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.

The one million Tibetan kids attending boarding schools in China

One day in late November 2016, back home in Tibet, I received a distressing call from my brother telling me I needed to check on his granddaughters. “Something very strange is happening,” he said.

My young relatives, who were 4 and 5 years old at the time, had just enrolled in a boarding preschool that the Chinese government had established in my hometown, Kanlho, a seminomadic region in the northeast corner of the Tibetan plateau. Their new school was one of many — I have personally tracked about 160 in three Tibetan prefectures alone — and part of Beijing’s growing network of preschools in which Tibetan children are separated from their families and communities and assimilated into Chinese culture.

Though it had only been three months since the girls had started at the school, my brother described how they were already beginning to distance themselves from their Tibetan identity. On weekends, when they could return from school to their family, they rejected the food at home. They became less interested in our Buddhist traditions and spoke Tibetan less frequently. Most alarmingly, they were growing emotionally estranged from our family. “I might lose them if something isn’t done,” my brother worried.

Concerned, I set out to the girls’ school a few days later to pick them up for the weekend. When they walked out of the gates, they waved to me but barely spoke. When we arrived home, the girls didn’t hug their parents. They spoke only Mandarin to each other and remained silent during our family dinner. They had become strangers in their own home.

When I asked the girls about school, the older one recounted how on the first day several children, anxious from being unable to communicate with teachers who only spoke Mandarin, urinated and defecated in their pants.

As the Chinese government continues its 70-year quest to build legitimacy and control over Tibet, it is pivoting increasingly to using education as a battlefield to gain political control. By separating children from their families and familiar surroundings and funneling them into residential schools where they can become assimilated into Chinese subjects, the state is betting on a future where younger generations of Tibetans will become groomed Chinese Communist Party loyalists, model subjects easy to control and manipulate.

Today these boarding schools house roughly one million children between ages 4 and 18, approximately 80 percent of that population. At least 100,000 of those children — and I believe there are many more — are only 4 or 5 years old, like my young relatives were.

After listening to the girls’ stories, I asked my brother what would happen if he just refused to send them. He teared up. Disobeying the new policy would mean having his name blacklisted from government benefits. Others who have protested the new schools have suffered terrible consequences, he said.

He also didn’t have any other choice. Though Chinese boarding schools for Tibetan children have been around since the early 1980s, until fairly recently they had mostly enrolled middle and high school students. But beginning around 2010, the government, in preparation for the new wave of residential preschools, began shutting down local village schools, including the one in our hometown. Then it made preschool a prerequisite for elementary school. Though many of the new boarding schools are far from children’s hometowns, refusing to enroll in them would mean children would grow up with little to no education and become further marginalized from an economy that many Tibetans are already excluded from.

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Distressed by the changes I observed in my family, I set out over the next few years to visit more than 50 boarding preschools across northern and eastern Tibet, areas that China calls the Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces. Over the course of my three years of fieldwork and meetings with students, parents and teachers, what I discovered was worse than anything I could have imagined.

I met young Tibetan children who could no longer speak their native tongue. The schools strictly controlled parental visits. In some cases, schoolchildren saw their families only once every six months. Dormitories, playgrounds and teachers’ offices were heavily surveilled. I saw security cameras installed in classrooms, no doubt to make sure teachers — many of whom were young Chinese undergraduates with little to no background in Tibetan language and culture — only used C.C.P.-approved textbooks.

In one school I visited in the nomadic town of Zorge, a homesick child, in a very quiet tone, said, “When it gets dark in the evening and I can’t take care of myself, I miss my mom and grandparents.”

A woman in my village whose small children had been sent to a boarding school told me: “Whenever I came home exhausted after working all day on the farm, I wanted to hug my 4- and 5-year-old kids. But they were not there.” To heal the pain of their separation, she and a group of other young mothers from her village organized a 1,200-kilometer walking pilgrimage to Lhasa.

One villager told me: “We realize that the government is not ours. When officials come to our town, they don’t know our language or how to communicate with us.”

Another asked: “How can our language and culture survive if we are not able to stop what is happening?”

Beijing’s use of schools to erase Tibetan culture isn’t new. During the Cultural Revolution, the government banned the teaching of Tibetan in many schools. Then, in 1985, in addition to the boarding schools that had been set up inside Tibet, Beijing pioneered its Inland Schooling Program, which sent Tibetan students off to boarding schools in cities across China. James Leibold, an expert in Chinese ethnic policies, described the schools as “a military-style boot camp in how to be ‘Chinese’ and how to conform to acceptable ways of acting, thinking and being.” By 2005, 29,000 Tibetan students had attended these schools.

The trend has only accelerated — and reached younger and younger children. In March 2018, at an annual Parliament meeting, President Xi Jinping said that “core socialist values should set the tone of the common spiritual home of all ethnic groups” and “should be nurtured among the people, particularly children and even in kindergartens.”

Beijing’s focus on separating younger Tibetans from their culture has finally caught Washington’s attention. Last month, the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, announced that the United States would impose visa restrictions on Chinese officials who are involved in “the coercion of Tibetan children into government-run boarding schools.” As other countries like Canada and Australia reckon with their own history of colonial boarding schools, I hope they follow in Secretary Blinken’s footsteps and intervene as China enthusiastically replicates these horrors in my homeland.

I can only hope that the international attention will force Beijing to rethink its policy and alter the fates of children like my young relatives. After years of fieldwork, I am deeply concerned for the fate of Tibetan culture: that it will slowly disappear as more and more children are forced to become Chinese, and the Tibetan culture that I know and cherish will not survive for future generations. Or else I worry that they will grow up as perpetual strangers in their own homes, in their own homeland.

Tibetan girl wins 122-kilometre silk route ultra-marathon in Ladakh

Tsering Yangzom, a Tibetan girl hailing from Ladakh’s Choglamsar village emerged victorious in the 122-kilometer Silk Route Ultra Marathon in Union Territory of Ladakh on Thursday. She completed the course in 19 hours, 26 minutes, and 17 seconds traversing the gruelling high altitude race from Kyagar Village in Nubra, and concluding in Leh, Ladakh.

The Ladakh Marathon is known for its arduous races set against the Himalayan backdrop. The Silk Route Ultra Marathon, spanning 122 kilometres, is particularly renowned for testing the endurance of participants in high-altitude conditions. Athletes preparing for this race must arrive in Leh at least a week before the event to acclimate themselves to the elevated terrain, of an astounding 3,500 meters above sea level.

Named after the historic Silk Route that connected North-West India to Central Asia through regions like Yarkhand, Kashgar, and Turkestan, the Silk Route Ultra Marathon pays homage to the rich cultural heritage left by this ancient trade route. The race route passes through the Nubra Valley, often referred to as “Ldumra” or the “valley of flowers,” underscoring the historical significance of the Silk Route in Ladakh.

The Silk Route Ultra Marathon is specifically designed for experienced runners who have previously completed the 72-kilometer Khardung La Challenge, recognized as the world’s highest ultra-marathon, situated at a staggering 5,370 meters above sea level. It continues to attract Ironman athletes and other seasoned ultra-runners, providing them with an opportunity to push their limits amidst Ladakh’s unique landscapes.

How India is fortifying its border infrastructure against China with 90 projects

The news that Chinese president Xi Jinping would skip the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi from September 9-10 dashed hopes of a bilateral meeting between him and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where they could have further exten­ded their discussion of a fortnight ago. Meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg on August 24, Modi and Xi agreed to intensify efforts for “expeditious disengagement and de-escalation” of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh, where the Indian military and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been involved in a protracted standoff since May 2020. Though there is large-scale deployment of men and machines by both sides on the LAC and multiple military and diplomatic negotiations have failed to produce complete disengagement, China’s defence minister Gen. Li Shangfu, during his visit to New Delhi in April, had sought to delink the standoff from bilateral ties, saying the border situation was “stable”. India’s stand on the matter is unchanged: unless the border row is resolved, relations cannot be normal. Despite Chinese claims, the situation on the ground tells a different story—the Chinese have been constructing military/ dual-use infrastructure and strengthening existing installations at a frenetic pace in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), often within striking distance of the border with India.

Whatever Chinese leaders may say, Indian military observers believe that China’s infrastructure build-up belies expectations of complete de-escalation and the restoration of the pre-April 2020 status quo, as India has been demanding.

Indeed, China observers are surprised at the fast-changing strategic geography of Tibet. As observed in satellite images and other reports, new strategic assets include construction and upgradation of roads in proximity to the LAC, underground missile launch silos, blast pens in airfields, positioning of fighter jets, construction of new railway lines and dual-use civilian-military villages. Around 50 air strips/ airports and helipads are being completed to facilitate faster mobilisation of men and materiel. All these are indications of PLA’s extended deployment preparations.

Though the Indian military has readied itself for any misadventure with better infrastructure and defence preparedness, the swiftness of development across the LAC has been a point of concern for military planners in South Block. The Indian military firmly believes that the PLA is preparing for offensive operations, not shoring up its defences. Jaidev Ranade, an expert on China, points out Beijing’s “almost fanatic” dual-use infrastructural developments in Tibet—new expressways, plans to build more airports and two new railway lines linking Tibet to Xinjiang and Yunnan. According to its latest budget, China is planning 191 key projects this year in Tibet, with an investment of more than 143 billion Yuan ($21 billion/ Rs 1.72 lakh crore).

Declare Tibet to be an occupied country.

The speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, called the attention of G20 leaders and issued a 10-point appeal to the members of the intergovernmental forum, urging them to recognise Tibet as an occupied nation with an independent and sovereign past.

In his letter, Tenphel appealed to the G20 leaders to desist from endorsing China’s false narrative, labelling Tibetans as a minority, referring to Tibet’s occupation as an internal issue of Beijing, and proclaiming Tibet as a part of China thereby aiding its colonisation of Tibet and the subjugation of Tibetans. He also asked the member states to “re-engage in substantive dialogue with the representatives of Dalai Lama without preconditions to resolve the Tibet-China conflict through the Middle-Way Policy of seeking genuine and meaningful autonomy.”

Tenphel has further made an appeal to the leaders to call upon the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to launch a scientific research on “China’s exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources and its negative impact on global climate change.” The speaker has also appealed to the G20 leaders to demand from China unconditional release of all Tibetan political prisoners, including Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama, whose whereabouts remains unknown since May 17, 1995

Tibetan refugees in India demand that Tibet be discussed during the G20 conference.

More than a hundred Tibetan refugees staged a protest in New Delhi on Friday, demanding that the “occupation” of their country by China be discussed during the two-day G20 summit in the city this weekend.

Global leaders have started descending upon India’s national capital for the summit, including U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

China President Xi Jinping will not be attending the gathering and will instead be represented by Prime Minister Li Qiang.

“China has captured our country, that is why we want to give a message that China is not a trustworthy country,” Gonpo Dhundup, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which organised the demonstration, told Indian news agency ANI, in which Reuters has a minority stake.

“We place a demand before our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other global leaders to discuss Tibet during the G20 summit,” he said.

China sent troops into Tibet in 1950, terming the act a “peaceful liberation”, and has ruled the remote, mountainous country ever since.

While rights groups and Tibetans have made allegations of “cultural genocide” and strict controls on religion, language, education, and labour under China, Beijing denies any breach of the human rights of Tibetan people.

The protest on Thursday took place barely 15 kilometres (9 miles) away from Pragati Maidan, the venue of the summit, and ended peacefully.

TibetPress footage showed protesters, ranging from young children and students to the elderly, carrying Tibetan flags and chanting slogans of “we want freedom” and “Tibet belongs to Tibetans”.

Tibetan refugees in India request a discussion of Chinese occupation at the G20 summit.

As the G20 summit kicks off in New Delhi, Tibetan refugees living in India have called on the international community to discuss the Chinese occupation of their nation. More than a hundred refugees staged protests in New Delhi on Friday (Sept. 8) as world leaders began descending upon India’s national capital.

US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni were amongst the top leaders to have arrived by late Friday.

It must be noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are not attending the summit due to domestic issues and the Ukraine crisis respectively.

What are Tibetans demanding?

Indian news agency ANI quoted the top leader of the Tibetan community in India as saying that China is not a trustworthy country and that the issue of occupation must be discussed at the G20 forum. 

“China has captured our country, that is why we want to give a message that China is not a trustworthy country,” Gonpo Dhundup, President of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which organised the demonstration, was quoted as saying by tibetpress.

“We place a demand before our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other global leaders to discuss Tibet during the G20 summit,” he said.

The protests, organised Thursday, were carried out just 15 km away from Pragati Maidan, the venue of the G20 summit in New Delhi.

Chinese occupation of Tibet

China occupied Tibet in 1950, rushing thousands of troops for a “peaceful liberation”. China has ruled the region ever since.

China has also faced allegations of undertaking a “cultural genocide” in Tibet, by cracking down on religious freedom and the right to education in Tibetan language. Beijing obviously denies these allegations.

Police barricade Majnu ka Tilla

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up around the Majnu ka Tilla area as Tibetans plan protests during the G20 summit. 

Majnu ka Tilla is a Tibetan settlement. “We have barricaded a certain part of Majnu ka Tilla. Delhi Police and paramilitary forces have been deployed to maintain law and order,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi was quoted as saying by Indian news agency PTI.

Earlier on September 2, Tibetans-in-exile commemorated the 63rd anniversary of Democracy Day in Dharamshala which marks the inception of the Tibetan democratic system in exile.

Rights groups call on G20 leaders to address China’s repression in Tibet

Against the backdrop of the upcoming G20 New Delhi Leader’s Summit scheduled for September 9-10, 2023, a coalition of 143 Tibet-related rights groups, led by advocacy group International Tibet Network and encompassing organizations from various continents representing organizations from Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa, have collectively sent letters to G20 leaders, pressing issue concerning China’s activities in Tibet on August 8.

In their letter to the G20 leaders, the coalition urged leaders to take decisive action against the Chinese government’s repression in Tibet. They have expressed their concerns about China’s prolonged occupation of Tibet and its efforts to diminish the distinct identity of Tibetans.

The coalition has highlighted the stark reality of China’s rule in Tibet, emphasizing the existence of an extensive system of colonial boarding schools and preschools that house nearly 1 million Tibetan children. This equates to three out of every four Tibetan students between the ages of 6-18 being separated from their families and residing under state control. The coalition has estimated that at least 100-150,000 children aged 4-5 year-olds in rural areas are compelled to attend boarding preschools, where they are required to sleep away from the care and protection of their parents at least five nights a week.

This situation prompted UN human rights experts to release a statement on February 6, 2023, expressing alarm about the “residential school system for Tibetan children” that appears to be part of a large-scale program aimed at assimilating Tibetans into the majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards.

Furthermore, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in Geneva expressed deep concern about the erosion of the Tibetan language due to a push for a unified curriculum and a national common language policy, resulting in Tibetan being replaced by Chinese as the medium of instruction in schools throughout Tibet, including kindergartens where Tibetan children as young as four to six are sent to boarding schools.

The coalition of Tibet-related rights groups asserts that by forcibly separating Tibetan children from their families and culture and placing them in state-run boarding schools, the Chinese authorities are employing a severe tool of colonization to erode Tibetan identity. They emphasize that while China claims to be providing education to Tibetan children, the reality mirrors the actions of a state attempting to erase their culture, resulting in alienation, loss of identity, and intergenerational trauma.

The coalition calls on G20 leaders to address this attack on Tibetan identity during discussions with Chinese leaders, both in multilateral and bilateral meetings. They further urge the G20 leaders to release a robust joint statement that calls on China to halt the residential boarding school and preschool system in Tibet and to uphold the constitutional and statutory protections for Tibetan language promotion and preservation. Additionally, they call for a denouncement of China’s attempts to eradicate Tibetans’ distinct identity, including their language, culture, history, and way of life.

The coalition states that by acting collectively, G20 governments can exert influence on China’s leadership and protect their democracies from China’s authoritarian influence.

Exiled Tibetan MPs Visit Indian-Administered Kashmir Seeking Support

Three elected members of the Dharmsala-based Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile are in Indian-administered Kashmir to seek the support of pro-Indian leaders in their campaign against Chinese rule in Tibet.

On their five-day visit to Kashmir, the trio met Tuesday with a range of local political figures, including two former chief ministers.

Exiled Tibetan lawmaker Dawa Tsering told TibetPress that India has a crucial role to play in the Tibetans’ struggle.

“Tibet holds significant importance for India on multiple fronts,” Tsering said. “Prior to Tibet’s occupation, there was no historical precedent of Chinese forces being stationed along the Himalayas,” the scene of deadly border clashes between the two countries in recent years.

Tibet had served as a politically neutral buffer zone between China and India prior to its 1951 annexation by China, Tsering said, adding that the loss of that buffer has cast a pall over diplomatic relations between Beijing and New Delhi.

Tsering said Beijing has deployed missiles and built military infrastructure near India in what he described as an attempt to encroach upon Indian territory.

“Tibet witnessed the same moves before China occupied Tibet,” Tsering said. “Now, China is aiming to capture Indian territories and they are rapidly building infrastructure in Tibet along the Indian border.

“It is high time for India’s people and the government of India to boycott the Chinese goods so as to weaken China’s economy.”

Fellow exiled lawmaker Yeshi Dolma said Tibetans have been “traumatized by systematic violations of their most fundamental human rights” and the attempted eradication of Tibetan cultural and national identity since China’s annexation.

“Over the last seven decades, the situation in Tibet has been deteriorating to the extent that it is now facing imminent threat of cultural genocide and total annihilation of Tibetan identity,” Dolma said during a press conference in Srinagar.

In a statement to journalists, Khenpo Sonam Tenpal, speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile — now called the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) — said Tibet has been ranked among the world’s least-free territories by Freedom House for the third consecutive year in its 2023 Freedom in the World report.

“Last year, U.N. human rights experts expressed serious concern over the large-scale colonial boarding schools in Tibet rampantly being implemented on a massive scale and referred to it as a way to assimilate Tibetans into majority Han culture, contrary to international human rights standards,” Dolma said.

“Likewise, the forced mass DNA sample collection of Tibetans, including kindergarten children, is an intrusive securitization measure under the authoritarian surveillance regime to instill fear and wrest control of all aspects of public and private life of the Tibetan people.”

How India plans to counter China’s mega dam in Tibet

The Centre has proposed to construct a large barrage on the Siang river in Arunachal
Pradesh in view of the potential threats from a huge dam being built by China in
neighbouring Tibet region, chief minister Pema Khandu informed the state assembly on
A major concern

During a zero hour discussion initiated by Congress member Lombo Tayeng, Khandu said
China decided to build the 60,000-MW dam on the Yarlung Tsangpo river (upstream of
Siang) in its 14th five-year plan.
Expressing concern over China’s mega dam project, Khandu said this would have a
cascading effect on downstream countries like India and Bangladesh in the near future
and added that several rounds of discussions have been held at the government level
and with the Brahmaputra Board on the looming threats from the Chinese project.
Why barrage
He said the Centre, too, has expressed concern about the position of Siang river once the
Chinese project is completed.
“We have to keep Siang alive. If there is diversion of water [by China], the dimension of
Siang will be reduced, or if water comes in large volumes, it will create massive floods in
the Siang valley and downstream areas in neighbouring Assam and Bangladesh,” he said,
adding that “in case of release of excessive water, we need to have big structures [like a
barrage] to protect ourselves from floods.”
The river
The Yarlung Tsangpo river starts from Manasarovar lake and flows easterly about more
than 1600 km across Tibet before it bends towards the south-east around Namcha Barwa
peak to enter India at Gelling in Arunachal Pradesh where the river is known as Siang.
It flows for nearly 300 km in Arunachal Pradesh through Siang, Upper Siang and East
Siang districts before entering Assam, where the river is known as Brahmaputra.
The US has rejected China’s “standard map” and called on the nation to “comport its
maritime claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere with the International Law of the
Sea” .
Japan too has joined the protest against China for including the disputed Senkaku
Islands in the East China Sea in Beijing’s new map.