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This year no Losar.
Last year was washed by blood.
In Lhasa countless compatriots
were fallen under a piercing arrow.
This year no Losar for us.
In Szechuan, countless people buried
under the earth.
This year no Losar for us.
There is only the word “No” on your lips,
We are speechless.
You are filled with anger.
We have no bitterness.
For the sake of the deceased,
Let us offer our regrets.
For the deceased people,
Let us make offerings.
– By an anonymous Tibetan blogger (heard on Students for a Free Tibet “Our Nation”).
Scuffles broke out between police and protesters at a pro-Tibet demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in London.
The protest was organised to coincide with a state visit by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.
The use of torture in the restless Chinese region of Tibet is widespread and routine and officials regularly ignore legal safeguards supposed to be in place to prevent it, a new report said on Wednesday.
This photo, taken in the second week of November, shows Chinese soldiers patrolling the area around the Jokhang Temple in central Lhasa. Recent reports indicate China has intensified its military presence in Tibet amid fears of recurring protests in the restive Himalayan region. (Phayul/Photo: Courier Mail)
Even when detainees are released, they may die of their injuries, be scarred for life mentally or physically and not be able to afford medical treatment or be denied it completely, the Free Tibet group said.
“Despite claims by the Chinese government that there are ‘extremely few cases of torture’, the evidence tells a different story,” Free Tibet director Stephanie Brigden said. “There is no doubt that the Chinese government is permitting the use of torture as a weapon to suppress the Tibetan people.”
China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment and calls to the spokesman’s office of the Chinese-run Tibetan government in Lhasa went unanswered.
Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950 and the region’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against Beijing’s rule.
Mountainous and remote Tibet was rocked by anti-Chinese protests earlier this year, which China blamed on the Dalai Lama, whom it brands a separatist. He has repeatedly denied the claims.
Free Tibet said it had profiled numerous cases of torture carried out against people detained following the demonstrations, which spilled over into other ethnically Tibetan parts of China such as Gansu, Qinghai and Sichuan provinces.
It said that one monk at the Labrang monastery in Gansu, Jigme Gyatso, had to be hospitalised for almost a month after his injuries received in detention.
“They would hang me up for several hours with my hands tied to a rope … hanging from the ceiling and my feet above the ground. Then they would beat me on my face, chest, and back, with the full force of their fists,” he said in the report.
“Finally, on one occasion, I lost consciousness and was taken to hospital. After I regained consciousness at the hospital, I was once again taken back to prison where they continued the practice of hanging me from the ceiling and beating me.”
China has vowed to stamp out torture in its judicial system, described as widespread by some critics, in the face of international and domestic pressure.
Last month, the U.N. Committee Against Torture, in a rare public review of China’s record, expressed dissatisfaction with a “very serious information gap” about abuses in the country where criminal justice information is often considered a state secret. Free Tibet, in the report issued to coincide with International Human Rights Day, said Chinese laws aimed at protecting detainees were regularly ignored in Tibet.
“The international community can no longer hide behind sound bites condemning China’s human rights track record in Tibet and must now take specific actions to reverse the worsening crisis in Tibet,” Brigden added.
China and envoys of the Dalai Lama have been meeting on and off for the past few years, but with little to show for their talks.
Beijing has rejected the Dalai Lama’s calls for greater autonomy as being part of a plot for covert independence.
On Wednesday, the semi-official China News Service quoted Si Ta, a deputy head of the United Front Work Department which handles relations with non-Communists and ethnic and religious minorities, as repeating that the door to talks was always open.
“The Party still has expectations of the Dalai Lama and plenty of patience, but ‘Tibet independence’, ‘half independence’ or ‘covert independence’ are unacceptable,” it paraphrased him as saying in Washington.
The international community should protest the imprisonment and secret sentencing of Paljor Norbu, an 81-year-old Tibetan traditional printer, and seek his immediate exoneration and unconditional release, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
According to HRW, Norbu was taken by the police from his home in Lhasa on October 31, 2008, on suspicion that he had printed “prohibited material,” including the banned Tibetan flag. During his detention, judicial authorities refused to inform his relatives that he was being detained, or to reveal the charges against him, HRW said on its website. “He was tried in secret in November and sentenced to seven years in prison. A letter informing his family of the sentence was then hand-delivered to them. His current whereabouts are unknown.”
“Just about any material on Tibet that lacks the Chinese Communist Party’s explicit blessing is ‘prohibited material,’” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But no one should be jailed for printing flags, books, or pictures just because a government would prefer to suppress those ideas – that’s why freedom of expression is a basic right.”
Although the authorities have not made public the details of the verdict, the nature of the initial accusations leveled against Norbu and the length of the sentence suggest that he was tried on charges of “inciting separatism” (article 103 of the Criminal Law). This vaguely defined crime has been used repeatedly to silence Tibetans resisting the tight and often arbitrary limits imposed on their freedom of expression by Chinese law, said Richardson.
A descendant of a family with a long history of printing and publishing Buddhist texts for monasteries, Norbu is an internationally renowned master printer. He used both modern and traditional woodblock printing techniques in his workshop, which employed several dozen workers. In addition to religious texts, the shop printed prayer flags, folk reproductions, books, leaflets, and traditional literature.
After Norbu’s arrest, the police closed his shop, affixed notices of official closure on the door, and prohibited employees from returning. The police also confiscated books and woodblocks from the shop’s collection.
“Instead of persecuting Paljor Norbu, the Chinese government should prize his contributions toward historical and cultural preservation,” said Richardson.
Human Rights Watch said that Norbu was not granted even the minimal rights that are supposed to be provided under Chinese criminal procedures. Violations included the failure to notify his family of his formal arrest or of the trial date; the refusal to reveal where he was detained; the failure to allow him defense representation of his choice in court; the failure to communicate the full verdict of the trial; and, the refusal to inform the family of his current whereabouts and of where he will serve his prison term.
Human Rights Watch said it has observed an increase in the number of arrests and convictions related to exercising the freedom of expression in recent weeks, indicating that the crackdown that Chinese authorities threatened after Tibetan protests in March 2008 was extending beyond the people suspected of involvement in those demonstrations. Other recent cases include:
· Jigme Gyatso (lay name Jigme Guri), a senior monk from the Labrang monastery, who was re-arrested on November 4 after he described how he had been tortured by the police during his detention in March and who is now in custody in Lanzhou (Gansu province);
· Norzin Wangmo (Chinese name: Longzhen Wangmu [龙真旺姆]), an employee of the Judicial Bureau of Hongyuan county (Sichuan province), sentenced on November 3 to five years of imprisonment after he told relatives abroad of the situation in Tibet; and
· Dhondup Wangchen, who had been detained in March in Tong De (Qinghai province), for his role in filming a clandestine documentary in the Tibetan areas. He is being held in the Ershilipu detention center in Xining.
“The Chinese government will almost certainly say that the charges brought against Paljor Norbu were ‘in accordance with the law,’” said Richardson. “But, by definition, those laws restrict free speech, and until the government brings its laws into conformity with international human rights norms, we will continue to see peaceful critics like Norbu incarcerated for alleged ‘separatism.’”
From Mechak.org (Mechak Center for Contemporary Tibetan Art)
What is this? Let that Moment Become Eternal!
New Works by the Tibetan Artist Losang Gyatso
Likely they had known that that moment would appear not only on televisions in many countries but also through the omnipresent internet connections. Let alone other venues, the first ten pages of a YouTube search for “Jokhang” can lead to at least nearly a score of videos that were from the footage recorded that moment. They must have known it. They must have been told in advance that reporters from foreign media (a couple dozen of them) would arrive in Jokhang that morning – for the first time in seventeen days since the temple was closed on March 10th. Everyone was ready. Authorities had assigned some of the most obedient Tibetans to cooperate. Yet, “Those worshippers, they are all cadres in disguise; it’s a cheat….,” they, those monks in Jokhang, told the truth at that moment. Apparently, they had been preparing to speak out. Nevertheless, it is impossible that they had not thought of the unpredictable price they would have to pay by doing so. As a result, their participation disclosed the episode which was orchestrated to give the impression that Tibetans are fortunate and free. While rushing out to surround reporters, they desperately yelled: “No, we don’t have freedom! The Dalai Lama is innocent….” The reporters who had been invited to tour the tightly controlled Lhasa finally saw the act which had the most shocking journalistic effect; in a matter of minutes, the authorities were left no place to hide the intention behind the show they had wanted to stage. That shocking moment was said to have lasted about fifteen minutes. I remember clearly the indescribable pain which I felt that evening when watching the short segment of that moment on the internet. I was reminded of this line by Anna Akhmatova – “The heart gives up its blood.”
Nevertheless, most likely they have not known that, months later, that moment had been recreated by an artist. Although art should be unbounded by boundaries of nation and artists are often not tied to their native place — as deities are not confined by their sex, I would still rather refer to this artist in a more restrictive and somehow assertive manner. He, Losang Gyatso (la – according to the formality of our tradition) is a Tibetan artist. The point here is “Tibet.” Although he now lives Washington, DC, although he has not returned to his native place in the Snow Lands for the past forth-nine (and soon fifty) years, he is the Tibetan artist who has through his work of art transformed that moment into six images. In the meantime, he has also created another six images to note another moment in the Labrang Monastery in Amdo, which was as crucial as the one in Jokhang. These twelve images are all modeled after monks who are recognizably Tibetan and native, and they are a great deal similar to each other. Yet, they are also apparently different. One image is more so than the other in overwhelming their beholders. I can nearly hear their voiceless cries piercing through the internet; my ears hurt.
At a press conference held this afternoon, the Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament reiterated its support for the ‘Middle Way’ – the policy being pursued by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in its negotiations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Opening the press conference, the Tibet Intergroup President, Mr. Thomas Mann MEP, spoke of the need to maintain a spirit of dialogue. The participation of over thirty members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and five hundred officials in a fast to coincide with the visit of the Dalai Lama to the European Parliament represented a “great success”
Mr. Mann went on to express his hope that the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, would use his forthcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, on 6 December 2008 to show that the European Union would not give in to Beijing.
Echoing Mr. Mann’s comments, Ms. Eva Lichtenberger told journalists that she was “delighted” by the support the fast has received and called on members of the European institutions “to be consistent and clear” in the messages they sent to the PRC.
Ms. Lichtenberger noted that following the Olympic Games in August 2008 the situation for Tibetans had got worse and that the “Tibetan people need our support more than ever before”.
Mr. Marco Cappato MEP pressed for a unified approach to the Tibet issue from the international community. Two stories were being told, Mr. Cappato stated, one of which was true and the other which was not. In such circumstances the international community could not be neutral and had to come out in support of human rights in Tibet, and China as a whole.
Before opening the conference to questions, Mr. MacMillan-Scott MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament, recalled his own visit to the PRC in 1996 and the subsequent detention by the Chinese authorities of those individuals with whom he had met. He believed that the timing of the fast was therefore “very significant” and it was crucial that the European Union remained committed to maintaining pressure on the PRC.
Answering questions from the assembled press, members of the Intergroup expressed their belief that the fast was an important sign, and one of which the Chinese authorities would take note. Mr. Cappato stated that the fast “means something for the Chinese” – going on to say that Beijing’s cancellation of the EU-China summit was in itself a demonstration of the value Beijing placed upon such symbolic acts.
While reaffirming their absolute “faith and allegiance” in the Dalai Lama’s leadership and agreeing to pursue for Tibet’s autonomy, Tibetan exiles did not rule out a possible shift in policy to independence if current middle-way policy fails to yield any result in the near future.
Over 500 Tibetan leaders and representatives from around the world today ended a six-day “Special Meeting”, which was started on Monday, in Dharamsala, the base for the Tibet’s government in exile in northern India.
The speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Mr Karma Chophel, who chaired the meeting, described the final report of the meeting as a summary of the opinions and suggestions of the people to be submitted to the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama for his further considerations.
“independence” or “autonomy”, the Tibetan people will maintain total commitment to non-violence in their struggle for freedom.
“China has rejected our proposal for a genuine autonomy in all its form. But there is still time for China to respond positively to our sincere efforts,” Chophel told Phayul. “If China is not at all willing to do that, it will only force us to review our current policy again. Then as expressed strongly by Tibetan delegates during the meeting, there is no reason not to consider shifting our policy to independence,” the speaker added.
Jamyang Norbu, a prominent Tibetan writer and a staunch advocate of Tibetan independence, described the meeting itself as an “encouraging” one that gives public an opportunity to express their opinion and accordingly help review the Tibetan government’s policies. He said the meeting had vitalized the need to review and revamp the current middle way policy.
“To have a review of the current policy in future, we must observe Chinese side’s reaction and discuss seriously about it,” he said.
To make China come forward, Lobsang said “it depends on what strategies we adopt and the kind of international pressure that we can build on China.”
Speaker Chophel said the meeting also called on China to stop criticizing and making defamatory attacks on the revered Tibetan leader. He said such remarks not only hurt the sentiments of the Tibetan people, but also hurt the sentiments of Buddhists, including Chinese, around the world and also Tibet supporters and individuals who admire the Dalai Lama’s moral principles.
“The meeting has concluded that China must accept that this year’s unrest in Tibet is a result of its misrule and wrong policies adopted against the Tibetan people for the last many decades. China has said it has evidence to prove that Dalai Lama’s exile groups have instigated the riots in Tibet, but they have already failed to show any evidence to prove their accusations,” he added.
Chophel said Tibetan people “unanimously reaffirming their trust and allegiance to His Holiness the Dalai Lama” during the meeting was a fitting reply to Chinese leadership’s remarks that the Dalai Lama has no right to represent Tibetan people. “Tibetan people reaffirming that they will follow the Dalai Lama in whatever path he deems most appropriate is a clear message; and China must acknowledge this reality,” he added.
Chophel also said the Tibetan envoys, during the latest round of talks with Chinese representatives earlier this month, had also challenged the Chinese government to allow a free and independent poll on what Tibetans inside Tibet have had to say about the Dalai Lama’s role.
Jetsun Pema, former Kalon (Tibetan minister) and the younger sister of the Dalai Lama, said the meeting was an important platform to “prepare for the future” of the Tibetan movement.
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama has always wanted to have a genuine democracy for Tibetan people and he has always promoted it,” Pema said.
Ahead of the ‘special meeting’, some 17,000 Tibetans inside Tibet had also been consulted about their opinions on the future course of action Tibet. Of them more than 8000 Tibetans said they will follow the Dalai Lama’s direction and almost 3000 backed the Dalai Lama’s middle-way approach.
The Dalai Lama is expected to address the meeting delegates on Sunday.
A television documentary filmed secretly in Tibet has been honored in a competition recognizing the work of freelance cameramen and camerawomen who gather news in “regions where it is difficult to operate.”
The competition, the Rory Peck Awards, is sponsored by the Rory Peck Trust, an independent London-based charity set up in 1995 to provide help to freelance newsgatherers and relatives of those killed, injured, or persecuted in the course of their work.
The Impact award, the category in which the film “Undercover in Tibet” was a competitor, is given “for freelance footage which raises humanitarian issues and has had an impact internationally or contributed to a change in perception or policy.”
The documentary was one of the top three selected for consideration at the annual event, held on Nov. 13 at the British Film Institute in London.
“Undercover in Tibet,” produced by cameraman Jezza Neumann and interviewer Tash Despa, was filmed over three months from late April 2007. It was first broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4 “Dispatches” program on March 31 this year.
“Once I met Tash and learned about the Tibetan cause, I knew how important this film could be,” Neumann said in an interview. “I feel this film is incredibly valuable, as it is video documentation of issues the Chinese are trying to say don’t exist.”
To make their film, Neumann and Despa traveled through Tibet by car, dodging Chinese police and security patrols and speaking to ordinary Tibetans.
Protecting these contacts was their “main concern,” Neumann said.
Though interviews were shot in silhouette, he said, “voices couldn’t be disguised until we returned home, so any footage needed to be hidden on a secret partition of a hard drive, and the tapes destroyed at the earliest opportunity.”
“I also smuggled in a secret camera which I then had to re-wire and assemble once inside Tibet.”
“At all times, we were in danger of arrest given the equipment we were carrying,” Neumann said. “However, this increased at times. For example, one interviewee got wind of spies in the area we were due to meet in, so we changed the rendezvous at the last minute.”
Each meeting was treated as a “military operation” and would take several days to plan, he added.
Often, the men and women that Neumann and Despa spoke with were victims of abuse by Chinese officials and police.
One was a woman coerced into a painful sterilization without anesthetic for having a child “above quota.” Another was a former prisoner who had been tortured for posting leaflets calling for Tibetan independence. Others were nomads deprived of their livestock, livelihood, and land.
“Nothing is better than the grassland,” a nomad woman tells the filmmakers at one point while standing in the road of a desolate forced-resettlement town.
Another nomad, interviewed inside his bleak concrete apartment, describes high rates of alcoholism and depression among the town’s 300 families.
“We live in terror,” he says.
At another point in the film, the former prisoner, who had been immersed in water by his jailers and subjected to electric shock, breaks down part-way through his interview. “I’m less than half the man I was before the Chinese tortured me,” he says.
Tash Despa, a former Tibetan refugee and now a British citizen, conducted the interviews in his native language. He said that he had been asked by a friend on behalf of the British production company True Vision if he would go back into the region to help make the documentary.
“This was a really good chance to show the world what happened in Tibet, to bring the true story out of Tibet,” Despa said. “So I said, ‘Let’s do it!’”
Despa said that he and Neumann flew first into Hong Kong, where they received a visa, and then flew on into Tibet.
“We went all over Tibet: Lhasa, Amdo,” said Despa, who fled Tibet’s northeastern Amdo region himself in 1996. “We couldn’t go to Kham, because we couldn’t find any contacts to meet with.”
Despa said he hopes that audiences viewing the film will “put pressure on their governments to help Tibet.”
The annual Rory Peck Awards provide a platform for filmmakers to “get their stories out, and to get their point of view out,” said Tina Carr, director of the London-based Rory Peck Trust.
“Lots of people get to see all this, and we get a lot of inquiries. And very often, broadcasters who didn’t know about these films see them and want to show them.”
“I’m absolutely certain [this] will happen with Jezza’s piece,” she said.
Click play to watch the dispatches episode here:
Speaker of Tibetan parliament-in-exile Karma Choephel
Tibetan exiles worked Tuesday to hammer out a new strategy for their fight against Chinese rule in the region, after the Dalai Lama called for fresh guidance from his followers.
More than 500 prominent Tibetans have gathered at the government in exile’s base in northern India to debate whether to ditch the Dalai Lama’s push for “meaningful autonomy” in favour of a demand for full independence.
B. Tsering, a delegate and president of the Tibetan Women’s Association, said the week of discussions could re-define the movement.
“Everyone feels the big responsibility entrusted to us,” she said after the first sessions of debate. “And there is concern that we are trying to come up with a solid strategic plan in just a few days.
“We are working in groups of 40, hearing representatives express the opinions that they have collected.”
The Tibetan Women’s Association has long supported the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” autonomy policy, but Tsering said it was now time to ask if a new approach was necessary.
“All of us are aware that the Dalai Lama has left no stone unturned in his work and yet he has not had any breakthrough,” she said.
“If at the end of this week the majority feel we should stick to the ‘middle way’, we have to think how we can make it work better. Maybe we have to seek alternatives.”
The Dalai Lama, who is not expected to attend the talks, said earlier this month that the “middle way” had failed, and he was now asking fellow Tibetans how to proceed.
A growing number of young exiles favour a call for independence, but such a policy switch would likely see a sharp drop in international support for their cause — and could also split the community.
Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, a delegate and member in the parliament in exile, said the meeting, which began Monday, was also focused on the current situation in Tibet.
Prime Minister of Tibetan government in exile, Samdhong Rinpoche (L)
In March, protests against Chinese rule in the capital, Lhasa, erupted into violence that spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations.
Tibet’s government in exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in the subsequent Chinese crackdown. China has reported police as killing just one “insurgent” and blames Tibetan “rioters” for the deaths of 21 people.
Phuntsok said the Dharamshala talks had already revealed some reluctance to abandon the Dalai Lama’s moderate stance.
“The debate over the ‘middle way’ or independence has started, but changing policy is not easy,” he said. “Perhaps we still have to give more energy to the present approach to see if it can work.”
Phuntsok described the meeting as “good brain-storming” that would result in a clear idea of Tibetan opinion.
The strategy session has no policy-making power — any recommendations would require the approval of the Tibetan parliament — but the prime minister in exile said the outcome would be influential.
“The atmosphere has been rather emotionally charged due to the repression in Tibet and the mixed feelings we have of fear and hope,” Samdhong Rinpoche told reporters on Tuesday.
“We are sincerely committed to democracy, and that means respecting the public opinion that is being sought in this meeting.”
The Dalai Lama was smuggled out of Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, since when thousands of his followers have also fled.
DHARAMSALA, India: Tibetan leaders opened a six-day meeting over the direction of their struggle with China on Monday, after the Dalai Lama, the region’s exiled spiritual leader, expressed frustration over years of fruitless talks with Beijing.
The meeting here in northern India, called by the Dalai Lama, comes after his comments last month bemoaning the lack of any progress by his envoys in talks with the Chinese government since 2002.
Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, called for an “open and frank discussion” and new ideas. Much of the debate is expected to boil down to two main choices: to continue pushing for Tibetan autonomy or beginning a movement for independence.
Rinpoche said in an opening speech to the hundreds of delegates that the meeting may not necessarily lead to a new approach with China and that any new path needs to have “the clear mandate of the people.”
The Dalai Lama was not expected to attend the meetings, said Lobsang Choedak, press officer of the government-in-exile.
On Sunday, the Dalai Lama’s envoys to the last round of talks with Beijing said in a statement that they had presented China with a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their autonomy needs within the framework of the Chinese Constitution. Their plan says the Constitution “contains fundamental principles on autonomy and self-government” that would allow Beijing to “respond to the uniqueness of the Tibet situation.”
But China apparently rejected the plan and recent “Chinese statements distort the position and proposal” outlined in the paper, the statement said.
Chinese officials said no progress was made in the talks two weeks ago, calling the Tibetan stance “a trick.”
“The Dalai Lama or the Tibetan government-in-exile cannot be held responsible for the failure of the Chinese to respond to our sincere and genuine attempts,” said Lodi Gyari, an envoy of the Dalai Lama who has participated in all eight rounds of talks since 2002.
“The Chinese leadership keeps on saying that the doors to a dialogue are always open but they haven’t shown any willingness to take any step, however small, forward,” he said.
China has dismissed the meeting this week as meaningless, saying the participants do not represent the views of most Tibetans. Beijing says the Dalai Lama and his followers are seeking outright independence from Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama has declined to offer his views on the future of the movement because he said he did not want to tilt the debate in any particular direction.
Karma Chophel, speaker of Parliament in the government-in-exile, said more than 8,000 of 17,000 Tibetans recently surveyed in Tibet said they would follow the Dalai Lama. More than 5,000 said they wanted Tibetan independence, more than twice the number who wanted to continue with the current approach, he said. He did not offer any details about how the survey was conducted.