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Sunday, December 18, 2005

BIG NY Times Article:

The Restless Children of the Dalai Lama

Today's New York Times Magazine has a long article on young Tibetan exile activists. The star of the article is poet, activist, and friend of SFT Tenzin Tsundue. I was glad to see such a long piece on the subject in such a high-profile venue. Pankaj Mishra's article is thoughtful and well-written and its portrayal of young Tibetan activists in India is very sympathetic.

Writing about Tenzin Tsundue:
He is always busy. Last spring, he helped organize a meeting in the town's central square to commemorate the victims of the massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. He recently finished work on a joint translation of a long poem by a Tibetan writer facing official disapproval in China. Unlike most activists, he doesn't offer a solution for every problem. Instead, he seems engaged in a long and uncertain quest - and this reflective manner is part of his charisma, what makes him attractive to young Indians and Tibetans. "The biggest question for us," he told me, "is what can we do? How do we find a solution to our dilemma? It is so easy to give up and invest all your faith in the Dalai Lama. We have to do something else. But what is it?"
Nonetheless, the article fails to express how strategic and visionary Tsundue and his compatriots are. Instead, it paints them as a brand new breed of questioning young people that are just waking up to the idea that the Dalai Lama can't be expected to shoulder the entire burden of the Tibetan cause. The article also fails to give much context outside of the position of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the state of the talks with the Chinese. It doesn't mention the growing unrest within China or describe the way the youth movement for Tibet is growing and solidifying around the world. It mentions the Tibetan Youth Congress, but not that there are chapters everywhere there are Tibetans. There's a photo of the SFT India office, with SFT India's National Coordinator Tenzin Choeying sitting right in the middle. But the caption just calls it the Tibetan exiles' "new office and library," failing to connect it to an international network of young people in dozens of countries around the world. The writer thoughtfully weighs a debate between Tsundue and Samdhong Rinpoche over Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent resistance but he doesn't look forward, towards the Beijing 2008 Olympics when China will be under unprecedented scrutiny. Nor does he note the massive demographic changes taking place in Tibet, with China encouraging increasing numbers of Chinese to settle there, threatening to simply overwhelm the Tibetan people by making them a minority in their own country.

Then there are a handful of places where the writer completely misses the point. For instance:
"...whatever benefits the Chinese bring in the form of new roads, schools and regular jobs have so far failed to diminish the popularity of the Dalai Lama."
Well yes, it isn't just that the Tibetans have maintained their deeply Buddhist faith and culture in the face of the Chinese occupation - it's that the new roads (that help bring in Chinese troops and carry out natural resources), schools (where Tibetan children are indoctrinated with Chinese propaganda and forbidden from speaking their language) and regular jobs (taken by Chinese migrants) aren't "benefits" at all.
It's important for a writer to maintain focus in an article like this. But it's too focused on the supposed "novelty" of Tibetans daring to hold a different vision than the Dalai Lama. Most importantly, it fails to connect Tsundue's tireless activism to that of thousands of Tibetans and their supporters worldwide -- a global movement for Tibetan independence with which Tsundue closely coordinates. Congratulations to Tsundue for earning the coverage (he absolutely has) but let's make sure the faceless thousands of hard-working Tibet activists everywhere also get their deserved acclaim (and I don't mean to suggest that it's Tsundue's responsibility - it's all of ours).

I'm going to send an email to the NY Times Magazine's Editor [magazine@nytimes.com] to say "thanks for the coverage" but also to encourage them to explore this critical issue much further. There has been increasing coverage of unrest in totalitarian China and corruption and instability within the Chinese Communist Party. Let's try to keep the pressure on to make publications like the New York Times give better (and more!) coverage to Tibet as well. I've posted my letter to the editor as the first comment. Please post your letters as comments too.

4 Comments:

  • At 11:05 PM, Blogger cold mtn said…

    magazine@nytimes.com

    To: Editor, New York Times Magazine
    Re: The Restless Children of the Dalai Lama, 12/18/05

    Dear Editor:

    I was glad to see a long and well-written article on Tibetan exile activism (The Restless Children of the Dalai Lama, NY Times
    Magazine, December 18, 2005). Unfortunately, I found the article absorbed with the supposed "novelty" of Tibetans who hold a different vision than the Dalai Lama. It also fails to connect the tireless activism of Tenzin Tsundue, the activist profiled, to that of thousands of Tibetans and their supporters worldwide - a global movement for Tibetan independence with which the admirable Tsundue closely coordinates. The photo of "Tibetan exiles in their new office and library" actually shows the India office of Students for a Free Tibet, an organization with headquarters in New York, offices in Canada and the U.K. and hundreds of chapters in dozens of countries worldwide. While pop culture's fascination with Tibet may have passed, the movement against China's occupation of Tibet is growing and looking forward to the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

    Han Shan
    Students for a Free Tibet
    New York City

     
  • At 11:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was shocked to see the article today- one day after I wrote in to the Times to complain about their lack of representation of Tibetan affairs verses those of mainland China in the wake of the recent Dongzhou shootings. (I know it is just a coincidence though).
    Although I didn't know that was the SFT office in India I wondered why there was no mention of SFT and its role/connection to the independence movement. I'm so glad you wrote in to them. More people should do the same.

    -Liz F. RU SFT

     
  • At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Prepare for the Tibetan National Uprising of 2006

    Ladies and gentlemen, friends and countrymen.

    The time is critical for the Tibetan people. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is growing old. The Chinese Government is as obstinate and hardline as before and there is not an inch of progress on the Sino-Tibetan talks. The situation inside Tibet is getting worse day by day. Only a few officials are becoming rich and being pampered in Tibet. The ordinary Tibetans are suffering. China is trying to win over the Tibetan people by economic incentives.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been compassionate talking about his Middle Way Approach. He is thinking of China’s benefit, too. But Leave along coming to the middle, the Chinese are not even shifting an inch from their approach. In fact they are committing more eggregrious crimes in Tibet, denying the Tibetan people space and air for freedom of all sorts, religion, politics. His Holiness has said he is committed to his approach. But the Tibetan people cannot be that generous. China has shown that she is not willing to listen to His Holiness. Tibetan democracy in exile provides us the people with the right to take our own stand. We should do it not because we oppose His Holiness but because we hate the Chinese occupiers.

    Thus frustration is growing.

    In 1959 the Tibetan people’s frustration spilled over and became the Tibetan National Uprising in March that year. That movement was led by the Mimang Tsongdu, a conglomeration of representatives from all parts of Tibet. Mimang of 1959 tried its best within the resources available to it at that point of time.

    Today, we are facing another dire strait. It is time that the Tibetan people think of reviving the spirit of the Mimang movement. This time we have the opportunity, the facility and the resources to be better prepared.

    In the late fifties, Lhasa became increasingly politicized and a non-violent resistance movement evolved, organized by "Mimang Tsongdu", a popular and spontaneous citizens' group. Posters denouncing the occupation went up and stones and dried yak dung were hurled at Chinese street parades.

    Mimang Tsongdu members and their supporters had erected barricades in Lhasa's narrow streets while the Chinese militia had positioned sandbag fortifications for machine guns on the city's flat rooftops. Three thousand Tibetans in Lhasa signed up to join the rebels manning the valley's ring of mountains.

    The first major popular resistance group, the Mimang Tsongdu (People's Assembly), banded together spontaneously and handed the Chinese Military Command a petition demanding withdrawal of the PLA and an end to Chinese interference in Tibetan affairs.

    Within a year, the uprising had spread to Central Tibet, and in 1958 Tensung Dhanglang Magar, (the Voluntary Force for the Defense of the Faith), a union of the Mimang Tsongdu and Chushi Gangduk (Four Rivers Six Ranges) organisations, was founded. By the autumn of that year this popular army, estimated at 80,000 men, was in control of most districts of Southern Tibet and parts of Eastern Tibet.

    Now we have the opportunity to repeat history with a difference. I call upon the different Tibetan organizations in exile to convened another Mimang Tsongdu to take stock of the situation and come up with a common action plan. The provincial organzations, youth and women organizations all can band together. Let us leave aside the issue of whether we support Middle Path or Rangzen. It is emergency situation and we first need to save Tibet from extinction. Let us discuss more radical approach.

    I call upon the TYC to take the lead in convening such a conference? This is crucial. We should have the meeting before March 2006 so that we can begin implementing our plan of action. All of us Tibetans wherever we are living can pitch in.

    I will volunteer to help materialize this issue.

    Long Sho ! It is time to rise up.


    Prepare for the Tibetan National Uprising of 2006

    Ladies and gentlemen, friends and countrymen.

    The time is critical for the Tibetan people. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is growing old. The Chinese Government is as obstinate and hardline as before and there is not an inch of progress on the Sino-Tibetan talks. The situation inside Tibet is getting worse day by day. Only a few officials are becoming rich and being pampered in Tibet. The ordinary Tibetans are suffering. China is trying to win over the Tibetan people by economic incentives.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been compassionate talking about his Middle Way Approach. He is thinking of China’s benefit, too. But Leave along coming to the middle, the Chinese are not even shifting an inch from their approach. In fact they are committing more eggregrious crimes in Tibet, denying the Tibetan people space and air for freedom of all sorts, religion, politics. His Holiness has said he is committed to his approach. But the Tibetan people cannot be that generous. China has shown that she is not willing to listen to His Holiness. Tibetan democracy in exile provides us the people with the right to take our own stand. We should do it not because we oppose His Holiness but because we hate the Chinese occupiers.

    Thus frustration is growing.

    In 1959 the Tibetan people’s frustration spilled over and became the Tibetan National Uprising in March that year. That movement was led by the Mimang Tsongdu, a conglomeration of representatives from all parts of Tibet. Mimang of 1959 tried its best within the resources available to it at that point of time.

    Today, we are facing another dire strait. It is time that the Tibetan people think of reviving the spirit of the Mimang movement. This time we have the opportunity, the facility and the resources to be better prepared.

    In the late fifties, Lhasa became increasingly politicized and a non-violent resistance movement evolved, organized by "Mimang Tsongdu", a popular and spontaneous citizens' group. Posters denouncing the occupation went up and stones and dried yak dung were hurled at Chinese street parades.

    Mimang Tsongdu members and their supporters had erected barricades in Lhasa's narrow streets while the Chinese militia had positioned sandbag fortifications for machine guns on the city's flat rooftops. Three thousand Tibetans in Lhasa signed up to join the rebels manning the valley's ring of mountains.

    The first major popular resistance group, the Mimang Tsongdu (People's Assembly), banded together spontaneously and handed the Chinese Military Command a petition demanding withdrawal of the PLA and an end to Chinese interference in Tibetan affairs.

    Within a year, the uprising had spread to Central Tibet, and in 1958 Tensung Dhanglang Magar, (the Voluntary Force for the Defense of the Faith), a union of the Mimang Tsongdu and Chushi Gangduk (Four Rivers Six Ranges) organisations, was founded. By the autumn of that year this popular army, estimated at 80,000 men, was in control of most districts of Southern Tibet and parts of Eastern Tibet.

    Now we have the opportunity to repeat history with a difference. I call upon the different Tibetan organizations in exile to convened another Mimang Tsongdu to take stock of the situation and come up with a common action plan. The provincial organzations, youth and women organizations all can band together. Let us leave aside the issue of whether we support Middle Path or Rangzen. It is emergency situation and we first need to save Tibet from extinction. Let us discuss more radical approach.

    I call upon the TYC to take the lead in convening such a conference? This is crucial. We should have the meeting before March 2006 so that we can begin implementing our plan of action. All of us Tibetans wherever we are living can pitch in.

    I will volunteer to help materialize this issue.

    Long Sho ! It is time to rise up.

     
  • At 3:45 PM, Blogger Tenzin said…

    Prepare for the Tibetan National Uprising of 2006

    Ladies and gentlemen, friends and countrymen.

    The time is critical for the Tibetan people. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is growing old. The Chinese Government is as obstinate and hardline as before and there is not an inch of progress on the Sino-Tibetan talks. The situation inside Tibet is getting worse day by day. Only a few officials are becoming rich and being pampered in Tibet. The ordinary Tibetans are suffering. China is trying to win over the Tibetan people by economic incentives.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been compassionate talking about his Middle Way Approach. He is thinking of China’s benefit, too. But Leave along coming to the middle, the Chinese are not even shifting an inch from their approach. In fact they are committing more eggregrious crimes in Tibet, denying the Tibetan people space and air for freedom of all sorts, religion, politics. His Holiness has said he is committed to his approach. But the Tibetan people cannot be that generous. China has shown that she is not willing to listen to His Holiness. Tibetan democracy in exile provides us the people with the right to take our own stand. We should do it not because we oppose His Holiness but because we hate the Chinese occupiers.

    Thus frustration is growing.

    In 1959 the Tibetan people’s frustration spilled over and became the Tibetan National Uprising in March that year. That movement was led by the Mimang Tsongdu, a conglomeration of representatives from all parts of Tibet. Mimang of 1959 tried its best within the resources available to it at that point of time.

    Today, we are facing another dire strait. It is time that the Tibetan people think of reviving the spirit of the Mimang movement. This time we have the opportunity, the facility and the resources to be better prepared.

    In the late fifties, Lhasa became increasingly politicized and a non-violent resistance movement evolved, organized by "Mimang Tsongdu", a popular and spontaneous citizens' group. Posters denouncing the occupation went up and stones and dried yak dung were hurled at Chinese street parades.

    Mimang Tsongdu members and their supporters had erected barricades in Lhasa's narrow streets while the Chinese militia had positioned sandbag fortifications for machine guns on the city's flat rooftops. Three thousand Tibetans in Lhasa signed up to join the rebels manning the valley's ring of mountains.

    The first major popular resistance group, the Mimang Tsongdu (People's Assembly), banded together spontaneously and handed the Chinese Military Command a petition demanding withdrawal of the PLA and an end to Chinese interference in Tibetan affairs.

    Within a year, the uprising had spread to Central Tibet, and in 1958 Tensung Dhanglang Magar, (the Voluntary Force for the Defense of the Faith), a union of the Mimang Tsongdu and Chushi Gangduk (Four Rivers Six Ranges) organisations, was founded. By the autumn of that year this popular army, estimated at 80,000 men, was in control of most districts of Southern Tibet and parts of Eastern Tibet.

    Now we have the opportunity to repeat history with a difference. I call upon the different Tibetan organizations in exile to convened another Mimang Tsongdu to take stock of the situation and come up with a common action plan. The provincial organzations, youth and women organizations all can band together. Let us leave aside the issue of whether we support Middle Path or Rangzen. It is emergency situation and we first need to save Tibet from extinction. Let us discuss more radical approach.

    I call upon the TYC to take the lead in convening such a conference? This is crucial. We should have the meeting before March 2006 so that we can begin implementing our plan of action. All of us Tibetans wherever we are living can pitch in.

    I will volunteer to help materialize this issue.

    Long Sho ! It is time to rise up.


    Prepare for the Tibetan National Uprising of 2006

    Ladies and gentlemen, friends and countrymen.

    The time is critical for the Tibetan people. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is growing old. The Chinese Government is as obstinate and hardline as before and there is not an inch of progress on the Sino-Tibetan talks. The situation inside Tibet is getting worse day by day. Only a few officials are becoming rich and being pampered in Tibet. The ordinary Tibetans are suffering. China is trying to win over the Tibetan people by economic incentives.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been compassionate talking about his Middle Way Approach. He is thinking of China’s benefit, too. But Leave along coming to the middle, the Chinese are not even shifting an inch from their approach. In fact they are committing more eggregrious crimes in Tibet, denying the Tibetan people space and air for freedom of all sorts, religion, politics. His Holiness has said he is committed to his approach. But the Tibetan people cannot be that generous. China has shown that she is not willing to listen to His Holiness. Tibetan democracy in exile provides us the people with the right to take our own stand. We should do it not because we oppose His Holiness but because we hate the Chinese occupiers.

    Thus frustration is growing.

    In 1959 the Tibetan people’s frustration spilled over and became the Tibetan National Uprising in March that year. That movement was led by the Mimang Tsongdu, a conglomeration of representatives from all parts of Tibet. Mimang of 1959 tried its best within the resources available to it at that point of time.

    Today, we are facing another dire strait. It is time that the Tibetan people think of reviving the spirit of the Mimang movement. This time we have the opportunity, the facility and the resources to be better prepared.

    In the late fifties, Lhasa became increasingly politicized and a non-violent resistance movement evolved, organized by "Mimang Tsongdu", a popular and spontaneous citizens' group. Posters denouncing the occupation went up and stones and dried yak dung were hurled at Chinese street parades.

    Mimang Tsongdu members and their supporters had erected barricades in Lhasa's narrow streets while the Chinese militia had positioned sandbag fortifications for machine guns on the city's flat rooftops. Three thousand Tibetans in Lhasa signed up to join the rebels manning the valley's ring of mountains.

    The first major popular resistance group, the Mimang Tsongdu (People's Assembly), banded together spontaneously and handed the Chinese Military Command a petition demanding withdrawal of the PLA and an end to Chinese interference in Tibetan affairs.

    Within a year, the uprising had spread to Central Tibet, and in 1958 Tensung Dhanglang Magar, (the Voluntary Force for the Defense of the Faith), a union of the Mimang Tsongdu and Chushi Gangduk (Four Rivers Six Ranges) organisations, was founded. By the autumn of that year this popular army, estimated at 80,000 men, was in control of most districts of Southern Tibet and parts of Eastern Tibet.

    Now we have the opportunity to repeat history with a difference. I call upon the different Tibetan organizations in exile to convened another Mimang Tsongdu to take stock of the situation and come up with a common action plan. The provincial organzations, youth and women organizations all can band together. Let us leave aside the issue of whether we support Middle Path or Rangzen. It is emergency situation and we first need to save Tibet from extinction. Let us discuss more radical approach.

    I call upon the TYC to take the lead in convening such a conference? This is crucial. We should have the meeting before March 2006 so that we can begin implementing our plan of action. All of us Tibetans wherever we are living can pitch in.

    I will volunteer to help materialize this issue.

    Long Sho ! It is time to rise up.

     

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