A week ago I returned to work six months after becoming a mother to my baby girl Lhakyi. I have spent the last week catching up on all that has happened while I was away. What a year it has been so far. From a wonderful visit from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to another powerful Tibet Advocacy Day in Canberra and so much more. And I thank Michelle Sheather who covered my role during the maternity leave with great dedication.
I have returned to a community reeling from the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a revered Tibetan lama and community leader who, despite tireless efforts by Tibetans and supporters over many years to secure his release, was left to die in prison. But also to a community buoyed by the release of Runggye Adak, a Tibetan nomad, imprisoned eight years ago for daring to speak truth to power.
And today I am going to reflect a little on the lives of these two political prisoners, both of whom have come to epitomise the story of today’s Tibet. They are the stories of courage and resilience. Stories that need to be heard widely.
Here is another instalment from McLeod Ganj in India. This one is all about the tour and what I learned. It’s a little long so hopefully it is interesting enough to keep you reading!
One of the reasons for me choosing to go on this Australia Tibet Council tour was to gain insight into the Tibetan people from whose faith I have benefitted so much. Through the tour I have gained insights well beyond my expectations. You may have already read my descriptions of our audience with the Dalai Lama and how amazing that was. During the rest of the tour we met many other Tibetans from political, social, religious and educational institutions. Before coming on this tour I had some scant knowledge of the situation in Tibet which we sometimes hear about in the news. I had heard several stories of Tibetans crossing mountain ranges in winter to escape into Nepal and then through to India. I remember news of the protests in 2008 before the Olympics with the hope that there would a change in Chinese policy towards Tibet.
Our group heard personal stories from students, activists, ex-political prisoners, a politician, educators and from community leaders. They were all passionate and consistent with their stories: China illegally occupied Tibet in 1959 and is carrying out a cultural revolution as it did in its own country under Chairman Mao’s rule. As with many other refugees across the world, the occupation of Tibet is resulting in geographical displacement, discrimination and violence against the Tibetans, destruction of their cultural heritage and the restriction of religious freedom. However, we don’t seem to hear much about this in the general news like we do for example about Palestine, Afghanistan or East Africa. During the past ten days I have been wondering why. What is it that makes the Tibetans and their situation different? Compared to other refugee populations, how is it that exiled Tibetans have been able to organise themselves and their communities to deal with their current situation and to prepare for their anticipated return to their homeland? Furthermore, how is it that despite the trauma many exiled Tibetans have experienced, the work to realise these initiatives is coming from within the community?
Update Tuesday 4 November:
ABOUT THE DHARAMSALA INSIGHT TOUR
The Dharamsala Insight Tour has been specially designed to provide a unique opportunity to experience the rich Buddhist culture of Tibet with a group of like-minded people. Spending 10-days based in the village of McLeod Ganj (Upper Dharamsala), home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, ATC supporters will immerse themselves in all facets of Tibetan culture as they learn firsthand about the current plight of the Tibetan people and their inspiring resilience.
High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written in April 2014 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on April 18, 2014.
Woeser has been a prolific and consistent commentator on the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet and this is a good follow up to her last post “Self-Immolations Are A Kind of Political Resistance”.
The most recent self-immolation was by 22 year old student Lhamo Tashi and it was a fatal one. It took place on September 17, 2014 in Tsoe County, Gansu Province. However, recent news has emerged of a self-immolation that took place in Golog one day before Lhamo Tashi’s, by a 42 year old man called Kunchok who at the time of writing had survived and was being treated for his injuries.
"Countless people have asked me: why do Tibetans self-immolate? My answer is always, Tibetans use self-immolation as a way to resist because they are suffering from ever-increasing oppression, a kind of oppression that manifests itself through the following examples...." Read High Peaks Pure Earth's full English translation of Woeser's blog.