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“Nothing to celebrate in Tibet” says Tibetan leader as China commemorates TAR founding

September 7, 2015

Central Tibetan Administration, September 4, 2015 - “There is nothing to celebrate in Tibet. Tibet is still under occupation and Tibetans are still brutally repressed,” Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected political leader of the Tibetan people said, as Chinese leaders celebrate the 50th founding anniversary of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region in Beijing.

Sikyong Dr. Sangay was speaking at the Takshashila Institute, an independent think tank and public policy school based primarily in Bangalore. The talk was attended by eminent scholars, former ambassadors, Members of Parliament, analysts etc.

“The grid system that is imposed on Tibetans inside Tibet is equivalent to the one imposed by Apartheid South Africa and North Korea on its citizens. Tibetans inside Tibet have to carry an ID card, which have second generation microchips with their biometrics. If they swipe the card, the authorities would exactly know where the particular Tibetan is from,” Sikyong said, adding that such tactics make surveillance much easier for the Chinese authorities.

“The target of this surveillance is Tibetans from traditional Tibetan regions incorporated into Chinese provinces like Gansu or Sichuan who visit Lhasa on pilgrimage. Tibetans from these remote regions are permitted to stay in Lhasa for only two weeks and are restricted from mingling freely with local Tibetans in Lhasa. Tibetans from these areas are directed to stay in designated hotels in a bid to severely restrict their freedom of movement. Such restrictions are unthinkable for a citizen of a free country like India but in Tibet, it is considered the norm,” he explained.

Speaking about the suppression of basic political rights, Sikyong explained that if a Tibetan is caught in possession of a photograph of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he/she is arrested and their entire family is blacklisted from availing government jobs and subsidies.

“If a Tibetan manages to stage a protest against the Chinese government, he will be imprisoned for a prolonged period and will be subject to immense torture,” he said. “Just last week, a Tibetan woman burned herself to death becoming the 142 Tibetan to self-immolate against the repressive policies of the Chinese government. The gravity of the situation inside Tibet can only be assessed through these desperate acts, he added.

Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay highlighted the Jokhang temple as the epitome of the mistrust that has prevailed in Tibet as a result of the Chinese occupation and repression.

“The Jokhang is the holiest shrine for Tibetan Buddhists. What’s interesting is that, the Jokhang houses a statue of Buddha, which was brought to Tibet by Wencheng, a Chinese princess who married Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. For centuries, Tibetans have worshipped the temple. However, if you visit the Jokhang now, there are surveillance cameras and sharpshooters perched on rooftops everywhere, which is making the Tibetan people apprehensive about going to the Jokhang now,” he said.

“This drastic change in the behavior of the Tibetan people towards the Jokhang begs the question, how did a sacred place of worship turn into a feared prison? Perhaps this is the biggest example of the mistrust between the two people that has risen as a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet,” Sikyong asserted.

Sikyong explained that Tibetan Buddhism derived from the Nalanda tradition of ancient India is at the core of Tibetan culture. “Ninety-nine percent of Tibetan monks were forced to disrobe and almost 95% of the monasteries in Tibet were destroyed. However, under the support of the Indian government, Tibetans have rebuilt almost all of the monasteries in India since coming into exile. The revival of this Nalanda Buddhist tradition is a reflection of the Tibetan people’s deep faith.

Sikyong Dr. Sangay also talked about the significance of Tibet in geopolitics. Tibet has a huge landmass of 2.5 million square kilometers. Hence, it was an effective buffer between China and the rest of Asia including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, etc.

India has never faced China even once in history when Tibet was independent. However, after the occupation of Tibet, Chinese troops have moved into border areas forcing India to do the same. Hence, the two largest populated countries in the world are facing each other and an arms race is imminent. Such is the impact of the occupation of Tibet.

Sikyong also talked about Tibet as the major source of fresh water for the rest of Asia. “Tibet is the source of the ten largest rivers of Asia including the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Salween, Yangtze, Yellow river etc. However, due to global warming, Tibet’s ice reserves are melting faster than usual which could seriously disrupt the ecological balance of Asia.

Takshashila institution provides intellectual leadership on public policies that promote the well-being, prosperity, happiness and security of the people, based on responsible citizenship, economic freedom, realism in international relations, an open society and a culture of tolerance.

The institution takes its name from Taxila, an ancient Indian Buddhist philosophical institute based in the ancient city Takshashila, now in Pakistan. The institute, at its height, attracted students from around the old world including Tibetan scholars.

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