Monday, March 12, 2007

Look Who's Praising Hu: HHDL Springs a Surprise

By Suresh Khatta

Indian Express; Sunday, March 11, 2007, McLeodGanj -- The Dalai Lama today sought to bridge a very difficult emotional gap for Tibetans when he praised Chinese President Hu Jintao in his statement on the anniversary of Uprising Day, sending a clear signal that he is willing to look ahead without letting the past come in the way.

“President Hu Jintao’s continued call for a harmonious society is laudable. The basis for the realization of such a society is to foster trust among the people, which can take place when there is freedom of expression, truth, justice and equality. Therefore, it is important that officials at all levels not only take heed, but also implement these principles,” said the Spiritual Leader of the Tibetans in his statement issued on the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the Tibetan people’s uprising.

The Dalai Lama has been more open to talks on regional autonomy and engaging the Chinese leadership towards a peaceful solution. But in praising Hu, he has sent out a very significant message. Hu is regarded by Tibetans as the most ruthless administrator of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

As Party Secretary in the region between 1988 and 1992, he is said to have come down very hard on Tibetan protests. Tibetans in-exile claim that near 400 peaceful Tibetan protestors were killed by Chinese forces in a span of three days in the early part of his tenure. He quelled the rebellion and that is said to have earned him recognition among the Communist Party ranks.

Deng Xiaoping then identified him to be groomed as Jiang Zemin’s successor. In this backdrop, the Dalai Lama has travelled a fair distance through this statement. It may be recalled that Tibetans came out it large numbers to protest Hu’s visit last year to India.

Expressing concern over the “vilification campaign” launched by the Chinese regime against his people, the Dalai Lama said not all the recent changes in China were negative.

“In 2006 we witnessed both positive and negative changes in the People’s Republic of China. On the one hand, the hardline position was intensified with a campaign of vilification against us, and more disquietingly, there was heightened political restriction and repression in Tibet. But on the other hand, in China itself, we saw some improvement with regard to the freedom of expression,” he said.

He said there was growing belief in religion in general, and Tibetan Buddhism in particular, and that there were many who wanted him to make a pilgrimage to China and preach there.

Maintaining that the Tibet issue could be resolved through dialogue, the Dalai Lama said the Tibetans and their government-in-exile had adopted a “middle path approach” which would address the immediate and long-term interests of both Tibetans and Chinese.

“In the five rounds of talks with the Chinese that have taken place since 2002, both sides were able to express in clear terms the suspicions, doubts and real difficulties,” he said.

“These rounds have helped create a channel of communication between the two sides.”

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Religious Repression in Tibet is Worsening

By Benjamin Kang Lim

Fri Mar 9, 2007; BEIJING (Reuters) -- An India-based human rights watchdog has denounced China for human rights abuses in Tibet last year and predicted that religious repression would get worse in 2007.

New religious affairs regulations which took effect in January were "designed to harness loyalty to the state from the monastic community and to stamp out the Dalai Lama from the hearts and minds of Tibetan people", the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

"In light of the new . . . regulations, religious repression in Tibet seems set to escalate further in 2007," the Dharamsala-based center said in its annual report on human rights in the Himalayan region.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment. But an increasingly confident China regularly defends its rule in Tibet, saying Communist rule ended centuries of serfdom and brought prosperity to the underdeveloped region.

Recently, Zhang Qingli, the hardline Communist Party boss in Tibet, labeled the Party a "living Buddha" for Tibetans.

The center said it had documented the arrests of 26 Tibetans last year for alleged political activities and that there were currently 116 known Tibetan political prisoners.

"The year 2006 saw a host of sad events unfold. The Chinese authorities in Tibet did not show any sign of let-up," the center said. "Arbitrary arrest, detention and imprisonment continue to be appalling as ever in Tibet.

"The Dalai Lama has said he wants real autonomy, not independence, for his homeland. But Tibet's regional chairman, Qiangba Puncog, said on Thursday the chances of the Dalai Lama returning were slim unless he gave up his pursuit of independence in word and in deed.

The center cited the Nangpa Pass incident in which Chinese troops shot dead at least two of a group of Tibetans crossing the China- Nepal border last September.

In a video conference, Chinese police vowed to launch a campaign to "strike hard against illegal crossings" in the first half of 2007, calling the campaign part of measures to crack down on "separatists" to ensure stability in the region.

A total of 2,445 Tibetans escaped China and reached Dharamsala last year, most of them teenagers and novice monks and nuns seeking religious education, it said.

The group also faulted the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the world's highest railway line which China opened in July, as "a political tool designed to wipe out the Tibetan identity" and enhance Beijing's grip over the predominantly Buddhist region.

China says the railway is meant to accelerate Tibet's modernization.

Other worrying signs included Chinese official discrimination against Tibetan graduates when filling civil service jobs, the spark for a rare public protest last October, the center said.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Is China's Communist Party the "Real Buddha"?

Fri Mar 2, 2007; Beijing. (Reuters) -- China's Communist boss in predominantly Buddhist Tibet labelled the Communist party on Friday a "living Buddha" for Tibetans, state media reported, days before the opening of the annual session of parliament.

The annual income of Tibetan peasants and herders increased 17.2 percent last year thanks to the central government, Zhang Qingli, Tibet's party chief, said in an online forum carried on the official Xinhua news agency Web site (

"The Communist Party is like the parent to the Tibetan people, and it is always considerate about what the children need," said Zhang, in Beijing to attend the National People's Congress which opens on Monday. In response to an Internet post praising him as a living Buddha for Tibetans, Zhang said: "The central party committee is the real Buddha for Tibetans."

Housing conditions had improved and the Tibetan economy was developing rapidly with the government's go-west strategy and the new Tibet-Qinghai railway, Zhang said. China opened its first railway to Lhasa, capital of remote western Tibet, in July last year.

The People's Liberation Army occupied Tibet in 1950. Nine years later, Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India after a failed uprising. Critics charge that China continues to repress Tibetans' religious aspirations, especially their veneration for the Dalai Lama, whom China denounces as a "separatist".

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Much at Stake for Tibet at Remote Retig Monastery

By Philippe Massonnet

Agence France-Presse, Feb 28 -- In this isolated Tibetan Buddhist monastery, sitting in a majestic valley and little known to the outside world, much is at stake for Tibet's religious and political future.

The Reting Monastery, about 160 kilometres (100 miles) northeast along a bone-jarring road from the regional capital of Lhasa and 4,100 metres (13,530 feet) above sea level, offers spiritual respite from the rugged terrain.

In the valley below, yaks and pigs live side by side amid numerous Buddhist stupas where the faithful pray, further attesting to the region's unique spiritualism. The monastery, built in 1056 and partially destroyed by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution 40 years ago, sits against the mountain, its white walls contrasting with the magnificent Himalayan junipers that surround it.

The phenomenal beauty is one of the reasons Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has said he would choose to live at Reting, rather than Lhasa, should he ever return from his exile of nearly 50 years. The monastery plays a further special role in Tibetan Buddhism because it is the residence of a line of rimpoches, or religious dignitaries, who have traditionally overseen the regency between the death of the Dalai Lama and the identification of his reincarnated successor.

However, in China, there is no separation of church and state as the ruling Communist Party, theoretically atheist, administers all religious affairs and appoints all religious officials.

Jinba, the 40-year-old head of the monastery, offered a warm welcome during a rare encounter with the foreign press this week, offering his guests dried yak meat and bowls of Tibet's famous yak butter tea. But with three "local government representatives" in constant attendance to monitor AFP's interview, asking sensitive political and religious matters did not appear appropriate.

Besides, the environment spoke for itself. On the wall was a poster of Communist China's first three leaders -- Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin. A second poster hung nearby of the current Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second highest spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama. He was installed by the Communist Party nearly 10 years ago after the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnated Panchen Lama disappeared into official custody, never to appear in public again.

There are no photos of the Dalai Lama on the monastery walls, as they have been outlawed by the Chinese government which views him as a "separatist" intent on splitting Tibet from China. The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel peace prize for his efforts to seek greater autonomy from Chinese rule for Tibet, has been exiled since 1959, nine years after Mao's troops moved in to "liberate" the region.

In 2000, China suddenly announced the enthronement at Reting of the seventh rimpoche, a boy who is today 12 years old. He is widely seen as a tool of Beijing to legitimise the successor to the current Dalai Lama. At the time monks at the monastery protested. But, under the watchful eyes of the government minders, Jinba, who has lived at Reting for 25 years, did not speak of the Dalai Lama and only briefly about the young rinpoche.

In the monks' study hall, he showed pictures of the previous rimpoches, including the one chosen by the Chinese government."Does the seventh rimpoche live at the monastery?" Jinba was asked."No, he lives lower down in the village," he said, without elaborating.

According to some sources, the rinpoche is living under police guard. During a visit to the rest of the monastery, Jinba discussed its history, its legends and its miracles -- as the three "people's representatives" scurried along to keep up.

"Not everything was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution," Jinba said."Reconstruction began in 1982 with the government spending 500,000 yuan (65,000 dollars) for rebuilding," he said.

The next morning at dawn, as the faithful pilgrims turn prayer wheels on the Tibetan plateau, Jinba was still not alone as the journalists departed for Lhasa.