WHY LHAKAR MATTERS: The Elements of Tibetan Freedom

Below is an article I originally published in the Tibetan Political Review. It discusses the philosophy, strategic logic and future potential of Lhakar as a movement.

Beneath the wave of self-immolations that has understandably come to dominate the current discourse on Tibet, a less dramatic undercurrent of resistance is transforming the landscape of Tibetan activism. This new force is the pan-Tibetan, self-reliance grassroots movement known as Lhakar.

The first signs of Lhakar – the name is translated usually as White Wednesday and occasionally as Pure Dedication – appeared in 2008 following the nationwide uprising against Chinese rule. Four years after its birth, Lhakar has produced a paradigm shift in the way Tibetans conceptualize activism, thanks to three key elements: de-collectivization of activism, weaponization of culture, and adoption of noncooperation.

1. De-collectivization of Activism
The core appeal of Lhakar lies in its simplicity. It focuses on the fundamental elements of freedom, the most mundane decisions people make in their daily lives – when to visit the temple, what kind of music to listen to, which restaurant to eat in, which shop to buy groceries from, what language to speak at home – rather than the bigger decisions that carry a higher price tag.

In the 1980s, it was common for Tibetans to swarm into the Jokhang temple every week to light butter lamps, burn incense, and pray secretly for the Dalai Lama’s long life. These rituals, largely religious and symbolic, took place on Wednesdays, a day considered auspicious for the Dalai Lama. But China’s indiscriminate crackdown in 2008 radicalized the entire nation and politicized a new generation of Tibetans. There was hardly a family in Tibet that was untouched by it; even those who stayed indoors and waited out the uprising were just a degree of separation away from someone who was jailed, disappeared, or killed.

As China stamped out all forms of collective expressions of dissent, Tibetans responded by de-collectivizing their activism. Through personal actions such as wearing traditional clothes, eating Tibetan food, listening to independent radio, teaching their native language at home, many Tibetans began to use their individual space to assert an identity that has been suppressed for decades.

In this politically charged period, rituals that used to be cultural suddenly became political, not so much because they gave people a Tibetan identity but because they gave them a non-Chinese identity. In a zero-sum game of identity politics, being Tibetan became synonymous with “not being Chinese.” This phenomenon gave rise to a series of practical actions that went beyond mere symbolism, and, eventually, beyond Wednesdays.

Emphasizing individual acts of resistance rather than public acts of protest, Lhakar has decentralized the resistance. By treating their homes, workplaces, and computers as battlefields of resistance, Tibetans are wielding their limited personal choices and daily activities as a wedge to pry open more social, political and economic space. A Lhakar practitioner does not expect freedom to come from a tweak in policy or a change of heart in Beijing, but from his or her own daily thoughts, decisions and actions fostering a parallel world of freedom that will outgrow China’s superstructure of repression.

Thus through de-collectivization of activism, Lhakar sustains the resistance by empowering the individual. In doing so, it has become a gateway to activism at large.

2. Weaponization of Culture
Growing up in exile, the first thing we learned about our culture was that it was facing extinction at home and assimilation in exile. There was a belief that culture could survive only at the mercy of politics; and the politics of Tibet allowed little hope of survival. My generation of Tibetans had a sinking feeling that Tibetan culture was like a fragile flower: beautiful to look at but incapable of defending itself.

However, Lhakar is reversing this disempowering perception of culture. Since the rise of Lhakar, a growing number of Tibetans have begun reclaiming culture as a tool to fight for greater political rights. They are using Tibetan art, literature, poetry and music as vehicles for expressing their faith in the Dalai Lama, love of their homeland, and desire for freedom. Songs with politically charged lyrics or music videos with images of the Dalai Lama become instant hits, selling tens of thousands of copies. This upsurge in the public consumption of Tibetan music and poetry has spawned a modern renaissance in art and literature across the plateau. For the first time in decades, perhaps centuries, Tibetans are rediscovering how culture can save politics, instead of waiting for politics to save culture.

This transformation is reflected most colorfully in the revival of public enthusiasm for studying Tibetan. In various parts of Tibet, elders and children take pledges to speak pure Tibetan, shedding Chinese terms from their vocabulary. In Sertha in Kham (Chinese: Sichuan), elders hand out free dictionaries to youngsters. Writers and musicians in eastern Tibet, many of whom preferred the dominant Chinese language as their artistic medium, now compose and perform in Tibetan. In restaurants and cafes, the owners serve customers only when they order in Tibetan. Weibo users tweet in Tibetan every Wednesday; Renren and Facebook users regularly post images and poems that carry political messages.

These are but a handful of stories that show how Lhakar actions are multiplying across Tibet, from Lithang to Lhasa, Ngaba to Rebkong, Sertha to Nangchen. In art, poetry, and literature, Tibetans are able to paint a gray area that is nonexistent on the black-and-white canvas of politics.

For a generation raised under the myth that we could never match China’s power, nothing is more empowering than realizing that the inexhaustible reservoir of our culture is finally being weaponized into a powerful set of nonviolent tools. Lhakar has transformed Tibetan culture from frozen asset into liquid capital, from a holy scepter into a golden spear.

3. Adoption of Noncooperation
Over a millennium has passed since Buddhism tamed Tibet, but our warrior instincts are still at large. We dash into battle before calculating gains and analyzing risks. In almost every Tibetan legend, bravery and action overshadow planning and preparation. The strategy room occupies a negligible place in the Tibetan imagination.

For decades, the predominant tactic in Tibetan resistance has been street protest. Though an effective and low-risk tactic in exile, the cost of street protests in Tibet is unsustainably high. The simplest act of protest carries a possibility of being shot at and a certainty of being jailed. However, through Lhakar’s emphasis on strategy, Tibetans have come to appreciate the power of noncooperation – a tactic that lends itself to the most daring as well as the most risk-averse of people, being less costly but often more effective than acts of protest and persuasion. (See more resources on strategic nonviolent action in Tibetan language: http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations82f0.html)

Since 2008 many Tibetans have started eating only in Tibetan restaurants and buying only from Tibetan shops, prompting Chinese businesses to close down in several towns. This ‘undeclared boycott’ of Chinese-owned businesses, a poetic answer to China’s ‘undeclared martial law’ in Tibet, invokes the principles of Gandhian-style economic noncooperation.
For many years Tibetans in Nangchen (Chinese: Nangqen) had been buying vegetables at astronomical prices from Chinese grocers, whose monopoly over the vegetable market went unchallenged. But in early 2011, a group of Tibetans started boycotting the Chinese vegetable shops. Their power as consumers multiplied when others followed their example. Barely two months had passed when many of the Chinese groceries closed down for lack of business; in their place, new Tibetan vegetable vendors popped up.

For the first time in recent memory, Tibetans are seeing how their individual actions can change their collective future. The discourse of resistance is changing from one of victimhood to one that emphasizes agency, creativity and strategy. Until recently, most conversations started and ended with Tibetan helplessness in the face of Chinese ruthlessness. Today the underground salons and teahouses are brewing with discussions about resistance, strategy, and action.

Empowered by the tangible results of noncooperation, Tibetans no longer see nonviolence as a religious principle that restricts effective action; we see it as a strategic weapon that unleashes our potential. As proven time and time again in other revolutions, nothing can remove the pillars of a dictatorship more effectively than a widespread, sustained campaign of noncooperation.

The Future of Lhakar
Last fall Chinese authorities in Sershul, eastern Tibet, arrested a Tibetan woman for wearing chupa on a Wednesday. Around the same time, they detained hundreds of Tibetans for being involved in a language preservation group, and many others for promoting vegetarianism – older Tibetans are fond of imagining that the good karma accumulated from reducing their collective meat consumption will add more years to the Dalai Lama’s life.

The Chinese government may have found a new enemy in Lhakar. But in declaring Lhakar its enemy, China has targeted a concept, an abstract noun, that it doesn’t have the weapons to destroy. The essence of Lhakar is not in the chupa one wears but in the intention with which one wears it. The real Lhakar is a movement of the mind, and therefore invisible and untouchable to any number of troops, tanks, or bullets. China’s heavy-handed crackdown on people speaking Tibetan, wearing certain clothes, or going vegetarian – a reflection of its declining confidence and growing insecurity – will backfire on the regime and end up strengthening Lhakar in the long run.

A more serious threat to Lhakar, ironically, could come from within, from misunderstanding the concept of strategic nonviolence. We must not think that just wearing a chupa or speaking pure Tibetan fulfills our personal quota of Lhakar activism or that not wearing one or speaking another language somehow violates it. A narrow definition could prematurely strangle Lhakar; an open and inclusive definition will give Lhakar room to grow and mature. If there are a thousand different ways of observing Lhakar, how will the Chinese government challenge all of them?

Those who have a passion for writing could spend at least an hour each week editing Wikipedia to make sure that entries related to Tibet reflect the truth; those who have unlimited phone plans could allocate a “happy hour” on Wednesdays to call the Chinese consulates and embassies and harass them about their government’s treatment of Tibetans (the best stress relief is when you give it to someone else); those who are learning Tibetan could read their news in Tibetan at least once a week; those raised in the West could tune in to the Tibetan language services of Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, or Voice of Tibet every Wednesday; shopaholics could dedicate a couple of hours each Wednesday to persuading shops and retailers to replace Made-in-China products with Made-in-[enter your own country of residence] products; students could dedicate each Wednesday to covering their campuses with flyers to highlight one aspect of injustice taking place in Tibet and how to right it. These are just a few among the scores of actions people can take according to their own skills, abilities and interests.

Social movements are fueled by positive reinforcement and killed by self-righteous policing. In truth, Lhakar has gained its wide appeal precisely because it is a voluntary, flexible and one-size-fits-all kind of movement. We must allow each person to contribute to the movement freely in her own way and according to her own preferences rather than forcing her to conform to certain rules and appearances. Lhakar needs cheerleaders, not policemen.

During the Civil Rights Movement in America, many wealthy black professionals and businessmen were asking Martin Luther King Jr. to slow down the campaign for equality. “Don’t rock the boat,” they implored him. “If we push too hard, we might lose even whatever little we have gained.” (Fortunately for all of us, the Civil Rights Movement continued to rock the boat). In our case too, some people will try to save a milder version of the movement from China’s claws by promoting a Lhakar-lite. They will seek to perpetuate a mild, toothless version of Lhakar by insisting that it remain a cultural, not political, movement.

But such arguments are rooted in a psychology of defeatism that renders us incapable of imagining Tibetan power outside of Chinese parameters. It prescribes an activism conducted in fear, and fear is the most efficient prison the oppressors ever built for the oppressed. What other kinds of jail or detention center can imprison us even in exile?

Now is the time to intensify Lhakar by amplifying its philosophy and multiplying its practice, not at a pace dictated by China but one set by Tibetans. This is not the time to divide Tibetans into activists vs. pacifists, political vs. cultural, secular vs. religious. We must blur the lines between the cultural, the political, the social and the economic, for such compartmentalization does not exist in real life; we inhabit all of these spheres at the same time.

The day is not far when the Chinese government will view every Tibetan as an activist and every action as subversive. That’s when we will know that China has lost the battle for Tibet.

WE MOVED ! (SFT-France Blog)

Keep  informed with SFT-HQ BLOG : http://blog.studentsforafreetibet.org/

.........

Our blog http://etlinenglish.canalblog.com/ (SFT-France English Blog) is not up dated for a long time.

Please read SFT-France news, action for Tibet and publications on :

SFT France Blog : http://tibetlibre.eklablog.com/

SFT France Website : www.tibetlibre.org

SFT France Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/etudiants.tibetlibre

SFT France Twitter : @SFTFrance

SFT France Video Chanel : http://www.youtube.com/user/EtudiantsTibetLibre

..........

Of course, the best website to visit is Students for a Free Tibet International website :

https://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/

 

Tibet will be FREE !

Le Tibet Sera LIBRE !

RANGZEN !

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.

Happy Birthday to His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Today, July 6th is His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s 77th birthday. It is hard to think of any living individual who better represents the ideals of peace, hope, and compassion. As a leader, visionary, philosopher, environmentalist, reformer, and peace activist, His Holiness’ monumental contribution to humankind has touched us all.

Born in a remote corner of eastern Tibet in 1935 and educated in the grandeur of Lhasa’s Potala Palace, his life – and that of his nation – was turned upside down when Tibet was invaded by China in 1949. As Chinese troops massacred Tibetans, stole their land, looted their wealth, and razed their temples to the ground, the young Dalai Lama was called upon to lead his people. 

Instead of resigning to a life under Chinese control, he risked everything to flee his beloved homeland. His dramatic escape to India, from where he could continue to lead his people in their freedom struggle, was a visionary decision and has denied the Chinese government the power to control his activities.



Ever since he moved into a humble residence in Dharamsala at the age of 24, His Holiness has dedicated every waking hour to the cause of his people, and indeed to the well-being of all sentient beings. In his effort to promote world peace, religious harmony, and universal responsibility, he has traveled across continents, given thousands of talks, written hundreds of books, and educated millions of people.



Everywhere he travels, the Dalai Lama brings inspiration and rekindles our hope. Together, we can give His Holiness a gift that will complement his tireless work: an investment in the future of the Tibetan nation.

Please donate $77 to SFT’s innovative Youth Leadership Program in honor of His Holiness’s 77th birthday.

Our leadership trainings, activist workshops, and internship program combine nonviolence theory with invaluable hands-on experience. Working on the front lines of the Tibetan freedom movement while learning from the successes and failures of other resistance movements – from the Arab Spring to Burma’s Saffron Revolution, from the Indian freedom struggle to China’s ongoing democracy movement – produces active and visionary leaders ready to capitalize on key opportunities to create change for Tibet.

Though Tibetans are going through one of the most difficult periods in our history, we remain undefeated and hopeful. His Holiness, the epitome of hope, recently told a reporter in London, “The Tibetan spirit is very, very strong – it will remain.”

We must continue to invest in the Tibetan freedom struggle and complement His Holiness’ tireless work to ensure the Tibetan spirit remains strong for generations to come. In addition to waging hard-hitting campaigns and actions that raise China’s cost of occupation, at SFT we are equipping young Tibet movement leaders with the vision, strategy, and skills to advance the cause of Tibetan freedom.

Please support our work in honor of His Holiness’s 77th birthday:
http://sft.convio.net/site/Donation2?df_id=2000&2000.donation=form1

This year, you can also donate your birthday to SFT as a gift in honor of His Holiness’s birthday. To do so, please fill out this simple form and we will contact you two weeks before your birthday with instructions on how you can fulfill your pledge.

Your generous donation will help cultivate young leaders whose vision, dynamism, and hard work will bring us one giant step closer to Tibetan freedom.

Thank you for your support and generosity. Tibet will be free.

SFT Weekly Update: A Moment of Hope

In these times of great turmoil inside Tibet, it is easy to forget that nothing is permanent except change. As empires rise and fall, so do dictatorships. Oppression, after all, is impermanent too.

Last week we witnessed a quiet moment that serves as a profound reminder of this basic truth. After almost two decades of living under house arrest, Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi was able to travel to Europe this month to deliver her belated acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, an award she won in 1991.

Last Tuesday in London, on her 67th birthday, she met with her fellow Nobel peace laureate His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This meeting between two global peace icons – and two of the most inspiring leaders of our time – was a moment of triumph for truth and justice.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama will also celebrate his birthday soon. Next week on July 6th he turns 77 years old. It is hard to think of any living individual who better represents the ideals of peace, hope, and compassion. As a leader, visionary, philosopher, environmentalist, reformer, and peace activist, His Holiness’ monumental contribution to humankind has touched us all.

Born in a remote corner of eastern Tibet in 1935 and educated in the grandeur of Lhasa’s Potala Palace, his life – and that of his nation – was turned upside down when Tibet was invaded by China in 1949. As Chinese troops massacred Tibetans, stole their land, looted their wealth, and razed their temples to the ground, the young Dalai Lama was called upon to lead his people. 

Instead of resigning to a life under Chinese control, he risked everything to flee his beloved homeland. His dramatic escape to India, from where he could continue to lead his people in their freedom struggle, was a visionary decision and has denied the Chinese government the power to control his activities.

Ever since he moved into a humble residence in Dharamsala at the age of 24, His Holiness has dedicated every waking hour to the cause of his people, and indeed to the well-being of all sentient beings. In his effort to promote world peace, religious harmony, and universal responsibility, he has traveled across continents, given thousands of talks, written hundreds of books, and educated millions of people. 

Everywhere he travels, the Dalai Lama brings inspiration and rekindles our hope.

As he multiplies kindness and compassion around this world, his own homeland remains in chains. His people are going through one of the most difficult periods in Tibetan history. His Holiness, always undefeated and hopeful, recently told a reporter in London, “The Tibetan spirit is very, very strong – it will remain.”

While this is true, we must continue to invest in the Tibetan freedom struggle and complement His Holiness’ tireless work to ensure the Tibetan spirit remains strong for generations to come. In addition to waging hard-hitting campaigns and actions that raise China’s cost of occupation, at SFT we are equipping young Tibet movement leaders with the vision, strategy, and skills to advance the cause of Tibetan freedom.

Please donate to SFT’s innovative Youth Leadership Program in honor of His Holiness’s 77th birthday
:
http://sft.convio.net/site/Donation2?df_id=2000&2000.donation=form1

This year, you can also donate your birthday to SFT as a gift in honor of His Holiness’s birthday. To do so, please fill out this simple form and we will contact you two weeks before your birthday with instructions on how you can fulfill your pledge.

Your generous donation will help cultivate young leaders whose vision, dynamism, and hard work will bring us one giant step closer to Tibetan freedom.

Thank you for your support and generosity. Tibet will be free.

In Solidarity,

Tendor signature 

Tendor
Executive Director

P.S. To make a donation in honor of His Holiness’s 77th birthday to SFT’s Youth Leadership Program, please visit: http://sft.convio.net/site/Donation2?df_id=2000&2000.donation=form1

Support the Tibetan Delegation at the UN: Make a Call today!

Right now, a delegation of Tibetans from across Europe is inside the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva urging member representatives to put forward a resolution on the human rights crisis in Tibet.

The delegation is meeting with UN representatives to personally bring the plight of Tibetans inside Tibet to the attention of the Council. They are also delivering a 51,550-signature pledge in support of multi-lateral diplomatic intervention in Tibet.

Tibet delegation includes SFT France Board Members, Tenam and Gyamtso along with Migmar Dhakyel of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe and Tsetan Zochbauer from SFT and SOSTibet, Austria.

Since Monday, over 1400 of us have also sent letters to members of the Human Rights Council to reinforce the delegation’s appeal for a UN resolution on Tibet. Thank you for taking action! A strong resolution supported by world governments will hold China accountable for its human rights violations in Tibet.

Now let’s double our impact! Make a Call to your United Nations Ambassador’s office today.

Find the contact information for your country’s UN Permanent Mission in Geneva.

Call and ask that your country table a Tibet resolution at the 20th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Request your country’s UN mission to meet with the Tibetan delegation at the Human Rights Council meeting.

When you speak with your Ambassador’s staff or leave a voice message, please be polite and remember to thank them for their support. Helpful talking points are included below.

Reminder: If you haven’t already taken action, please send your appeal letter to the UN Human Rights Council urging a resolution on Tibet.

The United Nations has the ultimate responsibility to protect and promote human rights around the world. Join us in taking action to ensure it upholds this important mission by addressing the urgent human rights crisis in Tibet.

Thank you for all that you do for Tibet,

Tendor, Kate, TenDolkar, Lobsang, Stef, Wangmo and the entire SFT team.

P.S. Please support SFT’s work for human rights and freedom at this critical time.

 

 

Helpful talking points: When speaking to the Ambassador’s staff or leaving a voice message, be polite and remember to thank them for their support. Let them know that a Tibetan delegation is attending the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting in Geneva to deliver a 51,550-signature pledge in support of Tibet. You are requesting that your country table a Tibet resolution during the 20th session of the UNHRC. You can also request that a member of your Ambassador’s team meet with the Tibet delegation.

1. A strongly worded resolution on Tibet during the 20th session of the Human Rights Council will demonstrate the Council’s true commitment to human rights and lay the foundation for robust diplomatic action to help bring about an end to the crisis in Tibet.

A resolution on Tibet has not been tabled since 2005 and the Council is failing in its primary goal of raising concerns about one of most urgent human rights situations in the world.
If a resolution is tabled, it will send a very strong, multi-lateral signal of concern about the situation in Tibet and require a response from China.
The UNHRC is an appropriate mulit-lateral mechanism to impress upon China the level of global concern about Tibet. China is not responding to bilateral pressure, so governments must use all multi-lateral channels at their disposal.

2. Over sixty years of China’s oppressive rule in Tibet have created a human rights crisis. The deteriorating situation in Tibet is urgent and warrants immediate diplomatic action.

Current situation:

  • There have been 41 self-immolations in Tibet since 2009 (28 since January 2012); at least 29 have been fatal. Those who have self-immolated include monks, nuns, young students, nomads, and farmers.
  • Just two days after the current Human Rights Council session opened, Tenzin Khedup, 24, and Ngawang Norphel, 22, self-immolated while raising the Tibetan national flag, and calling for the return of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Tibet.
  • Recent mass protests in eastern Tibet have been met with brutal suppression.
  • There have been multiple arrests and sentencings related to the self-immolations and protests.
  • Arbitrary expulsions from Lhasa based on ethnicity and place of birth in June 2012 have followed the recent self-immolation protest in Lhasa by two young Tibetans from eastern Tibet. Tibetans now face daily discrimination and harassment by security personnel carrying out sharply increased identity checks.

3. Despite the harsh crackdown and the threat of arrest, disappearances, torture and killing, China has failed to crush Tibetan resistance which remains exceptionally strong.

The cycle of unrest followed by crackdowns will continue until China meaningfully addresses the Tibetan people’s grievances.

United Nations must act now for Tibet

The UN Human Rights Council is in session. A resolution on Tibet will assert diplomatic pressure on China to stop its human rights violations. Urge the Human Rights Council to table a Tibet resolution now! Forty-one Tibetans have lit their bodies on fire in Tibet since 2009. Every one of these self-immolations is a cry for the Tibetan people’s fundamental rights as human beings.

From now until July 6, the United Nations Human Rights Council is in session. As the body responsible for addressing human rights violations around the world, it has an unavoidable responsibility to pass a resolution on Tibet. A strong resolution equals moral isolation for China, signaling to its leaders that the world does not tolerate its abuses in Tibet.

The Chinese government is trying to sweep the Tibet crisis under the rug and deflect international criticism. But we will not let this happen. 51,555 of us have signed a pledge calling for joint action by world governments. This Wednesday, SFT members and Tibetans from across Europe will deliver the pledges to the country representatives who make up the UN Human Rights Council at their meeting in Geneva.

With enough global public pressure targeting the Council members, we can ensure that a Tibet resolution is raised during this session. Multi-government action on Tibet is a moral and diplomatic challenge to the Chinese government; it puts the onus on China to prove to the world that its rule in Tibet is anything less than genocide.
At the last Human Rights Council session in April, the following countries raised serious concerns about Tibet: the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Denmark’s statement, delivered on behalf of the European Union, was supported by 34 countries, including non-EU members Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania and Liechtenstein.

Send appeal letters to the Council members representing these countries urging them to table an urgent resolution on Tibet: http://sft.convio.net/site/R?i=PKBmlI7bj59PBMW_VL7F9g

It is also important to send letters to the members who did not speak out at the 19th session, urging them to act now: https://secure3.convio.net/sft/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=875

Since the Council opened its session on June 18, two more Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibet. Last Wednesday, Ngawang Norpel, age 22, and Tenzin Khedup, age 24, self-immolated in Kyegudo, eastern Tibet. Khedup died on the scene while Norphel’s condition remains unknown. A rare video clip smuggled out of Tibet shows both men waving Tibetan flags while engulfed in flames. They left behind a heart-wrenching note calling on all young Tibetans to “unite and uphold the national cause of Tibet.”

Tibetans inside Tibet are taking the most drastic of nonviolent actions to show the world that they can no longer live under Chinese rule. In their messages, they have expressed the hope that their sacrifice would help bring about an end to the suffering of their people.

We do not want a single Tibetan to go through the unimaginable pain and suffering of lighting oneself on fire and burning to death. The message from Tibet is clear: Tibetans want change now! Together, we can make sure the highest human rights body in the world comes to their protection.

Team Tibet: Relaunching an Enduring Symbol

As London prepares to host the Summer Olympics, it is hard not to look back at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and marvel at how one epic year changed the course of Tibetan history.

In 2008, Tibetans and supporters around the world participated in a global uprising that started in Lhasa, spread through all three provinces of Tibet and reached every continent, creating an irreversible crisis of legitimacy for the Chinese government’s colonial occupation of Tibet.

As tens of thousands of Tibetans and supporters waved Tibetan flags and banners in the streets and outside Chinese embassies and consulates around the world, one of the most memorable sights was the sea of Team Tibet jackets at every protest, every rally, every vigil. The jacket became a dignified symbol that articulated the Tibetan people’s desire to regain our homeland and the world’s support for this vision. It symbolized the belief that one day Tibetans too will march alongside other Olympic teams, as an equal among nations.

This year, by popular demand, we have brought back the Team Tibet jacket of 2008!

Coinciding with the London Olympics, we are excited to release a limited edition of the original Team Tibet jacket with the embroidered snow lion patch. Four years after the historic protests upstaged the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, this is the perfect time to replace your old, but well-loved, Team Tibet jacket.

These jackets are sure to sell out fast. So get your limited edition Team Tibet jacket today: http://indiemerch.com/sft

100% of the proceeds support SFT’s hard-hitting campaigns and actions to promote human rights and freedom in Tibet.

Why Beijing has already lost

Every year, in the days leading up to June 4th, Chinese authorities have consistently banned the words ‘Tiananmen’ and ‘June 4′ – a place and a date. But this time around, the Chinese government has outdone itself. It went further, banning neutral words such as ‘square,’ and the numbers 6, 4, and 89. Not to mention images of candles.

When a government feels so existentially threatened by mere numbers, shapes and images, it has fundamentally lost its power and legitimacy. The Chinese authorities have gone nuts. And why shouldn’t they?

From Tunisia to Egypt to Burma, dictators are losing and democracy is gaining. This net growth in freedom worldwide is the most reliable indicator of where China too is headed. The more freedom grows around the world, the harder it gets for the remaining dictatorships and the leftover tyrants to survive.

That’s why Beijing is cracking down on its netizens, activists, and innocent citizens. That’s why it is escalating its repression in Tibet and East Turkestan. That’s why China’s internal security budget has surpassed its national defense budget. Like a wounded and dying tiger, it is making one last lunge for survival.

But if history holds any lesson, then the Chinese government’s days are numbered. The Chinese regime’s repressive streak – arresting people for the smallest of crimes, shooting at monks who are already burning, banning words and dates and even numbers – is reminiscent of the way the Soviet Union behaved in its final years, the way Milosevic behaved in his final months, and the way Mubarak and Ben Ali behaved in their final weeks.

This is the ultimate sign that the Chinese government has already been struck down in the great battle with freedom and democracy. It has no power, only the apparatus of power; it has no legitimacy, only the facade of legitimacy. Thus, it is only a matter of time before democracy comes to China, before freedom comes to Tibet.

New Website and Blog!

Please visit www.SFT-Canada.org for the brand new SFT Canada Website and Blog, where you can find updates on our work, our current campaigns and ways to take action!