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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Spiritual Sustenance of Tibetan Earthquake Victims and Chinese Insensitivity

April 23, 2010

Bhuchung K. Tsering

April 16, 2010

The devastating earthquake in Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture on April 14, 2010, whose impacts are still being analyzed as I write, has highlighted the humane aspect of the Tibetan issue. Thanks to modern communication facilities we are able to have a close look at the tragedy and to understand its full impact. Naturally, Tibetans in Tibet have come readily to assist their brethren in Yushu. It is most encouraging that the monastic community have been at the forefront in the immediate hours of the initial rescue effort.

Similarly, the Tibetans in diaspora have also been undertaking different activities, including prayer sessions and fund raising to express their solidarity. Also, several organizations that support the Tibetan people, including the International Campaign for Tibet, have launched fund-raising appeals to help the people in Yushu.

While material assistance will help those injured and affected physically, for the rising number of Tibetans and others who have lost their lives, spiritual sustenance plays a hugely important role. As was witnessed by media representatives at the site, the people wait for the appropriate spiritual rituals to be undertaken before the bodies of those who have died are disposed of. In this regard, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has not only come out with a written message offering his prayers, but a video recording of his reference to the tragedy has been posted on his website. Many affected people in Yushu and their relatives in Tibet and China have learnt of His Holiness’s prayers and have expressed profound spiritual relief. If the Chinese Government is really concerned about the overall welfare of the Tibetans affected by the earthquake, it should be logical for them to let the Tibetans in Yushu know that the Dalai Lama has prayed for the dead and the injured.

There is no doubt that the Dalai Lama plays an important role in the lives of the Tibetans in Yushu. It was quite revealing to see that as the international media covered the rescue work, among the rubble one of the items that Tibetans could be seen treasuring was photos of their spiritual leaders, including those of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Some overseas Chinese media have also reported about a petition to China’s leaders by the Tibetans in Yushu for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to come to pray for them. I don’t know the veracity of this report. However, when asked about such a possibility, Tibetan officials in Dharamsala have maintained that it is something natural for His Holiness to consider.

Unfortunately, to the Chinese propaganda machinery devoted to Tibet, it looks like they are in a situation of politics as usual. At a time when all Tibetans and a majority of the Chinese people ( I want to believe) are expressing solidarity and sympathy with the families of Tibetans who have died in the devastating earthquake in Yushu, the Chinese media have shown their insensitivity by coming out with articles about the “Dalai Clique” and criticizing the one spiritual leader who can provide the needed spiritual succor to the affected Tibetans.

The Chinese media has had good coverage of how the Chinese government is assisting the victims and the expressions of condolence by leaders around the world whose names the Tibetans in Yushu may not have heard of. But the Chinese media is silent on the message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and about his prayers, this single most important individual whose name means so much to the Tibetan people.

I wonder why the Chinese media should be so insensitive to Tibetan feelings?
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