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An Overview of the CCP's Religious Policies in Tibetan Areas

posted Jul 23, 2014, 7:13 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Woeser

2014 07 15 An Overview of CCP 1

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written between October and November 2013 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on November 16, 2013.

The blogpost gives a comprehensive overview on the Chinese government’s religious policies in Tibet since the 1950s to the present day.

2014 07 15 An Overview of CCP 3

2014 07 15 An Overview of CCP 2

These three photos were all taken when I was in Lhasa last year. Photo 1 shows the Jokhang Temple that His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed as “the most sacred temple in the whole of Tibet”; today, the scarlet-red Chinese flag is flying on its roof. Photos 2 and 3 show Sera Monastery, one of Lhasa’s three main monasteries; the few remaining monks are performing a Buddhist debate to tourists; the young Chinese who is wearing lay clothes is actually a member of the military police. The prayer beads that he is wearing are to disguise him as a Buddhist.

“An Overview of the CCP’s Religious Policies in Tibetan Areas”
By Woeser

The religious policies of the CCP in Tibet have more or less stayed the same over the past decades; there have been differences in degree at different times in different places, but overall, they have remained exactly the same. Here, I want to give an overview of the entire situation:

The religious reforms were passed by the CCP Central Committee and launched in 1958. It was a political movement in the Tibetan areas of Amdo and Kham and had one ultimate goal to destroy Tibetan religion step-by-step. For example, the reforms entailed closing down monasteries, arresting important religious figures, or forcing monks and nuns to leave the monastic order. In Qinghai province alone, out of 618 traditional Tibetan monasteries, 597 collapsed, out of their 57390 members, 30839 were forced to return to ordinary life.

In 1959, under the name of “fighting the counter-revolutionary rebels”, Tibetan religion was attacked fiercely. Religious leaders either fled abroad or were arrested and sentenced; it was a time of total destitution.

As a result of the Cultural Revolution from 1966-1976, out of the originally 2713 monasteries inside Tibet, only 8 remained. In the entire Tibetan region, including Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan provinces, out of the originally over 6000 monasteries, less than 100 remained.

At the end of the Cultural Revolution, after experiencing terrible calamity, Tibetan religion underwent a revival, most of the destroyed monasteries were rebuilt under the efforts and sacrifices of Tibetan people. I want to particularly stress that the funds needed to rebuild these monasteries almost entirely came from donations from Tibetans themselves. The central and local governments only gave money to rebuild a few most famous religious places.

In the early 1980s, local leaders were comparatively moderate and Tibetan religion enjoyed some degree of freedom. But because of the numerous protests that erupted between 1987 and 1989 in Lhasa, and particularly after Hu Jintao became Party Secretary of the TAR in 1988, religious policies were tightened. All the way up to today, local Party Secretaries have been hard-liners, supporting and placing emphasis on tough religious policies in Tibet.

In January 1989, the 10th Panchen Lama suddenly passed away, leaving behind a situation full of suspense.

Between March 1989 and May 1990, adopting the rhetoric of the “barrel of the gun”, Hu Jintao turned Lhasa into a military zone.

In 1995, the relationship between the CCP and the Dalai Lama completely broke apart over the problem of the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama; Li Ruihuan labelled the Dalai Lama as follows: “The Dalai Lama is the leader of a conspiring political gang of separatists who want Tibet to be independent. He is a loyal tool of the international anti-Chinese powers and the root cause of the turmoil within Tibetan society, he is the biggest obstacle preventing traditional Buddhism from establishing itself in an orderly manner.”

Chen Kuiyuan, appointed by Hu Jintao, became the head of the TAR. From then on, first in Lhasa and gradually in the whole TAR, the local authorities established work groups in all monasteries, fostering “patriotic education”; the abbreviation for these work groups was then “ Offices of Patriotism”. Their main job was to unify all monks’ perception and knowledge of the Dalai Lama. In cases of slight nonconformity, monks would be expelled, in severe cases, they would be sentenced to imprisonment. This was a time of many suicides among monks, a fact that remained largely unknown to the outside world. “Patriotic education” was continued until 2008, when renewed hard-liner policies expelled the monks from other Tibetan areas living in Lhasa’s three main monasteries, which eventually led to the eruption of the March 2008 protests.

Over the past five years, “patriotic education” has been spread across the entire Tibetan region, which has had extremely negative repercussions. Between February 2009 and September 2013, 121 people self-immolated inside Tibet and 5 within the exile community. Out of the 126 self-immolators, 19 were women and 107 have already passed away. The local authorities, however, have become ever more unyielding. There was, for example, the well-known and greatly criticised project of the “9 haves” that was implemented in monasteries and villages of the TAR. It dictates that people need not only to possess the portraits of the CCP’s four (now five) great leaders and the five-starred red flag, but also that they have to possess a Party radio, TV and a newspaper to be able to receive the voice of the Party at all times; additionally, the work groups stationed in monasteries and villages have been building police stations that resemble the monasteries in terms of external appearance. The cruel reality is that all Tibetan monasteries are already trapped in a cage.

October – November, 2013

Originally published at and republished by TPR with permission of HPPE.


My Take on Misinformation About the Middle Way Approach

posted Jun 22, 2014, 5:43 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jun 24, 2014, 10:49 AM ]


TPR Editors' Note, provided to Radio Free Asia in response to a request for comment:   We do not want to presume the CTA was talking about us, because TPR is just a small volunteer website.   But the editorial board stands behind what we wrote.  Our editorial has extensive citations, and our conclusions are based on the 2008 Memorandum, 2010 Note, and Sikyong's recorded statements.  Our editorial also cites our two earlier editorials where we looked at these issues in much greater depth.  Our editorial is simply our opinion based on these facts, and we welcome articles from all perspectives.

June 20, 2014
By Tsering Wangchuk

Being part of the recently launched international awareness campaign on Middle Way Approach which aims to counter the Chinese government’s misinformation campaign, I am elated to see the response it is generating world over. The Campaign generated one of the biggest media coverage in recent times from New York Times to Guardian to Straights Times to South China Morning Post and not to mention about Indian and Tibetan media.

On June 7, on a positive note, the US government urged for an unconditional dialogue. We are deeply concerned about the poor human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China. We have continued to urge the Chinese Government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions as a means to reduce tensions, obviously urge China to address policies that have created tensions in Tibetan areas and that threaten the Tibetan unique culture,” said US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf.

At the far end, caught on back foot, the Chinese government issued a series of baseless statements. On the next day of the launch, the spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Ministry termed Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay as “100% splittist”. On June 9, just three days after the launch, a Chinese government website posted an article titled “Tibet independence in Middle Way disguise : Zhu Weiqun”. The article impinges on the exact misinformation that the MWA campaign has sought to clarify. Zhu Weiqun, former executive vice director of the United Front Work Department, who was also the key person in previous dialogue, resorted to misconstruing Middle Way Approach to confuse world opinion on Tibet issue.

The premise of Chinese side misinformation is based on Strasbourg Proposal. However, it must be noted that the Strasbourg proposal is no longer binding since 1992 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama declared in his 10th March statement that ” the Strasbourg Proposal is no longer valid”.

Even few individuals within the Tibetan community, in their writing, insinuates that the Kashag, headed by Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, is proposing a different version of Middle Way Approach than that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Interestingly, they have also based their argument on the Strasbourg Proposal that was long termed invalid. Like the Timeline of MWA document, Legal Materials on Tibet published by Tibet Justice Center also documented that Strasbourg Proposal is invalid. The individuals who leveled these allegations are either deliberately misleading or do not know about this crucial fact, which is hard to believe as these individuals also sit on the board of Tibet Justice Center.

However, this is not new. Similar efforts to create an impression of difference between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the then Kashag led by Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche were made in 2010 when the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People was alleged to be formulated without the consent of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This allegation was put to rest after a live televised special Parliament Hearing with a parliament resolution declaring that the Memorandum enjoyed full confidence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

This time, documents published during MWA international awareness campaign is entirely based on the official documents of CTA. It was launched with the blessings of His Holiness and former Kalon Tripa, Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche also participated in this Campaign through appearing in the documentary video.

These unfortunate trends of distorting information also signify that every individual must read and understand the MWA documents, now easily accessible at, on its own merits and not through a third party interpretation. One must form his/her opinion based on facts.

 The reality is, 97.5% of Tibetans in Tibet are under repression and that it should be the most urgent concern of the Tibetans who live in free world. The exile population is only 2.5%, though important, but is secondary to ending the repression in Tibet. As Sikyong has clearly explained in the MWA video, the objective of MWA is to replace political repression by basic freedom, economic marginalization by economic opportunity, social discrimination with social equality, cultural assimilation by cultural preservation and environmental destruction by environmentally sustainable policies.

Some in exile have raised the issue of democratic system of governance in Tibet, which I feel may not be the most urgent concern compared to alleviating Tibetans inside Tibet from persistent cycle of repression. Therefore, the Memorandum and the Note clearly mentioned that given the Chinese government’s compliance on the Tibetan proposal for self-governance covering 11 basic needs, the Tibetan side will accept the ‘Three Adherences“. This was made clear in a column by reputed journalist Nicholas Kristof, published in New York Times titled “An Olive Branch From the Dalai Lama” on August 6, 2008.

In short, such baseless allegations and intentional attempts by the Chinese government and some from within Tibetan diaspora to create confusion on MWA is a wastage of time, energy and resources. I am afraid these unwarranted negative campaign will try the Tibetan patience to the point of snapping into a more problematic issue for the Chinese government and tragedy for the Tibetan people. Under these circumstances, Tibetans creating distortion is amount to playing right into the hands of hardliners in Beijing.

(The writer is press officer of the Central Tibetan Administration based in Dharamshala, India. The views expressed in the piece do not necessarily reflect those of the Central Tibetan Administration)

Originally published at:


Gender Violence, Leadership, and the Modern Tibetan Woman

posted May 30, 2014, 6:28 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Jun 2, 2014, 9:52 AM ]

By Dawa Lokyitsang

The last few decades has seen a rise in Tibetan women’s voices that has led to an increase in women’s leadership positions in the male dominated Tibetan state apparatus in exile—Central Tibetan Administrations (CTA)<FN1> and leading Tibetan NGOs in Dharamsala, India. This is in part due to the exile/diasporic Tibetan state apparatus’s longstanding cultivation/fostering in both its male and female de facto citizens of a desire to rise to the level of “leadership” in order to politicize Tibet and to serve an already disenfranchised community of Tibetans in exile following Chinese invasion in 1959. But what happens when Tibetan women loyal to their community desire subjectivities not endorsed by the exile government? 

Leadership, throughout Tibetan history, has shifted through gendered terrains. In Janet Gyatso’s Women in Tibet, an edited collection, Gyatso explores lives of leading female figures throughout Tibetan history. Gyatso’s book details the lives of women who became recognized for their leading roles in arenas such as politics and spirituality despite traditional Tibetan notions of women as “low-births” (2005). In regions such as Kham, stories existed of armed women that led tribal men into wars over tribal feud and territory. Women such as Tsering Drola, Khangsar Yangjan Kandrol, and Tonpon of upper Nyarong Gyari Chimi Drolma, who were known in the region as, “The Three Devils of Yangchen Lama of Khangsar Tribe.” <FN2>  However, the women in these historic narratives were the exception, not the norm. Women in Gyatso and Shakya’s narratives were remarkable, in that they defied the gendered norms of their time period that were dictated by their communities; challenging communal beliefs and those in power. But their stories reveal that throughout Tibetan history, female leaders, prior to the Chinese invasion, were not desired but resisted. However, the Chinese invasion and exodus to exile presented Tibetan women with opportunities to assert their own desires to become leaders

    In contemporary exile Tibetan understanding, leadership at its base involves individuals that achieve professionalism through education, who aspire towards leadership by using those learned professional skills to serve the Tibetan society by engaging in communal empowerment and/or politicizing Tibet. Leadership in this context is achieved through modern educational and/or economic investment in the self to access avenues that could empower the individual, in every sense, to become self-making. Such emphasis on education and economics affords Tibetans with, what Carla Freeman calls, “neoliberal mandate for flexibility in all realms of life,” which suggests that the individual be provided with “the capacity to constantly retool, retrain, and respond to the shifting tides of the global marketplace” (2012;88). However, for Tibetans in exile, such “flexibility” was a necessity needed to meet “the shifting tides of” challenges that Tibetans in exile had to face as refugees following the Chinese invasion in 1959.

    In reviewing Tibetan women’s history in exile through Tibetan Women’s Association’s (TWA) activities, the female leader figure between the late 60s to the 80s, it is clear that when the first generation of refugees escaping Chinese invasion were trying to meet the challenges of having been exiled and trying to rebuilt community in exile, female leadership was embodied in the mother-figure. Women from the elite families, such as the Dalai Lama’s mother and sisters, fulfilled the roles of mother figures whose caring-labor sustained the lives of children left orphaned from the journey following invasion and the harsh conditions associated with poverty and disease from which many Tibetans perished. While elite men went into the international arena to secure international support and aid for the crisis of invasion and refugees, the women stayed within the refugee’s camps to meet the challenges of refugees on the grounds.

Aid secured by government officials was used to start boarding school institutions such as the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) and Central School for Tibetans (CST), these institutions were both caring centers to sustain orphaned life and to train them through education to become capable members/leaders that would sustain the newly emerging refugee community. Indeed, between the 80s and 90s, children sustained in these institutions that were funded from the aid secured by the men and lives cared for by the women began populating the growing Tibetan community as mothers, fathers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and other leading figures that would serve community and its political message regarding China and Tibet.

During this time, TWA, as the only NGO led by and for Tibetan women, whose founding members included women who performed the leadership role of motherhood in caring for orphaned refugee children, shifted its initiative from welfare to include assertive leadership workshops that empowered Tibetan women to become leaders in the community. This shift took place following TWA's successful campaign to politicize Tibet in Beijing at the UN Women’s Conference in 1995. The women who took part in this campaign were celebrated in the Tibetan diaspora as heroes’ and championed by the Tibetan apparatus as exemplary leaders. They were also women whose lives had in part been sustained by the caring-labor performed by their predecessors.

Through out the mid 90s into the 2000s, TWA’s efforts in campaigning for the rights of women to take up leadership positions within the diaspora, with heavy emphasis on the right to female education and professional opportunity, has paid off. Although women are still under-represented in the governing body, there are currently more female representatives in the governing apparatus both as parliamentarians and cabinet leaders from diverse, not just elite, backgrounds, something not seen in the experiences of the previous generations. Although the Tibetan apparatus’ heavy emphasis on the need for all Tibetans to rise to the level of leadership through education remained genderless, beliefs in traditional gender roles kept large numbers of girls from accessing education, especially in poor rural Tibetan communities. TWA’s emphasis on women’s education through their leadership workshops and advocacy has challenged these traditional notions on gendered and carved out opportunity for women to access education and leadership positions. However, TWA’s recent campaign to advocate against gender violence and discrimination has not been met with the same enthusiasm as their past projects.

While leadership in the role of motherhood performing caring-labor or China-Tibet political advocate in the international arena were celebrated by community and the apparatus, the current move by TWA and other female leaders to embrace gender advocacy as a subjectivity desired for female leadership is being met with hostility from the public and silence from the apparatus. Although CTA has not condemned nor celebrated, TWA’s new initiative to take on gender violence in the Tibetan community, its general lack of action on the issue reveals how the desire to end gender violence, as advocated by Tibetan women, is neither encouraged nor discouraged by CTA—deeming the issue a non-issue for the male dominated Tibetan apparatus.

Gender violence advocacy is deemed problematic or silenced because it engages wrongdoings within the community, not China. Because the issue does not deal directly with China, critics (who don’t deny the issue but accuse women advocates of harming the larger political movement for freedom) tell women advocates to put the issue of gender violence on “arrest,”<FN3> at least until freedom is achieved. However, advocacy against gender violence, as a desire promoted by TWA and other women advocates, call attention to the present realities of the Tibetan women in exile. Their desires, like the apparatus, are invested in desiring leaders that desire the project of sustenance in exile, politicizing Tibet, and a future in a free Tibet; however, they want these desires to also include the desire for a Tibetan society, present and future, with gender equality and a society free of gender violence. However, what about Tibetan women who desire subjectivities that don’t reflect CTA or TWA’s desires?

Recently, I was talking to a female friend who asked about my sister. After I told her that my sister was in India studying Tibetan Buddhism, she sarcastically responded with “please don’t let her become a nun.” I asked whether she was joking or was she actually against the idea of my sister becoming a nun, she confirmed she was against the idea. When I asked her to explain, she responded, “Well, the Tibetans are having less babies and as a result our population is decreasing.” In another incident following a close friends decision to become a nun who later joined a nunnery, other Tibetan friends who know us both questioned me on why she choose that lifestyle. My friends framed the question as, why would Rinzin (name changed), as someone raised in the U.S. with a Bachelors graduated from a well-known college, considered attractive and worked at stable and respected job, choose to become a nun? They always followed that question with, “I get that, and good for her, but what’s the point?” The not-so-positive response seems to imply that nun’s lifestyle could maybe achieve some spiritual gratification but what tangible outcome, especially for Tibet, would it serve otherwise?

The desire to study Buddhism or to become a nun involves renouncing not only worldly matters in the spiritual sense but includes the rejection of prescribed gendered subjectivities in the traditionalist Tibetan sense and the consumer oriented modern-western sense. Although the Tibetan religious institutions are not free of gender discrimination, the desire to become a nun rejects the gendered subjectivities prescribed by politicized Tibet or the capitalist oriented independent/educated self-making modern woman—this desire is also strangely an indigenous Tibetan response and desire. Yet, they evoked responses such as, “but why?” from Tibetans living in exile, whose subjectivities reflect their concrete reality in which they and the apparatus desires leaders that can ensure the continuity of the community and/or its political message. Religious or esoteric lifestyles as a subjectivity desired is not discouraged by CTA, TWA or the modern Tibetan youth; however, they are not desired either.

Tibetan monastic institutions in exile have seen a sharp drop in the number of exile Tibetans—women and men—desiring monastic subjectivities. Such decreases in numbers reflect how the desire for certain subjectivities, such as religious lifestyles, are neither promoted by CTA or TWA nor desired by the current generation of Tibetans in exile. It is also about the promotion of certain subjectivities as “modern” (educated/professional/leaders), while other subjectivities—such as homemakers, spiritual cave dwellers, and/or story telling grandmothers who also contribute to the sustenance of the Tibetan community and culture in Tibet and across the diaspora—take a back seat to the desire for Tibetan leaders who will lead the community and politicize Tibet.  



1.  “Central Tibetan Administration,”, (May 2, 2014).


2. Shakya, Tsering. 2014. Private conversation with Dr. Tsering Shakya who shared information

regarding the three female warriors of Kham from his private research notes.


3. [T]he apprehension and detaining of particular pasts [and present] in anticipation of their eventual release. Pasts [or presents] that clash with official ways of explaining nation, community, and identity are arrested, in the multiple senses of being held back and delaying progress but also in the ironic sense of drawing attention to these pasts [and presents]” (McGranahan 2010;24).


Works Cited:

Freeman, Carla. 2012. "Neoliberal Respectability: Entrepreneurial Marriage, Affective Labor, and a New Caribbean Middle Class." In The Global Middle Classes: Theorizing Through Ethnography. Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research Press.

Gyatso, J., & Havnevik, H. (Eds.). 2005. Women in Tibet. Columbia University Press.

McGranahan, C. 2010. Arrested histories: Tibet, the CIA, and memories of a forgotten war. Duke University Press.

2010. “Narrative Dispossession: Tibet and the Gendered Logics of Historical Possibility.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 52(04), 768-797.

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posted May 30, 2014, 6:20 PM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Tibetan National Congress

Recently, we have observed with growing apprehension a disturbing trend that is being orchestrated all over the world, wherever His Holiness is scheduled to engage in building communal harmony and developing peaceful coexistence between different beliefs and cultures. He is being viciously attacked by Shugden extremists who falsely accuse him of severe repression and denial of religious freedom.

Of course, this is not entirely new, and has been happening intermittently for a few years now, usually by a few Tibetans backed by many more Westerners in religious garb. However, what is alarming about these new protests is their ability to move the same group of people all over the world rapidly, in a well-oiled propaganda fashion. They have also become increasingly aggressive in their confrontational techniques, as was the case with the Western 'nun' who infamously accosted His Holiness in a hotel lobby in San Francisco. As much as there is a need to ramp up the security detail around His Holiness due to the lapse in our ability and preparedness to identify and prevent such deliberate attempts to defame and ridicule our leader, we have to be very concerned about the increasingly bold, organized, and well-funded actions undertaken by malicious people.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is not only the religious leader of the Tibetan people, but the manifestation of the Tibetan nation and its peaceful and honest struggle against a cruel, despotic, and totalitarian colonial power. His reputation as a fair and honest peacemaker undoubtedly carries much weight in the world, garnering him access to otherwise closed doors. So, when such dubious groups viciously attack the very integrity of His Holiness, calling him a 'liar', ‘fake’ and accusing him of 'religious intolerance' - which is the very antithesis of the movement he has been espousing all around the world for decades - this should be of enormous concern for all of us.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has repeatedly explained his stance on the Shugden issue, and it should be absolutely clear that his stance is on theological grounds and has nothing whatsoever to do with discrimination. Even Amnesty International (1) after a thorough research and investigation into the allegation of religious discrimination declared there was no truth to these assertions. Similarly, the Delhi High Court (2) found no evidence and dismissed the case. In spite of similar other non-partial and independent entities coming to the same conclusion, some Shugden believers still continue to ramp up their propaganda to discredit and defame His Holiness, and in turn, the whole Tibetan movement. We need to ask what their true motivation is.

It is absolutely clear: their actions indicate that these groups are not concerned with religious tolerance, but with disrupting and ultimately dismantling the Tibetan people's just struggle for their homeland. It is reasonable at this stage to conclude that the only entity that benefits from such deliberate attempts to vilify and defame His Holiness is the Chinese Government. It is no secret that the Chinese Government and entities within the Chinese Communist party, especially the United Front, have been deliberately nurturing Shugden propitiators inside Tibet, and pushing people with such affiliations into positions of power. It is also no secret that the Chinese Government often resorts to covert methods of sowing divisiveness, and uses such underhanded means to attack their opponents’ most important strengths.  It is apparent that the Shudgen groups carrying out these actions are allowing themselves to be used as tools of the Chinese regime.

There are shady Shugden groups, with questionable financial resources, obviously spending significant amounts of money ferrying people all over the world, following His Holiness with professionally-made signs and banners. Lately, these groups have made their ties to the Chinese government more evident by their recent public pronouncements that support the Chinese government’s position while making derisive comments regarding His Holiness. They have also reportedly been making their presence felt in Chinese embassies, wining and dining on their dime.

It is disheartening to see fellow Tibetans consort with the enemy against their own people, especially when we are at a critical juncture in Tibet’s history, as Tibetans inside Tibet are making the ultimate sacrifice of self-immolation to expose the hollow legitimacy of Chinese rule in Tibet and the unbearable pain and anguish under which the Tibetan people live. It is treachery at the highest level and must be condemned by every Tibetan worth their salt, every organization, and even those Shugden followers whom these shady organizations purport to represent. At the end of the day, we can live with religious differences, as we have throughout our history much like any other culture, but we cannot accept those that sell our national interest for personal gain.

I urge Shugden followers, the majority of whom surely don’t have links to the Chinese Government, to disassociate themselves from such groups and join in solidarity with the rest of their brethren against those who peddle our country and trample on the memories of our ancestors. I call on responsible Governments in whose jurisdiction these organizations operate, to scrutinize and persuade them to reveal the source of their funding and control, since it also pertains to the safety and security of their nation to be free from Chinese government machinations.  I also urge the said authorities to request such entities to cease and desist from further engaging in slander and libel against the person of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.


Bhoe Gyalo!


Jigme Ugen,

TNC President






Tibetan Sisters Declare Zero Tolerance for Violence Against Girls and Women

posted May 20, 2014, 11:54 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated May 30, 2014, 6:30 PM ]

By ACHA-Himalyan Sisterhood, USA


On May 11, 2014, Times of India online news reported that: “A local court in Palampur sent a 30-year-old Tibetan man in three-day remand who was charged with molestation of two minor girls of Tibetan Children Village (TCV) School, Gopalpur”, a few miles from Dharamsala, India, the capital of Tibetan exile community.

Members of ACHA-Himalayan Sisterhood across the United States are deeply disturbed by the news of a Tibetan cook in a T.C.V. school accused of raping two Tibetan minors on two separate occasions.  ACHA declares zero tolerance for violence against girls and women and strongly condemns all forms of gender-based violence perpetrated against Tibetan girls and women.

The Gopalpur cases are among a growing number of reported cases of gender-based violence in the Tibetan exile community over the past few years. In 2011 the “Tenzinghang incident”
1  and in 2013 the “Mundgod incident”2  shocked and outraged the global Tibetan community.

According to Phayul post on May 12, 2014, in Gopalpur TCV, the first “incident of molestation of an eight-year-old girl by the accused [Pema Namgyal]… was brought to light by this [second] case,” suggesting that the school authorities failed to pursue justice in the first case.  This raises some serious questions:  Was the man suspected of rape in the first case thoroughly investigated?  Given that the same man now stands accused of raping a second girl (13):  Might we have prevented the second alleged rape by thoroughly investigating the first?

In addition to legal action, we need to address the lack of public awareness and recognition of sexual abuse and gender inequality in the Tibetan exile community.  Perhaps our community can begin by asking some critical questions:  What social factors in our communities are contributing to these acts of violence against women and girls?  How can we raise greater community awareness around gender-based violence and take shared responsibility across all sectors of our communities for developing effective programs?  What can we do to prevent these horrendous acts of violence in our Buddhist society? How can we create safe and violence-free communities for women, girls and youth?  How can we address the ingrained stigma around gender-based violence – especially toward the survivors, who often suffer in silence fearing social isolation, shame and victim blaming?

The answers to these questions might be revealed once we begin to create spaces for community members at all levels of our society to inquire, discuss and find collective and creative solutions.

This recent incident and previous reported cases of violence remind us that sexual violence against girls and women exists in our [Tibetan] communities and that we must pay attention to its prevention and appropriate action.  We need prevention programs to secure the safety of girls and women in our homes, schools, and communities.  To its credit, in September 2011, the Tibetan Parliament-In-Exile (TPIE) passed a historic resolution condemning “Violence against Women”.  After renewed social media campaign and pressure from Tibetan activists and politicians, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) issued its first public condemnation on August 24, 2013 following the Mundgod incident.
3  These are clearly steps in the right direction and there is more work ahead.

ACHA believes that the responsibility of preventing all forms of violence, particularly against girls and women in our communities, lies in each of us – women and men.  We believe that every Tibetan individual can contribute toward the solutions rather than relying solely on government and women in the community.  Gender-based violence is still an un-addressed social issue impeding our overall growth and development as a non-violent Buddhist community.

Regarding the Gopalpur incident, ACHA is encouraged to know that an investigation of the accused, Pema Namgyal (30) is currently underway.  ACHA commends the school nurse for believing in the minor (13) and seeking the necessary medical care for the victim.

It is ACHA’s hope that justice is pursued with appropriate legal action in compliance with local law including appropriate rehabilitation for the perpetrator.  For the survivors and their parents, ACHA hopes the local Tibetan community will offer the social, medical, financial and emotional support required to heal.

“Violence against women is not only injustice, but is also an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace in the community in every country." 
                                                        United Nations Convention on Elimination of all forms of                                                                                     Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)

[1] A September 2011 investigative report, the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) noted that on July 16, 2011 “a Tibetan woman had been beaten, stripped naked and taken to the market by fellow Tibetans in Tenzinghang,” a Tibetan Settlement in Arunachal Pradesh, for allegedly having an affair with the husband of one of the six perpetrators.  With exception of the Tibetan Women’s Association, no public statement condemning the “Tenzinghang incident” was issued.
[2] On August 23, 2013, Phayul reported that: “a five-year old Tibetan girl has allegedly been raped by two Tibetan men in Mundgod Tibetan settlement on Tuesday [August 20, 2013].” 
No public condemnation of the most recent incident was found on the CTA website at the time of writing this article.


ACHA-Himalayan Sisterhood is a volunteer Tibetan women's group based in CA with members in NY, MA, and DC.  ACHA works toward women empowering women in creating safe, supportive and inclusive spaces for all.

For more information on ACHA, please visit:

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Interference and Antagonism: Reflections on the History of the "Golden Urn Lottery" System

posted May 15, 2014, 12:48 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated May 15, 2014, 12:49 PM ]

By Pema Wangyal

1st Dalai Lama

The trulku system of reincarnation is a unique characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism, which arose based on the Buddhist concept of karma, the Mahayana concept of Bodhisattvas, and other ideas. The recognition of trulku candidates is a religious matter within the Tibetan Buddhist faith which shouldn’t be subject to political interference. The supposedly “atheist” government in Beijing, however, played an inappropriate role during the search for the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama.
After the 10th Panchen Lama passed away in late 1989, the atheist government in Beijing disregarded the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism and forcibly identified a boy as the Panchen Lama, while attempting to replace the 11th Panchen Lama identified by the Dalai Lama. Beijing insisted on adhering to the so-called “Golden Urn Lottery” system because it mistakenly believes that the Tibet policy of the feudal Emperor Qianlong best embodied the authority of the central government. Today, almost two decades later, their chosen Panchen Lama still isn't accepted by Tibetans, and it’s hard to find eager worshipers no matter where he goes. The Beijing government has had a lot of trouble establishing religious prestige for him, and it’s all because of the Golden Urn Lottery.
The origin of the Golden Urn Lottery system is as follows: in 1789, the Nepalese Gurkha king invaded Tibet, sacked the Panchen Lama’s Tashi Lhunpo monastery, and attacked the castle in Shigatse. At the time the 7th Panchen Lama was only 4 years old, and the 8th Dalai Lama requested that the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty send troops. As a former student of the 6th Panchen Lama and a patron of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, Emperor Qianlong immediately sent General Fuk’anggan to lead troops through Tibet to Shigatse. Fuk’anggan drove away the Gurkhas, protecting the Panchen Lama while restoring and strengthening the Tibetan government.
However, the Qing dynasty also used this as an opportunity to start interfering in Tibetan internal affairs, trying to rule in the name of the Dalai and Panchen lamas and sending “ambans” to Tibet. They also sent the “Golden Urn” to Tibet, where it was kept in the Jokhang before being moved to the PotalaPalace. The Golden Urn was said to be able to test the authenticity of Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama trulku candidates, thus beginning the Golden Urn Lottery system.
In reality, the Tibetan trulku reincarnation system began with the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism in the 13th century. With over 800 years of history, the tradition of reincarnation has played a very important role in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. Reincarnate lamas are the leaders of Tibetan Buddhism, the enlightened thinkers, respected and admired as saints by the Tibetan community. In the early 15th century Tsongkhapa created the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, and two of his disciples, Gendun Drup and Kedrup Je, went on to start the reincarnation lineages of the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, respectively. These two became the most famous lineages of reincarnate lamas in Tibet, and from the 15th century to the present they have acquired 600 years of history.
Official Chinese reporting has claimed that “in terms of historical and religious rituals, use of the Golden Urn Lottery is a necessary procedure for finding the right reincarnation of the Dalai and Panchen Lamas.” As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words, so let us quickly review the history so that we understand it: Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty sent the Golden Urn to Tibet in 1793 to help with finding the incarnations of the Dalai Lamas. But the Dalai and Panchen lama lineages dated back to the 15th century, so by the time the so-called “Golden Urn Lottery” system was created their lineages were already over 200 years old.
Let us continue to analyze and consider the historical record. Over the last 600 years there have been 14 successive Dalai Lamas and 11 successive Panchen Lamas. Sino-Tibetan historical data shows that of the 14 Dalai Lamas, only the 10th, 11th, and 12th were identified by use of the Golden Urn Lottery. Out of the 10 previous incarnations of the Panchen Lama, only two incarnations (the 8th and the 9th) were found using the Golden Urn Lottery.
The historical data shows: From the 10th to the 12th Dalai Lamas, a short period of only 40 years passed. From the 8th to the 9th Panchen Lamas, not even 30 years passed. As you can see, the Dalai and Panchen Lamas recognized under the Golden Urn Lottery system spent a very short time on this earth. This clearly shows that the use of the Golden Urn Lottery system was a form of political interference by the Qing dynasty, and such kinds of interference inevitably antagonizes the Tibetan people. The imposition of the Golden Urn Lottery system lasted less than 40 years before it died away completely. Political interference in religious matters is bound to inspire resistance. In the course of researching this history we can see a peculiar phenomenon: Before the Qing dynasty imposed the Golden Urn on Tibet, the Dalai and Panchen lamas were very long-lived. The 1st Dalai Lama lived until the age of 84, the 2nd until 67, and the 5th until 66. Meanwhile the 2nd Panchen Lama passed away at the age of 66, the 4th at 96, and the 5th at 75.
The Dalai and Panchen Lamas selected by the Golden Urn, on the other hand, all died suddenly and for no apparent reason at very young ages. The 9th Dalai Lama passed away at the age of 9; the 10th was 22 when he died in the Potala Palace. Neither was old enough to assume power. The 11th Dalai Lama assumed power at the age of 18, but he died suddenly in the Potala Palace less than two months later. The 12th Dalai Lama also assumed power at 18, but he lasted less than two years before passing away of illness as he turned 20.
Looking at the Panchen Lama lineage, among the successive Panchen Lamas the shortest-lived was the 8th, who was identified at the age of 6 by the Golden Urn Lottery and enthroned at Tashi Lhunpo before dying of illness at the age of 29. The 9th Panchen Lama wasn’t as short-lived as the other Panchen and Dalai Lamas picked by the Golden Urn, but he lived a turbulent life: forced to flee central Tibet in 1923, he died 15 years later without realizing his wish to return to Tashi Lhunpo.
That so few Dalai and Panchen Lamas were selected by the Golden Urn, and that so many of them died sudden deaths, reflects the total failure of the “Golden Urn Lottery” system devised by the Qing dynasty. It also reflects the strong aversion Tibetans feel towards foreign interference in Tibetan Buddhist religious affairs. Why hasn't the Beijing government, which is much more enlightened than the Qing dynasty, learned from history in regards to the Panchen Lama selection issue, instead of repeating the mistakes of the Manchu government and stubbornly adhering to the principles of the so-called Golden Urn?

This article was originally published in International Campaign for Tibet: click here

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Tibet’s Long Road to Peace With China Has an End if Suspicions are Put Aside

posted May 5, 2014, 4:11 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated May 5, 2014, 4:15 PM ]

By Tenzin Norgay

Modern China has a wide range of problems. Hardly anyone doubts that Tibet is a historical and political problem for China. In the passionate debate about the status of Tibet, few realise that Tibet's modern peacemaking project with China began a century ago: the Dalai Lama's "middle way" policy has its genesis in an obscure conference 100 years ago yesterday.
On April 27, 1914, British India, China and Tibet signed a tripartite accord at Simla. And thus was born the concept of inner and outer Tibet and the infamous McMahon line that divides India and China. Today, India, China and the Tibetans live in the peculiar legacy of that failed secret conference - a byproduct of the Great Game. The fact is that the origin for Tibet's division in the Tibet autonomous region and four neighbouring Chinese provinces, and the 90,000 square kilometres eastern-sector territorial dispute between India and China can be traced to this convention.
All the 1914 stakeholders later adapted that conference according to nationalist narratives; Tibetans claim it as a proof of independence, China considers it one of the unequal treaties forced upon it during the "century of humiliation", and India argues legalistically that Arunachal Pradesh is its territory as the successor state of British India.
But all parties have failed to see what it was all about to begin with. It was simply a peacemaking deal to keep armed hostilities in abeyance during the political flux of early 20th century.
Before imperial Britain arrived on the Asian scene, Tibet and China coexisted geographically and have developed a complex relationship over the centuries. Unable to fully grasp the peculiarities of this relation, Britain conveniently termed it suzerainty.
Sovereignty is a fluid concept that is best understood today in terms of territoriality. Despite all its failings, the Westphalian nation-state system is here to stay. There are no alternatives, and it has been relatively successful in maintaining international peace and prosperity, including China's own rise.
In these early decades of the 21st century, nobody doubts the sovereignty of China over Tibet. China has risen. But its Leviathan-like domestic governance has created major grievances among its minorities. Ironically, China acts like an insecure power despite all the muscles in its power metrics. It is about time China takes more global responsibility to further prosper the Westphalian system and stop acting like an insecure Leviathan.
And here is the beauty of Tibetan diplomacy and its middle way policy for maintaining peace, firmly grounded in more than 2,000 years of Buddhist philosophical underpinnings. The 13th Dalai Lama acquiesced that "Tibet forms part of Chinese territory" in the Simla accord, with the top priority to end armed hostilities with the politico-military Chinese adventurers and preserve its 150-year-old internal autonomy.
Tibetans outside the current autonomous region have long been fiercely independent-minded people. Where both Tibetan and Chinese bureaucrats failed miserably, Tibetan lamas have been able to retain their loyalty. Despite the fact that it has now been 55 years since the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet after the failed 1951 17-point agreement, eastern Tibet is still passionately loyal to him.
This is evident in the fact that out of some 130 self-immolations in Tibet since March 2009, 94 per cent of them occurred outside of the officially designated Tibet Autonomous Region, with the overwhelming demand for the return of their beloved leader.
It is clear that the Dalai Lama still rules the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people despite Beijing's billions of dollars in investment and the heavily subsidised economy in Tibet.
In a globalised world, a look beyond worldly Confucianism is all it may take to manage this century-old modern conflict. Beijing should revisit its history to learn that the 1914 Simla accord was concluded at a time when China steadily lost its traditional dependencies in international politics. It will find that the Simla accord marks the modern genesis of Tibet's middle way policy.
This modern peacemaking project begun a hundred years ago by the 13th Dalai Lama is still in progress. Despite the moral right to secede due to the grievances and destruction caused by Mao Zedong's ultra-leftist policies, all that the 14th Dalai Lama is asking for is application of a uniform policy across inhabitants on the Tibetan plateau, now divided into one autonomous region and four provinces - with reference to the 1914 Simla accord - without dissolving the current domestic boundaries.
And this is achievable if Beijing sheds its proverbial suspicion and completes the reconciliation process begun a hundred years ago. 

Tenzin Norgay is a senior policy analyst at the Tibet Policy Institute. He specialises in majority-minority relations in China and Sino-Tibet negotiations.

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A Rebuttal to Lobsang Sangay’s Claim of "Baseless" Attacks: The Facts

posted Apr 20, 2014, 6:01 PM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Apr 20, 2014, 6:09 PM ]

Editors' Note: This article was submitted to TPR by the author.  It is a follow-up to a public debate between the author and the Sikyong conducted in the pages of the Asian Age and The Diplomat (see here, here, and here), and  The Sikyong also discussed some of these issues on the floor of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile on March 22. 

TPR provided an advance copy of this article to the office of the Sikyong to offer an opportunity for a response to be included.  No response was received.

TPR encourages the submission of articles from all viewpoints.  Any article published in TPR represents the view of that article's author. 


By Maura Moynihan

In an interview with The Diplomat on April 4, 2014, Tibetan exile Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay dismissed concerns about his alarmingly pro-Beijing stance as “baseless."  Yet Sangay continues to avoid addressing the simple facts, which are these:

In May 2013, Sangay announced that his administration was abandoning the goal of democracy, accepting Communist rule in Tibet in its “present structure”, and acquiescing to China’s “discretion” in militarizing the Tibetan Plateau.  The full transcript of his speech is here:

 After long denying that he had used “Overseas Chinese National” travel papers to go to China in 2005, Sangay finally admitted it in 2011.  Here is the video:  In a fractious discussion in the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile on March 22, 2014, Sangay admitted to going to China but again evaded the issue of signing "Overseas Chinese National" papers.  Here is the video (at the one hour mark, in Tibetan):

Also at the same Parliament session, Sangay sidestepped an accounting of a mysterious quarter-million dollar windfall.  Just four years after buying a house near Boston, he managed to pay off a $227,000 mortgage on July 29, 2011; he became prime minister just one week later.  He still refuses to account for how his mortgage disappeared overnight, and with such fortuitous timing. His mortgage documents are here, laying out all the facts except the continuing mystery of where the money came from:

Sangay’s embrace of the Chinese communist party goes far beyond anything in the two policy papers on Tibetan autonomy put out by his predecessor.  On the contrary, these earlier papers had called for “the right of Tibetans to create their own regional government and government institutions and processes.”  These two documents are here: and

Given Sangay’s pro-China policies, the following facts from his past are all the more troubling. 

Sangay will not discuss his close relationship with Hu Xiaojiang, whom intelligence sources identify as a Chinese Ministry of State Security co-optee.  Hu and Sangay met at Harvard Law School and gave many public lectures about Chinese-Tibetan friendship. Hu is so trusted by the Chinese government that it allowed her access to the ultra-sensitive government archives in Lhasa to research her 2003 Ph.D. thesis on Chinese migration into Tibet, as disclosed in her thesis.  (Hu makes special note of Sangay in her acknowledgements).  An excerpt from Hu’s thesis, including a discussion of her topic and her special acknowledgment of Sangay, is here:

Sangay’s disturbing use of Chinese Communist propaganda code-words to describe Tibet can be found in his published papers. In one paper, Sangay refers to pre-1959 Tibet as a “feudal realm” that was “shackled to feudalism,” with “monks and grandees” displaying “reactionary” anti-modern attitudes. This is language that originates from Chinese Communist propaganda tracts about Tibet.  Sangay also – fifteen times – calls His Holiness the Dalai Lama simply “the Lama,” a level of disrespect that only Chinese Communists employ.   Here is the paper, Tibet: Exiles’ Journey (2003), in Journal of Democracy:

The Journal of Democracy is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy based in Washington DC.  In a March 2014 address at the National Endowment for Democracy, Sangay spoke of being portrayed in Tibetan thangkas (religious paintings) and compared himself to the Emperor of China.  The video can be seen here:

These are the well-documented facts that lead to the concern that Sangay is alarmingly pro-Beijing.  Given that Sangay’s attempt at evasion only harms his own credibility, hopefully he will simply address the facts.

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Doing China's Bidding in Nepal

posted Apr 18, 2014, 7:55 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Apr 20, 2014, 6:18 PM ]

By the Editorial Board of The New York Times

"A Human Rights Watch report released this month shows how far Nepal has gone in capitulating to Chinese pressure in cracking down on Tibetan residents and refugees. It details a long list of shameful actions against Tibetans in Nepal, including restrictions on their activities and movements, surveillance and intimidation, arbitrary detention and forcible return to China. 

In effect, Nepal has turned itself into a partner of China’s anti-Tibetan policies. 

Nepal has long been a way station for Tibetans fleeing China. Many continue on to India, where the Dalai Lama lives and where they can obtain refugee status. Still, some 20,000 Tibetans live in Nepal. Most were born there, yet the government of Nepal refuses, according to Human Rights Watch, to issue at least half of them official identification."

For the full article originally published in The New York Times, click here:

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China Repeats Rejection of Dalai Lama’s 'Middle Way' for Tibet

posted Apr 6, 2014, 10:20 AM by The Tibetan Political Review   [ updated Apr 20, 2014, 5:52 PM ]

By Yeshi Dorje (Voice of America, March 28, 2014)

 China has marked the 55th anniversary of the dismantling of Tibet’s government in Lhasa with another explicit rejection of the so-called "middle way" approach of the Dalai Lama that emphasizes autonomy for the region.

In the televised speech Thursday on state-run Tibet TV, the chairman of China's Tibet Autonomous Region [TAR], Losang Gyaltsen, said the Dalai Lama's approach is "a camouflaged approach" that seeks Tibet's independence.

“Tibet cannot be independent, neither can it be a semi-independence or disguised independence,” Gyaltsen said, standing next to China’s national flag.

He added that China’s fight against a “Western enemy force” and the “Dalai Clique” is an important political fight for unity versus separation, democracy versus authoritarianism, and progress versus backwardness.

Kunga Tashi, who works in New York for the exiled Tibetan government, said the statement shows that Chinese leaders are unwilling to compromise to solve the Tibetan problem.

“The middle way approach agrees with the principle [demand] of China,” he said. “We say we are not separating from China, if we get a meaningful autonomy.”

In addition to the speech Thursday, Chinese officials carried out a campaign this week to highlight how much they say conditions have improved in Tibet since China took over.

Beijing frequently cites improved living standards in the region when defending its rule. Tibetan exile MP Kalsang Gyaltsen Bapa said the comparison of old and modern societies is just an excuse.

“China has no historical and legal support to occupy Tibet,” Bapa told VOA Tibetan service, speaking in Tibetan. “So they need to say old Tibet was dark and backward, and they came to develop Tibet. Such policy was used by other colonizers.”

The anniversary, which China calls "Serf Liberation Day," marks Beijing's 1959 dismantling of Tibet’s government in Lhasa shortly after the Dalai Lama fled into exile. The date, however, has been officially commemorated only since 2009.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.  Originally published at

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