Monday 20 April 2015

Hong Kong historian deviates from official China line on sovereignty over Tibet

HONG KONG: A leading Chinese historian and a veteran of the committee that advises on official Chinese history textbooks has broken step with the official Chinese line on historical sovereignty over Tibet and said that to claim that the ancient Buddhist kingdom “has always been a part of China” would be a “defiance of history”.

In an article in the China Review magazine, Professor Ge Jianxiong, 62, director of the Institute of Chinese Historical Geography and the Research Centre for Historical Geographic Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, states that while considering how big China was during the Tang Dynasty (7th to 10th century), “we cannot include the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, which was ruled by Tubo/Tufan…”

Tubo/Tufan, notes Ge, “was a sovereignty independent of the Tang Dynasty. At least it was not administered by the Tang Dynasty.” If it were not, he argues, there would have been no need for the Tang emperor of the day to offer Princess Wen Cheng in a “marriage of state” to the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo.

“It would be a defiance of history,” asserts Ge, “to claim that Tibet has always been a part of China since the Tang Dynasty; the fact that the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau subsequently became a part of the Chinese dynasties does not substantiate such a claim.”

Ge’s article is an exploration of a larger theme of Chinese identity in history — and precisely when it evolved. And his comments on Tibet conform to scholarly accounts that acknowledge that the takeover of Tibet during the Qing Dynasty (17th to early 20th century) was the starting point for  “Chinese sovereignty” over the region.

Yet, Ge’s comments are controversial insofar as they deviate from the official Communist Party line that Tibet has always been an inalienable part of China; in the past China has regarded as any weakening of that theory as “anti-national” and “split-ist”. It will be interesting to see how the authorities respond to Ge’s scholarly article.

Ge’s major research fields include historical population geography, population and migration history, and cultural history. He has written and edited numerous books, and over 100 articles on historical population geography, population and migration history, and cultural history.

In his latest article, Ge notes that prior to 1912, when the Republic of China was officially founded, the idea of China (in Chinese, Zhongguo) wasn’t clearly conceptualised. Even during the late Qing period, he writes, the term ‘China’ would on occasion be used to refer to the “Qing State, including all the territory that fell within the boundaries of the Qing empire”; but at other times, it would be taken to refer only to the “18 interior provinces”, excluding Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang.

Therefore, he argues, “if we want to understand the extent of ancient China’s territory, we can only speak of how large the actual territory controlled by a particular dynasty was at a particular moment.” Noting that notions of a ‘Greater China’ were based entirely on the “one-sided views of Qing court records that were… written for the court’s self-aggrandisement”, Ge criticises those who feel that “the more they exaggerate the territory of historical ‘China’ or China’s successive dynasties and kingdoms, the more patriotic they are.”

In fact, he says, the opposite is true. “If China really wishes to rise peacefully and be on a solid footing to face the future, we must understand the sum of our history and learn from our experiences.”

Schoolboy sends fan letter to Dalai Lama

From the Birmingham Mail
Edgbaston 13-year-old George Morris and dad stunned when Tibetan guru jets them out to meet him
George Morris who got to meet the Dalai Lama

It's a story so fantastic, heart-warming and brimful of hope it could have been scripted by Disney.

The schoolboy who sent fan mail to the Dalai Lama and received an invitation to meet Tibet’s spiritual leader.

Incredibly, 13-year-old George Morris was granted a private audience with the exiled Holy Man in a monastery in Dharamsala, India.

After talking about faith, he left the “life-changing” meeting with 18 books and a blessed statue, presented by the Dalai Lama.

“Buddhists do not believe in one god,” says the Edgbaston teenager who made the religious journey with dad Andrew.

“But it did seem God himself had dropped the words into the Dalai Lama’s mouth.”

Andrew, a teacher, was equally moved by the meeting.

George Morris and his dad Andrew meet the Dalai LamaGeorge Morris and his dad Andrew meet the Dalai Lama
“I was stunned,” admits the 53-year-old. “It was one of those moments when you really don’t know what to say, when your brain goes blank. It had a massive effect on me.”

George, a pupil at King Edward VI Five Ways School, is no ordinary youngster.

Sharp, perceptive and with an intellect way beyond his years, he searches for spiritual answers and rails against global injustices. He has strong views on poverty when many his age are simply worried about the Premier League title race.

Of China’s brutal crackdown on Tibet’s campaign for independence, he says: “There has been a genocide since 1959. Some 1.2 million people have effectively been slaughtered, and 200,000 forced out of Tibet.

“Yet this is a country we are striving to strike trade deals with.”

He converted to Buddhism 18 months ago – “Granny thinks it’s a fad, she thinks I’m a hippy,” he laughs – and wrote a speculative letter to the Dalai Lama last September.

“I expressed my sympathies and views on the situation in Tibet,” he recalls. “I expressed how I thought he is doing good work in trying to end that in a peaceful way.”

To George and his family’s shock, the Dalai Lama replied, inviting him to Dharamsala.

George and Andrew began a long journey, punctuated by a three day stop-off in Dubai, the unbridled luxury providing a stark contrast to the poverty they encountered on the Indian sub-continent.

They were among 1,500 devotees from 56 nations who gathered at the monastery gates, but George and Andrew were among just a handful to be granted a one-to-one meeting.

George Morris who got to meet the Dalai LamaGeorge Morris who got to meet the Dalai Lama
“I was paranoid about doing something stupid, like not turning my phone off,” says George.

“Imagine if it rang in the middle of our conversation. Now that would be embarrassing!”

During the 10-minute meeting, the Dalai Lama described the boy’s conversion to Buddhism as an inspiration, but warned: “Do not follow a faith blindly.”

“He told me not to look on Buddhism as just a philosophy, but as a revolutionary science,” says George. “I thanked him for everything he has done for the Tibetan people.”

“He was everything I thought he would be and much, much more. He had a God-like aura.”

And it may not be the last conversation between the unlikely pair.

“He said I could call him and ask him anything,” reveals George.

Andrew admits to dwelling on more earthly thoughts.

“He came in so normally. I remember thinking he had soft hands,” he chuckles, “and wondering if he uses moisturiser.”

“It was a life-changing moment,” he adds on a more serious note. “And I thought his message not to follow a faith without question was phenomenal. He wasn’t pushing his religion. He was saying, ‘Don’t just be a Buddhist, look into it first’.”

Since their return from the two-week trek, George has struggled to find people who believe a tale that seems too tall to be true.

Thankfully, he has the photographic evidence.

“The usual response is ‘That’s amazing, but did it really happen?’ shrugs George. The meeting has strengthened his faith, and his parents support the path their son has taken.

“I thought Buddhism made the most sense,” he explains. “It impacts on my decisions, but it does not impact on my routines. The way that I think about what I do is impacted.

“Granny thinks I’ll grow out of it – but she thought the same when I became a vegetarian.”

The stark contrast between life in oil-rich Dubai and India has only hardened George’s resolve to pursue a legal career centred on civil rights.

“I loved India, but hated Dubai,” he admits. “Dubai is a capitalist venture, built solely to get money out of people. It is a hideous place.

“In India, at times I felt guilty because I was in a nice, air-conditioned car and I was seeing people begging for water.

“But they love their country, they are very patriotic. I loved the people and I loved the culture.”

George publicly thanks King Edward VI Five Ways head teacher, Mrs Y Wilkinson, for allowing him time off to make the incredible journey. She has asked for only one thing in return – the prize pupil has to give an assembly on his meeting with the Dalai Lama.

He is bracing himself for the inevitable whispers from classmates: “C’mon, it’s a wind-up.”

It’s not.

George Morris has the statue and books to prove it.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Cafe Momo and Three Times Tibet

Its Cafe Momo on Sunday 15th February 2015 starting at 12:30,  with momos, soup and a selection of cake.  Teas and Coffee.
At 3pm Special Slide show: A Bike ride from Manali to Leh by Valerie Parkinson. Valerie has spent the last 30 years leading trips in the Himalayas.  At this Cafe Momo she will give a talk with photogtraphs on her cycle trip across the Indian Himalayas from Manali to Leh, one of the most demanding cycle journeys in the world.

Three Times Tibet

An event at Hartham Park Friday 10th April starting at 7:30 -

Hennie and Martin Simmington (1986), Richard Moulton (1993) and Sharon Penwell (2010) who has led tours of Tibet will be recounting their respective visits to Tibet and showing their pictures taken during those visits.

The evening is complemented with live traditional Tibetan music from Tashi and Sherab and contemporary solo guitar from Ben Powell (guitarist)

Tickets are £5 each (under 12s go free).

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Next Cafe Momo

We finished our year with a big 'Thank You'  from the TADRA Project Team, which we would like to pass on to all of you, as you all helped to raise the money by coming to our Cafe's.

Speaking of which, our next Cafe Momo is not far away, on the 18th this month to be precise and this time we have a special guest !!!

Sue Dowle will be joining us to talk about her trip to N.India (Autumn 2014) where she travelled by motorbike through the Spiti Valley.
The Spiti Valley is a high altitude desert valley in the Himalaya, located in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name means ' The Middle Land', the area between Tibet and Northern India that was once part of western Tibet. It is home to a homogenous population of about 10000 people who are ethnically Tibetan and has been described as 'one of the last undisturbed enclaves of Tibetan Buddhism on Indian soil'. The valley is cut off by snow for much of the year and is not easily accessible, which adds much to its character.  The talk will be accompanied by some photographs and followed by 'question time' where Sue will be happy to answer all your questions.

Sue will start at 3pm, so make you sure you had your share of soup and cake by then.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Another Tibetan dies in flames, thousands gather in solidarity:Tawu

Phayul[Tuesday, December 23, 2014 22:28]
Kalsang Yeshi/file
Kalsang Yeshi/file
Another Tibetan has reportedly died by setting himself ablaze in less than 24 hours of the self-immolation by a Tibetan woman in Ngaba yesterday.

Kalsang Yeshi, a 37 year old Tibetan monk of Nyitso Monastery in Tawu in eastern Tibet, set himself on fire right in front of the police post in the premises of the monastery today around 11 AM (local time), said Lobsang Jinpa, a Tibetan from Tawu now residing in India.

Kalsang had studied at the Ganden Jhangste monastery in south India in the past after he left home in Thewa village in Kunor township, Tawu County, according to Jinpa, who accompanied him during his flight to exile. “I knew him very well. We came into exile together in 1997. I met him a few years ago when I went to Tibet,” said Jinpa.

Graphic image/charred body of Kalsang Yeshi, 37, who died after immolating himself, Dec. 23, 2014
Graphic image/charred body of Kalsang Yeshi, 37, who died after immolating himself, Dec. 23, 2014
Around a thousand local Tibetans have gathered outside the Tawu County police station demanding that the authorities return the body to the family.

Kalsang called for the return of the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, said Jinpa, citing an eyewitness. Kalsang collapsed to the ground within minutes of sustaining severe burns.

Police have immediately taken away the charred body despite protests from the local Tibetans who appealed to the police to hand over the body to the family.

Kalsang was held in high esteem by the local Tibetans for his contribution towards the preservation of Tibetan culture and religion. He taught Tibetan and Buddhism to local Tibetans, especially elders and children, said Jinpa.

Authorities fear of more protests by the Tibetans who have gathered in huge numbers outside the police station. Communication lines have been cut off to monitor the tense situation in the area as the authorities fear more Tibetans will join in tomorrow.

Kalsang became 135th Tibetan to self immolate in protest against the Chinese government since 2009 and 116th to succumb to the burns. His self immolation is the third by a Tibetan in just less than a month. 

20 yr old Tibetan woman immolates self to death

Phayul[Monday, December 22, 2014 18:00]
(graphic content) Charred body of Kyi
(graphic content) Charred body of Kyi
 A 20 year old Tibetan woman has died after she set her body on fire around 2PM (local time) today in Tibet's Ngaba County.

A Tibetan exile source with contacts in the region said the deceased has been identified as Tsepey Kyi from fourth village of Meruma township in Ngaba County.

The same source said Kyi succumbed to her burn injuries within minutes of her self immolation protest and her body was immediately taken away by the police. Police have cordoned off the site of her self immolation and stepped up restrictions around the area making it difficult to acquire more information.

Tsepey Kyi is daughter of Chime Dorjee and Chenpa of Chudotsang family. Kyi's parents have also been taken away from their home by the police but it is not known if they have been detained.

Kyi is the 134th Tibetan to resort to self immolation as a form of protest against the Chinese government and 115th to die after self immolation protest.

Less than a week ago, another Tibetan named Sangay Khar died after he set himself ablaze in Amchok town in Sangchu County. 

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Breaking: Tibetan dies after setting self on fire

Phayul[Tuesday, December 16, 2014 19:43]
Palden Khar
Palden Khar
A Tibetan man has died after he set himself on fire earlier today in Amchok town, Sangchu County, Kanlho Tibet Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province.

Sangyal Khar set himself on fire right in front of the Police Station Tuesday around 9 AM (local time).

A Tibetan source said that Khar's charred body was taken to Sangchu County by the Chinese police who refused to hand over the body to his family despite protests from the local Tibetans.

The situation in Amchok town remains tense as authorities cordoned off the area and put restrictions on local people's movement and communication lines.

Khar became the 134th Tibetan to immolate self, and 114th to succumb to the burns. 

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Last week, the Irish broadcaster RTE transmitted several reports from Tibet. RTE was participating in a Chinese government-controlled media trip to the region, which RTE described as "carefully choreographed". In its reports, RTE challenged the authenticity of China's version of Tibet presented on the trip, saying a true picture "remains out of reach".
In the first of two video reports, RTE's Philip Bromwell reports from Lhasa, which he describes as a "modern, sprawling city".RTE logoDuring an interview at the Jokhang temple, a monk says he hopes Dalai Lama will return to Tibet. However, when he is asked why some Tibetans are protesting, the Chinese interpreter interrupts, the monk looks concerned and only says, "This is a difficult question for me".

In its report, RTE refers to the self-immolation protests Which China blames the Dalai Lama for inciting. In addition, China counters claims that it restricts religious freedom and expression of culture in Tibet by stating it has brought development and prosperity to Tibet. However, RTE notes China has responded to the protests with"tighter security and surveillance" which is "far from subtle", such as security cameras disguised as prayer wheels.

RTE also makes it clear that there is clear message the Chinese government wishes to convey, as Tibetans provided for interview praise the government. For example, a lecturer at a college of Tibetan medicine says, "Tibet has received support from the government and has been well-developed and grows very rapidly." At a thangka painting workshop, the manager says "Business has been better than before because the government has fully supported this business."

Philip Bromwell concludes the first report saying, "A carefully choreographed trip like this perhaps is only ever going to reveal one version of events but even inside Tibet it seems a true picture of what life is really like here remains out of reach."

In the second report, Philip Bromwell visits Kongpo prefecture (Chinese: Nyingchi) located east of Lhasa, to examine recent changes in Tibet.

The report looks at the rapid development of Tibet. Whilst showing images of construction on an industrial scale, the report says of Tibet, "One thing is clear. It's changing, quickly." As well as economic development, the report also highlights the issues of large-scale immigration of Han Chinese and tourism. In 2013, almost 13 million tourists visited the Tibet Autonomous Region, compared to a population of 3 million Tibetans.

RTE notes that China rejects criticism that Tibet's unique way of life and its environment is being threatened, by reiterating its claims to have brought prosperity to Tibet and is protecting Tibetan culture.

Philip Bromwell concludes, "This trip has given us a fascinating glimpse of a beautiful region, but in terms of seeing the true Tibet, well, that may have already disappeared from view."

Further reading & listening:
Inside Tibet - RTE's multimedia report    
Tibet: A rare insight - RTE Radio broadcast (4 minutes)

Undercover reports from Tibet:
BBC evade ban, report from inside Tibet: December 2013 (video)
BBC: Lhasa under heavy security and predominantly Chinese: Sept 2013 (audio)
France24: Seven Days in Tibet - extended undercover report: June 2013 (video)

Chinese state media reports compliments for China's work in Tibet

China's state media has reported that a senior UK politician has told a meeting in Lhasa that the “Chinese government has done a great job in developing Tibet to the current stage, where people live happily”.
The reports have not been independently verified but if correct, the comments by Lord Davidson at the Chinese government's Fourth Forum on Development of Tibet back Chinese propaganda and provide a deeply misleading picture of life for Tibetans.

Misrepresentation of Tibet

Lord Davidson described economic development in Tibet as "remarkable" and is quoted as saying:
"Many western reports are written by enthusiasts of the Dalai Lama. And they may feel uncomfortable when their presumptions or assumptions are challenged. It is uncomfortable and expensive to have their prejudice challenged."
Free Tibet Director, Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“We hope that the comments attributed to Lord Davidson significantly misrepresent his contribution at this event. If the reports are accurate, Lord Davidson should have acquainted himself with the facts before regurgitating China’s propaganda on Tibet.
Economic development in Tibet is far from what it seems from the window of a car or a plush meeting room in Lhasa.”

Tibetans far from 'happy'

The UN Economic, Cultural and Social Rights committee recently issued a report noting that Tibet is the worst area in China for child malnutrition. Immigration of Han Chinese people into Tibet, the use of Chinese labour and restrictions on freedom of movement for Tibetans have excluded them from most of the benefits of the economic development that has taken place.
China's heavy investment in transport infrastructure is designed to help China's security forces move quickly around Tibet and make it easier for Tibet's natural resources - including copper, gold and lithium - to be exported to China.

Western media blocked

The report stated that Lord Davidson said Western media did not report Tibet because travel there was too “costly”. In reality, international media are banned from Tibet by the Chinese government.
Chinese state media does not report criticism of its Tibet policies so it is possible that Lord Davidson also addressed issues such as human rights abuses in Tibet.
Lord Davidson is a senior spokesman for the Labour Party in the UK Parliament's House of Lords.

Take Action

Tibetans are constantly under surveillance and subject to arrest at any time. Since 2012 at least eleven singers have been arrested, joining thousands of other political prisoners in this occupied country. Pleasetake action

Monday 6 October 2014

Tibetan immolates self in Golok

Phayul[Monday, October 06, 2014 19:35]
Kunchok, 42,
Kunchok, 42,
DHARAMSHALA, October 6: A Tibetan man immolated himself near a police station in Gade County, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, eastern Tibet on September 16, a day before another Tibetan set himself ablaze in Tsoe County, Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, according to the UK based Tibet Watch.

Kunchok, 42, set himself on fire on 16 September near a police station Tsangkor Sholma township, Gade County, before onlookers doused the flames and rushed him to hospital. He became the 133rd Tibetan to resort to self immolation as a form of protest against the Chinese government.

"News of his protest has just emerged as local Tibetans did not want to put him or those who assisted him at risk of arrest," said Tibet Watch.

“I failed to accomplish my wish,” Kunchok kept saying after regaining consciousness at hospital.

A father of two, Kunchok has sustained serious burn injuries and is currently undergoing treatment. His family, however, are concerned that he will succumb to his burns.

Details of the hospital are being withheld to prevent him from being detained by security forces, said the Tibetan Watch. "Most surviving self-immolators are detained incommunicado; those who die in custody or whose bodies are taken by the police are usually cremated by the authorities who return the ashes to the family, preventing them from conducting normal funeral services."