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"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."

Tibet's Uncertain Future

March 25, 2009

By Maura Moynihan
Radio Free Asia
March 23, 2009

Tibetan protesters in Dharamsala, ready to take the fight for Tibet
into the future.

On March 20, the Tibetan government in exile based in Dharamsala,
India, convened a news conference to show a new film smuggled out of Tibet.

The film was said to show Chinese police kicking and beating Tibetans
civilians lying bound and bleeding on the ground during the 2008 uprising.

It also tells the story of Tendar, a 22-year-old deputy at a telecom
company in Lhasa who saw a throng of Chinese policemen beating a monk
and tried to persuade the police to show mercy.

For this, he was thrown into jail, tortured with electric cattle
prods, burned with cigarettes, and had nails hammered into his feet.
The film shows Tendar's mutilated body after he was taken to the
Lhasa People's Hospital, where doctors failed to save him.

The most horrific aspect of these images is that they are simply the
latest additions to a lengthy archive of China's barbarous treatment
of the Tibetan people.

The Tibetan people's determination is very strong, so there are many
reasons to be hopeful about the future." -- The Dalai Lama

Dharamsala is filled with survivors of torture and labor camps. You
often pass them on Jogibara Road, walking in and out of the reception
center for new refugees and the Gu Chu Sum Society for ex-political
prisoners who have escaped into exile.

If China's policies for developing Tibet proceed as planned -- with
more population transfer, mining, urbanization, persecution of
Buddhism, vilification of the Dalai Lama, and the continued use of
torture and extreme repression to silence all protest -- many fear
Tibet is doomed.

But the 2008 populist uprising that united all Tibetan cultural zones
under Chinese rule has also ignited a nationalist fervor among the
young exiles.

"I remember the uprisings inside in Tibet in the 1980s," says Tenzin
Choeying, Indian national director of Students for a Free Tibet.
"2008 politicized Tibetan youth in exile."

"The Chinese Communists are so paranoid, their only response to
protest is a military one. We should see this as the last effort by a
totalitarian government to control and suppress, but this cannot go
on forever," Choeying says.

"China is changing, people's ideas of freedom are getting bigger day
by day. Our civilization is strong. We've survived this long under
the Chinese Communist Party."

'Stalemate' in Tibet

"There is a stalemate in Tibet, and the immediate future is ugly,"
says poet-activist Tenzin Tsundue, stoking a fire at the Rangzen
Ashram, an antique bungalow in lower Dharamsala filled with books,
maps, laptops, and volunteers.

"We don't kill, so we don't make headlines with suicide bombers,"
Tsundue says. "If Tibetans took up violence, which we could have done
a long time ago, China and the media would be all over it. We are not
giving it to them."

"They think that our nonviolent activism is just politically correct
or strategic, but for us, nonviolence is a basic principle of life,
even with our enemy China."

The Chinese Communist Party has launched an aggressive new propaganda
thrust, with nine new television channels, blaming the Dalai Lama for
inciting "splittism" and calling protests "violent riots," in a bid
to justify the vast military presence across the Tibetan plateau.

"Tibet could be the catalyst for revolution in China, -- says
Tsundue, fielding nonstop calls and text messages from a worn-out
cell phone. "In Tibet, people are willing to sacrifice their lives for change."

"This could spread the fire of revolution to other parts of China and
ignite people's aspirations for freedom and democracy, which is the
Communist Party's biggest fear."

New focus on Tibet

Before the uprising of 2008, Tibet was frequently dismissed as a lost
cause, but today think tanks in Asia and the West are re-examining the issue.

In conversations around Dharamsala, Tibetans are proud of the young
activists who have kept China on the defensive about its rule in
Tibet and have provoked a visibly authoritarian response from Chinese

Thupten Samdup has been traveling throughout the Tibetan disapora
mobilizing young talent for the 2011 election of the Kalon Tripa, the
Tibetan prime minister in exile.

"The next Kalon Tripa will govern from 2011-2016. These will be
crucial years for Tibet and for the Dalai Lama," says Thupten, who
has become the Tibetan David Axelrod, with a campaign slogan "Future
Won't Wait."

"We have so many people ready to work, to develop new strategies and
ideas for the battles that lie ahead. I'm impressed by the talent
I've seen out there," he says.

Damaged image

"Tibet is a serious problem for China that won't go away, -- says
Tenzin Choeying of Students for a Free Tibet. "The movement should
have died in the 60s when we were so poor and desperate. We didn't
lose hope then. Why should we now?"

"We are not the only people living under Chinese Communist rule. We
internationalized the issue. We can be positive catalysts for
democratic change and democracy in China."

The Dalai Lama, meanwhile, speaking from his hillside temple above
the Kangra Valley, suggests cause for hope.

"Many Chinese intellectuals are saying that China's Tibet policy is a
failure, and it hurts China's image," he says.

"The Communists brainwash, torture, bribe, and kill, but the Tibetan
spirit hasn't been broken. The Tibetan people's determination is very
strong, so there are many reasons to be hopeful about the future."

Maura Moynihan, a writer and musician, has been a consultant to the
Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, America's largest Himalayan and
Tibetan cultural institution. She worked for many years as a refugee
consultant in India and Nepal and recently completed a master's
degree in political science at the New School.
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