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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Not made in China

February 2, 2011

Tithiya Sharma, Hindustan Times
January 30, 2011

He’s a warrior with a message of peace, a patriot barred from his
homeland, a refugee in a country he was born in and an idealist living
in a world disenchanted by anything without a price tag. If you know of
Tenzin Tsundue, it’s probably because you watched him steal the visiting
Chinese Prime

Minister’s media thunder in 2005. Tsundue unfurled a ‘Free Tibet’ banner
sitting high up on the ledge of a building screaming “Wen Jiabao, you
cannot silence us”.

Yes, you can’t silence the determined dissenter, but you can restrict
his movements, throw him jail and make an example out of him to frighten
others with lofty ideas of freedom, justice and righteousness.

Some estimates claim that almost a million Tibetans have perished in the
struggle for a free Tibet. The next obvious question is… What does this
one man hope to accomplish? With global icons at the helm of affairs,
what can Tsundue really do?

He hopes to keep the “idea of a free Tibet alive”. Reminding the world
that whether living under Chinese rule or in exile, the Tibetan people
are still hoping, waiting and yearning.

In an era of armchair activism where people assume they’ve done their
bit by wearing t-shirts with clichéd slogans and ‘sharing’ news about
the horrors of war and exploitation in their virtual lives, Tsundue goes
the extra mile.

When he’s not dangling precariously from towers, Tsundue is writing
poetry about his life and his people’s struggle. He travels to every
part of India with a Tibetan population- inspiring and binding them
together in a peaceful resistance against “colonial China”.

He’s also open to spending time in jail- most recently in 2008, after
being arrested by the Chinese border police for attempting to reach
Tibet. Tsundue along with his compatriots wanted to stage a protest
against the Olympics and human rights violations and the political
propaganda that’s controlling Chinese citizens.

Tsundue says, “There can be no freedom for Tibet, till the Chinese
people are free. Unless there is democracy and dignity for the Chinese
citizens, there will be none for Tibetans. The only way to deal with a
bully like China is through compassion, empowerment and support of it’s

Tsundue was born in a tent besides a road, his mother, along with other
Tibet refugee labourers, were constructing in Himachal Pradesh. His
family was eventually settled in a refugee camp in Tamil Nadu, where he
attended a Tibetan school and eventually went to a local university.

“Even though India has an over cautious stance where it comes to the
Tibet issue, the country has given us a home. It has allowed us to
continue in our way of life, to keep our cultural identity and to me
that is the most valued support”, he stresses.

Tsundue’s brand of activism and his past endeavours require him to
register with the police in Dharamshala each time he plans to travel and
also upon his return. He must carry that ‘permission slip’ with him at
all times. He feels no resentment and expects no special treatment.
“Everything I endure is nothing new to any refugee anywhere, there is no
room for ego here”.

Recounting his darkest hour in a prison cell, fearing being locked away
and forgotten for a lifetime, Tsundue says that something remarkable
happened. “I realised that there is joy in the simple things in life- a
few moments in the sun outside my cell, a cup of hot water and a steamed
bun for breakfast and the idea of a free Tibet.” Inside that jail cell,
Tsundue had been released. Now, he carries that sense of calm with him
always. He’s content with a Spartan existence, earning sustenance from
his published work. Almost fearful of getting too comfortable, lest it
distract him from his life’s mission.

He may have spent his entire life in exile, but Tenzin Tsundue was ‘Made
in Tibet’.
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