Friday, March 23, 2012

Lets Get Real

 
Time.com revealed “The Self-immolation of Tibetan Monks” as the top most underreported stories of the year 2011.  The indefinite hunger strike at New York City did not receive as much press and media attention as it should.  One of the three hunger strikers was forcibly taken to a hospital and still the press and media remained largely mum.  Most writings that we see in the international press were from individuals and bloggers.  There are no in-depth analyses on why there are self-immolations in Tibet and why three Tibetans were on hunger strikes in front of the United Nations Headquarters.  

Are international press and media busy covering Syria’s uprising?  Or are they more interested in covering the intention behind a naked man running on the street?  Or are they bored of there-is-nothing-new Tibetan protests?  Or are they simply cautious of thundering China?

For the last few decades, Tibetans have placed so much trust on international press and media.  Though the press and media coverage of Tibetan protests and events may be significant to create awareness among the general populace, its also a time to analyze how much these press and media help support the real cause of Tibet?  Many Tibetans still believe the year of 2008 was a great year for Tibet as many ran onto the streets to make the world know about Tibet and its struggle along with Beijing’s torch of Olympic relay.  However, since then, nothing has improved in Tibet.  Now, the press and media seem to shy away from reporting on Tibet and its protests.

Regardless of how the press and media view Tibet's problem, the time may have come for Tibetan freedom movements to shift its primary focus from the press and media to solving the real problems in Tibet.  Tibetan freedom movements need to think beyond the present.  It needs a long-term strategy.  Tibetans could learn a lot from the way China built itself as a super power in the world.  China took almost four decades to achieve the present status of economic and political power.  In late 1970s, Deng Xiaoping initiated several economic reforms, based primarily on his popular belief, “Getting rich is glorious”.  After four decades, Deng’s farsighted strategy to get rich and glorious is now what China is currently known for.  Tibetan freedom movements need to have similar kind of Deng’s vision and long-term strategy.

So far, Tibetan freedom movements have largely been confined to achieve the end result for Tibet i.e., by seeking complete independence or by negotiating middle way policy.  Both did not work well.  The underlying reason may be that Tibetans have been trying to acquire a house with no capital or monies.  It may be the time to get real.  As with any dream of owning a house, Tibetan freedom movement needs to think the bits and pieces of building a stable and thunder-proof house.  Tibetans may need to work on each and every bricks, a step at a time. 

Moreover, Tibetans may have to think about having multiple organizations that are politically neutral such as organizations for Tibetan language and culture, for religious freedom, for worker’s right, for ethnic rights, for environmental safety, and for intellectual freedom.  Right now, Tibetans do have some organizations but most are politically active.  Politically neutral organizations may have potentials to work with many international NGOs and even, some NGOs in China.  These organizations shall focus only on a particular mission such as raising the level of Tibetan language in Tibetan schools in Tibet.  Remember, a step at a time.

Lets get real. 
Lets get working. 
Lets get smart. 
Lets start from a brick. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Philosophy Behind My Writings Thus Far

I am writing this piece in partial connection to the respondent (Sandu Namkha, Germany) of my last two pieces, Reinventing the Art of Protest and UN Support for Tibet: Are Tibetans Unrealistically Optimistic?, published in the Tibetan Political Reviews on March 2, 2012 and March 17, 2012 respectively.

To begin with, this piece is written not out of compulsion.  Rather, this piece is written for my fellow readers who may presume inaction is an act of submission.  Also, this piece is not intended for any particular respondent, including the one noted above.  Rather, this piece is written to share my philosophy of writings thus far.

The general philosophy behind my writings on and about Tibetan politics are:

1.                  First, allow me to quote a line from an interview I gave to the University of Wyoming a few months ago, “When I see different perspectives from looking at a particular topic, I see an obligation to share it” (Source: University of Wyoming website).
2.                  I am neither pro-complete independence nor pro-middle way policy.  I tend to write for pro-understanding, pro-solution, and pro-result.  Most importantly, I strongly believe in pro-discussion.  I raise question(s), share my perspectives, and leave the rest for readers to think and discuss.
3.                 Personally, politics is a subjective term for me.  In other words, individuals have the right to own different political views or perspectives.  These differences may stem from individual knowledge, skills, backgrounds, educations, surrounding environments, interests, and experiences.  Therefore, my attempt has always been (and will continue) to provide readers an opportunity to see things from different lenses with a hope of generating discussions.  That being said, I am not advocating my writings as all good and final.
One decent example of this “differences” is how the respondent of my last piece viewed the term “discussion”.  For him or her, discussion is speaking at a public forum.  For me, discussion is more of an interaction or exchange of ideas wherein communication flows from both ends of the public. 
4.                 As a small contributor to the Tibetan Political Reviews, my dilemma has always been in trying to put a right balance between content, time, and space.  From my understanding, readers generally don’t read lengthy articles.   
5.                  Any form of discussion is welcome.  I sincerely thank the respondent of my last two pieces for sharing his/her perspectives.  We need more of these in writings as well as in all other forms of discussion. 
6.                  Finally, I consider personal attacks or potshots are not worth a time to write or respond in a public space.  However, I request all future respondents to at least give credit to the right person (my name was misspelled as Denzi Yeshi or was addressed to someone else in the first response piece noted earlier). 

All in all, my small request to Tibetans:
Don’t just listen, watch, and read; 
Its high time to talk, write, think, and discuss anything Tibet and Tibetan.

Respectfully,

Denzi Yishey

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are The Voices of Tibet’s Self-Immolators Derailed in Exile?


Social conflicts often involve some misunderstanding.  Tibetan society is no exception.  By communicating what he or she say (or do not say), Tibetans have been good at generating misunderstanding to lessen or exacerbate the outcome(s).  Normally, misunderstandings originate as a result of individual biases and standpoints.  However, most social misunderstandings in the Tibetan society do not end up in changing the existing social norms.  In simple words, they are a passing phase in the life of a society.  They come and go. 

On a similar front, the general problem of political conflicts is also misunderstanding.  However, the impact of such misunderstanding may be disturbing enough to change the direction of any political movement.  The key to curb misunderstandings may be right communication or no communication.

As you may be aware, all kinds of communication come in some forms.  One form, relevant to this piece, is the verbal communication.  When the communication is verbal, tone of voice can influence interpretation.  Thus, resulting in some degree of misunderstanding.

In verbal communication, the typical sources of interpretation are public leaders and activists who generally speak of political conflicts, incidents, or voices to support their political viewpoints or approaches.  Their main goal is to garner sympathy and support from the general masses.  As intended, public tend to believe these leaders and activists without any doubt and question.  A similar pattern could be seen in the current flow of verbal communications where Tibetan political leaders and activists try to interpret the real meaning behind the voices of Tibetan self-immolators.  

Particularly, after assessing several recent public talks of Tibetan political leaders and activists in the United States, it may be the right time to ask this simple question – are the voices of Tibet’s self-immolators derailed in exile?

Few self-immolators in Tibet shouted slogans for complete independence while several cried for freedom in Tibet.  However, one voice is common – a voice that resembles the true feelings of many Tibetans in Tibet.  This voice was for “the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama”.  However, this common voice is now interpreted in such a way to assert that these self-immolators were marked as seekers of complete independence.  This assertion or interpretation came from a few leading Tibetan leaders and activists in exile.

The rationale behind their assertion was that the common voice for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama bears a hidden message.  The hidden message, they interpret, was a voice asking for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as “the Head of Tibet”.  As such, in their words, self-immolators were surreptitiously asking for complete independence where the Dalai Lama shall return as the Head of the State (Tibet). 

However, how could these leaders and activists miss two key points?  First, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made it clean and clear that he will not hold any political leadership or role if Tibet’s problem is resolved.  As of now, he has devolved all his political power to the elected leaders in exile.  Second, if there is a hidden message in the voice of self-immolators, how could it not be for the middle way policy that the Dalai Lama proposed and still stands by it?  So, again, the question that is ringing loud and high is – are the voices of Tibet’s self-immolators derailed in exile?

From my perspectives, the voices of self-immolators are plain, pure, and simple.  It is beyond the reach and power of anyone in exile to draw an interpretation out of it.  It is best to keep their voices as it is and not be tainted by political agendas.  Moreover, Tibetans in exile are not in a position to accurately interpret the true feelings of self-immolators, some of who were in teens.  In addition, Tibetans in exile may be risking their judgment by trying to decipher the meaning of any shouts or slogans of self-immolators in Tibet.  

Most disturbingly, this interpretation from Tibetan leaders and activists is knowingly or unknowingly arming or helping the Chinese government.  With the interpretation, the Chinese government now has an argument wherein they could say; “Self-immolators are engaged in separatist activities as indicated by leaders and activists in exile. As such, they are terrorists”.  The question to ask is - do Tibetans in exile really need to aggravate the current situation in Tibet by interpreting their voices?  Isn’t this interpretation an unwise interpretation that generates misunderstandings and helps the Chinese government?

It may be the time for Tibetans to be “smart” as well as “cautious”.  Because of such interpretations (or misunderstandings), Tibetan struggle movement may be losing supports from general American citizens.  One elder Tibetan sadly said, “Fifteen or twenty years ago, there will be 500 American citizens and 100 Tibetans on the streets for March 10 protest.  However, now, there are only a handful of American citizens”.  What may be the underlying reasons Tibetans are losing American citizens on the streets to protest?

Finally, the hope of this piece is for you to think wide and deep.  Be wise but not as wise as Six Wise Men. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What Kalon Tripa Missed at The New York City Talk?


After the much-talked-about Solidarity Losar and Kalon Tripa’s visit to North America, two discussions that are still making rounds in most Tibetan gatherings in the New York City area are: indefinite hunger strike at the UN and Kalon Tripa’s talk at Armenian Church, New York City.  For discussion on the indefinite hunger strike, you can read my earlier piece here.  In this piece, I made an attempt to briefly analyze the key elements of Kalon Tripa’s talk at New York City.

Coming straight to the point, Kalon Tripa touched and moved the general masses with his eloquent talk.  However, did the talk lack the substance of an elected leader as few observers say?  

Undoubtedly, general Tibetan populations love Kalon Tripa.  He received several round of applause for his tit-bits on Dharamsala bureaucracy, Washington DC and Europe visit, self-immolations, and his personal experiences as Kalon Tripa, among others.  However, did Kalon Tripa share anything new that Tibetans did not read or hear from the print, media, or friends?  This question is for you to think and discuss.  If you are interested in reading my analysis, scroll down to the next few paragraphs.

From my assessment of the talk, Kalon Tripa failed to discourse anything substantial on or about his administration policies.  Being the United States his home ground, this talk at NYC could have been a perfect venue and time for announcing (or detailing) his new or established policies – policies that are grounded on his three core principles: Unity, Self-Reliance, and Innovation.  Tibetans might have clapped and praised more if they could see what they expected of Kalon Tripa from his election promises.

Responding to one of the most important and sensitive question on Tapey’s exclusion on the list of self-immolators read out at Bodh Gaya, it was clear Kalon Tripa was disturbed by this question.  He explained the very inclusion of Tapey’s name in the “Ex Cetera” (ལ་སོགས་པ།) of the read-out statement. 

For your information, generally, this is how “Ex Cetera” works in an official document.  The general use of this word is to save space and time from the long list of things to itemize.  However, this word is not used when the list is not long (such as the name of self-immolators in Tibet).  In government documents and statements, this word is occasionally used.  However, when used, it is used as a “safety net” i.e., to make sure you don’t miss someone or something you don’t know or you are not aware of.  This word also comes handy when responding to mediaperson to defend the inclusion of someone or something (that’s what Kalon Tripa did with Tapey’s name).  I will leave up to you to think and discuss more and wide on this inclusion vs. exclusion dilemma.

In addition, the concluding remark from Kalon Tripa to this question was somewhat unexpected as well as disheartening.  He stated that he has no intention of wasting his remaining tenure as Kalon Tripa in addressing these criticisms.  At first hearing, this may sound like a good response but does it also mean he do not see the need of explanations for which every Tibetan has a right to ask and to know?  Again, for you to think deep and discuss. 

Finally, Kalon Tripa may have to rethink his insensitive approach towards China in public talks or discourses.  His tenure as Kalon Tripa may be primarily assessed on how well he brings China on the table to talk or negotiate (an expectation he raised high with his past Tibetan-Chinese conferences, his China visit, and his credentials as a law graduate). 

All things said, if I am asked to describe Kalon Tripa’s talk in two sentences, it may read like this:
1.              Kalon Tripa talked for Tibetans and not for Tibet in general.
2.              Kalon Tripa succeeded in speaking what general public want to hear. 



Note: Kalon Tripa's talk at New York City can be watched below:

VIDEO ONE OF THREE



VIDEO TWO OF THREE



VIDEO THREE OF THREE



Q&A



Thursday, March 1, 2012

UN Support for Tibet: Are Tibetans Unrealistically Optimistic?



The hunger strike organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) in front of the UN Headquarters at New York City enters its 9th day.  The main purpose of this indefinite hunger strike is to appeal the United Nations (UN) to immediately send a fact finding delegation, pressure China to stop the undeclared martial law, pressure China to allow international media, pressure China to release all political prisoners, and pressure China to stop patriotic re-education in Tibet[i].  However, the question that remains hidden from discussion is – How well the UN will respond to these appeals?

With a hope of analyzing this question, the piece is an attempt to review the past UN resolutions on Tibet, to study the rise of China, and to share my conclusion.  As a note of caution, when I mention TYC’s hunger strike, it does not mean in any way to question or relate to the three hunger strikers.  Rather, the onus is put on the “act” of hunger strike.

Historical Background

Just after a year of signing of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, China’s People’s Liberation Army entered Tibet in 1950 with the aim of gradually invading all of Tibet.  In that same year, the Dalai Lama appealed to the newly formed UN to protect Tibet from the invasion.  However, nothing was done since Tibet was not a member state of the UN[ii].  Moreover, with no support from the new independent neighboring country, India and The United Kingdom, an appeal from Tibet (via Tibet Mission based in Kalimpong) was deemed and discarded by the UN as a communiqué from a non-governmental organization. 

When Tibet started to lose all hopes on the UN, a big surprise came from a very small and unlikely country.  On November 17, 1950, the Chairman of the El Salvadorian delegation, Hector Castro wrote to the President of the General Assembly requesting the “invasion of Tibet by foreign forces” to be included on the agenda for the General Assembly[iii].  Thus, the first UN resolution on Tibet was made possible.  In the next few years, two more resolutions on Tibet were passed in 1961 and 1965.

After 1965, there was not even a single resolution on Tibet.  Among many defining factors, one that can’t be ignored was the October 1971 UN resolution to recognize the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate government of China.  It replaced Republic of China (now known primarily as Taiwan).  Thus, Communist China took birth in the UN with a permanent seat in the Security Council.  This was a huge blow for any hope of future resolutions on Tibet in the UN.

Rise of China

From the 1950s to 70s, communism was considered a threat to Western form of democratic government.  The US support for Tibetan Resistant Movement (Chu-Shi-Gang-Druk) in 1950s and 60s was primarily intended towards negating this threat by causing nuisance to the Communist China.  However, the perception towards Communist China changed with the Rising China.  Economically, China is now not a threat.  China is bread and butter for many countries in the world.  Billions of people depend on China’s cheap exports.  At present, China is a neo-liberalized socialist authoritarian state that succeeds in putting itself on the world map as the global manufacturing center. 

In addition, during these economic downturns, many developed countries seek support from China to stabilize their country’s economy.  China is an economic savior for many developed countries and a friend for many underdeveloped countries such as African countries.  To make it short, China is a power to reckon with – not only in the international economic and social spectrum but also in the global political arena.

Thus, it may be too naïve to think the UN as a world organization.  It is very political and undemocratic.  Five superpowers own the veto to stop any resolutions.  The recent veto by Russia and China on Syria Uprising is a good example of how handicapped the UN is.

Discussion and Conclusion

Putting this historical and rising China into perspective, one may be able to understand why Tibet failed to see even a single UN resolution after 1965.  At present, hoping for UN resolution on Tibet may not only be unrealistic but optimism at its worst.

Coming to the present TYC’s hunger strike, there is no question on the need and significance of the five-point appeals.  However, the question is on the effects of hunger strike?  The likely results or effects could be:

An official from the UN may assure to “discuss” the Tibet problems (but not by putting forward as an agenda).  Hunger strike may stop with a general satisfaction that the UN assured to discuss the appeals.  The UN may put Tibet as a human rights problem in their report.

The end result may be same as past hunger strikes i.e., no progress or improvements in Tibet.  Tibetans in exile will soon not worry about the five-point appeals while TYC might consider this hunger strike as an achievement in its annual report.  At the end, everything is back to SQUARE ONE.

With these act of protests (including hunger strikes), Tibetan in exile may be showing tacit support for self-immolations in Tibet.  Tibetans in Tibet keep burning with the hope that Tibetans in-exile will do something.  But what Tibetans in exile have been good at doing is only creating News Headlines that stays for a day or two in print or media.  How long and far Tibetans in exile can go like this?

To conclude, the piece is not to question the hunger strike.  Rather, it is to highlight key areas that Tibetans in exile often miss and that Tibetans in exile tend to repeat time and again.  It’s a high time to discuss and rethink any future course of actions for Tibet and by Tibetans.

Bhod Gyalo!




[i] Tibetan Youth Congress (2012). Retrieved March 1, 2012 from http://tibetanyouthcongress.org/tyc-archives/2012/02/24/tibetan-youth-congress-launches-%E2%80%9Cindefinite-fast-for-tibet%E2%80%9D-in-front-of-the-united-nations/.
[ii] Tibet, the United Nations, and Human Rights. Retrieved March 1, 2012 from http://www.jmu.edu/orgs/tibet/tibetandun.html.
[iii] Tsering Shakya(1999). The Dragon in the Land of Snows. Penguin: New York.