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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?"

Tsering a Tibetan Monk's Testimony: Why we fight

May 28, 2009

Natalia Idzkowski
The Tibet Post
May 25, 2009

Heavily armed paramilitary police patrol a street
of Kangding, Ganzi prefecture in southwestern
China's Sichuan province on Tuesday, March 10,
2009. Photo: APDharamsala: Tsering, a Tibetan
researcher and monk from the Kirti monastery,
eastern Tibet recounted his experiencesin Tibet
during the nationwide unrest last March with a
gathering of foreigners in Dharamsala, India
yesterday: "I spent the first 19 years of my life
in Tibet. Last year I collected information
regarding the March protests in Ngaba county,
eastern Tibet, my native region. After the 10th
of March, larger protests ensued; the most
prevalent took place on the 14th of March. On the
7th of February, one monk burned himself alive.

The Chinese military fired two guns. We do not
know if he is alive or dead. Since that time, the
army has used guns to contain peaceful
demonstrations. Why do we protest? In 1949, the
Chinese communist regime occupied our nation. The
government has retold Tibetan history to suit its
own purposes. We are encircled by propaganda.
Many of our traditions have been lost. Tibetan
people lack the freedom of speech and expression.
We cannot practice our religion to the fullest
extent, as it is illegal to own photographs of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Tibet.

The Tibetan people harbor deep inner pain. After
China's occupation of Tibet, one million people
died, the majority during the Cultural
Revolution. Last year we struggled for more than
our freedom. We fought for sovereignty with our
brothers and sisters who have perished in the
last 50 years. The Olympic Games posed an
opportunity for us to express ourselves with the
entire world as witness. Last year was special
because the demonstrations overtook the whole of
Tibet. They began in Lhasa and spread throughout
the country. Every person of every region had his
own personal reason for risking his life. This
was not a chain-reaction. It was spontaneous;
there were no leaders. One of the slogans was:
'His Holiness Needs Tibet to be His Home.'

Twenty-three people were killed in Ngaba County
on the 16th of March 2008. Some died in their
homes a few days afterward; others succumbed to
fatal injuries in Chinese prison-camps. Following
the series of protests, the Chinese government
ordered hospitals to refuse treatment to all
Tibetans. Every monastery and school was
monitored by the Chinese military. Monks and nuns
were restricted access to water and fruit for 2
or 3 months. Farmers could not farm, students
could not study. Our villages resembled
war-zones. On the 22nd and 23rd of March, the
army searched Buddhist monasteries for weapons
and confiscated and destroyed 13,000 photographs
of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The Chinese Constitution guarantees all citizens
the freedom to practice religion but, in effect,
we have none. Three hundred monks were arrested
during those two days. Seventy people were
sentenced, some to life in prison, others to 7 to
15 years. Every Tibetan was suffering. The
Chinese government forcefully subjected them to
"patriotic reeducation." We were instructed to
love the political system and to denounce our
spiritual leader. We were losing our brothers,
cousins, friends; 3 people committed suicide.
Security cameras have been installed in monasteries.

Religious ceremonies have been banned. A
significant number of people have escaped to the
mountains to live in caves and practice Buddhism
freely. On the 28th of April 2008, a Tibetan
school catering to 403 students was closed down
because the government claimed that the teachers
were preaching "separatism." The headmaster of
the school was not politically active; although
it had been established by the Kirti Monastery,
it was run by the village administrators. A monk
must obtain government permission to teach
Buddhism in a monastery. When one high Lama in my
region gained widespread support, his license was
revoked. Police security stains every official religious ceremony.

Given the repression and suffocating Chinese
influence, we feed our passion for freedom while
struggling to keep our culture alive."
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