23-minute podcast telling about the Tibetan situation, including interviews with Lobsang Wangyal, director of Sing for Tibet, and Tashi Norbu. Secretary of Religion and Culture, Tibetan Govt in exile.
"Tibetans say that there is more at stake here than just themselves — it is the world we all live in."
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Welcome to Listen In, an audio tour of the world around you. I am Ben Jenkins
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Today, September 9, 2010, we will go to Tibet in our imagination. In reality we will go to India. The Tibetan people have to move to india to stay alive. They have been trying to solve a problem for 50 years now: What is their homeland?
Next month, they will host an event in two different countries to keep this problem in the public view. Listen in to that story next. Then later we will hear an older story, from 2005, about the Tibetans, what they are doing in India, about their own identity, and how they are trying to keep their own identity, even though they have been away from their country for so long.
Over 50 years ago, Tibetans fled their country and oppression of the new regime in China. Even to this day the brave ones still climb across the mountains to India, where they are offered a new home.
lw: After Mao took over and established the People's Republic of China, the communist country, he wanted to expand more. So first he started with the country called East Turkestan, they called the place Xinjiang. Before Tibet, Xinjiang was totally occupied, and after that, the communists started to expand their power and started to invade Tibet. And that started in 1950, 1951. Then at the end of 1959, the occupation was completed, and as a result, the Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, had to flee his country, and he sought asylum in India.
The word border, is not how you would imagine a border between the United States and Canada for example, it is not like that at all. The access is very limited, and what happens is that people in Tibet, when the situation becomes too bad for them, when it becomes too intolerable, such as for people like former political prisoners, they just leave Tibet, crossing the Himayalas, without proper documentation — they don't even have proper clothing. Sometimes mountaineers find Tibetan bodies entombed high in the Himalayas. So it's not like free movement at all. But the situation is so desperate that they just cannot be there. So in the hope of having a bettter life, and better opportunities, and meeting their beloved leader the Dalai Lama, they come to India.
That was the voice of Lobsang Wangyal. Trained as a journalist, he is now putting on public events, doing what he can to reach people who want to support the Tibetan struggle.
lw: My name is Lobsang, Lobsang Wangyal. I'm an exile Tibetan living in McLeod Ganj. McLeod Ganj is a small hilltown village where the Dalai Lama lives in exile in India. I'm a photojournalist, and I'm also an events producer. So i also call myself a "small-town impresario." I have been producing events since the year 2000.
The Tibetan people led by the Dalai Lama, the majority of them, they are now no more seeking an independent Tibet, as of now. The majority of Tibetans are saying that there should be a genuine autonomy, where Tibetans can practice their own culture, language, and decide their own education system, their health sytem, the environment, trade and commerce, things like that. Whereas the Chinase government can hold control of the defence and the international relations.
His latest event is his biggest, a live music show, where the audience will be the performers, coming together to force the world to pay attention to Tibetans in exile.
lw: My upcoming event is a small event called "Sing for Tibet" on 10th of October in New York City and Brussels. The event will be a litmus test for me to produce international events, as well as an event in China in the future. Sing for Tibet is an opportunity for people in North America and Europe to come together and tell the world that Tibet is not forgotten. As you all know, the Tibetan issue has been going on for now more than 50 years. It is a just cause because Tibetans are fighting for their basic human rights: freedom of expression, freedom to practice their own religion, and to protect their own environment. We are not hoping to achieve something big out of this. If you support the Tibetan cause, here is an opportunity, so show us.
Even though governments haven't taken on this cause as much as they should, he knows that they have the people's support. A few years ago, the Chinese government killed 200 Tibetans for protesting their policies. Governments were afraid to challenge China because of their economic disdantage, but the people cared. They wanted to know how to express their feelings. This event is a way to let them make their voices heard.
lw: At the governmental level, because China is becoming more and more influential -- in fact recently they became the world's number-two economy -- it has so much influence, global market, and other countries, having to maintain their own finanancial system and all this, it is becoming more and more difficult for countries to openly speak up in favor of Tibet and the Tibetan people.
The U.S. has been very generous and very supportive to the Tibetan cause. Obama has met the dalai lama and he seems to be doing the right things, like he said: "change" ... and we wait for the change.
People around the world, at the grassroots specially, they support the Tibetan cause because it is a just cause. They are very much aware of the Tibetan situation. The only problem is that their governments are acting diferently. Not much is happening in terms of coming closer to achive what Tibetans are aspiring, which is a free Tibet.
There are many people who say they love Tibet, they support Tibet, they say that Tibetan people have indeed the right to have their own life. But practically, this is a perfect opportunity for them to come together and do something for Tibet. And in a very fun way — "3 tens," "triple ten," and also, the good coincidence is that it is a Sunday, and so people have time, and they can come together, relax, meet all kinds of people, and at the same time, they do something for a just cause like the Tibetan cause.
And the guests will have to provide the sound. Lobsang asks people to go to the website to learn the time and location, and also to learn the lyrics.
lw: Everybody will sing a song. There is no sound system or no big speeches, it's just real people's initiative, people coming together, joining hands and doing a fun thing, and for a great cause. The people I tell, people who are aware of this, they are so excited by this event. The song is already up on the website, at SingforTibet.com/song More and more people are showing interest, and especially now that I am using Facebook so much, people are putting it on their "Walls" and it is happening in the way i have planned and imagined, probably.
He has been happy with the response so far, and encourages everyone to visit the website and join the Facebook group.
lw: It is called Sing for Tibet on Facebook. People are also putting it on their "Walls," so the response is coming very well. Also the Examiner.com, is another news website which is mostly related to spirituality. They have done an interesting, very impressive piece about this event.
The Tibetans know that there is more at stake here than just themselves. They see a bigger picture too, the world that we all live in.
lw: Global warming is no more a myth, it is a real thing. The Tibetan plateau, as you all know, is the highest plateau, and Tibet is the highest country in the world. It is now called, not just "The Roof of the World," but now it is also called "The Third Pole." There is a huge reserve of glaciers, freshwater resources, in the Tibetan plateau, which is getting damaged very fast by global warming. Also the wildlife, the rate at many wildlifes are killed -- for example to make the famous shawl called shatoosh: [The wool] is coming from a Tibetan deer. These kind of things are causing so much concern, for the sustenance of the Tibetan ecology, in the Tibetan plateau. It is becoming more and more important for people to think about it, to talk about it, and to bring awareness among the people.
People who are interested, should note that this is a true public event, without commercial sponsors. The cost will be paid for, if people can contribute. A good way is to go to their website, where you can buy t-shirts, bags, caps, mugs, and more to make a donation to the cause. The website again is SingforTibet.com. The shopping buttons are in the left column.
Lobsang wishes that those of you in Europe or the US can come to Belgium or New York and sing for Tibet.
lw: I say that, Sing for Tibet, is to tell the world that Tibet is not forgotten. We must keep the pressure on, that is the basic idea.
This is Ben Jenkins, McLeod Ganj, India. Thanks for listening.
When the nation of China entered Tibet in 1949, residents started moving into neighboring India, claiming repressive policies and severe human rights abuses. The total number of refugees from Tibet has now topped 80,000.
I spoke with Tibetans here about their situation and the problems that they face, and how people here can get more information, and help. I'll give the contact information at the end of this program.
Since arriving in India, Tibetans organised a government-in-exile here. Led by His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Tibetans across India are working to win back their freedom from China. They are also working to retain their own identity, despite being removed from their homeland, and surrounded by much larger Hindu communities.
Tashi Norbu is Secretary of Religion and Culture of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. He feels that Tibetan Buddhists live comfortably in India among the Hindu population.
tn: As you know very well, Buddhism came from India to Tibet many centuries back. So there is a very close relationship with Hinduism and Buddhism.
Instead Norbu sees China as the source of their problems.
tn: In Tibet, the relationship between the Tibetans, the 6 million people inside Tibet, and the Chinese invaders, who came to occupy Tibet in 1951 and who have occupied Tibet for the last more than 40 years, they have destroyed our religion, culture, and they have transferred many of their population inside Tibet. And now in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and all the towns, the population of Chinese is much more than the original Tibetans.
This last point is a major concern to Tashi Norbu, who notes that Chinese people outnumber the native population within Tibet, both in small villages, and even the capital of Lhasa. Beause of this Chinese influx, the Department of Religion and Culture is working to preserve Tibetan identity, through religious education.
tn: In India and Nepal, altogether we have about 200 monasteries and nunneries, and we have about 30,000 monks and nuns. These monks and nuns, they preserve our traditional Tibetan learning.
Jampa Phuntsok [was] the chairman of the "Tibetan Autonomous Region." [2005-2008] Recently he issued a press statement in which he claims that Chinese migration into Tibet is the result of positive development there by the Chinese goverment. Mr Norbu feels differently
tn: The Tibet Buddhist tradition is destroyed in our Tibet, but those refugees can go into in India, for the last 40 years.
Phuntsok did not address the refugee issue in a statement, and suggested that the campaign for Tibetan autonomy is a tool being exploited by outside nations to weaken Chinese unity. However, Norbu does not agree that there is this much international influence.
tn: We have not much hope of getting a fully independent Tibet, because we don't get support from international communities also in this regard.
Ideally, he would like to see Tibet become independent from China, but would be satisfied with Tibetans having more control over their own territory.
tn: We are trying to negotiate with the Chinese to get genuine autonomy, that means, self-government for the Tibetan people to run Tibet and get genuine autonomy under the Chinese rule. And of course, to be able to preserve our religion and culture, and our identity.
Over 6,000 monasteries have now been destroyed by the Chinese. But ["TAR" chairman] Tashi Phuntsok quotes statistics to show that Tibetans should be happy under Chinese rule. The gross domestic product in the Tibetan region has increased by at least 10% per year over the past ten years. The per-capita income has increased by 1.8% per year over the same time. However, Chinese policies on foreign investment, language, and education, are biased towards ethnic Han Chinese people over the native Tibetans, so the statiscs are not the same for everyone. Additionally, Norbu reminds us that refugees continue to flee Tibet into India, contradicting the idea that Tibetans must be happy with the Chinese-sponsored development. With the Tibetan and Chinese positions so far apart, it's hard to tell what Tibetans really think.
I spoke with Lobsang Wangyal, a Tibetan photo-journalist. He fights misinformation using words and pictures instead of guns.
lw: For me, photojournalism is a weapon to tell about Tibet and its current situation to the wider world in a non-violent way.
In addition to his journalism, Wangyal also works on artistic and cultural events within the Tibetan community.
lw: One is called Free Spirit Festival. It is about celebration of contemporary Tibetan art, and also we focus on the vanishing aspects of Tibetan culture.
Art projects help connect the people with their culture, and even demonstrate their quest for freedom.
lw: The Tibetan artist, through their art forms they show their aspirations which are normally about the Tibetan cause. They are wanting to go back to their own country, which is now occupied by China. So it is really quite clear what they feel inside, first of all as a human being, and second as a Tibetan, they display all this through these mediums.
The young Tibetans struggle even harder to connect with a land they know nothing about. For them, a simple event such as Tibetan Music Awards can help them bond with their community. Traditionalists may disagree.
lw: The younger generation Tibetans have seen, they have studied such art, contemporary stuff. But the older generation, they have some reservations, and especially when we do Miss Tibet Pageant, they have big reservations, especially from elderly Tibetans. Because they think it is copying western culture, and it is un-Tibetan.
But ultimately, all Tibetans are refugees, and art projects only go so far. They look to the outside world for assistance, most notably the United States.
lw: America is a powerful country, it has lots of potential. The only thing is, it needs to focus its energy in the right direction. People like Tibetan people. We don't expect, but it would be great, if certain tangible assistance comes from the US people, such as in the field of politics.
We are refugees, not because of communal fighting or natural disasters or something like that. It is out of human greed and ignorance.
lw: Why? First of all, you have to understand, why to save Tibetan culture is very important? or the Tibetan people?
Because: The basic principle of Tibetan culture is that everybody is like yourself, who doesn't want suffering, but happiness.