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Intro: "It is now very obvious to the world community: something is very wrong and very bad in Tibet to make these peaceful monks and nuns set themselves on fire. The Tibetan hunger strikers (who just ended their 30 day fast outside the United Nations) pointed out that 'undeclared martial law' is in effect. Obviously the immense concern is a reality: Chinese officials conducted a formal closure to all foreigners (and journalists) to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from February 20 to March 31, and have many monasteries locked down."

Tibetan exile Jamphel Yeshi set himself on fire during a protest against the upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India. (photo: Stringer/Reuters)
Tibetan exile Jamphel Yeshi set himself on fire during a protest against the upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to India. (photo: Stringer/Reuters)

RSN FEATURE: Tibet Under Siege

By Jane Ayers, Reader Supported News

30 March 12

Reader Supported News | Feature


t is now very obvious to the world community: something is very wrong and very bad in Tibet to make these peaceful monks and nuns set themselves on fire. The whole world is watching in sadness and shock, and every time another Tibetan dies from these acts, the collective heart breaks, but the world's eyes are also opened. Why, why, why? What is happening?

The Tibetan hunger strikers (who just ended their 30 day fast outside the United Nations) pointed out that "undeclared martial law" is in effect. Obviously the immense concern is a reality: Chinese officials conducted a formal closure to all foreigners (and journalists) to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) from February 20 to March 31, and have many monasteries locked down.

It is during this time period that the majority of protesting Tibetan monks and nuns have been setting themselves on fire. Thirty Tibetans are confirmed to have self-immolated since the first on February 27, 2009. But alarmingly - and most important - it is over the past two weeks (since March 16) that most of these self-immolations have taken place. These suicides are occurring in the blackout period happening right now, during the crackdown by Chinese authorities on all monasteries of Tibet. Many monasteries are in lockdown, and all communication to the outside world has been shut down.

These fire suicides include 25 men and 5 women. Out of the 30 Tibetans, 22 are known to have died following their protest with fire. Six of the monks (of the 30 total) were from the Kirti Monastery in Ngaba, and eight were former monks at the same monastery. The two nuns who self-immolated were from Mame Dechen Chokorling nunnery in Ngaba.

Tibetan Youth Sets Himself on Fire to Protest Chinese President's Arrival at Economic Summit in India

Just two days ago, one more Tibetan-in-exile youth, Jampa Yeshi, set himself on fire and ran through the streets outside the BRICS 5-Nation Economic Summit in New Delhi, India. Chinese President Hu Jintao is to meet with leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa this week. Jampa Yeshi, who had escaped from Tibet in 2006, was rushed to the hospital with critical injuries, suffering burns over 85% of his body. He died this morning.

His Holinesses the Dalai Lama and Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa. (photo: Karmapa in Europe)

The Associated Press reported today that China blamed the Dalai Lama of "single handedly" planning this specific suicide in India because the Chinese President was visiting. Tibetan rights groups announced that it was not planned, and was a surprise to all when it occurred. The Dalai Lama has stated that the self-immolations resulted because of the "cultural genocide by Chinese."

The International Campaign for Tibet stated that "the Chinese government is the responsible party as the restive situation in Tibet continues to escalate, and Tibetans continue to sacrifice themselves to free others from the suffering."

What brutal conditions in Tibet are the monks and nuns trying to alert the world to? These highly dedicated Buddhist practitioners do not believe in suicide, knowing deeply what such actions do to their soul's journey, so for them to actually self-immolate is a desperate act to alert the world of something causing great despair.

The regions in Tibet that the Chinese forces have closed off are the Tibetan provinces of Sishuan and Qinghai. These are the provinces where most of the Buddhist monks/nuns have been protesting and self-immolations have occurred.

Reporters Without Borders Alarmed at Blackout in Tibet

Reporters Without Borders released a new crisis report on February 22 entitled "Tibet Cut Off From Rest of the World," in which their journalists reveal, "The head of the Communist Party in Tibet, Chen Quanguo, has ordered local authorities to step up surveillance of all means of communication, particularly mobile phones and internet, in order to 'maintain the public's interest and national security.'

"Reporters without Borders is alarmed at the blackout imposed by Chinese authorities on the provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai, as well as the TAR, preventing all media coverage of the protest movement there.

"Out of sight of the world, a major crisis is unfolding. As in the past, the Chinese authorities aim to control the Tibetan people behind closed doors, excluding journalists, foreign ones in particular, who might be troublesome witnesses of what is happening."

In late January 2012, Chinese security forces killed several people when they fired on Tibetans in a peaceful demonstration. Since then, there has been a massive buildup of security forces in Tibet.

Tibet's Parliament-in-Exile Passes Emergency Resolution

Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay on the Recent Killings of Tibetans

VIDEO: Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay on the Recent Killings of Tibetans

On February 23, Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, headquartered in Dharamsala, passed an Emergency Resolution to highlight the current grim atmosphere in Tibet, and to seek help from the international community to end the current crisis.

At a press conference in India, PM Sangay stated, "The resolution makes it very clear; the Tibetans are in really critical condition. Thirty Tibetans have self-immolated, of which twenty-two have died, and many are in critical condition. The reasons are very clear; the self-immolators and the peaceful protestors are showing their resentment against the continuing occupation of Tibet and the repressive policies of the Chinese government. What the self-immolators, and those who have died, and those who are imprisoned, are demanding or seeking is for H.H. Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and freedom be restored for Tibetans inside Tibet."

Three Hunger Strikers Conduct Indefinite Fast for Tibet

On the first day of the Tibetan New Year, February 22, three Tibetan hunger strikers started their plea for justice outside the United Nations building in New York City by conducting a water-only Indefinite Fast for Tibet, organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest worldwide organization for Tibetans.

The three hunger strikers were: His Eminence 11th Shingza Rinpoche Tenzin Choekyi Gyaltsen, age 32, founder/editor of, a site that is popular with Tibetan scholars and writers; Dorjee Gyalpo; and Yeshi Tenzing, age 39. The hunger strikers had five requests for the United Nations to consider in an effort to end the crisis in Tibet:

  1. To immediately send a fact-finding delegation to Tibet to assess the critical situation there;
  2. to urge China to stop the undeclared martial law in Tibet;
  3. to urge China to allow international media to investigate and report on the ongoing atrocities in Tibet;
  4. to urge China to release the Panchen Lama, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, and all political prisoners;
  5. and to urge China to stop its 'Patriotic Re-Education' campaign in Tibet.

United Nations Officials Respond to Hunger Strike

On March 10, the Tibetan Uprising Day rally in New York City took place. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon voiced concern for the Tibetan hunger strikers.

On March 12, which marked day 30 of their hunger strike, United Nations Asst. Secretary General Ivan Simonovic met with the three hunger strikers. The three Tibetans told him that before they would consider ending their hunger strike, they wanted "concrete action" by the Chinese authorities to end the current crackdown in Tibet. Mr. Simonovic agreed that he would convey their concerns "to the relevant Special Rapporteur, and to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, in line with established procedures in handling human rights matters."

The three hunger strikers gave their list of 5 Requests to Mr. Simonovic and ended their victorious hunger strike at the United Nations. However, Dorjee Gyalpo had to be hospitalized due to his deteriorating condition, and from his hospital bed he continued his hunger strike to ensure real change by the United Nations.

Mary Beth Markey, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, announced, "We sincerely hope that the hunger strike will draw the attention of the United Nations to the critical situation in Tibet and compel China to change its policies."

In a press conference in Dharamsala, India, the Prime Minister of Tibet-in-Exile, Lombay Sangay, further stated, "There were three hundred strikers in front of the UN, supporting the three hunger strikers, stating for the UN to investigate the real conditions inside Tibet. Truth will be heard, supported, and will prevail. Many NGOs have urged the United Nations to send Special Rapporteurs or an envoy to Tibet to investigate the repressive policies of the Chinese government, especially the brutal repressive policies since 2008, which has been an unprecedented brutality.

"The Australian Ambassador in China has requested to be allowed to go to Tibet immediately. 1.2 million Tibetans have lost their lives since the 1950s. We are seeking the return of H.H. the Dali Lama to Tibet, to his rightful place at the Pogola Palace in the capital of Tibet, and we are seeking freedom for Tibetans inside Tibet."

Worldwide Vigil to Highlight Martial Law in Tibet

The Tibet-in-Exile Prime Minister Sangay had previously called for the worldwide vigil that took place on February 8 because "Tibet is under martial law." He claimed, "Basic human rights are being denied to Tibetans, the fragile environment is being destroyed, the Tibetan language and culture is being assimilated, portraits of H.H. Dalai Lama are banned, and Tibetans are being economically marginalized. The only way to resolve the Tibet issue and bring about lasting peace is by respecting the rights of the Tibetan people and through dialogue."

Richard Gere Sends Encouraging Word to Tibet From UN

Richard Gere, Chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) also had attended the Indefinite Fast for Tibet gathering with hunger strikers outside the United Nations building in NYC. He stated in a message to all Tibetans in Tibet, "There is a correlation to be a member of the United Nations that you implicitly agree to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They are legally bound to give you basic human rights: freedom of assembly, freedom of language, freedom of religion, and access to health care, all the basic rights that most of the rest of the world have.

Gere pointed out, "We are at the United Nations to make it be clear: You deserve to be treated a certain way.... These hunger strikers are very good representatives of your views of forgiveness, love and compassion, and there is no anger and no hatred associated with the hunger strike. It is a strike for world responsibility."

Chinese Officials Now Infiltrating All Monasteries Permanently

But the Tibetans (inside Tibet) had been dealing with big changes in their regions. Major tensions had already been intensified on January 4, 2012, when Chen Quanguo, the Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, had announced that the Chinese government or party officials would now be permanently stationed in all monasteries inside Tibet.

Human Rights Watch considered this official decision a troubling indication that China is becoming increasingly controlling and invasive in its religious repression in Tibet.

These current policies obviously contributed to the enhanced tensions that exacerbated the current self-immolations and protests by the monks and nuns, a culmination of increased intimidations occurring since 2008.

At present, there are 1787 Tibetan monasteries still allowed to operate in the TAR. Chinese officials state that they are establishing "harmonious monasteries" and that they are ensuring that "monks and nuns have the freedom to perform their religious rituals."

The Human Rights Watch director in China, Sophie Richardson, states, "Although the Chinese government has placed many restrictions on the practice of religion in Tibet, these new regulations represent an entirely new level of intervention by the State. This measure, coupled with the increasing presence of government workers within monasteries, will surely exacerbate tensions in the region."

She added, "If the Chinese government is committed to reducing tension in Tibetan areas, it should repeal these policies immediately."

China's Premier Wen Jiabao stated this week, "We should respect Tibetan compatriots' freedom of religious belief, and treat all of our Tibetan compatriots with equality and respect." But the monks and nuns would not be protesting so adamantly if this "respect" were being given. Possibly they are resisting a "re-education" by Chinese forces. These policies are hitting the core of the being of all Buddhist Tibetan monks and nuns who have been practicing their Dharma given to them by H.H. the Dalai Lama. This cultural, spiritual connection and loyalty is at the heart of Tibetan Buddhism.

Karmapa's Perspective of Current Tibetan Crisis

On February 6, the young 17th Gyalwang Karmapa released a statement that focused on the current crisis. The Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, now assisting the H.H. Dalai Lama by teaching the Tibetan Lineage Dharma path, stated, "Having been given the name Karmapa, I belong to a 900-year-old reincarnation lineage that has historically avoided any political engagement, a tradition I have no interest in changing. And yet, as a Tibetan, I have great sympathy and affection for the Tibetan people and I have great misgivings about remaining silent while they are in pain. Their welfare is my greatest concern."

Ogyen Trinley Dorje, 26, the man deemed to be the 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa, one of the most revered figures in Tibetan Buddhism, recently visited a monastery in Woodstock, NY. (photo: Librado Romero/NYT)

The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje grieved, "Each new report of a Tibetan death brings me immense pain and sadness: there were three in a single day and is more than a heart can bear. I pray that these sacrifices have not been in vain, but will yield a change in policy that will bring our Tibetan brothers and sisters relief."

He also stated, "Tibetan demonstrations and self-immolations are a symptom of deep but unacknowledged dissatisfaction. If Tibetans were given a genuine opportunity to lead their lives as they wished, preserve their language, religion, and culture, they would neither be demonstrating nor sacrificing their lives ...

"China speaks of having brought development to Tibet, and when I lived there it was materially comfortable. Yet prosperity and development have not benefitted Tibetans in the ways that they consider most valuable. Material comfort counts for little without inner contentment. Tibetans live with the constant suspicion that they will be forced to act against their conscience and denounce H.H. the Dalai Lama."

The Karmapa further stated, "The Chinese authorities persistently portray His Holiness as the enemy. They have rebuffed his repeated efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the Tibetan-Chinese problem. They dismiss the heartfelt faith and loyalty with which the Tibetan people universally regard His Holiness.

"Even Tibetans born in Tibet decades after H.H. the Dalai Lama had gone into exile still regard him as their guide and refuge, not only for this life, but for life after life. Therefore, constantly depicting H.H. the Dalai Lama in hostile terms is an affront that benefits no one. In fact, striking at the heart of Tibetan faith damages the prospect of winning Tibetans' trust. This is neither effective nor wise. "

The Karmapa offered further advice to China, stating, "I call on the authorities to see past the veneer of well-being that local officials present. Acknowledging the real human distress of Tibetans in Tibet and taking full responsibility for what is happening there would lay a wise basis for building mutual trust between Tibetans and the Chinese government. Rather than treating this as an issue of political opposition, it would be far more effective for Chinese authorities to treat this as a matter of basic human welfare."

The Karmapa ended his statement, "In these difficult times, I urge Tibetans who are in Tibet to stay true to yourself, keep your equanimity in the face of hardship, and remain focused on the long-term, and always bear in mind that your lives have great value, as human beings and as Tibetans."

Advice from the International Campaign on Tibet

Lodi Gyari, Executive Chairman of the International Campaign on Tibet (ICT), stated on March 23, "The international community and particularly world leaders now understand that the Tibetans are rising up against oppression and mis-rule, and that, therefore, it is only the Chinese authorities who can bring this tragic situation to a close."

According to ICT, during a recent visit to Dharamsala, India, ICT President Mary Beth Markey met with several monks from Tibet's Kirti monastery. She asked the monks what would help stop the self-immolations, and they responded, "When China stops demeaning our culture, our identity, our language, and our leader, H.H. Dalai Lama."

In January, ICT Chairman Richard Gere delivered a speech about the world's choice in dealing with China, as either "money or truth." Gere had previously stated, "H.H. the Dalai Lama continues to focus on the six million Tibetans still living in Tibet. His return will depend entirely on the rights and well-being of Tibet and its people." Referring to the Tibetans in exile, he noted, "They have been dislocated from their homeland since 1959. Under the continuing brutal occupation of the Chinese, thousands of Tibetan refugees risk their lives every year escaping to freedom to India, Nepal, Mongolia, and elsewhere."

Nearly two dozen Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the past year. (photo: Reuters)

Concern for Tibetans in Nepal

Anytime any country brings up China's human rights violations, China responds that no other country should interfere in China's domestic affairs, but at the same time, China itself pressures other countries to refuse Tibetans any kind of refuge. Nepal is an example of this precedent since it is the main escape route for refugees from Tibet. Beijing is trying to block this escape route for Tibetans by training Nepal security forces to increase its human rights violations against Tibetans.

Two weeks ago, at the UN Human Rights Council's 19th Session in Geneva, the International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch voiced their concerns for the safety of Tibetans in Nepal, noting the escalating manner in which the police forces have prevented Tibetans from exercising their rights of freedom of movement. Currently, there are approximately 20,000+ Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.

Last week, the UK government delegate to the UN Human Rights Council called on the Nepal government to "adhere to international Treaties" and protect the rights of Tibetans living in Nepal. This same UN human rights monitoring group had to close its offices in Nepal last December, under the demands of the government of Nepal.

Seeking Release of H.H. Panchen Lama

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 states that the US Ambassador to China should actively pursue meeting with the 11th Panchen Lama, whom Tibetans allege was removed from his home by Chinese authorities in 1995, and held incommunicado since that time. The US Ambassador to China should also request immediately that the Chinese government allow the Panchen Lama to freely pursue his religious studies, especially within the Tibetan Buddhist lineages in which he has a position of authority and responsibility for the continuation of the culture.

If China cares about a peaceful future with Tibet, then they can make a major goodwill gesture to prove this: release Gedhum Choekyi Nyima, the Tibetan Panchen Lama, a young innocent "soul boy," the second highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Lineage Buddhist rites.

After spiritual leader H.H. the Dalai Lama blessed this "soul boy" as the "authentic" Panchen Lama in 1995, the Chinese government declared his selection of this child "totally illegal and invalid" and installed their own selected version immediately.

The young authentic Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, subsequently vanished along with his family and Chadred Rinpoche, the abbot of Tashilhunpo Monastery (who had helped H.H. the Dalai Lama in the appointing process). For years now, Tibetans have had to endure the pain of worry and concern over the safety of their beloved Panchen Lama, and many Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people have been detained in connection with the dispute. After years of denial from the Chinese government, they finally admitted that they were indeed holding the Panchen Lama incommunicado all these years.

According to the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, "China's interference in the search for the Panchen Lama almost certainly violates international law protections for the Tibetans' rights to freedom of religion, and also freedom of opinion and expression. In addition, the Panchen Lama's detention undoubtedly violates his rights to liberty and to be free of religious discrimination ... There is no doubt that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima's rights as an individual have been violated by his arbitrary detention.

"The detention of an innocent boy for his religious status alone violates the right to be free of religious discrimination under the Universal Declaration, the International Convenant on Civil & Political Rights, the Declaration on the Elimination of Religious Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief and perhaps more importantly, the United Nations Charter to which China has bound itself by its membership."

The Chinese government has introduced a new policy that requires almost every monastery in Tibet to be under the direct rule of government officials who will be permanently posted inside of the monasteries. (photo:

H.H. the Dalai Lama has noted that "The search and recognition of the Panchen Lama's reincarnation is a religious matter. Because of the unique historical and traditional relationship between the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas, I conducted all the necessary religious procedures with great care, and then determined Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the reincarnation of the late Panchen Lama. Therefore, my Recognition of the Panchen Lama's reincarnation cannot be changed."

He emphasized, "It's unfortunate that the Chinese government has chosen to politicize this issue and appointed a rival Panchen Lama, and it saddens me that once again the religious sentiments of my People have been deeply hurt and offended.

"At this moment, the safety of the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and his proper religious training is of particular concern to me. He has not been seen in public for years, and is reported to be detained somewhere in Beijing. I, therefore, appeal to all governmental, religious and human rights organizations for their intervention in ensuring the safety and freedom of our young Panchen Lama."

Resolution Heading to Senate; Authorizes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Question China About Tibet's Current Restrictions

March 19-20 was Tibet Lobby Day in Washington, DC, during which time 140 participants (including former Tibetan women held in prisons) visited 120 US Congressional offices, to appeal to Congress for substantial leadership on their part to bring about policy change in Tibet. They requested an immediate concerted action by Congress to send a strong signal to Tibetans inside Tibet (and to the Chinese authorities) that the world is watching and aware of the "dire situation Tibetans are facing."

The Tibetan activists requested additional support for Senate Resolution 356, which nine members of the US Senate were already sponsoring, entitled, "A Resolution Expressing Support for the People of Tibet." It calls on China to immediately end the crackdown in Tibet and to "address the legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people." They also highlighted concern that Voice of America's Tibetan language radio was proposed for elimination in the Presidential FY2013 budget, a threat that could further cut off communication for Tibetans.

Bringing attention of the immediate situation in Tibet, online lobbyists also appealed to Congressional offices by producing thousands of messages to the 470 Congressional offices.

Efforts were realized on March 27 when the US Senate for Foreign Relations Committee approved the Resolution, and sent the Bill to the Senate to be approved. It calls on China to ease the restrictions occurring in Tibet, and to free Tibetan prisoners. The Senate Resolution will also "mourn" the Tibetans who have died, renounce the repressive policies which target Tibetans, and seek for China to release "all arbitrarily detained" Tibetan peoples. It is to be hoped that it will also address the specific release of three monks from Tsang Monastery sent to prison for ten years on March 17, 2008.

However, the bill will not threaten any repercussions for China, but would authorize Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to question China for a "full accounting," especially regarding monks and nuns forcibly removed from Kirti Buddhist Monastery, and also to recommend that Beijing allow journalists and diplomats access to Tibet.

Tibetan Women's Association Rallies for Political Prisoners

On March 12, there was also a huge march in Dharamsala, India, in honor of the National Tibetan Women's Uprising Day. Tibetan nuns, school girls, and women all gathered to remember the two Tibetan women who this past year were part of self-immolation protests, but also to commemorate the Tibetan women's uprising of 1959 in Lhasa, which following a Tenth of March uprising against Chinese forces.

The Tibetan Women's Association issued a statement commemorating the uprising, and expressed concern for those inside Tibet today. They stated, "We remain gravely worried about the 850 known Tibetan political prisoners languishing in Chinese prisons, and fear for those living under the constant threat of arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and the ruthless military control of Tibetan areas.

"The undeniable presence of armed security confirms China's open declaration of 'War' against Tibetans, and has created a cauldron of tensions amongst the international community..."

Meanwhile, inside Tibet during this current blackout, many protests are occurring. On March 15, in Ba Thunte (Tibet's Amdo Province), monks from Shingtri Monastery marched holding Tibetan flags and were joined by thousands of Tibetan lay people. The security forces arrested 50 monks, which reportedly caused 2000 Tibetans to demand their release the next day. On March 18, a 12-year-old child died in Ba County (Tibet) when tear gas and explosives were used by Chinese security forces to disperse a peaceful protest in Tibet.

The Bora Monastery in Sanghu (Eastern Tibet), is also under lockdown.

In other incidents, on March 16-17, a 44-year-old farmer, Sonani Dharoyal, committed self-immolation. Another monk, Jamyang Palden, also set himself on fire in Rebgong. Reportedly, he is recuperating at the local Rongbo Monastery, though Chinese authorities have been pressuring his relatives to surrender the injured monk.

These actions rallied approximately 2000 Tibetans who took to the streets in Sogdzong (Northeastern Tibet) in the Malho region. This rally was led by monks from Tsang Monastery, and armed paramilitary forces intervened and arrested 17 of the monks, and put the area into heavy military lockdown.

In Hindsight, Wisdom From an Elder Tibetan Nun, Imprisoned and Tortured by China

As a journalist, I can't help but remember the late Tibetan nun Ani Panchen, whom I interviewed in California in 2001. Ani Panchen had endured twenty-one years in a Chinese prison, as she was imprisoned for leading 700 Tibetan farmers and nomads on horseback against the invading Chinese People's Liberation Army in the 1950s. I interviewed this profound nun, considered by many to be Tibet's Joan of Arc, when she walked 600 miles (with other former Tibetan political prisoners) from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the "March for Tibet's Independence," to shed light on human rights violations against Tibetans in China's prisons, and to call for the release of the young Panchen Lama, whom the Chinese had abducted and held incommunicado. She started her walk on his 11th birthday, since the Chinese government had held him for five years at that time, incommunicado. She then walked from Nice, France, to Geneva, Switzerland, to protest at the United Nations about the permanent trade status being granted to China.

In my interview with her, she stated, "As a direct result of that invasion in the 1950s, there was massive destruction and desecration of Tibet's culture. There were 6000 monasteries destroyed.... They were the treasure-houses for Tibetan sacred artifacts and relics ... and that is why the monasteries became the first line of attack. They were looted, and the artifacts, gold, and valuables were sold in Hong Kong to raise more money for China's weapons to continue the invasion and conflict in Tibet. China destroyed our heart and soul by burning our holy scriptures."

She also noted, "As a direct result of this invasion, 1.2 million Tibetan people died. There was no sparing of women, children, nuns, or monks.... I resisted the Chinese military movement into Tibet, and I tried to defend my Motherland. That's why China arrested me and put me into prison for 21 years."

Chinese Security Forces Raid Tibetan Villages

VIDEO: Chinese Security Forces Raid Tibetan Villages

She also shared her accounts of torture in prison. She stated, "I had two incidents that were unbearable. The worst punishment was putting very heavy shackles around my ankles for one year and one month, 24 hours per day for that duration. In the winter, it was excruciating, because I felt they were cutting into my skin, like a burning sensation, because the iron got so cold.

"I also had to live in a hole for nine months in solitary confinement. I was put underground and had to live in my own feces. It was a difficult time; it was totally dark. I couldn't see any light and I had to just imagine whether it was day or night. I would sometimes hear a bird singing its song and assume it was daytime. It was a terrible punishment - solitary confinement in total darkness. Some nuns have to endure that punishment for years."

Addressing China's human rights records, she stated, "China not only violates the human rights of Tibetans, but also of its own people. So by being granted this special trade status, China is now being rewarded while conducting such atrocities. China breaks all rules framed by the United Nation for basic human rights. The permanent trade status for China will enslave Tibet more, and more child labor will be used to profit Beijing."

Ani Panchen continued to focus on the role of the United States in this crisis. She stated, "From a personal perspective for Americans, it is not good for America's moral strength and your sense of being a moral nation and peacekeeper in the world. All people who are striving toward independence from Communist nations, all people who are fighting for truth and justice, all people who are fighting for basic human rights as Tibetans are doing, are totally discouraged by this act of the US Congress [of granting permanent Most Favored Trade Status to China]. Therefore, I feel that it is a great concern not just to the Tibetan people, but for Americans too. What do you stand for? What does your nation really stand for morally and ethically in the world?

"Yes, America usually fights for human rights around the world, but when you reward China when they are so blatantly violating such rights, then the basis for your stance is weakened and you lose your moral strength and character to speak to other nations about human rights violations worldwide.

"We are struggling for life and death now in our history. We called for the release of the Panchen Lama, whom China had had under house arrest for five years, incommunicado, at the time. I started my walk from San Francisco on his 11th birthday. He plays an integral part in the survival of Tibetan culture, and the Chinese government was practicing child abuse when they kidnapped him four days after the Dalai Lama identified him as the important lineage holder of Tibetan Buddhist traditions."

Ani Panchen also addressed the World Bank loan to China that Congress approved in 2001. She emphasized, "That loan should have been halted immediately, because it included a $40 million portion to resettle non-Tibetans into the heartland of Tibet. This is cultural genocide, leading Tibetans to become a minority in our own country, a form of ethnic cleansing and a violation of the Genocide Convention."

Addressing conditions for Tibetan women and children, Ani Panchen concluded, "International lawyers have documented illegal detention, mistreatment, torture and imprisonment of Tibetan children.... Because of these conditions, there are 3000 to 4000 refugees yearly crossing the Himalayas to flee the brutal force of China.

"I bore a lot of suffering, but it's not like what Tibetans suffer today. Tibetan women have had to endure coerced abortions and sterilization to avoid imprisonment of their husbands. Women and children are being abused using painful electric batons to their mouths and genitals. Nuns in prisons are being brutally raped. The Chinese Army would forcibly take blood from the nuns in prison. They would tell us it was for the Army hospitals, but it would make us very weak because they would take so much blood an also beat us. Prison sentences are sometimes expanded for ten more years if we sang songs of Tibet. Pictures of the Dalai Lama are still banned, and he's a Nobel Peace Laureate! Many are arrested and tortured if they possess a picture of him."

She concluded, "His Holiness the Dalai Lama told me and the other peace walkers that we were touching Americans' sense of liberty and justice in our efforts. I hope you Americans will vote for political leaders who make human rights a priority." Ani Panchen died of heart failure a few months later at her home in Dharamsala, India.

Tibetan Buddhist nuns participate in a Tibetan solidarity sit-in rally against China's rule over Tibet in New Delhi, India, 10/19/11. (photo: AFP)

Trade Status, Economic Power, and Human Rights

In closing, the US permanently granted China Most Favored Nation trade status when Tibetans were alerting the world that it was the last negotiating tool to hold China accountable for human rights violations in Tibet. But pro-business interests pushed it through, stating that human rights issues could be addressed later, after China was more involved in the worldwide financial markets, and thus accountable to international standards.

When I interviewed H.H. the Dalai Lama in 1995, he told me, "China is important and shouldn't be isolated. They must be brought into the mainstream of the world. But about human rights, the world must be very firm and consistent about human rights violations. The world must be clear what is right and wrong."

The Tibetans are still turning today to the United Nations to alert the world about human rights abuses by China, and to request some sort of intervention or support to bring about a change and/or justice. But even with the prestigious committees established at the UN, that body has also played a role in reinforcing China's ability to squash the testimonies of religious persecution. Remember when the Dalai Lama was invited to the 1993 UN World Conference on Human Rights? He was asked to speak about Tibet by the host Austrian government but was barred from speaking due to pressure on the UN from Beijing. China had extended its UN Security Council power and was able to actually interfere and stop the Dalai Lama from speaking about Tibet at a major international United Nations Human Rights convention.

It's been many years since that squelching of the testimony of H.H. the Dalai Lama. The world has welcomed and embraced him and acknowledged the beauty, value and worth of the precious Tibetan Buddhist culture. H.H. the Dalai Lama has become a Nobel Peace Laureate, and the US awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Hopefully, now with this current crisis in Tibet, the United Nations will handle these 5 Requests from the Tibetan hunger strikers with all the integrity and power the international body can muster.

In 2009 the Obama administration established the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, but human rights issues have not been integrated much into the talks. The Obama administration has acknowledged "deterioration" in China's human rights conditions, but rarely prioritizes human rights in discussions with China, and does not refer to any consequences if abuses continue to escalate.

Former Director of Amnesty International Bill Schultz told me years ago in an exclusive interview, "The US believes that China will inevitably change if we simply continue to engage in trade with China and open up a free flow of communication.... No one in the human rights community wants to isolate China, but the US can continue, in a stronger way, to pass resolutions condemning China's human rights record at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva."

Schultz warned, "Every time China takes one of these aggressive steps to restrict free speech and free assembly, if we don't give an appropriate response in the West, then surely China is encouraged to believe that trade trumps every other concern on the agenda, and that will certainly lead to more human rights violations."

According to the Weiss Report, China's economy is potentially becoming larger than America's, and the United Nations, IMF and other international organizations are calling for the end of the reign of the US dollar (in favor of the Chinese Yuan).

It appears that now is a crucial time to act on the reprioritizing of human rights in the event China becomes the #1 economic super-power in the future. This would result in China being in a position to dictate economic policies to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, these economic policies might also totally overshadow human rights priorities, resulting in the erosion of the remaining religious freedoms of the Tibetan culture and jeopardizing the remaining six million Tibetans who are now cut off from the rest of the world and in dire need of protection.

Jane Ayers is an independent journalist (USA Today, Los Angeles Times Interview, San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, etc.) and Director of Jane Ayers Media. She can be reached at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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