Tashi Deleg & Good Afternoon, Everyone!
My name is Samdup Tenzin and I am a Tibetan postgraduate student at the Edinburgh University. May I begin by expressing our heartfelt gratitude to Alison Johnstone, the Green Party MSP for Lothian for taking time out of her busy schedule to be amongst us today. The fact that you have come here physically to show your support for our cause really means a lot to us.
The last 53 years have been a period of unimaginable pain and suffering for our people. The Tibetans inside Tibet have been at the receiving end of decades of political repression, cultural assimilation and economic marginalization. Their voices have been routinely stifled and their genuine grievances left unaddressed. The increase in number of self-immolations in the past year is indicative of the degree of desperation and helplessness experienced by Tibetans inside Tibet.
But instead of heeding the Tibetan people’s call for greater freedom, Chinese authorities have put entire towns and cities under lockdown, opened fire on peaceful demonstrators and cracked down on any show of dissent with disproportionate amount of force. There is an overwhelming presence of Chinese state security forces in Tibetan areas, the monks and nuns are being subjected to intense patriotic re-education sessions which basically involve denouncing our spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama and pledging absolute loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Foreign media and journalists have been effectively barred from entering Tibet, phone calls to and from Tibet are being tapped and monitored, and Internet connections are either cut off or access to Tibet-specific contents blocked.
Even under such harsh conditions, our brothers and sisters inside Tibet are defying their oppressors with immense dignity and courage. Also as I speak before you this afternoon, three Tibetans in New York are entering the 18th day of their indefinite hunger strike in front of the UN headquarters to, among other things, appeal to the world body to send an independent fact-finding mission to Tibet. As in Edinburgh, today Tibetans and Tibet supporters all over the world are taking to streets to stand in solidarity with Tibetans inside Tibet.
At a time when the world is infested with instances of unnecessary violence and bloodshed, ours remains a struggle based on peace and non-violence. But for future generations to maintain their faith in these principles, I think it is imperative that the international community comes forward to amplify the voices of monks, nuns and laypeople inside Tibet who are desperately crying out for help. I, therefore, urge Scottish policy makers to join with other world leaders to take new, bold and coordinated action to help secure a just and fair resolution of the Tibet issue. Tibet needs the support of the global community now, more than ever.
Not many of us here will know that the Chinese occupation of Tibet has resulted in the death of one out of every six Tibetans. There is no Tibetan family, which has not been ravaged by the Chinese invasion of Tibet. China’s so-called peaceful liberation of Tibet has neither brought peace nor liberation to Tibetans. The only thing China has done is, import its brand of aggressive capitalism and selfish materialism to Tibet, which has been vociferously rejected by the Tibetans.
As we gather here, people in the Chinese propaganda department are working over time to portray Tibetan self-immolators as thugs, criminals and even terrorists. Such implications are not only ludicrous but also laughable. From the pictures and news reports, which have come in from Tibetan areas in the past few days, it is not difficult to tell who is terrorizing whom. If I may, I would like to recount here an incident that His Holiness the Dalai Lama often speaks about in public gatherings. His Holiness had once met a monk who had spent nearly 30 years in a Chinese gulag and had subsequently managed to flee to India on his release. The monk is supposed to have told His Holiness that there were periods during his long imprisonment when he faced an extreme danger. When His Holiness asked, “What kind of danger?” The monk promptly responded, the danger that he would lose compassion for his Chinese torturers.
This is the kind of compassionate and benevolent culture we Tibetans belong to. Right from our childhood, we are encouraged to cultivate compassion and altruism not only for our friends and family but also, more importantly, for our enemies and tormentors. A Tibetan terrorist is, therefore, a misnomer, an oxymoron. Despite what the Chinese government says, self-immolation is not an act of terrorism. It is the ultimate form of sacrifice for the greater cause of a nation, which is yearning to break the shackles of colonialism.
Today, as we commemorate the 53rd anniversary of our National Uprising, the spirit our ancestors remains alive and kicking both inside Tibet and in exile. An entirely new generation of Tibetans is rising up, engaging in innovative political actions, and proudly expressing their Tibetanness through music, literature and the social media. This generation is more determined than ever to regain our freedom and to put an end to what began half a century ago.
Events of the last few months have made it quite apparent that the Chinese government has tried- but failed to crush the Tibetan spirit. As we see ordinary people around the world rising up against despotism and totalitarian regimes, we know it is only a matter of time before change comes to Tibet and China as well.
Being predominantly Buddhists, we Tibetans are firm believers of the notion of impermanence and temporariness of all human conditions. But I can say this with absolute certainty- whatever happens, the Tibetan nation will not be outlived by a regime, which is morally and ideologically bankrupt. The fact that the current Chinese regime feels the need to expend more of its resources to protect itself from its own people than from external forces goes to show how shaky the foundations of its rule are. Sooner or later, it will crumble under the pressure of its own people. And when that happens, we, Tibetans will be the first to write its obituary.