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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?"

Virtual Tibet: The Media

May 13, 2009

by Thubten Samphel
Where Tibetans Write
December 27, 2007,

The Effect of Media and the Internet on Tibetan Attitudes

Tibetans in exile are embracing the Internet just
as they did Buddhism more than 1,300 years ago.
Like a new revelation, the power of the Internet
to create virtual communities has fascinated
Tibetans in exile. This fascination is
intensified by the fact that the ability to
create a cohesive community, across international
borders, has been denied to Tibetans in Tibet by
an Internet-shy China. And Tibetan exiles,
scattered as they are across the globe, are
converting this fascination into a rash of
cyberspace activities that, because of their
power to transmit information instantaneously,
are profoundly changing the world of the Tibetan
Diaspora and beyond. In the process, Tibetan
exiles have created a virtual Tibet that is
almost un-assailable, free, revelling in its freedom, and growing.

"The Tibetan exiles harnessing the power of the
Internet has enabled them to make information on
Tibet instant and reliable", said Jigme Tsering,
manager of the Tibetan Computing Resource Centre,
the organization that services the needs of
information technology in Dharamsala. According
to him, who also manages the website,, there are about 250 Tibet-related
websites, in English, Hindi, Chinese, Tibetan,
French, Japanese, Korean and other
languages.Numerous Tibetan Buddhist centres and
Tibet Support Groups maintain websites."Even the
smallest news is disseminated throughout the
world within five minutes.The recent hacking by
some Chinese organizations of our own became news, covered even by CNN", he said.

The Tibetans’ use of the Internet has a
significant impact on the content and quality of
the debate among both intellectuals and others in
China on the issue of Tibet. Within a week of the
launch of the Chinese language website in August
2000 by the Department of Information and
International Relations of the Central Tibetan
Administration, more than 10,000 visitors hit the
site, the majority being from China. Later the
department was bombarded by both enthusiastic and
outraged messages, reported Dawa Tsering, head of
the Department’s China desk. One enthusiastic
letter from China likened the Chinese language
website to a "torch being shone in the darkness".

An angry letter sent on 18 November 2002 says,

I have been to Tibet. Our government’s policy
towards the Tibetans is most lenient. Don’t
continue to shut your eyes and talk like a fool…
What the Dalai Lama preaches is not practical in
developed societies and your vain efforts will be wasted.

A sympathetic letter mailed on 28 December 2002 says,

I’m Chinese. When I was a student I was taught
that the Dalai Lama was a reactionary rebel. Ever
since I visited your website and read the various
statements of the Dalai Lama, I am left with
great shame at the way our government treats the
Tibetans and the disdain shown by ordinary
Chinese to them. I recognise the fact that the
six million Tibetan people have the right to
attain their freedom as soon as possible. As said
by the Dalai Lama "I strongly believe that
whether the Tibetans and Chinese live as members
of one family or as neighbours we need to live
peacefully and with mutual respect".

The ability of the Chinese to speak freely on the
once-taboo topic of Tibet, although anonymously,
is an indication of the fundamental societal
changes sweeping China, the courage and genuine
concern of individual Chinese and the power of
information technology to overcome the
restrictions imposed by a one-party state. And
this has spurred exiled Tibetans and their
supporters to girdle the globe with Tibet websites.

Traditional Attitudes to News

However, the traditional Tibetan attitude to news
and information has not always been this
enthusiastic. It was deferential, and because of
this deference, information and knowledge were
enshrined on the altar and became remote,
inaccessible, the object of unquestioning faith.
The pace of information dissemination was slow.
For example, in old Tibet when a Tibetan author
wrote a masterpiece, his instinct was not to rush
to the printers. He buried his work, in the hope
that centuries later some smart reporter would
discover his work, its antiquity giving it a halo
of wisdom, sacredness and a special spiritual
significance, a Tibetan version of the gospel
truth. Those who discovered such works of lasting
value were called tertons, discoverers of buried
treasures. This was precisely what happened to
the classic The Tibetan Book of the Dead. C.G.
Jung, rival in fame to Sigmund Freud, described
The Tibetan Book of the Dead as belonging to that
class of writings which are not only of interest
to specialists in Mahayana Buddhism, but which
also, because of their deep humanity and their
still deeper insight into the secrets of the
human psyche, make an especial appeal to the
layman who is seeking to broaden his knowledge of life. [1]

But Tibet had to wait for several centuries
before this work, the definitive Tibetan
contribution to our understanding of human
psychology, was made available to the lamas. If
an enterprising terton, old Tibet’s version of a
nosey reporter, had not dug up the book from one
of the mountains, the world would have lost a real treasure.

The Tibetan exiles’ brush with the outside world
has changed all this. Now Tibetans consider
information and knowledge as a tool to be used
for the improvement of their community rather
than as an object of worship. The secularisation
of the Tibetan attitude to knowledge and
information is nowhere better seen than in the
Tibetan refugees’ successful effort at creating a
lively and vocal press. The creation of a free
press in the world of the Tibetan Diaspora is
contributing to the building of a Tibetan civil
society, strengthening the right to free speech
and the roots of the exiles’ nascent democracy.
It has given the Tibetans a powerful voice in
their non-violent freedom struggle. Above all,
the exiles’ free press has managed to persuade an
increasing number of Chinese, both in and outside
China, to look at the issue of Tibet through Tibetan eyes.

Historical origins of pre-exile media

However, the origins of the Tibetan media,
especially the print media, paradoxically started
not in Tibet but in India, a result of Tibetan
isolationism. Two Germans were largely
responsible for introducing Tibetans to the
contemporary concept of news, news gathering and
dissemination. Heinrich August Jaeschke, "perhaps
the most brilliant of a series of Moravian
linguists to work in the Himalayan region" [2]
published his pathbreaking Tibetan-English
Dictionary in 1881. This dictionary became one of
the foundation stones of Tibetology and was
particularly useful for missionaries in their
attempts to spread the gospel among the Tibetan people.

The first modern Tibetan-language newspaper was
Ladakh Kyi Akbar or Ladakh News. August Hermann
Francke, another German and Moravian missionary
and the author of A History of Western Tibet,
brought out the Ladakh News in 1904 in an attempt
to spread the light of the gospel in Ladakh and
among the Tibetan-speaking world. He employed a
style of language which, while conforming to
traditional Tibetan grammatical and spelling
rules, was nevertheless close to the colloquial.
He hoped that once people had become accustomed
to the newspaper they might prove more receptive
to the Moravian Mission’s more specifically Christian publications. [3]

In 1904, the story of the year was the British
invasion of Tibet. This was given extensive
coverage in the Ladakh News. However, the readers
questioned the accuracy of the news reports.
Francke remarked that his readers particularly
doubted the authenticity of the story that the
Tibetan troops, who were equipped with protective
amulets, proved vulnerable to British bullets.

For the first edition of Ladakh News 150 copies
were printed. Soon the number of copies was
scaled down to a more realistic figure of 60.
Twenty were sent to Darjeeling for distribution.

The Christian missionary agenda of the paper was
clearly reflected in such aphorisms as "If the
Lama himself is not perfect, how can he guide the
dying to a better re-birth?" The paper went on to
explain that the only true great lama was Jesus Christ himself.

Ladakh News did not meet with much success and
closed shop in 1908. Another paper, along similar
lines, was started in Lahaul and Spiti in 1927.
It was called Keylong Kyi Akbhar or Keylong News.

However, in the 1990 issue of Tibet Studies, a
scholarly journal published from Tibet, a
three-page article by Bai Runsheng claims that
Tibet’s first newspaper, Vernacular Paper, was
started by the Manchu amban, Lian Yu, and his
deputy, Zhang Yintang, in April 1909. The
newspaper was bi-lingual, in Tibetan and Chinese.
The article does not mention where in Tibet
Vernacular Paper was printed, its content, frequency or circulation.

But the true origins of Tibet’s print media lies
in the birth of Tibet Mirror, a monthly
Tibetan-language newspaper, started by Gergan
Tharchin, or Tharchin Babu, as he is fondly
remembered by the Tibetan emigre community of Kalimpong and Darjeeling.

The Rev. G. Tharchin was a pioneer in several
fields: the first Tibetan journalist in the
entire Tibetan-speaking world, a towering modern
man of letters in a field traditionally dominated
by lamas, a lone modernizer in a tradition-bound
society, and above all the most articulate spokesman for Tibet’s freedom. [4]

Tharchin Babu was a Christian but, unlike Ladakh
News, there was no attempt to proselytise in the
pages of Tibet Mirror. He published the first
enduring Tibetan-language newspaper in Kalimpong,
the border town in West Bengal, which acted as a
flourishing entre-port for the wool trade between Tibet and India.

"In the first issue of October 1925, I printed 50
copies and sent most of them to my friends in
Lhasa, including one to His Holiness the 13th
Dalai Lama", Tharchin Babu later recounted. "He
sent me a letter with some gifts congratulating
me and encouraging me to carry on publishing the newspaper." [5]

"In fact, the 13th Dalai Lama wrote, "If you
continue to send me your monthly newspaper
containing news about countries like China,
Britain, etc., it would greatly help my
understanding of the various situations". [6]

Despite its miniscule circulation, the impact of
Tibet Mirror, though confined to a small circle
of Tibetan aristocrats and an even smaller circle
of Tibetan reformists, impatient for drastic
changes in Tibet, was enormous. It brought news
of the world to an isolated Tibet.

It was the only medium in the world through which
the Tibetans at least in Lhasa learnt something
of the fast-changing world outside- revolution in
China, World War II, India’s independence, etc.
And the impact was considerable, recalled Tharchin Babu. [7]

The Mirror published articles on world events and
especially reported what was taking place in
India, Tibet and in the region of Kalimpong. It
was a rich source of information on the world of high Asia of the time. [8]

Tibetan nationalists, scholars and dissidents
held regular conclaves at Babu Tharchin’s place
to discuss how Tibet could best avoid the
gathering political storm. For example, in 1946,
two visitors from Tibet landed at Tharchin Babu’s
doorsteps: Baba Phuntsog Wangyal and his friend.
They said they had come across a copy of Tibet
Mirror. Earlier the two had visited Lhasa to warn
the Tibetan government that unless it brought
about changes in Tibet, the country would succumb
to an imminent Chinese communist invasion after
the Chinese civil war. They predicted that the
communists would win the civil war and were
preparing for the "liberation" of Tibet. They
warned Lhasa that the only way out was to obtain
British military aid. The two said Lhasa had
ignored them. They were "nobody", had no names,
no titles. So they came to Kalimpong in the hope
of directly approaching the British government in
India. Tharchin Babu travelled with them to
Gangtok and introduced them to Sir Basil Gould,
the British Political Officer, who looked after
the interests of the British Raj in Tibet and
Bhutan. The 12-page memorandum, which Baba
Phuntsog Wangyal wrote, was transmitted to London
through the office of the Political Officer. A
copy was sent to Lhasa. Realising Britain would
ignore his pleas for help, Baba Phuntsok Wangyal
made a trip to Calcutta and met with Jyoti Basu
for Indian communist help in securing arms. [9]
But his promises of help then were vague and in the end not forthcoming.

After submitting the memorandum, Baba Phuntsog
Wangyal joking told Tharchin Babu, "If the
Tibetan government does not listen, I shall bring
the Chinese army to Tibet. Then I shall write to
you". In early 1951 Tharchin Babu received a
telegram, which said, "Safely arrived in Lhasa" Phuntsog Wangyal". [10]

Baba Phuntsog Wangyal, who became one of the
first Tibetan communists, brought and guided
China’s People’s Liberation Army to Lhasa. He
later served as the interpreter between Mao and
the Dalai Lama when the Tibetan leader visited
Beijing in 1954. Subsequently Phuntsog Wangyal
was arrested and jailed for advocating what the
Chinese communists termed as "local nationalism"
or greater rights for the minority nationalities
and attempting to establish a re-united
autonomous Tibet. He spent 18 years in solitary
confinement in Beijing’s notorious Number One
Prison. Phuntsok still lives in Beijing and in
the mid-1990’s made it to the cover of the Far
Eastern Economic Review which carried an
extensive story on the theory he developed in
prison that there is water on the moon.

Apart from being curious about what would have
happened if Lhasa had listened to Baba Phuntsog
Wangyal’s dire warnings, Tibet’s isolationist
policy enhanced the impact of a single newspaper
on the thinking of nationalist Tibetans. This
leaves one with the question: would a full-grown,
modern media, free and un-shackled, have saved
Tibet from its present tragic fate? Or was it the
classic case of too little, too late?

Whatever conclusion one arrives at, the Tibet
Mirror’s advocacy of Tibetan independence
received attention not only from Tibetan
nationalists but also from the Chinese
communists. Tharchin Babu told the Tibetan Review,

But the Chinese communists were very clever. In
the 50’s they had a trade consulate in Kalimpong
and they used to try to woo me. Once a Tibetan
aristocrat came to see me here with presents. He
said in the usual roundabout aristocratic way
that I should not publish more anti-Chinese
articles. Instead I should concentrate on the
’progress’ made by China in Tibet. If I agreed
the Chinese would order 500 copies of every issue
of Tibet Mirror and they would also make sure
that I don’t run at a loss. I refused. [11]

Tibet Mirror ceased publication in 1962 when the
Tibetan refugees brought out their own newspaper
called Tibetan Freedom from neighbouring
Darjeeling. However, for nearly four decades of
its existence Tibet Mirror chronicled some of the
most important events in the history of modern
Tibet. It encapsulated an entire era during which
Tibetan nationalist and reformist stirrings
collided with the weight of tradition and
conservatism. Naturally, Tharchin Babu and the
office of Tibet Mirror became the meeting-point
of intellectuals and reformists who wanted to
modernize Tibet so that it would effectively
counter the challenges posed by a resurgent China.

The First exile newspapers

In 1962 Gyalo Thondup, the elder brother of the
Dalai Lama, started Tibetan Freedom called Rawang
in Tibetan. The irony that Tibet had to lose its
independence before the Tibetans realised the
worth of a modern newspaper did not escape
Tharchin Babu, who wrote in the farewell issue of Tibet Mirror, [12]

When there was rawang
There was no rawang
When there is no rawang
There is rawang

Several years later Gyalo Thondup handed over
Tibetan Freedom to the Government at Dharamsala.
This was a historic first step. It was the first
time in Tibet’s entire recorded history of more
than two thousand years, that official Tibet had
ever published and managed a newspaper. With
Dharamsala publishing Tibetan Freedom, the
realisation grew among the officials and young
educated Tibetans in exile of the value of
information. The print media came to be perceived
as an important weapon in the war of words with
China. These Tibetans wanted a voice and a
platform to discuss what was happening to Tibet
in the context of the larger events that were shaping the world.

With this in mind, a group of Tibetans started
Sheja, a monthly newsmagazine, in October 1968.
"We first started producing Sheja from a
three-room building in McLeod Ganj with financial
help of Rs. 10,000 from His Holiness the Dalai
Lama. It was a private undertaking then", said
Kasur Sonam Topgyal, a former chairman of the
Tibetan Kashag and a founding member of Sheja. [13]

"We intended to educate the Tibetan refugees on
the political developments sweeping across the
world", said Kasur Sonam Topgyal who remained the
editor of Sheja for more than ten years. "If the
Tibetans were to struggle for their country’s
freedom, it was imperative that they be informed
about what was going on", Kasur Sonam Topgyal remarked. [14]

For the Tibetan refugee community Sheja came as a
breath of fresh air. It was written in colloquial
Tibetan, touched upon all the trouble spots in
the world, and devoted a regular section to news
trickling from Tibet and from behind the "bamboo curtain".

Another ’great leap forward’ in the creation of
the Tibetan press in exile was the establishment
of Voice of Tibet, started by Lodi Gyari,
presently the Special Envoy of His Holiness the
Dalai Lama to Washington, D.C. Lodi Gyari
remained the editor till the magazine changed its
name to Tibetan Reviewin 1968. The magazine, the
first Tibet-in-exile magazine in English, was
mimeographed, printed and published from Darjeeling. [15]

However, lack of money forced both Sheja and
Tibetan Review to turn to Dharamsala in 1971. The
Government responded by setting up a whole new
department to house the two publications. It was
called the Information Office, the predecessor of
the Department of Information and International
Relations. As recalled by Kasur Sonam Topgyal,
"When we approached the cabinet for help, they
entrusted us with one whole new department "We
moved in and that’s how the magazines became official". [16]

The Tibetan Review and Tibetan Review generation of Tibetans

Under the editorship of Professor Dawa Norbu, who
now teaches at the School of International
Studies at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru
University, the Tibetan Review moved to New
Delhi. Before taking over as the editor, he
secured a guarantee from the Information Office
that it would give him full editorial
independence. With this guarantee, Dawa Norbu and
his successor, Tsering Wangyal, who served as the
editor of the Tibetan Review for more than twenty
years, turned the magazine into a venerated
institution of the exiled Tibetan world. They
created a whole new generation of Tibetans: the
Tibetan Review generation, born in Tibet,
educated in exile and using the forum provided by
the Review to discuss how to redeem their lost
inheritance. [17] The most important role of the
Tibetan Review was that of galvanizing the young
exiles with fresh ideas and perspectives that
went beyond the confines of their refugee community.

The impact of the Tibetan Review was planetary.
It became a forum for Tibetans from all four
corners of the world and their friends to throw
up new ideas and inspirations to strengthen the
worldwide Tibet movement. It contributed to
creating a global Tibetan emigre community. The
Tibetan Review became one of the few exile
publications that managed to turn around
international opinion in favour of the Tibetan
people. As Tibetans say, China has its People’s
Liberation Army, but Tibetan exiles have their
Tibetan Review. Since the Tibetans refused to
take up arms, the PLA was quite useless in Tibet
and very, very expensive. Because of this, in the
war of words between Beijing and Dharamsala, the
Tibetan Review became an increasingly credible
tool in persuading an ill-informed international
community to see the appalling situation in Tibet
from the Tibetan exile perspective.

Independent media dent official monopoly

Since the three Tibetan publications, Tibetan
Freedom, Sheja and Tibetan Review, all started by
private initiative, came under the control of
Dharamsala, all the firepower of exile reporting
was directed against the Chinese communist rule
of Tibet. But the Tibetan administration’s
dominance and monopoly of news and information
was gradually reversed as fresh, young blood from
Tibet, with a sparkling flair for writing in the
exhilarating freedom of India, started to bring
out private journals and magazines in the early
1990’s. Such talent and enthusiasm of the new
refugees from Tibet, especially from Amdo, was
responsible for the growth of a whole range of
journals and literary magazines that culminated
in the establishment of Mang-tso, [18] a Tibetan
language newspaper brought out by a group of
young Tibetans from Amdo. Mang-tso, which led a
brief but boisterous life, was succeeded by Tibet
Times. Launched in September 1996, Tibet Times, a
private initiative, adopted a racy style. It is
still going strong and is attractively designed
and presented. The paper has a circulation of
more than 4,000 and comes out once in ten days.
Since then, occasional newsmagazines and journals
have mushroomed in exile, thus the Department of
Information and International Relations in 1999
saw fit to produce Media Tibet: A Directory.

Tibetan exile air-time and impact

The ability of the exile print media to inform
and inspire the Tibetan refugee community
received a boost with the launch of the Tibetan
language service of the ’Voice of America’ in the
early 1990s. The launch of the Tibetan service of
the VOA gave the Tibetan exiles the ability to
reach out to Tibetans in Tibet, an awesome new
power that significantly dented the Chinese
propaganda hold on the minds of the Tibetan
people. The VOA Tibetan service was followed a
few years later by the launch of Radio Free Asia.
Its transmission time was longer and its
editorial content was not restrained by the
compulsions of the US State Department. In the
second half of the 1990’s the trinity was
complete: Voice of Tibet, a Norwegian NGO-funded
Tibetan language service, was launched. Though
its service is only half an hour every day, it
complemented the two American services, with much
of its news focused on events and people in
Dharamsala, the capital of the exile Tibetan
world. Listeners in Tibet consider these radio
services as "medicine for a sick person".

Response from Tibetans beyond the Himalayas was
enthusiastic and touching. There is one moving
email message from a Tibetan student in China.
The letter was sent to Voice of Tibet. It reads,

Hi! I’m a Tibetan student who is studying in
China. I’m really grateful for your station
because you are all working for the independence
of our country. It’s been a long time that I
wanted to contact with outside Tibetan friends,
but it’s really difficult in China, you know.
Maybe you outside Tibetans think that we who are
educated in Chinese style have lost Tibetan
personality. No, of course not, we love our
country Tibet, and we want to fight for freedom
of Tibet. However, we are surrounded by Chinese,
we can’t talk even. And we are young, our parents
and relatives can’t understand us, they even know
nothing about outside country’s information. I’m
sorry about my country and my fellow Tibetans
outside. My deepest respect to our spiritual
leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama-A Tibetan student in China. [19]

Tibetan exile media and their impact on China

The Tibetan exiles launching into airtime and
their energetic involvement with the print media
and particularly the internet is significant. On
the one hand, the exiles have fundamentally
changed international public opinion in their
favour and have halted the advance of the Chinese
propaganda juggernaut on the world stage. On the
other hand, the exiles have succeeded in
undermining the ability of the Chinese
authorities to influence and shape the thinking
of the people in Tibet. Finally, the creation of
a virtual Tibet has enabled the refugees to
penetrate Chinese borders and minds. This ability
has vastly contributed to an ongoing debate among
Mainland Chinese thinkers and writers of the
merits of China’s current hard-line policies in
Tibet and the need for a reasonable solution to
the festering problem, which has given China such a bad press.

For example Wang Lixiong, who is based in Beijing
and the author of the bestseller, Yellow Peril,
and The Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet, notes:

The Dalai Lama is 65 years old. Considering the
life expectancy and health care facilities of
today, it will not be difficult for him to live
another 10 or 20 years. During this long time,
political changes in China are almost inevitable.
It is the attitude of the Dalai Lama that will
wholly determine the direction of the Tibetan
issue. His wish is the Tibetan people’s command…
Whoever underestimates his influence is making a
big mistake, and will pay dearly for it. [20]

Wang Lixiong’s is not the only voice. Wei
Jingsheng, who is considered the father of
Chinese democracy, while in jail, wrote an open
letter addressed to Deng Xiaoping to settle the
issue of Tibet peacefully. Wei Jingsheng’s
outrage, so evident in the open letter, was
provoked by the release of the white paper on
Tibet called ’Tibet - Its Ownership and Human
Rights’ by the State Council of the People’s
Republic of China in 1992. Wei Jingsheng wrote:

In order to improve the situation and solve the
Tibet question, the first thing to do is to
understand what the problems are. Only to listen
to soothing lies will not help you to understand
the reality and find out the problem, and
certainly will not solve it… Therefore, I venture
to write this letter to you and hope that you
would create an academic atmosphere of free
expression, so that people of knowledge could put
forward more insight with regard to this issue
and find out the problem. Only by doing so, could
we avoid losing the last opportunity of settling
the issue and avoid repeating the situation of
the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. [21]

This change in the attitude of a number of
Chinese to Tibet is exasperating for China
considering its dominance of the international
news outlets on the vexed issue in the 1950’s.

Earlier, when the PLA invaded the plateau in
1949, China was considered the new beacon of the
socialist camp - especially for countries which
suffered western colonial domination. Because of
Tibet’s isolation and its absence from
influential global forums, international media
coverage of the invasion became almost an afterthought and was ill informed.

At the same time communist China’s propaganda
machinery worked overtime to successfully put a
spin on the event, depicting the invasion as a
"liberation" of long-suffering "serfs" and
"slaves". China was also, to some extent,
successful in portraying those who opposed the
invasion as "running dogs of the capitalists"
bent on wrecking the socialist camp. Tibet was
projected as a Cold War issue, which succeeded in
silencing the socialist camp….China could tell
the world what it wanted the world to believe,
without any effective Tibetan response. [22]

The extent of ground that China has lost in the
propaganda war alarms Chinese authorities. At a
meeting held on 12 June 2000 in Beijing to
strategize on improving the effectiveness of
China’s external propaganda on Tibet, Zhao
Qizheng, Minister of Information on the State
Council of the People’s Republic of China, said,

Westerners are waging a protracted and overall
war on us on the issue of Tibet. This is a
well-planned public opinion and psychological
war… The external propaganda on the Tibet issue
is a very complicated matter. The Dalai clique
and hostile western forces have a history of
several decades of anti-China activities and
propaganda. As well as having complete experience
and expertise, they command an army of
specialists in this field…In this overall
struggle for public opinion on the Tibet issue,
Tibetology institutes should become an effective
army… we should use our departments of foreign
affairs, information, security, law, nationality, religion, culture, etc. [23]

The vocabulary the minister uses to describe the
various campaigns to counter the exiles’
dominance of the international media is military.
Notice the phrases "psychological war,"
"protracted and overall war," and "army."All
these are freshly minted battle cries for a new
war. But the method the propaganda chief endorses
is the Tibetan exiles’ strategy of how to make
friends and win foes - is of non-violence.
China’s clear compliment to the Tibetan exiles’
international strategy by taking a leaf from
their non-violent struggle is surprising since it
is China that has given the world The Art of War,
the classic textbook on deception to conquer the
barbarian world. The Chinese propaganda chief
encourages the cadres and specialists to use
every strand of Tibetan culture-Buddhism, art,
media, architecture, literature, history,
medicine, dance and music and folklore-to present the Chinese case for Tibet.

Media, civil society and democracy

However, the most enduring impact of the exile
Tibetan media is on the domestic front. As late
as a decade ago, the exile media was a barely
audible voice in Tibetan exile affairs. Now the
interlocking network of websites, newspapers,
magazines, and radio services has emerged as a
Fourth Estate with the clout to influence Tibetan
thinking on issues such as candidates for the
post of Kalon Tripa, the newly-revamped office of
the de facto exile prime minister, to advocating
partisan politics in an increasingly pluralistic
system. In chat-rooms hosted by Tibetan exile
websites, young Tibetans are talking to each
other from across the globe about what is
happening in Tibet to looking for suitable dates for the weekend.

The growth of the Tibetan exile media has a
significant impact on the development of a
democratic community. As a pillar of the exile
body politik, the Tibetan media have access to
the proceedings of the exile parliament. This
transparency of the decisions and deliberations
of the exile legislature through the exile media
has enabled the refugee community to watch, gauge
and understand the actions of their elected
representatives and reserve their right to reward
or punish the concerned deputies in the next elections.

Most important of all in the building of a civil
society is the fact that the mushrooming of the
exile media has spawned a growing number of NGOs,
mostly based in Dharamsala, the capital of the
world of the Tibetan Diaspora. These NGOs, all
with their newsletters and journals, are adding
their own distinct voice and concerns to the
deliberations within the exile community and shaping their opinions.

The taking of firm roots of a free, boisterous
press in the Tibetan refugee community has
facilitated the Dalai Lama’s own efforts at the
democratisation of the exile Tibetan polity. It
has introduced a great deal of transparency in
the workings of the Tibetan exile administration.
And it has given the Tibetan refugees a strong
and decisive voice in their political
participation, strengthening the cohesiveness and vibrancy of the community.


[1] The Tibetan Book of the Dead W.E. Evens-Wentz (ed.), London 1957p XXXVI.

[2] Bray,John, "The Contribution of the Moravian
Mission to Tibetan Language and Literature",
published in Lungta, winter 1998, published by
Amnye MachenInstitute, Dharamsala, India.

[3] Bray,John, ’A.H. Francke’s La Dvags Kyi
Akhbar: the First Tibetan Newspaper’, a paper
presented at the conference on Ladakh, School of
Oriental and African Studies, London University,
December 1987, printed in: Tibet Journal,vol. 13, no. 3, 1988.

[4] Writes Professor Dawa Norbu in his
introduction to the two-volume biography of
Tharchin Babu, Called from Obscurity: The Life
and Times of a True Son of Tibet -Gergan Dorje
Tharchin by H. Louis Fader, published by Tibet Mirror Press, Kalimpong, 2002

[5] ’G.Tharchin: Pioneer and Patriot’, an
interview with Tharchin Babu in: Tibetan Review. December 1975.

[6] ’All the news - Tibetan style’ by Topden
Tsering in: Tibetan Bulletin, January-February 1999.

[7] ’G.Tharchin: Pioneer and Patriot’, supra.

[8] Tashi Tsering, The Life of Rev. G. Tharchin:
Missionary and Pioneer, Amnye Machen, Dharamsala 1998.

[9] Jyoti Basu later became independent India’s
longest-serving chief minister (of West Bengal).

[10] Tashi Tsering, supra.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Topden Tsering, ’All the news - Tibetan
style’ in: Tibetan Bulletin, January-February 1999.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid. Sonam Topgyal was Chief Kalon from 1996-2001.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Editor-la passes away, an obituary on
Tsering Wangyal by Thubten Samphel in: Tibetan Bulletin, January-February 2001.

[18] Mang-tso means democracy in Tibetan.

[19] The letter is with the VOT, Narthang
Building, Gangchen Kyishong, Dharamsala. VOT’s
email is Typos and spelling
errors corrected to hide the identity of the writer.

[20] The Dalai Lama is the key to Tibet issue by
Wang Lixiong, an article written in Lhasa and
Beijing between May and July 2000. The author lives in Beijing.

[21] Wei Jingshen,The Special Status of Tibet,
reprinted in: Tibetan Bulletin,January-February 1994.

[22] published by the Department of Information
and International Relations, Dharamsala, 29 September 2000.

[23] Tibet-related external propaganda and
Tibetology work in the new era by Zhao
Qizheng,Minister of Information, State Council of
PRC, on 12 June 2000 in Beijing,published in:
Beijing’s How to Win Friends and Influence
People,Department of Information and
International Relations, CTA, Dharamsala, 2000.
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