US Ambassador Harper: Remarks at “Lockdown in Tibet” Side Event


As an indigenous person – a citizen not only of the United States but my tribal nation – the Cherokee Nation – I have a particular affinity for the issues faced by Tibetans.  In the history of our people, we faced times in the country I now represent, when our right to forge our own destiny and practice our own religion and speak our mines were too often denied or restricted.  So the stories which emerge out of Tibet have always rung with a certain familiarity.  It is a familiarity borne from the many stories I heard from my own relatives about our own history.

But some years back, America embarked on a different path with Native peoples – a path of truer autonomy, greater and far more authentic self-governance.  This ability for each tribal nation to forge its own path while remaining firmly part of the United States, has set the foundation for far greater social, cultural, political and economic success for tribal communities.  In addition, it has bred a steadfast patriotism in many Native people.  At the same time, it has made America far stronger.  And from this foundation, working in partnership, tribal communities better face the continuing challenges before them.
I don’t know what the precise right path for Tibet and China is.  But I do believe that finding that path will start with sitting down to dialogue in good faith.

The principle mandate of the position is to promote dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama and his representatives.  The United States firmly believes that dialogue is the most promising path forward – and indeed in many ways, the only path which will likely lead towards a resolution.  Further, we are of the firm belief that such a path will be to the benefit of both the Tibetan people and to China.

The United States will not turn our attention away from Tibet.  We will continue to push China towards a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives.  We will continue to push for far greater protection of fundamental freedoms in Tibet – the right to free expression, the right to freedom of association and assembly and the right to religious liberty in all its manifestations.

Finally, a word on discussion we are having here today.  This discussion is intended to be constructive and, accordingly, is not about China-bashing.  That would not be productive.  As advocates of freedom of expression, we should be open to information from all points of view.  In that regard, I have invited representatives of the Chinese government to hear today’s presentation and to offer their viewpoint. I understand they are present and, of course, we will provide them an opportunity to comment during the question and answer period.

Remarks by Ambassador Keith M. Harper

At “Lockdown in Tibet”
A Side Event organized by the Helsinki Foundation

June 15, 2015
Palais Des Nations, Geneva

China imposes “harsh policies of repression on Buddhists” across Tibet


U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: China imposes “harsh policies of repression on Buddhists” across Tibet

religious freedomIn its just issued 2015 Annual Report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) states that China imposes “harsh policies of repression on Buddhists” across the Tibetan plateau and recommended that the U.S. State Department re-designate China as a “country of particular concern” (CPC), where “particularly severe violations of religious freedom” are perpetrated or tolerated, and to take additional actions to promote religious freedom in China.

The report, released on April 30, 2015 in Washington, D.C., documents religious freedom violations in 33 countries, makes country-specific recommendations, and assesses the U.S. government’s implementation of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). In a statement, USCIRF Chair Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, said:

“With serious religious freedom violations occurring all around the world, these horrors speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter. All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders not only for humanitarian reasons but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there. In the long run, there is only one permanent guarantor of the safety, security and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable. It is the full recognition of religious freedom.”

On Tibet, the report states, “Since 2008, the Chinese government has imposed harsh policies of repression on Buddhists across the Tibetan plateau, including harassment, imprisonment, and torture. … Moreover, the Chinese government continued its ongoing vilification of the Dalai Lama, including accusing him of seeking Tibetan independence, which he has repeatedly denied. While there were indications the Chinese government may allow him to visit Tibet, its insistence on selecting the next Dalai Lama continued to strain the relationship.”

The report also includes the names of Tibetan political prisoners Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Kunchok Tsephel, Lobsang Tsering, and the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, on the prisoners’ list of the Defending Freedoms Project, which “aims to support human rights and religious freedom throughout the world with a particular focus on prisoners of conscience.” Members of Congress are encouraged to “adopt” a prisoner of conscience on the list and advocate for their release.

Following are relevant excerpts from the China chapter of the report. The full USCIRF 2015 Annual Report can be read on the USCIRF website.

Tibetan Buddhists

Since 2008, the Chinese government has imposed harsh policies of repression on Buddhists across the Tibetan plateau, including harassment, imprisonment, and torture. In March 2014, Goshul Lobsang died shortly following his release from prison after suffering extreme malnourishment and brutal torture, such as regular injections and stabbings; he was imprisoned for his role in organizing a protest in 2008. Also in 2014, religious leader Khenpo Kartse was sentenced to two-and-ahalf years in prison for allegedly protecting a fugitive monk. The government’s campaign of repression also has involved the destruction of religious structures and restrictions that have forced younger monks out of monasteries. Self-immolations have continued, and in recent years more than 130 Tibetan Buddhists, including monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire in acts of protest. Moreover, the Chinese government continued its ongoing vilification of the Dalai Lama, including accusing him of seeking Tibetan independence, which he has repeatedly denied. While there were indications the Chinese government may allow him to visit Tibet, its insistence on selecting the next Dalai Lama continued to strain the relationship.

Defending Freedoms Project Prisoners List

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and Amnesty International USA, in 2012 launched the Defending Freedoms Project with the aim of supporting human rights and religious freedom throughout the world with a particular focus on prisoners of conscience.

Specifically, Members of Congress “adopt” prisoners of conscience, standing in solidarity with these brave men and women, while committing to advocate for their release.

The individuals below have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs or actions or their religious freedom advocacy. They are part of a longer list of prisoners of conscience, detained for other reasons, who are included in the Defending Freedoms Project.

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche (m) is a Tibetan Buddhist leader from Garze, Sichuan. Delek has advocated for the protection and preservation of Tibetan culture, religion, and way of life. Over the years, he has built monasteries, provided education for children in remote rural areas, established Buddhist institutions, and promoted social activism in Tibet. In the 1980s, his Holiness the Dalai Lama recognized him as a reincarnated Lama, a title given to those are permitted to teach the Dharma, for his commitment as a Buddhist monk. On April 7, 2002, the government claimed that Delek was involved in bomb blast that occurred on April 3rd in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan. The evidence linking him to this crime was based on a confession made by a relative of Delek’s during a torture session. However, the relative later retracted his statement, claiming that Delek was not involved in the attack. Despite this claim, Delek was charged with of “inciting Splittism,” and for his alleged actions in the event he was sentenced to death in December 2, 2002. However, due to international pressure, on January 26, 2005, Delek’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. In efforts to free Delek, 40,000 Tibetans, in November 2009, signed a petition asking for a re-trial. Additionally, during that same month, 70 Tibetans were arrested for their participation in a hunger strike that was conducted county seat of Lithang. The case has stirred international controversy for its procedural violations and lack of transparency.

According to the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Delek is in poor health with a worsening heart condition and having suffered nervous breakdowns. He carries a walking stick as a result of his feet becoming injured in prison.

Kunchok Tsephel

Kunchok Tsephel (m) is an official in a Chinese government environmental department and the founder of the first Tibetan literary website, Chodme or Butter Lamp. This website, with assistance from poet Kyabchen Dedrol, was founded in 2005 for the purpose of promoting Tibetan literature and culture in China. The Chinese government actively monitored the website since its beginnings, and on several occasions, authorities have shut down public access to the website. In March 2008, the Chinese authorities began to crackdown in the Tibet Autonomous Region following the anti-government protests in Lhasa and other areas; since the onslaught, over 40 Tibetans have been taken into custody for their works on issues contrary to the party’s position. On February 26, 2009, Chinese authorities targeted and detained Kunchok. While being held in their custody, officers searched his home and seized his computer, cell phone, and other personal belongings. For nine months, the government failed to inform Kunchok’s family about his arrest and condition. Then on November 12, 2009, his family was summoned to attend the trial at the Intermediate People’s Court of Kanlho, only hear that he had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on the charges of disclosing state secrets. Kunchok trial was conducted behind closed doors and he was denied access to a lawyer.

Many believe that published content on his website, especially information regarding the 2008 protests that occurred across the Tibetan plateau, led to his arrest and conviction.

Lobsang Tsering

Lobsang Tsering (m) is a monk from Kirti monastery in Tibet who was detained by the Chinese police in August 2012. In December, the police announced that they had accused Lobsang of inciting the self-immolation of eight Tibetans, even though five of the self-immolations never occurred. While under arrest, the Supreme Court of China, on December 5, 2012, stated that “criminals behind the scenes who plan, incite, aide, abet… and help those perpetrating self-immolations will be investigated for criminal liability in the crime of intentional murder.” On January 31, 2013, Lobsang was charged with the “intentional homicide” of eight Tibetans in Ngaba, and as a result, he was sentenced to death with a two year reprieve. Lobsang was denied the right to a fair trial, according to Xinhua, a state run news agency, acknowledged that Lobsang was not represented by a lawyer during the court proceedings. Additionally, despite a claim made by a judge who told the Global Times that: “authorities obtained sufficient evidence showing it [the alleged crimes] had been instructed by ‘forces from abroad.”

According to Xinhua, the only documented form of evidence presented by the court was two confessions made by Lobsang and his nephew, Lobsang Tsering, who was also arrested and tried under the same charges as his uncle. In their statements, they admitted to encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate under the instructions of the Dali Lama. Many question the accuracy of these confessions because Chinese authorities are known to use torture to extract information out of detainees, and it is feared this may have happened in this case.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama (m) has been held by Chinese authorities in a secret location since 1995 when he was six years old, allegedly to keep him safe from “Tibetan Nationalists.” China refuses all requests, both domestic and international to see Nyima.

The Panchen Lama is a high ranking spiritual leader in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy and is passed down by reincarnation. The Dalai Lama selected Gendun Choekyi Nyima in 1995 to be the next Panchen Lama, while Chinese authorities decreed Gyaltsen Norbu to be the next. As the Panchen Lama traditionally is held responsible for the selection of the Dalai Lama, The Chinese authorities believe it is important to control the Panchen Lama’s fate.

According to Chinese government claims, he is attending school and leading a normal life somewhere in China. Chinese officials have stated that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is a “perfectly ordinary boy” who is in “protective custody,” growing up in an “excellent state of health.” However, no outside party has been allowed to visit Nyima because state officials claim to keep his whereabouts undisclosed in order to protect him.

US Government believes “resumption of dialogue” on Tibet is “critical”


April 17, 2015

In its most recent annual Tibet Negotiations Report to Congress, the State Department notes that “The Dalai Lama’s representatives and Chinese officials from the United Front Work Department have not met directly since the ninth round of dialogue in January 2010.” The report adds that the Chinese government’s failure to address problems in Tibet “will continue to be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States.”

The report is mandated by The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA), as contained in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003 (Public Law 107-228). The TPA provides that the report cover steps taken by the President and the Secretary to encourage the Chinese government to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives leading to a negotiated agreement on Tibet. The report also must address the status of any discussions between the two sides.

The latest report, covering 2013-2014, states:

“The U.S. government believes the Dalai Lama or his representatives can be constructive partners for China as it deals with continuing tensions in Tibetan areas. The Dalai Lama’s views are widely reflected within Tibetan society and he represents the views of the vast majority of Tibetans. His consistent advocacy of non-violence is an important factor in reaching a lasting solution. Chinese government engagement with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to resolve problems facing Tibetans is in the interests of the Chinese government and the Tibetan people. Failure to address these problems will lead to greater tensions inside China and will be an impediment to China’s social and economic development, and will continue to be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States.”

“We are glad to see the US Government continue to support the Tibetans’ stance to solve the Tibetan issue through a negotiated solution. At the same time, the hardline position on Tibet reiterated earlier this week by the Chinese government in its “White Paper,” shows the need for the US Government and the international community to speak up jointly to let China know that this dangerous escalation will not be tolerated. Tibetans in Tibet are resisting in many nonviolent ways to the oppressive policies implemented by Beijing, but without international support, these efforts will not be able to improve the living conditions of Tibetans,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

The first Tibet Negotiations Report was submitted to the Congress by President George Bush on May 8, 2003. However, in July of the same year, the President delegated to the Secretary of State the submission of “certain recurring reports,” including on Tibet Negotiations Status, to the Congress “only to improve the internal management of the executive branch.” Since then the Secretary of State has been submitting the reports.

The full text of the report is available here »

Yushu: A Tibetan Town Rebuilt in Beijing’s Image


Note:  China removed this Tibetan town’s name (Kyigundo, Kham) and gave it a new Chinese name (Yushu)

After a massive earthquake destroyed 90% of Yushu’s buildings and claimed more than 2,000 lives, the price of recovery has been sacrificing identity

The monk leans forward and flips through the pictures. They were taken in the autumn of 2009, before the earth shook and the city fell, when we met at his monastery on an ordinary October day. Former students. Old classrooms. A friend that moved away. He lingers on a close-up of his face, as it was that day, sunlit and smiling. He shakes his head in disbelief. “Do I look so different?”

Everything does. It’s now been five years since a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit this county — known as Yushu in Chinese and Jyekundo in Tibetan — high on the Qinghai plateau. The county seat was then a small, Tibetan city, a place of dusty markets, monasteries, and low-slung courtyard homes. The tremor toppled almost every structure and trapped thousands in the wreckage. When the valley stopped shaking, the monk and his students emerged from their still-standing school to dig, barehanded, for what remained.

Owing to distance, bad roads and altitude, it took days for rescue workers to make it to the town. But when they did, they arrived in force. Convoys of green army trucks rolled south from the provincial capital, Xining, bearing tents and blankets, cement and soldiers. Before local and foreign press, the central government promised to rebuild the city — and they did, though it is difficult, at times, to recognize the city that they built.

Beijing has poured more than $7 billion into transforming this county. Visitors no longer arrive exhausted from a 17-hour ordeal on the overnight bus. There is an airport and miles of fresh-paved roads. The main street has a brand new school with a spacious, spotless playground. And every family was given enough money to build a new, 80 sq m home.

There are also, at every turn, reminders of this. There are signs thanking the People’s Liberation Army, state-owned enterprises, and Communist Party officials. “Gratitude. Self-strengthening. Innovation. Harmony,” reads one banner. “Develop activities to promote national unity,” reads another. On the road into town, Xi Jinping, Chairman of the Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic, waves at motorists from a massive red billboard: “Unite all Chinese. Realize the China Dream.”

The ruling party’s dream for this region is, and has always been, at odds with what many ethnic Tibetans want. This is the edge of Chinese empire, a contested space where everything has two names and two histories. What Tibetans call colonization, the ruling CCP calls “serf liberation.” Even as monks burn themselves alive to protest Chinese rule, state media trumpet campaigns to improve Tibetan livelihoods through road building and water treatment.

In this sense, the story of Yushu/Jyekundo feels like the story of contemporary Tibet told in fast-forward. The earthquake’s destruction sped the influx of non-Tibetans to the once isolated town. These CCP-backed soldiers, officials and fortune seekers brought money and resources — first shovels and water, and then scaffolding and cranes. But the help was not offered without condition and has resulted in heightened state control.

Take housing. With almost all the city destroyed, the Party vowed to help every family build a new home. Generous. But they did so according to their own logic, and their own plans. Over the last five years, local residents have taken to the streets to protest what they call widespread land confiscation. After losing their homes in the quake, they said, they were evicted to make way for the new, grand city plan.

There are questions, too, about whether this construction boom benefits Tibetans. The locals had little experience in airport building, highway paving or the rapid construction of imposing government offices. The government and state-owned enterprises are experts. In the past, visitors stayed at family-owned inns. Today, there is Gesar Palace, “a boutique five star hotel” run, according to the brochure, by the Hong Kong Evergreen Hotel Group. It has “18 private Chinese dining rooms,” 13 Karaoke machines, and very few guests.

For all the talk of unity, for the shiny new buildings and smooth roads, the gap between China’s avowedly atheist government and ordinary Tibetans seems as wide as ever. You can see it in the monk’s face. The trauma of the earthquake, the influx of outsiders, and the wholesale reimagining of the town where he’s lived for 26 years have aged him, as he knows well. Though he has just entered middle age he is walking more slowly, and talking more cautiously, than he did before.

He asked that I not use his name and I will not post his pictures. This is a sensitive time for his school. The trouble started when he offered free religious education to local students on winter break. Five hundred showed up, spooking local authorities taught to see crowds of Tibetans as a threat. He spent seven days in jail, but plans to keep teaching.

He continues to live as he always has, frugally, in monk’s robes. Asked about the future, of the city and his school, he seems less concerned with matters of politics than questions of faith. The person he loves more than any other, the Dalai Lama, recently conceded that he may be the last to fill the role, a sentiment that many here are still struggling to understand. Looking down at his rebuilt city, the monk ponders somberly, “My only wish is that he’s reborn someplace free.”

—with reporting by Gu Yongqiang

China to enforce Tibetan monastics’ patriotism – another step towards cultural genocide


China to enforce Tibetan monastics’ patriotism

All monasteries must be equipped with “national flags, telephone connections, newspapers and reading rooms”, Chen wrote, adding that roads to tie such facilities more closely to other parts of Tibet would also be built.

Propaganda activities aimed at leading more monks to “educate themselves in patriotism” will also be held, he said.

Chen has made hard-line comments before, including a 2013 vow to ensure that the “voice” of spiritual leader the Dalai Lama would “not be seen or heard” anywhere in the region.

This is just another example of China’s attempt to eliminate the Tibetan cultural.  This is known as “cultural genocide” and another example of crimes against humanity.

China choosing Dalai Lama like Castro naming pope: Tibetan exile leader


Reuters by Abhishek Madhukar

March 10, 2015

DHARAMSALA, India (Reuters) – For China to find a successor to the Dalai Lama would be like former Cuban leader Fidel Castro choosing the pope, the political head of Tibet’s exiles said on Tuesday, in response to comments by a senior Chinese official.

The Chinese-appointed governor of Tibet on Monday accused the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader of blasphemy for suggesting he would not be reincarnated when he died. The governor, Padma Choling, repeated that Beijing had the right to decide.

Tibetan Buddhism holds that the soul of a senior lama is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death. China says the tradition must continue and it must approve the next Dalai Lama.

“It’s none of Padma Choling or any of the Communist party’s business, mainly because Communism believes in atheism and religion being poisonous,” the prime minister of the government-in-exile, Lobsang Sangay, told Reuters.

“It’s like Fidel Castro saying, ‘I will select the next pope and all the Catholics should follow.’ That is ridiculous,” said Sangay, who resides in the Indian mountain town of Dharamsala, like the Dalai Lama.

Sangay’s comments came on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Beijing’s rule that prompted the Dalai Lama to flee to India, where he has lived since.

In New Delhi, Tibetans scuffled with police outside the Chinese embassy during an anniversary protest.

In an earlier speech, Sangay urged China to allow Tibetans to govern their region, but denied Beijing’s accusations that the Dalai Lama and the government in exile were “splittists” seeking Tibetan independence.

The Dalai Lama’s envoys were ready to engage in dialogue with their Chinese counterparts at any time, he added.

In the latest of dozens of deadly immolations to protest Chinese rule, a Tibetan women set herself ablaze and died on March 5 in Tibet’s Ngawa region, the International Campaign for Tibet said.

Exiles worry that China might simply appoint its own successor to the 79-year-old leader.

In 1995, after the Dalai Lama named a boy in Tibet as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism, China put the child under house arrest and installed another in his place.

The Dalai Lama’s private office declined to comment. In the past, the Nobel Peace laureate has said the title could end when he dies.

He has also said he will not be reborn in China if Tibet is not free and no one, including China, had the right to choose his successor “for political ends”.

(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Douglas Busvine; and Clarence Fernandez)