WOODSIDE, NY, US, 1 January 2020
The decade of 2010-2020 saw the expedited decay of the Free Tibet movement on top of its already decomposing state. The issue of Tibet transformed in the arena of world politics from a genuine political case of China’s suzerainty over Tibet to a backward shift of moral and human rights issue.
The “Free Tibet” slogan became taboo, and a shrinking number of people who stood bare-chested became anathema of a sort. In this decade, Tibet lost few of the remaining international support who stood with their morality intact, but only for so long. It had a lot to do with self-inflicting policy and the controlled internationalization of Tibet’s plight due to the appeasement policy of the de-facto Tibetan government-in-exile on the hopes of seducing an unenthusiastic China to a round table. Also contributing to the slow demise of the Free Tibet movement was China’s miraculous stratospheric rise. Its dominance in the symbiosis of the world economy virtually straight-jacketed many global players to the whim and fancy of China. Those who were once colonial powerhouses became the puppets of China. Those who once stood for Tibet’s historical past kowtowed to China’s might and yielded to China’s distorted narrative. Tibet quickly transformed to the case of a leper that nobody wants to touch but only sympathize.
In the decade of 2010-2020, more than the butter lamps, Tibet was lighted with countless self-immolations. Repression grew manifold. Human volcanoes were exploding everywhere. Even Tibetan language activist who wanted to dance by the playbooks of the Chinese constitutional framework were imprisoned for dissent and cooked-up charges, arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned. Forced assimilation intensified, sinicisation systematically notched up to wipe out our culture, but the actual incorporation of the Tibetan race to greater China as equal peers to Hans and other Chinese minorities in terms of rights and economic opportunities was bare to minimal. Tibetans were pushed around, disenfranchised, and widely discriminated against.
Tibet became a laboratory to test all sci-fi tools of modern surveillance and control, the mastery of which has been in full display in East Turkestan for a few years now, leading up to the end of this decade.
In this decade, no major bill or resolution not downplaying the significance of the Reciprocal access to Tibet Act, was passed that would have defined a path for Tibet. Nor was there any conducive interest shown from the Chinese side to sit with the Dalai Lama. It’s also crystal clear now that with the Dalai Lama aging, China is playing by the Art of War of Sun Tzu, their favorite waiting game.
In this decade we also got many assurances from His Holiness that he would live to the age of 113 on the face of China’s ever-growing interference with the issue of his reincarnation. So we will let all that rest for a while and see what the next decade has in store for us. While the fate of the Panchen Lama still remains a mystery. One thing is for sure though, that the loyalty and faith of the Tibetans to the Dalai Lama remains unshakeable and unbreakable. On that thought the fake, dummy, CCP-appointed Panchen Lama still remains a laughing-stock, while the last picture of the kidnapped Panchen Lama still remains deeply embedded and enshrined into the altars of every Tibetan heart.
In this decade, we also witnessed with utter disgust the self-destructive mode of the Tibetan people. Our enemy without even firing a single bullet would be rejoicing how fractured the Tibetan diaspora community has become, upon whom sadly ninety-seven percent of Tibetans inside Tibet have rested their hopes. The status quo that still is the Central Tibetan Administration, the drama, the mudslinging, the political vengeance and nepotism is what superseded to find a closure to the one and only cause that we as Tibetan refugees should be focusing on and worried about. Regionalism reared its ugly head and sowed division and hatred. Politics in the government without a country led many to believe how chaotic would our political world be if Tibet was ever a free country. Our Parliament would become a place for brawls. Even monk parliamentarians I would suppose wouldn’t hesitate to throw a punch or two. With the degraded state of our politics hovering over our shoulders now, where everyone seems to be cutting others’ throats for a score, to the great joy of our nemesis, history will judge for sure the actions of our elected leaders under the microscope for their intentions.
In this decade, we also witnessed a fast migration of Tibetans from India and Nepal to the Western Hemisphere as a result of political insecurity that surrounded the question of the aging Dalai Lama with no end in sight for a closure to our cause, China’s growing dominance, India’s shift in its policy and betrayal of the world to the cause of Tibet. Many of the Tibetan schools that hosteled many Tibetan students are becoming ghost towns now.
In this decade we also witnessed a huge shift in India’s policy towards Tibet and countless snubbing of Tibet-related events were also seen, much to our dismay. Prime Minister Modi, having ruled India for six years now, never took the courage to meet or welcom His Holiness, for the simple fear of not jeopardizing the already-fragile relations with China. Tibet that was once a pawn on the political chessboard seems to be losing its leverage for India. All protests that would antagonize China were curtailed and activists jailed.
We also witnessed Nepal’s fall from grace. The police brutality on the Tibetan refugees would have even made Buddha ashamed of having born in this holy place. In return for China’s promise of economic aid belted around a bigger conspiracy, this spiritually-rich but materially-poor country succumbed to their greed, and in return made a living hell for the Tibetans who took refuge in this holy land. But thanks to some sanity left in the leaders of Nepal, as if they were awaken by a jolt of Buddha’s anger, Nepal refused despite China’s pressure to sign an extradition bill that would have been disastrous for the Tibetans living there.
In this decade, Tibet still continues to be the least free country, ranked always either after Syria or North Korea from the index of the Freedom House. Nation after nation, leader after leader continue to fail the “Tibet Test” coined by Edward Lucas “If you think you live in a free country, ask if your politicians feel free to meet the Dalai Lama. If the answer is no, then you are part of the Chinese empire — you just haven’t realised it yet.” This is the Tibet Test.
In this decade, Tibet also lost a few great personalities. We lost freedom fighters, we lost a great historian, we lost great spiritual masters, we lost many brave hearts, we lost great diplomats too. And we lost many political prisoners of conscience.
The protest in Hong Kong, the landslide referendum for democracy there, the upcoming election in Taiwan, the quiet uproar in Tibet, the crackdown in East Turkestan, the threat in the Ssouth China seas, will shape how China will move forward in the decade of the 2020s. The escalating trade war with the US, the very likely re-election of Trump until 2024, the new Cold War that will last for decades now, the world’s anger over China’s nefarious use of its soft and sharp power to manipulate government and institutions will make or break China in the coming years and decades.
As for the cause of Tibet, until and unless there is a paradigm shift and change in its policy with the changing tides of the times, I expect nothing big to come out in the next decade either. But the damage of mass migration from India and Nepal to the Western world, leaving the Tibetan Schools, Homes, and Villages will have a huge cultural impact. The degradation of Tibetan cultures and unforced assimilation into the exciting Western culture will be too fast. It will be left to the older generation to slow down the pace of the change and continue to work in instilling Tibetan values, ethics, and language, and to preserve our culture. Each home in their own and in itself should be converted into a Tibetan school like we have been in India. That will make a huge difference.
I wish and also would like to encourage all parents especially in diaspora, to make an effort to connect the dots with their kids, born or raised on a foreign soil and to make them genuinely feel on our story as to where their story is intertwined.
I wish you all a very happy Inji New Year. I hope and pray that this new decade will open up a magical door for Tibet’s cause, and will forever keep the spirit of His Holiness high as it has always been.
About the author
Ugyen Gyalpo lives in Woodside, New York, and works as an insurance agent for United Health Group, New York.
More articles by Ugyen Gyalpo on Tibet Sun.