SFT Tendor Responds to CNN Belief Blog

SFT’s Executive Director’s response to “My Take: Dalai Lama should condemn the self-immolations” written by Stephen Prothero.

In a crass display of moral blindsight, Stephen Prothero’s blog post on Tibetan self-immolations blames the victim instead of the bully.

Tibetans are stuck in one of the world’s last remaining and most brutal colonial occupations. It is through this lens, more than anything else, that we must understand the self-immolations.

Since 2009, at least 44 Tibetans -– monks, nuns and lay people -– have set themselves on fire to protest China’s rule; 39 self-immolations have occurred this year alone. Every one of these acts is a direct result of China’s systematic assault on the Tibetan people’s way of life, their movements, their speech, their religion, and their identity.

Instead of responding to China’s oppression with revenge –- a path far more tempting to the basic human instinct -– Tibetans have chosen a means far more peaceful. Without harming a single Chinese, they set aflame their own bodies to shine a light upon the atrocity taking place in their homeland. They sacrifice their own lives not in the name of “God” or “Buddha,” as Mr. Prothero so dismissively suggests, but in an altruistic intention of alerting the world to their people’s suffering.

By demanding that the Dalai Lama condemn these individuals who have shown compassion beyond our imagination, Mr. Prothero has betrayed a colossal indifference to the courage and circumstances of those fighting for the same democratic freedoms and human rights that he himself enjoys.

How can the Dalai Lama condemn the self-immolators when their motivation was evidently selfless and their tactic nonviolent? Would we ask Gandhi to condemn activists in the Indian freedom struggle who were killed while lying on the road to block British police trucks? Or the hunger strikers who were starving themselves to death in order to protest the injustices of British rule in India?

By every measure, it’s the Chinese leaders and not the Dalai Lama who are responsible for the self-immolations in Tibet. They have the power to ease tensions, reverse restrictions, and stop the self-immolations overnight. But instead of seeking a lasting solution to the Tibet issue, they continue to aggravate the situation by intensifying the repression.

No one is more tormented by the self-immolations than the Dalai Lama, whose bond with the Tibetan people goes deeper than language can express. In fact, it is the singular calming influence of the Dalai Lama that has kept the movement nonviolent to date.

As a universal icon of peace, the Dalai Lama’s spiritual influence goes well beyond the Buddhist world. Nevertheless, his moral authority is not an infinite resource. There is an invisible moral rope with which the Dalai Lama has bound the Tibetans to nonviolence for four decades. But this rope is wearing thin as China’s escalating tyranny drives Tibetans into a corner.

Self-immolation, which emerged as a tactic from being cornered for too long, represents the final outpost in the spectrum of nonviolent resistance. If this last remaining space for expression, no matter how drastic, is taken away, the rope might just snap. Chaos will ensue, vastly increasing the chances of a full-blown ethnic conflict that even the Dalai Lama will have exhausted his moral capital to stop.

From all of Mr. Prothero’s accusations, the most offensive is his comparison of self-immolations to sati – a social system in ancient India where widows were pressured to throw themselves into the funeral pyre of their deceased husbands. Self-immolation – a political act of reason – is the polar opposite of sati – a blind act of superstition.

There is not a single case of Tibetan self-immolation that was prompted by social pressure or religious obligation. Every incident of it, unexpected as it is, shakes the nation, the community, not to mention the family, to its foundations. Every Tibetan prays in his or her heart that the latest might be the last.

The image of a person engulfed in flames is shocking, often disturbing, to people living in the free world. For all our obsession with violent movies, graphic video games, and live coverage of wars, it still rips our hearts to pieces when we see a human in flames.

Rather than indulging in philosophical investigations into the morality of self-immolations, we must see these actions for what they are: urgent pleas for help from a people pushed to the brink by decades of ruthless repression.

One hopes that most people are focused on the real question at hand: how shall we answer this call?

Tenzin Dorjee
Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet

Originally posted in CNN Belief Blog.

Click here to read the original article “My Take: Dalai Lama should condemn Tibetan self-immolations” written by Stephen Prothero.

BREAKING: Tibet Activists Unfurl Banner from Arlington Bridge to Protest Visit of China’s Future President

For Immediate Release
February 13, 2012

High resolution photos can be downloaded here:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/450310 1/Tibet%20DC%20Action%20Feb% 2013/DSC_0111.JPG

High resolution video available here.

Photos also available on SFT’s Flickr account here.

Contact: Tenzin Dorjee, Executive Director, Students for a Free Tibet, +1 917 727-6239
Khenrab Palden, General Secretary, Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York/New Jersey, +1 646 918-4023
Kate Woznow, Deputy Director, Students for a Free Tibet, +1 917 300-9491

Tibet Activists Unfurl Banner from Arlington Memorial Bridge to Protest Visit of China’s Future President
Dramatic climbing action in U.S. capital sends defiant message of freedom to Fifth Generation of Chinese leaders

Washington – Tibet activists welcomed China’s future President, Xi Jinping, to the U.S. capital by hanging a massive banner which stated, “Xi Jinping: Tibet will be Free” on the landmark Arlington Memorial Bridge. Against the iconic American backdrop of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, two climbers - Bianca Bockman (age 31) of Hoboken, New Jersey and Tenzin Jigme (age 32) of Vienna, Virginia - rappelled over the edge of the bridge and unfurled the 52′ x 20′ foot protest banner. They were later arrested along with Matthew Zaccarino (age 32) of Milford, Massachusetts and Tenzin Yangsel (age 25) of Queens, New York. The action kicked off a day-long festival of protest in the capital by hundreds of Tibetans and their supporters including a rally and march from the Chinese Embassy to the White House, a mass Buddhist prayer offering, life-size puppets, solidarity rallies, and a candlelight vigil.

“As a Tibetan-American born in Tibet, I have to speak out at this critical moment when Xi Jinping and the Chinese government have literally declared war against my people and are shooting peaceful protesters in the streets of Tibet,” said Tenzin Jigme, of the International Tibet Network. “Xi Jinping has come here seeking American friendship and approval, and President Obama, as the leader of the greatest democracy in the world, has the power to influence Xi and stop this bloody crackdown.”

Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit comes as reports that Losang Gyatso, age 19, self-immolated in Ngaba town in eastern Tibet at 2:30pm Beijing Standard Time today. Twenty-four Tibetans have now set fire to themselves in Tibet since 2009, 11 since January 2012, in an unprecedented show of defiance to Chinese rule. In an effort to stop news of the unrest reaching the world after security forces opened fire on protesters calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government has sealed Tibet off to foreigners and journalists.

“Xi Jinping is here representing a regime that is right now engaged in an-all out vicious assault on the Tibetan people, while at the same time directly supporting the Syrian dictatorship in massacring its own people,” said Bianca Bockman, member of Students for a Free Tibet. “Is Xi really the person that we want our President to be on a date with on Valentine’s day? I don’t think so. Americans care most about freedom, democracy and basic human rights.”

“I believe that all Americans would want to see freedom and independence for Tibetans in Tibet, for Syrians in Syria,” said Tenzin Yangsel, of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey. “Xi Jinping is a representative of a murderous authoritarian dictatorship, and is in fact the last person President Obama should entertain at the White House on Valentine’s Day.”

A joint rally in support of freedom and democracy will be held outside the White House tomorrow by a coalition of Tibetan, Chinese, Uyghur, Taiwanese and human rights groups as Xi Jinping and President Obama meet.



Rare Footage of Tibetan Nun’s Self-Immolation Smuggled out of Tibet

Students for a Free Tibet

For Immediate Release
November 21, 2011

Tenzin Jigdal, Program Director – India, +91 9736 660 451
Tenzin Dorjee, Executive Director, +1 646-724-0748
Kate Woznow, Deputy Director, +1 917-601-0069

***Compilation of footage can be viewed here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6955112/Tawu%20Footage.mp4
High resolution footage can be downloaded here:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/6955112/Tawu%20Footage.dv

Rare Footage of Tibetan Nun’s Self-Immolation Smuggled out of Tibet
10,000 Tibetans converge in Tawu for funeral, Chinese Forces Seen Entering Monastery

Dharamsala/New York – The most comprehensive footage of protests in Tibet this year, including shocking images of Palden

10,000 Tibetans join a candlelight vigil for Palden Choetso

Choetso, a 35-year-old nun from Geden Choeling Nunnery in Tawu, eastern Tibet, who died after lighting herself on fire on November 3, has been obtained from sources in Tibet. One video shows Palden Choetso standing upright as flames engulf her body. Additional footage shows Tibetans’ response to the self-immolation, including nuns protesting and chanting “Freedom to Tibet”; thousands of Tibetans at a candlelight vigil early on the morning of her funeral; and Chinese security forces converging on Nyitso Monastery. In the past eight months, 11 Tibetans have lit themselves on fire in an unprecedented wave of protest against China’s escalating clampdown in eastern Tibet.

“This footage confirms reports that 10,000 Tibetans gathered at Tawu’s Nyitso monastery in a mass outpouring of support and prayers for Palden Choetso. Her ultimate act of nonviolent protest galvanized the entire community to openly and publicly offer their respects and solidarity in spite of China’s military clampdown in the region,” said Tawu Lobsang Jinpa, a former political prisoner from Tawu who escaped to India last February. “In Tawu, the crackdown continues although many Chinese soldiers are patrolling the town in civilian clothes to stop the world from seeing these images. Surveillance cameras have been installed around the monastery to monitor the monks’ every move.”

“This is an extremely difficult time for Tibetans everywhere. This footage shows not only the desperation but also the determination of Tibetans to fight for their freedom at any cost. We fear the situation will continue to escalate and more Tibetan lives will be lost if the Chinese government does not lift its repressive measures and commit to a just and lasting resolution to this spiraling crisis in Tibet,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet.

Tibetan sources report that following her self-immolation, Palden Choetso’s body was taken to Nyitso Monastery. Her funeral was held early in the morning on November 6th. Tawu town is located in Kardze prefecture of the Tibetan province of Kham (annexed by China into Sichuan and Yunnan provinces after 1965), an area long known for actively resisting Chinese rule. Following the widespread protests in Tibet in 2008, Chinese forces have been stationed in and around Tawu town.

“We urge world leaders to respond to the crisis in Tawu immediately with bold multilateral pressure on the Chinese government. The Tibetans in these videos have risked everything to have their voices heard. Their actions must be a wakeup call that China’s repression will only stop if the world intervenes now,” said Tenzin Jigdal, Program Director of Students for a Free Tibet India.



For Immediate Release
November 4, 2011

Migmar Dhakyel: Tibetan Youth Association in Europe +33 762 068 590
Norzin Dotschung, Tibetan Youth Association in Europe +41 788 247 270
Pema Yoko, Students for a Free Tibet, +44 7949 104 021


Nice – This morning 8 pro-Tibet activists from Switzerland, Germany and the UK, unfurled a huge 12 x 4.5 metre banner on the Tower Bellanda reading “ENOUGH!” with Tibetan flags lining the bottom. The action – the third in a series of pro-Tibet demonstrations at the G20 Summit ­– is part of a global campaign to pressure the Chinese government to withdraw troops from Tibet and to end the military occupation. 16 Tibetans and their supporters have been detained over the past three days in Cannes for pro-Tibet actions. A large rally with Tibetans from across Europe will also take place today from 10am to 1pm at the Place d’Ile de Beaute.

“Tibetans and our supporters from around the world are here at the G20 Summit to say Enough is Enough! Enough to China’s violent and brutal repression in Tibet, and enough to the failure of our world leaders to hold the Chinese government accountable for its atrocities in Tibet,” said Migmar Dhakyel, a 20-year old Tibetan woman with the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe.

Yesterday, a 35 year-old nun, Palden Choetso, died after she lit herself on fire in Tawu, eastern Tibet. She was calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for Tibetan independence. Eleven Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet since March this year; 9 since September 26th. At least six have died, including two nuns. Chinese authorities have responded by pouring security personnel into Tibet.

“Yesterday’s desperate act by a Tibetan nun to call for the return of the Dalai Lama is a cry for help and a clear sign that Tibetans have been pushed to the brink under China’s merciless rule,” said Norzin Dotschung, President of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe. “Strong diplomatic action now to pressure China to stop the crackdown in Tibet will help save Tibetan lives.”

Tibet campaigners around the world have launched ‘Enough! Campaign for Global Intervention to Save Tibetan Lives’, which has garnered support from celebrities, politicians and other prominent individuals including Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, actor Richard Gere and the musicians of Radiohead. They have joined over 24,000 others in calling for multilateral pressure on Hu Jintao to resolve the growing crisis in Tibet.

“It is time for the G20′s leaders to stand up and recognize that by acting collectively, courageously, and with principle, they can help to resolve one of the world’s longest-standing injustices – China’s occupation of Tibet.” said Pema Yoko, Students for a Free Tibet UK’s National Director.

ALERT: Tendor, SFT’s Executive Director, live on Al Jazeera English’s show ‘The Stream’ today!

ALERT: Tendor, SFT’s Executive Director, will be live on Al Jazeera English’s show ‘The Stream’ today!

The show airs at 3:30pm EST / 1930GMT and can be seen at http://stream.aljazeera.com.

The discussion will be about the recent news on Tibet, including the death of 29-year-old monk Tsewang Norbu and the election of the new Tibetan Prime Minister in Exile, Lobsang Sangay. It will also focus on whether Tibet should be under the autonomous rule of China or if officials should push for complete independence.


This program is based solely on social media interactivity. You can participate in the conversation via Twitter and Facebook.

1) Tweet directly to program producers @ajstream or tweet using the hashtag #ajstream.

2) Post your comments and questions on the Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/ajstream.


You can also view the program on TV in Washington D.C. and New York City, the channel numbers are listed below:

-  Washington, D.C. – Comcast Channel 275 | Cox Channel 474 | Verizon FiOS Channel 457

- New York City Region - Time Warner Cable Channel 92


The show airs live at 3:30pm EST / 1930GMT and can be seen at http://stream.aljazeera.com

Join this discussion and help us accomplish two important goals:

1) Demonstrate to the media that there is widespread interest in the Tibetan issue and therefore it warrants more coverage.

2) Advance the case for Tibetan freedom & independence in the global discussion on Tibet.


To read more on the reasons why we should be calling for Tibetan independence, please click here:


For more background on the legal case for Tibetan independence, please click here:



On July 13th,  while Washington D.C. is abuzz with Kalachakra fever, over 50 Tibetans and Tibet supporters staged a protest in front of the Chinese consulate. 

Daily protests continue in Kardze—Eastern Tibet—while the Chinese government is commemorating 60 years since the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet.  Students for a Free Tibet called for a Global Day of Action to highlight the true reality of 60 years of failed Chinese policies in Tibet.

Watch AFP’s video coverage of the protest here: http://youtu.be/9wblX_aN3Es


The protest included speeches by former political prisoners Ngawang Sandrol and Phuntsok Nyidron, Amnesty International’s T. Kumar, Dorjee of RTYC, Ngawang Tashi, and Alim Seytoff of the Uyghur American Association.

The International Tibet Network’s “17 Points of Disagreement: 60 Years of China’s Failed Policies in Tibet” pamphlets were distributed.

View, download, and share the pamphlet here: http://www.chinasfailedtibetpolicies.org/

The protest was covered by AFP, and included quotes from SFT’s Executive Director Tenzin Dorjee.

Click here to read the article: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j8JeRJKXvv23NDgu6i6W0RuZH0KA?docId=CNG.561caa8da42ba25c5ee1f3158a926c28.da1

Did you stage a Day of Action for Tibet on July 13th? Send us your stories, photos, and videos for us to post on our blog or website! info[at]studentsforafreetibet.org

Tibet News Roundup during President Hu’s US Visit

Photo of SFT's skeleton dancers courtesy of Reuters

The world’s media was on hand last week to cover the historic state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington, D.C. Human rights was a hot topic and Tibet was a central theme in the media’s coverage of China’s human rights failures.

Tibetan and their supporter also gave the media lots to cover with 7 protests over 3-days, including a coffin march around the White House and giant skeleton puppets symbolizing how Tibet is a skeleton in Hu Jintao’s closet.

News roundup of the protests in Washington, D.C:

President Hu Jintao’s ‘Skeletons’ Dance Outside White House in Human Rights Protest (ABC News): http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-obama-hu-jintao-china-human-rights-record/story?id=12650071

Barack Obama risks China’s ire with human rights remarks (Guardian): http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/19/barack-obama-china-human-rights

Obama publicly raises human rights with China’s Hu (Reuters): http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70C12520110119?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews

Reactions to Hu’s visit highlight a stark divide among Chinese Americans (Washington Post): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/19/AR2011011903925.html

China’s President Begins U.S. Visit (CBS): http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7259576n&tag=contentMain;contentBody

US and China Agree Human Rights Dialogue (Sky News – watch first video for Tibet coverage): http://is.gd/aGom99

White House defends Hu state visit invite (AFP): http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110118/pl_afp/uschinadiplomacyrights_20110118193102

CNN Footage Captures Tibet Chants as Hu Arrives for State Dinner: http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/politics/2011/01/19/vo.state.dinner.arrivals.cnn

Associated Press Footage of Protest in front of Chinese Embassy: http://video.ap.org/?f=AP&pid=Os0b6lLIYFwvhGDXAF2clBViwJ4WwMx4

International Campaign for Tibet’s Statement on U.S.-China Summit: http://savetibet.org/media-center/ict-press-releases/ict-statement-us-china-summit-positive-development-human-rights-and-tibet

Dramatic Photos: Tibetans Detained After Anti-Mining Protest in Shigatse

Dramatic new photos obtained by RFA show Chinese security forces detaining up to 30 Tibetans in Shigatse after an anti-mining protest. On May 21st, local Tibetans in the U Yuk Sogchen sub-district of Namling Shigatse protested environmentally destructive gold mining activities which have affected their only sources of drinking water, grazing ground for cattle, and have brought an increasing number of Chinese miners to the region.

The protest took place after repeated appeals by Tibetans in Namling to the local authorities for an end to the hazardous gold mining.

View the high resolution photos on SFT’s flickr or below.

Standoff between Tibetan protesters and Chinese security

Standoff between Tibetan protesters and Chinese security

Chinese security forces detain Tibetans

Chinese security forces detain Tibetans

Standoff between Tibetan protesters and Chinese security

Standoff between Tibetan protesters and Chinese security