Tibet can survive only if we let it

Ugyen Gyalpo

Ugyen Gyalpo

By Ugyen Gyalpo

WOODSIDE, NY, US, 8 March 2019

Chinese authorities are bracing for the 60th anniversary of the March tenth uprising, but Tibet had already been closed to the world weeks ago.

The iron lid is tightened ever more strongly on the political jar to prevent any Tibetan resistance to arise. Tibet has become probably the most surveilled country on the face of this earth, controlled by the most advanced and invasive technological surveillance, using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to identify and crack down on dissent.

Every wall and street in major towns in Tibet has its embedded eyes and ears. Even Orwellian times can be sped on the speed of light here. An airtight control system is installed everywhere in Tibet. Not to mention the unsurprising surveillance on the Tibetans, the “social credit system” in itself, the most outrageous act of infringement on privacy and hawkish surveillance targeted on its own people, we are just left to imagine on comparative ground the degree of relentless scrutiny and repression forced upon our people and the Ughyurs as of late.

In these insidious times, Tibetans inside Tibet are as if under house arrest, and probably feeling like a pressurized volcano ready to erupt at any time. But with the impossibility of any chance of public assembly, chance for any rise in leadership like the political movements in British India, any momentum for a political upheaval is about impossible.

The tragic result of such pressures is the outburst of individual fissures on the streets, screaming for the freedom of Tibet just before they set themselves on fire. One thing is for sure, suffering hasn’t stifled the Tibetans inside Tibet but has only emboldened them deep within.

Against such a backdrop, we are here sixty years later up against our colonizer, commemorating half-heartedly our Uprising Day of 1959. The dwindling attendance of which over the years is heavily dependent on the weather and the day. The actual people who rose up that fateful day — the surviving few, and many probably turned into ashes now — must be ashamed from wherever they are watching over our sad affairs, of the waning patriotism and of the dwindling nationalistic fervor that they displayed with a lion heart under the barrels of the guns and the firing of the cannons.

Against a backdrop of Mao Tse-Tung resurrected from his grave in the form of Xitler (whoever coined this word, you must own it and I love it if you are even close to reading this) …

Against a backdrop where the free Tibet movement has drastically dwindled in the West and within the Tibetan polity, and its people straitjacketed to a policy that has neither shown any proof of life nor is it willing to go anywhere anytime soon …

Apart from the many varied reasons for the shrinking of our free Tibet movement, such as the mammoth efforts of the Chinese to penetrate public opinion by investing in their soft and sharp powers, our failed policies that discouraged any independence calls are also much to be blamed. Even protest rally cries as common as “Free Tibet” have become taboo now …

Amidst all of this … to gauge where Tibet stands in conjunction with the rise of China, in the spectrum of the changing dynamics of the world geopolitical landscape is a conundrum in itself, as the whole world is so symbiotically enmeshed with China’s robust economy and their political influence.

The rising tension with the Trump-led United States, the ongoing trade war, and the signing of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act left a gaping hole in the heart of Xi Jinping, a hole big enough even for the teary Tibet railways that ferry unwillingly on top of the permafrost to pass through to it.

Significant damage to the bilateral relations between the US and China is already done, even though Trump says that Xi Jinping is a good man and they have a good chemistry.

From the Chinese politburo’s side, it’s a waiting game for the changing of the guard in the US White House — what they hope for in 2020. But the historical reminder of the incumbent winning most second terms in US presidential history is something China seems to have missed.

I just wanted to put this on record: I have mixed feelings about Trump. I hate this Orangeman, I love this Orangeman. I hate him because of his xenophobic, racist, homophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric. But yet, I love him for his saber-rattling to China like no president in the history of United States has ever done.

Trump may not have met HHDL like the previous US Presidents did, defying China within the closed doors of the White House (not at the Oval Office, but a gesture enough to make the Tibetans happy). Trump in reality has caused more damage to China as no other American president has done. Apart from his trade war, his signing of the congressional-approved Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act is huge enough to cause Chinese uproar.

I have my biased, selfish, unabashed love for this man for giving my enemy a hard time, but at the same time, I am always at the edge of my seat with his unpredictable and fickle nature. The supposedly Tibetan immigrants already Americanized, the self-proclaimed progressive global citizens of the world, will, at the expense of throwing Tibet under the bus, taunt me as a MAGA fan. I don’t care! I am a Tibetan first and anything for the good for Tibet and anything for the detriment of China is a delight and welcome!

Sixty years since the Chinese occupation, the world along with China has changed a lot. From a poor socialist country where millions died of starvation, to a capitalistic super power with Communist characteristics still intact, China rose from famine to becoming the world’s greatest economy.

From the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, from the Korean War to the fall of Hugo Chavez, from the beginning of the Arab spring to the fall of many dictators, one thing that remained constant and actually turned counter-clockwise to emboldening heights is the Communist Party of China and its de-facto leader, who is set to rule for the rest of his life now, eliminating all of his adversaries through vicious Mao-inspired purges.

China in these sixty years grew to such stratospheric heights, with surplus cash that it has become like a world bank on its own pretty much like the IMF. The poor debt-ridden countries, rather than knocking on the doors of the IMF that coiled countries with crude conditions, fell easy prey to the predatory debt traps and corrupt deals cooked up by the Chinese.

The Chinese debt traps are strategically planted all around the world at major port cities of these poor countries, with the ultimate aim of giving them so much loan that they would collapse on the repayment, resulting in countries falling deeper into poverty because of cuts in many social benefits to pay back their loans. On such controlling ground, China has whipped its economic clout in influencing the political course of these nations with its soft and sharp powers in changing the world’s perspective on China and also in the process, aiming for a world domination through expanding its military footprint in these regions.

I am fearfully guarded for our future, but cautiously optimistic too. Tibetans all around pray everyday for the long life of His Holiness like I do myself, but I make sure to add another line to my deeper prayer for the future of Tibet. It’s important to keep Tibet alive if not in your deeds, at least in your thoughts.

We may not be able to worship our country, but we can place them in the temple of our hearts, as a sacred cause that no entity, no individual can overshadow its historical existence. Our country, our nation, our land should be beyond and above anyone else.

Many Tibetans would find closure in Tibet’s unsolved issue even if His Holiness is allowed back into the Potala palace before he leaves this impermanent abode. A small emotional victory of a sort. I also wish the same and would be filled with inundating tears of joy for such a prospect to see His Holiness climbing up the stairs of the Potala palace with the magnificence of monastic pomp and ritual fare. But would this closure be enough. I seriously doubt!

We should all rise up and be that broom to sweep Tibet out of the diplomatic political rug that the world has shoved us under by our sheer engagement. We should all be that mechanical compass and pen to resketch the boundaries of Tibet on the Atlas map, the National Geographic Society were so soon to keen to erase after falling for Chinese donations.

We must believe in ourselves that Tibet will be free. That we must keep Tibet alive in every second, every minute, every hour, every day and every year. It is crucial! The only way Tibet can survive is when we let it survive.

This tenth of March, lets display our strength of solidarity and our unflinching desire for freedom. Let’s come out holding hands and not egos. Let’s fly our heavenly flag and a free Tibet banner to reclaim what’s our own.

Let me also take this opportunity in urging Tibetans who have given up hope on their own people because of their narrow-mindedness and conservative thinking, to come up and lead this moral fight. Tibet needs you more than ever and I can’t stress this enough.


About the author

Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.

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