Armed with Gestapo like policing tools and claiming ironical monopoly over religious procedures for identifying reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist monks, the atheist Chinese communist masters of Tibet look funny and desperate in their attempts to fortify colonial control over Tibet
In early March this year troops of Snow Wolf Commandos, an elite unit of the People’s Armed Police (PAP)of China, which specializes in ‘anti-terrorist’ operations,swooped on a small Tibetan town DzaWonpo of Sichuan province. In Wonpo streets, the armed soldiers of PAP first organized daily marches with huge red flags to intimidate the locals. Few days laterthey launched ‘operation clean-up’ by raiding each house and individuals’ belongings to search for and confiscate photos of Dalai Lama. That once again proved how terrorized and helpless Chinese government finds itself against the influence, even photos, of the Dalai Lama who rules the hearts of present generations of Tibetans even 62 years after he escaped from Tibet to seek asylum in India.
Wonpo town used to belong to Tibet’s eastern province Kham before China occupied Tibet in 1951. Later China ‘reorganized’ Tibet’s three provinces and assimilated Kham and Amdo into adjoining four Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai and declared the remaining parts along with Utsang province as the ‘Autonomous Region of Tibet’ (TAR). Interestingly, Wonpo is not a part of TAR what China claims as ‘Tibet’.
BEIJING HATES DALAI LAMA – AND WANTS HIM TOO
It may sound strange to outside world that on the one hand the Chinese communist rulers of Tibet are trying to knock out the influence of Dalai Lama from the mind and hearts of their Tibetan colonial subjects.But on the other hand the Beijing leaders are today going out of their way to claim exclusive rights of identifying and installing the next baby boy incarnation of the ageing Dalai Lama (now 86) after his demise. Beijing government has even passed a law which not only forbids all ‘external’ forces, including the Dalai Lama himself, from participation in the identification process of next Dalai Lama but also gives the monopoly of conducting this religious search process to the Communist Party of China.
In Chinese ruled Tibet today one of the worst crimes an individual can commit is to carry a photo of Dalai Lama on his person or somewhere in a hidden corner of one’s house. This crime can cost a person or entire family jail term upto seven years and even loss of basic civil rights like one’s job or admission of one’s child in the local school.
According to details released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), a prominent watchdog of human rights at international levels, the Wonpo action of Chinese commandos was in response to public outcry of Tibetan netizensagainst killing of a 19 year old monk Tenzin Nyima of DzaWonpo monastery. Nyima was arrested along with six other young Tibetans for holding a public demonstration in November 2019 against China’s forcible settlement of local Tibetan nomads into matchbox like houses in their area. As per details released by HRW, Nyima was quietly released by the Chinese police in early October last year as his physical condition became very precarious due to severe police torture. The local hospital forced poor Nyima’s family to cough up a huge sum of RMB 40,000 which is equal to US$ 6,200(Rs. 4,40,000 in Indian equivalents) to handle his treatment. In simple terms this amount is more than three year salary of an average Tibetan employee in today’s Tibet. But the hospital discharged Nyima some weeks later saying that his condition was beyond treatment. Nyima finally died on January 19 this year due to the injuries caused by police torture.
WHEN ARBITRARY DETENTION IS A DEATH SENTENCE
Releasing details of this case Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW, termed the killing of Nyima as an “arbitrary detention turned into a death sentence”. “They should hold to account all those responsible for the brutal killing of the Tibetan monk Tenzin Nyima,” she said in a HRW statement. According to HRW, six other Tibetan youths, most of them monks, are still in jail serving sentences between one and six years on charges of participating in the demonstration or sharing on social media the statements condemning the Chinese action.
As public anger built up and started overflowing in the social media, thePAP contingent was dispatched to Wonpo to quell public protests. Soon after arrival in Wonpothe PAP soldiers raided an old home of local Tibetans to search and confiscate photos of the Dalai Lama.This operation was especially undertaken to prepare for the inspection of the town and the old home by Yuan Mingguang, a top ranking Communist Party Secretary who was to visit Wonpo town next day.
PUPPET PANCHEN LAMA
Following this operation the inmates were forced to hang photos of Chinese leaders, including those of GyaltsenNorbu on the common walls of the old home and the living rooms of the inmates. GyaltsenNorbu is the Beijing sponsored ‘Panchen Lama’ of Tibet whom ordinary Tibetan people have refused to accept as the legitimate reincarnation of 10th Panchen Lama who had died in 1989 under fishy circumstances. Tibetan people strongly believe that the 10th Panchen Lama was killed by the Chinese government soon after his public criticism of Chinese colonial rule over Tibet. In May 1995 a search party of Tibetan monks, established by the Communist Party leaders, found out a six year old boy named Gedhun ChoekyiNyima as the new incarnation of the deceased Panchen Lama. But Chinese authorities arrested the little boy, his parents and all senior monks of the search team on the ground that instead of seeking approval of the Communist authorities first, they had clandestinely taken approval of exiled Dalai Lama for the boy as the genuine reincarnation of previous Panchen Lama. Within two days the Communist Party installed another five year old boy GyaltsenNorbu as the ‘real’11th Panchen Lama.
Since then China has been grooming GyaltsenNorbu, now 31 years old, as the 11th incarnation of Panchen Lama. Control over Panchen Lama is very important for the Chinese in their political games in occupied Tibet. He is technically considered as the second highest religious leader of Tibet after the Dalai Lama who, besides being the supreme spiritual authority of Tibet wasalso the ruler of traditional Tibet until China occupied it in 1951. Following Dalai Lama’s dramatic escape to India in 1959 the Chinese government manipulated the 10th Panchen Lama to perpetuate their colonial control over Tibet.
EYES ON NEXT INCARNATION OF DALAI LAMA
The position of Panchen Lama has become more important for the Chinese government today because by Tibetan tradition the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama play important role in recognizing and authenticating the reincarnation of each other. Following death of one the other spiritual leader also functions as a teacher of the incarnate boy. With the advancing age of exiled Dalai Lama, Chinese government is keen to install a baby boy of its own choice as the next Dalai Lama of Tibet after he demise of current Dalai Lama (14th in the five century old lineage) with the hope of overcoming resistance of Tibetan people against Chinese occupiers of Tibet.
Interestingly, ordinary Tibetan masses inside Chinese occupied Tibet have consistently refused to accept GyaltsenNorbu as the ‘real’ Panchen Lama. Even 26 years after his installation by Beijing the Chinese authorities have to use force and administrative authority to make Tibetan people attend his public meetings and sermons. Even three decades after the death of previous Panchen Lama, ordinary Tibetans hang his photos in homes and shops and not of the Beijing sponsored ‘Gyamie Panchen’ (i.e. Chinese Panchen Lama). International human rights organizations like the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many parliaments, especially the European Parliament and the US Congress have been ceaselessly asking the Chinese government to release Gedhun or, at least, make information public about his personal safety. But Beijing has refused to budge from its stone silenceever since Gedhun and his parents were arrested in 1995. Chinese rulers have also left no occasion to present Gyaltsen as the ‘real’ Panchen Lama on many Chinese and international Buddhist platforms.
Beijing’s repeated insistence that Chinese Communist Party and the government hold the exclusive ownership of the process of identifying and installing the next Dalai Lama only exposes theChinese leaders’ worries and political intentions on the issue of next reincarnation of Dalai Lama.In response to these Chinese assertions the Dalai Lama himself has warned the Chinese government saying, “Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through legitimate methods no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.”
Coming in direct support of Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people the US government has passed a new law entitled ‘Tibetan Policy and Support Act-2020’ this year which warns the government of China and its leaders against interfering in the reincarnation process of Dalai Lama. European Union too has formally put on record its support for Dalai Lama’s rights to decide about his reincarnation and has asked China “to respect the Dalai Lama’s succession in accordance with Tibetan Buddhist standards.”
However, Beijing has shown no signs of listening to the advice of either the human rights groups or world governments or parliaments. As far as the people of Tibet are concerned, their undying faith in their deposed and exiled ruler the Dalai Lama and their open defiance on the puppet Panchen Lama has made it clear that the real challenge to the Chinese rulers of Tibet is from the people of Tibet.
*VIJAY KRANTI is a Senior Indian Journalist and a keen watcher of Tibet-China scene for five decades. He is Chairman, Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement, New Delhi.