Friday, December 13, 2013

The Coming Collapse of Tibetan Freedom Movement?


When Gordon Chang wrote the book, The Coming Collapse of China, it provided a glimmer of hope for Tibetan freedom as well as for Chinese democracy.  It was in 2001, a year Tibetan democracy saw a paradigm shift via its leadership transition from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to a democratically elected lay Tibetan in exile.

After 12 years from the book publication, China remains strong, bold, aggressive, and powerful.  China shows no sign of aging or diminishing from the global power house.  In 2001, I never thought of writing a piece that sits along the same title as Gordon Chang's book - a coming collapse not on China but on Tibetan freedom movement.

In these 12 years of nascent Tibetan democracy in exile, Tibetans had a tumultuous ride - sometimes people cheered at tiny victories while at times people banged their head in sheer desperation.  These were the testing times for Tibetan democracy to show to the world that Tibetans are strong and united under its newly formed democratic system.  These were the testing times for Tibetan democracy to prove that Tibetan freedom and democracy is above and beyond the Dalai Lama.  These were the testing times for Tibetan democracy to reassure the international community that Tibetan freedom movement is in the good hands of new generation of elected Tibetan leaderships.

However, these testing times have not fared well for Tibetan freedom movement.  The new leaderships in Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) as well as in Tibetan political organizations seem to have failed in bringing the right perspectives and directions for the evolution of Tibetan democracy and for strengthening the Tibetan freedom movement.  Rather, Tibetan democracy and freedom movement is walking the down hill that neither provides vision nor hope.

Emergence of Associations: Diversity vs. Disintegration

In a democratic setting, everyone has a right to form associations.  Many of these associations become a force in creating a viable civil society.  In Tibetan society, these associations are expected to strengthen Tibetan identity, culture, language, education, and political movement, among others.  By association, I mean Kyi-dugs, Tsok-pas, non-governmental (political) organizations, community-based organizations, and political parties.  The common pretext or principle to support the emergence of multiple associations in Tibetan community in exile is the "unity in diversity."  In other words, these diverse associations will help strengthen the unity of Tibetan freedom movement.  However, the reality seems to say otherwise.

Unity in diversity have a wrong connotation among Tibetans in general. In Tibetan community, there is nearly a zero diversity in language, culture, race, religion, and gender.  For the record, unity in diversity refers to the idea of diversity as a unifying principle, rather than uniformity (Source: Metta Center for Nonviolence).  The so-called unity in diversity in Tibetan community could be linked only to the emergence of multiple associations.  However, the two key questions are: are these associations really diverse? Are these associations in unity?

There are several ways to answer these two questions.  First, the failure of 2008 mass demonstration in New Delhi is the result of leadership rifts among five organizing associations/organizations.  Second, the recent cracks in the Tibetan Youth Congress is another good example.  Third, all these new associations/organizations are not diverse as it is hoped for in terms of bringing new visions and directions for Tibetan freedom movement.  For instance, many of these new associations keep their profile update by organizing the same old street protests.  Fourth and the final, these associations in one way or another impacted the unity of Tibetan people when it comes to participation in freedom movement.  As an illustration, unlike before, Tibetans tend to participate (such as in street protests) based on their association with a particular organization. The end result is too many street protests with fewer participation and lesser impact.

Growing Anti-Government Sentiments

The stepping down of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Tibetan political leadership provided a new window for open discussion on the policies and guidelines that govern the politics of Tibetan freedom movement.  For many writers and critics, with no Dalai Lama at the forefront of Tibetan politics, it's now a free space to challenge and criticize the status quo such as CTA's stand on Middle Way policy (For the sake of clarity, CTA is pinned as government for the next few paragraphs).  The voice of these writers and critics soon started to see their footprint on several Tibetan political organizations.  The ripple effect is the turn of "individual voice" into "organizational voice."  To put it differently, the era of anti-government sentiments thus begins.

Needless to say, in a civil society, individuals enjoy a wide spectrum of freedom of speech and expression.  It's a part of evolution on how democracy works for its people.  However, the problem arises when some organizations (that binds the civil society) start to stand in parallel to its government.  This may not be a problem if the government is not a government in exile.  For instance, the problem in Tibetan society is that there is a growing disparity among individuals who support government policy (Middle Way) vs. individuals who support the stand of few non-governmental political organizations (Tibetan Independence).  As a result of these growing anti- and pro-government sentiments, its now a taboo to discuss middle way vs. independence.  The undesirable outcome is the death of open discussion among the general public.

Internalization of Tibetan Freedom Movement

Once upon a time, Tibetan freedom movement used to be all about gaining supports from the international communities.  Now, the movement seems to be all about gaining supports from within i.e., Tibetan peoples.  The purpose of Tibetan freedom movement has shifted from "internationalization" to "internalization."  The risk associated with internalization is the promotion of "self" by individuals holding public positions.  This is the vicious cycle that does not produce leaders but politicians.  For politicians, they care more about people who votes and less about people who needs the most help such as Tibetans in Tibet.

With the growing internalization movement in exile, Tibetans in Tibet may soon start to see themselves disconnected, deserted, and demoralized from the work of Tibetan freedom movement in exile.

Democracy in Turmoil

Tibetan democracy is a bestowed democracy -  meaning its given for free by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  The problem of bestowed democracy is the sheer lack of understanding and responsibility on what constitutes democracy among its masses.  Many citizens do not understand that democracy comes with a boundary that limits individual rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and others.

For many Tibetans, democracy means anything I say or do is my individual rights, freedom of speech or expression.  Anything said against me constitutes the obstruction of my individual rights, freedom of speech or expression.  As such, there is no democracy.  Its individual autocracy in disguise.  An ample of examples could be seen on social media discussions - many do not debate, they just argue to prove their individual rights right.  There is no respect for difference of opinions.  Without respect, its hard and expensive to maintain democracy.



Moreover, its a blunder to draw a parallel line between western democracy and Tibetan democracy.  The key difference to consider is that Tibetan democracy is a democracy in exile with limited freedom.  In addition, Tibetan democracy have to walk a fine line in order not to disturb the sentiments of other governments such as India. 

Zero Progress on Dialogues with China

Since 2010, Central Tibetan Administration have failed to convince China for a dialogue on the Tibet issue.  Under the new administration, two senior envoys of the Dalai Lama, Lodi Gyari and Kelsang Gyaltsen, who negotiated with China in nine rounds of talks have resigned.

In a statement released on January 24, 2012, former United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero said, "we call on the Chinese government to resume substantive, results-oriented dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to address the underlying grievances of China's Tibetan population." As of writing this piece, there is no word coming from the Sikyong Lobsang Sangay's administration on possible future dialogue with China. 

The success of Sangay's administration will be measured on how well it convince China for a post Dalai Lama dialogue on the Tibet issue.  More importantly, the work of his administration may shape as a guiding framework for future administrations in terms of negotiation with China.  Therefore, being first in the line of post Dalai Lama administration, Sangay must be successful in bringing China on the dialogue table.  

However, a dialogue with China seems unlikely under Sangay's administration.  His administration seems to stick on the line that middle way approach provides a win-win solution for both Chinese and Tibetan interest (see Statement of Sikyong on 54th Tibetan National Uprising Day).  In reality, its no brainer to see that Tibet is the clear winner under middle way approach while China loses some of its say on Tibet.  The tone of this win-win proposition could be seen on the languages used in the past and present statements/press releases from Sangay's administration concerning China. 

This mentality of equal player (win-win) should be shunned.  Rather, the administration needs to put more efforts on creating a conducive environment that would pull in China's interest to sit and talk. 
  
Furthermore, China, international community, and Tibetans may have hard time to dissect the two Sangays: the Sikyong (political leader) and the writer.  His writings on the popular News sites are uncalled-for for a political leader (such as in The Washington Post).  Whether he writes in his personal or Sikyong's capacity, many will see it coming from the Sikyong of Central Tibetan Administration.

High Expectation on Chinese People

Placing high expectation on Chinese people seems too good to be true.  Many Chinese who lives outside China are themselves dissidents of Chinese government or Chinese Communist Party - meaning they fled China because they were themselves victims of the oppressive regime.  Because of their dreadful experience under the Chinese government, they are sympathetic towards the ongoing hardship of the Tibetan people in Tibet.  But its questionable whether they truly support the freedom for Tibetan people.

One big problem with Chinese community is their lack of unity.  For instance, there are many pro-democracy Chinese movements/organizations in the United States but they rarely think and work along the same page.  In simple words, there are not effectively united as One to work towards changing China.

Moreover, its hard to capture the real intention of some Chinese dissidents who seem to show support for Tibet's middle way approach.  For instance, some Chinese dissidents see their involvement with Tibetan groups as a valuable ticket in securing political asylum.  This ticket gets even better when they get a photo opportunity with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  Who supports Tibet and who supports him/herself remains unknown.

Tibetan Self-Immolation - No One Cares

"Self-immolation has by all accounts become a failed form of protest as an agent of change" - Andrew Lam, New America Media.  Too many Tibetan self-immolation has desensitize the modern mind and thus, resulting in a collective numbness not only among international community in general but also among Tibetans in particular.

Now, there are not many social network users sharing their shocks and supports for Tibetan self-immolation.  Its time for Tibetans with leadership capabilities to act in unison to deliver the important message of "Staying Alive" for the Tibetan freedom movement to continue.

If the number of self-immolation keeps rising in this growing numb environment, the day is not far for Tibetans to take up weapons out of frustration, isolation, and desperation.  This day will be the end of Tibetan freedom movement as international community will have a good reason to shy away from the Tibet issue.

Concluding Remarks

There is no doubt on the global rise of China.  More and more countries rely heavily on China for economic reasons; and are turning their blind eye on social injustices in China.

At times when China is expanding its territory (such as in the East and South China Sea), it may be too optimistic to think of independence or genuine autonomy in the near future.  However, the time may be right to invest in parts that will make the whole Tibet in future.

On a final note, if there is no positive development in Tibetan democracy and freedom movement, it may not be too far to see the collapse of Tibetan freedom movement that may never fully recover.


Read also: Is Carrying Chinese National Flag a Blotch in Exile History? ; Are The Voices of Tibet’s Self-Immolators Derailed in Exile? and Reinventing The Art of Protest?


Friday, September 27, 2013

Pessimistic Eye with Optimistic Lens for a Better Future


Note: For some reason, this article never got out for publication. I saw it in my draft folder today.


As I sit and ponder upon my experience regarding the recent protest against China’s next President Xi Jinping visit to Washington DC in 2012, I feel the need to share my views on the entire episode.  Some of you, who knows me, realize that I prefer to take a critical approach at what Tibetan do or does in the realm of social, political, and social spectrum.  Some think of it as a negative approach to look at.  However, I tend to observe and analyze things from a different viewpoint – pessimistic eye with optimistic lens for a better future.  Here is what I went through at this protest event.

Two days prior to the bus trip from NYC to Washington DC, I registered for the trip via online registration form posted on the Students for Free Tibet Website.  The protest was jointly organized by Students for Free Tibet (SFT), Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York New Jersey (RTYC NYNJ), and Capital Area RTYC.

A day after the online registration, while walking down the streets of Jackson Heights (Queens, NY), I saw a table with donation box and bus registration for the protest.  Though I registered via the SFT’s online registration form, I checked again to see if my name is on the registration list.  To my surprise, my name was not there.  Then, I checked my friend’s name who also registered via online.  He was not on the list too.  I told the concerned RTYC NYNJ executive member about my online registration.  Again, to my total dismay, he was not even aware of online registration for the protest.  That too, just a day before the bus trip.

During the next 24 hours, I was informed several times to be at Jackson Heights (JH) exactly at the departure time of 3:00 AM.  I woke up at 2:00 AM to make sure I reached at least 15 minutes early.  When I reached JH, there were a group of Tibetans waiting for the bus to arrive.  We waited, we waited, and we waited.  Finally, after much frustration, the bus came an hour late.  When the bus opened its door, people started to rush in to get hold of the best possible seats.  There was a line (queue) but people just don't respect it.  Civility remains at zero level.

Once in the bus, a frustrated individual asked about the delay.  The response was, “Tibetans will not show up on time. So, its better to say 3:00 AM than 4:00 AM."  At this response, I felt of asking, “what about all of us who showed up on time and been waiting for the past one hour in this bone-chilling winter?"  It seems few Tibetans will never learn to respect time and people.  More disturbingly, most Tibetan organizations support this lack of respect for time.  Next time, when people hear 3:00 AM, they will count it as 4:00 AM or 5:00AM.

We reached about an hour late at the White House - protest venue.  About an hour later, my friend and some twenty Tibetans were urged to go to the Department of State for protest as Xi Jinping was supposed to be at this building.

At the White House, Tibetans shouted loud and far with their banners, posters, and street acts.  There was tea, drinks, alu dum, fried rice, and pizzas.  I was about to say, “Tibetan protest seems very organized and professional."  However, few incidents changed my views (shared below).

My friend at State Department returned after three hours.  His voice was down and broken.  He was definitely worn out and tired.  He later contacted one of the organizers about their protest at the State Department and to his surprise, he was told, “I (RTYC) am not aware of it.  Did Students for Free Tibet asked you to go there?”  It is a clear sign of minimal coordination among these organizing groups.

Later, Tibetans were told that Xi Jinping will visit the Chamber of Commerce, a building next to the protest venue, at 3:00PM.  Protesters (Tibetans, Uighurs, etc.) again waited, waited, and waited.  It was 4:30PM and some people were exhausted and starting to question the visit time.  I overheard an elderly Tibetan lady, “Organizers should have someone in the press to contact about the Xi’s schedule.”  She left few minutes later, leaving me to think again on the protest organization.  Her suggestion of having someone in the press really made sense.

Read also: Reinventing the Art of Protest


 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dominance of Rumor-based Facts in Immigrant Communites



A year ago, moving to New York City was a choice inspired by my study and research on adult Tibetan immigrant population, and the determination to carefully connect and observe immigrant communities (particularly Tibetan and Himalayan). This determination was justly complemented when I succeed in securing a job that allows me to work closely and directly with refugee and asylee population on a federal grant. Nevertheless, it may be too early to draw a conclusion but I see the need to share what I have experienced so far. Please bear in mind that my personal experience may not correspond with or reflect the general feelings of the larger immigrant community I observed.

For the interest of time and space, this article is categorized into four major headings related to immigration.

Applying for Asylum

Many Tibetan and Himalayan individuals enter the United States on a non-immigrant visa. Once they reach the United States, most succeed in seeking asylum from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) - some devote around 8 to 10 years in the US Immigration Court to gain the final asylum approval.

Applying for asylum has been viewed as a very complicated process. This view seems to have initially started as a rumor but it spread so far and wide within the Tibetan and Himalayan community that it is now the fact. This rumor-generated fact continues to be the best marketing tool for brokers (individuals charging a huge sum of money as fees to help process asylum application request) to prey upon political asylum seekers. These fees could range from hundreds to ten thousands of dollars depending on how long the asylum process takes. Most surprisingly, many college educated people also believe in this rumor and seek support from these brokers.

One of the most troubling common beliefs is the notion of higher chances of approval from the USCIS if your asylum request story is built upon your life (could be imaginary) in Tibet - some with different names and date of birth. The problems with this imaginary (or fake) story are many: loss of college degree earned in India or other country; paying a huge sum of additional money to buy/create new identification and supporting documents; lack of confidence during the USCIS interview; chances of deportation if proved fake; and most importantly, its a fake identity that you have to live with until your last breath.

To understand who is eligible for asylum request, let’s take a look at how the US Department of Homeland Security define a refugee or asylee, “To be eligible for refugee or asylum status, an applicant must meet the definition of a refugee set forth in 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA): a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. An applicant for refugee status is outside the United States, while an applicant seeking asylum status is in the United States or at a U.S. port of entry.” (Source: http://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/ois_rfa_fr_2012.pdf)

If you reside in New York City, there are many non-profit organizations providing free legal services to individuals intended on seeking political asylum in the United States. Some organizations have more wait time while others little less. It’s your responsibility to shop around these organizations to get the best help you need.

Immigration Fraud

When people lack knowledge and education, they become a victim. When people believe in rumor, they also become a victim. You may think that immigration fraud do not exist in this truth loving and compassionate group of Tibetan and Himalayan people. The fact is that the fraud exist on a very disturbing scale but it seems to be non-existent - thanks to the culture of not sharing failures and embarrassments. These frauds are not committed by others but by their own people. I am inclined to share one such hideous fraud but I am obligated to respect the privacy and confidentiality of the victim’s identity.

Many victims do not share or report their cases to the US government or law enforcing official on the fear of deportation. The immigration frauds are committed on the strength of these existing fears in Tibetan and Himalayan community. Though you may have a fake asylum story, you still have the rights and privilege to report immigration fraud in-person or anonymously. In other words, you can report without identifying yourself. If you are a victim of immigration fraud, the biggest mistake you are committing is to live with the burden of humiliation and letting these brokers continue to prey upon someone like you.

To report immigration fraud, there are number of avenues to contact. Some of these are:

  1. Call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 or find legal help at www.uscis.gov/avoidscams
  2. To get a referral for legal and social service providers, call NY Immigration Hotline 1-800-566-7636 or email: bria.contact@otda.state.ny.us
  3. Notify Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.org/complaint or 1-877-382-4357
  4. Call NY Attorney General’s Immigration Fraud Hotline at 1-866-390-2992 or visit www.ag.ny.gov 
  5. For a list of free legal services, visit U.S. Department of Justice at http://www.usdoj.gov/eoir/probono/states/htm
  6. Report to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) - Be a whistleblower and you could receive up to 30% of the amount that has been underpaid (for more, visit http://www.irs.gov/uac/Whistleblower-Informant-Award

USCIS Applications and Fee Waivers

If someone is selling the USCIS application forms (for asylum, green card, travel document, or citizenship), don’t buy it. They are scammers. All USCIS forms are free and downloadable at no cost from its Website (click here). There are individuals who help file these forms at $100 to $200 fees with an assurance that your application fees will be waived. Please remember that these individuals neither work for the US government nor possess an authority to waive your application fees. The fees are waived by the US government based on its eligibility requirements. For instance, if you are currently a recipient of Food Stamps (SNAP benefits) and/or Medicaid, your fees will be waived cent per cent. If your income is low but not a recipient of Food stamps (SNAP benefits) and/or Medicaid, your fees could be partially waived.

Please remember that fees for Travel Document are rarely waived for the simple reason that you have earned enough money to travel.

Citizenship Eligibility

I still remember an asylee from Africa questioning me the impact of “federal grant for refugees and asylees” on her prospect for the US citizenship later on. Out of curiosity, I asked why you raised this question. Her response surprised as well as saddened me. She heard from her own community members that if someone receives a federal grant, it will impact their prospect towards naturalization (U.S. citizenship).

Her question was a surprise because I have been hearing the same in other refugee and asylee communities such as Tibetan, Nepalese, and Bhutanese. I was saddened at this question because it is just a baseless rumor that has turned into a fact. My response was simple to her - no federal program will impact other federal program.

On a similar front, many believe that receiving Food Stamp, Medicaid, and Cash benefits will impact their prospect towards naturalization which is another baseless rumor. However, things that will really impact the request for naturalization are never discussed or understood by many refugee/asylee communities.

For instance, not-filing income tax returns, defrauding IRS, domestic violence, aggravated felony, drunk driving, reckless driving, not-paying child support, travelling back to your prosecuted country, and child abuse could lead to the denial of your request for naturalization. 

Recommendation and Conclusion

So far, this article discussed the existence of rumor-based facts in the realm of immigration. However, these rumor-based facts are widespread in all walks of immigrant life such as social, welfare, economics, and not to miss the politics.

Rumors spread like wildfire in many communities. Sadly, many individuals believe in these rumors as true. These rumors are like parasites in the community that holds back the growth and development of its community members. It’s important that each and every community members identify and understand these rumors and work together to undermine them.


Education is the best tool to empower community members. When you hear something, don’t buy it. Don’t share with others until you do your own research on what you heard. Hearing and believing are two different functions of the body. You hear from ear but you should believe from head. So, to believe, do your research thoroughly and then, share the findings with your friends and community members. Together, we can make the community stronger.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Researcher Perspective: Who I Am?


As a researcher, my past history and experience may have contributed in how I framed and conducted the study (research as well as articles). I am a first generation Tibetan refugee born, raised, and educated in India. I received my school education from Tibetan refugee schools and my higher education from Indian universities. Throughout my educational journeys in India, I earned numerous awards and scholarships. One of my biggest academic achievements in India was to secure the sixth rank from the entire University of Mysore. I consider myself a successful product of Tibetan refugee educational programs in India.

Moreover, I worked in a few leadership positions at the Department of Education, Central Tibetan Administration (Tibetan government in-exile), Dharamsala, India for about eight years before I came to the University of Wyoming (UW) as a non-degree graduate student in 2007. Though both my bachelor and master’s degree were in commerce, I decided to pursue a doctoral program in education because I felt that, with an education degree, my contribution could be more meaningful for the larger Tibetan communities in the diaspora. This feeling was confirmed when I learned about adult and continuing education and its philosophy in the Spring 2008 semester at UW. I realized why some adult Tibetan refugees in India did not continue their formal education once they completed their college education. Life responsibilities such as having employment, getting married or having children take precedence. 

Further, I experienced this same pattern on the part of adult Tibetan immigrant populations in New York City when I visited in the summer of 2008. In addition, I noticed during this visit that many adult Tibetan immigrants were struggling to adjust to their new country. Thus, this study (research on skills education for adult Tibetan immigrants) was a direct result of my past history of being a Tibetan refugee as well as my personal experiences with Tibetan immigrants in New York City. Most importantly, as a Tibetan majoring in adult and post secondary education, I began realizing the need for adult education programs for Tibetan immigrants in the United States in general and in New York City in particular.

 
Moreover, because of my unique relationship with the Tibetan refugee experiences in India as well as in the United States, I may be uniquely positioned to conduct this study. Also, as far as I know, there were no Tibetan professionals in the Tibetan diaspora holding a doctoral degree in adult education. So, as of this study, I may be the first and the only Tibetan professional adult educator in the diaspora.

On a final note, being a young male Tibetan professional in the United States for the last four years, this study was very close to me personally as well as professionally. Sometime in the future, my hope is to work towards providing initial skills education programs for adult Tibetan immigrants, particularly in New York City.


*Taken from the first chapter of my 2012 dissertation, "Skills education for adult Tibetan immigrants in the United States: Identification, prioritization, resources, and challenges".

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Humans Are Animals Too: My Weird Philosophy


Seeing people in the NYC subway car this afternoon, I sensed that humans are the best spoiled animals on earth. They are spoiled through putting on clothes, living in small boxes, earning money to spend, working to earn stress, listening to melodies created by others for you, and self-proclaiming as smarter than other animals. Basically, humans fooled themselves by creating a structure which they consider Necessity to survive. That's the biggest delusion of human civilization. Humans are animals too who could survive like any animals do.
The only difference now is that humans are spoiled and evolved (in better terms) while animals remained same. Humans no more consider themselves as animal. That's why human created borders, industries, nation states, nationalities, trades, markets, and so on. Basically, what human succeed in doing is putting themselves in a zoo that they themselves don't see exist. Human function within this cage created by the invisible zoo. Life, as human see, doesn’t exist beyond this zoo. The end result - life is complex for human. This complexity is further delusioned by belief system that humans created for themselves. They blame this complex life to their karma and the God - something that is beyond the capabilities of human to witness. It's amazing how this zoo is defined by structures that human created for themselves to survive. It's a world that revolves only because humans are spinning it. They spin right for those who believe in right and wrong for those who see it wrong. They mix spin for those who believe in the grey area. And then, there are fifty shades of grey and more than 100 shades for white and black. Life is indeed colorful and shady minus happiness. As you know by now, I am little crazy stupid and more stupid crazy.



*Wrote this piece using my iPhone notepad while travelling on the G train of New York City. I kept it original to maintain the contradiction as well as purity. 


Read also: Is Future Really Relevant?




Friday, June 7, 2013

7 THINGS THE NEW TYC EXECUTIVE MEMBERS SHOULD DO DIFFERENT

The recent TYC General Body meeting concluded with more corrigendum than triumphs.  They were seen in total damage control mode.  They made an apology, they expressed regrets, they nullified earlier statements, and they stabbed their own past resolution.  What prompted them to take these unprecedented actions remains debatable.  The heart of the matter here is that they did admit to the mistakes they made in the past.


The question now is how the new TYC executive members should learn from these itchy experiences and cement the damages inflicted on the organizational authenticity and credibility.  Here are my best seven takes.
Change the organizational aims and objectives
On March 19, 2011, I wrote to editors of the Tibetan Political Review sharing my response to the TYC’s appeal letter to the Members of Tibetan Parliament in Exile.  In this response piece, I highlighted, “One particular aims and objectives of TYC has always been in conflict with what they stand for i.e., complete independence for Tibet.  Among the four, the first aims and objectives of TYC states, ‘To dedicate oneself to the task of serving one’s country and people under the guidance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Spiritual and Temporal Ruler of Tibet’.  Did they follow the guidance of the Dalai Lama on Middle Way Approach? I believe every Tibetan has an answer to this.”  The need for this change was further emphasized and magnified by Prof. Samdong Rinpoche during his recent talk at the TYC general body meeting.
Stay away from bad apples
The outgoing TYC members seem to have listened more and supported wholeheartedly to some proponents of rangzen, who has been very vocal and critical of CTA’s middle way policy and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  Being vocal doesn’t always mean what they say are right.  TYC should realize that it is a public-supported and -funded organization that has its own functional boundaries.  Rangzen proponents who act on their individual capacity should not represent the voice of TYC.  
Stop vilification of individual Tibetan
In a perfect democracy, there is a respect for differences.  TYC should embrace these differences of opinions whether it comes from rangzen or middle way supporters.  Individual supporting middle way or holding any other political views should not be a subject of vilification from the TYC.  TYC needs to be more open and mature to embrace differences.  
Re-invent the art of protest
The most frequent and popular work of TYC has been and will remain its street protests.  As an umbrella organization, TYC has not issued any form of guidelines for holding and organizing street protests.  As an example, during protests, any individual has an easy access to the bullhorn to create and shout slogans.  Some of these slogans have been very offensive, personal, and uncalled for.   TYC need to re-invent the art of protest by issuing guidelines for all its activities and welcoming innovations to seek maximum participation.  In other words, TYC needs to put structure into their activities including street protests.  To get a better sense, read my earlier piece on the Outlook Tibet “Reinventing the art of protest”.
Learn from Students for Free Tibet (SFT)
SFT earns a high respect for the work they do.  For the sake of this piece, the reason for their popularity may be roughly summed up into two.  First, they act as a unit of highly skilled individuals. They train their members on the art of activism. Generally, they are on the same page on many pressing issues.  Second, they neither challenge Central Tibetan Administration nor the middle way policy.  Their work or activism on seeking independence seems to compliment the struggle for middle way policy.
Elect executive members from Southern Tibetan settlements
Though Southern Tibetan settlements represent the largest pool of TYC membership, they were rarely elected for the post of TYC President.  Members of these settlements may be seeing a growing distance from the TYC.  Likewise, TYC executive members may be having difficult times to understand the needs and interests of its members residing in these settlements.  Either way, TYC as an organization suffers.  The recent walk out by eight members (mostly from southern settlements) from the TYC general body meeting may be an indication.
Lead by example
The biggest difference between Chinese leadership and Tibetan leadership lies in their respect for transparency.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly and openly welcomed the Chinese government to investigate the accusation they put on Central Tibetan Administration and any of the Tibetan exile units.  This clearly indicates that there is nothing from the Tibetan side to hide.  Everything is transparent.  This respect for transparency should also reflect within Tibetan community organizations including TYC.  The work of TYC needs to be transparent not only for the world to see but also for the Tibetan people to understand.  Without transparency, there will always be question asked on the abilities and skills of TYC leadership.  TYC as the largest public organization in exile should lead its people by example.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Politics of Assertions vs. Assessments

During a short training program I recently attended, the trainer focused on the three components of business counseling: active listening, assertions and assessments, and open-ended questions. As the trainer starts articulating each component, I could not think of anything else than to think of its strong relationship to the popular discourses on Tibetan politics in diaspora. Though it may be ridiculous to connect business counseling to politics, I found meaning in this ridiculousness.

Active listening is a skill that many individual lacks in general. It’s a skill that is beyond listening attentively to the speaker. It is listening to the whole person - listening to the head, heart, and the feet. From personal experiences thus far, listening to people on the streets, I see very less of active listening. People generally tend to listen less and speak more to assert their point across. Without active listening, there will be no learning. And this is clear from the public discussion we often see among Tibetans discoursing on politics. They believe their standpoint and/or understanding of Tibetan politics as right and others as wrong or misleading. As such, no matter how many public discussions (including writings) we may have on Tibetan politics, there will be no learning.

With the advancement of technologies, daily news is a click away. People can now read what is happening around the globe via smart phones anywhere anytime. Though news may be mostly facts, its descriptions are not. Intellectuals (writers, journalists, bloggers, news readers, politicians, leaders, etc.) tend to share these descriptions as what I call “flexible facts”. Flexible fact is the reason why I see a relation between assertions and assessments and the Tibetan politics in diaspora.

According to P. J. Denning of Denning Institute, “assertions are claims about what is observable in the world; they are capable of being witnessed and the witnesses can classify them as true or false”. A good example could be: I am 5 feet 6 inches. This could be verified by a third party. So, assertions are descriptive facts that are provable. Most important to this article, assertions are not influenced by personal moods or emotions.

P. J. Denning then describes assessments as evaluations, judgments, or opinions about the world. They are claims made by the speaker, but unlike assertions, they cannot be verified by witnesses. In other words, assessments are personal observation and judgment. For instance, “I am tall” is an assessment because tall is not an assertion. It’s a judgment or evaluation that may not be verifiable because of its vagueness and multiple meanings. A question like ‘how you define tall’ is a claim made by the speaker only. Most relevant to this article, assessments are results from personal standards, beliefs, moods, experiences, and backgrounds.

Tibet continues to be a mysterious land for many people in the West. And many Tibetans have tried hard to keep this mysterious and exotic Tibet alive in exile too. The mystery Tibet or the land of Shangri-la remained cut off from western influences and colonization prior to the World War II. Because of Tibet being unexplored, many historical facts about Tibet remain contestable. For instance, Tsering Shakya acknowledges that Cholka-sum is an idea “deeply embedded in the political culture of the Tibetan diaspora, where the core of the refugees’ political identity lay in the conception of Tibet as the unity of Kham, Amdo, and U-Tsang. But although the idea enjoys universal support among the exile community, it has no recent historical base and it is difficult to assess the extent of support it might enjoy inside Greater Tibet” (The Dragon in the Land of Snows, p. 387). We also know that even in 1959, Tibetans who live outside U-Tsang region used the term bhod-pa to refer to people of U-Tsang only. The term bhod-pa travelled with a new and wider meaning to India, along with Tibetans seeking refuge, to represent the people of Cholka-sum.

In recent years, after 60 years of refuge in an outside world, Tibet may not be as mysterious, mystic, and exotic as it once used to be. However, public discourses on Tibetan politics seem to be at the same mysterious level - contested on flexible facts derived from personal assessments.


Many writings on Tibetan politics are grounded on personal assessments and not assertions. However, the general public tends to discourse on these written assessments as assertions which not only creates misinformation but also unwarranted friction. For instance, many people view a writer’s work as assertions - a descriptive fact - and not assessments belonging to the writer only. It is important to realize that assessments are not assertions. Only with this realization, people will be able to put themselves in a better position and space to open their minds for new information, meaning, and learning.

To recognize assessments, people do not need to possess an academic degree or abilities. It’s just a simple logic - intellectual capabilities to think.

Sometimes a fact may differ based on the positioning of the speaker. For instance, “Tibet was an independent country” is a fact for most Tibetans but it’s not the same for governments of the world. As far as I know, no present government recognizes Tibet as an independent country. So, it is a flexible fact that could be assertions as well as assessments for Tibetans.

For some, my newfound meaning could still be ridiculous. If you do, remember, it’s your assessment and not assertion. The underlining message of this article is to help recognize the politics of assertions and assessments as well as to help identify the need to swap between assertions and assessments occasionally to open your thinking cap.