Saturday, April 28, 2007

"MySpace" in China: Report thy Neighbor

As reported at

MySpace has launched in China, the world's most populous nation, but this definitely is NOT the MySpace you're used to.

Members are told to click a button to report any 'misconduct' by other users. MySpace's definition of 'misconduct' includes actions such as 'endangering national security, leaking state secrets, subverting the government, undermining national unity, spreading rumors or disturbing the social order' — according to the site's terms and conditions.

In China these are all crimes which carry a hefty prison sentence.

Any attempt to post content containing phrases that the Chinese government doesn't like, such as 'Taiwanese independence', the banned 'FaLun' religious movement or the Dalai Lama, produces the following message: 'Sorry, the article you want to publish may contain inappropriate content. Please delete the unsuitable content, and then try reposting it. Thank you.'"

Four Americans Reported Held by China for Tibet Protest

Reported by the Associated Press

Beijing, China; April 26, 2007 -- Four American protesters were reported detained on Mount Everest as they called for independence for Tibet and protested against the Beijing Olympics.

The protest was organized by Students for a Free Tibet, which said the four were taken away Wednesday from a base camp on the Tibetan side of the mountain, after they held up and filmed a banner that read, "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008."

"One World, One Dream" is the slogan of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Everest straddles the border between China's Tibet region and Nepal."We've taken note of the relevant reports. China is making a thorough investigation and will properly handle the case," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said at a news conference.

"Any foreign citizen coming to China has the obligation to abide by Chinese laws," Liu said. "They shall not engage in activities concerning the sovereignty and unity of China."

The group said it planned the protest on Mount Everest because the route for the 2008 Olympic torch relay was set to be announced in Beijing on Thursday. Chinese officials have said they want to take it to the top of the world's tallest mountain.

The group's executive director, Lhadon Tethong, said in an e-mail that she had not heard from the four on Thursday. She identified them as Kirsten Westby of Boulder, Colorado; Shannon Service and Laurel Mac Sutherlin of San Francisco; and Tenzin Dorjee of New York.

Westby, speaking briefly with the Associated Press briefly by cell phone Wednesday, said they had been treated well. Later, the calls would not go through. China says it has ruled Tibet for centuries, although many Tibetans say they were essentially an independent state for most of that time. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951 and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.

Taking the Olympic torch to the top of the 29,035-foot Mount Everest is seen by some as a way for Beijing to underscore its claims to Tibet.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

"China's Olympic Torch Out of Tibet" says Activists

April 18, 2007; New York -- The organization "Students for a Free Tibet" calls on the International Olympic Committee to reject China's plan to run the Olympic torch over Mount Everest and through Tibet.

The IOC is currently meeting in Beijing and will make a final decision on China's proposed torch route -- including plans to take it through Tibet and Taiwan -- by April 26th.

"Allowing China to run the Olympic torch through Tibet would mean the IOC's mark of approval for China's military occupation of our nation," said Lhadon Tethong, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet. "Nothing in the mission of the Olympic Games includes providing validation for the most abhorrent and shameful policies of the host nation."

"The IOC has nine days to make the right decision and keep the Olympic torch out of what the Associated Press recently called a 'politically charged territory'," Tethong continued. "It has no business helping the Chinese government strengthen its claim over Tibet. The IOC has a moral obligation to stop the Olympic Games from becoming a means for China to legitimize its authoritarian rule over Tibet and other occupied territories."

"This shouldn't be a hard decision for the IOC members to make," said Kate Woznow, Director of Students for a Free Tibet in Canada. "The international community expects the IOC to show they have a backbone and will not allow the Chinese government to use the Olympic Games to whitewash the terrible reality of China's repressive rule in Tibet."

"Olympics organizers are quoted as saying 'the torch symbolizes peace and friendship,'" Woznow added. "Sending the torch through Tibet would undermine this message and shows a complete disregard for the suffering of the Tibetan people."

The thirty-ninth Olympic Games are scheduled to be held in Beijing in August 2008. China has proposed bringing the Olympic torch to the summit of Mount Everest next year on its way to Beijing.

The Beijing Games have already been the subject of major protests by the Tibetan exile community and have been called "the Genocide Olympics" by Darfur activists.

Tibet has been occupied by China since 1949.

Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) is a network of students and young people campaigning for Tibetan independence. With 650 chapters in more than thirty countries worldwide, SFT is working to shine the Olympic spotlight on China's occupation of Tibet. SFT is based in New York, with offices in Vancouver, London, and Dharamsala, India.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

This "Little Lama" Loves Being Nemo

Many believe he's the tulku of famous Tibetan monk.

In photo, Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche and Geshe Tenzin Zopa, photo by Miles Neale.

By Dawn Chia

Singapore; 06 April 2007, Electric New Paper -- Like many 4-year-olds, he loves cartoons, especially Finding Nemo. But unlike many 4-year-olds, he had more than 500 people turning up at Changi Airport to greet him.

Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche is no ordinary boy - he has been declared by the Dalai Lama in 2005 to be the reincarnation of the Geshe Lama Konchog, a Tibetan monk and accomplished teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism.

(Rinpoche - pronounced reen-poh-shay - means the precious one in Tibetan.)

Ordained a monk at 3, the cherubic Nepali boy is used to the attention. He arrived in Singapore on Tuesday to meet followers.

Geshe Tenzin Zopa, his uncle, told The New Paper: 'He liked the cartoon (Finding Nemo) so much that at one point, he would watch it every day for a month. He called himself Nemo, and would shout 'save Nemo' and cry when the fish was caught.'

Geshe Zopa added: 'He didn't expect so many people at the airport, and that shocked him. He must have felt trapped, like Nemo.

'We had to explain to him that the people were there to receive blessings. He understood and eventually carried out his duties as normal.'

Why, Why Why?

A sharp sense of curiosity and a desire to learn also keep his fellow lamas busy -- Rinpoche can ask more than 10 'why's' in one breath in order to get to the bottom of things.

And like other kids, Rinpoche, throws tantrums.

Geshe Zopa, 32, said: 'We had to coax him to board the plane from Nepal to come here because he had been on a flight before which experienced turbulence and he didn't like it. 'He said he'd only come here by bus or car, and we told him that we'd go by 'air-bus' and everything would be all right.'

His 11-day stay in Singapore is packed with visits to temples and places of interest like the zoo and Sentosa Underwater World.

After he returns to Nepal where he lives, Rinpoche will leave for a monastery in India for his 'geshe' studies (the equivalent of a PhD in Buddhist philosophy), which includes learning English, maths and science. The duration of study will be about 20 years.

Tired after visiting temples yesterday, Rinpoche was sleeping when he was driven back to a volunteer's house. But he didn't fuss when he was woken up by his uncle.

He held on to a lama's hands and walked down the stairs to meet the press and give his blessings to about 20 people present while seated on a chair.

With each person, he'd put on a different facial expression, touch his or her head and then break open chocolate coins for them. He smiled gamely at the cameras at times, and hid behind two big gold chocolate coins at others.

Madam Yap Hock Yann, 76, was there with her husband and family to receive blessings. She said in Hokkien: 'I'm fortunate to be here to be blessed by the little lama. It's a chance of a lifetime.'

Mrs Sharlyn Lim, 42, offered her new two-storey house to Rinpoche and the lamas. She ensured that the house was ready in time. She said: 'I wanted to prepare a comfortable place for them to stay while they were visiting. It's not important how much we spent on it -- it's a blessing to have them in our house.'

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tibet Catholics Defy China Government for Faith

MEILI MOUNTAIN, China; 2 April (Reuters) - Deep in the southwest mountains of officially atheist China, a small congregation of Tibetan Catholics still pledges its loyalty to the Pope after years of persecution and isolation.

This community in the mountains of Yunnan province that buttress Tibet itself has remained a bastion of the faith since Swiss missionaries converted their ancestors a century ago.

Their small church was levelled in the 1960s during the heyday of the Cultural Revolution and its priests chased away. Members of the congregation also recount how they and their families endured frequent raids by their Buddhist neighbours.

But despite decades of hardship, the Catholic faith still runs strong among the few hundred villagers.

"No matter what happens, I would never abandon my religion," said 72-year-old Catholic Ma Dilin.

"There is no conflict between us and other religions. Our religion was passed on to me by the older generation, and will be passed on to the next generation. It is never going to change. I hope the younger generation can follow Catholicism as I do."

Major religions suffered during the chaotic 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution when clergy and believers were persecuted, publicly mocked, jailed and even killed. China has since loosen restrictions on religions, but it remains tightly controlled.


The officially atheist Communist Party, which has run China since 1949, say religious freedom is enshrined in the constitution and citizens are free to attend ceremonies in churches, mosques and temples under state control.

Nearly all Tibetans are, unlike the residents of this mountain-bound village, Buddhists who honour the Dalai Lama as the chief protector of their beliefs.

But international rights groups have accused China of jailing Catholic priests and Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns who reject official controls on their faith.

Every Sunday, the small, unassuming wood and brick church fills with the sounds of hymns and prayer. The white-washed interior is decorated with photographs of Pope Benedict, images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary as well as red, Chinese-style paper lanterns and calligraphy.

The biggest obstacle for the small congregation is the lack of funding. Infrequent, and often secret, donations from abroad keep the church's door open and the local parish afloat.

The followers have remained loyal to the Vatican and the Pope, refusing to fall under the fold of the official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

"The Roman Catholic Church is home to our souls. It is our saviour and the leader of our souls. From dawn to dark, we, the Catholics must help the Roman Catholic Church, and help our God," said local priest A Nisse.

Diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Vatican were severed in 1951, two years after the Communist Party took control of the country.

Official figures show the number of Christian Chinese has risen to 16 million from 10 million in the past six years but a recent survey by professors at a Shanghai University put the figure at 40 million.

Growing numbers of Chinese join underground churches that do not fall under government supervision, but they sometimes risk detention or arrest.

Here in the mountains, Rome seems far away. But priest A Nisse said he felt a powerful bond.

"I want to thank the Roman Catholic Church. We have maintained our loyalty throughout the years. I thank them for helping us and supporting us," he said.