Monday, May 23, 2011


Today marks the 60-year Chinese anniversary of "The Liberation of Tibet" begging the question: Liberated from what? Said top political advisor and member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, Jia Qinglin as published in Xinhua, China's main news source, the Tibetan people should "unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet and return to the big family of the People's Republic of China."

Tibet's peaceful liberation "fundamentally expelled imperialist forces, safeguarded the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, cracked down on various secessionist forces and maintained national unification and ethnic unity.

The region's peaceful liberation paved the way for Tibet's theocratic feudal serfdom to be changed, emancipating more than 1 million slaves and greatly promoting all-round development in Tibet," said Jia.

This view is vastly different from that of most ethnic Tibetans. Their view is that Tibet has been invaded by the Chinese Army, their land has been stolen, their culture has been under attack, the idea that there existed any slaves at all is a myth, and the vast majority of the Tibetan nomad population has been marginalized into poverty. The country's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" does not exist as it has been overtaken by the Chinese Army which maintains a policy of strict reeducation and arrest with no trial, indefinite periods of incarceration and torture. This policy affects all Tibetans including the general population, nomads and particularly Buddhist monks and nuns.

Currently the town of Ngawa in the eastern Tibet region has been overrun with approximately 55,000 Chinese troops as a response to a young monk who set himself on fire in protest coincident with the 2008 anniversary of violent protests against Chinese rule in Tibet(

Chinese troops occupy and run military training exercises in nearly all the Tibetan towns and villages. If the Tibetans were happy with the current takeover by the Chinese why would such a strong military presence be necessary?

It is a shame that perhaps the most peaceful and spiritual culture in the history of our planet is being marginalized, brutalized - its very survival threatened. The simple goal and motivation of a Tibetan Buddhist monk or nun is simply to become enlightened in order to benefit all beings - to make themselves better so they can more effectively help others. They are consumed with the task of cultivating compassion within themselves. They have no political or commercial agenda. Witnessing repeated brutalization has brought some of them to a sort of semi-activist stance, perhaps organizing a small gathering with a placard or two or just expressing their opinions for which they are all now considered a threat to the stability of China. They are seen as enemies of the state and are being reeducated, arrested and tortured. Many of them simply disappear. They are easily overrun.
Of course the most insulting change for the Tibetans is that their spiritual leader, according to many of them the very embodiment of compassion and peace, The Dalai Lama is seen as a seperatist and enemy of the state. Tibetans who mention his name or carry his picture are arrested and tortured. What sort of liberation is that?

A more realistic view of the Chinese incursion may have to do with the exploitation of the vast mineral deposits in the Tibet region. Perhaps control of the headwaters of the Himalayas that serve as the source of water for most of Asia is another motive. The Ganges, The Indus serving Pakistan and the Brahmaputra Rivers all originate within 100 miles of one another in the Tibetan Himalayas. The Salween, serving Thailand and Myanmar, The Mekong, serving Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers all originate on the Tibetan plateau.

In the end it appears no country will come to the aid of the Tibetans. China now has influence on too many economies and its military is far superior to all but one. China shares a border with 14 countries, but has had 23 border disputes in recent history. All these disputes have been resolved except with Bhutan and India. The dispute with Nepal was resolved in conjunction with an infusion of financial aid, military aid, and aid in upgrading infrastructure. In return, the Nepalese Prime Minister reiterated Nepal's adherence to One-China policy and decided not to allow any anti-China activities in the territory of Nepal ( Nepal has a large Tibetan refugee population and increasing pressure is being brought to bear on Nepal to further marginalize the Tibetans living there.

Solution to the border confrontations with Bhutan and India will also be leveraged with massive funding and similar demands regarding further marginalizing the refugee Tibetan populations there. These will be more difficult for China to achieve as India and Bhutan represent the last frontiers for Tibetans, and they are areas where Tibetans have garnered the most support for preservation of their culture. India currently hosts the Tibetan Government in Exile as well as the Dalai Lama and the vast majority of Tibetans outside of Tibet. Bhutan has a very similar culture to Tibet and has a history of resisting any form of intervention whatsoever.

In Tibet Buddhism has flourished for more than a thousand years. Through the centuries Tibetans have sustained and increased their spiritual roots and practice and have incorporated the meaning and the essence of the teachings on compassion into their daily lives. This is an incredibly valuable culture that should be nourished, not wiped out. Our world is in delicated balance with the forces of greed, political power and brutalization increasing. Sometimes I think it's only the Tibetans and other spiritual beings who are holding this delicate balance.

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