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Former Political Prisoner Jigme Gyatso Sends Letter of Courage and Truth After Surviving Five-year Prison Term
Labrang Jigme Gyatso, a monk from Labrang in Amdo, was perhaps the only known Tibetan to record on video in Tibet an account of his own imprisonment and views on Chinese government’s policies against the Dalai Lama and was able to send it to the outside world. Jigme Gyatso was sentenced to a five-year prison term in 2011 and was released on October 26, 2016 from prison in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of Gansu. However, recently, images of a handwritten letter in Tibetan, signed and dated November 26, 2017, appeared online in which he writes of his unwavering determination and spirit in the face of severe oppression. He says in the letter, “They frame us with the greatest and heaviest crimes, and under trial they coax or even force us to admit to many things we never did, an ongoing process of rendering us lifeless like a corpse, if not wiping us out from this world.” In his video testimony, which was broadcast by VOA Tibetan Service in 2008, Akhu Jigme says, “I, as a witness to truth, am telling through the media the story of Tibetans killed, who have suffered torture in prisons and died, so that media can truthfully report on these situations.”
Listen to VOA's Dharamsala, India based reporter Tenzin Sangmo's piece on the observance of India's 68th Republic Day by the Central Tibetan Administration. Dr. Lobsang Sangay, head of the Tibetan Administration in Exile, hoisted the Indian national flag and expressed gratitude towards the people of India during a function held at Kashag (Tibetan Cabinet), Dharamsala, North India. The ceremony was held to show respect and gratitude to the host country, India for their exemplary democratic system.
China will “unswervingly” stick to the promotion of Mandarin for ethnic minorities, the government said on Tuesday of a policy that has ignited sporadic protests, and will also step up protection for threatened tongues on the verge of extinction. Language politics have long been tricky in China, especially in restive minority areas like Tibet and Xinjiang where non-Chinese languages are widely spoken and have official support including being taught in school. The pushing of bilingual education in Tibetan regions has set off protests in recent years, though many parents also want their children to learn Mandarin to improve their job prospects. The government has pushed Mandarin for decades to give a common means of communication in a country where thousands of Chinese dialects and many dozen non-Chinese languages like Tibetan and Uighur are spoken. Five-year plan In a lengthy policy document mapping out development goals for ethnic minority regions over the next five years, the central government said it would promote teaching in Mandarin. “Fully promote and spread the national common language and script,” the government said, referring also to the use of the simplified Chinese script officially used in China. “Raise the ability and level of ethnic minority students to grasp and use the national common language and script.” Focus must be put on areas with limited Chinese abilities, it added, without naming any locations. Help to save minority languages The government also pledged help for threatened tongues. “Increase efforts to protect ethnic minority languages in imminent danger,” it said. The United Nations estimates more than 100 languages in China are at risk of dying out, including Manchu, mother tongue of the country's last emperor, as Mandarin takes over.
China said on Tuesday it hopes Mongolia has learned a lesson and will keep a promise not to invite the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama again after his visit in November led to a chill in relations. The Dalai Lama is upheld as a spiritual leader in predominantly Buddhist Mongolia, but China regards him as a dangerous separatist and warned Mongolia before the visit that it could damage ties. "The Dalai Lama's furtive visit to Mongolia brought a negative impact to China-Mongolia relations," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Mongolia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Tsend Munkh-Orgil by telephone. "We hope that Mongolia has taken this lesson to heart," he said, according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website. China also hoped Mongolia would "scrupulously abide by its promise" not to invite the Dalai Lama again, Wang said. The Mongolian minister was not available for comment but the Chinese ministry said he expressed regret at the negative impact caused by the visit and reaffirmed his government's position that the Dalai Lama would not be invited again, first stated in December. A week after the November visit, China imposed fees on commodity imports from Mongolia, charging additional transit costs on goods passing through a border crossing into China's northern region of Inner Mongolia. "Mongolia firmly supports the one-China policy, consistently holds that Tibet is an inseparable part of China, that the Tibet issue is China's internal affair," the Mongolian minister was quoted as saying. Mongolia has been working to boost economic ties with its powerful southern neighbor and use Chinese investment and know-how in mining and infrastructure projects. Mongolia had previously said the Dalai Lama's trip had nothing to do with the government and he had been invited by Mongolian Buddhists. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He is based in India. Beijing regards him as a "splittist", though he says he seeks genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland, which Communist Chinese troops "peacefully liberated" in 1950. Rights groups and exiles say China tramples on the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people, accusations denied by Beijing, which says its rule has ended serfdom and brought prosperity to a once-backward region.
Congressman Salud Carbajal expressed his support and concern for the human rights situation inside Tibet during his meeting with the Dalai Lama’s Washington representative Mr. Penpa Tsering, facilitated by Santa Barbara based Tibetan American Thepo Tulku on January 19, 2017. Mr. Penpa Tsering, along with Matteo Mecacci, President of International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and Bhuchung Tsering, Vice President of ICT briefed the congressman on the worsening human rights condition inside Tibet including China’s recent demolition of Larung Ghar Buddhist Institute and over 140 cases of self-immolation that has taken place in Tibet since 2009. Thepo Tulku, the facilitator of the meeting tells VOA that he has been in touch with the congressman for the past four years on many Tibet related matters. When Carbajal was recently elected as the representative from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County, Tulku wrote the congressman a letter requesting a meeting with the Dalai Lama's Washington based representative Penpa Tsering and the International Campaign for Tibet. Tulku has introduced former congressman George Miller and former congresswoman Lios Capps from California to the International Campaign for Tibet and Office of Tibet in previous years.
Tibetans returning from India after attending the Dalai Lama's Kalachakra initiations in Bodh Gaya, India, are facing scrutiny from authorities as they return to Tibet. According to Phayul, the Tibetan news website in English, passports of Tibetans were torn on arrival as they reached Dendhu (Chengdu) airport in Sichuan Province, which is used by many Tibetans from eastern Tibet taking direct flights from Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. The source also said that Tibetans who attempted to enter Tibet through different airports in mainland China also suffered similar inspection. Likewise, officials at airports in Guangzhou and Kunming also tore passports of Tibetans returning after having attended the religious teachings.
The Dalai Lama said he hopes that President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will work together for global peace. The exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists said the world needed leaders with compassion. He made the remarks Saturday at a program in New Delhi organized by the women's chapter of an industry group, according to the press statement. He said the world is moving toward peace and non-violence, and he hopes Trump and Putin will come closer and work toward creating global peace. The Dalai Lama had said in Mongolia in November that he had "no worries" about Trump's election as U.S. president and looked forward to meeting him after he took office. Trump was inaugurated Friday. The Dalai Lama has met former U.S. presidents, including four meetings with Barack Obama. Such meetings anger Beijing, which accuses the Tibetan leader of trying to split Tibet from China. The Dalai Lama says he simply wants a higher degree of autonomy under Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama has been based in India's northern hill town of Dharmsala since fleeing Tibet during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
The Dalai Lama met and addressed around 500 Tibetan students studying at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Delhi, Indraprastha University, Indira Gandhi Open University, Ambedkar University and others at the TCV Youth Hostel. Rohini East, Delhi on Sunday, January 22, 2017. The Nobel Laureate spoke on the three principal commitments of his life: oneness of humanity; religious harmony; and preservation of Tibetan Buddhism, language and environment. Professor Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison gave a talk on "Relationship and Function of Brain and Mind" after the address of His Holiness.
The Dalai Lama addressed the members of Indian Business Women's Association called FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO) in New Delhi on January 21, 2017. The interactive session with business women was on "The Power to Empower". Ms. Vinita Bimbhet, the president of FLO and around 200 members from different parts of India welcomed His Holiness at FICCI auditorium. Dr. Pratima Advani, the daughter of former deputy prime minister of India Shri L K Advani was the guest of honor. In the evening, Tibet's spiritual leader addressed the students and staff of prestigious Mother's International School in New Delhi and spoke on 'Education and Moral Ethics".
Tibetan protesters in Switzerland say they are frustrated with the Swiss government for allegedly making it more difficult for them to protest a visit by China's leader Xi Jinping. On Sunday, Swiss authorities gave a two-hour window for the Tibetans to protest before Xi arrived for an official reception in Bern. Some 32 Swiss-Tibetan protesters were arrested as they shouted “Shame on China,” “Free Tibet” and “Don't Deal with Killer.” One Tibetan man in his 20s was stopped as he attempted to self-immolate, according to Bern police. The Office of Tibet in Switzerland said all of those detained were released later the same day. The head of the Tibetan association, which organizes the protests, complained that the Swiss government's reluctance in issuing permits will affect protests planned for Tuesday and Wednesday. Swiss take advantage? Tenzin Nyingpo, the president of Tibetan Community in Switzerland, said his organization canceled the upcoming demonstrations after Swiss officials asked the group to withdraw its application for a permit. He said the officials in turn agreed to let them protest Wednesday when Xi visits the United Nation's office in Geneva. On Tuesday, Xi is scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, becoming the first Chinese president to participate in the gathering. Tenzin Nyingpo said Monday the Swiss officials now asked him to either cancel Wednesday's plan or stage a protest only after the U.N. offices are closed. “As Tibetans, we've compromised our plans to support Swiss government's demands,” Nyingpo told VOA. “But now I feel Swiss officials are taking advantage of us.” Controlled demonstrations In an email statement, Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, a spokesperson from the Swiss foreign ministry, said, “Demonstrations in Bern are always subject to authorization by the local authorities. In the present case, the demonstration has been authorized within a specific time frame and location.” Switzerland was one of the first countries to host Tibetan refugees in the early 1960s when Tibetans had fled to India from Chinese occupation of their country. Today, there are about 3,500 Tibetans living in Switzerland, according to a Swiss Tibetan Community website.
The 34th Kalachakra Initiation 2017 ended with offering of long life ceremony to the Dalai Lama led by Sakya Trizin Rinpoche on Saturday, January 14, 2017. Tibet's spiritual leader gladly accepted to live around 100 years before the ceremony began, and gave an empowerment of Avalokitesvara Khasarpani called "Sarvadurgaparishodhana, Freeing of All Unfortunate Destinies" to the gathering of around 200,000 devotees from 92 countries. The closing event of the Kalachakra Initiation was attended by the Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar where Kalon for Religious and Cultural Affairs of the Central Tibetan Administration, Karma Gelek Yuthok presented the account statement of the organizing committee of Kalachakra 2017.
On the last day of the four day actual initiations of Kalachakra tantra in Bodhgaya, His Holiness the Dalai Lama granted the "High and Greatly High Empowerment" and "Vajra Master Empowerment" to the devotees on Friday, January 13, 2017.
Listen to VOA's reporter Tsering Wangyal's interview with Professor Jampa Samten of Central University of Tibetan Studies, Varanasi on the concept of the land of Shambhala in Kalachakra Tantra, the prophecy that the king of Shambhala will emerge from Shambhala with a huge army to vanquish "dark forces" and usher in a worldwide golden age, and also the reason and significance behind Kalachakra initiation's popularity compared to other tantra initiations.
The Dalai Lama began the 4-day actual empowerment of Kalachakra by performing the preliminary rituals of "preparation of disciple" on Tuesday, January 10, 2017. As a part of the student preparation ritual, Tibet's spiritual leader bestowed the layman and Bodhisattva vows to more than 200,000 devotees from 92 countries. More on the report below:
The Organizing Committee of the 34th Kalachakra Initiation in Bodhgaya convened a press conference mainly to refute the reports that appeared in some of the Hindi papers including Hindustan Times reporting the Dalai Lama has made a statement saying Buddha Shakyamuni was incarnation of Vishnu. The Chairperson of the Organizing Committee of Kalachakra in Bodhgaya and Minister of Department of Religion and Culture, Kalon Karma Gelek Yuthok categorically denied Tibet's spiritual leader having made such a statement. "We would like to say that His Holiness has never made any statement like this. We categorically deny this report," says Kalon Yuthak while addressing the press conference. And also continued that because of that report the Neo-Buddhists in India called Dalits have demanded the Dalai Lama to clear the statement if made so. More on the report below:
Tsechu Dolma, 24 year old Tibetan girl based in New York and founder of "Mountain Resiliency Project" in Nepal, who is currently in Bodh Gaya to receive Kalachakra initiation was selected as one of Forbes' 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs (2017). When asked about her recognition by Forbes, she said she was delighted to hear about her selection. She came to know about it on the second day of the Kalachakra initiation. "I am very happy. For the first time a Tibetan has received this recognition. I found out on January 3rd," says Tsechu Dolma who holds master's degree on environment science from Columbia University, New York. She founded her organization called "Mountain Resiliency Project" in Nepal in 2014 and has 15 personnel on staff who mostly works in Tibetan settlements and remote villages of Nepal where ethnic Tibetan people live.
At the press conference convened by the Central Tibetan Administration, the main organizer of the 34th Kalachakra Initiation in Bodhgaya, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, addressed the media and refuted the claims of Chinese government saying that they did not put pressure on Tibetan pilgrims not to attend the Kalachakra initiations. "The Chinese refutation is baseless and not true. I have personally met many with tears in their eyes. They were forced to return to Tibet after receiving phone calls threatening to stop subsidies and take away their jobs," said Lobsang Sangay, head of the Tibetan Administration in Exile.
On the third day of the preliminary teachings of Kalachakra Initiations at Bodhgaya on January 7, 2017, the Dalai Lama began from the remaining part of the 5th chapter [Guarding awareness] of "Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life" and ended with its 8th chapter [the practice of meditative concentration] and then continued the remaining part of "Acharya Kamalashila's Second Volume of the Stages of Meditation"
On the second day of the preliminary teaching of Kalachakra Intiations in Bodhgaya, the Dalai Lama led an "Inter-Faith Gathering" of major religious traditions of the world. The program was held as a part of the His Holiness' life long commitment of promotion of religious harmony in the world. The head priest of the Golden Temple of Sikh at Amritsar, Akal Takht Jathedar Gyani Gurbhajan Singh; Jain Muni Acharya Lokeshcharya; representative of Islam, Maulana Asinul Rehman; and Swami Chidanand Maharaj as representative of Hindu and others recited prayers for the well being of all human beings and preservation of the environment.
Thousands of devotees of the Kalachakra teaching in Bodh Gaya were given a free entry to the traditional Tibetan opera performance on Epic of Buddha. Kunga, an audience at the event tells VOA's Tibetan Service that performers of the Dharamsala based TIPA (Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts) presented public shows to reconnect the Tibetan audience to their traditional heritage and to reinvigorate their spiritual aspirations.