International webinar on 70 years of China’s colonial rule over Tibet

-Vijay Kranti

New Delhi

24 May 2021: There is a serious danger of the Tibetan people disappearing altogether as a distinct people because the Chinese Communist Party in Tibet is aiming at reprogramming Tibetan people’s minds and hearts through implementation of its colonial policies in Tibet. China has created a situation where there Tibet will be there, but without the Tibetan people. It is also a matter of concern for the entire civilized world that China is showing the arrogance of ‘celebrating’ 70 years of its colonialism in Tibet. China is issuing a so called ‘White Paper’ on present day Tibet which, besides being a bunch of white lies is also an attempt to white wash all its colonial crimes like genocide, cultural annihilation, loot of natural resources and blatant denial of human rights to the Tibetan people.

This was the common concern, expressed by a group of international ranking experts on China and Tibet last evening in a webinar, titled “70 Years of Chinese Colonial Rule in Tibet”. The webinar was jointly organized by the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE) and Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) to mark the 70th anniversary of colonial occupation of Tibet by China. The panel of experts included personalities like Mr. Kai Mueller, Chief Executive, International Campaign for Tibet, Germany; Mr Jayadeva Ranade, a well know China expert and President, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy (CCAA);  Dr Sana Hashmi, an Indian scholar on China and currently Fellow, Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation, Taiwan; Mr Tenzin Tsundue, a leading Tibetan thinker and activist; Mr Gonpo Thondup, President Tibet Youth Congress (TYC); and Mr Vijay Kranti, a senior journalist, Tibetologist and Chairman, CHASE. On 23rd May, 1951 China claims to have signed what it calls as the “17-Point Agreement” with the Tibetan government to merge Tibet into China. The panellists discussed various aspects of the history and current situation of Tibet under the China’s colonial rule.

Mr. Kai Mueller, in his keynote address, expressed concern that a serious term like ‘colonialism’ has been replaced in the international discourse by terms like authoritarianism, totalitarianism or surveillances which do not go beyond measuring or questioning state power.  “This has given China full chance to distract world’s focus from the real issues arising out of colonialism in Tibet,” he said. “China’s rule over Tibet since 1951 has all the characteristics of colonialism in the real sense of the word. This is evident not only from the manner in which the Chinese authority was established and maintained in Tibet, it is also clear from the way the Chinese authorities decide on and implement economic and other development policies and exploit natural resources. But most revealing is the attitude of Chinese authorities and of the Tibetan people whose perceptions of each other are typical of the colonial power and the colonized people” said Mueller. “The world therefore needs to understand the DNA of the Communist regime of China and wake up to the real Chinese danger before it is too late,” he warned.

Raising the issue of destroying the life and culture of nearly two million Tibetan nomads who used to form a third of original Tibet’s population, Mueller pointed out that besides systematically destroying Tibetan people’s religious and lingual identity China is forcibly changing the livelihood and social life of Tibetan nomads and herders. They are being forcibly relocated and settled since 1980s. But there is no legal remedy available to them.  “What is more striking is that while Chinese authorities do not even attempt to hide these steps, the international community has not raised voice with the required disgust or shock,” he said.

“The policies of Sinification of Tibet are aimed at reforming the thoughts and minds of Tibetans so that Tibetans no longer remain as Tibetans – not speaking their language, nor practicing their beliefs and not living their lives. World should understand that Chinese Communist Party (CCP) aims at nothing less than reprogramming Tibetan people’s minds and hearts. The world community needs to understand the DNA of CCP’s rule in Tibet and recognize this cultural genocide,” said Mueller.  He warned that there is a serious danger of the Tibetan people disappearing altogether as a distinct people. “That means a Tibet without the Tibetans”, he said.

In his presentation Mr. Jayadeva Ranade, a well know expert on China and a former Additional Secretary with the Cabinet Secretariat of Government of India, analyzed the Chinese ‘White Paper’ which was issued on the eve of the 70th anniversary of China’s occupation of Tibet. He pointed that Beijing authorities are still toying with historic facts and going to ridiculous limits of claiming sovereignty over Tibet during past centuries which never happened in the history. Referring to China’s claims about development of Tibet he said that there is no doubt that Tibet has been developed over past decades by China. “But the Chinese masters of Tibet hide this fact that all this development in Tibet is aimed at increasing China’s military control over Tibet and exploiting the mineral wealth of Tibet” he said.

Mr. Ranade said that China’s on-going attempts to control the Tibetan religious institutions, seducing the monks and nuns with money packets, offering them official positions and appointing communist cadres in the monasteries only expose the fact that there is serious resistance among the religious community against Chinese rule and Beijing has failed to win their hearts. He pointed at the danger of climate change and deprivation of Tibetan river waters to other riparian countries, including India, which are going to be the imminent result of widespread damming of Tibetan rivers and Chinese plans to divert these waters to other areas of China.

Giving example of how China’s imposed Panchen Lama has been outright rejected by Tibetan people, Mr. Ranade predicted that China’s attempts to forcibly install the next reincarnation of Dalai Lama and subsequent appearance of two Dalai Lama’s on the scene is going to fail miserably.

Dr. Ms. Sana Hasmhi, an Indian scholar on China, currently stationed in Taiwan said that Beijing’s claims about what it calls ‘democratic reforms’ look pale against the robust democratic system the Tibetan refugee community has developed over the years under the leadership of Dalai Lama. Rubbishing China’s claims about bringing development in Tibet she said that all this development is aimed at settling millions of Han Chinese in Tibet while the local Tibetans feel strong discrimination in matters of jobs and salaries. About China’s latest “White Paper” she said it is nothing but Chinese Propaganda.

She lampooned Chinese government for recently releasing manipulated films about celebration of Eid by Xinjiang Uyghur Muslims and said that the Beijing leaders don’t even demonstrate such artificial sympathy for religion in Tibet. They even go to the extent of banning celebration of Tibetan New-Year and make Tibetan people feel like prisoners in their own country. Expressing relief on the USA and European Union becoming more supportive of Tibetan people she warned the world community to realize that China’s activities in Tibet hold serious dangers for other countries too.

Referring to the dangers arising for India out of Tibet’s occupation by China Dr. Hashmi said that China’s on-going roads and other developmental project inside Tibet along Indian border are very dangerous for India’s interests. She underlined that it was high time that Government of India should make its own people aware of China’s activities inside Tibet and their implications for India.

Mr. Tenzin Tsundue, an internationally acclaimed Tibetan writer, poet and champion of complete independence of Tibet from China’s colonial rule, regretted that there has been no meaningful support for Tibetan people from the world community. “But despite this international indifference the Tibetan people have not given up and have successfully kept their spirit of freedom alive”, he said. Talking about China’s claims in the latest White-Paper on Tibet that it has been a ‘part of China’ since centuries, Tsundue said it was ridiculous for the rulers of China to make such claims which itself came into existence only in 1912 after having lived as slave to foreign rules of the Manchurians and Mongols.

He was critical of Chinese government celebrating its own colonialism in Tibet and presenting the “17-Point Agreement” as a proof of its ownership of Tibet. He reminded his audience that Tibetan government of that time had to accept the said ‘Agreement’ only because Mao had threatened Dalai Lama with blood bath of Tibetan masses at the hands of PLA. He said that after Dalai Lama having publicly repudiating the “17 Point Agreement” just before entering India in 1959, this agreement is has no meaning for the people of Tibet.

Referring to the recent US law on Tibet viz. “Tibet Policy and Support Act-2020” Tsundue said that this US support for the people of  Tibet was less due to the American government’s love for Tibet and more because now they feel threatened by the Chinese government. About the Government of India’s policy on Tibet he said that at the time of China’s attack on Tibet the Indian government leaders were hoping that China and India would jointly give leadership to the world. But China proved India wrong. “All these years Tibetans have been telling the Indian government not to believe the Chinese. But they did not even listen to their own Defence Minister Mr. George Fernandez who had said years ago that China was India’s enemy number-one. And today India is suffering due this attitude,” he said.

Mr. Tsundue said that China has reached a stage today when it is threatening every country around the world. “It is time for the world to learn from the Tibetan people who have withstood China’s bullying and oppression for seven decades and still have not given up. It is Chinese government who is feeling afraid of the Tibetan people,” he said.

Mr. Gonpo Dhundup, President of Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the largest socio-political organization of the Tibetan Diaspora and champion of total independence for whole of Tibet, advised the world governments, especially the governments of South Asian countries to join hands and fight the Chinese threat together. “By occupying Tibet and reaching borders of South Asian countries China has become a threat to the national security of these countries,” he said.

He said that there have been many mass uprisings of Tibetan people against the Chinese colonial rule and the participants of all these uprisings were those young Tibetans who are 2nd or 3rd generation after Tibet lost its freedom. Self-immolation my 157 Tibetans against China show that the resistance against China is very strong in the hearts of Tibetan people. Referring to China’s latest ‘White-Paper’ on Tibet Gonpo said that “this white paper is purely a Chinese propaganda. Chinese leaders are trying to hide their acts of wanton destruction of Tibetan culture, murders of people and denial of basic freedoms to Tibetan people through such false claims.”

Vijay Kranti, a senior journalist, Tibetologist and Chairman CHASE moderated the discussion. Commenting on the latest ‘White-Paper’ of Chinese government which boasts of ‘Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’ he said that this white-paper is full of white lies and is actually an act of white wash over the inhuman acts and excesses, committed by the communist colonial master of Tibet over their subjects. “The choice of subjects and claims made on each subject in this White-Paper only exposes the guilt conscience of China’s rulers of Tibet. This paper is Beijing’s attempt to interpret and present all its colonial sins against the people of Tibet an ‘act of favour’ to the people of Tibet over past seven decades,” he said.

Professor Aayushi Ketkar, a scholar of international relations and security matters, in her vote of thanks said that today is the most opportune moment to raise the issue of Tibet because the expansionist and colonial face of China is finally getting exposed and the world is facing a common onslaught of Covid-19 from China. “Tibet is not just an issue of a country being colonized. It is a global issue of environmental destruction, climate change, denial of human rights, human genocide, cultural genocide and threat to world peace and rule of law,” she said.

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