q: When was the last time you were in contact with people there. What are the
Chinese in Tibet doing?
a: The more recent accounts I've heard-- it's quite troubling because
they've managed to sort out their thinking on the problems that they have with
Tibetans. Essentially, one is of culture. And the Chinese party boss in
Tibet, he's quite an intelligent person and he's worked it out that the real
problem for China is the fact that the Tibetans will never become part of
China, unless culturally and linguistically they become absolutely Chinese.
Unless all that is wiped out.
And, I must say he's correct. Tibetans main nationalism comes from our
culture. And, the very, very different culture that we have from the Chinese.
And, I don't think Tibetans will ever give up independence as long as they have
So, the Chinese have realized this now. They know they cannot compromise even
on this. So, they are now working on the question of Tibetan education, making
it much harder for Tibetans to really study the language or to get any kind of
employment, even if they know that language. To make it that only Chinese
language in any way will benefit the Tibetans. So, that's why many Tibetans,
who really have no command of the Chinese or poor command of Chinese, really
have no substantial job. There's about 75 to 80 percent unemployment among the
youth of Tibet. People just hanging out in the streets, drinking, playing
Furthermore, they have a movement now to remove any kind of Tibetan, even
loyal party personnel, from important positions, and to replace them with the
Chinese. For instance, even in a sensitive position like the University of
Lhasa, they've removed the Tibetan, let's say the Dean he could be called, and
replaced him with a party hack, essentially someone who has really no
qualifications to head a kindergarten, far less a university.
So, there are all these programs that are coming to the fore. All of them
together constitute-- I use the term cultural genocide. And it's been used
quite often. But, I really don't think we can find any other term to fit the
realities of Chinese oppression in Tibet.
q: Tibetans don't seem to have the economic opportunity that the Chinese do,
especially young people.
a: Essentially, there is so much unemployment in Tibet, because the
system is rigged against the Tibetans. The people in power, at the top of the
pyramid, are Chinese. And, in China, I think anyone who's traveled through
China knows that the system is one of "The Back Door." If you want to have
anything done, you need connections.
There is no way that you can do anything through a legitimate kind of channel.
And then all the best jobs are reserved for the Chinese. If there's a guy in
the education ministry and that teachers wanted, he is going to write to his
cousin, maybe in a faraway province town, and get them to come up and take a
look at the position, than hand it out to a local Tibetan.
So, in that sense, every kind of official job there is taken over by the
Chinese. Now, there are a few kind of cosmetic positions that they need
Tibetans for. And, most of these Tibetans are not even qualified for that.
They really don't have to work or go to the office or do anything; they just
take their pay and during certain festivities and celebrations, they come out
in the open and their pictures are taken.
And, another thing is the fact that for any kind of official position you
need to be as good as a Chinese in the Chinese language. And, most Tibetans
start off with a disadvantage right there.
Now, in Tibet, the number of university Tibetan students inside Tibet are far
less than what we have in exile. In exile, you have one hundred thousand
Tibetans we have more university going kids than in the whole of Tibet, among
six million Tibetans, you have far less there. So, I mean, that alone tells
you the whole story.
q: So, in summary....
a: Well, education and unemployment is just one thing. But, when you
take another factor into account, there are psychological factors. All the
time, even when you go to a school, you are privileged to go to a Chinese
school, or a Tibetan school.
You are taught that Tibetan culture is nothing; it's a barbaric culture. You
are taught that your parents, your ancestors, are fools, superstitious idiots,
people far less advanced than the Chinese. It creates a certain way of
thinking and inferiority complex. People with chips on their shoulder. To a
certain extent like maybe, Native Americans, the way these people think.
People don't become alcoholics for-- for the love of it. There are certain
conditions where everything seems to be hopeless. And the only rosy thing in
life is what you see in that bottle. Tibetans are coming to that, and I don't
want to say it in many ways because the official propaganda, even among Tibetan
in exile, that the _... (inaudible) government is that things are improving, we
can get along with the Chinese, and something wonderful is going to happen,
it's just around the corner.
I don't see that at all. I see a broken people; broken by the cultural
revolution; broken by what's happening now.
Then, the answer sometimes is escape. Escape from Tibet. A lot of them do
it. They cross some of the highest passes in the world. Just near Mount
Everest there's a pass called the.. ... (inaudible) If you even take one look
at the pass, it's terrifying. These people are not climbing for the fun of it.
Not saying it's there so you can climb. These people are trying to get away
from the Chinese communist.
When see that vast wasteland, all the ice and the snow and he ... ...
(inaudible), it just sort of stuns you, there's nothing you can do. But,
people are doing it with no equipment, just wearing sneakers and wearing a
light jackets, maybe a sweater. A lot of them die.
I ran a newspaper a couple of years ago, I was editor. And, one of my
informants gave me photographs he had taken on one of the side of the pass.
And there was this Tibetan there, dead, he had tried to cross. And his body
was totally desiccated. It was like the body of this ... ... (inaudible) man
they found in the Alps some time ago. I think they call him the "Ice Man" or
whatever. And it's just like that
This guy was there. His skin was just tight over his bones. He had this ...
... (inaudible) His eyes were big hollows. And he's dead. There's a lot of
people trying this. Young children as young as 8 or 9. And a lot of them show
up in _... (inaudible) in the end. They've got frostbite, some of them don't
have toes, some of them don't have fingers. It's all a big tragedy.
When you talk of cultural genocide in Tibet, we have to consider first that
the way the Chinese go about it is not an unsophisticated and immediate one.
The Chinese have a very subtle approach to this, because of their
long-standing relation with Tibet, over two or three thousand years of history
is between us. And, the Chinese know how to deal with a lot of these
The way they work about it is in some ways very, very devious. For one, let's
say with the Tibetan language, the changes that they are introducing to it,
even in the manner of tone. Because Tibetan tonally is very different from
Chinese. It's a different language altogether.
Radio Lhasa Television, -- all these kind of official radio, television,
broadcasting stations, and even movies--the kind of language that is used there
is supposed to be Tibetan, but tonally it's been devised so that it sounds no
different from Chinese.
In Tibet that is the problem with language; it is not there to communicate. A
lot of it is there to change the way people think about their own language and
their culture, to make Chinese
Now, even in the terms of genocide right now let's say mass killings of
Tibetans are not going on as they did, in the 60's and maybe in the 70's.
But, a lot of Tibetans regard this as a rest period. And even the most brutal
killers cannot kill every day; people have to take a rest, Maybe, this is kind
of a timer, the Chinese are relaxing, sort of storing up their energy for a
next move. You never know what's going to happen in Tibet.
Another thing that's going on inside Tibet-. In the 70s when they first
started the so-called liberalization policy, there was an idea that maybe the
Tibetans might be allowed to practice their own culture, as long as they didn't
Now, that thinking has totally changed. The Chinese realize that any little
opportunity given to Tibetans to demonstrate their kind of cultural differences
from China, they use that as an opportunity to demand independence. And the
Tibetans do it. So, the Chinese really are in a kind of situation where they
have no alternative but to clamp down on the Tibetans.
Because if they give Tibetans religious freedom, Tibetans use that religious
freedom to demonstrate their difference from China.
For instance, the Tibetans have this ... ... (inaudible) ceremony, where you
take-- where you burn sprigs of juniper. And when the smoke goes up in the air,
Tibetans throw handfuls of barley to ... ... (inaudible) the Gods of Tibet.
Now, that was considered okay by the Chinese sometime ago. But, then the
Tibetans began to do that whenever the ... ... (inaudible) Lama made a big kind
of-- It was a success for him, let's say, when he got the Nobel Peace Prize,
he was received by Clinton in the White House. Tibetans began to celebrate
that by doing this.
And, the Chinese realized actually that the whole religious and the political
thing were intertwined, so they clamped down. That's not allowed anymore.
Even in the case of, let's say, diet, there's a Tibetan pancake which is
filled with meat and which is deep fried. That is called independence food and
it's not _... (inaudible). Because when Tibetans were thrown in jail during
the demonstrations, all their families and neighbors they tried to take food
into the prisons. And, they found the most convenient food was this pancake
because it's got protein and it's got a lot of fat, because of the deep trying.
And it's got the dough. And it's convenience. You can just take it, someone
can eat it like you're eating hamburger.
So, this was being sent to the jails and, it was called after awhile, it was
called ...which is independence food. And the Chinese banned this.
So, in these small ways, you build an overall totality where your whole
culture and your life is banned by the Chinese. The way Tibetans express
anything, if it's perceived by the Chinese. And, in a way, it's perceived
correctly as demonstrating that we are different from the Chinese. We don't
to live under China; we want to have no part of China. We want our freedom.
q: Cultural genocide, what does it mean?
a: Well, as I said early, when the Dalai Lama talks of cultural
genocide, essentially it means just what you said, the entire civilization of
Tibet is being denied to its people, and it's being destroyed. But, I think
also, sometimes I wouldn't know, because we talk of cultural genocide, but is
it culture alone? Thousands and thousands of people are being thrown into
jail. They are being beaten. You may have heard nuns being prodded with
electric cattle prods, and their genitalia being-- you know, like raped, what
have you. And you're given these long, dreadfully long prison sentences.
When you have this, you are creating a population-- Because earlier, let's say
the fathers and the mothers, a lot of these people are going to jail right now,
have also been to prison for over 19, 20 years before. You have a whole nation
of people with prison backgrounds. Essentially, the idea is to break the
spirit of the people. You may not kill all these people, but essentially you
are making them into no persons.
There are a lot of Native Americans still alive in the United States, but they
are not a viable force. Something has been done to them, whether intentionally
or not. In the case of Tibet, it is being done very intentionally, it's to
break the spirit of the Tibetan people.
For me, I think it would be much better if the Chinese actually just lined up
all the Tibetans, shot them there outright; it would be far more merciful.
Then to make them into really sort of broken third rate people, who like 10,
20, 30, 40 years from now will just be someone who's begging from tourists.
Just bums, people with chips on their shoulder, the wrong attitude for life.
Basically, these sort of people are being created, so--
Yes, far more than even cultural genocide, I think actual genocide is being
q: How does the West see Tibet?
a: I think, primarily the West sees Tibet, to some extent, as a fantasy
land, as a Shangri La. Of course, this is a kind of stereotype that has
existed in the Western kind of perception for a very long time, even before the
movie "Lost Horizon," the movie was made. Initially, the perception came from
ideas of medieval Europe that they had of ... ... (inaudible), the Christian
king who lived behind the mountains of Gog and Magog, and who would come maybe
to make the whole of Asia a Christian country.
Because maybe people in medieval times heard of Tibet and a lot of liturgical
practices in Tibet, religious rites and ceremonies, resembled the Roman
q: Tibet is suddenly very chic in America. Why is that?
a: There's a kind of New Age perception of Tibet, which is fed to some
extent quite deliberately by propagandists for Tibet, many New Age type
Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists. And, also subscribed gradually by Tibetans,
including the Dalai Lama and a lot of prominent Lamas. The idea that this even
materialist west will be saved by the spiritualism of the Tibetan Buddhists.
It's total nonsense.
Tibetans are in no position to save anyone, least of all themselves in the
But, this is the kind of idea that's being subscribed by a lot of New Age type
people. This is the problem that Tibetans face, because their issues and the
tragedy of Tibet has not being taken seriously. Primarily, it's very fuzzy;
it's sort of a feel good issue, rather than a stark, ugly reality.
You have the Palestinian problem. Now, whether you like the Palestinians--and
I'm sure a lot people in the West don't like them---- but you give them the
respect that their condition is real.
A lot of people love Tibetans in the West, tremendous sympathy, but it's a
very fuzzy kind of sympathy, because it never touches on the reality. It
doesn't touch on the reality that the Tibetan people are disappearing, they're
being wiped out.
You look at even supportive friends of Tibet like Galen .... Have you seen
his calendars? It just says everything is wonderful. Tibet is wonderful.
The culture is wonderful. The land is wonderful. It does not touch on the
tragedy that people are actually being wiped off the face of the earth and
their culture is being wiped out. That is not touched; it's considered in bad