Archive for ‘Dalai Lama’

Friday, December 20, 2013

Chinese Press and Blog Review: funerals and self-immolations

1. Reforming Cadres’ and Party Members’ Funerals

One of the most-read domestic news in China’s online media on Friday appears to be a state-council opinion on reform of cadres‘ and party members‘ funerals. Cremation should be the regular way, thriftily and in an ecological way, the opinion is quoted. The opinion encourages organ donations, regulated land use (and no waste of land) for graveyards, no “superstitious” or “feudal” rites (no fengshui either), etc.. However, party members who belong to national minorities should be buried with respect to customs and in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations, according to reports.

2. Self-Immolation in Gansu Province

A Tibetan monk reportedly killed himself by self-immolation in Amchok town, Sangchu County, within the “autonomous” Tibetan prefecture of Gannan, in Gansu Province, on Thursday. His name is said to be Tsuiltrim Gyatso, a man in his early fourties. According to Phayul, he is the 125th Tibetan since 2009 to set himself on fire to protest the Chinese government.

Tsering Woeser quotes from what is said to be Tsuiltrim Gyatso’s suicide note:

Dear brothers, did you hear? Did you see? To whom can the distress of six million Tibetans be told? Black Han Chinese brutal prison, taking our golden and silver treasures, leaving the ordinary people in poverty, thinking of it, it brings still more tears to my eyes.

I will burn my precious body, for the venerable Dalai Lama to return to the native land, for the Panchen Lama to be released, for the happiness and benefit of six million Tibetans, I will offer my body to the fire.

Three treasures, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha: please bless and protect those who are helpless, compatriots from the snowland, be united [unreadable] Snowland fighter Tsuiltrim Gyatso.
佛、法、僧三宝啊,请护佑无助的人们,雪域同胞们,要团结xxxxx (此处字迹不清 )……

According to Tsering Woeser’s blog, Tsuiltrim Gyatso’s remains was taken to his monastery by fellow monks, and more than 400 monks held prayers for him, but the current situation wasn’t known, writes Woeser.



» Inevitable Humiliations, Sept 17, 2011


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Obituary: Robert Ford, 1923 – 2013

Robert Ford, a British diplomat and radio operator, worked for the Tibetan government during the the late 1940s, and was arrested by the Chinese during the invasion of Tibet in 1950. Charged with espionage and murder, he remained imprisoned until May 1955. He then left China via Hong Kong.

The BBC describes his years of imprisonment and “re-education” in some detail. He began work in Britain’s diplomatic service after his return to Britain and was stationed in a number of countries.

His mission in Tibet had apparently been to build Tibet’s first-ever broadcasting station, and a wireless information system across Tibet. While establishing a radio connection between Chamdo and Lhasa, he also went on air as an amateur radio operator at times, with the callsign AC4RF.

Robert Ford died on September 20, aged 90.

The Dalai Lama, whom Ford had first met in the 1940s, and most recently in April this year, offered his prayers and condolences to Ford’s family members.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What the Dalai Lama’s (potential) Travels may have to do with Soviet History, Oil Prices, and the South China Sea

The Dalai Lama hopes that the new, coming leadership would be more lenient, according to Reuters. Reuters writes that

[i]n the early 1950s, the Dalai Lama knew Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun, one of the most liberal leaders of the Chinese revolution, who was known to have had a less hardline approach to Tibet.

Xi Zhongxun (习仲勋) is said to have opposed the 1989 Tian An Men crackdown, about a year after his retirement in 1988. The article suggesting this stance by Xi Zhongxun also suggests that Xi Jinping himself is the only leader who served in the military. If true, this could mean that he has a more realistic view of the limited use of violent crackdowns. However, according to a Singapure National University document, Xi Jinping’s military role was rather political:

Unlike other frontrunners of the fifth generation leadership, Xi has had some
military service before. Upon his graduation from Qinghua University in 1979, he worked for Geng Biao (耿飚), the then secretary general of the Central Military Commission (CMC), for about three years.

Meantime, Huanqiu Shibao is quoted as having reported on an eleven-day visit by the Dalai Lama to Japan, scheduled for November this year. The article can currently not be found on Huanqiu (only the search results seem to be available at Google). Beifang Net apparently republished the short news article. It closes with quoting the foreign ministry’s standard condemnation:

Concerning the Dalai issue, the FMPRC has expressed many times that Tibetan affairs are China’s internal affairs. The Dalai has for a long time been a political exile under a banner of religion, engaging in anti-China splittist activities. China resolutely opposes any country and any person making use of Tibetan issues to interfere in Chinese internal affairs.


Russian president Vladimir Putin told Buddhist citizens on July 31 that the Russian government worked in the direction of inviting the Dalai Lama to Russia. Feng Chuangzhi, a regular congtributor to, a website operated by the state council, wrote in an editorial on August 8 that given many years of friendly cooperation between Putin and Beijing, Chinese reactions to Putin’s comment eight days earlier had been low-key, just its reaction to the Russian shelling of a Chinese fishing boat had not been radical (过激). After a short re-cap of the usual allegations against the Dalai Lama, Feng writes that

under such circumstances, the likelihood of a Dalai visit to Russia as expressed by the Russian president does, of course, hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, and can lead to contradictions emerging between the two sides [China and Russia].


However, the ways in which Putin and Western countries invite the Dalai are different. Putin spoke about the possibility, but didn’t make it definite. People know that a so-called possibility is no official decision. It should also be said that he made these remarks in a discussion, saying that “we obviously understand the hopes of our people living here in [the Republic of] Kalmykia that the Dalai Lama comes to them”.

但是,同样说邀请达赖,普京与西方等国邀请达赖的口角就有所不同。普京只是说到创造达赖访俄罗斯的可能,并未把话说死。人们知道,所谓可能性,只是一种预 测,不是正式决定。还应一提的是,所说的邀请达赖来的是在同论坛与会者们交谈时的表示,“我们当然理解我们那些生活在卡尔梅克并期待达赖·喇嘛到来的 人”。

The following lines explain the history of the “so-called Kalmyks” (所谓卡尔梅克人). Feng then returns to the present tense:

Putin promised the Kalmyks to invite the Dalai Lama to alleviate their historical wounds.  One can imagine that for some time, the Kalmyks raised the invitation of the Dalai, and as a Russian politician, [Putin] can’t ignore their wishes, but he also can’t be unaware of the Chinese government’s attitude towards the Dalai, and therefore can’t simply do things that would lead to tensions in Sino-Russian relations. Agence France-Presse said on August 1 that Putin had always acknowledged China’s position concerning the Tibetan issue, and believed that the Dalai was “a politicial personality engaging in secession”, and that the Dalai’s announcement of abandoning the political role had perhaps changed Russia’s traditional approach. “The Australian” said that perhaps, Putin’s remarks on July 31 marked “a turning point in attitude”. There are Western media that say that if Putin, only for a single day, allows the Dalai Lama to visit Kalmykia, it would put Sino-Russian relations to a direct test. Therefore, Putin’s invitation to the Dalai Lama is rather to curry favor with the Kalmyks, and also rather makeshift.

普京面向卡尔梅克人承诺邀达赖访问一事其为平抚卡尔梅克人历史创伤之意。可以想到,一段时间以来,卡尔梅克人早就发出了邀请达赖来访的声音,身为俄罗斯政 治家,不能不顾及卡尔梅克人的意愿,但普京也不可能不知道中国政府对达赖的态度,决不会冒然做令中俄关系紧张的事情。法新社1日说,普京一直认同中国西藏 问题立场,认为达赖是“从事国家分裂的政治人物”,去年达赖宣布放弃政治角色,或能让俄改变传统做法。《澳大利亚人报》称,普京7月31日的发言或是“态 度转变的契机”。有外媒称,普京一旦允许达赖访问卡尔梅克,将“对俄中关系构成直接考验。因此,普京发出邀请达赖访俄更多是讨好卡尔梅克人之意。也就是权 宜之计。

It wasn’t clear if Putin also “played the Dalai card” to put pressure on China in negotiations about the price for Russian oil, where there was disagreement between the two sides, writes Feng, and also gives Russia’s alliance with Vietnam a mention. Feng doesn’t describe Russia as a foe, but uses quotes instead to whip up  readers’ paranoia. Referring to Cam Ranh Bay, among other recent issues in the news, Feng quotes analysts:

Russia’s president Putin wants to tie China down and weaken it by inviting the Dalai. It wants to slow Chinese action against Vietnam down, thus giving Russia the opportunity to arm and support Vietnam, and to build military bases in Vietnam.


China and Russia are friendly neighbors, and to promote Sino-Russian friendship is the mainstream volition of the people on both sides. The most important thing in their relations is to respect territorial sovereignty and integrity, and each others core interests. If core interests are involved, contradictions will arise. This author [Feng] believes that both countries’ politicians, facing a complicated international situation, will handle sensitive issues, including those of  the “Dalai Lama card” type, appropriately. Floating clouds won’t blind them, and they will maintain and promote the general situation of Sino-Russian friendship.


I’ve sometimes wondered what it may feel like, for the Dalai Lama’s emissaries, to “negotiate” with Chinese cadres. Articles like Feng’s seem to give me a vague idea.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Links to Tibet: German Sycophants, few Secular Books, no Indian Friends

Huanqiu Shibao on Tibet Action Day

On March 10, some 1,150 (if not more than 1,200) cities, counties, and communes  in Germany took part in a Tibet Action Day which includes flying a flag from administrative buildings, usually the town hall. Huanqiu Shibao‘s count was that more than one-thousand German cities and towns had raised the Tibetan independence flag, remembering the so-called Tibet revolt (纪念所谓西藏起义):

According to “Berliner Morgenpost” on March 12, more than 1,000 German cities and towns flew the Tibetan “freedom” and “justice” flags in front of their city government houses to remember the so-called Tibetan revolt’s 53rd anniversary.

However, Huanqiu Shibao’s correspondent in Germany did some research on official German websites and found that many of these activities were mostly carried out at small communes and towns, and that in other cases, only single departments had participated. All the same, Huanqiu (apparently) quotes an expert – Lian Xiangmin (廉湘民) of the China Tibetology Research Center (中国藏学中心) -, history has proved that Germany holding such supportive actions of the Dalai Clique created harm for Chinese-German relations.

The report was filed under Huanqiu’s military category.

Tibetan Flag, Berlin, March 10, 2012

How afraid should Germany be?

Either way, there is constructive advice in the commenter thread (where the soothing effect of Huanqiu’s investigative journalism appears to remain rather limited):

if Germans love that dreg of society (the Dalai Lama) so much, they should cut some German territory and hand it over to the Dalai. Or, chancellor Angela Merkel should hand political authority to the Dalai, given that her subjects (子民) had sworn allegiance to him anyway, because they had capitulated, by hoisting the Dalai’s independence flag on German soil, and by kneeling under his feet as his sycophants.

The Epic of King Gesar – Cultured without Buddhism

Tibetan history has often swung between centralized and stateless poles, and the epic of Gesar reflects the tensions between central authority, as embodied in religious orthodoxy, and the wild, nomadic forces of the autarkic periphery. There are versions that adopt Gesar as a lama showing him as a tamer of the wild, but, in so far as his epic retains his old lineaments as a maverick master of shamanic powers, he represents the stateless, anarchic dimension of Tibet’s margins, and is rather a tamer of corrupt monastic clerics and, thus, it is not coincidental that the epic flourished on the outlying regions of Kham and Amdo.

According to Mountain Phoenix, the story of Ling Gesar Gyalpo is one of rather few not-so-religious Tibetan books,  or a story of indigenously Tibetan, heathen origins – one that her father had kept reading through all his lifetime.

Few years ago at a Tibetan gathering, I heard the Dalai Lama talk about the importance of the Tibetan language and he gave tips to youngsters on how to work on their Tibetan. He said: “If you want to improve your Tibetan, you should read Peja (Buddhist scriptures)”.

We can all imagine the youngsters jumping for joy on the inside exclaiming: “Yeah, Peja! Finally! So exciting”!

Her father never touched a Peja in all his life, but

Still I conclude from comments his surviving peers make that his Tibetan didn’t pale in comparison to some of the erudite clerics who used to live in our vicinity. Astonishing for a Tibetan of his generation, that he somehow managed to become “cultured” without cosing up to Buddhism.

Indian-Tibetan Relations

Woeser quotes Tibetan voices from India – nothing representative, she cautions, and collected through social media, but with an eye-catcher among the statements:

Lobsang Wangdu, for instance, says that only in recent years did he see some civil society groups supporting Tibet appearing in India and after having lived in India for over 10 years, he has never had a single Indian friend, many Tibetans are like that. I asked him whether this may be because India is too big, has too many people, too many different religions and cultures? He said that this could be one reason, but also thought that Tibetans had not made enough effort; at the same time, however, he also felt that it is difficult to come into contact with Indians.

The debate described by Woeser also involves the Karmapa incident, apparently referring to Indian allegations that the Karmapa Lama were a man of many connections into China, i. e. a Chinese spy, and in violation of India’s Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. The Lama was reportedly cleared of the forex allegations soon after.

Kabir Bedi, an Indian television and film actor whose mother converted to Tibetan Buddhism, urged the authorities to show the Karmapa Lama more respect:

The Karmapa’s office applied for, and received, permission to bank the money under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. Inexplicably, this permission was withdrawn after the first $1,00,000 was received. And the Karmapa’s re-application has been pending, and pending, since 2002. What can a monk do with a growing pile of donations that can’t be banked, except to keep it in cash and use it for expenses?

And [h]ow would we look if he – the Karmapa Lama – sought asylum in a friendlier country?

To look at clerics as useless moneybags is a tradition that goes far beyond China, India, or Tibet. But while Mountain Phoenix may prefer secular literature, Chinese politics has proven that Tibetan Buddhism is actually much more scientific than she might think.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Obituary: Vaclav Havel, 1936 – 2011

Vaclav Havel,  the playwright, essayist, dissident and politician, died in the night on Sunday, reportedly in his sleep, and tended to by his wife Dagmar, reports Radio Prague.  In another article, Radio Prague describes Havel’s career as a playwright – despite having been barred from formal college humanities education by the Communist regime -, and as a dissident. In the 1990s, he served as Czechoslovakia’s last, and as the Czech Republic’s first president.

Chinese media are only slowly reacting, possibly given the time of day when news about Havel’s death broke, but IFeng (Phoenix, Hong Kong) provides a historical photo timeline, and republished IFeng’s piece, also today. (As is custom in Chinese, his age is stated as 76 there, counting his day of birth as his first birthday.) There was nothing to be found online on Xinhua Net in Chinese by 15:30 GMT , but Xinhua’s English outlet carries a short news article.

Another short note was available on CNTV, but has apparently since been removed or relocated.

China’s media didn’t seem to have a pre-prepared obituary in store for Havel – and to describe his life is probably a challenge in China. Not only was Havel a dissident – he kept practicing solidarity with dissidents elsewhere, after Czechoslovakia became a free society. In his last public appearance, early last week, he met with the Dalai Lama, who reportedly asked him to live at least another ten years.

Woeser learned about Havel’s death from Twitter, and wrote about her feelings on her blog. From her message to the Czech Republic’s embassy in Beijing [links within added during translation]:

I’m deeply saddened to learn about Mr. Havel’s passing.


I’m Tibetan, an independent author, and have always seen Mr. Havel as a spiritual guide, feeling uplifted from reading his works.


As a Tibetan, I’m deeply grateful for Mr. Havel’s attention for the Tibetan issue and Tibet’s predicament. I remember him saying that only after visiting Tibet and Taiwan, he would visit Beijing. This meaningful line is something we won’t forget.


Eight days ago, on “World Human Rights Day”, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, arrived in the Czech Republic, on Havel’s invitation. I saw several photos of His Holiness and Mr. Havel on the internet, and I felt deeply moved.


On one of the photos, I saw His Holiness express his deep respect for Mr. Havel,  on a second photo, I saw the deep friendship between the two great men, and seeing the walking stick on the third photo, I felt astonished – I had never thought of him as an old man, or even about his health…


Following Tibetan tradition, I have lighted a memorial candle for Mr. Havel, in front of my household’s Buddhist shrine, and I sincerely pray that he will be born again – this world needs him!


Thank you!

唯色(Tsering Woeser)

Beijing, December 18, 2011

I never read Havel’s works, but I did read some of his essays. In the 1980s, probably in a book published by Freimut Duve, I found this essay – in German, that is:

One legacy of that original “correct” understanding is a third peculiarity that makes our systems different from other modern dictatorships: it commands an incomparably more precise, logically structured, generally comprehensible and, in essence, extremely flexible ideology that, in its elaborateness and completeness, is almost a secularized religion. […]  To wandering humankind it offers an immediately available home: all one has to do is accept it, and suddenly everything becomes clear once more, life takes on new meaning, and all mysteries, unanswered questions, anxiety, and loneliness vanish. Of course, one pays dearly for this low-rent home: the price is abdication of one’ s own reason, conscience, and responsibility, for an essential aspect of this ideology is the consignment of reason and conscience to a higher authority.

I read this when I was a teenager, and it came to my mind right away when I heard of Vaclav Havel’s death, earlier today. I don’t feel in a position to juge if he was one of “Europe’s  great thinkers”, but it doesn’t matter to me anyway. Reading his essay had a profound impact on me. Havel discussed what we might call “abstract” issues in a way even an adolescent like me, lucky enough to live west of the iron curtain back then, would bear in mind, and gradually understand, almost without re-reading.



Dauernde Vergewaltigung der Gesellschaft, Vaclav Havel, January 1980


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The 14th Dalai Lama’s Reincarnation Statement

Should I stay or shoud I go?

Should I stay or should I go?

The Dalai Lama‘s detailed statement on reincarnation (published on September 24) can be found on the Dalai Lama’s website in English, and a Chinese version is available on Woeser‘s blog.



FM Spokesman: “Blasphemy”, Sep 26, 2011


Monday, September 26, 2011

Foreign Ministry Spokesman: China Protects Reincarnation Process against “Blasphemy”

Press conference at the foreign ministry in Beijing on Monday, with spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) answering an unnamed correspondent’s question about the Dalai Lama‘s plans to re-evaluate the reincarnation concept in fourteen years.

[Main Link: Foreign Ministry website, via Enorth, Tianjin]

Q: There have recently been some new statements concerning the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. What’s the Chinese side’s response?


A: The 14th Dalai Lama’s actions are driven by hidden political motives, reckless distortions and denial of history, they are a huge damage to the normal order of Tibetan Buddhist transfer, and a blasphemy against the system of transfer of responsibilities from one Dalai Lama to another.

The Living-Buddha reincarnation is a unique Tibetan-Buddhist form of passing on the responsibilities, China exercises freedom of religion, and this, of course, includes protection of this transfer of responsibilities within Tibetan Buddhism. The title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the central government, and is otherwise not legal. The 14th Dalai Lama was also authorized and and established by what was then the Republic of China government. The reincarnation of a Dalai Lama has an intact ceremonial course and historical customs, and there has never been a previous Dalai Lama who established [how to determine] the next one. Moreover, the state promulgated the “Regulations on Religious Affairs”, and “Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism Management Practices”. The handling of any Living Buddha’s reincarnation, including the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation, must follow the ceremonial course, historical customs, and state laws.


活佛转世是藏传佛教特有的传承方式,中国实行宗教信仰自由政策,当然也包括尊重和保护藏传佛教这一传承方式。达赖喇嘛的称号是中央政府册封的,否则就不具 备合法性,十四世达赖喇嘛也是经当时民国政府批准认定的。达赖喇嘛转世有一套完整的宗教仪轨和历史定制,从来没有上一世达赖认定下一世达赖的作法。同时, 国家颁布了《宗教事务条例》和《藏传佛教活佛转世管理办法》,任何活佛的转世,包括达赖喇嘛的转世,都应当遵循宗教仪轨、历史定制和国家法律、法规去办。



» Science in Action, December 26, 2010


Thursday, September 1, 2011

China’s Long Arm: Uyghurs deported from Malaysia / Dalai Lama can visit South Africa “any time he wants”

When there’s a problem, a good CCP cadre puts pen to paper – to have Uyghur “criminals” deported back to China from Malaysia, for example.

Malaysian authorities defended the deportation Tuesday, saying that the 11 Chinese nationals who were sent back were part of a human trafficking ring,

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on August 23. Now, two members of U.S. Congress,

Republican Representative Chris Smith and Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China which looks at Beijing’s policies, also urged Malaysia not to deport five Uighur asylum-seekers still in custody,

reports AFP.

UN refugeee agency UNHCR had tried to meet the eleven Uyghur men prior to their deportation to China, as well as the five still in Malaysian custody, but had been denied access to them by the Malaysian authorities.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Yante Ismail said the agency had sought access to all 16 Uyghurs. She said the five in detention had all previously applied for refugee status with the agency.

“We very much regret that the 11 individuals were deported without the opportunity for us to have access to them,” she said in a statement.


Human Rights Watch said other countries such as Thailand and Pakistan had recently deported Uyghurs back to China, adding that it revealed “the bullying hand of China.”

In its report on August 23, RFA quotes an unnamed Uyghur student in Kuala Lumpur as saying that the deportation of eleven Uyghurs then had been based on false documentation provided by Chinese authorities

Smearing Uyghurs abroad with “criminal charges” and to try to either get hold of them or impede on their activities that way would be no new approach in China’s policies on Uyghurs overseas. Even Uyghurs who are no Chinese nationals are may face difficulties when travelling abroad. Dolkun Isa, a German citizen of Uyghur descent, was denied entry by South Korean authorities two years ago, and arrested at Seoul airport on arrival. According to a Gesellschaft für Bedrohte Völker (GfbV, Göttingen, Germany) press release in September 2009, the only information he was given was that he was being held in custody on an Interpol warrant. After he had been held for two days, he was released, but had to return to Germany without having entered South Korea.

Compared with ethnic Uyghurs who have been deported to China more recently, he could still count himself lucky – to deport him to the place where he was most urgently “wanted” was no option, as he held a German passport. But for the secretary of the World Uyghur Congress, China’s “long arm” has become palpable.

For Rebiya Kadeer, the World Uyghur Congress’ chairwoman, too. Taiwan denied her entry shortly after Dolkun Isa’s case in South Korea. “For the national security of the country, we forbid Rebiya Kadeer to enter Taiwan”, minister of the interior Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺) informed the public.

International arrest warrants, documents Dolkar Isa was held for in South Korea, and at least partly the justification for Taiwan’s government to deny Rebiya Kadeer entry to Taiwan, have become a highly politicized instrument within international judicial cooperation.

A member of another ethnic minority, the Dalai Lama, may not yet be “wanted” by Beijing. But how freely – or not – he can move internationally, may turn out again soon, as the South African authorities are processing his visa request. Archbishop Desmond Tutu celebrates his 80th birthday in Cape Town on October 7 and has invited Tibet’s spiritual leader.

In March 2009, not even a joint invitation by Tutu and former presidents Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk would secure the Dalai Lama’s entry to South Africa. “We would not do anything to upset the relationship we have with China”, an unnamed South African official was quoted as saying back then.

But less than two months later, South Africa’s – then newly appointed – International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that the Dalai Lama could now visit the country whenever he wanted.

She is still in office. If her words carry weight will be known, soon.



» Vergessen von der Welt, Süddeutsche Zeitung, June 6, 2011
» Sweden: Uighur sentenced for syping, NY Times, March 8, 2010


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