Join our Mailing List

"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."

A Letter from Tibet: Blood on the Land of Snow

May 1, 2009

Philippa Carrick
Total Politics vol. 11
April 2009

Time is running out for Tibet, says Philippa
Carrick, chief executive of the Tibet Society. If
nothing is done, the rich and unique Tibetan
language, culture and traditions will become part of history

Tibet today belies its mystical image as Shangri
La, land of snow, and is a country under
occupation; its people increasingly marginalised
by the policies of the Chinese government.

The People's Liberation Army first crossed the
border into Tibet in late 1949 under the guise of
'liberating' the Tibetan people. Nearly 10 years
later, on 10 March 1959, thousands of Tibetans
rose up against the occupying Chinese regime,
only to be brutally quashed. Following this
merciless suppression, the Dalai Lama, the
spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan
people, was forced to fl ee his country.

Despite worldwide admiration and acclaim for the
Dalai Lama and his nonviolent approach to seeking
justice for his people, world governments have
stood by and done nothing in practical terms to
call China to account. UN resolutions that
express grave concerns for the Tibetan people and
call for the "cessation of practises which
deprive the Tibetan people of their fundamental
human rights and freedoms, including their right
to self-determination" gather dust, and the
ongoing plight of Tibet remains unresolved.

Widespread demonstrations and protests swept
through Tibet last year; the largest since 1959.
These were suppressed by an immediate crackdown,
resulting in the deaths of over 200 Tibetans,
with thousands injured, detained or missing and
an estimated 1,300 still unaccounted for. Tibet
is now effectively under de facto martial law,
with vast numbers of troops and armed police
evident both in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, and many other areas.

In January, the Chinese government re-launched a
'strike hard' campaign to try and prevent further
political protests. Within three days, widespread
raids were conducted in Lhasa. Following these,
the Public Security Bureau rounded up nearly
6,000 for questioning and at least 81 Tibetans were arrested.

Lhasa remains tense; the few undercover
journalists who have managed to visit report a
climate of fear, with a highly visible Chinese
military presence on the streets. Snipers are frequently seen on rooftops.

Despite the Chinese government's relaxation for
foreign media visiting other parts of China,
permissions for Tibet are severely restricted.
There is also minimal access for tourists, with
authorities recently instructing tourist agencies
to cancel trips for the foreseeable future. The
Chinese government also continues to refuse
permission for any independent delegation to visit Tibet.

This drive to isolate and suppress the Tibetan
people reinforces the long-held frustrations and
fears of Tibetans that their basic freedoms,
language, culture and traditions will be lost to future generations.

The few reports that have reached the outside
world show that the spirit of Tibetan people is
unbroken, with news of continuing demonstrations
and defi ance. These range from individuals
carrying the Tibetan flag or shouting "long live
the Dalai Lama" to hundreds of people taking to
the streets calling for human  rights, the
release of political prisoners and the right to
hold prayers at festivals. All such displays are
met with immediate, brutal repression. In early
March, a young monk in his twenties set fire to
himself while holding an image of the Dalai Lama
and a Tibetan flag. He was summarily shot three
times by Chinese police and taken away.

Over the last 50 years, the Chinese policy has
effectively been one of colonisation. Measures
such as the aggressive resettlement of Tibetan
nomads, leaving them without any means of
livelihood; an education system that is
non-existent in many areas, or too expensive,
further marginalises indigenous Tibetans; the
persecution of nuns and monks through "patriotic
re-education", which is now accepted by the UN
Committee against Torture as a form of torture;
and the use of Chinese as the official language
within the government have all contributed to the
intense frustration and anguish of the Tibetan people.

Time is running out for Tibet. If nothing is
done, there is a real danger that the rich and
unique Tibetan language, culture and traditions
will become part of history. If this is the case,
world governments will have failed the Tibetan
people and, by omission, will have condoned a
regime that continues to flagrantly flout the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The world will be a poorer place.

The British government has recently reaffirmed
its commitments to seek a solution for the
Tibetan people, and its support for the Dalai
Lama's nonviolent campaign for justice. Let us
hope this commitment is not too late.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank