Monday 9 May 2011

 Tibet's Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, turned 22-years old on April 25th. Since he was "disappeared" in 1995, the Chinese government refuses to acknowledge his whereabouts.
TAKE ACTION - China: Where is the Panchen Lama?

Read SFT Tendor's Open Letter to the Panchen Lama on his birthday.

The Panchen Lama is one of Tibet's most important spiritual leaders. He was kidnapped with his family by the Chinese government in 1995 when he was just 6-years old. He has been missing ever since. Learn more:

Renji - The Princess of Tibet

Bridging the gap
She is half-Tibetan, half-Chinese, with an overlay of confident Los Angeles charm. Into the arcane world of Tibetan politics - mostly peopled by bossy Chinese communist officials, deferential maroon-robed Tibetan monks, and a mix of international activists like actor Richard Gere - has stepped a 22-year-old princess.

Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo is familiarly known to her friends as "Renji" but to many others she is known as the "Princess of Tibet".

Her father was the 10th Panchen Lama, a Buddhist monk ranking close to the Dalai Lama in Tibet's spiritual leadership, who died in 1989. Her mother, Li Jie, is a former doctor in China's People's Liberation Army and granddaughter of a famous general in China's civil war.

After 10 years studying in the United States, at high school in Los Angeles and then political science at the American University in Washington, Renji has just returned to China for further studies at the elite Tsinghua University to prepare for what she sees as her future role as a "unifier".

"I know my goal very clearly, as the daughter of the 10th Panchen Lama, my responsibility [is] to the Tibetan people," Renji said this week in an interview with the Herald in an ornate villa built in the central Beijing compound given to her father. "They have hopes and dreams in me. Also I have to honour my father, give something back. People call me princess. They place hopes and dreams upon me. They count on me to do something."

The invitation to return and commence doctoral studies in whatever field she wanted, at any Chinese university, came "from the highest authority in China, basically meaning Mr Hu," the princess said.

The involvement of President Hu Jintao, China's top communist, signals the high hopes that Beijing has placed in this young woman as a saga of hard politics and wafty mysticism moves slowly towards a finale.

The role of the Panchen Lama will be crucial in the identification and confirmation of the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama after the death of the present one, who is 70.

Six years after the death of Renji's father, the Dalai Lama and his senior monks identified a boy named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in the Tibetan town of Naksu as his reincarnation.

Beijing moved swiftly. Six months later, its religious officials staged a ritual which selected another six-year-old, Gyaltsen Norbu, as the new Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama's choice, along with his family, disappeared from view and has never been seen by the outside world since. Beijing asserts the boy is well and the family secluded at their own request, but the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recently asked for an independent mission to be allowed to visit them.

(next page of 3)

other good links:

US hold ‘tough discussions’ with China on serious rights issues

(, Apr30, 2011)  The United States said Apr 28 that it raised a number of serious human concerns with China during their two-day, annual rights dialogue in Beijing and that the two sides had “a tough set of discussions”. Reports cited Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner as saying the talks were expansive and in depth, and also included issues such as Internet freedom, religious freedom, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

"In recent months, we've seen a serious backsliding on human rights, and a discussion of these negative trends dominated the human rights dialogue these past two days," Apr 28 quoted Posner as saying.  "We have been and are very concerned over recent months by reports that dozens of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists like Ai Weiwei, and others, have been arrested, detained, or in some cases, disappeared, with no regard to legal measures."

On the recent detention and disappearance of well known artist and activist Ai Weiwei, Mr Posner was quoted as saying, "What I would say is that on that case, we certainly did not get an answer that satisfied. ... There was no sense of comfort from the response, or the lack of response."

On the other hand, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei gave few details about the talks, while acknowledging that they were "candid and in depth," the report said. He had made clear, however, that his government was opposed to what he called the United States' use of the human rights issue as an excuse to interfere in China's internal affairs.

The report noted that rights will again be on the agenda, along with a number of other issues, at high-level US-China strategic and economic talks in Jun’11 in Washington.

Posner has made it clear that human rights constitute an important element in bilateral relations. "Human rights is an essential feature of what we do, and so to the extent that there are serious human rights problems, those problems become an impediment to the relationship,"  Apr 28 quoted Posner as saying.

Austria summoned Chinese ambassador to protest Ai’s detention

(, May06, 2011) Austria said May 4 that it had summoned China’s ambassador to Vienna to protest against the continued detention and disappearance of artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei, reported AFP May 4, citing Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger. “Even somebody who is critical of the regime should be allowed to express himself,” Spindelegger, who met with Ai during a trip to China in February, was quoted as telling journalists afterwards.

The report cited Spindelegger as saying Austria, which was seeking a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 20, would continue to push for the artist’s release, noting: “We know that he remains in custody.”

The report cited Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann as saying he would raise the issue of Ai’s detention during his visit to China later in the week.

Beijing has so far refused to acknowledge Ai’s whereabouts after taking him into custody from Beijing airport, on his way to Hong Kong, on Apr 3.

Tibetan Books Banned in Chinese Raid at Ngaba Schools

20may20110011Dharamshala: - Around April 22, the students' textbooks and other reading matter were raid by Chinese authorities, and any books not endorsed by the government were confiscated and burned, according to a latest Tibet report. Students were warned that they are not allowed to possess any book without an official stamp of approval. The many students who come from Ngaba county were told that they may not return to their homes for an indefinite period, and would not be allowed to return there during the summer vacation. A latest report received by The Tibet Post International, it will be remembered that students of the Ngaba prefecture upper middle school (in Barkham) went on hunger strike from March 17 in sympathy with the suicide of Kirti monk Phuntsok and the situation of the Ngaba people, and in emphatic protest against the state's singular resort to deployment of police and armed troops to deal with the situation in Ngaba county, and the arrests and suppression of the population there. The students were then forcibly confined, had their mobile phones confiscated and internet access cut, and were forbidden from making outside contact.
According to Ven Kanyak Tsering, one of the media coordinators of Dharamshala based Kirti monastery, on April 12, two of the elderly people who tried to oppose the soldiers at Kirti monastery were killed, and a group of younger people were detained. This group was taken to a detention centre where they were subjected to beatings and mistreatment. The other older people in that group were taken to a compound next to the Ngaba river where they are being put through a daily program of reeducation.
On May 8th it was learned that Chogyam of the Chogyam Tsang house, age about 33, in the Chukle Gongma pastoral area of Ngaba disappeared around April 15. His mother's name is Manay. On about May3, personnel from the provincial State Security bureau in Chengdu and police came to search his mother's house, and his own house up in the pastoral area. At that time it became clear that he is being held in detention in Chengdu. He left behind his wife and one year old child.
There are many similar cases of disappeared people who have been missing for very long periods, apparently being held by State Security and Public Security, about whom no information whatsoever can be found as to their whereabouts or circumstances. When the Kirti monk author Go Sherab was detained, for example, nothing more was known about him until he was eventually released. (Go Sherab was released in Chengdu on May 5. he is not permitted to return to Ngaba. The exact date of his detention is not known).
Since April 18, older women (aged 50-60) with citizenship cards have been allowed to come and go from the monastery (e.g., to visit relatives), but on May 6 it was announced that visits would not be allowed more than once a week. Soldiers and police have been posted at the entrance to each monastic dormitory, and control tightened.

Two Kirti monks jailed amid continuing clampdown

(, May09, 2011)  Two monks of Kirti Monastery in Ngaba County of Sichuan Province have been jailed for three years on or around May 2, said the exile Tibetan government-run and other exile Tibetan reports May 7. Lobsang Dhargay, 31, was jailed for his involvement in the protest in Lhasa in March 2008 with other monks of Drepung Monastery where he had enrolled in 2003 and was still studying at the time. Kunchok Tsultrim, 33, was reported to be Kirti monastery’s storekeeper.

Lobsang Dhargay was initially held for five months at different detention centres in and around Lhasa before being sent back to Ngaba. In Ngaba he rejoined Kirti Monastery but remained under police surveillance. He was frequently required to report for questioning at police station and his residence was also raided many times. Eventually he was arrested on Apr 11.

Kunchok Tsultrim was arrested on Mar 16, although it was not clear why.

It was not clear whether the armed police blockade of the monastery had been lifted or not. However, the so-called patriotic education campaign to blaspheme the Dalai Lama and exalt China under communist party rule was reported to be continuing. The police and the paramilitary police were reported to be continuing to watch and scour the monastery, although in civilian dress and by staying put in cars and trucks parked around the monastery.

The police were reported to have forcibly occupied a residential compound built with funds arranged by a monk named Tenpa Yarphel for elderly monks and scripture teachers for use as their station.

Monks jailed for protesting land grab by gov’t

(, May04, 2011)  Two monks have been jailed for up to three years in Jomda (Chinese: Jiangda) County of Chamdo Prefecture, Tibet, for having led a protest against government takeover of land attached to their monastery building for some development work, said Dharamsala-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy May 2.

The centre said that following a decision in Dec’09 by the local authorities to takeover a compound of the monastery, monks of Jophu Monastery and local Tibetans staged a protest, insisting that the land should remain with the monastery. Tulku Jangchub, 25, was held in Dec’09 for leading the protest and monk Pesang was held in Jan’11.

Both were sentenced in Mar’11 – Tulku Jangchub to three years and Pesang to two and half years. Pesang was stated to be currently hospitalized, after he was tortured in prison. He was set to be transferred to the Powo Tramo Prison, which is in Nyingtri Prefecture.

The Dalai Lama and America the Buddhaful

Star Tribune[Saturday, May 07, 2011 10:55]
By Susan Hogan

His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrives in Minnesota, May 6, 2011.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrives in Minnesota, May 6, 2011.
On his U.S. visits, the Dalai Lama attracts spiritual followers, spiritual seekers, politicians and civic leaders. He also draws people who don't care a whit about Buddhism but support the Tibetan political cause against China.

And even though the Dalai Lama is arguably the most famous Buddhist in the world, he's not a big draw for American Buddhists from other traditions, though compassion, selflessness and nonviolence are cornerstones of each expression.

In fact, the image of Buddhism that the Dalai Lama projects is a far cry from the practices embraced by many American Buddhists. Tibetan Buddhists are far more hierarchical, steeped in ritual and the trappings of religion, holy robes and all, than other traditions.

Yet, many Buddhists don't consider their spiritual practice a religion or "faith." That's partly because many, including the Dalai Lama, reject a concept of deity as espoused in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"Typically, religious leaders have a dogma that they want people to subscribe to and believe in, but that's never been the teaching of the Dalai Lama," said Mary Jo Kreitzer of the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, a cosponsor of the Dalai Lama's state visit this weekend.

"He wants people to follow the path that will make them a better person and be happier and more joyful."

Indeed. The Dalai Lama is a best-selling author of books on happiness. His presentations are almost always sprinkled with laughter.

America's love affair with Buddhism and the Dalai Lama soared in the 1990s, then faded, as often happens with spiritual and political trends. None of that matters to the 2,500 Tibetans in Minnesota who look forward to his visit.

Their affection for the Dalai Lama as both a spiritual and political leader has never waned. He's the glue that held his people together after China invaded Tibet in 1950, which later caused him to flee to India, where he's led Tibet's government-in-exile.

"His Holiness is the heart and soul of the Tibetan people," said Tsewang Ngodup of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, a cosponsor of the visit. That's true though the Dalai Lama plans to give up his political role.

What the Dalai Lama is not: the spiritual figurehead of all of Buddhism that Americans sometimes imagine because of the less than enlightened view of Buddhism projected by Hollywood.

After he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, Hollywood made the Dalai Lama a pop-culture superstar. Brad Pitt starred in "Seven Years in Tibet." Martin Scorsese directed "Kundun."

Books on Buddhism also surged up the bestseller lists. For Americans not interested in politics, Buddhism tapped into a growing push-back to organized religion. It offered a way to be spiritual but not religious.

Like most things in life, Americans plucked from Buddhism what they wanted, creating adaptations in the West that the East wouldn't recognize.

Americans embraced meditation, but cut corners on the practice and often didn't bother with the philosophy. Former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, for instance, popularized the notion of the Zen of basketball.

And Buddhist mindfulness meditation, put in the hands of medical professionals, became a stress-reduction exercise, still popular at health clinics and spas.

Madison Avenue also jumped on the Buddhism bandwagon.

Comcast ran ads featuring an "enlightened guru" dressed in maroon-and-gold saffron robes, similar to what the Dalai Lama wears. A food producer developed "Optimum Zen" cereal. Designers marketed "Zen-inspired" furniture and home d├ęcor.

The crass commercialism stands in contrast to what the Dalai Lama values: Human dignity, peace, justice.

Rather than trying to convert others, he comes as a happy monk who tells audiences not to abandon their faiths to become Buddhist, but to build on what they know.

Susan Hogan is a Star Tribune editorial writer and religion scholar. She covered the Dalai Lama's 2007 visit to Chicago.