Saturday, July 01, 2006
Freedom to Tibet's serfs and slaves
On July 1 2006 a railway connecting Bejing and the Tibetan capital Lhasa was opened. The line, which reaches an altitude of 16,604 feet (5,072 metres), has been hailed by the Chinese media as delivering economic benefits to one of the world's most impoverished regions with cheaper freight costs and a doubling of tourist revenue. Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, said in a statement: 'China plans to use the railway to transport Chinese migrants directly into the heart of Tibet in order to overwhelm the Tibetan population and tighten its stranglehold over our people.'
On 17 March 1959, after two mortar shells landed just short of the Norbulinka Palace, the Dalai Lama and his government, the Kahag, consulted the Nechung oracle who advised him to leave Tibet. Disguised as a soldier, accompanied by a retinue of close advicers, family and bodyguards, the twenty-three-year-old marched out of Lhasa. Just over one month later the Dalai Lama crossed the border into safety in India.
Days after his dramatic escape, vicious hand-to-hand fighting broke out in Lhasa. The major monasteries around the city – Sera, Ganden and Drepung – were shelled and monks shot on sight. By the end of the year, the 1959 Lhasa Uprising and the city’s subsequent fall had led to the death of over 10,000 Tibetans. Thousands more were imprisoned or sent to labour camps; 80,000 would follow the Dalai Lama (left) to exile. On 23 March 1959, for the first time, a red flag of the People’s Republic of China was raised above the Potala Palace (header above). It has not been lowered since.
Forty years later in 1999, to mark the anniversary, Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, released a statement giving their version of events. ‘The democratic reform in Tibet started in March 1959 after the People’s Liberation Army put down an armed rebellion launched by the Tibetan local upper class reactionary clique.’ On 1 March, ‘The reform put an end to the clerical-aristocratic dictatorship combining political and religious rule that had long plagued Tibet, and rendered freedom to the serfs and slaves that made up 95% of the region’s population.’
The three paragraphs above are from Last seen in Lhasa by Claire Scobie. An important book about the life of a Tibetan nun in contemporary Tibet. Buy or borrow a copy if you possibly can.
Now playing: Lou Harrison's La Koro Sutro scored for 100 voice chorus with American Gamelan, harp and organ, conducted by Philip Brett. (New Albion Records NA015). Lou Harrison (below) was a practicing American Budhist, and in September 2005 His Holiness the Dalai Lama attended a performance of the late composer's 'Peace Piece One' at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, with Patrick Gardner conducting the Rutgers Kirkpatrick Choir. An accompanying exhihibition featured Tibetan sculpture, paintings, masks, and musical instruments and an audio-video installation of Patrick Gardner conducting La Koro Sutro.
Web resources * The Government of Tibet in exile * Free Tibet Campaign * Students for Free Tibet * Tibet Online * Information Office of the State Council of The People's Republic of China paper on Tibet - Its Ownership And Human Rights Situation * Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery and Tibetan Centre, established in 1967 as the first and largest of its kind in the West. Located in a peaceful valley on the banks of the river Esk in the Scottish borders. As well as a centre of Buddhist wisdom and learning, and offering the highest standards of Buddhist teachings, it is also a centre for the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism, arts, medicine and culture. * Lou Harrison documentary project
Photo of Potala Palace from Ijs.co.nz. Dalai Lama from Rutgers State University. Lou Harrison from Jinhair.com. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to A mirror of modern China
Posted by Pliable at Saturday, July 01, 2006