I wrote the following for the blog of the International Campaign for Tibet.
Last Week Became Tibet Week in Washington, D.C.
by Bhuchung K. Tsering
November 9, 2011
Last week was a very busy week for Tibet here in Washington, D.C.
We had the first ever visit of Dr. Lobsang Sangay, after he took office as the Kalon Tripa of the Central Tibetan Administration. He had a full program of meeting US officials, members of Congress, scholars, experts, members of the Tibetan community, etc. He also testified on the situation in Tibet and conditions of the Tibetan people at a hearing by US Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. The Kalon Tripa was a guest at the newsmaker program of the National Press Club and had an op-ed in The Washington Post.
During this visit, the Tibetan leader had two broad messages: drawing attention to the ongoing critical situation in Tibet particularly in the light of the self-immolations, and seeking support to empower the Tibetan people.
The ongoing critical situation in Tibet was highlighted further by the visit to Washington, D.C. in the same week by Kirti Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Kirti Monastic community. A majority of the individuals who have committed self-immolation have either been from his monastery or from his region. I had the privilege of accompanying Kirti Rinpoche during his visit and interpreting for him. In addition to testifying at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U.S Congress, Rinpoche also met with concerned officials of the United States Government, gave a talk at the International Campaign for Tibet and met the Tibetan community.
His single message was that the self-immolations were not some overnight development but the outcome of wounds suffered by three generations of the Tibetan people at the hands of the Chinese authorities. The first generation being those Tibetans who suffering the onslaught of the people who were on the Long March that entered his Ngapa region even before the Communists took over China. The second generation were those who suffered after the Communist took over, including before, during and after the Cultural generation. The third generation was the present generation of Tibetans who have been born under the Red Flag of China and grew up under it. These people had suffered in many ways under the extreme policies of the Chinese authorities, he said. Therefore, the Chinese government and the international community needed to understand the underlying causes if they did not want to see such development repeated.
I know Rinpoche from before and so as he went about his different programs I could very much sense his internal pain at what is happening with the Tibetan people. On a few occasions, in the midst of his talk or discussions with people, he would give me some side comments that reflected his internal thinking.
Rinpoche had a very somber analysis of the self-immolations. He said that these were the highest form of non-violent actions that Tibetans were taking and hence signified the level of desperation of the people. He said unless the Chinese government took positive measures it was quite likely that the Tibetan movement would take a different turn.
In the midst of their visit, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on the annual report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. I was invited to testify on Tibet on behalf of the International Campaign for Tibet and had the opportunity to offer recommendations to the Congress, including in strengthening the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002.
The visit of the Tibetan personalities and the different programs here in Washington, D.C. indicated the following. Tibet was very much in the mind of the American people. Congress signified its continued strong interest in and support for the Tibetan people. Members of Congress who were at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing as well as the House hearing on the CECC report spoke strongly about the critical situation in Tibet and the role of the Chinese government therein. Some of them talked of different measures that they intend to take to protect the rights of the Tibetan people, whether in People’s Republic of China or in Nepal. Secondly, the elected Tibetan leader, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, was received with much respect and dignity by people at all levels of the society indicating that the international community took cognizant of the change in Tibetan leadership and that this Kalon Tripa provided the continuity of Tibetan governance.
It was certainly a full Week of Tibet here in Washington, D.C.