Wed, 29 Mar 2023

Lhasa [Tibet], January 29 (ANI): A London-based non-profit independent think tank Open Forum organised a webinar on January 26 addressing the atrocities that China is making Tibetans go through. In the webinar Tibet's activists in exile and campaign groups expressed how "systematically," and "brazenly" China is crushing Tibet's identity and culture when the world is busy doing trade with it.

Imagine demolishing the home you built with your own hand. This is the predicament of Tibetans living in the Drago county of Tibetan province of Kham, 'known for their strong cultural and religious heritage, according to a ground-breaking report released by the London based non-profit organization, Free Tibet on 23 January 2023 along with their charitable research arm, Tibet Watch.

Speaking at the webinar about the first time ever findings of the Tibet Watch report the policy and research manager of Free Tibet, John Jones, said, "senior monks are summoned to convince people to demolish their own school." The forum heard they are threatened with "reprisals," if they don't comply. This is not all, those who showed remorse for such destruction were imprisoned.

Relating the heart-breaking stories of local monasteries, schools and buildings symbols of Tibetan culture suffering similar predicament, Jones said, "what happened to the residents of Drago county is emblematic of the Chinese Republic Party's (CCP) attempts to systematically eradicate Tibet's distinct way of life, its culture, religion, language, history..."The event was moderated by Choekyi Lhamo, an independent journalist from Dharamsala in India. Although a Tibetan born in exile, Choekyi said she could "relate to the systematic oppression of Tibetan culture.""At least 78 percent of all Tibetan students between the ages of 6-18 now live in boarding schools now. They are being raised by the Chinese government in boarding schools separated from their families, traditions, culture and religion. Not speaking Tibetan language for the vast majority of their lives. They may have a Tibetan language class but Mandarin and Chinese is the language of instruction," said director, Tibet Action Institute Lhadong Tethong, speaking at the Forum webinar.

Under the pretext of education, the Chinese government is taking children as young as four away from their Tibetan parents. "They are attempting to wipe out Tibetan identity and replace it with a Chinese identity so that there is no resistance to Chinese occupation of Tibet in future," said Lhadon.

Breaking down what changing value system looks like Chemi Lhamo, a Canada based Tibetan activist told the forum, a young Tibetan growing up in a traditional nomad had a goat and if someone handed them Tibetan bread then, " their instinct is to share with the goat and now the change an shift the value system is that these children are being taught not only do you eat the bread on your own but if you are hungry then you eat the goat too.""Tibetans never have true safety and protection in being a Tibetan in Tibet but now under Xi-Jinping it's like even the gloves are off. They don't even really pay lip service to the idea of regional ethnic autonomy or they have just overturned any existing ideas that Tibetans even an ethnic minority of China, which we are not," said Lhadon.

She further added, "We are an independent nation under an illegal occupation but the idea that Tibetans even as an ethnic minority of China should have some semblance rights and freedoms to protect or promote Tibetan language or culture or Buddhism and what not that's all gone out of the window under Xi-Jinping. Every year getting worse, but the world does not know and cannot see clearly."Tibet has become blackhole of information observed Lhadon. Those who live inside cannot come out and the one outside cannot go in. Isolating Tibet is now engrained in the Chinese policy specially after the 2008. A milestone moment in the Tibetan struggle when China was hosting the Olympics. Millions of Tibetans soon after March 10 rose against the Chinese rule that year. It's almost akin to North Korea as far as information and communication are concerned, the panellists told the forum.

Extending the argument further Chemi Lhamo, told the forum, "with China's long arm tactics, they exist in not just inside Tibet but overseas even in places like Canada. We know from recent reports of safeguard offenders that existence of Chinese police stations in almost 50 countries."One would wonder how information can come out of Tibet for a report to be written if this is the level of surveillance.

"What we relied on in this report - interviewing former residents, satellite imagery, local news reports, and local government statements which are often one hand propaganda but on the other half give useful details on what the authorities are thinking, also there were some photos and details made way from Drago country anonymously to groups like Free Tibet," said John talking about the hard one year of putting the report together.

All is not lost there is still hope. Chemi spoke about how in Toronto every Wednesday Tibetans turn up outside the Chinese Embassy at 8.30 am to register their presence and remind the authorities of their atrocities. From opening schools with Buddhist ethos to raising voices at various platforms and locals inside Tibet doing their bit, "Tibetans despite all that is happening continue to thrive...our existence becomes resistance," said Chemi with pride.

All engagement and resistance are non-violent resistance. She added, "There is a saying in Tibetan - every Tibetan born after 1959 is born an activist". (ANI)

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