Just my two cents worth


January 2011

A Chinese Comments on Chinese Attitude Towards Tibetans


An image of the book Heavenly Beads by Liu Jiangqiang

I cannot help but be moved by the feelings behind this review, written by a Chinese professor,  of a book in Chinese on Tibetan environment by a Chinese environmental writer. It touches on the very basis of inter-ethnic relationship and understanding.

The book is Heavenly Beads by Liu Jianqiang and published in 2009 by Tibet People’s Publishing House in which some  Tibetan environmentalists were profiled, including Karma Samdrup (who is unfortunately undergoing imprisonment under a politically motivated sentencing.).

The reviewer is Xiong Lei, a journalist and former executive director of China Features, and  a guest professor at Tsinghua University’s school of journalism and communication.

Prof. Xiong raises a critical point when he write, “Why could so many different Tibetans open their hearts to Liu Jianqiang, an “outsider” who doesn’t even speak their language? The key word is respect, which is also the key to understanding a people.”

He then expands, “Along with not speaking Tibetan, Liu Jianqiang also does not believe in his Tibetan friends’ religion. He may even differ with those whom he wrote about on something they did or said. But these differences never held him back from being respectful of their faith, culture, style of living and way of thinking.”

Prof. Xiong’s conclusion is clear. “Such communication is missing in many media accounts of contemporary Tibetan people, domestic or international. In many of those accounts, Tibetans tend to be politicised or manipulated. But in Heavenly Beads, we see Tibetan people in their pure and natural selves, pursuing their dreams, leading their lives, coping with challenges and riding out various crises.”

I am moved because a Chinese has taken the time to reflect on how attitudes determine inter-personal relationship. While the political problem of Tibet may be complicated, at the social level, more Chinese joining the public discourse in China on Tibet is a positive development.

Therefore, even though this review is not new, I thought it needed highlighting here.


May I drop some names, please….for Tibet?

President Obama and other VIPs on the stage at the Tribute to Holbrooke. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On Friday, January 14, 2011, I had the privilege to attend a memorial to the late Richard C. Holbrooke at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.  The invitation was primarily for Special Envoy of H.H. the Dalai Lama, Kasur Lodi Gyari, but since he was not in station I was deputed.

Kennedy Center is the premier center for performing arts in the American capital and even normally one is likely to rub shoulders with VIPs when attending events there. But then this was a special event and the security screening before we could enter the Opera House, where it was held, was as much of an indication. Standing in line for the screening there was a former Assistant Secretary of State behind me. I greeted him and one of his first words was, “Have you been following the events in Tunisia?” I told him I knew about the turmoil and the resignation of the Foreign Minister. He corrected me saying it was the President who had fled.  As we were speaking there was prominent media personality Ben Bradlee being subjected to a physical screening before me. China scholar Orville Schell was in another line.

After crossing the security screening gate, there was a former ambassador to China, who continues to maintain an interest in Tibet. When I greeted him, he asked, “Where is Lodi?” I explained the situation and he said he was about to go on an overseas trip and would like to meet him on his return.

After I had taken my seat, I looked around. There was former Secretary of State Madeliene Albright seating a few rows ahead. Near her was Deputy Secretary Jim Steinberg standing and in full conversation with someone. There was David Phillips, a friend of Richard Holbrooke and who is also much interested in Tibet. We greeted each other. He inquired whether “Lodi” was coming. I explained. I saw President Asif Zardari proceeding to his seat. I said to the gentleman seating next to me, “That is the President of Pakistan.” He wondered, “Is Karzai here?” referring to the Afghan President.

I saw the Ambassador of Mongolia being led to his seat.

On the stage were Richard Holbrooke’s widow Kati Marton, his sons Anthony and David Holbrooke, his stepdaughter Elizabeth Jennings, President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, NSC senior director Samantha Power, former State Department official Strobe Talbott, Amb. Frank Wisner, and James Johnson and Leslie Gelb, who were friends of the late Ambassador. They all recalled the full life that Richard Holbrooke lived.

Following the event, we were asked to be seated as the dignitaries left. I could see Vice President Joe Biden going towards the door. Presidential Advisor Valerie Jarrett was getting up from her seat (I think it was her). I met an Ambassador of a European country that has long interest in Tibet as I walked out.

Later reading the Foreign Policy blog, I learnt that “Some of the other attendees in the audience included Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, State Department policy planning chief Anne Marie Slaughter, Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, NSC senior director Derek Chollet, NSC senior director Doug Lute, Rep. Jane Harman, Madeleine Albright, Zalmay Khalilzad, Robert Rubin, Abdullah Abdullah, Marcus Brauchli…”

The blogger, Josh Rogin, wrote, “The crowd at the packed Opera House turned into what one State Department veteran called “a who’s who of the diplomatic corps.” Three heads of state, over a dozen foreign ministers, and hundreds more familiar faces from around the foreign policy community were in attendance at the event.”

Now why am I dropping these names here when it is obvious from the nature of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke’s life that a wide range of international personalities were connected with him?  My reason is that all these eminent personalities witnessed the special connection that the Holbrooke family had with Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The “photo album” that began the program saw one of the family with His Holiness. Kati Marton referred to the “cause” of “Tibet” as one of those that Holbrooke was involved with. The sons also referred to a trip to Tibet and a photo of the family with His Holiness displayed in their home while highlighting the life of their father.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama In conversation with Richard Holbrooke, Strobe Talbott, and Richard Armitage during a discussion on Tibet in Washington, d.c

Not to politicize the situation, but I am sure if not the Chinese Ambassador, at least a senior diplomat of the Chinese Embassy, would have been attending the event. I have no doubt that this Chinese diplomat would have got the message.

…And President Hu Jintao is coming to town next week.

Landmark Indian Court Ruling on Citizenship for Tibetans

On December 22, 2010 the Delhi High Court passed a judgement (W.P.(C) 12179/2009 ) supporting the right of a Tibetan born in India to claim Indian citizenship by birth, as per the Indian Citizenship Act (CA). This may have implications on the status of other Tibetans who fall under the same category.

The Tibetan, Namgyal Dolkar, who was born in India in 1986, had contested the denial of an Indian passport to her by the Regional Passport Office in Delhi, which had said that she could not be considered an Indian citizen. She had argued her case based on the Indian Citizenship Act (CA).

The High Court said that Namgyal Dolkar “is an Indian citizen by birth in terms of Section 3(1)(a) CA.” It ruled that “She cannot therefore be denied a passport on the ground that she is not an Indian citizen in terms of Section 6(2)(a) PA.”

Section 3(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act says that every person “born in India, – (a) on or after the 26th day of January 1950, but before the 1st day of July, 1987” “Shall be a citizen of India by birth.”

The Court ruled that the RPOs argument against granting of a passport to Namgyal Dolkar was “erroneous” and asked it to start the process of granting her a passport.

The Court also said an Indian Ministry of Home Affairs’s “policy decision not to grant Indian citizenship by naturalization under Section 6(1) CA to Tibetans who entered India after March 1959 is not relevant in the instant case.” The Court seems to be making a distinction between Tibetans who have entered India and those who were born in India.

The court also said, “The holding of an identity certificate, or the Petitioner declaring, in her application for such certificate, that she is a Tibetan national, cannot in the circumstances constitute valid grounds to refuse her a passport.” To date, all Tibetans who are considered stateless are provided with a travel document called the Identity Certificate by the Indian Government.

This court ruling may impact many Tibetans who are born in India between 1950 and 1987, including on matters like property ownership or government service. The Court made it clear that such Tibetans do not even have to formally apply for Indian citizenship saying “no such application process is envisaged in Section 3(1)CA.”

We will wait to see how this plays out in the coming months. You can read the full text of the Delhi High Court ruling here.

We Need to Revisit Tibetan History

I recently came across this article of mine that I had written for the now defunct Tibetan World Magazine in 2007.  I have not posted this on my blog here before. The issues I have raised in this, specifically how we approach our history, vis-a-vis Bon, is something that every Tibetan should ponder.

What do you think?

We Need to Revisit Tibetan History
Tibetan World Magazine

January  2007
By Bhuchung K. Tsering

I grew up with the traditional perspective of Tibetan history. It began with the beginning of the Tibetan race when Chenresig, manifesting in a monkey, and Jetsun Dolma, manifesting in a rock ogress, mated, and went on to the origin of the Tibetan kingdom, the rule of the Choegyals, the earlier and later spread of Buddhism, the rule of the Dalai Lamas, the Chinese occupation and the present situation, etc.

Continue reading “We Need to Revisit Tibetan History”

The Dalai Lama’s Video Conference with Chinese Lawyers

Today’s edition of the online news website in Chinese, Boxun,(you can do a machine translation to get a rough idea) carried a very interesting story about a video conference between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and three Chinese in China. This may be the first of its kind that has taken place.

This video conference took place today, January 4, 2011 and was moderated by Chinese writer Wang Lixiong from Beijing. The other two Chinese participants were Law Professor and civil rights activist Teng Biao and prominent Human Rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who were in Shenzhen.

Writer Wang Lixiong before his laptop during the video conference. Photo: Boxun

According to the news report, during the video conference, the two lawyers asked questions to the Dalai Lama about Wikileaks and about interaction with Chinese scholars. Wang Lixiong also asked him questions posed by Chinese that were compiled on his website.

The report says His Holiness’ response will be tweeted by the three Chinese as well as on the Chinese language twitter handle @DalailamaCN.

Can’t wait to see the outcome of this interaction.


UPDATE: @DalaiLamaCN says today that the video conference took place on January 4, 2011 afternoon and lasted for an hour and 15 minutes.

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