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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

An Interview with I by Me

June 30, 2008

Tsoltim N. Shakabpa
email submission
June 28, 2008

Me: What is your name?
I: My name is Tsoltim Ngima Shakabpa.

Me: That's funny! I am also Tsoltim Ngima Shakapa. What is your country of origin?
I: Tibet.

Me: Where in Tibet were you born?
I: I was born in Lhasa, Tibet.

Me: How long have you lived in America? And how much loyalty do you have for America?

I: I have lived in America much longer than I have lived in Tibet due to the illegal occupation of my country by China. I have enormous loyalty for America for she has been very good to me, my family and to all Tibetans living here. My heart may die in America but my soul will go on living in Tibet.

Me: What are your feelings for India?

I: I have also lived in India and am immensely grateful to India for giving us Tibetans asylum. More importantly, India is the mother of our spirituality. We will always be linked spiritually to India as her child, and nobody can ignore or destroy that sacred relationship.

Me: Do you consider yourself Tibetan or Chinese?

I: I consider myself Tibetan.

Me: But the Chinese consider all Tibetans as Chinese. Why don't you agree?

I: We Tibetans are racially, culturally, geographically and politically different from the Chinese.

Me: How so?

I: Since the early times we have had a culture of spirituality while the Chinese have had a culture of imperialism and autocracy. Racially, we are of Mongolian stock while the Chinese are of Han stock. Do I look like a Chinese? The color of my skin is light brown while the color of the Chinese skin is whitish yellow, My facial structure is more angular than the Chinese. My eyes aren't as slanted as the Chinese. Geographically, Tibet is on a plateau high up in the mountains while most of China is in the plains. Politically, the Chinese are autocratic while Tibetans have been practicing theocratic democracy for many centuries.

Me: But the Chinese claim they have ruled Tibet for many centuries.

I: That is a horrendous lie. As early as the 7th century, Tibetan troops subdued vast areas of Chinese territory and the Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo, demanded a Chinese princess as one of his consorts. The Chinese Emperor was forced to offer one his daughters because of the power of the Tibetan kingdom. In the 8th century, during the Tibetan King, Trisong Detsen's time, Tibetan troops ventured as far as Chang-an, the then Chinese capital, and installed a Chinese emperor of their choice. These ventures were inscribed on a stone pillar in front of the Potala Palace. This stone pillar, known as the Pillar of Shol do-ring, was completely destroyed by the Communist Chinese but a picture of it, taken by my late father in the 1940s, is featured in his book, "TIBET: A POLITICAL HISTORY," for the world to see.

In the 13th century, when Mongol power reigned over both China and Tibet, a very close "priest-patron" relationship developed between the Mongols and the Tibetans, whereby the Tibetans were the priest and the Mongols were the patron. Because of this relationship, the Mongolians always favored Tibet over China whenever there arose sticky situations between the two, and always the Tibetans gained the  upper hand. In the 17th century, the great 5th Dalai Lama issued a proclamation declaring that Lhasa would be the capital of Tibet and that the government would be known as Ganden Phodrang, which was the name of his palace at Drepung.

He further promulgated laws of public conduct, appointed governors to different districts, and chose ministers to form a new government. In later years, as Mongolian power waned and China's power rose, the Chinese inherited the "priest-patron" relationship with Tibet, which they later fallaciously misconstrued as having symbolic dominion over Tibet. They never had any dominion whatsoever over Tibet. As late as the 20th century, the Tibetan Government kicked out of Tibet all Chinese residents and the 13th Dalai Lama reaffirmed Tibet's independence by issuing a formal Declaration of Independence.

Me: Do you agree that Tibetans should negotiate with China?

I: No I don't. I emphatically do not believe in negotiating with a "communist" China because of their insincere nature and scheming tactics. Communist China has reneged on many promises and has already reneged on a treaty which they themselves dictated in 1951.To communists, a treaty is like a paper tiger. They feel they can easily tear it when and if it doesn't suit them and treat it in a predatory manner when and if it suits them.

Me: But the Dalai Lama wants to negotiate an autonomous status for Tibet with  China.

I: Again, I firmly feel we should not negotiate with communists. They have killed millions of our brothers and sisters and imprisoned and tortured thousands. Why should we negotiate with such inhumane savages, who have no concept of humanitarian values? If and when China confesses her sins and becomes a truly democratic state, which I believe should not be long in coming, I would consider negotiating with them for "genuine" autonomy as they would then be inclined to give Tibet all democratic rights, which may eventually lead to what we ultimately desire -- complete independence!

Me:  Aren't you going against the Dalai Lama's wishes?

I: The Dalai Lama, as the head of our religious and temporal institutions, has very wisely given us the right of free speech - the freedom to voice our opinions, whatever they may be. I think that is a very omniscient decision as you can then hear and consider all different views. I am only practicing his wishes.

Me: What are the chances of Tibet getting its independence?

I: "All things will pass away. All things will be new", so said Lord Buddha. Impermanence is the constant in nature. The illegal and tyrannical rule of China in Tibet will not go on forever. The power of China will wane one day. Like India,  The Philippines, and many African and Eastern European nations, Tibet too will be free and independent one day, so long as we continue our struggle. However, to keep our culture, subsistence and environment alive in the meantime it may be     necessary to negotiate a "genuine" autonomy pact with a prosperous, sane and truly democratic China.

Me: Finally, do you believe in the violent overthrow of the Chinese in Tibet? Do you agree with me that Tibetans have earned the right to be violent after more than half a century of practicing non-violence?

I:  Although our ultimate goal is the same, I am for pursuing a non-violent path to achieve our ultimate goal. You are for pursuing a violent path to achieve the same objective. Within our own minds (between me and I), we are sadly, but reparably, torn between the two choices. It shows the excruciating pain, as well as the immense hope, we are all facing as to what path to choose. It proves that we are consciously and meaningfully pursuing our efforts toward the one common goal of regaining Tibet's genuine freedom. Maybe some day we will compromise within ourselves on a middle path. But in the meantime, each of us should follow our own persuasion to achieve our common goal.

Me: Thank you very much for sharing your historical views and insightful thoughts about the conflict within ourselves.

I:  You're welcome.
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