jamyang norbu

q:  When President Clinton started his presidency, very much tied trade issues to human rights. And then he did completely a turn. What's the consequence of that?

What happens when you separate economy and trade and human rights?

a:  President 's de-linking of trade and human rights, was really, really harmful. Immediately after that, the Chinese started arresting people left, right and center in channels and in Tibet. They suddenly realized that they didn't have to put up a pretense. Prior to this, although they were locking people up, whenever some Senators or someone came, someone from the Congress visited Tibet or China, there were kind of token releases of prisoners, some one-- at least under house arrest he was put there.

There was some attempt at keeping up a decent front. But, after this deal with him, all that is gone. Far more arrests took place this year, and the last year-- just immediately after delinking-- than has ever happened. Now, they don't even bother to explain even. Before that, there was a lot of explanation if you remember in the newspapers. The Chinese trying to convince the world that their actions are right. Now they don't even bother; they realize that the other side is as cynical as they are. Explanations are really not necessary.

If you read the papers now, the Chinese have righteous indignation on these things now. Every day, in their newspapers.... This condemnation of American. Now, American are all upset when they hear of the media in places like Iran that's ranting against Americans all the time, talking about decadence of American imperialism, American lifestyle. But, the same thing is going on in China---discussions on American decadent culture and lifestyle is there all the time. But nobody talks about it.

q:  What happened with the choice of the Panchem Lama? What is its significance?

a:  Traditionally the Dalai Lama must choose the Panchem Lamas; the Panchem Lamas chose the Dalai Lamas. And it's been that since the whole institution began.

Now, when the Chinese refused to recognize the Dalai Lama of his choice, they locked up the chief of the commission of the Lama, who was actually a really gung-ho supporter of the Communist Party. A real party man, someone that Chinese had trusted all along. They locked him up. Now, nobody knows where the young Panchem Lama is, but somewhere. Probably under arrest, at least house arrest.

With that new [Chinese] appointed Panchem Lama--essentially, the politics of this, from the Chinese point view, are quite clear. They know that immediately all the Tibetans will not respond to this Panchem Lama, but it's a fait accompli. It is done there. This is what the Tibetans have to accept, maybe in one generation.

The Chinese can afford to be patient; that's the only Panchem Lama they have. So, maybe one old lady in the neighborhood might go over and... accept him, because she needs some blessing for one thing or the other. And someone else will do it. And gradually it will be there.

And, if they control the Panchem Lama, they control the future Dalai Lama, because the Panchem Lama chooses the Dalai Lamas. So, in a sense, it's power manipulation, and they know what they're doing. Essentially, if everything works by their game plan, they've got it fixed. The next Dalai Lama is going to be born in their kind of hands; they're going to control him totally.

But once again, life doesn't play games so conveniently. Even the most Machiavellian politician gets his now and then. And, I think, with the Chinese, what they forget is they did control the previous Panchem Lama; he was born in a part of Tibet which is under the Chinese. And, the Communists got him very early, at a very tender age. They really indoctrinated him. And, he didn't play that game at all. He may not have been the greatest of Tibetan nationalists, but he sure stood up for his people and their rights. And he died for it some say. He went to prison and suffered tremendously for it. And, he was a very brave man. He didn't play the game at all.

He was the first man to speak out against Mao Tse-tung's great leap. He wrote, what they call the 80,000 character denunciation of Mao's programs.

q:  And the banning of the Dalai Lama's picture, why is that happening?

a:  It's considered revolutionary. When you have a picture of the Dalai Lama in your house, it means "My loyalty is not to China. It is not to the Party. My loyalty is to Tibet."

The Dalai Lama, ultimately, is the symbol of Tibet. Many people who put the picture up, they see it that way. It's not that they are following a cult or personality. They don't see the Dalai Lama the same way as Richard Gere does, or someone else does. The Dalai Lama means many things to Tibetans. It's not just a religious figure. He represents our country.

q:  And the reeducation campaign going on in the monasteries, what is that about?

a:  Essentially, it's very tiresome in China now. Anyone visiting China knows that Communism is dead. They talk of Socialism, but that's all nonsense. Essentially, it is not only capitalist, but it's capitalist in the worst gangster fashion.

But in order to hang onto Tibet, the Chinese really don't have any other reason, except to say that "We are re-educating Tibetans. We are giving them Socialism." Otherwise, the legitimacy of Chinese position in Tibet falls apart; there is no other reason. Otherwise, they are just imperialists.

All along, their grand reason that they stayed all the time for having invaded Tibet, is to rescue Tibet from Western Imperialism and Colonialism. To take these Tibetans, who've been downtrodden under the man-eating feudal system, to raise Tibetan serfs to a higher level, and to raise them to kind of socialist freedom and liberation.

Now, if Socialism is not there, what reason do they have to stay in? So, that's why they keep this up in Tibet. In Tibet, you still pictures of Mao Tse-tung and you still have the socialist jargon, you still have reeducation in a tremendous way in these monasteries. Essentially, it is also to control in these monasteries. Because the monasteries have become, in the last decade, they have become the focus of a lot of demonstrations and uprisings in many monasteries--

q:  So what have monasteries become? Why has the reeducation in monasteries increased?

a:  Monasteries have become the flash points for a lot of demonstrations and for anti-Chinese literature, rhetoric, or action even sometimes. There have been conflicts not only in the major monasteries, like Sera but even outlying monasteries. Not only within, let's say, what the Chinese call Tibet's "autonomous region," which is defined as the only proper Tibet, but even outlying areas like Chinghai-- What the Chinese call Chinghai.... the northeastern provinces. In Szechwan Province itself, many monasteries--

If there's a demonstration in Lhasa-- because there are monks who belong to, let's say, branch monasteries, in all sorts of outlying areas. And, it immediately radiates-- from Lhasa to all of these areas. And you see demonstrations of some of the most remote areas of Tibet, monasteries demonstrate--

q:  And how have the Chinese reacted?

a:  When all these things have happened, the Chinese have reacted in a very, very brutal and straightforward manner. Immediately, ring leaders are arrested, the PSB comes in, a lot of monks are beaten, and initially there's a lot of violence going on in these places. Arrests are taking place. And then the rest of the monastery, re-education comes in. And, also, there's a reshuffle of the monastic administration, they try to place, let's say, Lamas who are more amenable to the Communist Party guidelines than Lamas who are not.

A lot of monasteries are under control of the Party, nearly all monasteries have an official ... (inaudible) they're responsible to the party itself. But, nevertheless, monasteries have become a flash point, primarily because there's a concentration of people. Because in Tibet, you must realize a lot of people are spread over a vast area. The villages are very small. Nomads are spread out over hundreds, even thousand of miles.

With monasteries, you have a concentration of people, not only just ordinary people, but of people who have an education. People who know how to read and write, in most cases. Also, people who have traveled, because monks in Tibet are itinerant. They move from place to place, for pilgrimage, for whatnot. They are people who picked up information. A lot of them might have even traveled to India because they want to get the blessings of the Lama.

So, people who are not totally receptive to Chinese propaganda. With that sort of situation--especially there's another thing, that even nuns have come out and said so-- One reason for them, why it's easier to revolt is they don't have any connections; they don't have a family. So, if something happens, it happens to them directly; it doesn't affect, let's say, their wife or their children, or what have you, or their husband. They are on their own. Because of these reasons, monasteries, nunneries have become, let's say, foremost in defying Chinese oppression in Tibet.

q:  So essentially, if one looks at Tibet today what China is doing? What do you see?

a:  Essentially, what is happening in Tibet now is ever more oppression, ever more tightening of authoritarian rule. In education, in economics, now even in let's say law and order. Especially since, the last few years, there have been some bombings also in Tibet. So, they've got more and more informants out there. The PSB has been expanded. Now they are cracking down on demonstrations even more swiftly than they ever did before.

Now, they don't even permit crowds of more than two or three people out in ... They are very careful. The moment they see a small, little crowd happening, the PSB comes there, right there, and breaks it up. Their response time is incredible.

One nun told me that she and a friend just got out there and just shouted "Ransen for Tibet; freedom for Tibet," and said within two minutes the PSB were there; they were bundled off in a truck. They're getting very good at it; they've got surveillance cameras all over the place. Their police records are meticulous. They've got state-of-the-art equipment which they buy from Japan and even from this country, to keep the Tibetan people totally down, totally oppressed.

The way the Tibetan populace lives is in the center of town, old Lhasa. Immediately around it are all these public security bureau offices--police, armed police, paramilitary, all of them. Immediately around that, around Lhasa city itself are military installations. Divisions after divisions of Chinese army-- So, they've got more security there than even the Tibetan population.

And, there's another factor of control that I wanted to bring up which I forgot. Just to show you how subtle they are, because of certain Western response to religious oppression in China, now they are doing this because of Christianity, of Catholics being persecuted. And now, of course, the Buddhist come into it also.

Because of this, the Chinese so as not to seem too heavy handed, they are importing-- We've heard of Chinese immigrants coming into Tibet, hundreds and thousands of them are moving in to displace the Tibetans.

The Chinese are making sure more and more Muslims come in, Chinese Muslims. Because the Chinese Muslims have always had a traditional kind of antagonism towards the Buddhists the Tibetans. The Chinese Muslims also have an advantage that Chinese Muslims are mutton eaters. In the highlands, that's what you get; they don't eat pork. Pigs don't breathe too well at 20,000 feet above sea level.

So, Muslims are sent in-- Muslims also eat barley and wheat; they don't eat rice; they don't eat so many vegetables like the other Chinese do. They adapt better. They are also horsemen. Traditionally, even before the Communists, the _... (inaudible) and the Manchus used Muslim horsemen against Tibetans whenever it got difficult.

There has been a traditional kind of antagonism between the two sort of people. So, they are importing Chinese Muslims. And Chinese Muslims now control so much of the business in Lhasa. Restaurants are controlled nearly-- Like all these shish kabob places are controlled by the Chinese Muslims.

Now, another factor is at the moment there is fighting between the Tibetans and the Chinese Muslims. The Chinese are seen in some ways as- they're negotiating between them. All he is trying to do is prevent a conflict between these two communities.

q:  And what should America do for Tibet?

a:  I don't think, at the moment, there is any possibility of Americans aiding Tibetan actively for its independence. And, Tibet is far away; it doesn't have oil. I don't see any way that American Marines are going to come to rescue us. But for America itself, I think, for its own conscience, for its own kind of dignity, it has to stand up for the Tibetan cause. In a sense, acknowledge that Tibet is a free country, condemn Chinese actions in Tibet clear-cut. And to a certain degree link trade again with human rights and with oppression of Tibetan people.

We are not asking for the impossible as far as the government or the administration is concerned. What we are asking is even-- I think it will benefit America. In this day and age, we talk of cynicism all the time. But, if America behaves in this fashion, to a certain extent, it influences other nations. People do look to America. Americans may not believe this. But, a lot of countries play to the American tune.

If American stands by Tibet, I'm sure a lot of other countries will. So, it's important for Americans to take a definite position. And not to be wishy-washy, and not try to influence the Dalai Lama; that's one of the problems with the administration. They have their own agenda. They want to be seen right in human rights context, but at the same time they want to push the Tibetans into the Chinese kind of arms.

I don't think they should try to influence the Dalai Lama to make peace-- whatever the cost may be to make peace with China. This is what the administration has been trying to do for sometime. I don't think they should try to influence the Dalai Lama, but they should respect the Tibetan cause. And, they should come out clearly and say they recognize that Tibet is an independent country. There should at least be a debate on it. And they should recognize that Tibetans have a right to live as free people in this world; not necessarily because they have any advantage to Americans or to western civilization or whatever. But, just because they are people.

q:  And at the same time do you have a concern about the image that these films coming up may promulgate that is ultimately negative? Is there a cautionary thought you have about these films coming up?

a:  Not with these specific films, because from what I understand the kind of reviews I've read, they've been quite well researched and truthful to fact, from what I understand. So, I don't think we have anything to fear from this, from just a few films.

But, essentially I think, westerners, and especially people in this country, should really realize Tibet exists on its own, not as an extension of their own needs and their own psyche. They should not try to impose any kind of agenda on the Tibetan people and their cause, even if it is well meant. The question of peace now.

A lot of Tibetans are really frightened about doing anything, because they feel Westerners would disapprove. People fight for their freedom. Why shouldn't Tibetans fight for theirs?

Everyone has fought for their freedom. This country is built on violence. Like you threw out the Brits with rifles-- But nobody is saying that's a bad thing altogether. Or, World Ware II. Why are westerners only allowed to fight? Why can't Tibetans also take up a gun now and then? And, nobody thinks that was wrong to fight in a Hitler.

So, for us, we see the Chinese as the West saw Nazi Germany. Your pain is yours; it's more immediate to you than someone else's pain. Tibetans have every right to tackle it in their own way. Of course, advice can be given. It's sometimes senseless to go out with a rifle and do something that's suicidal. But, I don't think any kind of moral imperative should be pushed on the Tibetans.

q:  And, you're not concerned that these films might just reinforce that Shangri-La western myth of Tibet?

a:  I'm a bit worried. Because once again, we're going to be seen as appendages to the Dalai Lama rather than people with a separate history. The Dalai Lama is fairly recent in Tibetan history. I am loyal to him, and the rules of the Dalai Lamas. But, they came into power in the 15th, 16th century. We've had emperors before that. Tibet, in it's three or four thousand years of history have had a lot of other rulers. People sort of forget that we are only seen as a bunch of very cuddly ... (inaudible) ruled by this sort of beneficent Lama, the Lama who won the Nobel Peace prize, wonderful cuddly, feely-feely, touchy-touch, feely-feel kind of thing.

And I think the second film might do that. But, of course, I'm anticipating. I hope it won't. But, this is one of the real problems we have. Far more than fighting the Chinese. The number of New Age people we have to push away from the offices is incredible. Everyone wants a translator. And then there are so many Tibetans in exile. And ... (inaudible) there are only about four or five thousand of us. Half the time you have to spend saying sorry, I can't do this for you. I know your spiritual life is important, but I've got to get a job done here.

And, a lot of younger people are snapped up now just by all these sort of-- because there's money there. Everyone is way into it. Our language is changing, it's becoming mushy. People are talking . (inaudible) all the time now. They're not really saying groovy, but they're getting close to it. And it's taking away the edge from Tibetans.

And, I know Tibetans right from the 60's when ... (inaudible) came out-- I know a lot of these people. A lot of them were big, for instance. We hadn't suffered all the disease that we had in an exile. A lot of them were pretty violent. Everyone carried a knife. If you could afford it, you carried a pistol. People had an edge. They were spiritual people, but you didn't ... (inaudible) with them. And they were proud; they didn't go around begging.

Now, everyone is basically looking for a sponsor, looking for some grants here and there. And everyone is, ... (inaudible) crawling around. And for me that really hurts, to see a proud people reduced to this conduction, and being humble and being nice. I feel sometimes that Tibet is lost when you see that.

You only survive in Tibet if you are independent, I mean as a person. Take one look at the landscape. No humble person can live there. And no nice person can live there. It's a hard place; it's hard to be a nomad. And, if I went back to Tibet, I know I would die on the third day if I tried to be a nomad. It's difficult. There's an element of violence there. You have to hunt and you have to keep away wolves; there are bandits in that sort of area; there's no law in your immediate neighborhood. So, if someone tries to take your flock of yak, you give them.

These are the real Tibetans; these are the ones who created all the monasteries, who paid the taxes. And, now they are being changed; they are being made to sort of-- they're becoming cuddly. I wouldn't call that genocide, exactly. But, I think, one could call it sort of a fading away of the Tibetans.


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