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Free Tibet? (An incredibly pensive post)

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I’m in Thailand. Hallelujah. ┬áIt was definitely time to move on and Thailand is exactly what I needed. I’ve been thinking alot about Tibet as I spend my days relaxing in Bangkok, though.

I first became interested in Tibet because of the Dalai Lama. I saw this man in a crimson robe speaking on the television, prayer beads dangling from his arm, and I wanted to know who he was and why he was so famous. So, I started to do some research and discovered he was the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, and that he has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India since 1959. I read Tears of Blood and watched Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion and learned why he was living in exile: The Chinese Army invaded Tibet in 1949 and he was forced to flee to India in 1959 because his life was in danger.

In the same vein as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, the Dalai Lama has encouraged his people to resist the Chinese occupation peacefully. He has appealed to the U.S. Congress several times for help and to various other governments with little response. It appears that Tibet will remain under forced Chinese rule indefinitely. The Tibetan flag and all pictures of the 14th Dalai Lama are strictly forbidden. There are thousands of new Chinese settlers moving to Tibet each week. There is a small section of the capital, Lhasa, that is still “Tibetan”, but the rest of it is purely Chinese. In addition to the new train line I took from Beijing, there are also plans to build a train line running East to West to facilitate even more Chinese settlement.

The prediction is that Tibetan culture will almost completely disappear within the next 50 years within mainland China. There are many Tibetan refugees living in Nepal and India, and they will undoubtedly keep some of the culture alive, but the Dalai Lama has said that when he passes away there will not be a new Dalai Lama chosen as long as Tibet is still under Chinese occupation.

As I always try to see both sides of an argument, I made an effort to see the positives of the Chinese occupation. There are now hospitals, public schools, and roads. Those are things everyone deserves. The Tibetan people are now allowed to worship freely, although thousands of monasteries were completely destroyed and looted during the Cultural Revolution, and as I mentioned before, they are not allowed to own images of the Dalai Lama or acknowledge him as their leader without brutal reprecussions. I met a Tibetan man in Washington DC who told me if he were ever to return to Tibet he’d immediately be thrown in prison because he frequently protests outside of the Chinese embassy in DC. He told me he has no hope that he will ever return to Tibet, and the Dalai Lama has said the same. He has not returned to his country for 48 years and his people must pretend he doesn’t exist.

Today I saw this written on a wall in Bangkok: “Boycott the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The Chinese government has tortured thousands of innocent Tibetans and destroyed their culture. Don’t support their war crimes.” The Dalai Lama encourages foreigners to travel to Tibet so that we can experience Tibet before it becomes just another Chinese province full of factories, pumping out goods and minerals. Thus, I can justify my trip there. I made a concerted effort to purchase food and goods from Tibetan people and Tibetan stores the entire time I was there.

The truth generally lies somewhere in the middle, though. Before the Chinese occupation, Tibet was an incredibly poor country. Now, it has lots of modern conveniences. But convenient doesn’t mean it’s better. It really doesn’t. And that’s just not my romantic notion of simplicity in developing countries. I know how ugly poverty can be. I don’t want Tibet to remain undeveloped so that i can take exotic pictures on my two week trip and then show them off to my friends once I return to my nice comfortable life in the West. I want the Tibetan people to be able to decide what kind of development they want and need, not have it forced upon them. I don’t want them to be treated as second class citizens in their own land. But what can be done at this point?

I’ll end this post with a quote I’ve been thinking about a lot the past few weeks:”Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.If you’ve read this far, I’d love to know your thoughts, and if you have Netflix order Tibet: The Cry of the Snow Lion.

Fruit shakes and Smiles, Amanda

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7 responses to “Free Tibet? (An incredibly pensive post)”

  1. Scott says:

    Good job. Not too intense at all. Smart. Wise. Fair.

  2. Adam Shane says:

    Fruit shakes and smiles? Cute!

  3. Donovan says:

    I am headed to Tibet in 3 weeks – and will take all your thoughts into consideration. Thanks for the rant.

  4. Ed Glassman says:

    I am looking for people who have knowledge about The Dalai Lama. I have a group of students doing a project for National History Day and if anyone would be willing to be interviewd by my students over the phone please email me at

  5. Grigo says:

    I want to see it and expereince Tibet one day with my own eyes… great sharing.

  6. Greg says:

    Well said. I think I am going to boycott the olympics altogether after seeing the madness in Beijing already (forefull ejection of homeless into the countryside to hide them from the tourists). What the hell were they thinking giving it to China??

    – G

  7. Charles says:

    Having been to Lhasa twice (once overland) to shoot my own documentary about Buddhism there, I can say with certainty that the Chinese invasion there and the destruction of the culture begun over fifty years ago was outrageously intensified by the “Cultural Revolution.” Today, the destruction of all that is Tibetan is even more serious as hordes of Han Chinese are encouraged to settle there, native Tibetans are denied basic freedoms of thought and religion, and relegated to becoming refugees in their own land. The Dalai Lama is my guru, my having taken Buddhist vows before him. He may be the most holy human alive today as he actually forgives the Chinese for the horrors they have done to his people and his country.
    The Potala Temple, the Dalai Lamas’ home, is turned by the Chinese into a kind of tame Disneyland for tourists to gawk and fake monks with walkie talkies are ever watchful that the real monks do not communicate the truth to tourists. The leader of the Kagagu school, HH Karmapa, fled Chinese denial of teachings to get to Him, and He now lives in exile, too. Karmapa’s monks confided to me the horrors waiting for them should they speak the truth, or peacefully demonstrate, or even own a photo of the Dalai Lama!
    The Chinese are cowards, afraid of the power of compassion and humanity embodied in the Dalai Lama–so much so that it is a crime to have the Dalai Lama’s photo. I recommend mailing a flood of His Holiness’ photo to people in China, the high goverment criminals, and ordinary people there. If you can not find an address, mail to General Delivery and choose a Chinese city for the destination. Stick the facts of their cruel repression up the Chinese rears, noses, and other orfices. Make them face their crimes.
    And, certainly, do not attend China’s Olympics. Any person who attends the games is complicit in their crimes against Tibetan humanity and should be publicly shamed by all who know the attendees–do the shaming to their faces and in public. This is the time to strike at the cowards leading China. Do it now.

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