The story of Tibet is a tragic story of a peaceful, innocent and a deeply religious nation colonised by its neighbor China in 1949. In the aftermath of the occupation, thousands of Tibetans were killed and imprisoned, monasteries and religious sculptures demolished and stockpiles of sacred scriptures burnt. The tragedy still continues.
But the world is turning a blind eye to the brutalities committed in Tibet by the Chinese. Many powerful western governments had from time to time issued verbal condemnations and passed resolutions in an attempt to censure China’s human rights record in Tibet. But nothing seems to move China; accustomed as it is in turning a deaf ear and outrageously violating international conventions and treaties. Many favour not to take any risks since China is an economic giant: censuring China may affect their business interests.
China prides itself in being an economic and military super power; in fact this very fact emboldens it to commit large-scale human rights violations in Tibet. However, it is high time the Tibetans and the international community took forceful economic action coupled with political action against China. It is China’s economic and business power that enables it to fund various repressive and destructive policies in Tibet and China.
In recent times, the influx of cheap Chinese goods in Indian market has been a course for concern among the Indian policy makers, industralists, and business. The Indian consumers have discovered the deceptive joy of possessing cheap Chinese electric gadgets, crockery and toys. This development will have serious implications on the Indian market and industry. It will further worsen the ever-increasing unexployment rate in these countries.
In an honest endeavour to make a dent in China’s bludgeoning economic might and to raise awareness on human rights violation in Tibet, TWA will launch a mass boycott movement against Chinese goods. We believe that this kind of mass movement will best succeed when started at the grass-root level. The action of each and every consumer matters much in this case. Avoid buying and using any kind of goods with ‘made in China’ tags. The consumer has the right to know where your money goes. Every cheap Chinese goods you buy goes as a contribution to rights violation of Tibetans and millions of Chinese people. Chinese goods come cheap since human life for the Chinese authorities is cheap.
We strongly urge Tibetans, Tibet supporters worldwide, as well as the people of the world, to offer their cooperation in making this movement a success. For Tibetans, the initiative must come naturally and personally. Think about events of 1959 when Chinese committed large-scale genocide in Tibet; the Cultural Revolution of 1969 and the present worsening situation in Tibet and you will know it’s your natural responsibility and duty as a Tibetan to avoid using Chinese goods especially those ubiquitous thermos flasks and tea cups.
In the name of human rights, democracy and global peace, we request you all to promise yourself and take the personal oath that from now onwards you will not use Chinese goods and contribute your money to further rights violations and aggravate sufferings in Tibet and China.
March 12, 2002: Today, we are gathered here to commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the Tibetan women’s uprising Day. On behalf of all the Tibetan women both in and outside Tibet, I take this opportunity to salute all the brave women who have sacrificed their precious lives. It is sad to note that recently one of our such lady Ani Palchen Dolma passed away on the 2nd of February 2002. We therefore salute and observe one-minute silence to pay our respect to those who have laid their lives for the cause of our Nation.
Under the guidance of our supreme leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Women’s Association was re-instituted in exile in 1984. We truly appreciate all the wonderful work done by our brave women in the past and from our side we would give our very best in shouldering our responsibilities. With great respect and much sense of joy, we would follow the noble direction of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Government-in-exile. We are here to preserve our cultural heritage and are determined to work harder than ever before in our quest to realize our national goal.
In order to bring up amicable solution to the Tibetan issue, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has drawn out a broadened and farsighted vision for both the China and Tibet in the principles of peace and non-violence. He has presented the Five Point Peace Plan through middle way approach. These are historical documents, which enshrine the working basis and the interest of both the Tibetans and the Chinese. These proposals are highly respected by many governments and individuals across the globe and consequently the support for the Tibetan cause has been growing year by year. With our continuous struggle and pressures from international community and governments that the Chinese Government has recently some thought to the political prisoners. Still our struggle has not yet finished and we should give great importance to pressure the Chinese authorities that the political prisoners such as Phuntsok Nyidon and Ngawang Sangdrol could be released. The most prominent among the prisoners of conscience under the Chinese thumb is the young Panchen Lama.
The International Commission of Jurists has clearly explained in its reports that Tibet was an independent nation with clear legal jurisdiction away and distinct from China. The august body has recognized both de facto and de jure independent status of Tibet. These reports also contain that the free Tibet conducted its foreign relations without any interference from any foreign nation. The Tibetan cause has now emerged as an international issue with close implications to the peace of Asia and the world at large.
When we review the Chinese policy on Tibet, it is obvious from the campaigns launched from time to time that in the ultimate analysis she has the evil designs to annihilate Tibet and the Tibetans. After destroying all the distinctive characteristics of the Tibetan people along with its religious and cultural heritages, the Chinese intend to merge them in the sea of Chinese. The most recent development concern the railway line from Gormo to Lhasa and the water dam project on the confluence of Drichu river. Through these programs the Chinese aim to transfer a large number of Chinese immigrants to Tibet which will eventually make the Tibetan people only secondary citizens in their own country. Male chauvinism has been a part of the Chinese Society and if you look from the cultural perspective it takes little imagination to understand the depressing life of the Tibetan women in Tibet. Their right to produce children has been strictly regimented and they have to pay high monetary penalty for breaking the Chinese rule. The Chinese authority has sterilized many Tibetan women against their will.
I also like to take this opportunity to call upon all our compatriots both in and outside Tibet that its high time that we put collective efforts and work united for the common cause. We are very lucky to have His Holiness the Dalai Lama as our supreme leader and should always remember his kindness and hard work for our nation and people. It is our responsibility to follow His direction and timely guidance. I can assure that we would be successful in our mission when our people follow the guidance of our beloved leader in words and sacrifice being made by our people in Tibet for the common cause. Our time in the free world should be used for the national cause by adhering to the advice of our kind leader. The Tibetan Government-in-exile is functioning within the framework of democratic principles. We should be steadfast and march from strength to strength defying petty politics and parochialism in our society.
We Tibetans are highly grateful to the Government and people of India for the timely assistance and kindness showered on us during our time of need by providing ‘a home away from home’. As the Government of India is fully aware of Tibet issue, we once again appeal for your concrete support to our cause and not to submit to the illogical and illegal assumptions of the Chinese authority. The Tibetans have also been lucky with much support from international communities, governments, NGOs and individuals and we would like to express our deep gratitude to all of them and request your continued support. Since we are looking for a peaceful solution to our problem, we appeal to you all to pressurize the Chinese government to respond to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s initiative and start the dialogue at the earliest.
The Tibetan women have a very important place in our society and so far we have a commendable record. Our sisters both in and outside Tibet have been working shoulder to shoulder with our brothers for the preservation and promotion of our culture and tradition. Since our Association has grown both in terms of its number and its socio-political activities. We are determined to work harder than ever before and pledge to continue our endeavor until we realize our national goal.
With this I conclude my profound prayers for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and may peace prevail on earth. May the sun of Independence shine on Tibet and may peace prevail on our earth.
Voices that refused to be silenced: the inspirational story of the Tibetan Women’s Delegation in Beijing 1995
TWA partnered with seven other NGOs concerned with Tibetan women’s issues to take part in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing 1995.
This conglomerate was comprised of:
1. Tibetan Womens Association, India
2. Tibetan Women’s Organisation, Switzerland
3. Tibet Rights Campaign, USA
4. Norwegian Tibet Committee, Norway
5. Canada Tibet Committee, Canada
6. International Campaign for Tibet, USA
7. International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, USA
8. UK Tibet Support Group, Britain.
A neverending journey; Tibetan women’s fight for representation in Beijing
One problem met us before the long struggle for representation in Beijing; should we even participate? We knew that Tibetan women would never be treated fairly and thus the potential of boycotting was discussed by the Tibetan Support Groups (TSGs) and Tibetan Associations (TAs) involved. We decided that to boycott would only please the Chinese government and also would fail our duty as free Tibetan voices to tell the world what is happening to our Tibetan sisters.
Following the decision to take part, under TWA Central’s committed leadership the NGOs involved spent over two years in preparation, attending Preparatory Conferences held around the world. Whilst uncertain as to whether we’d be able to participate, we gathered for strategy meetings and finalised a group of 80 planned attendees.
The event was comprised of two parts; the NGO Forum held from August 31 – September 8, and the official UN conference held from September 5 – 15. All of our eyes were fixed on gaining attendance at the official UN conference, with TSGs and TAs having already been present in past NGO Forums. The NGO Forum attendance was confirmed without problems, although this meeting was then moved to Huairou, an hour’s drive from Beijing, in a transparent but unsuccessful attempt to stop it drawing any attention.
The Forum organizers also assured us that those registered would not have problems gaining a visa. However, at a meeting in Canada a representative from the All China WomenUs Federation refused to guarantee visas to Tibetan women even if they are citizens of other countries. Following this, at a local Chinese consulate, response to an inquiry about Tibetan women getting visas indicated that they would be granted. However, they never were.
As for the battle for representation at the important official UN conference, this held many struggles, with our eight groups being part of a total 200-300 NGOs excluded from the conference – initially without official reasons. Eventually the baffling reason for our exclusion was given as; “the objective and purpose of the organisation was either not clearly relevant to the conference or outside the scope of the conference”!
We then focused all of our efforts and those of our supporters upon lobbying member states of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).We had a clear argument, with our exclusion adding us to a long list of other NGOs excluded in ways that similarly denied human rights and discriminated; namely, gay & lesbian groups, Catholics for Free Choice, Taiwanese and Tibetan groups.
All Tibetan groups appealed the decision and the applications were reviewed at the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) meeting in Geneva, June 1995. However the decision for exclusion was only confirmed for all eight groups, despite the fact that three groups had been recommended by the U.N. Conference Secretariat. Six organizations from Taiwan were also excluded.
Finally, none of us were officially granted permission to participate or able to obtain visas. However our voices would not be stifled so unfairly; nine exiled Tibetan women of the Tibetan Women’s Delegation participated in both the Conference and Forum nonetheless, including TWA’s Tsering Dolma Gyalthong.
A monumental event for Tibetan women and our defiant message sent across the world; what took place in Beijing
The demonstration staged by the nine Tibetan women in Beijing and the continuous harrassment from the Chinese authorities (as well as from Tibetan women from the official ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ delegation) resulted in unseen levels of media attention and our message being sent out not only to Tibetans in exile in India and Nepal, but non-Tibetans around the world.
Our nine brave representatives were: Tsering Tsomo, Yoden Thonden, Chimi Thonden, Dorji Dolma, Tenki Tendufla, Phuntsok Meston, Tsering Dolma Gyalthong, Kesang Wangmo and Tenzin Jimpa. These nine women were from a total of fifty Tibetans in exile who attempted to gain visas by hiding their affiliations; they went to Beijing along with a dozen supporters, the small but resolute delegation arriving on August 26, 1995.
On day one of the NGO’s Forum the delegation presented a film on Tibetan women refugees, during which a Chinese man took the video from the player and attempted to run away with it! At the time, Chinese propaganda press stated that this “was an attempt to split China, and was deemed unacceptable to the police officers on duty and an infringement on China’s sovereignty.”
On day two the delegation staged a striking event that would symbolize the treatment of Tibetan women by the Chinese regime, as well as garner deserved media attention: they marched single file to the Forum’s center in heavy rain, with their mouths gagged with silk Chinese scarves – those that had been distributed at the opening ceremony. A crowd gathered quickly, captivated by this candid demonstration, and spontaneously began to sing freedom songs such as “we shall overcome” (from the American Civil Rights movement anthem). Photographs of these courageously gagged, silent and still Tibetan women with tears freely falling down their faces were broadcast to the world – a vivid and emotive symbol of China’s unjust silencing of Tibetan women’s voices.
The Tibetan delegation continued to communicate its message throughout the conference, taking this opportunity to educate others about the many human rights violations against Tibetan women. This included setting up an unauthorized booth with banners such as ‘Tibetan Women in Exile’ and ‘STOP the KILLINGS”. The women continued their efforts despite constant surveillance and harassment from the Chinese authorities, even including physical assaults.
Despite the considerable difficulties, all involved agreed the seemingly neverending efforts had been comprehensively worth it; with hitherto unseen media coverage of Tibetan women’s issues spreading its way around the world, including many headline news stories.
The courage of our sisters in undertaking this unprecedented direct action cannot be overstated; they managed to speak out whilst not knowing what punishment and harm they may come to by the Chinese authorities.
Their impertinence in challenging the Chinese on their own land presents a truly inspirational and touching moment for us all.
In addition to the Tibetan Delegation and countless unyielding support we received, we were urged on in our fight by official messages of support from the Dalai Lama, as well as the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and the Kashag.
Following Beijing, TWA’s Tsering Dolma Gyalthong went to Washington DC for a public talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, where she prostrated to His Holiness onstage and was greeted by a standing ovation in the crowd. She was then presented with a long kata (the distinct white ceremonial Tibetan scarf) in recognition of the Tibetan women’s work prior to and during the conference.
This event was profoundly moving for all involved, with Tsering Dolma Gyalthong sharing the stage with His Holiness as the entire audience rose to their feet and applauded her, aware not only of the many troubles the Tibetan women had endured to send their message out to the world, but also now aware of Tibetan women’s many struggles against Chinese treatment – thanks to the bold and inspiring actions of Tsering Dolma Gyalthong and the Tibetan Women’s Delegation