Casa del Tibet
10 March 1959: the massacre
Commemoration of the anniversary of the Tibetan people's uprising
On March 10, 1959, a huge peaceful demonstration emerged spontaneously in the streets of Lhasa demanding independence for Tibet and the end of the Chinese repression. Brutally crushed by the Chinese, it is estimated that 87.000 Tibetans died.
The Dalai Lama and his relatives had to dress up to escape the Chinese troops. On March 28 of that year, the Chinese Zhou Enlai announced that Tibet was under Chinese control. Shortly after, the Chinese announced the Panchen Lama as head of state. The Dalai Lama crossed the frontier in the company of nearly 100.000 tibetans. They settled in Dharamsala, in northern India, where they established the new government in exile as well as the seat of the Dalai Lama's personal monastery, Namgyal.
The Indian government offered lands in the state of Karnataka (south of the country) where actually 10.000 exiles live and new seats of the monasteries of Drepung, Sera and Ganden were built. On the 21st of October, the United Nations Assembly approved a resolution condemning the violation of human rights in Tibet. On March 9, 1961, a similar resolution was approved.
In 1962 a section of the Chinese Communist Party demanded that the Panchen Lama qualify the Dalai Lama as a "reactionary and treacherous". However, the Panchen Lama sent a document to the Chinese authorities describing the systematic destruction that Tibet was suffering. He would be imprisoned shortly after, not to be released until 1977.
1965 Tibet was formally converted into a region of the Popular Republic of China and Beijing declared that the region would have to undergo a firm socialist transformation. During the Cultural Revolution, the maoist red guards intensified the antirreligious prosecution and destroyed thousands of Buddhist monasteries and monuments.
In the late 70s, the Cultural Revolution finished, China gradually softened its policies towards Tibet. Between 1979 and 1984, the Dalai Lama sent two delegations to Beijing trying to come to an agreement. The conversations did not come to any conclusion because the Chinese were interested solely in the return of the Dalai Lama but not in discussing the matter of human rights, repression, legal situation, etc.
In 1980 the Chinese admitted that Tibet had been unskillfully ruled and announced reforms in the region: they tolerated religious activities and rebuilt some of the monasteries that had been destroyed by the red guard in an attempt to improve their relationship with the Tibetan people.
In October of 1987 and May 1993 there were violent demonstrations and protests against the Chinese government; the authorities responded severely, with violent repression of dissidence, strong supervision of religious activity and immigration of Chinese settlers of the Han ethnicity to outnumber the native population.
On 24 January 1989 the Panchen Lama condemned the Chinese invasion and declared that it brought "more destruction than benefit". He died four days later, presumably of a "heart attack". On March of that year China imposed martial law and, few months later, the killing of Chinese students in Beijing took place. That same year, the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Price and from that moment on the Chinese government severly criticised and insulted both the Dalai Lama and the institution that awared him the Price. In August 1993 conversations were held between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama's representatives, yet they did not achieve any substantial change in the Chinese's policies.
Tibetan National Flag
The Tibetan National Flag, one of the symbols forbidden by the Chinese authorities, is intimately connected to the lineages of Tibet and is thousands of years old. This version of the Tibetan flag was introduced in 1912 by H.H. the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso (1875-1933), being the official flag of Tibet before the Chinese invasion of 1950.
- In the centre stands a magnificient snow-clad mountain, which represents the great nation of Tibet, widely known as the Land Surrounded by Snow Mountains.
- The Six red bands spread across the dark blue sky represent the original ancestors of the Tibetan people: the six tribes called Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru, and Ra which in turn gave rise to the (twelve) descendants. The combination of six red bands (for the tribes) and six dark blue bands (for the sky) represents the unceasing enactment of the virtuous deeds of protection of the spiritual teachings and secular life by the black and red guardian protector deities with which Tibet has been connected since times immemorial.
- At the top of the snowy mountain, the sun with its rays shinning brilliantly in all directions represents the equal enjoyment of freedom, spiritual and material happiness and prosperity by all beings in the land of Tibet.
- On the slopes of the mountain a pair of snow lions stand proudly, blazing with the manes of fearlessness, which represent the country’s victorious accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular life.
- The beautiful and radiant three-coloured jewel held aloft represents the ever-present reverence respectfully held by the Tibetan people towards the three supreme gems, the objects of refuge: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
- The two coloured swirling jewel held between the two lions represents the people’s guarding and cherishing of the self discipline of correct ethical behavior, principally represented by the practices of the ten exalted virtues and the 16 humane modes of conduct.
- The yellow border symbolises the flourishing of the Buddha's teachings, which are like pure, refined gold.
Tibetan National Anthem (Gyallu)
Gyallu is the national anthem of Tibet. The anthem is centered around the splendor of the Buddha. Its lyrics were written by the Venerable Triyang Rinpoche circa 1950, but it is not clear when was this modern anthem used for the first time, whether while the country was still under the Dalai Lama or in the beginning of the government in exile, after the Chinese invasion.
The first news of an anthem (presumably this one) is from the period 1949-1950 (when the country was facing the thread of the invasion) and was presented as part of the reforms intended to strengthen the patriotic feeling of the tibetan people. Another report says the anthem was presented to the Dalai Lama in 1960, already in exile. Besides the date in which the anthem was adopted, they say that the melody is based on an ancient sacred music of Tibet, the words being written by His Holiness' tutor, Triyang Rinpoche.
This anthem has been used by tibetans in exile since its adoption, but it is strictly prohibited inside the Tibetan Autonomous Region under death penalty.
The Tibetan Anthem
Si Zhi Phen De Dö Gu Jungwae Ter
Thubten Samphel Norbue Onang Bar.
Tendroe Nordzin Gyache Kyongwae Gön,
Trinley Kyi Rol Tsö Gye,
Dorje Khamsu Ten Pey,
Chogkün Jham Tse Kyong,
Namkö Gawa Gyaden,
ü-Phang Gung la Regh
Phutsong Dezhii Nga-Thang Gye
Bhod Jong Chul Kha,
Sum Gyi Khyön La
Dekyi Dzogden Sarpe Khyap.
Chösi Kyi Pel Yon Dhar
Thubten Chog Chur Gyepe
Dzamling Yangpae Kyegu
Zhidae Pel La Jör.
Bhöd Jong Tendrö Getzen Nyi-ö-Kyi
Trashi O-Nang Bumdutrowae Zi,
Nag Chog Munpae Yul Ley,
Gyal Gyur Chig.
Let the radiant light shine of Buddha’s wish-fulfilling gem teachings, the treasure chest of all hopes for happiness and benefit in both secular life and liberation. O Protectors who hold the jewel of the teachings and all beings, nourishing them greatly, may the sum of your karmas grow full. Firmly enduring in a diamond-hard state, guard all directions with Compassion and love. Above our heads may divinely appointed rule abide endowed with a hundred benefits and let the power increase of fourfold auspiciousness, May a new golden age of happiness and bliss spread throughout the three provinces of Tibet and the glory expand of religious-secular rule. By the spread of Buddha’s teachings in the ten directions, may everyone throughout the world enjoy the glories of happiness and peace. In the battle against negative forces may the auspicious sunshine of the teachings and beings of Tibet and the brilliance of a myriad radiant prosperities be ever triumphant.
Gendun Choekyi Nyima
11th Panchen Lama of Tibet
Gendun Choekyi Nyima was only 6 years old when he was kidnapped together with his family by the Chinese government, few days after having been recognized as the 11th Panchen Lama by H.H. the Dalai Lama. This was in 1995 and it turned Gendun Choekyi Nyima into the world's youngest political prisoner. Eleven years later, still nobody knows where or how is he.
The title "Panchen Lama" is given to the spiritual leader who comes second, after the Dalai Lama, in the hierarchy of Tibetan Buddhism. "Panchen" is a word which comes from the sanskrit term "pandita" (sage) and the tibetan "chenpo" (big, great). For the Tibetans, the Panchen Lamas are the emanation of Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. They have no political responsibility, yet they are in charge of leading the search of new Dalai Lamas.
On 14 May 1995, after six years of research and enquiries, H.H. the Dalai Lama announced that he had found the new Panchen Lama: Gendun Choekyi Nyima, born in 25 April 1989 in the town of Lhari (Tibet). The new Panchen Lama, born into a humble family, successfully passed all the tests required for his verification as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama.
On 17 May, three days after being announced as Panchen Lama, Gendun and his family disappeared. For a whole year, the Chinese government said nothing about his location and his parents'. On 28 May 1996, the Chinese official news agency Xinhua reported that Gendun was "under protection of the government at the request of his parents, due to the risk of being kidnapped by the separatists". In fact, on 17 May 1995 a special group of the Chinese Army, in a surprise operation involving several helicopters landing in Gendun's village, kidnapped the young lama and took him to an unknown location inside the Chinese territory.
On 29 November 1996 the Chinese government cancelled the designation of the Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama and, at the same time, declared their appointment of Gyaltsen Norbu to the position of Panchen lama. Gyaltsen Norbu was a kid of the same age than Gendun that, conveniently, was the son of a member of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Middle-Way Approach is proposed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet and to bring about stability and co-existence between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples based on equality and mutual co-operation. It is also a policy adopted democratically by the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan people through a series of discussions held over a long time. This brief introduction to the Middle-Way policy and its history is intended for the Tibetan people inside and outside Tibet - and all those interested - to have a better understanding of the issues involved.
Meaning of the Middle-Way Approach
The Tibetan people do not accept the present status of Tibet under the People's Republic of China. At the same time, they do not seek independence for Tibet, which is a historical fact. Treading a middle path in between these two lies the policy and means to achieve a genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet within the framework of the People's Republic of China. This is called the Middle-Way Approach, a non-partisan and moderate position that safeguards the vital interests of all concerned parties-for Tibetans: the protection and preservation of their culture, religion and national identity; for the Chinese: the security and territorial integrity of the motherland; and for neighbours and other third parties: peaceful borders and international relations.
History of the Middle-Way Approach
Although the 17-Point Agreement between the Tibetan government and the People's Republic of China was not reached on an equal footing or through mutual consent, His Holiness the Dalai Lama-for the sake of the mutual benefit of the Tibetan and Chinese peoples-made all possible efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement with the Chinese government for eight years since 1951. Even after His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Kashag arrived in the Lokha region from Lhasa in 1959, he continued his efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement with the Chinese military officials. His attempts to abide by the terms of the 17-Point Agreement are analogous to the Middle-Way Approach. Unfortunately, the Chinese army unleashed a harsh military crackdown in Lhasa, Tibet's capital, and this convinced His Holiness the Dalai Lama that his hope for co-existence with the Chinese government was no longer possible. Under the circumstances, he had no other option but to seek refuge in India and work in exile for the freedom and happiness of all the Tibetan people.
Soon after his arrival in Tezpur, India, His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a statement on 18 April 1959, explaining that the 17-Point Agreement was signed under duress and that the Chinese government had deliberately violated the terms of the Agreement. Thus from that day onwards, he declared that the agreement would be considered null and void, and he would strive for the restoration of Tibet's independence. Since then until 1979, the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan people adopted a policy of seeking independence for Tibet. However, the world in general has become increasingly interdependent politically, militarily and economically. Consequently, great changes have been taking place in the independent status of countries and nationalities. In China also, changes will certainly take place and a time will come for both sides to engage in actual negotiations. Therefore, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has believed for a long time that in order to resolve the Tibetan issue through negotiations, it is more beneficial to change the policy of restoring Tibetan independence to an approach that offers mutual benefits to China as well as to Tibet.
According to the traditional Tibetan belief, Chu-mig Gu-dril (Nine Braided Water-Eyes) has the power to protect you from misfortune. Using the nine 'eyes' as a lucky charm, a jewel or sewing it on a cloth, they are a weapon against demonic forces.
The design consists of black and white threads (light and darkness) braided in a way that forms "eyes". The two colors symbolise the two protector deities of Tibet. Tibetans do also believe that wearing a bracelet with the nine "eyes" on one's wrist, where the essential pulse is felt, likewise protects against nervous disorders.
Tibetan man sew the nine "eyes" onto their slingshots, believing this increases its power and effectiveness. Slingshot is actually one of the weapons of Dra-lha, God of War.
In 1988, lead by the late Yulo Dawa Tsering (Ven. Yulo Rinpoche), the Tibetan political prisoners began to use bracelets with the nine eyes to protect themselves from the Chinese, regarded by Tibetans not only as their oppressors but also as the Dharma's enemies. it was a silent protest against the Chinese brutalities in Tibet and a sign of solidarity between them. Unaware of the symbol, the jailers too started to use these bracelets, perhaps seeing it as an eccentric but inoffensive native custom. Yet in realizing its meaning, the prison authorities prohibited immediately. Any prisoner found using the bracelet was punished, many were tortured and even their sentence was lengthened.
Popularly known as "Rangzen Bracelet" (Freedom Bracelet), this symbol of resistance against oppression and the perpetual struggle for freedom is used all over the world by Tibetans and those who support them. Using the Rangzen Bracelet is a way of demonstrating that you know and care about the Tibetan people's struggle for freedom.
Traditionally, the bracelet is given free.
Another genocide in Tibet?*
*(Article by CARLOS PASTOR published on 26-04-2010 in El Punt Barcelona - El Punt Camp de Tarragona i Terres de l'Ebre - EL Punt Comarques Gironines).
After sixty years of power over Tibet, the Beijing government is still relentless. The Tibetan uprisings of 1959, 1987 and 2008 are kept in people's memories as paradigmatic models of patriotism against the invader yoke. One by one, China has refused each and every pro-autonomy proposal. The February summit between the Dalai Lama and the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, was a ray of light amongst the darkness. But will this meeting really make a difference for the very punished Tibet?
The Norht-American claim in defense of the Tibetan issue takes place in an atmosphere of chronic paralisis of the sinotibetan relationships and it throws an endless number of questions upon the outcome for Tibet, as whether China will continue using repression after the fatal riot of 2008 or whether the crimes of the Chinese government in this country can be considered genocide.
Attempts of dialogue
Two years after the riot that took place in March 2008, China firmly persists on its invading obsession. All the attempts of dialgue have failed. While the aforementioned meeting brought hope, the daily reality confirms a stratospheric tension.
Whatever will happen can be interpreted only from a retrospective look: what has been the Chinese policy over its colony for the fifty years of control?
After alleging the liberation of millions of slaves as an excuse for conquering Tibet, the Beijing government began a process of hidden propaganda behind this fake message, according to which people called for freedom from the Buddhist regime. Although China required a negotiation as an epilogue for the conflict, in an inescapable reef, Tibet was rather compelled to agree to a limited autonomy for certain areas, while others were submitted to Chinese provinces, formerly Tibetan and now dispossessed of autonomy.
The fictitious autonomic policy was soon regarded as a clear process of sinicising aiming at neutralising the counter-offensive and conquering territorial and popular adherence. The effect were disturbances, riots and demonstrations all over.
To top it off, on 10th March 1959 a peaceful pro-independence demonstration gathering 30.000 tibetans ended up as a riot, writing the prologue of the Tibetan uprising, later stifled by China and resulting in more than 10.000 Tibetans murdered in only three days.
The riot crushed, the Tibetan plateau remained soaked into the slogan of cultural purification, consecrated to the level of extremism.
From that moment on, the Tibetans have been gathering on the streets each year to commemorate the facts. The last violent episode took place in March 2008, when monks and civil citizens concentrated in memory of the uprising of 1959. As it happened back then, the army suppressed the crowd and imposed martial law until the Himalayas of violence. The sum of innocent civil victims was complemented with lists of suspects, investigation of flats, arrests, confinements and tortures of civils, a decree commanding to show the Chinese flag in all buildings and police identification of civils.
Tapped phone lines
Monks can only leave the monastery with a permission from police and their phone lines are tapped. This landscape of martial law, following the uprising, was silenced by the media. Two years later, violence is still present in Tibet.
In conclusion, there is only one possible diagnosis for the endemic conflict of Tibet: repression. Since the 1950 invasion until 1980 more than one million Tibetans have died, out of which 175.000 have perished in prison, up to 156.000 in summary executions, 413.000 died of starvation, 92.000 due to tortures and 10.000 committed suicide in prison. Deprived of the right of self-determination and their identity denied, all public manifestations of protest by the Tibetans are seen as an illegal separatist riot which entails arrest and prison. In the same way, any form of celebration or expression of affirmation of the Tibetan identity is prohibited. To break these rules may result in losing one's job or being expelled from one's monastery. Tibetans who talk to strangers, sing Tibetan songs or call out for the return of the Dalai Lama end up imprisoned, and those caught with an image of His Holiness are fined with 1000 yuans.
Before the International community, China sells an image of an obliging Tibet contrary to the return of the Dalai Lama, twisting the reality of the nation. Behind it is the Chinese censorship and the United Front organism. Allies of the regime destroy any critique of the government by means of digital and cinematographic Chinese propaganda, even censoring websites contrary to the government. One should add 80.000 cybernauts, nationalist squads, regime-bribed mercenaries that insert viruses into websites contrary to China. Denial of the freedoms of ideology, information and expression are completed with movement prohibition. All Tibetans' passport is banned and they are not allowed to leave China. Likewise, more than 150.000 Tibetan refugees that eluded Chinese prosecution cannot go back to their country.
With a petition of entry and exit a visa is issued which entails police investigation, interrogation about behaviour and ideology. The procedure is slipped on a democratic suit but it hides a rosary of obstacles that impede the free movement of the Tibetans. All this drives 3.000 into exodus each month, bound to destinations like India, Nepal and Bhutan. In the area of property, until 2007 more than 60.000 nomads have been evacuated from their lands in exchange for 500 yuans a month for 10 years, a ridicule subsidy for the value of their property. Attempts of demanding a better reward are discarded for fear of reprisal.
Thousands of executions
Thousands of executions, silenced detentions, tortures, arbitrary arrests of monks, peasants and aged people take place in Tibet, as well as the disappearence of children and political prisoners, many of whom are tortured. The Tibetans give up fighting for their rights, which again promotes the abuse of power to spread terror. In a parallel way, the cultural revolution gave way to a cultural, religious and human cleansing which resulted in more than 6.000 temples being destroyed and monks being murdered or imprisoned. In short, more than forty years of religious repression.
Since the beginning, the revolution allotted the Chinese celebrations an open supremacy. This policy of cultural eradication has also affected the music festivals, the religious debates and the traditional style of dressing. The environment is yet another victim of Chinese despotism. Historical memory, landscape, public areas and veneration sites have been altered due to the opening of nearly 2.500 mines and the Tibetan soil has become a candy worth 600.000 million yuan. Ignoring the thread for the environment, China protects itself under the excuse of evolution and progress.
While masking the deliberate sophistry of erasing the archeological, environmental, historical and urban Tibetan heritage, the historical memory of Tibet is faked for the tourists and the environmental and urban heritage is destroyed with one practical goal: to suppress Tibet's culture and identity in order to reach the K2 of power.
Conclusion: considering the past and present of the Tibetan landscape we can infer a possible veredict to the question posed at the prelude of this chronicle, "Can the crimes of China be thought of as genocide?". The London Letter of 1945 defined genocide as "a crime against humanity, murder, extermination, slavery, deportation as well as destruction of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, including the death or damage of physical or moral integrity". Well, in 1960 the UN's International Committee of Lawyers baptised the Chinese praxis as a "religious genocide".
The following data supports the sentence of 1960: between 1959 and 1960 up to 87.000 Tibetans were murdered in central Tibet. The invasion caused the death of 5.700 Tibetan soldiers and the 2.000 survivors were sent to concentration and labor camps. While the population of Lhasa had reached 300.000, today two thirds of its inhabitants are Chinese. In 2003 it was estimated that 6.000.000 Tibetans were at that time living in the territory of historical Tibet and non-Tibetans were 7.500.000: in 2002 the Chinese administration in Tibet was formed by 66% of Chinese and 16% of Tibetans. On the other hand, no Tibetan can access the high officials of the Communist Party in Tibet. We can therefore affirm that the government of Beijing has perpetrated religious prosecution, destroying sanctuaries and manipulating the image of Buddhism; political prosecution, bombarding national identity and the right to self-determination; and ethnic prosecution, erasing Tibetan culture.
This thesis confirmed, we can equate Chinese policies with genocide. The repression that began under the ocupation arrived disguised with the vanguard insignia. The discourse of progress has served to legitimate the invasion. Concealing plan of a gradual colonization and a genocide camouflaged for the growth of Chinese imperialism. These have been the acts until now.
Have there been transformations? Yes, economic and at the exclusive service of China. On the other hand, no transformation in the field of politics has taken place. Meanwhile, the international community, victim of fear and moral amnesia due to the power of the appetising Chinese market, remains quiet and accepts the authoritarianism of Beijing. The perspectives for the future, far from intransigence or submissiveness to the governement of Beijing, wander through peaceful ways, either economic boycott or the spiritual and pragmatic balance. Yet, as long as China attacks the rights and freedoms, erodes the Tibetan identity, insults the Dalai Lama, promotes campaigns of patriotic re-education and bans the right of self-determination, it will be performing genocide. As long as China does not act according to the principles of the UN, any change in landscape will be impossible. Little can the summits achieve. The future is exclusively in the hands of China. Can the attitude towards Tibet change? Only political climate has the answer. The rest are mere hypothesis, a guess for politics lovers.