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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Geshe Lobsang doesn't like to talk politics; this is the first time he talks politics

May 15, 2009

The Tibet Post International
May 13, 2009

Dharamshala -- The Tibet Post International-Tibet
talk and Thenthuk organized a discussion forum
yesterday; about 25 attendees mostly foreigners
and local Tibetans shared their ideas on Tibetan
issues. When Geshe Lobsang was last in Tibet, he
hadn’t heard about middle-way approach for
Tibetan autonomy – he protested for the
independence of Tibet. Prisoners are detained for
nearly a year prior to sentencing. Lobsang served
nine months and was released, but most are
charged with attempting to subvert the Chinese
Constitution and sentenced to serve for several
years. “Separators,” who fight for Tibet’s
recognition as a sovereign entity, removed from
China. “Revolutionaries.” These are the charges.
Sentences are subject to extension, and depend on
the person’s role in the protest in which he or
she partook, or the gravity of his or her
subversive action.  After prison, many Tibetans come to India.

Another former political prisoner, who was
released in 2005 after serving for thirteen
years, speaks of deteriorating conditions in
Chinese prisons. The newer facilities are
externally aesthetically appealing, but of
significantly lower standards; they are smaller and utterly congested.

Prior to his arrest, Lobsang learned that Chinese
prison guards will use intimidation tactics to
extract information from the prisoners. All who
choose to demonstrate anticipate the challenges
of life in prison. Everyone faces the probability
of torture.  Once he protested with his older
brother, whom the Chinese government arrested
upon learning of Lobsang’s residence amongst the
Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala, India.
He had spent three years in prison and died. He
calls this the short story of his brother; he was
already in India when he died. His family in
Tibet cannot take the risk to explain the cause
or circumstances of his death because phone
conversations are frequently monitored by Chinese
authorities. Geshe Lobsang only prays for the
answer. There is a kind of tradition in Chinese
prisons: authorities prefer to relinquish
responsibility for those in critical condition,
release tortured prisoners to their families and many die at home.

If a Tibetan who works for the Chinese government
has a relative in India, he is subject to losing
his job and will experience obstacle in
furthering his studies. If this person has served
in prison, his chances of obtaining a government
job are slim. He can seldom call his family. When
he does, they cannot even utter the name of the Dalai Lama.

Chinese law asserts the right to a speedy trial
and subsequent sentencing. Police and the army
conduct arrests, but it is the prison guards who
are responsible for the torture. Lobsang showed
weariness and disinterest in political activity
and an overwhelming desire to be free of
political constraints, and he expressed his
feelings of disillusionment and bitterness
towards an oppressive society. It is not the
Chinese people, he emphasizes, it is the
government. And it is important to observe that distinction.

Once a Tibetan has been sentenced, it is not
possible to appeal due to the highly politically
charged environment. He cannot find a lawyer who
will act against the Chinese government. He cannot fight.

Last year’s demonstrations in Tibet, which
occurred on the tenth of March, sprouted from
repression. They were an outcry, an expression of
suffering. People burned Chinese shops, and those
who participated in the destruction were promptly and forcibly detained.

According to written Chinese law, if a Chinese
person kills a Tibetan, or vice-versa, his crime
will be punished by death. But last year 220
Tibetans were killed, and no clarification was
provided by the Chinese government and no
consequences or investigations ensued.  In the
case of accidental death, if a student or member
of the Chinese army is killed, the person
responsible will be fined between thirty and
forty thousand yen. If a monk is killed, the fine
is only one thousand yen.  There is no support
for Tibetans in prison – most are denied visits
with their families. Upon release, Lobsang underwent a process of reeducation.

Tibetan protest movements appear spontaneous. The
uprisings come spontaneously because of the
practices of Tibetan culture and religion. People
react to the dehumanization and repression.
Agitation comes not from external influence, but
from inner reserves of frustration; it is not organized.

During the last Olympic Games, which took place
in Beijing, the Chinese government funded housing
improvements to appease international criticism
and show that Tibetan lives were improving, but
ceased to sell tickets to Tibetans for fear of
agitation during the event, in front of the
entire world. In Tibet, restrictions on movement
proliferated, and many people disappeared.
Internationally, awareness of the Tibetan issue
increased. Lobsang believes that the Olympic
Games symbolize harmony and friendship between
all nations, but emphasizes that the Chinese
government failed to respect human rights within
the country. Even some individual athletes
withdrew from the Olympics as a show of
solidarity and respect for human rights. But he
saw the Olympics used as a political tool and as
a symbol of hypocrisy. He states that
international pressure can cause more internal
harm than good. But certain prisoners’ sentences
have been reduced, and some have been released.
Still, the Chinese government refuses to
acknowledge the Tibetan question as a human
rights issue.  International human rights
organizations have best effected change by focusing on a single case at a time.

But policy never changes.

Geshe Lobsang  Gyaltsen simultaneously represents
both the global and the local. Today, Tibet is in
a state of minimal outside influence. He, like
most Tibetans in exile, harbors unbreakable ties
to his homeland. He believes the end of the
suffering of the Tibetan people depends upon
Tibet’s continuing development of modern
education systems, the establishment of political
relations with the outside world, and the
education of Chinese youth. He urges us to find
stories and take them home, to spread awareness
of Tibetan culture to prevent its death, which he
perceives would result from assimilation with China.
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