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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 27, 2008

Protest China's cruel joke on Tibet

By Lama Wangchuk

I am Tibetan. I grew up in Tibet under communist Chinese occupation. I have seen with my own eyes the way Tibetans, their land, culture and spirituality have been stolen and abused by China over the past 49 years.

I feel it is imperative to cut through the propaganda to understand the genesis of the uprisings in Tibet and, in particular, the protests over the Olympic torch relay.

The recent conflict in Tibet began on March 10, the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile by China. On March 14, in Lhasa, Tibetan monks and nuns protesting were brutally beaten and detained by government security agencies. The citizens of Lhasa, having reached the limit of their patience, finally fought back. They battled police, they burned communist offices, and trashed communist-owned shops. Hundreds of Tibetans died. The world press and concerned world leaders have no access to know what is happening inside Tibet right now.

Our Tibetan culture is profoundly enriched with spirituality, ancient arts and wisdom. Belief in karma (cause and effect) is deeply rooted, and the dharma teaches us that loving kindness, compassion and wisdom are antidotes to selfish desire, hatred and ignorance. If you collect all His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings, and extract the essence of them, you will find just three words: loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom.

Because of our Buddhist spirituality and our respect for life, we were woefully unprepared for the communist invasion in 1959. We were unarmed, we practiced non-violence and had no defense forces. After the Dalai Lama was forced to flee for his life, the communists took away our food, possessions, animals and farms, and resettled many villagers by force. They detained the lamas, tulkus, scholars, landowners, and the rich. Many people were beaten to death and tortured because of their educational level, family background or social status.

Nothing was beyond the reach of the Chinese invaders. They destroyed Buddhist temples, homes, sacred scriptures and treasured relics. This tragic devastation went on intermittently during the '60s and '70s, resulting in the death of 1.2 million Tibetans. The communist Chinese proudly called these most inhumane actions the Cultural Revolution. (The Tibetans were not the only victims of Mao's Cultural Revolution approximately 46 million Chinese also died.)

From 1959 to the 1980s our borders were sealed so that no Tibetans could escape and none could return.

The Communist Party of China displays great ignorance to assume that their invasion of Tibet will result in a good outcome. Our people are now finally expressing their frustration and struggle to the outside world. Tibetans are mobilized by the symbolism of the Chinese insistence on taking the Olympic torch to Jomo Langma (Mount Everest), which is part of Tibet. In my estimation, using the symbol of the Olympics as a way to legitimize China is clearly belligerent, arrogant and offensive to all Tibetans and human rights supporters around the world. This effort to gain legitimacy and in effect "claim" the world for China has brought worldwide protests and anger.

On April 9, I joined Tibetans who had gathered in San Francisco from all across America and Canada. We were there to show the world that China is not what it appears to be. China is the largest communist country on Earth, where human rights, freedom of expression, religion and political choice do not exist.

Our protest caused the torch relay to become a game of hide and seek. When the Chinese government needs a cadre of paramilitary police to accompany the Olympic torch, symbol of cooperation, something is wrong.

From this Tibetan's perspective, the Olympic torch is a sham, a cruel joke that represents nothing but further communist aggression. In my opinion, the Chinese are using the Olympics to gain credibility for a government that is morally bankrupt.

We want the world to know Tibet was never a part of China, never will be, and presently is under occupation. On the contrary, Tibet is a 2,135-year-old nation dating from its first historical king, Nyatri Tsenpo.

Meanwhile, China's minions continue to engage in cultural and environmental genocide in Tibet.

Tibetans feel strongly, indeed are proclaiming to the world, that we should not allow this torch to go through Tibetan regions, notably Mount Everest, a sacred and iconic symbol of our people.

What can Hawai'i people do to show their solidarity with our movement?

Perhaps the best way to make the Chinese understand would be to use one of the tactics that the African-American civil rights protesters utilized in the 1960s undertake an economic boycott. From the Montgomery bus boycott to lunch counters, activists used their economic power to change the way companies and governments did business.

As everyone knows, the Chinese flood our country with inexpensive products. Individuals interested in showing their distaste for China's human rights violations in Tibet should, whenever possible, boycott the purchase of Chinese goods.

I would also request that any Buddhists reading this would practice bodhichitta. This is a meditation technique that dissipates negative emotions and gives rise to positive behavior within ourselves and others.

Lama Wangchuk was born in the Palyul district of East Tibet and has been a Honolulu resident for 13 years. Reach him at lamagallery1@yahoo.com. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.