How Do You Celebrate Independence?

TODAY MARKS THE CENTENNIAL OF TIBETAN INDEPENDENCE DAY, A SYMBOLIC DAY that Tibetans and their supporters pledge to mark every year. 2013 marks one hundred years since Tibetans proclaimed restoration of their independence.

Today’s observance comes at a time when conditions seem worse than ever for those living in in occupied-Tibet. Since 1999, nearly 100 Tibetans have set fire to themselves (“self-immolated”) to protest Chinese rule.

This is the most urgent cry for help a human being can make. In the face of a brutal Chinese regime which aims to erase Tibetan culture from the earth, the Free Tibet movement remains nonviolent. Independence Day is a reminder to renew the spirit of Tibetans, and to commit once again to the struggle for freedom.

Today I raise my Tibetan flag.

You should follow me on Twitter here.

China’s Ongoing Mission to Erase Tibetan Identity

CHINA PLANS TO REBUILD THE TIBETAN TOWN OF KYEGU AS A TOURIST CITY, complete with new “temporary” Chinese name, reported last week.

Last April, a 6.9 earthquake devastated Kyegu in Yushu (also called Jyekundo or Kyegudo), an area that is majority Tibetan. Nearly 3,000 died and 100,000 were left homeless. Now, instead of including Tibetans in the reconstruction, Chinese authorities are using the aftermath of this tragedy to further their plans to reshape Tibet, and effectively eliminate any Tibetan identity left in the area.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) also reported how Chinese authorities plan to rename the area Sanjiangyuan [The Three River Sources] as part of an “urbanization drive.”

This is nothing less than cultural genocide, and business as usual for the Chinese. Last week’s Hu-Obama summit featured lots of lip service to human rights and a call for “improving dialogue” between China and Tibet. But this development hardly registers in the media, and hope for any progress to give Tibetans a voice in their own future dims.

In the meantime China continues its unceasing measures to impose its culture on Tibet and the Tibetan people.

Learn more and take action:

Tibet Justice Center
Students for a Free Tibet

Image: Tibet Post International

Tibetan Writers Sentenced for Speaking Out

“[This magazine] has come into your hands out of a determination to vindicate the many who succumbed to the tribulations of 2008.” —Garmi, one of three Tibetan writers sentenced

THREE WRITERS WHO DARED TO PUBLISH articles about the March 2008 protests in Tibet were sentenced to three and four years in prison by Chinese authorities last week.

The three writers, Dhonkho (official name, Rongke, pen name: Nyen), Bhudha (pen name: Buhdha the Destitute), and Kelsang Jinpa (pen name: Garmi), wrote essays about the crackdown in the magazine Shar Dungri (“Eastern Snow Mountain”).

The writers in Eastern Snow Mountain knew their words would be read, not just by the Chinese authorities, but others in the West and in more democratic societies. The authors ask hard questions—who does not know that our monks and laypeople, men and women, lost their precious lives?—that demand to be answered.

“Life is a precious jewel hard to obtain and of inestimable value, so we feel no end of grief when one is lost, whoever they are. But why is the government of a large and populous nation unable to accept valid actions of dissent?”
—Buhdha, one of the three writers sentenced

Articles in Eastern Snow Mountain also take the Chinese propaganda machine head-on, especially in the bullying tone of so-called Chinese news. According to ICT’s report, after the Chinese media machine took its usual stance of extreme rhetoric; the writers fought back:

“Rather than presenting the people of the world with an even marginally honest account in accord with the actual situation, the top CCTV news channels tried to put as much blame as they could on ‘a few wicked troublemakers,’ making various allegations in an extremely bullying tone… The Tibetans, whose lifeblood has been constantly drained and whose life-force is struggling for breath after 50 years under the dictators, have now begun a spontaneous movement by reviving the nearly exhausted desire for democracy, freedom and equality. And when terrifying suffering, unimaginable and impossible to recount, came down once more on the black-headed Tibetans, the value of the lifeblood and life-force of those great people who gave their lives for the sake of happiness and truth became visible.”

The writers showed real courage by not only speaking out but publishing their words. They knew the Chinese would ban the publication, and they knew they faced detention, arrest, and imprisonment. But they went ahead anyway, refusing to remain silent or cower in fear.

“Now that the minds of our people, monastics and laypeople, men and women, are like snowflakes in the wind, in the face of gun-barrels and horsewhips, will we not call on the truthful eyes of the world to look our way for a moment?” —Nyen, one of three Tibetan writers sentenced

Read more selections (in English translation) from Eastern Snow Mountain: “A Great Mountain Burned by Fire: China’s Crackdown In Tibet.”

More about the writers’ arrests and sentencing from Phayul.

More about Tibet.

The Film the Chinese Don’t Want You to See

ON DECEMBER 28, 2009, CHINESE AUTHORITIES SENTENCED filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen to a six-year prison sentence for exercising his right to free expression. His film, Leaving Fear Behind, features Tibetans inside Tibet speaking openly about the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama, and China’s policies in Tibet.

Learn more about Dhondup Wangchen’s trial and the campaign to free him.

Watch his film, Leaving Fear Behind, here:

If It’s Punk Rock, Then It’s the Fight For a Free Tibet

“PUNK ROCK IS ABOUT STANDING UP FOR FREEDOM,” says Street Dogs vocalist Mike McColgan in a new advocacy video for Built on Respect, a “DIY” nonprofit that supports worldwide activism for a free Tibet.

In the video, Built on Respect’s founder, Heidi Minx, speaks about the increased crackdown on the artistic community in Tibet since the uprisings in March 2008. Minx stresses the responsibility artists and musicians have as advocates for those who have no voice. In Tibet, imprisoned artists like filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen and singer Tashi Dhondup have been silenced—Minx and the musicians who’ve joined the cause pledge to speak out for them.

On her blog, Minx quotes Joe Strummer: “In fact, punk rock means EXEMPLARY MANNERS TO YOUR FELLOW HUMAN BEING.” It’s a good philosphy, no matter what kind of music you listen to. “Music has a powerful voice,” says Minx.

Minx is a longtime supporter of Tibet and has spent the last two years working with the Tibetan community in Dharamsala, India. She blogs regularly about Tibet for The Huffington Post. To connect with Built for Respect’s founder, follow Heidi Minx on Twitter. Watch the new video below:

New Photos of Tibetan Political Prisoner’s Arrest Emerge

NEW IMAGES EMERGED this week of Ronggye Adrag, the Tibetan nomad who was imprisoned after advocating publicly for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet, as well as for his nation’s independence.

The International Campaign for Tibet published the following photos on its website, which show the arrest of Ronggye Adrag (also spelled Runggye Adak) shortly after he made his statements:



Learn more from Students for a Free Tibet about their campaign to free Ronggye Adrag.

China’s Latest Propaganda Ploy: The Tibet Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo

THE SO-CALLED ‘HEAVEN IN TIBET’ PAVILION AT THE SHANGHAI EXPO is China’s latest propaganda ploy against Tibetan culture and society. Last week a protest against the Expo by Students For A Free Tibet projected images of jailed Tibetan artists, writers, musicians against the walls of the Chinese Consulate in New York City (video, above).

Tenzin Dorjee, president of the SFT, expressed the group’s opposition to the expo’s “Tibet Week”:

While the Chinese government parades state-sponsored Tibetan culture on the stage in Shanghai, scores of Tibetan artists, writers, musicians, bloggers, and other public figures have been arrested, imprisoned, harassed, or disappeared for speaking out about the aspirations, the hardships, and the deepening pride and unity of Tibetans living under Chinese occupation.

Meanwhile, a performance of Pete Wyer’s ballet The Far Shore, which was to be performed at the Expo, was cancelled last week because he dedicated it to the people of Tibet. The British Council and English National Ballet preemptively did the cancelling, a cowardly move of self-censorship.

The ballet’s cancellation is more evidence of organizations and governments remaining silent for fear of Chinese annoyance, or worse, working with China against the Tibetan cause. Tibetan refugees in the region are increasingly in danger as Nepal continues to detain and hand Tibetans over to China.

This follows the fatal incident in which Chinese fired on Tibetan protesters, claiming one person was accidentally shot, while independent media reports placed the number at four killed, and as many as 30 hurt in the peaceful protest against mining activities.

As witnesses to China’s abysmal human rights record, it’s up to us to speak out, defend, and protect the rights of the Tibetan people. The Expo’s Tibetan pavilion is a cruel reminder of the cultural erosion Tibetans endure every day. How then, do we respond to the question, “Heavenly Tibet—or Hell on Earth“?

Landslides in Tibet: A Man-Made Disaster Created by China


©AP Photo/The Australian

The landslides in Tibet this week filled the news with headlines like “China Landslide Toll Passes 1,000” and “More Rain Forecast for Flood-Stricken China.” What’s truly unfortunate about his story—in addition to the toll of human life and suffering—is that this calamity is a man-made disaster created by China.

Although the headlines focus on China, in fact this is the second calamity to also befall the people of Tibet. In April a 7.1 earthquake struck the Tibetan area of Yushu, Kham, and killed 2,698, according to official estimates. Unlike that natural disaster, this latest tragedy affecting the town of Drugchu (in the south-east of Kanlho in Gansu) could have been avoided.

As reported by Global Voices, the Tibetan poet Woeser coordinated a grassroots investigation into the event, revealing that hydro-electric power plants, mining, and deforestation all contributed to the disaster. Government research showed decades ago that the area was vulnerable to landslides, but officials ignored the warnings.

The devastated area is expected to receive yet more rainfall and officials are warning of further mudslides.

Steven D. Marshall and Susette Ternent Cooke, two investigators who put together “TIBET: Outside the TAR,” for Tibet Environmental Watch, an independent site that reports on Tibetan environmental concerns, also made a prescient analysis of the danger to human settlements:

Drugchu’s forests are not visible in the county town region, despite hints of a formerly heavier forest cover even in that district in the occasional patches of trees still standing isolated on high mountain ridges. The presence of an extensive Forestry Office compound in the town confirms the importance of the lumber industry here. This may be the biggest official unit compound in the town, consisting of several large modem buildings, transport space and residential accommodation, and recently awarded an imposing new gate. Clearly the county intends to invest what finances it has into this industry, one of its only potential sources of revenue.

China’s “economic miracle” is coming at a very high price. It is fairly guaranteed that any so-called “act of God” in the region will have an element of human culpability contributing to loss of life and property.

The collapse of schools in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008 did not spur the government to investigate or improve construction standards—instead they jailed the investigator who tried to gather information behind the childrens’ deaths. As this latest tragedy continues to unfold and affect thousands, can we hope China’s reaction to be any different?

The Case of Runggye Adak and Repression in Tibet

Runggye Adak speaking out for Tibetan freedom at Lithang Festival

RUNGGYE ADAK is a Tibetan nomad who is serving an eight-year prison sentence for expressing loyalty to the Dalai Lama in front of thousands attending a public ceremony. This week video of those remarks were made public by the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). The footage was made available to ICT by a foreigner who had attended the event.

Three years ago on August 1st, Adak, a nomad from Lithang, took the microphone during the traditional Lithang Horse Festival in eastern Tibet. He spoke for several minutes before being taken from the stage and arrested. Shortly thereafter, police and soldiers used shock grenades and tear gas to disperse a peaceful demonstration calling for his release. Runggye Adak’s nephew was also taken into custody.

At his sentencing, Adak told the court, “I wanted His Holiness to return, and I wanted to raise Tibetan concerns and grievances, as there is no outlet for us to do so. That made me sad and made me act.”

Watch footage of the video at the website of the International Tibet Support Network (ITSN).

Read more about China’s human rights record.

Top Tweets for Activists (Week Ending July 30)

Welcome to Top Tweets for Activists: the best tweets, blogs and new stories for the week ending July 30.
Something we missed? Please leave a link in the Comments. Thank you.

Poverty/Development: Hunger

Niger: How to feed a family with grains from the ground
Oxfam International @Oxfam

Sahel: Malnutrition: Hundreds of Thousands of Children Under Threat in Sahel
Doctors Without Borders: @MSF_USA

Girls and Poverty: Girls Speak: New report provides insights on poverty-& how to overcome it-from the POV of those who best understand it

Poverty/Development: Water Issues

Water as human right:
In Historic Vote, U.N. Declares Water a Fundamental Human Right

Access to Clean Water is Most Violated Human Right
by Maude Barlow via @globalpolicy

Egypt: Growing protests over water shortages
IRIN News @irinnews

India: Locals block road to protest water crisis
Times of India @timesofindia

News and Current Events

Cuba/Cambodia: Is it a Coincidence or Synchronicity? Cuba and Cambodia now share July 26 as a historic date

Tibet/China: China presses Nepal to check Tibet activists

Art Activism

Music/Middle East: Middle East: Arab rappers nourish cultures of resistance through Hip-hop

Art/Brazil: Points of culture: what Brazil can teach Britain about art (Guardian)