Restored Voice is entering into the last stretch of its field work phase. Today the final damp, chilly gasp of winter is passing through these hills. Rain and cold keep us prisoners around densely smoking scrap fires or in cozy cafes with fogged up windows. I watch the weather move around me in a way I never can in St. Louis. At this altitude, the clouds creep wetly through town and across neighboring hills and mountains, shrouding familiar sights in mysterious glamour. Somehow, a clear view of mountains in the sun humbles me, but when those same mountains turn misty, I feel excitement and restlessness. The sense of impending adventure arises. I’m unsure why this is and it has me wondering about past lives again. Spring should be starting up any day now, and as beautiful as the snow has been on the deodar pines and temples, I am indeed ready for a steady stream of warmth and sunshine.
Losar, the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, came and went relatively quietly this year. Lobsang Sangay, the Sikyong (sort of like a PM), asked his community in exile not to celebrate Losar with the traditional dances and music this year, in light of the ever-increasing number of self-immolations in Tibet. If you ask Tibetans around Dharamsala how they enjoyed their Losar, as I did many times, most of them will say, “Ah, it was okay. This year, not so big. We are sad.” Last year, and this year also, Chinese officials forced Tibetans to celebrate, and taped the farce to show how “happy” Tibetans are in the occupied region.
You may have read my recent post “Hope and Movement,” which looks at a variety of news sources showing forward-thinking and more outspoken international pressure toward the Chinese government to bring human rights back to their table. As an update, I share this article with you: the Tibet Sun reveals that China has said it will continue to refuse access to Tibet from foreign human rights watchers and reporters.
From Tibet Sun: Tibetan delegates pose for group photo in front of Great Hall of People, venue of the 18th National Congress of Communist Party of China in Beijing
Now, clearly, anyone who ‘doth protest so much’ has something to hide. Anyone can see that. The problem for “The People’s” Republic of China is, this isn’t a hidden issue anymore. China is struggling and bumbling in vain to right the curtain that hides their violations and injustices in Tibet which the Tibetan people, via the internet, have torn down. This is not maintainable. They are only fanning the fire they’ve started in an attempt to keep it down, when really, we all know the only solution is a cold, crisp bucket of water (i.e., to actually change their ways).
I can see from the trials and triumphs of history that, with any issue, the sun may look as though it is about to crest the horizon but instead waits there, hovering, for another forty years until the golden light graces the land. This certainly has been the case with Tibet. There were times when freedom looked imminent, when it seemed the struggle was almost won. Taking the chance that hindsight may smile patronizingly at me later, I can’t help but feel confident that Tibet will find relief soon. Maybe not the whole shebang overnight, but at least gradually. There is simply no way that the freedom of information that our internet – connected to seemingly endless venues and even the poorest of poor, now – that this great web, this vast cloud, could ever be truly monitored. The information can and will pass on. And the Chinese policemen may arrest a Tibetan for taking pictures with their iPhone or texting news to their family in India, but what’s done is done. Once it’s shared, it’s out there forever. This jihad against information – not just in Tibet and China, but everywhere – simply cannot sustain itself.
I think it’s time for an update on the situation in Tibet:
Tibetans have been clamoring for the freedom to express themselves – culturally, religiously, and of course freedom of speech and press – and we’ve seen tragedy strike again and again. 62 Tibetans have now self-immolated. 62. As I’ve expressed in my previous posts, I agree with the Central Tibetan Administration and H.H. the Dalai Lama on this – these individuals are desperate, and they are committing the ultimate sacrifice because they feel the world will not listen.
Remember, the Chinese invaded Tibet in 1949. Tibetans have done everything they could, first appealing to the UN, fighting back against the incoming PLA troops, and then peaceful protests, for decades. They simply have never had the resources that the PLA has always had at their disposal (to give you an indication: when China invaded Tibet, the entire plateau only had three radios. Also consider than when the PLA first marched into Lhasa, they arrived with over 20,000 troops – all of whom had horses and empty stomachs – the fragile agricultural balance and carefully maintained surplus that Tibetans had kept going for four centuries was depleted and destroyed in roughly a few months. Mao may have called himself a Communist, but the poor farmers and working class suffered first).
Today, people are suffering from poverty, imprisonment, police brutality, the destruction of their culture, and a general lack of freedom (take, for instance, the 19-yr-old monk arrested yesterday for having a cell phone).
As you may know, we saw 7 self-immolations in 7 days last week – the highest frequency yet. Supporters of the Tibetan people have demanded change in its wake. However, there is finally some good news. The world is listening.