Monday, June 29, 2009

Homenagem a Gyatsho Tshering la por Buchung Tsering

Gyatsho Tshering, former director of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives and a respected scholar, passed away on June 25, 2009 at a hospital in Minneapolis, MN, after a brief illness. He was 73.
Born in 1936 in Sikkim to Lobsang Lama and Nyima Dolma, he finished his college education from the University of Calcutta. Following his studies, Ku-ngo Gyatsho la worked in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India, and had served at the Indian Mission in Lhasa. He also served in the Government of Sikkim.
He joined the service of the Central Tibetan Administration in 1963 and worked in various departments until his retirement in the late 1990s. He served in the publications and translation department in 1965. In 1966 he was transferred to the Foreign Department and in 1967 to the Department of Religion and Culture.
During his stint there he was a member of the entourage of H.H. the Dalai Lama during his first trip to Japan and Thailand. Subsequently he was promoted as a Secretary in the Department and later as Assistant Kalon. In 1972, he became the acting Director of the newly established the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives (LTWA) until the appointment of Prof. Thubten Jigme Norbu as the Director in June of that year.
He was appointed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the new Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in 1974 and served in that capacity from March 1, 1974 until his retirement. Following his retirement he joined his wife, Namgyal Dolma, in the United States and they settled in Minneapolis, MN.He was an unassuming individual who shunned publicity, but was totally dedicated to his work.
He came to serve the Tibetan community during those years when there was a dearth of educated Tibetans with adequate knowledge of the English language or exposure to the world. His most significant contribution would be the development of LTWA as the pre-eminent center for Tibetan studies internationally.
He nurtured several Tibetans in the field of Tibetan studies at the LTWA. Also, it may not be incorrect to say that almost all of the Tibetologists serving in various research institutes and universities throughout the world currently have had some educational stint at the LTWA during his tenure there.His simplicity and his readiness to be of assistance endeared him to all those he came in contact with.
Personally, he has been a source of encouragement to me from the time I started working in Dharamsala in the early 1980s. I benefitted greatly from his advices.As a subject of Sikkim and a citizen of India, Ku-ngo Gyatsho la had quite many work opportunities, often with more attractive compensation than the one he was getting at the LTWA.
However, his reverence and loyalty to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his love of the Tibetan people made him reject all such job offers and to continue with his work in the Tibetan community.He liked gardening and used to have a neat but small garden at his official residence at the LTWA.He is survived by his wife Namgyal Dolma and daughter Yiga Lhamo.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nepal police arrest Tibetan protesters near Tibet border

Thirty-five Tibetans, including eight women, were reportedly arrested by Nepal police Friday near the Tibetan border as they tried to cross over and stage a protest march in Tibet as part of a “Free Tibet” campaign.

The group of Tibetan exiles, some of whom are said to have Nepali citizenship or ID cards, left from a Buddhist monastery in the capital early in the morning, according IANS. They left Kathmandu around 4am today as the world observed the "International Day Against Torture".The group hired a bus in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu and were on their way to the Tibetan border town of Khasa (Tib: Dram) when they were stopped by the police at Andheri, a town about 30km from the border in Nepal's northernmost Sindhupalchowk district.

"There is no peace in Tibet," one of the protesters told IANS. "People are being killed and tortured. Though we are Tibetans we can't return to our own land." "We had wanted to stage a peace march in Tibet to draw attention to our plight. But Nepal police arrested us." According to DPA, nine Tibetans were detained after they tried to force their way through the police line in their efforts to reach Nepal's international border with the Chinese-occupied Tibet.Tibetan exiles chanted pro-Dalai Lama and Free Tibet slogans and blocked the main highway demanding the release of their colleagues, police told DPA. Police said the bus had been sent back to Kathmandu where the group will be handed over to the immigration authorities for appropriate action. This is the first open show of defiance by Tibetan exiles in Nepal, a country that readily succumbs to Chinese pressure over Tibet issues, in nearly a year.

Last year, Tibetan exiles demonstrated in Kathmandu almost daily for nearly eight months, targeting the Chinese embassy, Chinese embassy consular office and the United Nations after unrest against Chinese rule in Tibet faced brutal Chinese military crackdown. Tibetan demonstrations were routinely stopped by Nepali police, often using excessive force.

The demonstrators regularly faced arrests, intimidation and in some cases individual threats and arbitrary detention.In the midst of protests, China sent a flurry of high-level visits by Chinese officials, including a delegation led by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, to ask Nepal to effectively curb "Free-Tibet activities” while promising to increase assistance to the crisis-stricken country in return.Nepal has more than 20,000 Tibetans refugees concentrated mainly in the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara in western Nepal.

The figure does not include Tibetans who arrived in the country after 1990 because the Nepalese government stopped registering them as refugees. Estimates also suggest between 2,500 and 3,000 Tibetans escape Tibet and enter Nepal each year after a perilous journey over the Himalayas on their way to Dharamsala, the seat of Tibetan Government-in-Exile in north India.This week, a delegation of Nepali MPs visited Dharamsala for the first time and met with the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and senior leaders in the exile Tibetan community.The members pledged to initiate efforts to speak for Tibet and the plight of Tibetan refugees in Nepal after they return to their country at the end of their three-day visit here.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tibetan Monks Tell Tale of Escape From China

Lobsang Gyatso and his fellow Tibetan monks had been biding their time, walking around the main square of the monastery nestled in the barren hills of northwestern China. Now the moment had arrived.
As a group of 20 foreign and Chinese journalists climbed out of minivans, Lobsang and the other monks unfurled banners they had wrapped inside the folds of their crimson robes and held aloft the banned flag of Tibet.
“We have no human rights now,” one monk told reporters in Chinese.
That daring protest, in April 2008, was transmitted around the world by the journalists on the government tour, putting a dramatic face on Tibetan defiance. Chinese officials had brought the journalists to the sprawling Labrang Monastery, in the town of Xiahe to show that Tibetans were content under Chinese rule, despite the widespread Tibetan uprising the previous month. The enraged monks, about 15 in all, punctured the official narrative.
“If we monks hadn’t seized the opportunity to express our feelings, which are feelings in all Tibetan monks, then we would have missed a chance to tell the world,” said Lobsang, 24, a squat man with a thin goatee who now lives in India. Following Tibetan custom, he goes by his given name.

The journalists left later that afternoon without knowing the names or the fates of the protesters. Some would be arrested and beaten, Lobsang said. For him and two other monks, it was the start of a harrowing year of flight from the Chinese authorities that ended only last month, when they arrived in this Himalayan hill town where the Dalai Lama lives in exile.
Over that year, the monks slipped out of their monastery, trekked into the mountains, slept in nomads’ tents, sneaked into Lhasa aboard a high-altitude train and crossed a raging river to Nepal. It was only here in a refugee center that they could tell their tale to a reporter, opening a rare window into the deep-rooted resentment that bloomed last year into the largest Tibetan uprising in decades.

Chinese officials insist that the protests were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans. The monks from Labrang say harsh Chinese policies sparked the tinder, especially limitations on Buddhist practice.
“I and my friends decided on our own to protest,” Lobsang said. “The protests were caused by human rights issues and Chinese policies toward Tibet. We couldn’t tolerate it anymore.”
He added, “I joined the protests with the idea of saving Buddhism, which is endangered by Chinese policy. I want His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet, but the Chinese don’t even allow us to display his picture.”

Labrang Monastery is one of the most important centers of religious study in the Tibetan world, a white-walled labyrinth of monks’ cells and temples dating from the 18th century. It housed about 500 monks before last year’s protests. Chinese policies in this frontier land called Amdo, at the nexus of the Tibetan, Hui Muslim and Han Chinese worlds, have traditionally been less strict than in central Tibet.
But even there, the Communist Party employs heavy-handed methods to control religious practice, said the three monks and two others who fled with them to Dharamsala.
The government limits the number of monks allowed to live in the monastery, they said. Officials cracked down on festivities honoring the Dalai Lama. When the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama visited Labrang several years ago, monks were forced to stay indoors to prevent disturbances.

Last year, when monks in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, began leading peaceful protests on March 10, word spread quickly to Labrang.
Thousands of monks and lay people in Xiahe marched to government offices demanding the return of the Dalai Lama. Some protesters broke into buildings and threw stones at riot police officers.
From then on, the government tightened the screws on the monastery, the monks said. A curfew was imposed. Security officers arrested several monks each night. The monastery began to empty out.
“Some monks ran off to their homes in the countryside,” said Jamyang Jinpa, 24.
The authorities began holding daily hourlong patriotic education classes, in which the monks were forced to read tracts denouncing the Dalai Lama and pledge loyalty to the Communist Party.
“As a Buddhist monk who believes in the Dalai Lama as our foundation, it was unbearable to read this,” Lobsang said.
On the night of April 8, some monks heard on the radio that foreign journalists were to arrive in Labrang the next day on a government tour.
“We immediately stopped what we were doing that night and started discussing the protest,” Jamyang said.

A half-dozen monks brought out a Tibetan flag and scrawled slogans on three white banners. “We have no freedom of speech,” read one. They wrote their wills on the back of the flag because they thought there was a good chance they would be killed by Chinese security forces, Jamyang said.
When they went to the main temple the next morning, they were struck by a strange sight: Hundreds of people were milling about the square outside. Most were plainclothes Chinese security officers.
“We knew then that the journalists were coming,” Jamyang said. “We pretended to visit the temple.”
When the journalists and their government escorts pulled up in minivans, the monks dashed across the square, unfurling their flag and banners. A few words were exchanged in Chinese. Some monks draped white ceremonial scarves around the necks of several journalists.
“The Chinese people in plainclothes took photos of us, but they dared not stop us in front of the journalists,” Jamyang said.

That night, security officers searched the cells of the monks involved in the protest, but the monks had hidden elsewhere. The next night, Jamyang slipped into the mountains and kept walking until dawn.
“After the protest, I felt I would be arrested at any time,” he said.
Jamyang spent the first two months mostly sleeping outdoors, he said, sometimes in ditches that he had dug himself. He tossed away his red robes and began growing out his hair. In the summer, he wandered to the high pastures and slept in the tents of nomads.
“In my dreams, sometimes I would see myself getting shot and dying,” he said.

Two other monks from the protest, Lobsang and Jigme Gyatso, also fled the monastery in the days after Jamyang left. The three stayed apart. After nearly a year in hiding, the monks learned of a guide in Lhasa who could smuggle them into Nepal.
Using fake identification cards, they boarded the new high-altitude train to Lhasa. A driver then sneaked them past checkpoints to the Nepal border, where they crossed a river on logs.
Of the 15 monks who took part in that protest in front of the journalists, only these three have escaped to India. That they made it here is considered extraordinary given how tightly Chinese authorities clamped down on Tibet. The refugee center here usually gets 2,500 to 3,000 Tibetans per year, but that dropped to 550 last year. By the end of May, only 176 refugees had arrived, said Ngawang Norbu, the center’s director.
The monks say they have no regrets about holding the protest — to them, there was no other way to show the world their true feelings about Chinese rule.
“I miss my friends and family in Tibet, but I try to bury my feelings,” Jamyang said. “At the moment, I can’t return to Tibet, and I don’t know about the future.”


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tibetan Women Film Wins Emmy

Tibetan women, once among the leaders of a national uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, are now preserving Tibetan culture as refugees in India and other countries, according to a new documentary by British filmmaker Rosemary Rawcliffe.“Women of Tibet: A Quiet Revolution,” produced by Frame of Mind Films, is the second film in a planned trilogy on the lives of Tibetan women.
It was awarded the 2009 Emmy in the historical/cultural special feature category in a May 16 ceremony in Northern California.The first film in the trilogy, "Women of Tibet: Gyalyum Chemo, the Great Mother," focuses on the life of the mother of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. A third film is in production.“As a woman, I’ve been interested in women’s issues for as long as I can remember, [and] in particular the Tibetan issue,” Rawcliffe, a veteran independent filmmaker, said in an interview.“I had semi-retired from making films,” Rawcliffe said. “What drew me in was the fact that there was a really strong story, an untold story, to tell.”'Middle generation'
Combining archival footage with contemporary interviews, “A Quiet Revolution” first tells the story of the women—called “heroines” by the Dalai Lama in the film—whose March 1959 demonstration in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, sparked an uprising against China’s occupation of Tibet.It then moves on to look at the lives of what Rawcliffe called a “middle generation, who came of age rebuilding the community in exile.”Some helped to found the Tibetan Children’s Village schools in India, where they worked to provide a modern education still rooted in Tibetan culture.Others, after careers in teaching, went into politics.Eleven out of 46 members of the parliament and cabinet in Tibet’s Dharamsala, India-based government in exile are now women, the film points out.Rawcliffe said that there is now a third generation of younger Tibetan women “who have never been to Tibet, who know Tibet only through their parents or grandparents.”“And they’ll never know Tibet as it used to be, of course, but are expected in some way to carry the cultural legacy.”Rawcliffe said the women profiled in the film “carry the model forward of being very strong while still maintaining their compassion and their ability to be women.
”This is a “great lesson” for the West, she said.Speaking in an interview, Kesang Wangdu—president of the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association in Minnesota—praised Rawcliffe’s film, saying, “It really tells the story from the beginning to the end.”Wangdu saw the film first at a meeting of Tibetan women in Dharamsala, India, she said. She then brought a copy back to Minnesota, where she showed it to the local Tibetan community.“They really liked it,” Wangdu said.
Women play important roles in the preservation of any culture, said Wangdu, who came to the United States about 12 years ago from Nepal, where she was born to parents who had escaped from Tibet.“In Tibetan culture, as a woman, you teach your children to respect the family, and to respect elders and cultural dress,” she said.Wangdu said that there are now teachers of Tibetan dance, as well as classes for the study of traditional music, in her area.
She added that the local Tibetan community—with 3,000 members, the second-largest in the United States after New York—continues to observe traditional holidays.Women play “a leading role” in these observances, she said.Rawcliffe noted that the 2009 Emmy awarded to “Women of Tibet: A Quiet Revolution” comes in the year marking the 50th anniversary of the Lhasa uprising.“And it reminds Tibetans, as well as informs Westerners, that Tibet is alive and working towards its self-determination, and reminds Tibetans inside Tibet that they’re not forgotten.”


Thursday, June 18, 2009

A monja nepalesa Ani Chöying Drolma, mundialmente conhecida pela comovente beleza da sua voz e enquanto defensora dos direitos das mulheres, estará entre nós para o lançamento do seu livro A Minha Voz pela Liberdade, na 6ª feira, dia 19, pelas 18.30, no Anf. III da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa.

A apresentação será feita pelo Dr. Rui Lopo (União Budista Portuguesa) e pela Drª Alexandra Correia (Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete/União Budista Portuguesa).


Editorial Presença / Projecto "Filosofia e Religião" do Centro de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa (coordenado por Carlos João Correia) e do Curso "Filosofia e Estudos Orientais" / Departamento de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa (coordenado por Carlos João Correia e Paulo Borges)


União Budista Portuguesa e Songtsen - Casa da Cultura do Tibete

Entrada Livre

One suffers gun shot, three seriously wounded in Chamdo

One Tibetan suffered gun shot and three others were seriously wounded in Chamdo in eastern Tibet during a drive against an ongoing farming boycott campaign in the area towards the end of last month, sources said.During the crackdown, a man identified as Tsering was hit by a bullet, and two others, Paga and Lhadar, were taken away after being severely beaten and injured by Chinese police with baton.
Another Tibetan named Samga was also beaten with rifle butts.All these incidents took place in Jomda County in Chamdo Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the end of May, sources informed relevant department of Tibet’s Government in exile based in Dharamsala, India.Sources said Chinese security forces also arrested protesters, including staff members of Vara and Jobhu monasteries in Jomda County during the crackdown.According to the sources; except three people, all other detainees were later released.
The three detainees identified as Sonam Palmo (alias Sopal), Lobsang Palden and Yeshe Dorjee were being held accountable as the leaders of the May farming boycott campaign, the sources said.The sources also said several retreat lamas of two other monasteries in the area were also severely beaten by Chinese security forces during night raids.Gyune monastery was under siege, encircled by armed forces, and eight of its resident retreat lamas were beaten during a night raid.
Retreat lamas of the Palchen monastery were also beaten, sources informed the exile Tibetan government.Similar “Farming Boycott Movement” also took place in several areas in Kardze (Ch: Ganzi) prefecture in Sichuan province since March this year. The Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) says the symbolic civil disobedience movement were led by the residents of the areas to challenge the “prevalent repressive policies being initiated and implemented by the Chinese authorities against the Tibetans.”
The centre also reported at the time that the Chinese authorities had issued notices warning Tibetan farmers of serious consequences or even confiscation of lands of any one who refused to do farming.Chinese authorities in Kardze later reportedly went on an “arrest and beating drive” against farmers who continued to defy authorities' order to till their farmlands.According to TCHRD, many of the Tibetan youths in Kardze were arrested and detained by Chinese authorities after taking part in anti-China protests last year.
“Even if people in Kardze wishes to till the lands, there is hardly any manpower left behind to do the farming work,” the centre said in a statement.Anti-China unrest last year spread to the Tibetan regions in three other provinces outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) — Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai — and was the most sustained and widespread Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in decades.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dalai Lama urges pressure over Tibet 'oppression'

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, urged the international community Friday to make an independent assessment of the situation in the region and put pressure on China to end the "oppression".

"Please, international community, judge whether there is a problem or not. Go there and investigate," he told members of the Dutch parliament on the final day of a three-day visit.

"In the case the majority of people genuinely are happy, then our information is wrong ... and we will have to apologise to the Chinese government.

"If, on the other hand, there is real resentment to China's ... oppression, then tell the Chinese government they should accept the reality and should start a realistic approach. Force is not a solution."

The 73-year-old exiled Buddhist spiritual leader told MPs his faith in the Chinese government was growing "thinner" with all efforts at negotiation having failed.

Tibet's future, he stressed, lay within the People's Republic of China but with cultural and religious autonomy.

"We are not seeking separation," he said, dismissing Chinese claims he was seeking the establishment of a greater, independent Tibet.

The 14th Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 Nobel peace prize, stressed he was on a mission to promote religious harmony and would not be drawn on Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's decision not to receive him.
"That is your business," he told parliamentarians. "I have no political agenda. I do not want to create any inconvenience."

Beijing had warned Tuesday that countries receiving the Dalai Lama on his European tour will "severely damage" relations with China.
The Dalai Lama nevertheless met Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen on Friday morning, not at his ministry but as part of an "inter-faith dialogue" in The Hague between the minister and leaders of religious communities.

Living in exile in India since 1959, the Dalai Lama was due to open a concert in Amsterdam, entitled "Night of Tibet", on Friday evening before departing for France.

Friday, June 5, 2009

China intensifies restriction on religious activities during holy month in Tibet

Chinese government has stepped up restrictions on the religious activities of Tibetans in the capital Lhasa as they observe the Buddhist holy month of Saka Dawa, according to a report on Tibetan Government-in-Exile website.

Tibetan Buddhists believe during Saka Dawa, the fourth month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar, the karmic results of virtuous and non-virtuous actions are magnified. In Dharamsala, the seat of Tibetan Government-in-Exile in India, hundreds of Tibetan Buddhists, including monks and nuns, have been regularly gathering and offering prayers at the Tsuglag-khang, the main Tibetan temple here, from May 25 that marked the beginning of the holy month.
Meanwhile, the concerned government offices in Lhasa had convened meetings of staff members and people under their respective jurisdictions and subsequently issued strict orders, particularly to students and government officials not to visit temples during the festival, sources in Tibet informed the exile government.
The restrictions come ahead of Saka Dawa festival, which is celebrated on the 15th (full moon) day of the fourth Tibetan month, when hundreds and thousands of Tibetan Buddhists flock to holy sites to offer prayers and engage in meritorious spiritual activities. The annual festival celebrates the three most important events of the life of Lord Buddha - his birth, enlightenment and parinirvana. The report said the normal life of people in Lhasa has been affected as the Chinese government has sent in more security forces and deployed a large number of intelligence officials across the city.
The authorities also are carefully examining the details of foreign tourists visiting the region, the report said. Part of the investigation also includes asking questions about whether any member of a family who had earlier visited India or anyone who has now returned to Tibet, it added.According to the report, those families who have relatives and children in India and in other foreign countries are being asked to provide their conditions and contact details.Starting from March 2008, the concerned offices have conducted at least eight rounds of such investigations and more than ten times by the village committees, the report cited sources as saying.Such intensified restrictions were not new in Tibet under Chinese rule.
Restrictions and prohibitions are regularly imposed on religious ceremonies and sensitive anniversaries. Apart from politically sensitive anniversary like March 10 Tibetan Uprising Day, China has also acted with equally heightened vigilance during mass occasions like Losar (Tibetan New Year), Monlam Chenmo (The Great Prayer Festival), Birthday of His Holiness the Dalai lama and the 11th Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and other similar events.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Two Monks disappeared after raid in Labrang Monastery

The Chinese security forces arrested two monks from Labrang Monastery on 14 May 2009 during a raid in their residences and their whereabouts remain unknown to their family members till date.
The two were arrested for the fourth time since last year’s protests in Labrang which saw one of the biggest and most sustained protests, according to information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). The two monks of Labrang Monastery; Tsundue Gyatso, 35 years old, hailed from Gyengya Village, Labrang County (Ch: Sangchu/Xiahe xian), whereas Sonam Gyatso, 38, was from Sangkok Village, Labrang County, Kanlho “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture” (‘TAP’), Gansu Province.
The two monks were earlier arrested and released thrice by the Chinese security forces for their participations in a series of protests that took place in Labrang last year. The latest arrest came when a sudden raid was carried out inside Labrang Monastery monks’ residence by a large number of Chinese Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials on 14 May 2009.
There is dearth of information on where the duo was taken to. Following their arrest, the family members and close associates of Tsundue and Sonam Gyatso approached the local Public Security office to ascertain their status and to whether eatables and clothes could be delivered to detainees. The concerned security officials reportedly told the family members that a further fresh interrogation is needed to clarify on certain things related to last year’s protests in Labrang and that they would be released shortly, however, they continue to face detention without any knowledge of their status to the family members.
There are cases of Tibetans having been re-arrested for their participation in last year’s protest. Among those, the most prominent case being Labrang Jigme a.k.a Jigme Guri, who was first arrested on 22 March 2008, later detained and tortured for two months in the detention centre for his suspected role in 14 March 2008 protest in Labrang. He was later releases on medical ground. Jigme was re-arrested on 4 November 2008 for exposing Chinese brutality to the international media. He was finally released on 3 May 2009.
TCHRD strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of Tsundue Gyatso and Sonam Gyatso. TCHRD also calls upon the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to immediately release all the Tibetan prisoners of conscience arbitrarily detained over peaceful exercise of their fundamental human rights. There are still hundreds of Tibetans whose whereabouts and current status remain unknown to their family members and close associates. The government should guarantee, under all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Tibetan detainees and ensured that detainee’s family members are informed of their whereabouts and wellbeing.