TIBETAN PURSUIT OF FREEDOM:A Letter from the Land of Snows

TCHRD has translated a letter written by a Tibetan monk, teacher and an activist in Tibet.
Written in August 2012, the letter, sent anonymously from Tibet, was addressed to the Special Meeting held in September 2012 in India. The letter raises important issues about the Tibetan freedom struggle and reveals important details about oppression and resistance in Tibet.
“Therefore, the path the Chinese have laid for us to walk in the meantime is like an ‘invisible dagger,’ Against which we are presumed to have not many alternative strategies.”
Despite being a truly Tibetan voice, in some measure, it is reminiscent of Frantz Fanon’s ‘Wretched of the Earth’ for its power to awaken the consciousness of both the oppressed and the oppressor, which only highlights the universality of human resistance. In one sense, the letter also reflects the Tibetan Buddhist liberation theology, the idea that that freedom is possible through understanding the true meaning of Tibetan Buddhism.
We have used a pseudonym for the writer of this letter to protect his identity.
The letter is translated and edited from its original version in Tibetan.
“Thoughts and Suggestions for the Special Meeting to be held in Dharamsala, India”

First of all, I would like to extend my greetings to the Tibetan leaders in exile; especially His Holiness the Dalai Lama and heads of Tibetan Buddhism, and also Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, the political head of the Tibetan people and Tibetan scholars. May they all live a long and healthy life and may their work for [our country] bear greater fruits. I also pray for the spontaneous fulfilment of the wishes of Tibetans inside Tibet. May Tibetan people inside and outside Tibet be reunited soon, and may His Holiness the Dalai Lama return to Tibet to be enthroned at the Potala Palace!
It is evident that the Tibetan people inside Tibet have no other choice than to comply with the machinations of the red Chinese Communist party. Therefore, you Tibetans in exile, through unity and solidarity, must propagate, in clear and concise terms, the suffering of the Tibetan people in freedom and democracy-loving countries of the world. This is important.
Many Tibetans in Tibet, for the sake of our nation and people, in other words, for the sake of our religion, culture and politics, are setting themselves on fire. They are burning themselves alive, because our people, who have been completely deprived of freedom and kept at the mercy of a foreign power, are searching for a measure of happiness. More than fifty brave Tibetan patriots who sacrificed their bodies had to endure the height of suffering, having been deprived of all options, and out of desperation, they have had to resort to such extreme measure. This is crystal clear.
There are some Tibetans who have directly opposed the acts of self-immolation and consequently expressed some words of mild disagreement. However, those of us in Tibet, who love our nation and people, have never opposed and expressed words of disagreement about self-immolations; we remain solidly defiant and firm in this position.
The [Central Tibetan Administration], all the voluntary organizations and individuals working for the welfare of Tibet and the Tibetan people should be clearly [aware] that in some remote areas of Tibet, the Chinese, by resorting to various means of trickery, are forcefully changing the identity of Tibetan people through acts of sinicisation, reducing them to the status of ‘neither-Tibetan-nor-Chinese.’ As you all know we are not given a hair’s breadth of opportunity to intervene in these matters; only journalists from foreign countries will be able to visit directly and report on these issues, so it is my hope that [Central Tibetan Administration] and the individual Tibetans will take interest in these issues.
All the grasslands of the nomads and the farmlands in the valleys have been surrounded with fences, causing enormous disputes among the Tibetan people. For instance, these fences have become a source of new conflict even between father and son. Regarding these issues, I have to share a few tragic stories here. All these Chinese strategies, as I alluded to before, are aimed specifically at sowing discord and conflict among the Tibetan people. This year, a new program has started in the nomadic areas: to sell nomadic lands owned by the nomads at a price of Chinese yuan 2000. We must seriously ponder this issue from all perspectives, because many Tibetans see this program as a Chinese government’s plot to grab all our lands. I don’t think our concerns are being expressed without any reasonable foundation. As far as I am concerned, I consider this a subtle political strategy on the part of the Chinese to lure the Tibetan people in their traps. This is because not only the land in the nomadic valleys, but also every nomadic family is being provided with enormous sums of Chinese money to construct new concrete dwellings.
Moreover, unnecessary roads are being constructed, so that every monastery and village can be accessed directly. These are causing damage, for which we would have to bear enormous cost in future.
The Chinese first trap you with guile, then with money, and finally with violence. Therefore, the path the Chinese have laid for us to walk in the meantime is like an ‘invisible dagger,’ against which we are presumed to have not many alternative strategies. This is because, even if we refuse Chinese money, other pretexts are invented to make sure that we get arrested. These sufferings and hardships are the norm rather than the exception at present.
The Chinese are also exploiting natural resources by digging mines; government cadres are dispatched to various Tibetan towns and villages to oppress and grab our lands. These have become routine. Another serious issue is the plight of the Tibetan monasteries, schools and other institutions – centres of Tibetan learning. In the monasteries, officials responsible for their management are being bribed, so that their complicity is ensured to put severe restrictions on religious activities. The grievances of the monks against the Chinese government’s negative attitude toward the monasteries are real and justifiable. They are not mere excuses to criticize them. The same serious problems also beset our schools. Under Chinese compulsion, most teachers have now abandoned teaching Tibetan. Moreover, there are also cases where students attending schools in Tibetan autonomous areas are not allowed to speak in their native tongue. The medium of instruction in Tibetan schools is the Chinese language, and to graduate to higher classes, students are almost entirely dependent on how they perform in Chinese. For instance, a student securing five per cent in Tibetan, sixty per cent in Chinese, and 30 per cent in mathematics is eligible to graduate to the next class. In some schools, even if the student doesn’t secure just a single star (form of grading in Tibetan schools), he or she would not encounter any serious obstacles in graduating to the next class. I am a teacher myself, so I can attest to these problems from my own personal experience, having voluntarily served as a Tibetan teacher for one month at a school in Yushu Tibetan autonomous area.
The students I taught in that school, 120 in all, are in the sixth standard. Of them, we had seven students who were totally ignorant in Tibetan language – they could not even write their names in Tibetan! Although they are supposed to be in the sixth grade, their standard of Tibetan is that of the first grade. When I made inquiries with the school teachers why they fared so poorly in Tibetan, they confirmed what I said before, that a student simply needs five per cent in Tibetan, compared to sixty in Chinese and 30 in mathematics, to graduate to the next class. When I asked the teachers how was it possible that some students who couldn’t even secure five per cent in Tibetan appear in sixth grade, they replied “some students are given special consideration to graduate to the next classes.”
What is so clear from all these examples is that Tibetan language doesn’t enjoy any autonomy even in the Tibetan schools established in Tibetan autonomous areas. Such pathetic conditions have made our [lives] unbearable, so it is extremely important for the [Central Tibetan Administration] and all the Tibetan people to be aware of these problems. All of these are clear indications that Tibetan people have no freedom whatsoever to pursue their own religion and culture. Therefore, we must strive for freedom and should be able to experience the joys of freedom, which will be possible only when we struggle and resist.
Since pursuit of freedom is an act of struggle, mere lip service and publicity campaigns outside Tibet is not going to help. What we must require, above all, is the courage and pride to ‘think, speak out and achieve.’ Based on these, we must be determined to pursue all kinds of campaigns. As always advocated by Tibetan scholars in Tibet, the pursuit of Tibetan learning, including Tibetan Buddhism, culture, history, literature, folk customs and traditions, are not only acts that advance freedom, but also helps regain the bla srog (life-soul) of Tibet.
History documents that merely preserving one’s religion, culture and religion doesn’t ensure freedom. Freedom is secured only through an act of non-violent struggle and resistance; we must not only keep in perspective the long term suffering of the Tibetan people, but also regard the immediate crises afflicting us as our top most concern. To uphold our duties voluntarily is the responsibility thrown upon our shoulders by this century. Tibetans in and outside Tibet, if all carry their duties with pride and initiate campaigns around the world, I have a firm belief that a time would come when justice would be restored to the Tibetan people. These days, what is indispensable for us, is unity and solidarity. Tibetans in exile must have the courage to aim all your strength at a single goal; this is our expectation. The life of our nation and its freedom are directly and deeply intertwined with, and depending, on you all.
This is because, although we have thoughts about unity and solidarity, since we have no freedom at all, we have no place where we can speak about the tragedy and fate of our people. Even if we speak out to the Chinese, there are few of them who are willing to think about what we say. This is understandable, because first of all there are fears of Chinese arrest. Secondly, being a Tibetan, it is not easy to speak up our minds. Also, it could be due to the fear of widespread Tibetan running dogs, all those spies, who are fooled by Chinese wealth. Thirdly, there are many who consider their security more important than the welfare of their people. Tibetans who nurture the sense of Tibetan-ness in their flesh and bones, however, without any fear of their lives, actively participate in the struggle.
For the pursuit of our freedom, since 1958, more than a million Tibetans have given up their lives through resistance against the Chinese communists. To this struggle, bereft of any feelings of solidarity, many Tibetans have an attitude as if they are stories of myth and legends. Therefore, after having conducted much research and investigation of Tibetan reality, I came up with a book tentatively titled ‘Black Annals,’ in which Tibet’s tragedy and suffering are especially documented.
No matter how much the Chinese communists oppress us, we must not be cowed down in fear and pursue a narrow and pathetic path that simply gives us personal security. What we have aimed, above all, is to wrest control from the oppressive Chinese apparatus, rights to pursue our own religion, culture, tradition and language. We have also pledged to uphold our duty to expose the poisonous nature of the shadowy Chinese communist political system. Although we are absolutely committed to campaign actively to defend our land from Chinese encroachments, nevertheless, as the Tibetan saying goes, ‘neither the horse won’t appear, nor the rains would fall at the moment you desire them,’ so there are certain limitations.
Still, to be the source of inspiration and pride to the coming generations, we are hopeful of giving up our lives for the welfare of our nation and people. In view of this, we have founded an independent organization called “Struggle for Truth through the true meaning of the Middle-Way,” which would strive towards the preservation and promotion of Tibetan religion, culture, language, folk customs, traditions and other ways of life, and through them, we struggle to pursue the values of freedom, equality, human rights and so on. By opening the hundred doors of diverse campaigns, we are preparing to continue to participate in various forms of struggle, so that we could arrive at a defining moment.
Our organization’s target would be the Chinese political apparatus, and we would make inquiries about any innocent Tibetan arrested under this system and strive to advocate for their plight in the world. This would be our primary goal. Secondly, in Tibet, the Chinese, lured by bribes, put in prison many patriotic Tibetans. This is a tremendous loss to our nation, so we must do everything possible to find out a different strategy that will help us keep track of Chinese spies. Our third goal is to awaken the Tibetan nomads and farmers from their slumber of illiteracy, to educate them in our country’s history, so that a true national consciousness is implanted in their souls. Apart from these, various campaigns are being initiated to eradicate illiteracy among the Tibetan children who have been deprived of opportunities to pursue basic education.
All this reflects the attitude of ordinary Tibetan monks who honestly believe that there’s no other greater purpose in life than to be of service, no matter how small, to the Tibetan people. I am hopeful that His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetan scholars, thinkers, and the enlightened ones would extend their reflections towards these ends.
With profound respects,
Lobsang Monlam
From Tibet, the Land of Snows
26 August 2012

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