China’s Nomenclature Aggression on Tibet

China has adopted a new ways in its onslaught on the disputed region of Tibet. Chinese Communist party leadership has acquired a new way of oppressing Tibet. To this effect, in order not to invite the international community’s ire, it used the Chinese and foreign academicians’ shoulders to shoot the gun. China organized the 7th Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies last month.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) notes that the official China News Service reports that the “seminar was attended by more than 320 scholars, including over 40 from outside mainland China.” Whatever the outcome, Chinese academicians’ discussion on how the word “Tibet” is misleading and how it should be replaced by “Xizang” and justification of the Chinese boarding schools for Tibetan children are widely circulated and reported in China! This paper will examine why the CCP is after this renaming game to eliminate Tibetan identity and how continued international silence will embolden China`s wolf warrior diplomacy to go ahead jeopardizing peace and stability around the world with impunity.


Even after more than seventy years of brutal occupation and forced indoctrination, Tibetans remained resilient and the Tibet issue is still alive and robust in international forums. China realized this strong Tibetan identity based on the language and its religious culture and Tibet as a land as the unifying force challenging China`s efforts to gain full control over Tibet through its Sinicization policy.

The past few years global commotion and instability due to the Coronavirus pandemic followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine have kept the world preoccupied; China took full advantage of this opportunity and unleashed cultural revolution-like repression in Tibet and other occupied regions. Destructions of Tibetan monasteries, religious statues, prayer wheels, and flags; closure of Tibetan schools and forcing Tibetan children into communist boarding schools; and taking DNA samples of Tibetans happened and are happening even now.

China has gained full control over Tibet and the Tibetans physically through its ignominious brutal measures, but the Tibetan spirit of freedom has not been vanquished. Despite China’s fierce propaganda to portray old Tibet as a cruel feudal polity and H.H. the Dalai Lama as a demon, it has not won the much-needed moral authority and trust of the Tibetans to rule Tibet. China has now adopted cartographic and nomenclature aggressions to distort history and rewrite it to go along with its false narrative and assertions.

Wang Junzheng, is among the party leaders pushing this policy to replace Tibet with Xizang in all official documents. Since his joining as the Party Secretary of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region in October 2021, he unleashed the policy to eradicate Tibetan identity and culture. He ordered the government offices and media to use Xizang instead of Tibet in all official documents and communication to confound the international community and the younger generation of the existence of Tibet as a nation. He is among the top lists in the U.S. sanctions against Chinese authorities responsible for human rights violations in the Chinese-occupied territories.

Judging from the proceeding of the 7th Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies held on August 14-16, it was a closed symposium and the purpose of the symposium was to further this policy to erase Tibet from the world and extol developments in the region to legitimize the communist occupation of Tibet. It has been shown as if the inspiration came from the academicians and scholars attending the seminar. Foreign scholars on China’s white list are invited and made accomplices to this heinous conspiracy to virtually abduct Tibet from the world scene. Tibetan scholars from India and abroad have not received any notice or invitations to attend the symposium.

China analyst Mr. Kunga Tashi, based in the U.S., in his recent video News 108th issue, said that the Beijing International Seminar on Tibet was first held in September 1991 and the purpose of the symposium as per their official document is noted as “To expose the true face of the Dalai clique and their dark feudal society and to inform the international community of the CCP’s glorious contribution in liberating Tibet and introducing democracy.” So, we could well surmise what to expect from the seminar.

How such a purpose or theme fits as an international seminar on Tibetan studies is anyones guess. It is just another propaganda gimmick aimed to mislead and confuse the international community. No wonder the United Front Work Department (UFWD) is publicizing the seminars outcome frantically through its official WeChat account.

This “Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies” should not be confused with the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS) which was first held in 1979 in England, and the latest 16th conference was held in 2022 in Prague, Czech Republic. Unlike Beijing`s symposium, the IATS is an independent body where scholars are free to present their papers and express their opinions freely. Many say that China instituted the Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies only to Challenge the International Association of Tibetan Studies and to circulate its propaganda through pretentious academic and scholarly meetings.


We must remember that Tibet is composed of the three traditional provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. In these three provinces live the descendants of miudhung-drug, (Tib: mi’u gdung drug), the first six original clans of Tibet since the dawn of civilization on the Tibetan plateau. The name Tibet has evolved over a long period of time from Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, Tubot, etc. Italian explorer Marco Polo has referred to Tibet as Tebet [The Early History of Tibet from Chinese Sources by S. W. Bushell. Journal of The Royal Asiatic Society. Page-436].

After the occupation of Tibet in 1950, China divided the Tibetan provinces in 1965 with U-Tsang and some parts of Kham as Tibet Autonomous Region and merged Amdo and major part of Kham with the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan. China adopted this policy of divide and rule to weaken Tibetan unity and distort Tibetan geohistory. Now, by removing the word Tibet from the official documents, the CCP wants to deceive the international community that there is nothing called “Tibet” and the Tibet issue; it is only Xizang, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan, and these are all Chinese provinces!

This is a very despicable colonial policy to wipe out the historical existence of Tibet as a land and nation and Tibetans as a distinct race. Prof. Wang Linping of Harbin Engineering Universitys College of Marxism has said “The use of Tibet had seriously misled the international community over the geographical scope of the region.” The United Front Work Department capitalized on the seminars proceedings and advocated fiercely the erasure of Tibet from official documents and daily usage stating that “This geographical scope overlaps with the so-called Greater Tibet that the Dalai Lama clique has long advocated for.”


It is a pity that the UFWD, a primary body with whom the Tibetans have been negotiating for long to resolve the Tibet issue, has not understood what exactly comprises Tibet. It is clear from the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People submitted to the UFWD in October 2008 that Tibetans have been seeking genuine autonomy for all the Tibetans living in the three provinces of traditional Tibet. The memorandum has not said or asked for anything greater or lesser Tibet than the traditional three provinces of Tibet, i.e. U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham.

In fact, the nomenclature “Greater Tibet” came from the old Chinese name for Tibet “Tufan and Tubod” around the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. This was how ancient Tang China referred to Tibet in those days. Xizang came up only during the Qing dynasty to refer to western Tibet only. Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, and Tubod are all holonyms of Tibet, and Xizang is just a meronym created by the Qing regime (1644-1911 A.D.). So, the nomenclature of Tibet far precedes and predates the Chinese word Xizang.


Lian Xiangmin, Vice Director of the China Tibetology Research Centre in Beijing, has said the use of Xizang would be in line with a proposal approved by the United Nations in 1977 and State Council Guidelines from 1978 to use pinyin for Chinese place names in English. This may be so as far as the usage of pinyin is concerned, but this does not allow China to go on erasing the colonized territories` nomenclature and replace it with Chinese pinyin.

It is illegal and immoral on the part of the occupying force to change the name of places it forcefully occupied. This is what Russia has done in Ukraine. China renamed 15 places in the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh and continues to create skirmishes from time to time. India has strongly objected to this new form of Chinese aggression.

Japan`s Senkaku Islands. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japanese Senkaku Island, which was reverted to Japan in 1972 under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between the United States and Japan, was not an issue around that time. China started claiming the Island later and renamed the Island “Diaoyu” only after the mid-1950s. This is the CCP’s one of the many devious tactics to claim neighboring territory by positing a non-issue matter as a disputed issue at first through nomenclature aggression followed by fierce verbal claims and then by military threats and forced incursions.

Scott Harold, Washington-based senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation research group has, in his interview with the VOA said, “I think the Chinese view is that part of narrative warfare, part of shaping a narrative about what a conflict is about, is wrong-footing or putting your adversary or rival claimant or disputant in a position where they are disadvantaged, and China holds an advantage.”

CCP’S position

China’s 2019 white paper on defense said, “Since its founding 70 years ago, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never started any war or conflict. No matter how it might develop, China will never threaten any other country or seek any sphere of influence. Peace is a common aspiration of people all around the world.”

China’s white paper on defence 2019.

Had China’s above assertion been true and genuine, the world today would have been more peaceful, friendly, and civilized. But what China has done since the founding of the CCP is an open secret. Brutal occupation and repressions in Tibet, Southern Mongolia, East Turkistan, the Tiananmen massacre, the 1962 war of aggression against India, and the continued border incursions are just some of the heinous crimes China perpetrated against humanity at the cost of world peace and stability. What about the ongoing threat of invasion and military buildups around Taiwan and Indo-Pacific regions? Countries around the Southeast China Sea: Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam are constantly provoked and kept alert to push back Beijing’s cranky repeated belligerent moves around the regions.


Japan recently released the Fukushima plant`s treated water into the ocean. This was done following strict international standards and with the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Japan demonstrated how the water has been treated before the international community. The New York Times reports that scientists, including Chinese experts invited to serve on a task force by the International Atomic Energy Agency, have said that Japan’s water release would have a very low effect on human health or the environment.

So, Chinas strong criticism and backlash against Japans discharge of treated water is baseless, unfounded, and unscientific. Chinese are not to be blamed, because their only source of information is the government’s propaganda and the leadership wants to stoke this anti-Japanese sentiment to divert public attention from the more pressing socio-political issues at home.

China must remember how Japan and the Japanese reacted when China earned global backlash for the Coronavirus eruption from the Chinese Wuhan city. The international community owes a real genuine apology and compensation from the CCP leadership for the death of more than seven million people and the havoc and damage the Coronavirus pandemic caused around the world. It’s high time that the CCP leadership listened to the aspirations of the Chinese masses and let China live peacefully with the world.


China’s United Front Work Department’s attempts to erase “Tibet” from the people’s tongues and memories are very dangerous and objectionable. Around one million Tibetan children aged 6-18 are forcefully lodged in Chinese boarding schools in Tibet depriving them of freedom to learn Tibetan language and Buddhism.

The international community should strongly condemn and oppose the Chinese belligerent moves and be wary of this nomenclature aggression.

*Dr. Arya Tsewang Gyalpo is the former Secretary of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) and former Director of the Tibet Policy Institute (TPI). He is currently the Representative of the Liaison Office of H.H. the Dalai Lama for Japan and East Asia. Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own.

What is Tibet?

China’s nomenclature aggression against Tibet is a vile “naming and claiming” scheme that cannot be justified — not historically, linguistically, or otherwise.

Map of Tibet showing the three provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. (©Tibet Museum)

We must remember that Tibet is composed of the three traditional provinces of U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. In these three provinces live the descendants of miudhung-drug (Tibetan: mi’u gdung drug). They are the first six original clans of Tibet since the dawn of civilization on the Tibetan plateau. The name “Tibet” has evolved over a long period of time from Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, Tubot, etc. Italian explorer Marco Polo referred to Tibet as “Tebet.”

Second of three parts

First part: Erasing Tibet From the World Map: China’s Nomenclature Aggression
Third part: Remember Tibet and Make China See that Democracy Is Inevitable

After the brutal occupation of Tibet in 1950, China divided the Tibetan provinces in 1965. It combined U-Tsang and some parts of Kham as the Tibet Autonomous Region. It also merged Amdo and a major part of Kham with the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan. 

China adopted this policy of divide and rule to weaken Tibetan unity and distort Tibetan geohistory. Now, by removing the name “Tibet” from official documents, the CCP wants to deceive the international community into thinking that there is no such thing as “Tibet” or the Tibet issue. The CCP wants the world to believe that there are only Xizang, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan — and that these are all Chinese provinces. 

Wiping Out Tibet

This is a despicable colonial policy to wipe out the historical existence of Tibet as a land and nation and Tibetans as a distinct race. Professor Wang Linping of Harbin Engineering University’s College of Marxism says, “The use of Tibet had seriously misled the international community over the geographical scope of the region.”

As explained in part one of this series, Beijing organized the “7th Beijing International Seminar on Tibetan Studies” in August. This so-called “seminar” only invited scholars on China’s approved list. The aim of the event was to advance the CCP’s agenda of erasing Tibet’s identity under the guise of academic discourse.

Capitalizing on the seminar’s proceedings, China’s United Front Work Department (UFWD) has been fiercely advocating the erasure of “Tibet” from official documents and daily usage. The UFWD stated, “This geographical scope overlaps with the so-called ‘Greater Tibet’ that the Dalai Lama clique has long advocated for.”   

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Main Tibetan Temple in Dharamsala, India on September 5, 2023. (©The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by Tenzin Choejor)

The Historical Evolution of Tibet

The UFWD is the primary body with whom the Tibetans have been long negotiating to resolve the Tibet issue. It is a pity that UFWD does not understand what exactly comprises Tibet. In October 2008, Tibetans submitted the Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People to the UFWD. Its content makes it clear that the Tibetans are seeking genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three provinces of traditional Tibet. Moreover, the memorandum does not ask for a Tibet that is greater or less than the traditional three provinces of Tibet: U-Tsang, Amdo, and Kham. 

The nomenclature “Greater Tibet” comes from the old Chinese name for Tibet “Tufan and Tubod” around the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. This was how ancient Tang China referred to Tibet in those days. In fact, the name “Xizang” came up only during the Qing dynasty to refer to western Tibet only. Thibet, Tubbat, Tufan, and Tubod are all holonyms of Tibet. On the other hand, “Xizang” is just a meronym created by the Qing regime (1644-1911 AD). So, the nomenclature of Tibet far precedes and predates the Chinese word “Xizang.” 

Quad leaders stand together for a photo

Nomenclature Aggression

Lian Xiangmin is the Vice Director of the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing. He claims that the use of “Xizang” would be in line with a proposal approved by the United Nations in 1977 and State Council Guidelines from 1978 to use pinyin for Chinese place names in English. 

This may be so, as far as the usage of pinyin is concerned. But this does not allow China to go on erasing the colonized territories’ nomenclature and replace it with Chinese pinyin. It is illegal and immoral on the part of the occupying force to change the name of places it forcefully occupied. This is what Russia has done in Ukraine

China renamed 15 places in the Indian territory of Arunachal Pradesh. It continues to create skirmishes from time to time. In response, India has strongly objected to this new form of Chinese aggression.

Senkaku Islands

The Japanese Senkaku Islands were reverted to Japan in 1972 under the Okinawa Reversion Agreement between the United States and Japan. China raised no issue about the territory at the time.

It only started claiming the Islands later and renamed them “Diaoyu Islands” after the mid-1950s. This is one of CCP’s many devious tactics. It makes claims to neighboring territories by positing a non-issue as a disputed matter. The CCP does this first through nomenclature aggression, followed by fierce verbal claims, and then by military threats and forced incursions. 

Senkaku Islands
Uotsuri Island in the Senkakus on January 30. (Provided by Ishigaki City)

Scott Harold is a Washington-based senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation research group. In an interview with the Voice of America, he said, “I think the Chinese view is that part of narrative warfare, part of shaping a narrative about what a conflict is about, is wrong-footing or putting your adversary or rival claimant or disputant in a position where they are disadvantaged, and China holds an advantage.”

Returning Tibetans see a changing homeland

Recent visitors fear young students educated in Mandarin are losing a sense of identity.
sharethis sharing button
Returning Tibetans see a changing homelandTibetan students at Second Senior High School exercise during a break on June 18, 2023, during a government-organized visit in Shannan, Tibet Autonomous Region, China.
 Credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

On his first visit back to the Tibetan Plateau in nearly a decade, Sengmo was surprised to hear his youngest nieces and nephews converse in Chinese rather than their native tongue. 

As a member of the Tibetan diaspora, Sengmo knew about the Chinese government’s campaign to assimilate ethnic minorities in the broader culture, including through the curriculum at boarding schools where students stay for weeks at a time. 

But it was only after witnessing firsthand how his elementary school-age relatives interacted with one another that he thought: “They will not be like us.”

For the government, that is doubtless the point. Under leader Xi Jinping, China has applied harsh tactics to promote party ideology over local traditions, cultures and religious practices. In the Tibet Autonomous Region and the southwestern Chinese provinces where many Tibetans live, that has meant prohibiting photographs of the Dalai Lama, pressuring monks to denounce the spiritual leader, and restricting communications with people outside of the area.

A pupil reads in the dormitory at a primary school of Zhaxizom township in Tingri county, Xigaze city, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, June 5, 2023. Credit: Fei Maohua/Xinhua via Getty Images

Though movement in and out of Tibetan areas remains as limited as ever, China’s long-awaited loosening of COVID-related travel controls impelled Sengmo to make a rare trip home. Sengmo is a pseudonym to protect his family in Tibet from any retaliation from Chinese authorities.

Members of the diaspora granted travel visas told RFA that they were able for the first time in years to see how their homeland is changing. Given the importance of language to a culture, a linguistic move away from Tibetan among young students attending residential schools is among the most significant shifts returnees witnessed. 

Sengmo said the courses at the boarding school his nieces and nephews attend are taught in Mandarin, with Tibetan instruction limited to one hour a week. The rest of his family still speaks their native language, but the children are away for two-week stretches, and he fears his relatives won’t have enough time to counteract the Chinese-heavy education provided by the school. Other sources said the Tibetan instruction was more frequent but still insufficient. 

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, defended the  boarding school system as a way to improve the educational opportunities for Tibet’s scattered population. 

Students aren’t forced to attend, and parents can visit whenever they want, he said in an emailed statement. 

“Courses of traditional culture, such as Tibetan language and literature and folk dance, are widely available, traditional food unique to the Tibet Plateau is provided, and students are allowed to wear traditional dresses at these schools,” he said.

But a panel of experts advising the United Nations has said the instruction is heavily weighted toward the dominant Han culture. Roughly one million students attend the schools and risk an “erosion of their identity,” the group warned. 

A primary school is seen in Zhaxizom township in Tingri county, Xigaze city, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, June 5, 2023. Credit: Jigme Dorje/Xinhua via Getty Images

An ugly legacy

Critics draw comparisons to past efforts to assimilate Indigenous cultures in the U.S. and Canada by forcing young children to learn English in remote schools that kept them from their families. 

Conditions there were often especially brutal, and former students have reported a variety of mental health issues, including problems with anxiety, depression and addiction. The boarding school policies in the United States lasted more than a century, finally ending in the 1970s.

Now the U.S. has emerged as one of the loudest opponents of China’s educational efforts. Last month, the State Department announced visa restrictions on unnamed Chinese officials involved with the “forced assimilation” boarding school program.

Gyal Lo, an educational sociologist and activist who has studied boarding schools in Tibetan areas of China, said the policy began to be applied to preschool-aged children in 2016. Now, three out of every four children in that age group attend a residential school, he said.

Among them are his young relatives back in Tibet. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Gyal Lo wrote about how his brother had called him seven years ago to express his concern that his granddaughters – ages 4 and 5 at the time – were already beginning to reject Tibetan traditions. 

Gyal Lo said his brother’s family felt they had no choice. Not sending the young children to the school would shut them off from any educational opportunities and the family from government benefits. 

“The distance is already breaking out between the older generation and the younger generation,” Gyal Lo told RFA when asked for an update on his brother’s family. “They will no longer be able to share a common identity and values. We’re seeing the breaking of the home nest.”

He called the inclusion of preschool-aged children in boarding schools a threat to “Tibetan civilization.”

INV_TIB_Schools.4 (1).JPG
Supporters of Tibet and Tibetans protest during a visit by China’s vice president, Han Zheng, to the UN General Assembly in New York City, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Among other things, the protest, which was organized by Students for a Free Tibet, called for shutting down Chinese-run boarding schools. Credit: Jolap Chophel/RFA

The language loss isn’t necessarily limited to residential schools. Lhamo said children aged 3 to 6 she met on a recent trip back spoke Chinese even though they returned home from school every day. When she addressed them in Tibetan they “looked confused and puzzled,” she said. Lhamo also asked to be identified by a pseudonym to avoid adding any scrutiny to her family back in Tibet.

The curriculum had changed too, she said. History textbooks her relatives read for school featured unflattering depictions of the U.S. as a global bully since the end of the Cold War, Lhamo said. 

Cameras everywhere

On his trip home, Sengmo said he noticed other changes too, apart from the classroom. 

Walking into his local monastery he had to be scanned by a facial recognition camera before he went in, a level of security he wasn’t used to. Inside he said he noticed fewer worshippers and less interaction between laypeople and monks, even though monasteries operate as the spiritual and cultural heart of many Tibetan communities. 

The sense of being watched was pervasive. “There were cameras everywhere,” he said. 

Students attend a basketball class at a primary school in Zhaxizom township in Tingri county, Xigaze city, southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, June 5, 2023. Credit: Fei Maohua/Xinhua via Getty Images

Sengmo blamed the increased surveillance for what he said was a greater level of circumspection among the friends and relatives he met with. Even behind closed doors, the Tibetans he met with appeared to be careful of what they said. 

“It used to be that you could talk about anything at home,” Sengmo said. In the future, it may not even be certain that everyone there will speak the same language.

Hackers in China target Tibetans

China-backed threat actors have been targeting mobile devices of Tibetans, Uyghur, and Taiwanese to harvest sensitive information. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been under the radar of human rights watchdogs for targeting these ethnic groups.

A report published by Volexity, a US-based cyber security firm, states that the threat actors have been targeting mobile devices and spreading malware, which was inserted in a victim’s device as a backdoor into legitimate applications.

With a high level of confidence, Volexity attributes this activity to EvilBamboo (formerly known as Evil Eye), a threat actor operating in the interest of the Chinese state.

The threat actor spreads three malware types, codenamed BADSIGNAL, BADBAZAAR, and BADSOLAR. Researchers identified that the malware is capable of collecting basic device information, such as the time zone, language, and screen resolution.

Also, it lists the user’s Ethereum accounts if they’re using the MetaMask browser extension and fingerprints the browser using a canvas-based fingerprinting technique.

Fake websites to distribute malware

In the report, researchers identified that attackers were spreading malware by creating fake websites advertising Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp.

Researchers found that the spyware was spread through fake websites, including:


Some websites contain articles or surveys regarding Taiwan’s independence, however, they try to load a custom JavaScript profiling framework. Researchers believe that it can identify devices running iOS and this could have been used to selectively deliver malware.

Fake website
Fake website | Source: Volexity

Impersonating social media communities

Social media is another identified means for spreading the malware. By impersonating existing popular communities on social media, the attackers have built communities on online platforms, such as Telegram, to aid in the distribution of their malware.

Post on Reddit
Post on Reddit in /r/Tibet with interaction between personas in different clusters | Source: Volexity

Researchers identified a couple of Telegram groups, like “Tibetanmaptalk” and “Tibetanphone,” promoting malicious applications. Since 2020, EvilBamboo has been targeting individuals of Tibetan ethnicity with Android spyware. To date, researchers counted more than 120 backdoored Android Package Kits (APK) that have been shared through the group.

Also, attackers used fake profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, X, and YouTube, likely to deploy browser-based exploits against targeted users.

Summary of the links discovered in Volexity’s EvilBamboo research | Source: Volexity

While it may seem unusual to download apps from Telegram groups, it’s not an uncommon practice for users speaking rare languages such as Tibetan or Uyghur. These languages are not commonly supported by the official versions of apps.In one of the malicious posts, a threat actor asks for a Tibetan translation of map software named AlpineQuest, which is backdoored with BADBAZAAR and contains a link to a dedicated Telegram channel “Tibetanmaptalk.”

In addition to Android apps, one message in the group contained a link to an already deleted iOS application named “TibetOne” available in the Apple App Store.

Nepal-China statement has ‘implications’ for Tibet

The joint statement issued by Nepal and China in Beijing following the visit by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal institutionally strengthens China’s hand on matters relating to Tibet and Tibetans, the International Campaign for Tibet said on Wednesday.

The Campaign’s President Tencho Gyatso said: “Nepal is bound by international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement, which precludes states from returning a person to a place where he or she might be tortured or face persecution.

“The principle of non-refoulement is included in several treaties signed and ratified by Nepal, such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Article 3), General Comment No. 20 of the Human Rights Committee and General Comment No. 6 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.”

Of the 13 points in the joint statement, four have direct references to Tibetan affairs and encompass politics, boundary management, health and infrastructural issues.

Politically, the joint statement says: “The Nepali side reiterated that Tibet affairs are China’s internal affairs, that it will never allow any separatist activities against China on Nepal’s soil.”

Although the fundamentals have not changed, this formulation separates Tibet from Taiwan as well as the One China Principle, unlike two earlier joint statements in 2019 (when President Xi Jinping visited Nepal) and 2018 (when then Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli visited China), which said: “The Nepali side reiterated its firm commitment to the one-China policy with Tibet and Taiwan affairs as being China’s internal affairs, and the determination on not allowing any anti-China activities on its soil.”

The joint statement refers to implementation of an agreement on boundary management, raising concerns not only about the plight of Tibetans who are trying to flee via Nepal, but also the possible deportation of those who have already entered Nepal.

The “agreement between the government of the People’s Republic of China and the government of Nepal on the boundary management system”,which the joint statement now says the “two sides agreed to bring into force…as soon as possible”, provides the Chinese authorities additional avenues to get Tibetans deported from Nepal to Tibet.

According to the text of the agreement that ICT has seen, Articles 26 and 27 of the agreement deal with “persons crossing the border illegally”.

Article 26.2 reads: “The boundary representatives or competent authorities of both sides shall investigate the cases of persons found while crossing (the) border illegally, ascertain their identities, cross border facts and reasons as soon as possible and hand them over to the side where they stayed before crossing the border within seven days from the day when they were detained.”

In recent years, the number of Tibetans able to escape from Tibet through Nepal has been dwindling due to China’s heightened security in border areas, as well as its general clampdown in Tibet.

From the 1980s until 2008, there was a steady flow of 2,500 to 3,500 Tibetans escaping into exile via Nepal annually.

The flow of refugees from Tibet dropped dramatically in the wake of the party’s response to the pan-Tibet protests in spring 2008. In 2008, the number of refugees from Tibet dropped to 588 from 2,338 in 2007.

After a gradual climb up to 753 in 2011, the number of refugees dropped by 50 per cent to 375 in 2012, the year Xi assumed leadership.

With the intensive securitization of Tibet, the number of refugees from Tibet trickled down steadily throughout the decade of Xi’s rule: the number dwindled to 19 Tibetans in 2019, five in 2020, 10 in 2021, and only five in 2022.

The joint statement also refers to the Lhasa Economic and Technological Development Zone Investment Development Company, which intends to invest in projects in Nepal, but no concrete decision is announced.

Even though the joint statement was issued on September 26, Prime Minister Dahal is scheduled to visit Tibet, possibly on September 29, before returning to Nepal.

Is Tibet Prepared for a Post-Dalai Lama Era?

Tibetans have shaped and sustained their lives for more than 60 years under the leadership of the 14th Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader turned 88 in July, and as his longevity is discussed amongst his followers, there is also concern about Tibet’s future without his physical presence.

In 2011, the Dalai Lama divested himself of all political authority, yet, as the architect of democratic governance, he continues to remain a larger-than-life figure for Tibetans.

Along with that come other challenges; safeguarding the democratic system he initiated, engaging younger generations in the cause for Tibet’s freedom, protecting the country’s environment, the influence of external forces and the possible geopolitical fallout of India’s continued support of the Tibetan cause.
Ever since the Lhasa uprising of 1959, and the setting up of a government in exile in Dharamsala, India, the first Tibetan Constitution introduced by the Dalai Lama in 1963 has undergone many changes.

In 1991 the Supreme Justice Commission was added to the other two pillars of democracy, the Legislature and the Executive. Along with that, an Independent Audit Commission, an Independent Public Service Commission and an Independent Election Commission were set up, and women were assigned two seats in the Legislature. The current operational body of the Tibetan government in exile is known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

The debate on Tibet’s sovereignty, which fell under the control of the Chinese in 1951, is ongoing, with the Chinese government terming it the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’ and the CTA and Tibetan diaspora referring to it as the “Chinese invasion of Tibet.”

Despite the reforms and the Dalai Lama divesting himself of all political power the spiritual leader exerts considerable influence and therefore there is still, a heavy dependence on him, notes MP Youdon Aukatsang. Speaking at a webinar titled “Tibetan Democracy in Exile’ organised by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, South Asia, on September 15, Ms Aukatsang pointed to a recent constitutional crisis which was finally resolved following the Dalai Lama’s intervention. “Tibetans must take full responsibility for political matters as envisaged by His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” she said.

There is also the challenge of dealing with the internal dissent amongst Tibetans, which she claimed is spearheaded by China.

The webinar moderated by Ms Tenzin Peldon, the Director and Editor-in-Chief of Voice of Tibet, included Ven Geshe Lhakdor, Director, Tibetan Library and Archives and honorary Professor, University of British Columbia, Gondo Dhondup, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress and Sujeet Kumar, an Indian parliamentarian and the Convenor of the All Party Indian Parliamentary Forum for Tibet.

The current Sikyong, Tibet’s political leader Penpa Tsering and Dr Jurgen Murtens, a member of the German Bundestag also addressed the webinar.

The democratic model, Aukatsang states is successful, yet it is a work in progress. The current make up of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile (TPiE) has 45 members representing the three provinces of U-Tsang, Do-med and Do-tod, the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism as well as the traditional Bon faith, Europe, North America and Australasia. It is headed by the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker.

Aukatsang would like to see a modification in the composition with more representation from the diaspora, and less from the provinces to better reflect the changing demography. She also proposes an increase in the number of members of the Standing Committee from 11 to 15 and calls for the establishment of a dispute resolution mechanism rather than the direct impeachment process, which is the current practice.

Though the 1991 reforms made way for women’s representation in the TPiE, (currently 10 ministers and the Deputy Speaker are women), Aukatsang is hopeful there would be “more meaningful engagement of women in leadership roles,” for, as she points out, they are the custodians of Tibetan culture and language. Women have also distinguished themselves as founders of several non-governmental organisations and in the field of education.

Her sentiments were reflected by the Sikyong, Penpa Tsering when he said that unless the administration is ready to adapt to demographic and social realities, its relevancy will be challenged.

When the Buddha was on his deathbed, and his followers were fearful of being on their own, the Buddha had advised that the focus should be on his teachings and not his physical presence. Likewise, says Ven Geshe Lhakdor, Tibetans must continue to abide by the teachings of the Dalai Lama, and not worry about his absence. When Tibetans were prohibited from displaying photos of the Dalai Lama, they hung up empty picture frames, he said, aware that the Dalai Lama remains within them.

Ven Geshe Lhakdor also advocates a separation of Church and State, pointing out that clergy must involve themselves in the spiritual upliftment of society, rather than in politics. The idea of the religious ruling a country is outdated, he points out, adding that once clergy get into a “political mindset” they are unable to send out good signals to the people. He adds that their responsibility is to safeguard culture and harmony and be role models.

The principles of democracy are a reflection of Buddhist teaching the Venerable noted, pointing out its time to extricate oneself from a tribal mentality. The focus must be on a long-term, robust vision, rather than quick fixes. He also believes that Tibetans must safeguard themselves from internal fragmentation, even more than external threats.

One unique feature of the administration is that it is free of corruption, the Venerable notes, despite being surrounded by corrupt systems.

Even though Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, sought and had the cooperation of all Chief Ministers to offer refuge to Tibetans in 1959, MP Sujeet Kumar is of the opinion that the current Indian Parliament is rather diffident in openly rooting for Tibet against China.

While acknowledging that Indian parliamentarians have huge constituencies and are busy, he is hopeful his colleagues would take more interest in Tibet and her issues.

Tibetans alone have the right to decide on the Dalai Lama’s successor, says Kumar, and India must back that. India should also rally the support of other nations to help Tibet charter her own course in a post-Dalai Lama scenario.

Kumar would like to see more Tibetan youth become part of India’s trillion-dollar digital industry.
He is concerned, however, at the lack of enthusiasm amongst the youth to use social media to fight disinformation being circulated about Tibet.

Acknowledging that youth could be more engaged in social media to fight disinformation, Gondo Dhondup says all Tibetans are “born to be activists” and to the cause, even though it is difficult to envisage a freedom movement without the Dalai Lama.

Youth are the agents of change, and Tibet’s future citizens, therefore they must stay informed. The TYC organises leadership training, and Tibetans, even those scattered around the globe must take advantage of the programmes, Dhondup says.

While calling on India to introduce a national policy on Tibet, Dhondup cautions that India’s waterways that originate in Tibet are under threat. The rivers are either “diverted or polluted” affecting downstream villagers, and India must ensure her water security, Dhondup explains.

The recently concluded G20 summit was themed “One Earth, One Family, One Future”, and that gives India an opportunity to be more vocal about the environment, he says.

Bharat Tibbat Sangh Delegation Visits the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile

Dharamshala, 21 September 2023: A delegation of Bharat Tibbat Sangh visited the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile today and had an interactive meeting with Deputy Speaker Dolma Tsering Teykhang at the Standing Committee’s hall.

The visiting delegation observed the ongoing session where they were accorded a warm welcome by the house.

Greeting the visiting guests, the Deputy Speaker briefed them on the evolution of the Tibetan democracy in exile and establishment of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile on 2nd September 1960 under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

She further spoke on the current alarming situation of Tibet under China’s rule including restriction on practicing one’s own religion, speaking one’s own language, and other basic human rights.

In addition, She highlighted the unfortunate fate of Tibetan children in Tibet who are forced to colonial boarding schools and stripped them of their right to learn their own language, religion, and culture.

In an effort to reach far flung areas of India, the Deputy Speaker informed the delegation of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile’s endeavour in spreading Tibet awareness through state advocacy campaigns while urging their corporation in reaching out to India’s grassroot level.

Explaining why Tibet matters to India especially with regard to its national security, the Deputy Speaker said, “Tibet is a case to study’ and elucidated how India can learn from the process of usurping Tibet and policies practiced there following its occupation by China.

She further explained TPiE Speaker’s open letter to G-20 leaders calling their attention to Tibet and clarified questions asked on TPiE’s campaigns and programs on international level by explaining working of International Network of Parliamentarians on Tibet (INPaT), 8 rounds of world parliamentarians convention on Tibet (WPCT), and others.

On behalf of the Indian people, the delegation emphasized their working for Tibet as a matter of pride and honour and assured their full support and coordination in resolving the Sino-Tibetan conflict and briefed the Deputy Speaker on the BTS’s composition and functioning across its 22 chapters.

Delegation members assured their best in escalating the fight for Tibet with renewed energy on returning their respective locations and promised to carry forward the flame of Tibet to reach the general public of India.

In the interaction session, the delegation shared their roles, responsibilities, and contribution in spreading awareness on Tibet and fulfilling the objective of BTS in India and across the world.

They deliberated on need of having joint and coordinated campaigns between the Central Tibetan Administration and the Bharat Tibet Sangh, forming coalition with ASEAN countries, reaching out to young Indians by bringing them to Dharamshala for a first-hand experience of the working of the CTA, and bringing contribution of Tibetan sweater seller’s associations in reaching far flung areas of India with inclusive participation of the local dignitaries in celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birth anniversary and other Tibetan celebrations and events.

-Report filed by Tibetan Parliamentary Secretariat 

Jamyang Norbu’s book “Echoes from Forgotten Mountains” details the Tibetan struggle’s buried past.

IT is not often that one comes across a very special book. ‘Echoes from Forgotten Mountains — Tibet in War and Peace’, written by Jamyang Norbu, is one such work. We know the Tibetan author from his novel ‘The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes’, which won the Crossword Award. Some would have met him when he was the director of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala. He was then admired for his role in reviving the performing arts of Tibet endangered under Chinese occupation.

But Norbu’s new book is different; it is a detailed and accurate record of the Tibetan resistance against Communist China from the first months of 1950, when Tibet was invaded by the Chinese army.

Today, when Chinese propaganda blares the world over what Beijing would like us to believe that Tibet has ‘since time immemorial’ been a part of the Middle Kingdom, Norbu demonstrates it has not always been so. The Tibetans fiercely resisted the occupation of their fatherland (Tibetans called Tibet ‘phayul’ or ‘fatherland’).

For a nation to continue to survive despite the odds of the present days, ‘memory’ is crucial. It has been Norbu’s mission in life to record the memory of Tibet and he has done it brilliantly. He writes: “Tibetans are still not a very modern people, and many of them retain their native ability to recall their past in accurate and vivid detail. I have spent a considerable period of my life interviewing people for their personal stories. My inquiries also extended to less-private areas: music, dance, opera, costumes, ceremonies, crime, jurisprudence, rituals and especially travel…”

But first and foremost, by portraying the resistance against the Communist indoctrination, which started long before Beijing began to speak of the ‘sinisation of Tibetan Buddhism’, Norbu’s book gives a new lease of life to his nation.

At times, it worries me to see the young generation of Tibetans not knowing enough about the glorious past of their nation; do they realise that they belong to a race of warriors? Did not their great King Songtsen Gampo conquer a large part of Asia?

Norbu is from a martial family. His grandfather, Gyurme Gyatso, was one of the five young officials who while serving the 13th Dalai Lama volunteered to fight the Chinese in the beginning of the 20th century. Norbu recalls: “My grandfather was given the rank of Dapön or General. I have this old photograph above my desk of his at around twenty-six years of age, looking very dashing — very much the beau sabreur — a long Tibetan broad-sword stuck in the belt of his fur-lined robe… He is holding a Mauser automatic pistol in his right hand in a business-like fashion.”

This aspect of the Tibetan people has today been forgotten, with the West propagating the myth of Tibet as the most peaceful and compassionate nation on earth. The latter may be true, but the Tibetans also knew how to fight and they fought the Chinese intruders well.

Through his own experience, as well as countless interviews of freedom fighters, soldiers, farmers or traders, Norbu has reconstituted (in nearly 900 pages) the ‘lost history of the Tibetan struggle’.

Norbu’s work helps the reader (and especially the young generation of Tibetans) understand the complexity of Tibet’s modern history from the time Mao’s troops entered eastern Tibet, to the first uprisings in Kham and Amdo provinces, the creation of the ‘Four Rivers, Six Ranges’ resistance force and the March 1959 uprising of the entire population of Lhasa. The fact that Norbu served in the Mustang Guerilla Force sponsored by the CIA in northern Nepal adds heft to his first-hand account.

One of most tragic incidents recounted by Norbu is the revolt of the Lithang monastery at Kham in 1956. Already, in May 1950, one regiment of the ‘liberation’ army had walked into the area with 5,000 Chinese troops.

The author narrates the fighting led by a young chieftain, Yunru Pön, “who became the leader of his tribe when he was just fifteen years old… The chieftain and his warriors take an oath to defend Lithang monastery to the last man, and hold out against numerous Chinese attacks. Finally, the monastery is bombed to rubble and Yunru Pön announces to the Chinese that he is prepared to surrender. The Chinese commander is reassured when Yunru throws out his rifle to the Chinese. But our hero has a pistol hidden in the sleeve of his robe, which he whips out and shoots the Chinese commander. The other Chinese soldiers gun down Yunru Pön.”

This book is Jamyang Norbu’s labour of love, the result of a lifelong commitment to collect the ‘echoes’ of those who fought for a free Tibet. It is worth having in one’s library.

Education under state-sponsored attack in Tibet

In commemoration of the ‘International Day to Protect Education from Attack’ on Saturday, activist group Students for a Free Tibet-India orchestrated a photo action event. This initiative called on the G20 leaders to take decisive and collective measures in response to the persistent onslaught on the Tibetan children’s education system by the Chinese government, which is seen as a deliberate attempt to erode the distinctive Tibetan identity.

The photo action took place at Dharamshala’s Main Square and served as a powerful visual representation of the challenges faced by young Tibetan children in colonial boarding school systems within Tibet. The event showcased students being subjected to Mandarin as the language of instruction while being indoctrinated by Chinese Communist Party’s ideologies within colonial boarding school environment. The event also highlighted the pressing concern surrounding the Chinese Communist Party’s intention to officially ban the use of the term ‘Tibet’ and replace it with the Chinese name ‘Xizang’ to obliterate Tibetan identity from the global collective consciousness.  

Speaking to Phayul, Tenzin Passang, Executive Director of SFT-India emphasised the rationale behind today’s campaign, stating, “We implore the G20 leaders to engage in dialogue with the Chinese leaders regarding the matter of colonial boarding schools in Tibet. The global stage is currently set at the G20 Summit, and our aim is to bring attention to our Tibetan issue, whether it is formally discussed during the meeting or not. Even if the issue remains unaddressed, we want the world to be aware that these grave concerns persist, and that China’s trustworthiness is in question.”

Tenzin Passang, Executive Director of SFT-India speaking at the event at McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala on Sept. 9, 2023

Fellow activist and SFT-India Campaign Director Tenzin Lekdhen speaking about the selection of photo action as the campaign medium, said, “When executed effectively, a photo action can be highly impactful, especially in an era of quick media consumption. Viewers often engage more with images than videos. Images have the power to convey messages swiftly, even though they may not capture every detail. Most often, they are highly effective. A well-crafted photo has the potential to convey a range of messages, even if it may sometimes pose challenges. However, as seen in today’s campaign, impactful photos can make a significant difference.” “Even our Instagram handle also employs this medium, using humour and graphic images. Ultimately, it depends on what resonates most with our audience,” he further added.

In their official press statement, SFT-India issued a resolute and unified declaration expressing deep concern. They called upon the Chinese Communist Party to immediately halt the operation of residential boarding schools and preschool systems in Tibet. Additionally, they urged China to uphold the established constitutional and legal safeguards that protect and promote the Tibetan language. Furthermore, SFT-India vehemently condemned China’s concerted and systematic endeavours aimed at eradicating the unique Tibetan identity. This encompassed condemning China’s actions targeting the Tibetan language, culture, history, and way of life.

Taiwan’s Presidential hopeful rejects peace plan with China, cites Tibet’s misery

Vice President of Taiwan William Lai Ching-te, who is running as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate, rejected a proposed peace plan with China put forth by opposition presidential candidate and Foxconn founder Terry Gou. Lai said the proposal as unviable, citing the “misery” experienced in Tibet, Hong Kong and Macau.

“If peace agreements (with China) were effective, Tibet would not be so miserable,” Lai said while addressing supporters’ groups in Kaohsiung.

The presidential hopeful was referring to the Seventeen Point Agreement, which was signed between China and Tibet in 1951. The agreement included commitments from Beijing, such as a promise to “not alter the existing political system in Tibet.” However, the Dalai Lama who was the political head of Tibet at that time renounced this agreement in 1959, stating it was signed under duress. Furthermore, the Tibet government-in-exile has stated that China has failed to uphold many of the commitments outlined in the agreement.

Lai further expressed his concern that some candidates were willing to pursue peace at the cost of relinquishing sovereignty. He emphasized, “Peace without sovereignty is a false peace. If peace without sovereignty can lead to peace, Hong Kong and Macau would not be so miserable.”

The context surrounding Hong Kong was noted in the speech as well. The United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” principle, which stipulated that Hong Kong would maintain its economic and administrative systems for 50 years. However, international observers and human rights organizations have accused China of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy through repressive measures, such as the imposition of the Hong Kong national security law by Beijing in 2020.