, we're right. We know it, the rest of the world knows it and China knows it. That's why when we raise the issues, they avoid the questions. When we say why are you killing innocent Tibetans, why won't you allow religious freedom, why can't journalists report from Tibet, they avoid the questions. China talks about development, industry, money. It avoids human rights, freedom, the truth; because it knows that the truth’s on our side. China isn't a statesman, it's a thief. A gangster. A bully. Remember where China’s wealth really comes from; it’s industry would be nothing without the resources it takes from Tibet. You don't beat bullies with force and you don't beat them by sitting back; you beat them by standing up. By being cleverer than them. Bullies get annoyed when you're cleverer than them like Tibetans in Tibet are being now with civil resistance. Bullies make mistakes when they're annoyed like China’s doing now. They’re making fools of themselves when they shoot unarmed Tibetans, deny human rights abuses that the whole world sees and criticise the Dalai Lama, who the whole world respects. Bullies always look tough on the outside, but inside it’s a different story. China is powerful, but it’s weaknesses can be exploited. The more we stand up, the quicker the bully falls.
Four years on
Dhondup Wangchen was jailed in 2008 for recording Tibetans’ views of the upcoming Beijing Games. In the buildup to the 2012 Olympics, we went round the key sites asking Londoners their views, showing that unlike China, Britain respects the Olympic ideals, including free speech. Our Games may not be as flash as Beijing’s, but we’re calling on the UK to make it our Olympic legacy to repair the damage China did to the principles of the Games by supporting Tibet and releasing Dhondup Wangchen. See our new video at: www.sftuk.org/leaving-fear-4-years
On being Tibetan
Inside, Tibetans are fighting to keep their language, culture and national identity alive. Outside, Tibetans are getting back in touch with the nation they’ve been isolated from. One prominent Tibetan to publicly reassert her Tibetan identity recently is popular Tokyo-based singer Alan Dawa Zhouma. In an interview in March she said “first of all, I am a Tibetan, 100 percent. I'll never forget the many Chinese teachers and friends who gave me knowledge and encouraged me while I studied in Chengdu and Beijing, but wherever I go, I’m Tibetan and I always remember it.” After a hard start to life in a rural Khampa family, she studied at a strict Beijing state school but underlined her identity by using the Tibetan wail in her music. "I didn't learn it, it was an instinctive thing. Just as Okinawan people have their folk songs or Mongolians have that deep, low voice, each tribe has a special way to sing and only they can do it naturally." Even though Alan wouldn’t be drawn on politics, she’s another example of how being Tibetan is more than just a political choice; it’s deeper than politics, and that’s why it will outlast politics. China’s suppression of the Tibetan identity is a policy which can never work.
SFT UK has been running stalls at some of the UK’s big festivals this year and at His Holiness’ the Dalai Lama’s talks in Manchester. We’ve been at the Sunrise festival and after that it’s Womad, Buddhafield and some of the political party’s conferences. Catch us on the road as we expand SFT UK’s outreach and get more people talking about Tibet, signing petitions and getting active! If you want to volunteer, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join Team Tibet
Over 200 nations from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe will be participating in the London Olympics this summer - but not Tibet. The absence of a Tibetan team from any major international sporting tournament remains a striking reminder of the Chinese government's attempts to stamp out the Tibetan nation. Many Tibetan sports fans remember how China tried to stop the famous ‘Forbidden Team’ football friendly against Greenland in 2008; it went ahead, but Tibetans won’t have a team to cheer at London 2012. At SFT UK, we’ll be putting Team Tibet into the Olympic picture this year, and you can keep up with Team Tibet’s exploits at www.youtube.com/teamtibetuk There’ll also be a summer picnic and sports event Tibetans can take part in, and you can also join the team by getting a vintage American Apparel Team Tibet hoodie on our website while stocks last! www.sftuk.org/sft-online-store
PHOTOS clockwise from top: China’s security overkill in Tibet, showing how much they fear Tibetans and their national feeling, SFT UK’s stall at Sunrise and SFT UK merch, Team Tibet hoodies, Alan, ‘Leaving Fear Behind: 4 years on’ cover
China’s Olympic Legacy
Everybody’s talking about the Olympics. You can’t move in the UK without seeing the mascots, the flags, the logos. It was the same in China four years ago of course... but some things were very different.
Students for a Free Tibet sent activists to protest in Beijing, including current and former SFT UK board members. Despite an estimated force of tens of thousands of Chinese security just to prevent protests, SFT pulled off about a dozen daring direct actions, gaining front page news and ruining China’s bid to use the Games as a propaganda tool. The CCP’s plan to convince the world that the Olympic principles of freedom, equality and opportunity were available in Tibet was ruined. We won’t be protesting against London’s Games, but we will be highlighting the fact that as one of the prerequisites for hosting the 2008 Games, China promised to improve on human rights, yet things have only worsened in Tibet in the past four years.
China damaged the Olympic principles by denying them to Tibetans during the Beijing Games and beyond. London’s Games may not end up being as rich and flashy as China’s, but rights and freedoms are central to British culture and identity; things we’ve fought for as a nation. If Britain can make our contribution to the Olympic legacy the restoration of these ideals, we can proudly say we’ve bettered Beijing’s Games.
There are a series of principles in the official Olympic charter; the ideals on which the modern Olympic movement hinge.
One of these is the principle of expression. It can be any kind of expression; sporting, artistic, personal. We’re inspired by athletes because they express themselves freely; it’s how they get to the top of their game. But in Tibet, free expression isn’t only dissuaded, it’s punishable by arrest, torture and jail.
The Olympic movement is all about embracing other cultures, learning from each other and developing respect. But how can a nation which is systematically trying to eradicate another be respecting other nations and cultures?
Not only did China fail to promote Tibetan culture or allow it to flourish during the Beijing Games, but it shot protesters, excommunicated monks from monasteries and pressed on with the dismantling of the Tibetan language using discriminatory education systems which would better belong in Nazi Germany or Apartheid South Africa, putting Party and state first.
In 2008, China’s crackdowns left over 200 Tibetans dead; none of these experienced respect from the CCP. Now, Tibetan students and teachers are also risking imprisonment, torture and death to protest that they should be allowed to study in the native Tibetan language; otherwise they are competing unfairly with Chinese immigrant students and miss out on university places. The Tibetan language is an ancient one and central to Tibetan culture. But as the regime forces Chinese language on Tibetans, it shows no respect for that culture.
Dhondup Wangchen is a great example; just making a film of interviews with Tibetans about their views on the Beijing Games in 2008 got him arrested, tortured and denied medical treatment. He’s still in prison today; a fact that not only shames China’s leaders for their denial of the very rights and freedoms which characterise the Games, but also shames the Olympic movement as a whole. As his film was about the last Olympics, now is the perfect opportunity for British MPs to demand that China is held accountable for this miscarriage of justice and releases Dhondup Wangchen. Not only him, but all the other artists, musicians and writers arrested since 2008 and before. By demanding this, Britain would be helping to repair the Olympic principles which Londoners hold dear.
London is a multicultural city; young and old celebrate their cultures; we must promote this approach in Tibet.
‘The Olympic principle of
‘The Olympic principle of
expression is not available in Tibet.
respect is not available in Tibet.
PHOTOS: Former SFT UK board member Iain makes front page news as he unfurls a banner outside Beijing’s ‘Birds Nest’ Olympic stadium on the opening day of the 2008 Olympics, Dhondup Wangchen; jailed since 2008 for filming Tibetans giving their views on the Olympics, students at Ganjong Sherig orphonage, closed by the Chinese state this year for teaching in the Tibetan language; another example of how China is not just disrespecting Tibetan culture, it seeks to destroy it.
The Olympics is all about opportunity, but what opportunities has the Beijing Games brought Tibetans?
China has actually been taking Tibetans’ opportunities away since 2008. The opportunity to move freely, the opportunity to make a living, the opportunity to feed one’s family and build a future. Tibetan nomads are being forced away from sustainable lifestyles, doing great damage to the environment. Over a million have been settled against their will into complexes reminiscent of the reserves used for Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians, and by the next Games, all 2.25 million nomads will be gone; hurled into a life of alcoholism, unemployment and suicide. The UK must demand China respects nomad rights.
‘The Olympic principle of opportunity is not available in Tibet.
Competition isn’t really competition if in isn’t equal. Nobody wants to see Usain Bolt win the hundred metres when he’s allowed to start two seconds before everyone else, and that’d be no good for an athlete’s development either. But as China ferries more Chinese migrants into Tibet, flooding the market and subsidising them, there can be no equality for the local Tibetans.
Chinese buisnesses sometimes adverise the same jobs at lower levels of pay for Tibetans. And others specify ‘No Tibetans Allowed’ on job applications. China is trying to make Tibetans non-people in their own land, and it’s prompted Tibetans to develop the Lhakar movement, which has seen them refuse to but from expensive Chinese shops, setting up their own Tibetan-run stalls and undercutting them. And Tibetans are not granted equality in the legal or industrial sectors and of course can’t decide how their own country is run.
The UK prides itself on the idea of equality, and can use the Olympic opportunity to voice it’s support for equal rights for Tibetans.
‘Peace’ and ‘China’ are not two words most Brits would associate with each other.
It’s because China’s record of violence is terrible; the CCP seems to think it can act without consequence when it comes to arresting, shooting and torturing Tibetans. China believes, even after over 60 years of failure, that it can end the Tibetan resistance by intimidating Tibetans into submission. Tibetan towns and now swamped with troops, tanks and weapons, much more so than any time in the last four years, and deadly force is being used.
Tibet’s cause, exemplified by the attitude of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, continues to be peaceful, though the temptation to strike back may be growing. China views peace with distain; it’s built it’s wealth on the plundering of occupied nations. Britain’s history is far from clean, but the world has moved on from violence. The UK has a duty to push for multi-lateral action which effectively pushes China to give up it’s brutal stance against the Tibetan people.
‘The Olympic principle of
‘The Olympic principle of
equality is not available in Tibet.
peace is not available in Tibet.
London’s Olympics will bring in visitors and investment, and the eyes of the world will be on the UK, including China’s. During the Games, we’ll be using the rights which make us British; the right to express ourselves, to be respected, equality, opportunity and peace. We have these rights, but the idea of the Olympic principles, just like the Declaration of Human Rights, is that these things are universal; China can’t opt out. We’re not just celebrating sport, we’re celebrating our country and what it means to us. To British people, our rights are high on that list, and our government can use this chance to promote our ideals. Using this opportunity to stand up, speak up and support Tibetans would be a gold medal performance.
PHOTOS, clockwise: A Tibetan nomad wanders around one of the desolate resettlement ghettos which China aims to force all 2.25 million nomads into by 2015, Chinese troops are flooding Tibetan streets, with one for every twenty Tibetans and in some areas estimates of closer to one for every three, a blackboard in Lhasa advertising the same job at different rates of pay for Chinese and Tibetan applicants.
The year 2013 will mark exactly 100 years since Tibet proclaimed the restoration of its independence, and we’re marking the date by increasing the prominence of that message. The 1913 proclamation of independence remains the most recent legitimate statement by Tibetans on the status of their nation.
Tibet’s national history is long and colourful; longer than the histories of many of the world’s most established independent states, and stretching back to at least the seventh century. Though what’s happening now in Tibet is most important, it’s also important to look back and see that not too long ago, the Tibetan people had the independence which more and more protesters are demanding today. The Manchu army sent troops to Tibet 1909, prompting the 13th Dalai Lama to escape to India. But the Tibetans fought them off, forcing them to retreat back to China in 1912. It was a telling moment which the Chinese government of today seeks to write out of the history books. Knowing the Chinese may attempt to invade again, the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet and delivered the 1913 proclamation of independence, cementing the status of the Tibetan nation as an independent one; a status which other nations, including Britain, accepted.
The text of this proclamation has survived, though the original document did not. Students for a Free Tibet has created a faithful reproduction of this historic document, which was launched in Dharamsala on 23rd May to highlight the 100th anniversary. The aim is to have the scroll distributed in 100 cities between now and March 10th 2013, delivered to Chinese Embassies, presented to world leaders and placed Snippets from the 1913 proclamation at global landmarks. Meanwhile, Tibetans inside Tibet I, the Dalai Lama… am speaking to all classes of Tibetan people... A few years ago, the Chinese authorities endeavored continue to do the same; despite the tremendous risk, they to colonise our territory. They brought large numbers of troops are declaring independence. Tibetans like Norbu Damdhul, into central Tibet on the pretext of policing the trade marts. who called for “complete independence” and Ngawang I, therefore, left Lhasa with my ministers for the Indo-Tibetan Norphel and Tenzin Khedup, who waved Tibetan flags even border, hoping to clarify to the Manchu Emperor by wire that the as they burned, laying down their lives for the Tibetan nation. existing relationship between Tibet and China had been that of
The ‘Declare Independence’ campaign will encourage Tibetans and supporters to declare cultural, economic and political independence by promoting art and culture, boycotting ‘Made in China’ and sharing the proclamation worldwide. You can help by sending the text of the scroll to embassies and MPs, organising talks about Tibet’s independent history or by placing the text in prominent locations. Tibetan independence isn’t just a hope, a dream, an ideal for Tibetans; it’s their right as a people, as a culture and as a nation. And the 1913 proclamation remains the last freely made statement by the Tibetan people about the status of their country; the last legally viable definition of Tibet. And the demand for independence to be restored remains strong even after 100 years.
patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other... I dispatched several telegrams to the Emperor; but his reply to my demands was delayed by corrupt officials at Peking. Meanwhile, the Manchu empire collapsed. The Tibetans were encouraged to expel the Chinese from central Tibet. I, too, returned safely to my rightful and sacred country, and I am now in the course of driving out the remnants of Chinese troops from DoKham in Eastern Tibet. Now, the Chinese intention of colonising Tibet under the patron-priest relationship has faded like a rainbow in the sky. Tibet is a country with rich natural resources; but it is not scientifically advanced like other lands. We are a small, religious, and independent nation. To keep up with the rest of the world, we must defend our country. In view of past invasions by foreigners, our people may have to face certain difficulties, which they must disregard... Tibet, although thinly populated, is an extensive country… This letter must be posted and proclaimed in every district of Tibet.
Bringing Tibet back home
Our Land, Our People’ wasn’t just an art installation, it was an opportunity for Tibetans to finally step on the soil of their own country without the oppression which seeps into every aspect of daily life inside Tibet. Nearly 50,000 people visited Tenzing Rigdol’s Dharamsala installation; a field of soil smuggled over the Himalayas from Tibet to India. For many, walking, speaking and singing freely on their own land was an emotional reminder of their own personal escapes from Tibet, family histories and the suffering of those left behind.
The story of Tenzing’s project to fulfill his father’s dying wish of stepping on Tibetan soil is now being made into a documentary which Tibetans and supporters can help fund. It’s Tibetan’s dream to step on free Tibetan soil; help Tenzing achieve his dream of making the film at kck.st/L9ZLwL
PHOTOS from top: Former political prisoner Palden Gyatso unveils the proclamation of independence scroll in Dharamsala, SFT Executive Director Tendor introduces, SFT UK Director Pema Yoko reads from the proclamation, an independence message dominates a board at the Vienna solidarity gathering, Tibetan soil arrives in India
Stand up for Tibet!
On 26th May, around ten thousand Tibetans and supporters gathered in Vienna for a solidarity rally attended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, calling on world leaders to take multi-lateral action for Tibet. Around the world, those who couldn’t make it to Vienna took part in solidarity vigils from London to New York, Edinburgh to Dharamsala. Support for Tibet is global; it’s time world leaders made their voices heard on a global scale too.
SFT UK had joined Tibetan Youth Association Europe and rights campaigner Bianca Jagger on 10th May to launch the next step of the campaign for multi-lateral action. Four days later, China withdrew from a UK visit by high ranking CCP official Wu Bangguao as a result of David Cameron and Nick Clegg meeting the Dalai Lama when he was awarded the Templeton Prize. China called it a ‘dark moment for China-British relations.’ Austrian leaders were delivered the same aggressive warnings by China over His Holiness’ visit, but Austrian Chancellor Werner Feymann responded “I answer the question of whom I meet myself, and that goes for the Dalai Lama”. At the Vienna rally, Tibet’s elected political leader-in-exile Lobsang Sangay cited the Arab Spring and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, saying “our time will come, it is close. Democracy is universal.” The rally took place at the aptly named Heroes Square, and was organised by a collection of European-based Tibet groups. The global drive to urge world governments to work together continues, with positive statements from the US, Japan and the EU. Joined up thinking is needed to counter Chinas ‘divide and rule’ approach to Tibet, which it admits is a ‘core issue’. If Tibet groups and national governments work together, China’s threat of ‘damaging relations’ carries less and less weight.
To prevent China threatening nations one by one, the aim is to create a multi-lateral government forum for Tibet. In such a forum, government representatives would meet once or twice a year to create co-ordinated strategies for addressing the rights abuses in Tibet, including reprimands, UN resolutions, public and private joint statements. The US, UK, Canada, Germany and others would be key members. With both China-Tibet dialogue and rights dialogues between China and all these countries faltering due to China’s use of breaking trade ties as a get-out clause, a forum would give concerned nations backup, enabling them to better challenge abuses without suffering consequences. Unlike other methods, a forum would not require China’s vote to be founded and states would not be doing anything untoward by setting it up. “It is easier to punish smaller countries” stated the Czech government, but China can’t isolate all it’s trading partners at once.
UK rights report not strong enough
In the Tibet section of the UK’s latest Human Rights Report, focus is given to the self immolations but little mention is made of the underlying causes of the Tibetan people’s suffering, such as arbitrary arrest, torture and the lack of freedom of expression. It says only that the situation in Tibet has been “aggravated by restrictive or exclusionary policies in the areas of religious practice, language and culture and education”. The report reveals that the British government has been asking China for access to Ngaba, that a diplomat was refused entry to the area in February and that Minister of State Jeremy Browne called on China to use restraint and seriously address Tibetans’ grievances. It also noted negotiations between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and China had made no progress. The report praised China’s economic investment, but noted “local Tibetans have reported that ethnic Han Chinese residents are often better placed to benefit from the resulting opportunities.” The report linked the self-immolations of monks and nuns to religious restrictions and Foreign Secretary William Hague said the government is “determined to pursue every opportunity to promote human rights and political and economic freedom around the world”.
The British Foreign Office continues to raise the issues with Chinese counterparts, and both they and members of the British public who lobby them to do so must be commended for this, but the Foreign Office’s approach has yet to yield any results; things are getting worse in Tibet. The lack of results shows that the current unilateral approach isn’t working; China is simply ignoring them. But if Britain pools it’s resources with other nations to take multi-lateral action, China will no longer be able to ignore the criticism. The series of references in the report to the information, action and asks we as Tibet groups and Tibet supporters have been making, from the call to address grievances to the recent parliamentary debate on Tibet show that even if China is not listening to Britain, Britain is listening to us. The more we push for multi-lateral action, the more pressured China will become. Help get governments to work together; sign and share the www.standupfortibet.org petition and write to your MP, urging them to push the Foreign Office to take multi-lateral action. PHOTOS: SFT UK, TYAE and others launch the next step of the campaign at Westminster, solidarity in the US, SFT UK ‘s Pema Dolma gives Bianca Jagger a rangzen band, His Holiness the Dalai Lama addresses the Vienna rally
China shamed at Book Fair
This April’s London Book Fair was co-organised by the Chinese state GAPP propaganda department, meaning that the works of dissident writers were banned in what should’ve been a celebration of creativity and individual expression. Inside China and Tibet, the state cracks down heavily on writers with a book-burning paranoia which belongs in the Soviet era.
So SFT UK, along with other members of the Chinese, Uyghur and Tibetan Solidarity coalition and members of the English PEN (who also had a part in organising but opposed the partnership with the CCP), crashed the party. Protest events inside the venue over three days included readings of banned poetry by Tibetan, Chinese and Uyghur writers and a silent protest during GAPP Director Liu Binjie’s keynote speech, where activists dotted around the crowd held signs in Chinese and English, criticising Chinese censorship and highlighting the cases of imprisoned writers like Liu Xiabao and Dolma Kyab. Enraged by the protests, Liu Binjie cancelled his speech and instead had it read out by junior Zhang Fuhai, creating great embarrassment for the propaganda department. Later the GAPP issued a veiled threat to their co-organisers, saying “we’ve spent money renting this venue. I hope the organisers can be responsible for the money we’ve spent.”
Earlier at the state-approved China Pavillion, Tiananmen Square massacre survivour Shao Jiang protested with signs reading ‘Free speech is not a crime’ and ‘Stop literary persecution.’ When activists refused to move on, the China Pavillion tried to block people seeing their signs with screens, which actvists continued to walk around. Later, the Pavillion surrounded it’s entire space with pull-up banners, evoking the attitude of the Great Wall of China; keeping dissenting voices out. The coalition also held readings of works by banned authors in a sympathetic exhibitor’s space, including those of Woeser, Ombar and Shardungri, and held a press conference at the pro-democracy Independent Chinese PEN stand, which had secured a spot by entering under a publishing company’s name. Three Chinese writers banned by the CCP were present, including Ma Jian, who smothered his face in red paint in defiance of the CCP and said “no Chinese writers enjoy freedom of speech… all (the writers here) come from the mouthpiece of the CCP… This invitation dishonours the values that make Western civilisation strong.” SFT UK and the coalition also carried out street protests against visiting CCP propaganda chiefs Li Changchun and Liu Binjie during a dinner in their honour at the Chinese Embassy. Bussed-in, passionless CCP ‘supporters’ were left stuck for words after being drowned out by anti-CCP chants which must’ve been heard through the meal, despite dignitaries being forced to smuggle themselves in through the back to avoid the protests.
VOA Tibetan service saved
After a campaign by Tibetans and support groups, including SFT, the US Congressional Committees have agreed to continue supporting Voice of America’s Tibetan radio service; a vital lifeline for those inside Tibet seeking reliable news about both their country and the outside world. As China continues to step up it’s international promotion of propaganda news services like Xinhua while denying independent journalists access to Tibet, it’s important that the true facts are both known by the outside world and relayed to Tibetans inside. We’ve all seen recently how news media and governments can conspire to distort the opinions of the public and can only imagine how disastrous it would be if China’s propaganda about the occupation of Tibet were to become lodged in the public consciousness. It’s why exposing what’s really happening is so important, and it’s why when intrepid reporters sneak into Tibet and Tibetans risk their lives to get information out, we should share their reports and demand greater press freedoms. Agencies like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia broadcasting into Tibet are vital to ensure not only that the truth is known, but that Tibetans don’t feel alone in their struggle for freedom.
Nomads’ religious rights threatened
Monks and nuns have for years been forced to denounce the Dalai Lama in ‘patriotic re-education’ campaigns, but the CCP is now pushing on with a similar approach to nomads. In Kardze, police have been carrying documents which renounce His Holiness and Prime Minister of Tibet’s exiled government Lobsang Sangay, demanding nomads sign or face beatings and torture. It started in Mola village, Sangay’s home town. Authorities started the campaign by trying to play on the fact that many nomads are illiterate, claiming the text allowed them to collect a fungus used in medicine. But when officers interrupted a village meeting to demand the document be signed, locals had realised it’s true contents. A woman protested and the officers began beating them. It’s another example of China’s attitudes to nomads and the abuses they suffer, and another reason why we must campaign for nomad rights. Read more about the plight of nomads at www.nomadrights.org
PHOTOS: SFT UK’s Tsephel reads poetry at the book fair, the China Pavillion put up their great banner wall, Zhang Fuhai tries not to look up during his hasily prepared speech, Tibetans still support His Holiness
Knowing our heroes: Thrinley Chodron
By Tsering TC
In my Tibetan studies, I’ve been reading some extremely rare autobiographies of extraordinary Tibetan women who; whether as saints, hermits, consorts, or even activists, were all rebels in their time living on the fringes of society. What I didn’t realise before was that Buddhism has been a place for women to break out of their traditional roles ever since it began along the Eastern banks of the Ganges some 2,500 years ago. The Buddha and his gang (they were seen as a cult initially) eventually provided this space for women, and in Tibet, some women continually turned to the religion as a means of escaping a life of marriage, children and servitude to the patriarchy; a life of dependence on father then husband then son etc. We in the Tibetan community have begun to notice the lack of awareness and valourisation of our heroes, our great ancestors. The ignored include the Khampa guerilla fighters (some of them still living in abject poverty in the camps of Pokhara, Nepal), and the great men who helped to build our ancient civilization (Gendun Chopel, Shakabpa, the Great 5th Dalai Lama etc). While the men of Tibet are at least known about, women are more marginalised in our historical knowledge. This is partly due to the lack of documentation, because as relatively equal as women could be in Tibet, it was still a patriarchal society. But I’ve learned about at least a dozen Tibetan women who blazed trails before us.
One particular story is that of Thrinley Chodron, a nun who led a revolt against the Chinese invasion. A classmate likened her to the Joan of Arc of Tibet, and this isn’t a crazy parallel either. Like Joan, Ani Thrinley, so young; around 28, claimed that she was possessed by a divine entity as she led the 1969 Nyemo Revolt. This revolt appeared to begin as a fight between revolutionary factions of the Cultural Revolution. However, Thrinley Chodron’s group, the Gyenlo faction, was actually targeting the Chinese. The group captured and killed fourteen Chinese cadres and soldiers and seems to have triggered a chain of revolts in neighbouring areas that were drastically repressed. Tsering Shakya wrote “At first the Party ignored the attack, thinking it was a manifestation of the Cultural Revolution as we know, murders could be exonerated if they fell under the rubric of class struggle. But the authorities soon realised that these Tibetan peasants were rebelling not in the name of the ‘newly liberated serfs’ but in defence of their faith. What was more, they targeted only Chinese Party officials and those Tibetans seen as colluding with the colonising power. The revolt spread from Nyemo through eighteen xians of the TAR, and the Party was forced to send in the PLA to suppress it. Thrinley and fifteen of her followers were eventually captured and brought to Lhasa for public execution. Even today, the Party has expurgated this episode from the historical record.” Thrinley Chodron is important not only because she was a remarkable woman who led a resistance against incredible odds, she matters too because she is part of a battle against the revision of our history. The Chinese have attempted a million ways to distort the true desires of the Tibetan people. Their favorite go-to is the claim that the any resistance was and is an act of the ‘Dalai clique’ of aristocrat feudal landholders. Ani Thrinley, with her humble roots and her following, shows how the Tibetan people fought even in those early days against the Chinese invasion. She is a precious example of our history, and histories can only survive if we remember.
Still seeking freedom
DRAPCHI NUNS Arrested for protesting as teenagers, the ‘singing nuns’ recorded freedom songs in jail and never lost the will to be free.
NORZIN WANGMO Like Jamyang Kyi and Tsering Woeser, she dared to share information about abuses on the net and is serving a 5 year jail sentence.
AMA ADHE One of 300 women jailed for a protest in the 50’s and one of only 4 to survive, she spent 27 years in jail and still inspires others across the world with her story.
10 years ago in April, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, one of Tibet’s most respected spiritual leaders and political activists, was arrested by the Chinese authorities, who feared his influence as a teacher and leader. Today, he is still in jail, but despite China’s efforts, he is not only still alive but his influence has become legendary. Meanwhile the man responsible for his arrest, Zhou Yongkang, has dramatically fallen from grace, his power in tatters. It reminds us that though China’s power and influence are vast, they are also fleeting; China’s leaders will fall while the strength and courage of Tibetans like Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche remains. But there are fears for this heroic monk’s health. Suffering from a heart condition and high blood pressure after years of torture and a lack of medical attention, every day in jail is a day too long. In recent years, his relatives, students and Tibetans inside and outside have stepped up the campaign to secure his long overdue release. Another anniversary was marked in April; the birthday of the Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. Arrested aged just six in 1995, he and his family have still not been seen or heard from, and like every year, we staged a vigil at the Chinese Embassy; one of many all around the world. And 1st August marks the anniversary of the speech and arrest of Runggye Adak, whose words “though we are free in our bodies we cannot express what is in our hearts” ring more true than ever. PHOTOS: Thrinley Chodron, three of Tibet’s living heroines; Ngawang Sangdrol, one of the Drapchi nuns, Norzin Wangmo and Ama Adhe, wanted posters of Zhou Yongkang on the Chinese Consulate, Panchen Lama birthday vigil
China plans cyber war
China probably recognises better than any other nation that the internet represents a key battlefield in the fight for rights and freedoms, and it’s no surprise that a state which bases much of its stability on maintaining it’s own propagandist views is eager to limit free discussion; especially discussion which could lead to political change.
We all know about China’s defensive measures in cyberspace; the ‘Great Firewall of China’ and the network of ‘security’ operations it puts in place to prevent users inside China and occupied territories from accessing information from the outside world. But China’s online tactics are not disimilar to it’s approach to physical conflict; attack is a big part of it’s strategy. The Pantagon has recently reported that China is stepping up these offensive measures, with a senior Defense Secretary, David Helvey, saying "China is investing in not only capabilities to better defend their networks but also they're looking at ways to use cyber for offensive operations... That continues to be a concern of ours. We've raised it and we've talked to the Chinese about it, most recently during the Strategic Security Dialogue in Beijing. It's something that seems to be sustained, and I think their continued efforts in this area reflect the importance that they're placing on developing capabilities for cyber warfare.”
Calling China’s manipulation of networks across the world ‘military actions in cyberspace’, Helvey said that the US is increasingly concerned, and a series of hacks and other online disturbances have been blamed on the CCP. It’s always difficult to trace such hacks, but baring in mind China’s huge resources, expertise on this issue, willingness to attack computer networks and desire to keep it’s political opponents at bay, it quickly becomes clear that the internet is a key interest for China. But it’s also a key weapon for us in the struggle for rights and freedoms, which is why organisations like Tibet Action Institute exist to both educate activists about staying safe online and to develop apps and other software which counter China’s attempts to police the internet. They say China’s riches make it too powerful to challenge, but they also say information is the new currency. If that’s the case, China’s attitude to sharing information seems to be gradually taking that power-base away.
China’s web hacks rife
Hacking is one of China’s biggest exports, and in March a series of attacks were exposed, notably on computers owned by the Indian military, Japanese companies and Tibet activist groups. They were traced back to Gu Kaiyuan, a graduate of Sichuan University in Chengdu, where the CCP funds research into cyber defence. It’s thought China covers it’s back by recruiting students and employing hackers through subsidised companies rather than directly so that it can distance itself if political attacks on other nations are discovered. An expert at Dell Secure Works said "if you are a country attacking a foreign government and you don't want it tied back, it would make sense to outsource the work to actors who can collect the data for you." There have also been attempts to disrupt activists’ Twitter campaigns using ‘zombie’ accounts to send bulk tweets with adverts or meaningless code and hashtags like #freetibet, making it difficult for people to follow conversations which really are about Tibet. It’s all part of a drive to prevent netizens the world over from using the basic rights of free speech and information access.
The attacks again show how important it is that Tibetans and Tibet supporters be careful online. As is often the case, the Chengdu attacks began with an e-mail to Tibet activists proclaiming to be about self-immolations but containing an attachment which installed a Trojan program when opened. This allowed hackers to install software which recorded keystrokes, took screenshots, gave hackers remote access and migrated from one computer on a network to another. It used gaps in Microsoft Office and Adobe software code to hide itself. The main reason why hackers succeed is simply due to user’s complacency; people assume their computer is safe and don’t realise how sophisticated hacks can be. You should change your passwords often and make them a combination of numbers, letters and special characters, but that may not be enough. If you have keystroke spyware on your system already it doesn’t matter how good passwords are; hackers can log the keys you press each time you log in, if what you type comes up on screen or not. And if a hacker can take remote control of your computer, they can use it as if they were you, sending emails with attachments to your contacts. The best defense is to avoid being attacked in the first place; simply don’t open attachments from people you don’t know, and if you do know them, check with them that they’ve really sent an attachment before opening it. Upload files to YouTube, Dropbox GoogleDocs or Issuu instead. But also bare in mind that hacks don’t always come from attachments; they can come from disguised weblinks to malicious code or from clicking on hacked websites. So get anti-virus software like Kaspersky, anti-malware like Malwarebytes and an anti-spyware program like Super AntiSpy. Get more practical tips and advice about staying safe online at www.tibetaction.net
PHOTO: State security officers surf the web... or a very diluted version of it
Calling the motherland
China is an expansionist country for the modern era, eager to gain control over other nation’s systems. According to a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission paper released in March, they’re worryingly almost there already. Experts believe China has ‘pervasive access’ to around 80% of global communications networks. It’s because of how Chinese companies are selling equipment to networks, but what they’re not asking is the most disturbing question; why? The difference between Chinese companies and others is that a huge number are state-run. That means when a company buys equipment from a Chinese businesses, it’s often selling network access to the CCP. ZTE and Huawei Technologies are two such mega companies. BT, for example, gets its equipment from Huawei, which is linked to the People’s Liberation Army, meaning China can carry out high level industrial espionage or damage the infrastructure on which our whole communications networks are based. Equipment giving ‘backdoor’ access to the CCP is installed on phone networks in 140 countries and is used by 45 of the world’s top 50 telecoms companies. And they’re after the rest.
It doesn’t even seem to be a secret that China intercepts the traffic going through these networks, and though governments are getting wise to the CCP’s strategic control of the networks, with the US banning Huawei from being part of a national wireless project, it may be too late. The report said “potential effects include adversaries... gaining covert access...or inserting false instructions that could cause failure... remote control or destruction of the targeted system.” When we remember China’s colonialist attitude, we should bare in mind that we aren’t just supporting resistance against them because it’s right to, but because we may soon have to be resisting ourselves.
The coup will take place online
When Bo Xilai was dismissed by the Chinese Communist Party this spring, rumours began circulating that not only was the party faltering, but that it had already disintegrated and a coup had taken place. The rumours weren’t true, but it shows how secretive the Chinese state is that the government could’ve been toppled with nobody really knowing for sure.
But one thing that’s always for sure in China and Tibet is crackdowns, and the CCP reacted to the posting of news about a coup by closing down 16 websites, arresting 6 people and penalising social media sites for allowing posts about the rumour being spread. The reaction was so determined that you’d almost think they were trying to cover the fact that a coup really had happened… China will continue to block access to sites like SFT’s, Amnesty’s and anything about Tiananmen and the Dalai Lama, but as micro blogging and web use on smart phones increases, can China both stay at the forefront of technology and prevent what it’s for; sharing? China is searching for more control, ignoring international borders on the matter, but technology is moving quickly and China, though resource-heavy, can be slow and set in its ways. Bo Xilai couldn’t escape his fall, and in the end even the CCP can’t escape the information sharing-future of the web.
What would Confucius say?
You may not have heard of Confucius Institutes, but chances are you will. They’re a trend sweeping across the US, and it’s getting the American authorities worried. Despite their ideals seemingly having little to do with the philosophy of Confucius, the Institutes have also been accused of being ‘brainwashing facilities’. A Chinese netizen wrote “these Institutes just want to export their own values, but they don’t allow freedom of discussion.” And popular blogger Wang Ran commented that if China wants to be respected on the global stage “it will not come as the result of government promotion; (China) must have strong core values (and) free space for creativity.”
Though the Institutes can’t grant official academic qualifications, their purpose is swamped with the kind of corruption familiar within the Chinese state, with prominent Chinese netizens complaining that the institutes are used to channel funds which pay for the foreign education of ‘princelings’; children of the CCP elite. They say the institutes are using Chinese taxpayer’s money while schools back in China are dilapidated and lack enough good teachers to properly educate normal Chinese kids. So the US has recently ruled that the institutes must register properly in the US, possibly leading to the teachers employed by them returning China. The CCP has criticised the move as ‘damaging to US-China relations’, but Chinese people seem less convinced; more concerned about their own children’s education that that of these ‘princelings’. One Chinese netizen said “They only have one goal through Confucius Institutes; to use Chinese taxpayers’ money to pay for their children’s American green card!” It’s a trend which is becoming more common in China; the widening gap between the moneyed elite and the lower classes providing a divide between the CCP and the people. As long as China is affluent and the middle classes are satisfied, the Party will hold sway, but as soon as China’s economy hits a downturn, it’s divisions like these which may split people and state, equaling disaster for the elite of the CCP.
PHOTOS: China is an increasingly wired place, Ai Weiwei, who has had house arrest lifted but is still not free to leave China, shares a picture of His Holiness and Aung San Suu Kyi, the grass-mud horse; an internet meme used to criticise the state
after all these years
At SFT our goal is to secure independence and human rights for the people of Tibet. But we‘re constantly aware of the brutality to which the Chinese government subjects its own people and we're proud to stand alongside Chinese activists in their struggle for democracy and justice.
In June we once again joined with the other NGOs that form Chinese, Uyghur and Tibetan Solidarity UK, to mark the twenty-third anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The commemorations focussed around a vigil at the Chinese Embassy rather than the larger-scale protests we've held in Trafalgar Square and China Town over recent years. Yet whilst our demonstration was relatively low-key, events in China were anything but. In the run-up to the anniversary, the Chinese government had been embarrassed by the publication of Chen Xitong's memoirs. Mr. Chen, who was mayor of Beijing back in 1989, wrote the Party’s official line on the protests being of ‘a small number’ and the crackdown ‘unavoidable’, but now he has branded the massacre an 'avoidable tragedy', breaking from the official line of a dangerous 'counterrevolutionary rebellion' that had to be stamped out. Of course, the book was promptly banned. As the date drew nearer, thousands of activists took to the streets dressed in black to remember those who had died. Others went further and tried to petition Communist Party officials, but many were physically attacked. The sight of government thugs beating up peaceful citizens because of their requests for justice or the colour of their clothes dramatically highlighted how more than two decades on, the spectre of Tiananmen still haunts the world's 'next superpower'.
In a clear sign of paranoia the authorities had stationed extra police outside the homes of prominent activists and restricted religious services throughout the period, including arresting two artists who were planning an installation at the square, one of whom had written 6/4 on it’s paving in his own blood after police had beaten him last year. However, nothing could stop what was estimated to have been over 180,000 thousand people turning out to mark the day in Hong Kong, illustrating popular feeling about the massacre right in the Chinese Communist Party’s backyard. It followed the suspicious death of 62-year-old Li Wangyang, a prominent dissident jailed for a total of 23 years for his part in 1989 protests and other activism, who was found hanged in a hospital room this June. The state insisted he had committed suicide, but the family rejected the claim, saying he had remained optimistic, despite over twenty years in jail and would have been physically unable to hang himself due to long term health problems caused by beatings while imprisoned. There are strong suspicions that the guards monitoring him tortured him to death and attempted to cover it up by faking suicide after Li had criticised the state in a TV interview the previous week. In the interview, Li had said "in order to speed up my country's steps in becoming a democratic society, in order to realise a multi-party system earlier in China, even if you chop my head off, I will never look back." Meanwhile, the US government used the anniversary to call on China to release all prisoners still being held over the 1989 protests, to account for all of those killed, detained and missing and for the state to stop harassing the families of those involved. It is still unknown how many lost their lives when the Chinese state cracked down in 1989, with estimates ranging from hundreds to thousands. Chinese foreign minister Liu Weimin called the US statement ‘a gross intervention into China’s internal affairs’ and ‘a groundless accusation’, and again focused on China’s economic and ‘democratic’ development rather than offer the figures requested. In what was probably just an inauspicious coincidence for the Chinese government, stocks on the Shanghai index closed at 64.89 down; the calendar numbers for the Tiananmen massacre, apparently prompting the state to block internet access to it’s own stock exchange for fear of the coincidence being discussed.
On 1st July, the anniversary of the Hong Kong handover, even more took to the streets, with 200,000 marching for democracy right under the visiting Hu Jintao’s nose, showing the true feelings of Chinese people when it comes to rights and freedoms. With dissent over the 1989 atrocities showing no sign of dying down, and the twenty-fifth anniversary looming just over the horizon, the Chinese government may be facing a very real challenge from inside China. For until dictatorship and state brutality are confined to the past, the spirit of Tiananmen never will be.
PHOTOS: 180,000 mark the anniversary in Hong Kong this year and (inset) 200,000 protest weeks later, Li Wangyang, Chen Xitong, SFT Taiwan fly the flag in Hong Kong on 1st July, Tiananmen survivor Shao Jiang’s message to the London Embassy
SFT UK at Pestalozzi
Back in November 2011 we were saddened to hear that SFT Hastings couldn’t make our Hull conference. Given that they’re the largest group in the SFT UK network, this was a bit of a blow, but we decided we would visit them to make up for this and hopefully bring a little bit of conference magic to them. After months of trying to find a date that worked for everyone, we finally made it down to the south coast on 4th June, and it certainly wasn't a wasted trip. We knew SFT Hastings was a big group, but when we arrived we were astonished to see more than 40 keen, enthusiastic and, above all, lively teenagers waiting for us, and we’re glad to say that their energy remained throughout the whole day. It soon became apparent that we also had an international crowd, with students from India, Nepal, Zimbabwe and, of course, Tibet. The Pestalozzi Village was the first of its kind, founded after the Second World War to house and educate children from deprived or oppressed nations, and has long supported Tibetans, who made up the majority of the attendees at the training.
The aim of the day was to provide everyone with the skills and knowledge to be leaders in the Tibetan freedom movement and to ensure their campaigns were as effective as possible. To that end we put on a programme of workshops looking at the current situation in Tibet, how non-violence works, working with the media, lobbying politicians, raising vital funds and how to run a strategic campaign. But everyone's favourite session was non-violent direct action and the whole group got stuck in trying out different blockade tactics for themselves. After a bit of practice, everyone had the chance to put their new found skills to the test by holding their own mock actions, doing their best to disrupt a talk by the ‘Chinese ambassador’ and stop the ‘police’ (aka the SFT UK trainers and student deputies) from getting through their line. See video of the training at www.youtube.com/teamtibetuk
HRA lead the way
On 8th May, Hull University Human Rights Action hosted their annual 'Chance for Change' gig to raise funds for SFT UK. This event was met with great enthusiasm from the students of Hull, with live music, comedy and a DJ. Overall it was extremely successful and raised a whopping £500 for the Tibetan cause. The night also included a historic reunion of Hull Human Rights Action alumni, some of whom have moved on to the SFT UK national board. Altogether it spelled out a brilliant party. A massive well done to all at Human Rights Action - we look forward to all your future endeavours!
We take action!
The Second European Tibetan Youth Parliament met this year, where Tibetans from the UK and all over the continent joined to network, share ideas and strategise about the movement going forward. The official proclamation of the ‘We Take Action’ plan was put together, helping build the next generation of Tibetan leaders. Meanwhile in India, the SFT-backed Lhakar Academy is also building for the future.
The Tibetan freedom movement is increasingly being led by Tibetans, both inside and outside Tibet, and while non-Tibetan supporters have their place in helping push towards Tibetan freedom, it’s Tibetans who are now at the forefront and that’s the way it should be; Tibetans are gearing up to be the leaders of a free Tibet in the future.
Get involved, get trained, get active!
SFT UK’s annual conference isn’t strictly a conference; it’s much more fun than that! It’s a jam-packed weekend of interactive training workshops which will show you all you need to know to drive the Tibetan movement forward, including campaign planning, group games, developing public speaking, lobbying and grassroots building skills and most fun of all, hands-on, practical activist training where you’ll be shown and will carry out mock direct actions like the ones SFT is famous for! This year’s training weekend will be in Edinburgh in early November, where you’ll meet like-minded campaigners! A £10 or £15 ticket also covers accomadation and lunch, so book ASAP for discounts!
ACT NOW! To reserve a ticket, mail us at email@example.com and check our site and Facebook page for new info. And if you’re already in a uni group, mail us to get a copy of SFT UK’s new DVD, packed with Tibet films and footage, and download a freshers pack at www.issuu.com/sftuk PHOTOS: SFT Hastings get trained on non-violent direct action and non-violence and civil resistance strategies at Pestalozzi, Hull Human Rights Action group’s Chance for Change event, Tibetans from all over Europe network at the Youth Parliament
A life in jail, just for sending email
Taking part in peaceful protests, owning a picture of the Dalai Lama, flying the Tibetan national flag or criticising the Chinese state’s corruption and discriminatory polices against Tibetans can all carry harsh sentences. They’re basic things which would be allowed in any truly developed country, but they aren’t necessarily things we do every day. But Tibetan NGO worker Wangdu is serving a life sentence for doing something most of us do every day; sending email.
41-year-old Wangdu from Taktse worked for a non-profit organisation promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS in Lhasa, educating people in places from schools to brothels about sexual health and giving Tibetans information on how to protect themselves from infection. In a state-controlled system which often puts more emphasis on teaching propaganda about Tibet’s history than practical life and job skills, the work of NGOs inside Tibet can be vital, even when they have to avoid political matters to ensure they are allowed to continue operating.
Wangdu had been in trouble with the CCP before. He was a monk during the 1989 Tibetan uprising, and was given a three year sentence for protesting against the state. That sentence was extended to eight years after he and 10 other political prisoners signed a petition stating that the 1951 ‘17 Point Agreement’ was forced on Tibetans, and that the correct legal status of Tibet is that of an independent nation. A man who shared a cell with him in Drapchi prison said “he used to worry about the new generation in Tibet because they are losing their culture and language, and often criticised people for not being interested in anything other than money. The last time I saw him, when we said goodbye to each other, I was very sad.” After his release, Wangdu became a layman and studied outside Tibet, returning for his NGO work. But when protests against Chinese rule erupted in March 2008, though Wangdu himself had no part in them, he naturally talked about the uprising in email to friends. On 14th March, Chinese officials from the Lhasa City Public Security Bureau arrived at his home and detained him. He was later sentenced to life imprisonment for sending email about the protests to contacts outside Tibet, accused of passing information to the so-called ‘Dalai Clique’. Three others were also arrested and later given 10-14 year jail terms. As is often the case, Wangdu was denied a fair, open trial and proper legal representation and it’s quite likely he was tortured before his trial came to court. Other prominent Tibetans like Norzin Wangmo, Jamyang Kyi, Tashi Rabten and Shogdung have been imprisoned for speaking out, partially using the internet, but Wangdu’s sentence is thought to be the longest, perhaps in the world, for such a small act.
Under Chinese law, prisoners serving life sentences are allowed to know the actual length of their sentence after two years, and may have their sentence reduced on good behaviour, but there’s been no confirmation of how long Wangdu will have to serve. In February this year, his family were finally allowed to visit him, in an army hospital rather than jail. His head was half shaven and one of his hands broken, apparently caused by beatings by prison guards. Wangdu’s case highlights the corruption and injustice of the Chinese system and how people’s lives are used to make that system an instrument of fear. Wangdu has been made an example of to show Tibetans that whoever they are, whatever they do, the state has the power to destroy their lives in retaliation for the simplest acts. If a life can be ruined just for email, how can Tibetans even think of rising up? But the fault with this mindset is that like many CCP policies, it’s extreme and continues to backfire. As we’ve seen from the resistance which has increased since Wangdu’s arrest in 2008, Tibetans may be scared but with every new abuse committed against them they are more united, more fearless and more determined. China creates fear to hide it’s own, and by doing so it’s speeding up it’s own decline; it wouldn’t need to treat Tibetans like this if it didn’t consider them a threat, and the more the Tibetan resistance grows, the more the threat of China losing control becomes a reality.
ACT NOW!SFT UK campaigns for the release of individual prisoners, and you can help fund
this work by becoming a ‘guardian’ for one of six prisoners at www.sftuk.org/guardians
PHOTOS: Wangdu raising awareness and images of what he was seeing; Tibetans across the country rising up against Chinese rule. Jailed since, he will not know that resistance continues on a daily basis, and that many share his desire for independence
SFT UK NOTICE BOARD
irthday Happy b iness His Hol
We said weâ€™d never let it happen again. But it is happening again. In Tibet.
G O I N G .. .
Right now, the Chinese government is forcing 2.25 million Tibetan nomads; a third of the entire Tibetan population, into desolate resettlement ghettos like those used for Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians. They plan to end the nomadic way of life by 2015. Help us challenge Chinaâ€™s forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads at www.nomadrights.org