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Tibetans Observe 28th Birthday Commemoration of 11th Panchen Lama

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 10:40
Tibetans residing in the New York and New Jersey area observed the 28th birthday of the 11th Panchen Lama Gedun Choekyi Nyima, who at the age of six was abducted by the Chinese government making him one of the world's youngest political prisoner. The day was observed with a special prayer organized by the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association of New York and New Jersey for the well-being of the young Panchen and arranged a birthday cake-cutting ceremony on the occasion of his 28th birthday. “We strongly request the international community and the Chinese government to release all the political prisoners including the 11th Panchen Lama.”, said Mrs. Phurbu Dolma, the president of the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association. A protest was organized in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York City by the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey. The aim of the protest was to urge the world leaders to pressure China into respecting human rights and to provide information on the missing Panchen Lama. In an interview with the President of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Mr. Tenzin Kalden said, “As the Panchen Lama turns 28 today, Tibetans from all three provinces inside Tibet and the diaspora wish him a long life and a very happy birthday; may the Panchen Lama successfully continue to carry out the works and wishes of the 10th Panchen Lama."

Tibet House Delhi Organizes Panel Discussion on Universal Ethics

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 11:53
In collaboration with Ramanujan College of Delhi University, Tibet House, the Cultural Center of the Dalai Lama organized a panel discussion on "The Role of Universal Ethics in Higher Education Teaching" at India Habitat Center  in New Delhi on April 22, 2017. The chief guest of the panel discussion, Shri Naresh Sahai Mathur, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court of India stressed on the cultivation of universal ethics according to the three stages shown by Tibet's spiritual leader: restraint, virtue and empathy, or compassion. The Director of Tibet House, Geshe Dorji Damdul made clear the change of term "Secular Ethics" to "Universal Ethics". "Secular in western connotation is something against the religion and it creates problem in propagating the concept which is relevant in today's world. So it is now changed to universal ethics," says Geshe Damdul. Around 15 panelists and 100 students and academicians from colleges under the Delhi University, Shiv Nadar University, and Jawaharlal Nehru University participated in the one-day panel discussion.

Simon & Schuster India Launches Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje's Book

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 10:44
Simon & Schuster India and Wisdom Publications launched a book of Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje titled, "Interconnected" at the India Habitat Center, New Delhi on April 22, 2017. While introducing the book, Karmapa said, "This new book is continuation of my previous book 'Heart is Noble' and is based on conversations that I had with the students from Red Land University, California." The book is about his own understanding and experience of Buddhist concept of Interdependence. The 350 page book is translated by Damcho Diana Finnegan and edited by Professor Karen Derris of Red Land University, California. Mr. Ian Chapman, the Chief Executive publisher of Simon & Schuster in the United Kingdom was also present at the book launch. 

High School Tibetan Student Earns Spot at Prestigious Science Fair

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 10:01
Tsering Shola, a sophomore at Camas High School in Washington state won the Washington Regional Science Fair in early March, and then took first place in biomedical and health sciences at the state fair on April 1. The prize included an $80,000 scholarship and a spot at the prestigious Intel Science and Engineering Fair, known as ISEF, which will be held in Los Angeles from Sunday, May 14 to Friday, May 19, 2017.  Listen to reporter Kunsang Rinzin's piece on Tsering Shola and her participation in the world's largest international pre-college science competition below:  

Local Tibetans Summoned After Latest Self-immolation

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 11:32
Residents of a Tibetan town have been summoned to meetings by Chinese authorities after the latest incident of self-immolation, according to a former resident of the area now living in India. The victim, identified as 30-year-old Wangchuk Tseten, set himself on fire Saturday on a busy street in a central area of Kardze, the capital of Kardze Prefecture. Witnesses told their contacts in India that Chinese police put out the fire within two minutes and carried the man away. There has been no official indication whether he died or survived. “One person I spoke with was surprised that the news had already reached outside Tibet, but he didn’t want to talk about it,” the exiled Tibetan, who asked not to be identified, said Tuesday. He said other residents also were reluctant to discuss the incident. A video circulated through Tibetan social media on Saturday shows Chinese security officers spraying fire extinguishers over a person on ground and keeping a crowd away. A body can be seen under a dusty cloud produced by fire extinguishers and, barely distinguishable, his feet can be seen to make a small movement. The exiled Tibetan, who maintains close contact with residents of the area, said Tseten is a father of three children and lives in Zhido Township (also known as Asey Gyechak), in Nyagrong County, also in Kardze Prefecture. The former resident told VOA the victim self-immolated in the same location that 24-year old Pema Gyaltsen - also from Nyagrong County - set himself afire last month. Authorities have since imposed tough restrictions on Nyagrong residents seeking to travel to Kardze, the man said. “They need three different permits, one from village leader, one from township and one from county, in order to travel to Kardze,” he said. On Monday, the political leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile condemned the Chinese government for failing to address the “grievances” that have prompted a wave of Tibetan self-immolations beginning in 2009. “It is time the Chinese government heed to the calls of Tibetans in Tibet who long for freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to Tibet,” said Lobsang Sangay, according to the website of the government in exile, based in Dharamsala, India.

Local Tibetans Summoned After Latest Self-immolation

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 09:55
Residents of a Tibetan town have been summoned to meetings by Chinese authorities after the latest incident of self-immolation, according to a former resident of the area now living in India. The victim, identified as 30-year-old Wangchuk Tseten, set himself on fire Saturday on a busy street in a central area of Kardze, the capital of Kardze Prefecture. Witnesses told their contacts in India that Chinese police put out the fire within two minutes and carried the man away. There has been no official indication whether he died or survived. “One person I spoke with was surprised that the news had already reached outside Tibet, but he didn’t want to talk about it,” the exiled Tibetan, who asked not to be identified, said Tuesday. He said other residents also were reluctant to discuss the incident. A video circulated through Tibetan social media on Saturday shows Chinese security officers spraying fire extinguishers over a person on ground and keeping a crowd away. A body can be seen under a dusty cloud produced by fire extinguishers and, barely distinguishable, his feet can be seen to make a small movement. The exiled Tibetan, who maintains close contact with residents of the area, said Tseten is a father of three children and lives in Zhido Township (also known as Asey Gyechak), in Nyagrong County, also in Kardze Prefecture. The former resident told VOA the victim self-immolated in the same location that 24-year old Pema Gyaltsen - also from Nyagrong County - set himself afire last month. Authorities have since imposed tough restrictions on Nyagrong residents seeking to travel to Kardze, the man said. “They need three different permits, one from village leader, one from township and one from county, in order to travel to Kardze,” he said. On Monday, the political leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile condemned the Chinese government for failing to address the “grievances” that have prompted a wave of Tibetan self-immolations beginning in 2009. “It is time the Chinese government heed to the calls of Tibetans in Tibet who long for freedom in Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama back to Tibet,” said Lobsang Sangay, according to the website of the government in exile, based in Dharamsala, India.

Exile: A Record Of The Early Years Of Exile Tibet

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 09:10
Tibet Documentation, a project that has been documenting the story of the early Tibetan refugees, the gradual rebuilding of their lives in India and Nepal, and the re-establishment of their cultural and religious institutions in exile, released a book today in Dharamsala, India, titled, ‘Exile.’   Lobsang Gyatso Sither, the editor of ‘Exile,’ speaks to VOA about the book, which documents the first 30 years of exile, up until the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace prize in 1989. Tenzin Geyche Tethong, former minister and personal secretary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Ven Tenzin, who worked at the Tibetan Children’s Village since its establishment in 1962, shared their personal memories of those difficult years. Tashi Tsering, a scholar and Director of Amnyen Machen Institute, spoke on the central role the young 14th Dalai Lama played in shaping the direction and mission of the diaspora community, and also on context of photography and recent Tibetan history.

Video of a Self-Immolation In Tibet Appears On The Internet

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 07:04
According to a video and comments posted on social media this morning local time, a Tibetan monk set himself on fire in an apparent protest against Chinese rule. The self-immolation is reported to have taken place in Gump County in Kardze, located in a Tibetan region of today's Chinese province of Sichuan. Online posts suggest that security personnel arrived moments later,  put out the fire using extinguishers, and took away the monk in a vehicle. Due to the shutdown of cell service and internet apps such as Wechat in the area, the condition or whereabouts of the monk is unknown presently.  

Dalai Lama Says China Cannot Decide His Successor 

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 15:36
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has said it is up to the Tibetan people to decide whether the institution of the Dalai Lama will continue and that China cannot decide on his successor. He said he will organize a conference to discuss the issue of the next Dalai Lama before the end of this year. The Buddhist monk spoke Saturday at a news conference during a visit to the northeast Indian town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh state, which borders China. His weeklong visit has sparked anger in Beijing, which claims a chunk of the remote Himalayan state. Question of successor The question of who will replace the 81-year-old spiritual leader has gained prominence with Beijing having asserted that its communist leaders have the right to approve the next Dalai Lama as a legacy inherited from China’s emperors. But the Dalai Lama said Chinese officials have no role in identifying his successor because they are atheists and do not believe in the concept of religion.  “That’s frankly speaking quite nonsense,” he said. “In order to (for the) Chinese government taking responsibility for reincarnation in general, particularly me, first Chinese communists should accept theory of rebirth.” The Tibetan religious leader said nobody knows where the next Dalai Lama will be born or come from.  “I think at the time of my death, maybe some indication come, (but) as of this moment no indication,” he added. Tibetan Buddhists believe the soul of a senior lama or Buddhist monk is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death. Fate of the institution Saying that a final decision on the fate of the institution would be taken when he reaches his late 80s or 90, the Dalai Lama said he wanted to convene a meeting of senior monks this year to start a preliminary discussion on his succession. He said the continuation of the tradition depends on the people.  “If concerned people feel now this institution (is) no longer relevant, then this institution [will] cease,” he said. He did not rule out the possibility of the next Dalai Lama being a woman. Importance of Tawang The Dalai Lama’s visit to the sensitive border town of Tawang, home to a famous Buddhist monastery, is not his first. But Chinese objections have been far more strident this time with Beijing accusing New Delhi of arranging a platform for the Tibetan leader to “hold anti-China and separatist activities” and lodging an official protest. It has warned that the visit would hurt ties with India. The Dalai Lama and Indian officials call his weeklong Tawang stop purely religious. The Tibetan monk said he wished a Chinese official had accompanied him to know the reality. Jayadeva Ranade at New Delhi’s Center for China Analysis and Strategy believes the strong Chinese reaction stems from the fact that Tawang was the birthplace of the sixth Dalai Lama.  “The Chinese seem to be linking that with the next reincarnation and the location where the next reincarnation may be found. These are the reasons why they are getting more concerned,” he said. The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed Chinese uprising, resides in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala. China denounces him as a dangerous separatist. He gave a spiritual discourse to tens of thousands of devotees and is scheduled to give more in the coming days in Tawang.

Dalai Lama Addresses Bhutanese Devotees in Tawang Monastery

Tue, 04/11/2017 - 10:51
Before taking chopper flight to Guwahati in Assam, the Dalai Lama addressed his Bhutanese devotees present at the 3-day teaching in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, and said, "Tibet and Bhutan are like elder and younger brother of a family" and advised them to put more effort in studying Buddhist texts alongside modern education. Tibet's spiritual leader began his Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh visit on April 4, where he reached Bomdila by road and then proceeded to Tawang through Dirang crossing Sela pass on April 7 and concluded his visits on April 11. Listen to reporter Tsering Wangyal's piece on the Nobel Laureate's address to Bhutanese devotees in Bodhgaya.   

Dalai Lama Concludes 3-Day Teachings in Tawang

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 10:43
On the last day of the 3-day teaching in Tawang, the Dalai Lama conferred empowerment of Rigzin Dongdup to more than 40,000 devotees gathered from different parts of Arunachal Pradesh and as well as many thousands from Bhutan. Tibet's spiritual leader was offered long life ceremony according to the ritual of White Tara after the empowerment. The Nobel Laureate also launched a book on life and works of present Dalai Lama titled "Ocean and Blue Mountain" and blessed around 100,000 tree saplings. The parliamentary secretary and member of legislative assembly (MLA) of Arunachal Pradesh, Shri Jampel Tashi also gave a speech at the event.

Propitiation of Dolgyal is Mistake of Earlier Generations: Dalai Lama

Sat, 04/08/2017 - 10:58
On the second day of teachings in Tawang in the northeast state of Arunachal Pradesh, the Dalai Lama said that the practice of propitiation of deity Dolgyal was a mistake of earlier generations of Tibetans. The Dalai Lama made the comment while explaining the 7th stanza of the "Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas" on April 9, 2017, where he also gave initiation of Thousand Armed Avalokiteshvara to around 40,000 devotees gathered from different parts of Arunachal Pradesh and many from Bhutan.  After the teachings, Tibet's spiritual leader had lunch at Ugyenling, the birth place of 6th Dalai Lama Tsayang Gyatso, and then visited the memorial park of former Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Dorjee Khandu, consecrated a stupa, and inaugurated a museum.  

Former Political Prisoner to Campaign for Release of Panchen Lama

Fri, 04/07/2017 - 10:30
Listen to VOA's Dharamsala reporter Tenzin Sangmo's piece on Venerable Bagdro, a former Tibetan political prisoner's campaign to petition over 50 local and foreign embassies in New Delhi, India for the immediate release of the 11th Panchen Lama, who remain missing since China's abduction of the young boy on May 17, 1995 making him one of the world's youngest political prisoner.  Ven. Bagdro is scheduled to begin his campaign next week which is expected to last two weeks.   

Dalai Lama Consecrates Monastery in India as China Seethes

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 13:28
The Dalai Lama consecrated a Buddhist monastery Thursday in India's remote northeast, amid Chinese warnings that the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader's visit to a disputed border region would damage bilateral relations with India. Nearly 10,000 people, some of them from neighboring Bhutan, greeted the Dalai Lama at the Thupsung Dhargyeling Monastery in Tawang district in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, Indian official Jemba Tshering said. The visit to Arunachal Pradesh, which China also claims as its territory, has raised tensions between the nuclear-armed Asian neighbors. China's Foreign Ministry has said the visit "severely harms China's interests and the China-India relationship," while India has cautioned Beijing to stay out of its internal affairs. China considers the 81-year-old monk, who fled to India in 1959 amid an uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, a separatist seeking Tibet's independence. The Dalai Lama says he merely advocates substantial autonomy and protection of the region's native Buddhist culture. The Dalai Lama reiterated Wednesday that he, as well as his people, were not seeking Tibet's independence, but are struggling to secure "meaningful autonomy" for the region from China. "Firstly, we are not seeking independence. We are very much willing to remain within China," The Telegraph newspaper quoted him as saying. "At the same time, the Chinese government must give us meaningful self-rule, autonomy and must take full care of the environment." Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday rejected arguments that the trip was solely religious in nature, and said China would lodge a formal protest with New Delhi. The top elected official of the state of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, accompanied the Dalai Lama as he addressed young monks on Wednesday. Khandu said China had no business telling India what to do and what not to do, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. India considers Tibet an integral part of China while rejecting Beijing's claims over about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles) in Arunachal Pradesh. India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau. The visit is the Dalai Lama's seventh to Arunachal Pradesh and his first since 2009. China has criticized previous visits, but they did not spark any major rift between the two countries.

Dalai Lama Consecrates Thupsung Dhargye Monastic Institute in Dirang

Thu, 04/06/2017 - 10:51
Listen to VOA reporter Tsering Wangyal's coverage on Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama's teachings to around 30,000 devotees at the Thupsung Dhargyeling Monastery in Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh, India in the afternoon of April 6, 2017.  

China Denounces India Hosting Dalai Lama in Disputed Region

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 11:07
China said on Wednesday that India's decision to host Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on a contested stretch of land on the India-China border would cause serious damage to relations between the two countries. The Dalai Lama's week-long trip to Arunchal Pradesh, an eastern Himalayan region administered by New Delhi, but claimed by China as "southern Tibet", has raised hackles in Beijing, which labels the monk a dangerous separatist. "China expresses firm opposition to this and will lodge stern representations with the Indian side," foreign ministry spokeswomen Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in the Chinese capital. The 81-year-old Buddhist monk and Nobel peace laureate had planned to fly by helicopter to the 17th-century Tawang monastery and hold three days of spiritual teachings starting on Wednesday. However, heavy rainfall forced him to travel by road - a two-day drive through rugged mountain terrain - and he is not now expected to arrive until Friday. The Dalai Lama received a rapturous welcome on Tuesday in the town of Bomdila, with large crowds turning out in streets festooned with flags, as musicians and dancers clad in traditional costumes performed before his sport-utility vehicle. Later, the maroon-robed prelate walked slowly through the crowds, a fellow monk supporting him by the arm and another holding a large umbrella overhead to shield him from the rain. Indian officials have dismissed China's criticism of the Dalai Lama's second visit to Arunachal Pradesh in eight years, saying he is a spiritual leader who has a devoted following in the region. "His visit to this part of the country is totally religious," the state's chief minister, Pema Khandu, told Reuters Television. "As far as the boundary issue is concerned, I have also maintained that we don't share our boundary with China, but we share our boundary with Tibet." Severely damaged China has repeatedly criticized visits by foreign officials to Arunachal Pradesh, which it calls South Tibet and over which it has a long-standing claim. In its latest broadside, Beijing said that by ignoring China's concerns and persisting in arranging the trip, India had "severely damaged China's interests and China-India relations". "We demand that India immediately cease using the Dalai Lama's mistaken behavior to damage China's interests," Hua added. "It will not bring any benefit to India. China will take necessary measures to firmly safeguard its territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights." The Dalai Lama fled in 1959 over the border not far from the Tawang monastery, the largest of its kind in India. At the start of his tour, he was reunited with an elderly Indian border guard who had helped him to safety. He now resides in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where his supporters also run a small government in exile. He has renounced any political role in leading the Tibetan diaspora. The Indian government has rejected China's criticism of the Dalai Lama's visit - his first to Arunachal Pradesh since 2009. "The government has clearly stated on several occasions that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a revered religious leader, who is deeply respected by the Indian people," it said in its latest statement on the matter. "The government, therefore, urges that no artificial controversy be created around his present visit to Arunachal Pradesh."  

Tibetans Protest Xi's Meeting with US President

Wed, 04/05/2017 - 10:31
April 6, 2017: Chinese President Xi Jinping's arrival at his hotel in Florida, located close to where he will meet President Trump later this evening drew two types of crowd: on one side of the road were the all red clad crowd who cheered at the Chinese President's motorcade, and on the other side was a large crowd representing different individuals, groups, and nationalities who have long standing grievances with the Chinese state. Members of Students for a Free Tibet, a national and international NGO, were a loud and energized presence with their Tibetan flags, placards, and a giant Xi Jinping head.

India Urges China Not to Turn Dalai Lama Visit Into ‘Artificial Controversy’

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 11:20
Saying no “artificial controversy” should be created around the visit of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, India has called on China not to interfere in its internal affairs. The Dalai Lama arrived Tuesday in the border territory that is also partially claimed by China.  But his stop at the famous Tawang monastery where he is due to deliver sermons was delayed due to bad weather. The Buddhist monk’s visit to the sensitive eastern Himalayan region has become a flashpoint between the two Asian neighbors and analysts say it could lead to a diplomatic chill.     Following strident Chinese objections to the visit, India’s junior home minister, Kiren Rijiju, said Tuesday India had never interfered in China’s internal affairs and expected the same from its Asian neighbor.   “We also never questioned the Chinese sovereignty and India has respectfully adhered to “One China” policy.  So we expect China should also not interfere in our internal matters,” said Rijiju, who is the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s point man on Tibetan relations.  “Being a democratic and secular country, India cannot stop or restrict the visit or program of any religious leader in our country.” China last week warned India the Dalai Lama’s visit to what it called a “disputed territory” will damage relations and urged New Delhi against taking any actions that would complicate a boundary dispute between the two countries. China disputes ‘religious’ nature Rijiju, who is also a Buddhist, is scheduled to be in Arunachal Pradesh during the Dalai Lama’s trip.  He says he is going as a devotee, but some commentators in China say the federal minister’s presence indicates the Buddhist monk’s visit is not purely religious as India maintains.   But New Delhi reiterated the visit has no political significance, pointing out this is not the first time the Dalai Lama will be in Arunachal Pradesh. India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement "no additional color should be ascribed to his religious and spiritual activities and visits to various states of India.” The Dalai Lama also went to Arunachal Pradesh eight years ago in 2009. Analysts say although Beijing routinely opposes visits by foreign dignitaries to the sensitive border state, including the Dalai Lama’s previous visit, its objections have been far sharper this time. But India is determined to brush off those warnings, says Jayadeva Ranade at the Center for China Analysis and Strategy in New Delhi, adding that Beijing has also not been sensitive to Indian concerns in the past year on a range of issues.   He says, “If the Chinese try and apply pressure, that will not work.  They have to concede to our core interests and then there can be compromises which can be worked out.”   Indian analysts ascribe the growing chill in ties between India and China to Beijing’s increasingly closer relations with New Delhi’s archrival - Pakistan. 

Tibet Supporters Converge on Capitol Hill to Lobby Congress

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 11:19
More than 130 people from 23 states converged on Capitol Hill to lobby for Tibet the week before Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida on April 6. Although the leaders' meeting is expected to focus on trade and the need for China to do more to rein in the nuclear and missile programs of its neighbor and ally North Korea, Tibet remains a contentious issue between the two nations.  "Congress has shown a strong interest in Tibet since the 1980s, passing dozens of laws and resolutions related to Tibet, speaking out about conditions in Tibet, and welcoming visits by the Dalai Lama," according to a 2014 report by the Congressional Research Service. "Such actions have long been a source of friction in the U.S.-China relationship. China charges that they amount to support for challenges to Chinese rule in Tibet." Bhuchung Tsering of the International Campaign for Tibet in Washington, which organized Tibet Lobby Day, said, "Looking at the meeting of President Xi of China and President Trump, we want to send a message to President Trump, through Congress and to Trump directly, that there is traditional bipartisan support for dialog with China on Tibet," he said, adding "Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson says he is committed to promoting dialogue on Tibet and receiving the Dalai Lama." Tibet Lobby Day was held simultaneously in Washington, Brussels and Canberra, Australia, March 27-29. "U.S. policy has not changed," Anna Richey-Allen, a spokeswoman for the State Department's East Asia and Pacific Bureau, said Friday, adding that the U.S. recognizes the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and Tibetan autonomous prefectures to be a part of the People's Republic of China. "We remain deeply concerned about human rights abuses and restrictions, including those imposed on religious freedom, in the TAR and elsewhere in China," she said. "We remain committed to supporting meaningful autonomy for Tibetans and the preservation of their unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions.  "The United States encourages the People's Republic of China to engage with the Dalai Lama and his representative without preconditions." Ngawang Norbu of Boston, Massachusetts, was one of the Tibetan-Americans and Tibet supporters who spoke with more than 250 members of Congress and their staffs during Tibet Lobby Day. The activists asked them to continue funding Tibet programs and to promote efforts to gain access to Tibetan areas for U.S. officials, citizens and journalists. They also want the Trump administration to implement the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA), which has the stated purpose of supporting "the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity." "The important thing today is that there's a new administration in America and, along with that, the exile Tibetan administration in India has declared 2017 to be a year of action for Tibet, and so that's why I'm here," Norbu told VOA on Wednesday. "It's our responsibility and obligation to lobby for Tibet, and whether our requests are responded to or not is, of course, up to the leadership here, but in our mind we think our objectives and efforts will bear fruit." Bhuchung expects to see the reintroduction of the proposed Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act by Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts; Representative Randy Hultgren, a Republican from Illinois; Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican; and Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat. North Carolinian Marah Litchford, who has expressed concern about religious freedom in Tibet, participated in the Washington movement. "They listen," she said. "You just have to talk loudly." Nike Ching and Steven Herman contributed to this report, which originated with reporting by Dondhon Namling of the VOA Tibetan service.

China PR Efforts Face Challenges

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 11:19
China’s government spends millions of dollars each year to try to advance its views overseas, but this flood of cash has been met with setbacks, from the expulsion of Confucius Institutes at universities overseas, to student group tussles over speaking engagements for the Dalai Lama. In recent months, Beijing’s "charm offensive" in the U.S. has come under increased scrutiny, especially investments in Hollywood, raising concerns the iron-fisted Communist Party is seeking to spread its own style of censorship and control. But such fears, analysts argue, are largely overblown. Telling "China’s" story As China’s economic might expands and global influence grows, Beijing is looking to correct what it regards as inaccurate portrayals of itself. Chinese President Xi Jinping frequently talks about what he says is an effort to "tell China’s story well" - to tell its story on its own terms. Beijing aims to portray China as "a civilization that is ancient, rich," said Clayton Dube, director of the University of Southern California’s U.S.-China Institute. "With China's advanced economic strength, it's been able to invest mightily in developing modern communication technologies, investing heavily in broadcast, investing heavily in internet, websites and news-gathering and these sorts of things, but also investing in the Confucius Institutes to try to increase American understanding of China," he said. Some of this is being done openly through state media broadcasts overseas such as China Central Television, recently rebranded as China Global Television Network, or CGTN. It also comes in the form of "advertorials" in leading American newspapers. In other cases, covertly. On campuses, there are Confucius Institutes, the more than 100 Chinese language and learning centers that have a growing physical presence at universities and institutes of higher learning in the United States. The centers claim to be a non-governmental organization, but administratively, its parent group falls under China’s Ministry of Education. And in recent years, several have been shut down over concerns about transparency and the impact they were having on academic freedom. Philip Clart, Director of the University of Leipzig’s Confucius Institute and Professor of Chinese Studies at its Department of East Asian Studies, argues that when it comes to Confucius Institutes, they can be beneficial if handled correctly. Clart said that while censorship and free speech issues remain a concern, these are not necessarily inherent to the program and can be avoided if there is a clear functional and institutional separation between the program and the university. However, "if you are at a place where you don’t have an independent Chinese or Asian studies department, where the [Confucius Institutes] is brought to actually for the first time offer anything, any Chinese instruction, and there is no other voice, this becomes more difficult." Packaging authoritarianism Chinese student groups are also a growing force that at times are seen as forwarding the Communist Party’s agenda overseas. For example, when Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama was invited to speak at the University of California, San Diego in June, a group of Chinese students at the university launched a protest to stop his speech. As the group rallied against the invitation, arguing strangely enough that the invitation to the Dalai Lama goes against "diversity" and "political correctness," its connections to the local Chinese consulate were thrust into the limelight. That incident and others highlight the difficulties Beijing faces and how the line between telling the China story well and spreading the Communist Party’s propaganda can easily blur. Media inroads A Reuters investigation in 2015 uncovered that more than a dozen stations across the United States were airing programming from state broadcaster China Radio International in the United States. And while reaching an English speaking audience may be difficult, analysts note that the Communist Party has made major inroads when it comes to Chinese language media in the U.S. While under the radar for most part, much of the landscape is Beijing-controlled or aligned. It targets mostly ethnic Chinese who may also be exposed to English coverage, but it shapes and in some ways limits the information they receive. Ultimately, the goal for the Communist Party is for it "to be accepted as effective, legitimate and good," said Robert Daly, director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson Center. But selling one-party authoritarianism is a "pretty difficult pitch." "People listen to China, people know China is important, but they (Beijing) really don’t have a good story to tell that would convince Americans that one-party authoritarianism is, in fact, okay," Daly said. Kowtowing to profits The biggest challenge of them all, however, is when "American architects of soft power cave in to Beijing for money," said Daly. This is most commonly seen in Hollywood, but also in publishing and even gaming. In some cases, content that might in some way be undesirable to Beijing gets scrapped to ensure access to China’s market. "Because the size of the Chinese film market is so large, everybody wants a part of it. So everybody would like to have their films screened in China, if they have a chance," Dube said. "And they know that certain films will not have a chance." Daly said this is what he calls "purchasing power times authoritarianism." But it is the actions of Americans, and not Beijing, that he finds most troubling. "It’s not that China is strong-arming us – it is that we are bowing down in the name of profits, and that’s the real issue," he said. "Not what they do through the Confucius Institutes, not what they do through China Central Television or Radio Beijing." While some argue that more should be done to restrict China’s media access to the U.S. or even investments in Hollywood, others believe that more exposure leads to better understanding, Dube said. "By curtailing that openness, by curtailing that free flow of information, we are sending a signal that we are afraid of that," he said. "America’s great success and its soft power comes from its openness, comes from its engagement."

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