Tibet: the relentless denial of human rights

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

Sunday, November 17, I meet a delegation from the Tibetan Parliament in exile in a small hotel close to the Sorbonne. The Venerables Gowo Lobsang Phende and Kunga Sotop, of Tsering Lhamo and Lobsang Dakpa stopped over in Paris (before Belgium and the Netherlands) to sensitize international opinion to the Tibetan cause. Seventy years after the beginning of the Chinese occupation, the fate of Tibetans continues to deteriorate in the face of Beijing's repressive policy. First part of the interview devoted to these men and women colonized by the Chinese giant.

Qhat do you concretely expect from European politicians and citizens?

Lobsang Dakpa: The aim of this campaign is to inform public opinion about the dangers that are constantly growing in Tibet. We meet associations that support us in this fight and French and European parliamentarians in Paris and Brussels.

In Europe, many personalities, including the philosopher Élisabeth Badinter, have recently condemned “a cultural, linguistic and religious genocide”. What do you think of this term?

Lobsang Dakpa : Genocide can take indirect, roundabout forms, targeting the cultural, linguistic and religious domains, as is currently the case in Tibet. So, if we refer to the definition of the term genocide, which consists of the methodical destruction of a population, then, yes, this term is correct.

What are the main repressive measures currently facing Tibetans?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: They are numerous and affect various areas, as we said just before, but one of the most insidious forms of violence that strike Tibetans the most is the lack of freedom of religion. This repression towards their faith and their belief is akin to a form of dehumanization, since an important part of their identity, of their essence, of their roots is confiscated from them.

Tsering Lhamo: Yes, we are no longer free to practice as we wish. Previously, for example, Tibetans could be monks at any age; today, the Chinese government has imposed a minimum age of 18 to become one. In the same vein, the destruction of training schools for monks and monasteries is increasing; it has become extremely complicated, even dangerous, to follow the Buddhist path.

What about the forced sterilization of women today?

Mrs. Tsering Lhamo: In the 80s and early 90s, Chinese authorities took women to hospitals to forcibly sterilize them; this abominable practice was widespread. Since China revised its one-child policy by allowing couples to have two children, sterilizations are less common, but still exist. Beijing's strategy has changed, today the Chinese government financially encourages parents to have only one child.

“Like the 153 monks who have set themselves on fire since 2009 to peacefully denounce Chinese repression, the Tibetan people must continue on the path of non-violence. » Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende

It has been about nine years since there have been any official or unofficial meetings between the Chinese and Tibetan authorities in exile. Where is the dialogue with the Chinese government? Does Beijing practice the strategy of rotting?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: The position of the Central Tibetan Administration (ACT) is very simple: we are ready to dialogue with China, whatever the conditions of a possible meeting. We have been repeating this for years. The ball is therefore the court of the Chinese government. In the meantime, the Chinese authorities are indeed practicing a kind of rotting strategy by using their economic leadership to prevent their interlocutors from taking an interest in the Tibetan question and trying to marginalize us. We have the impression that the international community, anxious to maintain good economic relations with China, seems to have forgotten us somewhat. But things are slowly changing. If we look at this situation, country by country, we see that some of China's economic partners are starting to backtrack, because they realize that other than economic issues are motivating these investments.

The Middle Way, this strategy developed by the Dalai Lama in 1987, which advocates non-violence and demands autonomy rather than independence, seems to have failed. Today, some voices, especially among young people, are campaigning for the Tibetan parliament in exile to be more radical, even if it means distancing itself from the policy of non-violence. How do you answer them?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende: Non-violence is not just a negotiation strategy, it is a way of life, one of the great precepts of Buddhism. The Dalai Lama has always advocated non-violence towards the Chinese people and was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1989, in part for this message. Our position has not changed on this subject, even if we observe, in fact, that some young people, faced with the abuses they suffer on a daily basis, want to take other paths. This conflict will not be resolved through hatred. Like the 153 monks who have set themselves on fire since 2009 to peacefully denounce Chinese repression, the Tibetan people must continue on the path of non-violence.

Are there any grounds for hope for Tibet?

Venerable Gowo Lobsang Phende : Yes, we remain hopeful, because we feel supported by certain political leaders, but especially by the people, everywhere in the world. We observe movements at work, such as the revival of artistic expression, the desire to relaunch the use of the Tibetan language, the mobilization of the Tibetan community in exile, its resilience… We are convinced that one day, Tibet will become free again.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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