Archive for ‘The View from Canada’

Denial of passports to Tibetans and Canada’s new visa policy

BY CAROLE SAMDUP (Montreal) - Last week’s announcement by Minister of Immigration John McCallum that the Government of Canada will increase the number of visas it offers to Chinese tourists, students, and temporary workers, was welcomed as another example of Canada’s special relationship with China.

The Minister also told reporters in Vancouver that he had recently met with officials in Beijing to request permission for more Canadian visa offices in China, suggesting an increase from five to ten and eventually tripling the number to fifteen.  According to media reports, McCallum characterized the new policy as a potential boost for the Canadian economy.

Canada is a country made up of immigrants and we have no inherent objection to increasing the number of people welcomed to this country from around the world, including from China.  However, in relation to China, Canada runs the risk of inadvertently endorsing discriminatory Chinese policies that deny passports to Tibetans. The denial of passports means that Tibetans are excluded from travel opportunities and associated benefits enjoyed by Chinese nationals.

China’s policy to deny passports to Tibetans first came to light in 2012 when the country-wide transition to electronic documents required each passport holder to turn in their passports for replacement.  In the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Tibetans were required to undergo a political investigation including a review by the TAR Military District Political Department as a precondition of receiving a new passport.

As a result, since 2012 very few passports have been issued to ordinary Tibetans, although there have been exceptions – some officials, the children of officials, and prominent businesspeople have reportedly been able to secure travel documents.  This is despite the fact that the number of passports issued to Chinese nationals has risen by 20% each year in the same time period.

The denial of passports prevents Tibetans from taking vacations abroad, attending religious events in other countries, or securing equal access to international education opportunities.

To illustrate, in 2013 forty-two students, mostly young girls from poor nomadic families on the Tibetan plateau, were offered scholarships to study in the United States based on test scores.  All were denied passports and subsequently lost the opportunity.

For those Tibetans who have managed to obtain travel documents, strict new regulations limit their activities outside of China.  For example, Tibetans returning from a religious teaching (Kalachakra) in India given by the Dalai Lama in 2012 were detained by police upon return and forced to undergo ‘patriotic education’.  Some were imprisoned or subjected to hard labor.  All had their passports confiscated.

Now, with news that Canada will welcome more Chinese passport holders to Canada, China’s discriminatory policies against Tibetans will become Canadian policies by default.

It is not possible to know how many of the 400,000 multiple entry Canadian visas given to applicants from China last year went to ethnic Tibetans.  We suspect very few, if any. Certainly any Tibetan who did obtain both a passport from the Government of China and a visa to Canada, was not able to interact with Tibetan-Canadians while in this country for fear of repercussions upon return home.

What is Canada to do?  Will our government move ahead with its proposed new policy while turning a blind eye to the exclusion of Tibetans as beneficiaries?  If so, is Canada applying a double standard when it increases the number of visas given to Chinese citizens but says nothing about the denial of travel documents to Tibetans?

Canadian officials in Beijing should have been more sensitive to this challenge.  In Canada, we have had our own debates about the rights of citizenship, and Prime Minister Trudeau proclaimed that “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”.   He was emphatic that each and every citizen has the same rights, equal rights.  Yet, Minister McCallum’s announcement did not acknowledge discriminatory access to passports in China, let alone put forward suggestions about how Canada might address it.

As this government increases its engagement with China, it must at the same time find a way to confront associated challenges.  Canada’s request to increase the number of Canadian visa offices in China must include the request for an office in Tibet’s capital, Lhasa, as pre-requisite for the new visa program to proceed.  Any government funded programs that facilitate temporary work or education opportunities for Chinese nationals in Canada must include quotas for ordinary Tibetans from inside Tibet.  Once in Canada, Tibetans should be free to interact with Canadians of Tibetan origin and to take religious teachings as they wish without the fear of repercussion at home.

Finally, the Government of Canada must consider what it will do if China remains unmoved, and continues to deny equal access to passports for Tibetans.

Carole Samdup is the Executive Director of the Canada Tibet Committee

Summer reading 2016

SUMMER READING - 2015

Whether sitting on the beach or spending your summer days in balconville, the summer months are a perfect time to do some reading and to feed your Tibet obsession at the same time. Below, you will find a list of Tibet-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, compiled from CTC staff suggestions and including books by Canadian authors.  In addition to recent publications, this year’s list repeats popular selections from previous years, books for children, and a selection in the French language.  Happy reading!

NON-FICTION

Tibet on Fire: Self-Immolations Against Chinese Rule
By Tsering Woeser, translation by Kevin Carrico, Verso, 2016

Since the 2008 uprising, nearly 150 Tibetan monks have set fire to themselves in protest at the Chinese occupation of their country. Most have died from their injuries. Author Tsering Woeser is a prominent voice of the Tibetan movement, and one of the few Tibetan authors to write in Chinese. Her stirring acts of resistance have led to her house arrest, where she remains under close surveillance to this day. Tibet On Fire is her account of the oppression Tibetans face and the ideals driving those who resist, both the self-immolators and other Tibetans like herself. With a cover image designed by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

Ethnic Conflict Protest in Tibet & Xinjiang
Edited by Ben Hillman and Gray Tuttle, Columbia University Press, 2016

Despite more than a decade of rapid economic development, rising living standards, and large-scale improvements in infrastructure and services, China's western borderlands are awash in a wave of ethnic unrest not seen since the 1950s. Through on-the-ground interviews and firsthand observations, the international experts in this volume create the most extensive chronicle of events to date. The authors examine the factors driving the unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang and the political strategies used to suppress them. This volume considers the role of propaganda and education as generators and sources of conflict, linking interethnic strife to economic growth and environmental degradation to increased instability.

Guardians of Nature: Tibetan Pastoralists and the Natural World
By Tsering Bum, Asia Highlands Perspectives, 2016

Guardians of Nature is a clearly written and insightful view of the political economic, environmental, and social-cultural transformations reshaping lives and livelihoods on the Tibetan Plateau. Written as a first-hand narrative account of his work over several years with Yulshul villagers, Tsering Bum’s perceptive book discusses key issues of contemporary Tibetan pastoralism: mining; the importance of the caterpillar fungus economy; resettlement; co-ops; education policy; human-wildlife conflict; and sacred mountains. It also explores new phenomena, such as Tibetan pastoralists hiring Han Chinese as herding laborers while living off of caterpillar fungus income. Bum’s analysis is strongly recommended for anyone interested in Tibetan pastoral areas of Tibet.

China and Tibet: The Perils of Insecurity
Tsering Topgyal, Hurst Publishers, 2016

Over sixty years of violence and dialogue have brought China and the Tibetans no closer to a resolution of their conflict. Beijing has denied the existence of a 'Tibet Issue' and rejected several Tibetan proposals for autonomy, fearful that they might undermine its state-building project in Tibet. Conversely, Tibetan insecurity about threats to identity generated by Chinese policies, Han migration and cultural influences in Tibet, explains both the Dalai Lama's unpopular decision to abandon his aspiration for Tibetan independence and his demands for autonomy and unification of all Tibetans under one administration. Identity insecurity also drives the multi-faceted Tibetan resistance both inside Tibet and in the diaspora. Thus the outcome is, paradoxically, greater insecurity on both sides.

 Effects of Resettlement on Tibetan Nomads (Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province)
By Kenneth Bauer, Commission of Nomadic Peoples, 2015

As nomads increasingly move to urban areas, regional and local economies are shifting, as are social relations and the traditional systems that have managed rangeland resources for millennia. Yet few studies have investigated the empirics of life within these resettled communities. Drawing from survey and interview data, I suggest that while resettlement offers nomad families opportunities in terms of access to public services such as education and health care, it also entails significant new expenses for households even as their earnings potential contracts; these trends are exacerbated in the case of poorer households and income inequalities are likely to worsen when families move to urban areas.

Tibetan Environmentalists in China: The King of Dzi
By Liu Jianqiang - Translated by Ian Rowen, Cyrus K. Hui, and Emily T. Yeh, Rowen & Littlefield, 2015

Tibetan Environmentalists In China weaves together the life stories of five extraordinary contemporary Tibetans involved in environmental protection. In the politically fraught and ever-worsening situation for Tibetans within China today, it is often said that the only possible path for a better solution will be through a change in the way that the majority Chinese society thinks about and understands Tibetans, their aspirations, histories, and desires. This book provides the first such account by drawing readers in with beautiful narrative prose and fascinating stories, and then using their attention to demystify Tibetans, cultivating in the reader a sense of empathy as well as facts upon which to rebuild an intercultural understanding. It is the first work that seriously aims to let the Chinese public understand Tibetans and in doing so it opens up a whole new way of understanding Tibet.

A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives
By Thupten Jinpa PhD, Hudson Street Press, 2015

Montrealer, Thupten Jinpa looks at how the Buddhist practice of mindfulness caught on in the west when we began to understand the everyday, personal benefits it brought us. Now, in this extraordinary book, the highly acclaimed thought leader and longtime English translator of His Holiness the Dalai Lama shows us that compassion can bring us even more. Based on the landmark course in compassion training Jinpa helped create at Stanford Medical School, A Fearless Heart uses science and insights from both classical Buddhist and western psychology to train our compassion muscle to relieve stress, fight depression, improve our health, achieve our goals, and change our world.

A Home in Tibet
By Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, Penquin, 2014

When her mother dies in a car accident along a great highway in India, far from her country and her family, Tsering decides to take a handful of her ashes to Tibet. She arrives at the foothills of her mother’s ancestral home in a nomadic village in East Tibet to realize that she had been preparing for this homecoming all her life. Everything is familiar to her, especially the flowers of the Tibetan summer. She understands then the gift her mother had bequeathed her: the love of a land.

Meltdown in Tibet: China's Reckless Destruction of Ecosystems from the Highlands of Tibet to the Deltas of Asia
By Michael Buckley, Palgrave MacMillan, 2014

In Meltdown in Tibet Canadian writer, Michael Buckley, turns the spotlight on the darkest side of China's emergence as a global super power. Tibetans have experienced waves of genocide since the 1950s. Now they are facing ecocide. The Himalayan snowcaps are in meltdown mode, due to climate change—accelerated by a rain of black soot from massive burning of coal and other fuels in both China and India. The mighty rivers of Tibet are being dammed by Chinese engineering consortiums to feed the mainland’s thirst for power, and the land is being relentlessly mined in search of minerals to feed China’s industrial complex. On the drawing board are plans for a massive engineering project to divert water from Eastern Tibet to water-starved Northern China. Ruthless Chinese repression leaves Tibetans powerless to stop the reckless destruction of their sacred land, but they are not the only victims of this campaign: the nations downstream from Tibet rely heavily on rivers sourced in Tibet for water supply, and for rich silt used in agriculture. This destruction of the region's environment has been happening with little scrutiny until now.

Tibetan Home Cooking
Lobsang Wangdu and Yolanda O’Bannon, Yowandu.com, 2013

Tibetan Home Cooking includes a 130+ page eBook full of well-loved, authentic recipes that are cooked in the great majority of Tibetan homes. The book offers 27 wonderful recipes that have been passed down in Tibetan families for hundreds of years and it includes photos and an instructive video with each recipe. The book contains tips on how to find exotic ingredients or what to substitute for certain things are difficult to find outside of Tibet.  All sections of the book can be printed, and you can use it on your iPad/iPhone, or other mobile device.

 FICTION

The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes
By Jamyang Norbu, Bloomsbury USA, 2003

In 1891, the British public was horrified to learn that Sherlock Holmes had perished in a deadly struggle with the archcriminal Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Then, to its amazement, he reappeared two years later, informing a stunned Watson, 'I traveled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhasa.'  Now for the first time, we learn of Holmes's brush with the Great Game and the world of Kim. We follow him north across the hot and duty plains of India to Simla, summer capital of the British Raj, and over the high passes to the vast emptiness of the Tibetan plateau. In the medieval splendor that is Lhasa, intrigue and black treachery stalk the shadows, and Sherlock Holmes confronts his greatest challenge.

Red Poppies: A Novel of Tibet
By Alai, Mariner Books, 2003

A lively and cinematic twentieth-century epic, Red Poppies focuses on the extravagant and brutal reign of a clan of Tibetan warlords during the rise of Chinese Communism. The story is wryly narrated by the chieftain's son, a self-professed "idiot" who reveals the bloody feuds, seductions, secrets, and scheming behind his family's struggles for power. When the chieftain agrees to grow opium poppies with seeds supplied by the Chinese Nationalists in exchange for modern weapons, he draws Tibet into the opium trade -- and unwittingly plants the seeds for a downfall. Red Poppies is at once a political parable and a moving elegy to the lost kingdom of Tibet in all its cruelty, beauty, and romance.

Maya
By C.W. Huntington Jr, Wisdom Publication, 2015

It is 1975 and India is in turmoil. American Stanley Harrington arrives to study Sanskrit philosophy and escape his failing marriage. When he finds himself witness to a violent accident, he begins to question his grip on reality. Maya introduces us to an entertaining cast of hippies, expats, and Indians of all walks of life. From a hermit hiding in the Himalayan jungle since the days of the British Raj, to an accountant at the Bank of India with a passion for Sanskrit poetry, to the last in a line of brahman scholars, Stanley’s path ultimately leads him to a Tibetan yogi, who enlists the American’s help in translating a mysterious ancient text. Maya, literally “illusion,” is an extended meditation on the unraveling of identity. Filled with rich observations and arresting reflections, it mines the porous border between memory and imagination.

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver
By Chan Koonchung; translation by Nicky Harman, Doubleday, 2014

Champa, a young Tibetan, is a simple chap. He has a stable job in Lhasa as chauffeur to a successful Chinese art dealer, Plum. Champa doesn't have a gripe against the Chinese. He's not the sort of guy to get caught up in politics either: he just wants to get on in life. For Champa, a sure sign that he's made it would be to move to the Chinese capital and live there like a young Beijinger. But then he begins a romantic affair with Plum and life gets complicated. Shifting balances of power, deliberate manipulations, the force of sexual desire, and the ache of longing are par for the course. And relationships are even more complex when there are vast differences in wealth, culture and power between the man and the woman, between Tibet and China.

CHILDREN:

 Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero
By Dominique Townsend and Tenzin Norbu, Wisdom Publications, 2015

Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero is the retelling of Shantideva’s teachings before a surprised audience, who had thought he was useless and could only eat, sleep, and poop. Leading his listeners into a superhero training of different kind, he reveals the secret to perfect bravery and unbounded compassion and shows how anyone can develop them. You don’t need super-strength or magical powers, he says. You just need practice. Over a dozen illustrations painted in traditional Tibetan style draw in readers to this work that will be treasured not only by Buddhist families but by anyone who aspires to become more kind and wise.

Escape from Tibet (Young Adult - revised edition)
Nick Gray with Laura Scandiffio, Annick Press, 2014

A true story first told in an acclaimed documentary, Escape from Tibet, this is a riveting tale of courage, adventure, and triumph.  It tells the story of two young brothers who escape an oppressive existence by fleeing to India alone and on foot over the Himalayas. On the forbidden journey they face challenges, including unimaginable cruelty of border police, and the unforgiving severity of Mother Nature.  In this updated edition, the Dalai Lama provides a forward and the authors tell how the brothers fared in exile and what they are doing now.

The Dharma of Star Wars
Matthew Bortolin, Wisdom Publications, 2005

The Dharma of Star Wars uses George Lucas' beloved modern saga and the universal discoveries of the Buddha to illuminate each other in playful and unexpectedly rewarding ways. Bortolin even reveals satisfying depths to the second trilogy of movies-the ones that met with what can understatedly be called a less-than-warm critical reception. The Dharma of Star Wars gives you an inpsiring and totally new take on this timeless saga, from A New Hope all the way up to 2005's Revenge of the Sith. Fun for all ages, The Dharma of Star Wars is also a perfect way for Buddhist parents to bridge the generation gap.

Politicians should be clear with China: Human rights matter

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

BY THUBTEN SAMDUP (Montreal) - Reports this weekend that the Government of China has invited Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau to China, raise the specter of yet another love-fest between Chinese President Xi Jinping and a Western leader. The invitation comes on the heels of last month’s much-publicised UK visit by the Chinese president and last week’s pilgrimage to Beijing by Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande. Even Montreal’s Mayor Denis Coderre is currently leading a 70-person delegation of business people in China.

Once a regular component of Western delegations to China, human rights are not on anyone’s agenda in 2015.

In September, the Chinese government abruptly cancelled two shows by singer Bon Jovi that were set for Shanghai and Beijing. The performances had been eagerly anticipated by both the band and the Chinese public. In August, the group promoted their tour with a recorded video of a popular ballad sung in Mandarin.

Bon Jovi is only the latest casualty of Beijing’s unwelcome infringement on the rights of non-Chinese citizens to freely express their points of view. It represents China’s ongoing and successful tactic of intimidation and bullying of anyone who criticises its policies or supports those who speak up for tolerance and human rights – even if those people are not Chinese.

According to a report in The Guardian newspaper, it is believed that Bon Jovi’s concerts were cancelled because the band once projected an image of Tibet's spiritual leader The Dalai Lama during a 2010 concert in Taiwan.

Chinese officials have long waged a campaign of denigration against the Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after the occupation of Tibet. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his lifelong efforts to promote peace and compassion. In 2006, he was named one of only six honorary Canadian citizens. But the Chinese continue to accuse him of fomenting separatism and take every opportunity to punish those who have any contact with him.

Bon Jovi is not the first celebrity to suffer the consequences of supporting the Dalai Lama in public. In July the band Maroon 5 had their Shanghai shows cancelled after one band member tweeted a happy birthday message to the Tibetan spiritual leader. In 2009, music group Oasis was forced to cancel shows because one member had taken part in a Free Tibet concert in New York years before.

Taking histrionic offence at anyone who would support the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan cause, China continues to flex its economic muscle and threaten retribution. Not content with intimidation of popular musicians, China also exerts pressure and censorial demands on democratically elected political leaders. The recent kowtow of David Cameron during President Xi Jinping’s UK is just the most recent example.

Today, China flaunts a daunting level of censorship at home and threatens economic reprisals to Western politicians, artists, and human rights advocates who dare speak their minds about justice and freedom. In a clear illustration, Beijing is quick to strike at and penalize public figures who opt to support or meet with the Dalai Lama.

An even greater concern is the persistent public silence surrounding China’s bullying.

The issue is not simply the ongoing repression in Tibet, or the escalating violations of human rights that take place across China. The Bon Jovi case, and the other examples it symbolizes, speak to a broader issue: the apparent willingness of Western democracies to sacrifice their values and principles in exchange for access to China’s vast markets. Meeting China's repressive moves with silence conveys the illusion of consent.

The solution is to speak clearly. China’s leaders must understand that respect within the global community depends on improving its human rights record. If politicians are not up to the task, perhaps this is the time to rally members of the artistic community to make a collective public statement. Be it in the form of a massive concert that replaces those cancelled, or a new millennia protest song that inspires change, musical artists can lead the way.

As we have seen with well-known Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s recent push back against Lego, artistic communities have significant public influence. They can send a clear message not only to China’s leaders but to the leaders of Western democracies – human rights matter.

If, in this globalized world, lack of vigilance contributes to the erosion of human rights in any country, who will be left to uphold human freedom and speak for the voiceless in Tibet and elsewhere?

-
Thubten Samdup is the former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the UK, and the founding President of the Canada Tibet Committee.

Canadian politicians should embrace the radicalism of compassion

BY PHIL JENKINS (Ottawa) - "There used to be an annual wine-out and shmooze fest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa called Pen and Politics. Local authors and professional politicians, one of each, were invited to grace large round tables otherwise populated by groups from other sectors of society – finance, high-tech, real-estate and such. (One time, I was on a table of bankers. When one of them asked me to sign a book I had published, I added the epigram, ‘It is a greater crime to own a bank than to rob one, Bertolt Brecht,’ which he enjoyed.)
Another year, I was seated next to the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. During our conversation, I lightly suggested that she change the name of the party, the ‘New’ now being redundant, to the Compassionate Party of Canada. Then during an election, when anyone said they wouldn’t vote for them, she could say, “So, you are against compassion as a basis for governing?” I was serious, but we both knew it was a whimsical notion.

Prior to that evening I had evolved the one maxim that I hope will make it into a book of Canadian quotations, under Politics; “It is the duty of governments to administer compassion and govern greed, not the other way round.” The fact that successive Canadian governments as far back as I have voted, beginning with the 31stelection in 1979, have all for the most part done it the other way round, has not dented my hope that Ottawa as a city and Canada as a country will evolve towards a political ideology based on the golden rule. Which is what I was really talking about with the NDP leader.

Karen Armstrong, author of Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life and the originator in 2008 of the Charter for Compassion, considers the golden rule as good a basis for a nation state and the cities within as any. I agree. In 2010, Seattle became the first city in the world to sign on to the charter. At last count sixty-four communities have done so, and Ottawa is listed on the Charter website (charterforcompassion.org) of communities moving towards doing so.

The Dalai Lama who was in Ottawa twenty-five years ago on September 30th, 1990 to unveil the Human Rights monument on Elgin Street, a short walk from Parliament, wrote a small book on compassion. In it he says that, “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.” Wise man, that Dalai Lama. It was possible, at the time that he was in Ottawa, to hope that something radical might be about to happen in the world; Moscovian totalitarianism was eroding, the first buds of the Arab Spring were appearing. Perhaps the ancient pendulum was swinging away from human wrongs towards human rights.

But since then fiscal crisis management, consumption boosterism, corporate subsidy, militarism, Big Brothering, fear mongering, Partying and maintaining a choke hold on power have overwhelmed the administration of compassion as the business of government, here in Canada, in North America and globally. Greed, the vice that breaks the golden rule, is ascendant. All the more reason, then, to embrace the radicalism of compassion. To let the golden rule shine."

Phil Jenkins is an Ottawa-based journalist.

Failed Promise: 25 years ago the Dalai Lama unveiled Canada’s “Tribute to Human Rights Monument”

BY CAROLE SAMDUP (Montreal) - Twenty-five years ago today, I was standing in a crowd of more than 3000 Canadians as His Holiness the Dalai Lama unveiled Canada’s Tribute to Human Rights Monument in Ottawa. It was a cold and rainy day but the atmosphere was warm and festive. It was a thrilling moment, filled with pride for Tibetans both here in Canada and around the world.

For Canadians present that day, the Monument signified Canada’s commitment to human rights. As the world's first structure dedicated to the struggle for fundamental rights and freedoms, the unveiling was a proud expression of our national values.

The unveiling took place on September 30, 1990 during the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Ottawa and less than one year after he had received the Nobel Peace Prize. The event was all the more significant because it came only a day after the agreement unifying East and West Germany was finalized. For those gathered at the unveiling, we believed another world was possible.

The crowd waved small Tibetan flags as John Peters Humphrey, the Canadian jurist who authored the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, introduced His Holiness. And then a small child, in a sudden burst of enthusiasm, ran up from the crowd onto the stage and stood with Hon. Gerry Weiner, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism, as His Holiness pulled the string that held the tarpaulin covering the monument.

HR Monument

The electricity in the crowd was perhaps best expressed by the ceremony’s host, Hon. Ed Broadbent. “As political leader of the noble Tibetan people, no one better represents the cause of human rights than the Dalai Lama,” he said. “Today, we all join with him in his struggle for the re-establishment of religious tolerance and human rights for the people of Tibet”.

In response, His Holiness emphasized the importance of non-violence and compassion within the Tibetan struggle. “Because violence can only breed more violence and suffering, our struggle must remain non-violent and free of hatred. We are trying to end the suffering of our people, not to inflict suffering upon others.”

Building on his message, a few days later on October 2, 1990, His Holiness presented his Five-Point Peace Plan to a joint sitting of the Parliamentary Committees on Foreign Affairs and on Human Rights, where he appealed for Canada’s support to advance the Sino-Tibet dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan cause. Sadly, a quarter century later, there is no dialogue and China’s increasingly hard line, bolstered by its economic might, has silenced many of its once steadfast supporters.

Today the Monument’s brass plaque still bears the Dalai Lama’s name, but it is tarnished and largely forgotten. The signs of neglect are symbolic of the international community’s failure to confront the human rights challenge in Tibet. Since 2009, more than 140 Tibetans have self-immolated in protest of China’s harsh treatment of the Tibetan people. Discriminatory economic policies, arrests, deaths in custody, denial of free expression, interference in the practice of religious and cultural traditions are everyday realities in Tibet today. It is a sad reflection on our collective failure to meet the lofty promise of human rights for all - the message that was so inspirational when Canada’s Tribute to Human Rights Monument was unveiled twenty-five years ago.

History will tell the tale. History will be the judge.

Canada’s Tribute to Human Rights Monument is a granite and marble structure on which is engraved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Originally conceived as a tribute to Poland’s Solidarity Movement, the Monument evolved into a broader commitment by Canadians to live in a society based on justice, human dignity, and universal rights.

Designed by renowned Montreal artist and architect Melvin Charney, the Monument was conceived in relationship to the National War Memorial which it faces. It mirrors the War Memorial but transforms the reflection according to the biblical passage “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares”. Visitors to the Monument walk a symbolic pathway towards peace and co-existence.

Nobel Peace Laureates championed the Monument and its message. The first steps on the path were taken by Lech Walesa in November 1989 during his visit to Canada. His Holiness the Dalai Lama unveiled the Monument in 1990. In 1998 Nelson Mandela visited the Monument and walked its pathway saying that it "inspires all who see it to join hands in a partnership for world peace, prosperity and equity."

Over the years, Tibetan-Canadians and their supporters have held numerous vigils and rallies at the Monument.

Carole Samdup is the Executive Director of the Canada Tibet Committee.

The Dalai Lama’s Five Point Peace Plan is found at: http://www.dalailama.com/messages/tibet/five-point-peace-plan

 

Summer reading 2015

Whether sitting on the beach or spending your summer days in balconville, the summer months are a perfect time to catch up on reading and to feed your Tibet obsession at the same time.

Below, you will find a list of Tibet-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, featuring 5 books written by Canadian authors including our very own Board member, Lara Braitstein!  In addition to recent publications, this year’s list repeats popular selections from our 2014 reading list in case you missed them. Happy reading!

FICTION

Treachery in Tibet
John Wilcox, Allison and Busby, 2015

1903. The British Empire has reached its probable apogee: so much of the world map is coloured red and the sun never set on its boundaries. But Lord Curzon, the ambitious Viceroy of India, has different views. Tibet, the mountainous region on the Raj’s borders, irritates him: the Dalai Lama never replies to his letters and border disputes multiply. He decides to invade and recruits Simon Fonthill, veteran of so many of ‘Queen Victoria’s Little Wars,’ to lead 2000 men over the ice-bound Himalayan passes to Lhasa. Fonthill sets out on another expedition with his wife Alice, reporting for the Morning Post, and his old comrade, ‘352’ Jenkins. It is machine guns against muskets as the cruel and brave monks, fighting on their own terrain among the clouds, oppose the invasion. When Alice is captured, treachery is revealed, and Fonthill and Jenkins must gallop to her aid in their most arduous and thrilling adventure yet.

Maya
By C.W. Huntington Jr, Wisdom Publication, 2015

It is 1975 and India is in turmoil. American Stanley Harrington arrives to study Sanskrit philosophy and escape his failing marriage. When he finds himself witness to a violent accident, he begins to question his grip on reality. Maya introduces us to an entertaining cast of hippies, expats, and Indians of all walks of life. From a hermit hiding in the Himalayan jungle since the days of the British Raj, to an accountant at the Bank of India with a passion for Sanskrit poetry, to the last in a line of brahman scholars, Stanley’s path ultimately leads him to a Tibetan yogi, who enlists the American’s help in translating a mysterious ancient text. Maya, literally “illusion,” is an extended meditation on the unraveling of identity. Filled with rich observations and arresting reflections, it mines the porous border between memory and imagination.

The Unbearable Dreamworld of Champa the Driver
By Chan Koonchung; translation by Nicky Harman, Doubleday, 2014

Champa, a young Tibetan, is a simple chap. He has a stable job in Lhasa as chauffeur to a successful Chinese art dealer, Plum. Champa doesn't have a gripe against the Chinese. He's not the sort of guy to get caught up in politics either: he just wants to get on in life. For Champa, a sure sign that he's made it would be to move to the Chinese capital and live there like a young Beijinger. But then he begins a romantic affair with Plum and life gets complicated. Shifting balances of power, deliberate manipulations, the force of sexual desire, and the ache of longing are par for the course. And relationships are even more complex when there are vast differences in wealth, culture and power between the man and the woman, between Tibet and China.

NON-FICTION

CanadaFlag The Adamantine Songs by Saraha
Translated by Lara Braitstein PhD, Columbia University Press, 2014

Presented here for the first time is a set of three of Saraha's Adamantine Songs (Vajragiti), poetic works of realization that play a central role in the Mahamudra tantric tradition of both India and Tibet. Saraha was an Indian tantric master and mahasiddha and was among the most notable figures from India's late first millennium, a time of rich religious and literaray activity. His influence on Buddhist practice and poetry extended beyond the Indian subcontinent and into Tibet where it continues to affect every tradition engaging the practice and philosophy of the esoteric Mahamudra. In her eloquent translation of these songs, Braitstein – professor of religion at McGill University - provides a door into Saraha's views on the nature of mind as both evocative poetry and theoretical exegesis. These songs offer a new perspective on the religious life of Buddhist India and the figure of one of its most famous adepts.

CanadaFlag Meltdown in Tibet: China's Reckless Destruction of Ecosystems from the Highlands of Tibet to the Deltas of Asia
By Michael Buckley, Palgrave MacMillan, 2014

In Meltdown in Tibet Canadian writer, Michael Buckley, turns the spotlight on the darkest side of China's emergence as a global super power. Tibetans have experienced waves of genocide since the 1950s. Now they are facing ecocide. The Himalayan snowcaps are in meltdown mode, due to climate change—accelerated by a rain of black soot from massive burning of coal and other fuels in both China and India. The mighty rivers of Tibet are being dammed by Chinese engineering consortiums to feed the mainland’s thirst for power, and the land is being relentlessly mined in search of minerals to feed China’s industrial complex. On the drawing board are plans for a massive engineering project to divert water from Eastern Tibet to water-starved Northern China. Ruthless Chinese repression leaves Tibetans powerless to stop the reckless destruction of their sacred land, but they are not the only victims of this campaign: the nations downstream from Tibet rely heavily on rivers sourced in Tibet for water supply, and for rich silt used in agriculture. This destruction of the region's environment has been happening with little scrutiny until now.

A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World
By Daniel Goleman, Penguin, 2015

In A Force for Good, with the help of his longtime friend Daniel Goleman, the New York Times bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, the Dalai Lama explains how to turn our compassionate energy outward. This revelatory and inspiring work provides a singular vision for transforming the world in practical and positive ways. . A Force for Good combines the central concepts of the Dalai Lama, empirical evidence that supports them, and true stories of people who are putting his ideas into action—showing how harnessing positive energies and directing them outward has lasting and meaningful effects. Goleman details the science of compassion and how this singular guiding motivation has the power to break destructive social forces, heal the planet, and replace violence with compassion.

CanadaFlag A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives
By Thupten Jinpa PhD, Hudson Street Press, 2015

Montrealer, Thupten Jinpa looks at how the Buddhist practice of mindfulness caught on in the west when we began to understand the everyday, personal benefits it brought us. Now, in this extraordinary book, the highly acclaimed thought leader and longtime English translator of His Holiness the Dalai Lama shows us that compassion can bring us even more. Based on the landmark course in compassion training Jinpa helped create at Stanford Medical School, A Fearless Heart uses science and insights from both classical Buddhist and western psychology to train our compassion muscle to relieve stress, fight depression, improve our health, achieve our goals, and change our world.

The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong
By Gyalo Thondup and Anne Thurston, PublicAffairs; 2015

The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong tells the extraordinary story of the Dalai Lama’s family from the perspective of his older brother Gyalo Thondup. It offers insights into events around the exile of the Tibetan leader and the enduring political crisis that has seen remote and bleakly beautiful Tibet all but disappear as an independent nation-state. For the last sixty years, Gyalo Thondup has been at the at the heart of the epic struggle to protect and advance Tibet in the face of unreliable allies, overwhelming odds, and devious rivals, playing an utterly determined and unique role in a Cold War high-altitude superpower rivalry. Here, for the first time, he reveals how he found himself whisked between Chiang Kai-shek, Zhou Enlai, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the CIA, as he tried to secure, on behalf of his brother, the future of Tibet.

Intercept: The Secret History of Computers and Spies Hardcover
By Gordon Corera, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015

Intercept is the previously untold - and previously highly classified - story of the melding of technology and espionage. Gordon Corera's compelling narrative, rich with historical details and characters, takes us from the Second World War to the internet age, with astonishing revelations about espionage carried out today. Computers transformed espionage from the spy hunting of the Cold War years to the data-driven pursuit of terrorists and the industrial-scale cyber-espionage against corporations in the twenty-first century. Intercept draws upon interesting examples from Tibetan experience, including interviews with Canada Tibet Committee’s founder Thubten Samdup, combined with on the ground reporting from China and insights into the most powerful technology companies. Corera has gathered compelling stories in a ground-breaking exploration of the new space in which the worlds of espionage, geopolitics, diplomacy, international business, science and technology collide.

A Hundred Thousand White Stones
By Kunsang Dolma, Wisdom Publications, 2013

A Hundred Thousand White Stones is one young Tibetan woman's fearlessly told story of longing and change. Kunsang Dolma writes with unvarnished candor of the hardships she experienced as a girl in Tibet, violations as a refugee nun in India, and struggles as an immigrant and new mother in America. Yet even in tribulation, she finds levity and never descends to self-pity. We watch in wonder as her unlikely choices and remarkable persistence bring her into ever-widening circles, finding love and a family in the process, and finally bringing her back to her childhood home. A Hundred Thousand White Stones offers an honest assessment of what is gained in pursuing life in the developed world and what is lost.

CanadaFlag With the Tibetans in Tent and Temple
By Susie Carson Rijnhart, Foreign Christian Missionary Society, 1904

Often cited as the first Canadian in Tibet, Susie Carson Rijnhart (1868 - 1908) offers her personal account of the years she spent in Tibet as a missionary with her husband, Petrus Rijnhart, in the late 1800s. In the book, Susie Rijnhart documents their experiences with Tibetan officials, lamas and lay people as they attempted to travel overland from China to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Often providing medical services to the locals, the Rijnhart’s experiences ended in tragedy when Petrus was killed by bandits and the Rijnhart’s small baby died of illness. Still, the account provides an interesting insight to the Tibetan culture and polity in the years before China’s occupation.

CanadaFlag Tongues of Earth (Poems)
By Mark Abley, Coteau Books, 2015

Award-winning Canadian journalist Mark Abley’s latest book of poetry includes three new poems about Tibet along with the finest pieces from his three previous books. Known as a writer of place, in The Tongues of Earth Abley extends his range over time and history. His poems are distinguished by their combination of clarity and grace, high intelligence and deep feeling. The Tibet poems offer a moving observation of Tibet’s loss of freedom even as they celebrate the beauty of Tibetan culture. Poems such as "Mother and Son", "Labrador" and "Glasburyon" are the work of a literary artist with few peers in Canada. To those who have known Abley only as a prose writer, this book will come as a revelation.

CHILDREN:

Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero
By Dominique Townsend and Tenzin Norbu

Shantideva: How to Wake Up a Hero is the retelling of Shantideva’s teachings before a surprised audience, who had thought he was useless and could only eat, sleep, and poop. Leading his listeners into a superhero training of different kind, he reveals the secret to perfect bravery and unbounded compassion and shows how anyone can develop them. You don’t need super-strength or magical powers, he says. You just need practice. Over a dozen illustrations painted in traditional Tibetan style draw in readers to this work that will be treasured not only by Buddhist families but by anyone who aspires to become more kind and wise.

Escape from Tibet (Young Adult - revised edition)
Nick Gray with Laura Scandiffio, Annick Press, 2014

A true story first told in an acclaimed documentary, Escape from Tibet, this is a riveting tale of courage, adventure, and triumph. It tells the story of two young brothers who escape an oppressive existence by fleeing to India alone and on foot over the Himalayas. On the forbidden journey they face challenges, including unimaginable cruelty of border police, and the unforgiving severity of Mother Nature. In this updated edition, the Dalai Lama provides a forward and the authors tell how the brothers fared in exile and what they are doing now.

Illuminating human rights

BY SAMPHE LHALUNGPA (Ottawa):  Your Worship, Mayor Watson, esteemed speakers and invitees, what an honor to be here today at this special ceremony to illuminate this monument, the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights.

CTHR

As a Canadian of Tibetan origin, it is a special honor to be here, speaking on behalf of the Canada-Tibet Committee and as someone from a micro community. As you all know, this monument was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his 1990 visit to Ottawa… and I the had the pleasure of being here for that special event – though I must admit with slightly more hair and considerably less waist!!

Much has happened since then. His Holiness was made an Honorary Canadian, one of just five. The great champion of freedom and human rights, Madeba - Nelson Mandela - is another. His Holiness has also gone on to become a universally respected figure for his compassion and commitment to non-violence and for his very special bond with people.

 

In these short remarks, I would like to make two points:

  • The need for us here in Canada, along with others of goodwill and friends of China, to advocate for rolling back the series of measures now in place in Tibet that deny the people there, even those rights prescribed under the constitution of the PRC;
  • To make a point that facilitating access to rights is an important dimension of creating a culture of rights.

The first point: Today, in the face of unrelenting repression by a security state and the brutal crackdown on the very idea of what it is to be a Tibetan on the High Plateau, Tibetans have remained true to the principles of non-violence and in fact in more than 140 cases have chosen to sacrifice their own lives in protest through self -immolation. Not only people, Tibet’s fragile environment is also under pressure because of China’s policies. Here I would like to share a few lines of a poem by a Tibetan blogger on the impact of uncontrolled mining on the High Plateau:

On top of the Mountain, people with metal fangs

Tear off the skeleton of the mountain, Blue Sheep,

Start on the hillside, hawks hover in the sky

Unable to find a rock to perch on, feathers

Shed in the wind

On the silent grasslands, those

Tracks of wheels, like a scar on a young girls face

Oppress the vessel of the mountain…….While those

Irrelevant rocks, exposed

Shapeless blood, whiter than milk

Drop by Drop, flows along

With the wound of the hillside

While the mountains are scarred and people battered, the spirit is strong and does not give in to hate.

It is now time for the world community to recognize these acts of courage and morality. Dear friends, Canada is well placed to call for dialogue towards the establishment of real negotiations on the Tibet issue. Our standing is bolstered by actions such as the Truth and Reconciliation process and we now enjoy a unique opportunity to use that space as the basis for assuming international leadership on the Tibet issue.

Too often the discourse on human rights becomes a finger pointing exercise. What is needed is for countries to share best practices and in this way to ensure that human rights advocacy reflects our respect and empathy for the other. For example where countries do the right thing, we should recognize their achievements including for example, in the PRC which has in recent years managed to bring some 400 million out of poverty. This is a laudable achievement and needs to be recognized also within its human rights perspective.

As a retired UNICEF development professional, I can say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child changed the focus, strategies and direction of our work and engagement. Because it was seen in less threatening terms, it is one of the most widely ratified human rights conventions, closer examination will reveal that it contains, many clauses that refer to freedoms of association, religion etc.

My observations as a development professional with UNICEF over the last 24 years have convinced me that human rights must not only be declared but must also be resourced. People must be able to access their rights, especially people who are socially or economically excluded or marginalized.

For example, most countries now claim to be in compliance with the Right to Education. On paper, it is certainly the case, but on closer examination, one finds that significant numbers of children do not have meaningful access. Although they may be enrolled, they have not been able to complete their education or the education they completed was not at an acceptable standard. I mention education especially as today is the International Day of Action on Child Labor and in many cases it is the lack of meaningful access – in its broadest sense -- to quality education that drives families and children to work. So yes, primary school enrollment is a start and by no means an end goal. When very poor families have to make a choice between the purchase of exercise books for the child and school fees or food in the family pot, the choice is obvious - legislation notwithstanding. It is not Education For All.

Finally, I first arrived in Ottawa in 1976 from Vancouver, where my family had lived since 1971, and was then almost the only person of Tibetan origin here. Today, after being away for more than 23 years, I am glad to report that there are around 70 Tibetans in Ottawa and by 2016, we should number around 100. These latest additions to the group are thanks to the Government of Canada and its positive response to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s request to take 1000 Tibetans from Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast of India.

In 1959, it was the generosity of the Government and people of India that more than 120,000 Tibetan refugees were welcomed to India. Today, His Holiness calls Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh his home – he also speaks about the importance of Mahatma Gandhi’s example in his thinking.

Monuments are useful but it is only when they become part of the life and consciousness of people around them that they resonate. That is why I was so very pleased to see pictures of Tai Chi being practiced around Canada’s monument to human rights.

Though Tibetans are a small community here, I assure you that we will punch above our weight in working with other Canadians to strengthen the culture of human right in this city and across the country.

Thank you, Merci

Samphe Lhalungpa is a 23 year veteran of the United Nations and the former President of CTC-Ottawa branch. His remarks were prepared for delivery at the June 12, 2015 lighting ceremony of the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument located in Canada’s capital, Ottawa.

Dancing the Canada-China mining two-step in Tibet, Congo or Papua New Guinea

BY GABRIEL LAFITTE (rukor.org). When, in 2012, I wrote a book about mining in Tibet, it seemed China’s appetite for minerals was insatiable, having survived the great global recession of 2009 onwards with hardly a blip in demand. By then the global commodity boom had been rolling on nonstop for a decade and nothing, it seemed, could slow it, not even a global financial crisis. And all the long term predictions, based on assuming China can, must and will achieve the same  consumption levels of the richest countries, cheerfully forecast decades more of rising mineral extraction worldwide to meet China’s needs.

How wrong we all were. The unstoppable Chinese demand, in the aftermath of the global crash, was fuelled by endless stimulus money pumped in by China’s central authorities, ostensibly for infrastructure construction, which uses up lots of metals and other basic commodities. Much of that money was diverted, often by local governments, to much more profitable real estate ventures, constructing all those tower blocks and ghost cities of empty apartment blocks in the desert. They too needed lots of copper, steel and other metals.

Then the music finally stopped, just after the book, Spoiling Tibet: China and Resource Nationalism on the Roof of the World was launched in October 2013. As well as empty apartment towers, all that stimulus had built many more smelters and refineries than China, or the world market, actually needed, and suddenly the big new problem was oversupply.

Now, in mid-2015, that problem is bigger than ever, so big that a major driver of China’s New Silk Road project is to establish export markets in neighbouring Asian countries for all the excess supply. But prices have fallen sharply, and have now remained low for years, and show no sign in the short term of recovering, even if the long term pundits are right that there is still a long way to go before China uses copper and other metals as intensively as the US.

Until the recent over supply crisis, China’s mining companies, nearly all state-owned, pursued an aggressive strategy of mergers and acquisitions worldwide to get hold of more raw materials, as well as expanding rapidly into Tibet, notably the big copper/gold deposits at Shetongmon near Shigatse, at Kham Yulong between Chamdo and Derge, and Gyama upstream from Lhasa.

Two companies stand out in this rush: Jinchuan and Zijin. Jinchuan has long dominated nickel supply in China. Its home base is far inland, in Gansu,  close to the main rail line connecting China and Tibet, placing Jinchuan in the ideal position to be the smelter for the first big copper mine to get under way in Tibet, at Shetongmon. The Canadian company Continental, part of the Hunter Dickinson Group, did much of the work of quantifying the size of the deposit and the most profitable strategy for extracting the copper, gold and silver there. Then Jinchuan bought out not only Continental’s interest in Shetongmon, aided by China’s national rule forbidding foreign investors from actually mining molybdenum (one of Shetongmon’s minerals). Jinchuan went one further and bought Continental, which is now a subsidiary of Jinchuan.

Jinchuan also pressed ahead with constructing a big new copper smelter, just as the prices started tumbling. By April 2014, Jinchuan’s  oversupply problems became so acute, they reneged on contracts with their suppliers in far away Chile, relying on the concept of force majeure, meaning uncontrollable disaster, to cancel contracts for Chilean copper concentrates. Jinchuan announced a problem with oxygen supply to the main Gansu smelter, a problem so severe it would knock out all production for as much as four months, giving Jinchuan a breather.

This occurred just as China, at great expense, completed the rail extension from Lhasa to Shigatse, well to the west, leaving only 80kms to the Shetongmon mine. So Tibetan copper, in big quantities, became available, along with supplies from Chile and elsewhere, at exactly the time demand tanked.

That’s a major reason we don’t hear so much about mining it Tibet these days. From the perspective of China’s major mining companies, access to capital isn’t a problem, especially since the stock markets are again booming, and investors are keen to get a slice of the action, despite the overall economic slowdown. The problem is where to invest, where to get the best bang for the renminbi. Tibet doesn’t cut it, compared to the available alternatives.

This brings us to the other company with a major slice of Shetongmon, Zijin Mining, based in eastern China, its fortune built on gold. In 2011 Jinchuan sold a 45 per cent stake in Shetongmon to Zijin, a big company with a strong history of going global. In May 2015 Zijin acquired half of the troubled Porgera copper/gold mine in Papua New Guinea, from a heavily indebted Canadian miner, Barrick. At the same time, Zijin also announced it had bought almost half the Kamoa copper/gold mine in Democratic Republic of Congo from another Canadian miner, Ivanhoe.

Zijin has also acquired mines in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Tuva (the most Tibetan part of Russia) and Kyrgyzstan, a literal embarrassment of riches.

Why, at a time of oversupply, depressed prices and force majeure, would  Chinese miners want to buy mineral deposits in difficult places like PNG and Congo? This tells us much that is relevant to Tibet. Remarkable as it may seem, mining projects ready to roll, in remote Congo and PNG are actually less remote, less difficult than mining in Tibet, building it all from scratch.  Tibet is actually harder.

Much of this is because the Tibetan Plateau is huge, and mineral deposits are often in areas difficult to access. China has spent decades building infrastructure, but there is still so much to be done, especially before the massive copper/gold deposits at Yulong, in precipitous Kham, are ever to be mined, concentrated, smelted and shipped out to lowland Chinese industries.

But there is another reason why Tibet is harder than PNG or Congo: the Tibetans. Although Tibetans feel disempowered by authorities declaring protests to be criminally splittist, they persist in protesting against mining, often taking care to quote Xi Jinping’s environmental pronouncements in the biggest possible banner headings. As the eminent Tibetanist scholar Gray Tuttle pointed out recently in article in Foreign Affairs, it takes a state with 1.3 billion population to hold down the Tibetans. That is how Tibetans see it.

While small scale mining is rampant across Tibet, the much more publicly visible, capital-intensive large scale mines in Tibet are taking a long time to develop, longer than one might expect if all those Five-Year Plan announcements of mining as Tibet’s “pillar industry” were to be believed. It is certainly taking longer than I expected when I wrote that 2013 book on mining.

Longer is not never. Demand may yet rebound, mining is highly cyclical. If China is serious about adopting the American life style and American consumption, the minerals of Tibet will be in demand, especially as China’s biggest manufacturers move far inland, close to Tibet. But not just yet.

When the minerals cycle ticks up again, as it will, Tibetans may need friends worldwide. But because China reserves the mining of Tibet for itself, with very little international investment, what traction do Tibet’s friends worldwide have?

Here again things have moved on since that 2013 book. Not only are Chinese and Canadian miners doing deals to take over each other’s assets, so too the global minerals commodity traders are buying into a slice of the action in China. Specifically, the Swiss commodities trader Trafigura has bought 30 per cent ownership of Jinchuan’s new copper smelter –Jinchuan’s other smelter, the one that didn’t have the oxygen problem and the four months of force majeure repudiation of contracts. Jinchuan would like to believe it has done Trafigura a favour by giving it access to Chinese markets, but, given chronic over supply, it is Trafigura, able to sell the new smelter’s output into other Asian countries, that is helping out Jinchuan. That new smelter, a big one, is also in a minority nationality area, in Guangxi province.

Jinchuan, the owner of the Shetongmon mine near Shigatse, may also hope that its connection with Trafigura gives it (and China) entrée to the world of commodities futures, hedging, arbitraging and financialisation of minerals. China wants to get into the big league worldwide.

Trafigura, however, probably knows how much reputation affects stock prices, and how much a brand can be damaged by hanging out with the wrong crowd.

This article has been re-posted with permission.

Gabriel Lafitte is an environmental economist.  He is currently a researcher in the Department of Management, Faculty of Business and Economics at Monash University in Australia.  He is the editor of www.rukor.org, a blog focusing on the fate of Tibetan nomads.

International Women’s Day: Time to engage the struggle for women’s rights inside Tibet

BY CAROLE SAMDUP (Montreal) - A few years ago while travelling by car across the Tibetan plateau, I was struck by the large number of brothels along the busy highways that brought supplies from China into Tibet.  It was difficult at first to differentiate between the crumbling, graffiti-covered cement block structures that characterized the many truck stops along the road between Gormo and Lhasa.  Brothels looked like any other small shop in the row, with a vendor sitting in the window waiting for customers to buy cigarettes, soap, or candy.  We soon learned however, that the young women in some windows were, in fact, the very merchandise being sold.

Brothels, we came to understand, are a standard commodity along Tibet’s remote highways.  Along with a bowl of noodles and a tank of gas, truckers could also avail themselves of a quick sexual encounter before heading back onto the long and isolated road to Lhasa.

As the days passed, my travel-mates made efforts to befriend the girls in the windows.  Despite some language barriers, it was quite easy to engage casual conversations about the weather, road conditions and local lore.  Such conversations sometimes opened the door to more intimate sharing about home, family, and plans for the future.  It was often a personal and moving exchange between women from opposite sides of the universe.

Most of the girls we met in Tibet’s highway brothels were horribly young.  Many were under the age of 18 (although most couldn’t say how old they really were).  Almost all came from nomadic families in the area and had never been further than where they now sat.  They had never lived with electricity, running water, or used a cell phone – in fact much of the highway we travelled was outside of cellphone access. Poverty was the most common reason given for leaving home for work in the sex industry – and poverty in Tibet’s nomadic communities was, we quickly learned, on the increase as both the size of yak herds and access to traditional migratory routes decreased.

We spoke with the girls about sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS and were dismayed by their lack of knowledge.  They did not use condoms.  There were no hospitals or clinics within access. In the case of illness, they used medicines recommended by local shop owners.

Upon reaching Lhasa, my friends and I decided that we wanted to speak directly with the truckers who regularly drove the long haul route from Gormo to Lhasa and who were the brothels’ primary customers.  Our visit to a Lhasa truck depot late one night generated considerable curiosity from the drivers and it broadened our perspective on the issue of highway brothels.

We learned that that a significant proportion of the truckers were actually Tibetan, although many were Chinese.  Sitting around open fires and drinking local beer, we asked them about their own life and work experiences. Many had also left nomadic communities in search of cash work. We asked them how common highway brothels had become in Tibet and they explained that they had become very normal. We asked about HIV/AIDS and the use of condoms as protection and we were discouraged to learn that the drivers shared the same lack of basic knowledge we had observed among the sex workers. There was little or no awareness that sexually transmitted diseases could be brought from brothels back to unsuspecting wives at home.

Concerned about the long term impact on vulnerable communities across Tibet, we could find only one western non-governmental group actively working in Tibet on the issue. That organisation was not able to collaborate with exile groups for fear of losing its permit to operate. In any case, the permit was soon cancelled in a general crackdown on foreign NGOs and the organization was forced to leave Tibet. Subsequently, we made contact with a Chinese NGO that eventually succeeded in placing community activists in Tibet where they were able to conduct a limited number of awareness and training programs for sex workers, albeit in the Chinese language.  These, however, were soon deemed too risky and they ended abruptly.  As far as I know, there is still no coordinated action or advocacy – either inside Tibet or from exile - to confront the challenges faced by sex workers and their communities in Tibet.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to open my email this week and discover a new report by the Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, highlighting some of the challenges faced by women in Tibet.  Titled “In the Shadow of Development: Maternal and Child Health in Crisis in Tibet” the report confronts head on, one of the key challenges faced by sex workers in Tibet – the lack of sufficient healthcare.

Although focused primarily on maternal health, the report reveals that in the Tibet Autonomous Region only 33% of women and 41% of children receive adequate healthcare – “the lowest rates of care in the PRC and almost half the national average.”  The report adds that healthcare is worst in rural communities.

The TCHRD report makes a number of useful recommendations including the decentralization of healthcare facilities in remote areas, ending the de-facto prohibition of foreign NGOs in Tibet; and allowing a visit to Tibet by the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, Mr. Dainius Pūras.  To these, Tibet supporters in Canada might add a suggestion that our own government highlight its current policy focus on maternal health and the situation inside Tibet whenever it meets bilaterally with relevant Chinese officials.

Unfortunately, the TCHRD report makes no recommendations to the Tibetan exile community and its supporters who have, in our view, failed to adequately take up the myriad of challenges faced by women inside Tibet, sexual exploitation being just one. This is not to argue that other issues are less important, but when half the population is facing extreme immediate risks that will have a specific downstream impact on families and communities across the Plateau, something needs to be done.  Perhaps this year – as we mark the 20th anniversary of the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing – it will be a good time to start.

In the Shadow of Development: Maternal and Child Health in Crisis in Tibet is available online at http://www.tchrd.org/2015/03/tchrd-report-documents-crisis-of-maternal-and-child-health-in-tibet/#more-3909

 

International Human Rights Day: Tibet, western democracies and the challenge of principled pragmatism

BY CAROLE SAMDUP (Montreal) -

In 1950, the same year that His Holiness the Dalai Lama assumed political power at the age of fifteen, the United Nations proclaimed International Human Rights Day as an annual reminder that basic rights and freedoms are the common concern of all Governments and all peoples.  Less than two weeks later, on December 22, 1950, the Dalai Lama was forced to temporarily flee Tibet’s capital city Lhasa following threats against his safety made by invading Chinese forces.

Today, almost 64 years later, International Human Rights Day marks the 25th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama.  In conferring this honour to His Holiness in 1989, the Nobel Committee said, “… the Dalai Lama has come forward with constructive and forward looking proposals for the solution of international conflicts, human rights issues, and global environmental problems”.

Sadly, despite consistent adherence to such constructive proposals, there has been little progress over the past quarter-century towards resolving the conflict in Tibet. The Tibetan people continue to struggle under the yoke of Chinese oppression and, as he nears the age of 80, the Dalai Lama still lives in exile while his dreams of returning home remain elusive.

Here in Canada, as in other Western democracies, the idea of “principled pragmatism” has taken hold, particularly when it comes to discussions about the promotion of human rights in China or Tibet.  While the national polity is often described in terms of shared common values including democracy, rule of law, and human rights, these are the very principles that are abandoned in the interests of so-called pragmatic policy decisions.  It’s a dangerous road to follow.

The past year has been a difficult one for the Tibetan people.  The human rights violations they experience are rooted in a political system that seeks to eliminate all aspects of Tibetan identity.  Here are few examples:

  • The human right to be free from arbitrary detention.  On March 16, 2014, a 20 year old monk, Choeying Kalden, was detained by police after sending emails criticizing Chinese rule to the mobile phones of Chinese cadres stationed at Tsenden Monastery in Sog County, Nagchu Prefecture, TAR.
  • Labour Rights.  Free trade unions are not permitted in Tibet. On April 30, 2014, more than 100 teachers from Rebgong staged a protest in Malho demanding an end to poor working conditions resulting from their 10-year status as substitute teachers. As substitutes, the Tibetan teachers receive only minimum wage and no benefits, while full time positions with benefits accrue mostly to Chinese teachers.
  • Women's Rights. In October 2014, an "alternate report" submitted by a coalition of NGOs to the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), documented a series of human rights violations experienced by women in Tibet, including the trafficking of poor and illiterate Tibetan women to Chinese provinces where they are commonly exploited and often led into sex work.
  • The Human Right to Food.  According to international observers including www.rukor.org which monitors the fate of Tibetan nomads, China’s land tenure and resettlement policies are “reducing Tibetan food security and generating reliance on distant sources for even basic foodstuffs, despite a long history of Tibetan self-reliance."
  •  The Right to an Effective Remedy. In February 2014, Reuter's news agency reported that China's Foreign Ministry had called on Spain to prevent the launch of lawsuits that seek to probe alleged Chinese human rights abuses in Tibet. The Spanish Parliament subsequently voted in favor of a bill limiting the power of the judiciary to investigate human rights abuses committed outside the country.
  • The Right to Health.  On September 29, 2014 more than 1000 Tibetans protested the dumping of toxic waste into local rivers which they claimed had killed fish, affected crops and led to health problems. The Tibetans had repeatedly appealed to local authorities over a 5-year period but their appeals were rejected and generated angry reprisals from local officials.
  •  The Right to be Free from Torture. In early December 2014, it was reported that a Tibetan political prisoner, Tenzin Choedak, died just two days after he was released to his family by prison authorities. He had sustained beating injuries while in prison and had been taken frequently to hospital accompanied by prison guards. Sources report that “His physical condition had deteriorated and he had brain injury in addition to vomiting blood.”
  •  The Right to Freedom of Religion. Early in 2014, Chinese authorities expelled more than 100 Tibetan nuns from Changlo nunnery near Shigatse. They were also forced to remove their nun's robes. Of the 200 nun's at Changlo, only 21 were permitted to remain in the nunnery. According to reports from Tibet, monks and nuns who fail to return will have their names removed from county family registration lists, their [state-issued] identification cards will be made invalid, and any government assistance--of whatever kind or amount--provided to their families will be withdrawn.
  •  The Right to Freedom of Expression.  In October 2014, the global network to defend and promote freedom of expression (IFEX), reported that Chinese authorities had stepped up persecution of independent Tibetan news providers.  They cited the cases of three writers who frequently provided information for external observers saying that their activities were "aimed at destroying social stability and dividing the Chinese homeland” adding that China was turning Tibet into an "information blackhole".
  •  The Right to Self-Determination. For decades, the Tibetan people have been demanding the right to determine their own political, cultural, and economic development. However, under Chinese rule, they remain subject to China's harsh policies. Under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, nine rounds of talks were held with China during 2002-2010 in order to lay the groundwork for a solution to the conflict in Tibet based on the "Middle Way Approach". The talks have been stalled since 2010. As China's continues to refuse constructive dialogue based on mutual respect, the Tibetan people are denied any ability to determine their own future.

It was interesting earlier this month when Ottawa welcomed two Tibetan leaders on Parliament Hill within a two-week period of time.  The occasion offered a unique opportunity to observe how the Tibetan conflict is reflected here in Canada’s halls of power. Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay is the democratically-elected political leader of the Central Tibetan Administration in India, while Lobsang Gyaltsen is Chinese Communist Party representative and Chair of the Tibet Autonomous Region.  Dr. Sangay promoted the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way Approach” and non-violent principles while Chairman Gyaltsen told his audience that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is "responsible for the problems" and that western media “distort” news coming from Tibet.  Ottawa’s vibrant Tibetan community autonomously organized a dinner and reception in Sikyong’s honour, while Chairman Gyaltsen did not announce his presence in Ottawa and avoided all contact with local Tibetans.  Dr. Sangay spoke with Canadians at a public event in Montreal and gave several media interviews to explain his administration’s policy positions, while Chairman Gyaltsen travelled to three Canadian cities under a cloak of secrecy.

And yet, the reception of these two visitors on Parliament Hill was basically identical and it remains unclear whether or not the Government of Canada actually endorses and promotes a renewed Sino-Tibet dialogue.  Efforts to increase economic ties with China, including by ratification of the controversial foreign-investment protection agreement, have clearly changed the game in terms of a transparent and principled position on Tibet.

It is easy to stand up for human rights when there is no cost to be paid. Today as we celebrate International Human Rights Day, the challenge for Canada and its allies in the coalition of democracies is this – are we ready to defend our values when there is no financial gain to be made, or when future economic benefits might be placed at risk?  Or do pragmatic concerns really trump human rights?