Today Tibetans—in Tibet and in exile— and their many friends in Canada and around the world mark 50 years of enormous suffering and remarkable endurance. Today is the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Lhasa Uprising, when the much-loved Dalai Lama fled Tibet.
Tibet has become a militarized zone. Sandbag outposts have been set up in the middle of towns, army convoys rumble along highways, and paramilitary officers search civilian cars. A curfew has been imposed on Lhasa. Only a few days ago, several hundred monks from Sey monastery in Ngaba held a protest march after officials prevented them from marking a major prayer festival
Multiply that by the harsh facts over the past five decades: tens of thousands killed; hundreds of thousands imprisoned. Over 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, pillaged and destroyed. Thousands more Tibetans disappeared last year or were imprisoned, and more destruction was directed against monasteries and religious objects.
In Mao-The Unknown Story, authors Jung Chang (author of Wild Swans) and Jon Halliday told the world about Beijing`s treatment of the Tibetan people:
In early 1959, Mao wrote about the uprising then underway in Tibet, caused in part by drastically-increased food requisitions there because of the famine conditions created across China by his catastrophic 'Great Leap Forward': "This (rebellion) is... a good thing. Because this makes it possible to solve our problems through war."
When word spread later in Tibet that Mao planned to kidnap the then very young Dalai Lama, thousands of Tibetans passed in front of the palace, shouting "Chinese get out." Mao cabled that the Dalai Lama should be allowed to escape because he feared his death would "inflame world opinion, particularly in the Buddhist countries and India, which Mao was courting. Once he had escaped, Mao told his men: 'Do all you can to hold the enemies in Lhasa...so when our main force arrives we can surround them and wipe them out'."
The book adds other details, including statements by the Panchen Lama, who initially actually welcomed the Chinese invasion of Tibet: "After Mao's death, the Panchen Lama revealed what he had not put in his original letter (to Mao): that a staggering 15-20 percent of all Tibetans-perhaps half of all adult males-were thrown into prison, where they were basically worked to death. They were treated like subhumans. Lama Palden Gyatso, a brave long-term prisoner, told us he and other prisoners were flogged with wire whips as they pulled heavy plows."
The Dalai Lama
According to a 2008 opinion survey in six European countries, the Dalai Lama is the most respected world leader among Europeans. He is also the spiritual leader of Tibetans, a Nobel Peace Price laureat and a much-loved honourary citizen of Canada,
The Chinese party-state has unfairly accused him of fomenting violence in Tibet. The Dalai Lama advocates Tibetan autonomy under Chinese rule, but strongly disavows violence and does not favor secession.
The Dalai Lama is Beijing`s best chance for a peaceful resolution of the Tibet Issue. Peaceful demonstrations do not disturb stability. The presence of thousands of armed military and police provoke disturbances.
In an interview last year, the Dalai Lama expressed fears that there is a possibility of greater violence after he passes away. Some groups launched by Tibetans in exile seek complete independence, rejecting the Dalai Lama's middle approach.
Robert J. Barnett, a Tibet specialist, thinks that Beijing should separate "the difficult talks about autonomy and the Dalai Lama's status, which they're nervous about, from the easy issues, which are about religion, and migration, and development." He argues the Chinese will have to do this eventually because the alternative, "keeping one-third of your country under military garrison every so often" is unsustainable.
Petition of Chinese Intellectuals
A year ago, a group of prominent Chinese intellectuals circulated a petition urging the government to stop what it called a “one-sided” propaganda campaign and initiate direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama. It was signed by more than two dozen writers, journalists and scholars and contained 12 recommendations which, taken together, represented a sharp break from the Chinese government’s response to the wave of demonstrations then sweeping Tibet.
“We support the Dalai Lama’s appeal for peace, and hope that the ethnic conflict can be dealt with according to the principles of goodwill, peace, and non-violence,” it read.
The petition went on to cite government claims that the unrest was “organized, premeditated and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique,” and calls on Beijing to invite the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to carry out an independent investigation of these charges.
“In order to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future, the government must abide by the freedom of religious belief and the freedom of speech explicitly enshrined in the Chinese Constitution, thereby allowing the Tibetan people fully to express their grievances and hopes and permitting citizens of all nationalities to freely criticize and make suggestions regarding the government’s nationality policies.”
The former president of the Canadian NGO Rights and Democracy, Jean-Louis Roy, noted on the eve of the Dalai Lama's visit to Ottawa five years ago, "Silence in response to any abuse of human rights is unacceptable and it is especially objectionable in response to abuses that amount to cultural genocide as in Tibet. These abuses continue to taint Canada's flourishing economic relationship with China, not to mention our reputation as a defender of human rights and democratic freedoms." Who can disagree?
Thank you. Merci.