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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?"

What's Next?

December 31, 2009

Phayul [Wednesday, December 30, 2009 18:26]
by Bhuchung D. Sonam

"What happened in Tibet last year and the terrible Chinese crackdowns
have left me angry and frustrated. I want to do something. But there's
nothing that I can do," I heard a young Tibetan say to his friend in a
Dharamsala restaurant recently.

The problem is not that there is NOTHING to do. The difficulty is not
knowing when and how to do what where. In this sense, the sentiment
expressed by the young man is pervasive among the exile community.

This is understandable given the fact that for over a year following the
massive peace protest throughout Tibet in 2008, Tibetans in exile and
supporters around the world have been taking to streets, sitting on
hunger strikes, signing countless petitions, languishing in jails, being
beaten by policemen and climbing up the walls of many Chinese embassies
and consulates. Many joined our Long Walk. Now the worn out shoes,
creased flags and tired Free Tibet T-shirts stare at us as if to invoke
another bout of street marches.

After the peaceful protests up on the plateau were heavily silenced by
the Chinese authorities, and severe restrictions were placed on
travellers and journalists going into Tibet, the world's attention —
which invariably follows the media — shifted away from Tibet. We are
left to ourselves again. A mirage of apparent normalcy crept into our
exile lives, broken by sporadic news of arrests, torture and execution
in the occupied Tibet.

'White Wednesday' Tibetan Vigil at Harvard Square (Boston USA) in
freezing weather. This is probably the longest on-going vigil in exile,
started in March 2008 and will go on until Tibet will be free
A freedom struggle is much like an advertising campaign — forgive me for
the terrible analogy — where the short-term gains are intangible. After
pounding your eardrums and bombarding your consciousness with a barrage
of sweet jingles, super-rich video clips and clever catchphrases, the
brand gradually gets imprinted in your psyche. It eventually reaps
dividends — sales go up, so do profits.

A year in the struggle for freedom is like a few seconds in a commercial
campaign. Straining of our vocal chords, aching of our muscles and the
tears of anger and frustration, and most of all the sacrifices of
Tibetans inside Tibet, did not go in vain. Many years later, when we
will have a chance to look back, we will see the miles that we covered.

The Chinese authorities have executed Lobsang Gyaltsen and Loyak for
their part in peaceful demonstrations; Kunga Tsangyang, a young Tibetan
writer, blogger and photographer was sentenced to five years for his
writing and 228 Tibetans died under the crackdowns. Since March 2008,
371 Tibetans were jailed; 4657 Tibetans were either arrested or
detained; 990 Tibetans have disappeared and 1294 were injured during the
peaceful protests. The other day, Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche was sentenced
to over eight years.

"Every year is the same. Nothing changes and China gets stronger each
year," said my friend ruefully. Well, not quite.

Under the neo-Leninists' state China has achieved material success. As a
result world leaders, including the new Nobel laureate, Barack Obama,
befriend China with salivating tongues. Everyone wants a piece of the
Chinese cake.

But the financial gains came at a high cost. All is not well with Beijing.

Tainted milk, rural discontent, urban unrest, unemployment, an extreme
gap between rich and the poor, severe damage to the environment,
pollution and the instability in East Turkistan (Chin. Xinjiang), and
tension over Taiwanese and Tibetan resistance gradually shake the new
empire. Furthermore, exports of cheap good and cheaper labour are
causing frictions with many countries around the world; rampant
corruption throughout the rank and file in the Communist system is
crippling society in China.

So, what's next?

We must have persistent creativity, dogged determination, endless
patience and a judicious dose of rewa or hope that Tibetans are known
for. But most of all we must invest in knowledge — to know what to hit
when, and how to hit where the hardest.

When I was in the US for two years, I was amazed by the dedication and
sacrifice that young Tibetans, born and raised in exile, undergo to work
for Free Tibet campaigns and activism. But many of them lack deeper
knowledge on the issue and have little understanding of historical
backgrounds and present realities in Tibet.

If a reporter asks you, "Why are you here?" You cannot justify your
being in streets by simply chanting, "I love Tibet." Lots of people love
Tibet.

Tibetans and Tibet Supporters protesting in front of Chinese Consulate
in Washington, DC, March 2009
Or if an overseas Chinese comes to you and yells, "Tibet has always been
a part of China and there is complete freedom in Tibet. So what are you
shouting about?" it won't be enough to shout back all the invectives you
can muster. We must have intellectual depth to respond sensibly and
cleverly with reason.
"You cannot bomb knowledge," said Mohamed Elbaradei, the former head of
the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Newsweek recently. He was
commenting on the possible military actions against Iran's nuclear
programs. "Bomb them and they will go on a crash course..." He could
have said that to a young Tibetan.

Of course, I am not encouraging us to acquire bomb-making know how. The
point is knowledge is enduring. It can withstand brutal crackdowns, it
can confront police batons, it can even stand years of solitary
confinement. And when you are on the streets, knowledge is a must to
face reporters and the Chinese who always want to know why we shout,
"China Out of Tibet Now!"

Using breakthrough technology the US is all set to build "drones (tiny
remotely piloted planes) the size of a hummingbird, which would be able
to pursue targets into homes and buildings." Incredible!

So, to the young man who said, "But there is nothing that I can do," I
would say read, read, debate, debate, reason, reason, find, find, think,
think, question, question and then act act. If you still won't know what
to do by December 2010, come and punch my face.

Otherwise Happy New Year, cheers to all the books that you are bound to
gobble up.

The writer can be reached at bhuchungdsonam@gmail.com
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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