Cameras for Cultures Inc.- The Tibetan Photo Project
 

Tibet, a Culture at the Edge of Extinction

By Joe Mickey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14th Dalai Lama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14th Dalai Lama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monks

 

 

 

 

 

 

small group of monks

Parents often arrange for Children to leave Tibet to escape harsh Chinese rule. The number of refugees leaving Tibet are on the increase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tibetan monks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group of monls

 

For the latest news on Tibet please visit "Connect with Tibet" at http://www.tibetanphotoproject.com

Tibet, a Culture at the Edge of Extinction

Tibet's modern history with China offers insight to the future leadership of China.

The Tibetan's experience offers insight into the nature of future leadership in China

• Mr. Hu Jintao, former Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), was installed as the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) at the 16th National Congress of the CCP held in Beijing November 8-15, 2002. He replaced Jiang Zemin as Chairman of the Party, and assumed Jiang's position as State President at the National People's Congress (NPC) in March, 2003.

• Mr. Jintao made much of his political reputation during his four-year tenure as China's Party Secretary of The Tibet Autonomous Region where he oversaw a brutal crackdown on the Tibetans and the imposition of martial law in 1989.

• An example of China's rising power on the world stage was demonstrated when the Nobel Peace Prize winning Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader in exile, visited Australia in May 2002. For fear of upsetting deals with the Chinese, prominent Australian leaders refused to meet with one of the world's great spiritual leaders.

• China has had its impact on American freedoms. At the end of President Clinton's final term, a photographic book documenting the presidency was contracted for printing in Hong Kong. The Chinese government confiscated thousands of copies of the book because it contained a photograph of President Clinton's meeting with the Dalai Lama. Time magazine was tossed out of China for stories that China viewed as negative towards the government. This had a chilling effect on the parent companies, of media organizations, that are trying to do business in China. For example, when Disney wants to distribute a movie in China or build an amusement park in Hong Kong, for success its news holdings carry very little in depth or negative material on China.

• For a look at the reality of what relations with China will amount to it would be wise to talk to a Tibetan. Chinese President Hu Jintao is the apparent to the seat of power in China. He built his political career and hard-line reputation as China's man in Tibet where he enforced a brutal crackdown followed by imposing martial law against the Tibetan people. In Hu's speeches to business audiences in the US in June Mr. Jintao's biggest pitch was not the value of the Chinese market as much as it was China's huge, unprotected and underpaid and non-benefited work force.

A Brief History Beginning in 1949 and in a violent and escalated invasion in 1956, the Communist China created by Mao Zedong invaded and subsequently occupied the country of Tibet. For China this was the gain of land mass roughly equal to the size of Europe.

With its continued occupation of Tibet, Communist China works to wipe out the culture of Tibet. Communist Chinese have destroyed all but 13 of the 6000 monasteries that made up the higher education and university system of Tibet. In the process, China took centuries old artifacts from the monasteries and placed many of them for sale on the lucrative international art market. Thousands of Tibetans die while performing forced labor.

Prior to the modern day invasion of Tibet by the Communist Chinese, Tibet had spent centuries emerging from a feudal history to become highly developed spiritually and peaceful Buddhist society. The Dalai Lama is considered by the Tibetan people to be both the secular and spiritual leader of Tibet. Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama has lived in India since 1959 where he has formed a government and community in exile.

Through a very elaborate process In the Tibetan Buddhist religion, the current Dalai Lama was located in the-remote Tibetan village, Takster, at the age of 4. As a result of an extensive testing and investigation process, he was recognized by Tibetans as the important reincarnation in a long series of Tibetan Leaders and thus his title, Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

In 1989, The Dalai Lama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the Tibetan people for their attempts to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict with China. For years the Dalai Lama has presented a peace plan designed to maintain the integrity and autonomy of Tibetans and their culture while allowing for coexistence with the Chinese inside Tibet. The government of China has refused to consider the plan.

Today Communist China continues to occupy Tibet and nearly 1/5th or 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed or died from Communist Chinese policies of imprisonment, torture, starvation and forced labor.

An extensive report on human rights issued by the US government, in early 2000, reported that human rights in both China and Tibet have deteriorated further in recent years. Dissidents inside China report abuses and atrocities that echo reports that have been confirmed and documented among the Tibetan refugee population.

Torture and sodomy by prison guards with electric prods, handcuffs that self tighten when prisoners move, food depravation that leaves prisoners looking for food in their own feces are standard practices towards Chinese and Tibetan prisoners. Often, prisoners that are executed by a single bullet to the back of the head. The person being executed is often strangled with wire and there are reports that some have had their tongues pulled out with meat hooks to insure against a final word of defiance. The executed are also reported to be butchered for organ sales on the lucrative transplant markets.

Equal Opportunity oppressor

Forty years after invading Tibet, the Communist government of China remains consistent in its repression both in China and in Tibet.

In 1999, the government began a major crack down on a meditation group inside China known as Falun Gong. Thirty-five-thousand members were rounded up in a single sweep and as prisoners were released, familiar stories of torture (termed "reeducation" in China) emerged.

Also in 1999, China refused to let the Pope appoint Catholic Bishops and Cardinals. One 80 year old Bishop who disagreed with the government policy of state appointed clergy simply disappeared. In December 1999 there was word that 11 Tibetans died in a single Chinese prison, 5 of those killed, were Buddhist nuns. In the year 2000, China increased its efforts to silence, control and shut down religion.

In Dec. 2001, the government began a program of bulldozing churches. In the first half of 2002, an estimated 19,000 Buddhist practitioners have been displaced when remote religious enclaves were torn down and the leaders arrested.

In November 2002, a monk was reported to have died in a Chinese prison from the results of injuries suffered during years of torture. In Dec. 2002, two popular monks who advocated a free Tibet were sentenced to death on terrorist charges. Capitalizing on the events of 9-11, China has adopted the terrorist label for charging minorities and dissidents with crimes.

Abuse of Children

Interviews with refugees in India has revealed that Chinese police have tortured Tibetan Children as young as 6 years old. A new report created from these interviews entitled "The Fabric of Fear" was scheduled for release in December 2000 with release to the UN in 2001 view at http://www.tibetjustice.org .

In the complex line of succession of the Dalai Lama, a young boy recognized as the Panchen Lama may hold the key to locating the next Dalai Lama. The boy, Gendun Choekyi Nyima, has been detained by the Chinese since 1996. The Chinese have named their own choice as Panchen Lama. The boy who was six years old when he was abducted by the Chinese has not been seen since.

Current conditions

Annually, approximately 1500 - 3000 Tibetans still make a dangerous journey through the Himalayas to seek asylum in Nepal and India. Natural elements and the risk of imprisonment if caught by the Chinese military make escape extremely hazardous. The extreme cold often leads to severe frostbite and lost limbs.

In July 2000, under pressure from the United States the World Bank denied China $60 million dollars for a resettlement project that would take China further in its efforts to overrun the Tibetan population with more Chinese settlers. China is funding the project and has said it will not be deterred by the West.

While China has killed 1/5th of the Tibetan population, many see this current effort by the Communist Chinese to flood Tibet with Chinese while adding programs of forced sterilization of Tibetan women as a continued effort to dilute the native makeup and culture of Tibet towards complete extinction.

China is said to have one of the worst environmental records on the planet and during the occupation of Tibet, China has extended these very damaging practices into the landscape of Tibet in the forms of mining, deforestation, disposal of nuclear waste, water pollution and destruction of native animal species. It is estimated that 4,000 drowned in a single flood in 2001 due to the deforestation projects in Tibet.

On the World front, the growth of ChinaÕs economy is fueling a rapid demand for oil on the world market and increasing investment in military technology.

Several world leaders, including American Presidents, speaking on behalf of Tibet and the plan put forth by the Dalai Lama have asked Chinese leaders to open talks directly with the Dalai Lama. While seeking trade agreements, Chinese leaders have made several promises to leaders around the world to hold direct talks, but, they have yet to keep any of these promises.

Chinese leaders use the same negotiation techniques and promises to get favorable headlines when they discuss currency valuation, trade, labor standards and other human rights issues.

On July 2, 2000, the Dalai Lama spoke to an audience on the Washington Mall estimated at 50,000. For years, he has traveled the world to raise awareness and financial support in an effort to maintain the rich culture of Tibet that is often described as the most advanced spiritual cultural on earth. In Exile, this culture has taken great steps to outgrow the historic feudal systems.

The Tibetan heritage is being kept alive among the 150,000 refugees that followed the Dalai Lama to India. A much smaller number of Tibetans are living in exile through out the world and many work to help coordinate both political and cultural activities and awareness efforts on behalf of the Tibetan government and citizens in exile. At the urging of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile has been converted to democratically elected leadership.

In 2000, the United States has voted to normalize trade relations with China. The debate appears to be split, 50/50, that more trade with China will either cause China to open itself to more democratic thinking and freedom or trade will finance more tyranny by the ruling Communist government against citizens of China and the people of Tibet.

The Government of China has had to face many formal condemnations from world governments, including the United States, of its occupation and treatment of Tibet. At the same time the international community has been short on sanctions or concrete action against China. The withdrawal of $60 million by the World Bank is much more the exception than the rule when it comes to the international community standing behind its words of concern for human rights for Tibetans and Chinese citizens.

To its advantage, China has made a series of empty gestures toward any real efforts to float their currency and therefore maintains an unfair advantage in developing cheap labor. Further, China only pays lip service to many of the other promises it made to join the WTO. Meanwhile, through its rapid economic growth, China has risen to second place behind the US in oil consumption including a 40 percent increase in demand in the last year that has helped drive the price of oil in the international market.

Groups of Tibetan Lamas and monks are on extended tours and give performances of Tibetan Culture as it developed and existed for centuries prior to the occupation of China.

According to one tour director, Tenzin Norbu, the intention is to introduce and preserve original Tibetan Culture that is not allowed to grow or freely function in occupied Tibet, The tour also openly operates as a political tool for the Tibetan Government in exile. At the end of each performance, Norbu presents a brief history and update on conditions of Tibetans in Tibet and he urges the audience to take citizen action that will prompt the United States Congress and the President to apply pressure on China to create more freedom For Tibetans.

Norbu pointed out that when the tours started in 1988, few people attended. Today, several teams of Tibetan Buddhist monks and Lamas regularly perform to audiences in venues that fill at between 1200 and 2500 seats.

Are all the Tibetan efforts effective? During the congressional debates to normalize trade relations with China it was important for congressional representatives on both sides of the issue to put into the record that they had the support of the Tibetan Dalai Lama. This was done in the usual political fashion of neglecting to quote statements by the Dalai Lama to back their claims of support.

Beyond cultural tours and a the work of a tireless but aging leader, Tibet has the support of human rights organizations. Tibetans present much of their political case through the "International Campaign For Tibet". Tibet also has a great deal of celebrity support, most notably Actor Richard Gere. An annual rock concert created by the Beastie Boys provides a high profile among a younger set.

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Learning more

Hollywood has made major motion pictures including "Seven Years in Tibet" with Brad Pitt, "Kun Dun" by Martin Scorsese. Other movies that are worth a look include "Windhorse" and the Tibetan produced gem, "The Cup."

Tibetans in exile have created several humanitarian, religious, educational and political support organizations. The best link to Tibet's efforts on the web can be found at www.tibet.com, the official Web site of the Tibetan Government in exile. www.savetibet.org is the link to the International Campaign for Tibet which maintains a very useful link for contacting representatives in the Congress, Senate and the President. For a concise history on Tibet, readers can check out "In Exile From the Land of Snows" by John Avedon or "Tears of Blood" by Mary Craig. In Video, the "A&E Biography" series offers a video on the Life of the Dalai Lama.

Write your representatives and the President about your concerns for Tibet and on trade with China at http://www.congress.org This site offers both free and paid-for services. Most find what they need for free by clicking "Write Elected Officials" at the top of the site's home page.

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Resource information: Research was conducted from a wide range of sources: Major news network web sites included but were not limited to: CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, C-Span. Special programs included the Congressional debate on normalizing trade with China, PBS documentary on Nixon in China and Senate hearings on military security in Asia-Pacific. A&E Biography of the Dalai Lama. Resources in the web included but not limited to: The South China/Hong Kong Daily News, www.tibet.com, www.tibeticlt.org, www.savetibet.org and the Tibet Information Network. A hard-copy file dating back to April 1999 of approximately 3000 news paper and magazine articles from several publications including (but not limited to): The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press Reports, Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Snow Lion Press, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The San Francisco Examiner, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat and several other publications. Books included, but not limited to "In Exile From The Land Of Snows" by John Avedon, "Tears Of Blood" By Mary Craig, and "Whispered Prayers" by Steven Harrison and "Ethics for the New Millennium" by the Dalai Lama.

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