This is the Tibetan New Year statement from the head of the Kagyu lineage, the Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje. The recent protests and self-immolations in Tibet against brutal Chinese repression have caused him to speak these words full of hope for future peace and freedom: ” Acknowledging the real human distress of Tibetans in Tibet and taking full responsibility for what is happening there would lay a wise basis for building mutual trust between Tibetans and the Chinese government. Rather than treating this as an issue of political opposition, it would be far more effective for Chinese authorities to treat this as a matter of basic human welfare.”
Statement from the Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje,
(6 February, 2012, Bodh Gaya) – Reports have just emerged that three more Tibetans set themselves ablaze within a single day in eastern Tibet. This comes shortly after four Tibetans immolated themselves and others died in demonstrations in Tibet during the month of January. As tensions escalate, instead of showing concern and trying to understand the causes of the situation, the Chinese authorities respond with increasing force and oppression. Each new report of a Tibetan death brings me immense pain and sadness; three in a single day is more than the heart can bear. I pray that these sacrifices have not been in vain, but will yield a change in policy that will bring our Tibetan brothers and sisters relief.
Having been given the name Karmapa, I belong to a 900 year old reincarnation lineage that has historically avoided any political engagement, a tradition I have no intention of changing. And yet as a Tibetan, I have great sympathy and affection for the Tibetan people and I have great misgivings about remaining silent while they are in pain. Their welfare is my greatest concern.
Tibetan demonstrations and self-immolations are a symptom of deep but unacknowledged dissatisfaction. If Tibetans were given a genuine opportunity to lead their lives as they wished, preserving their language, religion and culture, they would neither be demonstrating nor sacrificing their lives.
Since 1959, we Tibetans have faced unimaginable loss, yet we have found benefit in adversity. Many of us rediscovered our true identity as Tibetans. We rediscovered a sense of national unity among the people of the three provinces of Tibet. And we came to value a unifying leader, in the person of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. These factors have given us all great grounds for hope.
China speaks of having brought development to Tibet, and when I lived there it was materially comfortable. Yet prosperity and development have not benefited Tibetans in the ways that they consider most valuable. Material comfort counts for little without inner contentment. Tibetans live with the constant suspicion that they will be forced to act against their conscience and denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Chinese authorities persistently portray His Holiness as the enemy. They have rebuffed his repeated efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the Tibetan-Chinese problem. They dismiss the heartfelt faith and loyalty with which the Tibetan people universally regard His Holiness. Even Tibetans born in Tibet decades after His Holiness the Dalai Lama had gone into exile still regard him as their guide and refuge not only for this life, but for life after life. Therefore, constantly depicting His Holiness the Dalai Lama in hostile terms is an affront that benefits no one. In fact, striking at the heart of Tibetan faith damages the prospect of winning Tibetans’ trust. This is neither effective nor wise.
I call on the authorities in Beijing to see past the veneer of wellbeing that local officials present. Acknowledging the real human distress of Tibetans in Tibet and taking full responsibility for what is happening there would lay a wise basis for building mutual trust between Tibetans and the Chinese government. Rather than treating this as an issue of political opposition, it would be far more effective for Chinese authorities to treat this as a matter of basic human welfare.
In these difficult times, I urge Tibetans in Tibet: Stay true to yourselves, keep your equanimity in the face of hardship and remain focused on the long term. Always bear in mind that your lives have great value, as human beings and as Tibetans.
With the prospect of the Tibetan New Year in sight, I offer my prayers that Tibetans, our Chinese brothers and sisters, and our friends and supporters across India and around the world may find lasting happiness and true peace. May the New Year usher in an era of harmony, characterized by love and respect for each other and for the earth that is our common home.
Ogyen Trinley Dorje,
17th Gyalwang Karmapa
Below are some recent reports documented in the news and by human rights organisations on the self-immolations and protests that have emerged from Tibet over the past few weeks and which highlight the words of the Karmapa and his call for the acknowledgement of the real human distress of Tibetans within Tibet.
SELF-IMMOLATIONS IN TIBET
The crackdown by the Chiniese authorities on monasteries has caused another tragedy and the sacrifice of a life for the desperate call for freedom from repression in Tibet:
Tibetan monastic official self-immolates
Tamchoe Sangpo, a monk in his late 30s, set fire to himself and died today (17th February 2012) in the grounds of Bongthak Monastery, Themchen County, Eastern Tibet. Tamchoe was a teacher at the monastic school and a member of the Democratic Management Committee of the monastery, the government-controlled body which the authorities rely on to control the monasteries.
Security personnel inside the monastery Chinese security personnel came to the monastery on 23 January and watched over the monks’ daily activities after a patriotic re-education campaign there had met with protests.
Tamchoe had told the police that they must leave the monastery because it is a place for monks. They ignored his requests. A checkpoint which was stationed outside the monastery is now being used to prevent anyone from entering or leaving. Phone lines have also been cut. Concerns are mounting about the situation in Tibet. Free Tibet Campaign in the UK has reported on the routine detention and torture of ordinary Tibetan citizens and of monks and nuns, and continues to campaign for the release of political prisoners. On 13th February 2012 they reported:
Another Tibetan teenager self-immolates in Ngaba while hundreds protest in Jyekundo
A young monk, Lobsang Gyatso, set fire to himself today (13th February 20120) in Ngaba Town, Eastern Tibet. Lobsang is the second teenager to set themselves on fire in Ngaba in the last three days. His whereabouts and wellbeing are unknown.
Protests in Jyekundo Hundreds of kilometres away, Tibetans in Jyekundo Town are taking to the streets to protest against the occupying Chinese despite the threatening presence of Chinese state security personnel all around. There are unconfirmed reports that some were taken away by Chinese security forces.
Lhasa People returning to Lhasa from India are being detained in informal places of detention such as hotels. They are being denied any contact with the outside world and have been told that they will be held until April.