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The struggle for a free Tibet and His Highness Dalai Lama

HH Dalai Lama

The struggle for a free Tibet and His Highness Dalai Lama

The 14th His Holiness Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, turns 87 on July 6th, 2022. He was Born on 6 July 1935, or in the Tibetan calendar, in the Wood-Pig Year, 5th month, 5th day. He is known as Gyalwa Rinpoche to the Tibetan people, is the current Dalai Lama, and the highest spiritual leader and former head of state of Tibet.

It has been over six decades since he started living in India. He calls himself a “son of India”. His birthday celebrations, each year, in India’s Dharamshala in the state of Himachal Pradesh had always been one of the biggest events for the Tibetan community. The central government of Tibet, the Ganden Phodrang, invested the HH Dalai Lama with temporal duties until his exile in 1959. On 29 April 1959, the HH Dalai Lama established the independent Tibetan government in exile in the north Indian hill station of Mussoorie, which then moved in May 1960 to Dharamshala, where he resides. He retired as political head in 2011 to make way for a democratic government, the Central Tibetan Administration.

His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. The curriculum, derived from the Nalanda tradition, consisted of five major and five minor subjects. At 23, His Holiness sat for his final examination in Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, during the annual Great Prayer Festival (Monlam Chenmo) in 1959. He passed with honors and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, equivalent to the highest doctorate in Buddhist philosophy.

In 1950, after China’s invasion of Tibet, His Holiness was called upon to assume full political power. In 1954, he went to Beijing and met with Mao Zedong and other Chinese leaders, including Deng Xiaoping and Chou Enlai. Finally, in 1959, following the brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness was forced to escape into exile. In exile, the Central Tibetan Administration led by His Holiness appealed to the United Nations to consider the question of Tibet. The General Assembly adopted three resolutions on Tibet in 1959, 1961, and 1965.

On 10 March 1959, more than 10 thousand Tibetans gathered in front of Norbulingka Palace, Lhasa to prevent His Holiness Dalai Lama from going to a performance at the Chinese Army Camp in Lhasa. On the fateful day of 15th March 1959, Chinese troops placed outside Norbulingka Palace fired artillery shells.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Cause : The interim government of Tibet being proclaimed by HHDL at Lhuntse Dzong, Tibet in March of 1959. Tibetan Government was formally reestablished here.

The interim government of Tibet was proclaimed by His Holiness at Lhuntse Dzong, Tibet in March 1959. Tibetan Government was formally reestablished here.

On the 17th of March, His Holiness escaped from Norbulingka Palace in the middle of the night and after 14 days of wandering and harrowing escape he entered India from Tibet on the 31st of March.
This is the escape route of His Holiness as illustrated in his memoir, “My land and My people”.

After all this fiasco on the 18th of April 1959, His Holiness Dalai Lama held an international press conference and formally repudiated the 17-Point Agreement. The agreement was signed by Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, who advocated Tibetan acquiescence to China, and sealed in Beijing on 23 May 1951 and confirmed by the government in Tibet a few months later. The 17 points agreement was draconian for the Tibetan people and HHDL and other prominent Tibetans gave their consent out of pressure and sheer reluctance.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Cause : 17 point agreement
Signing the Seventeen Point Agreement at Zhongnanhai, 23 May 1951

Signing the Seventeen Point Agreement at Zhongnanhai, 23 May 1951.

The 17 points had colonial intent which was depicted in the following points of the agreement:

  • The Tibetan people shall return to the family of their Motherland the People’s Republic of China.
  • The local government of Tibet shall actively assist the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to enter Tibet and consolidate the national defenses.
  • Tibetan troops shall be gradually reorganized into the PLA, and become a part of the PRC’s defense force.
  • The local government of Tibet should assist the PLA in the purchase and transport of food, fodder, and other daily necessities.

In 1963 HH Dalai Lama presented a draft democratic constitution for Tibet and established the first exile Tibetan Parliament in Dharamsala.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the US Congressional Human Rights Caucus and announcing his Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet in Washington DC, USA on September 21, 1987

He visited many countries like Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the UK, West Germany & Austria to spread peace, hold talks on Buddhism, and garner support for the ultimate cause.

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He was awarded the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace in Oslo, Norway for “advocating peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”

China has never liked the HH Dalai Lama or anyone who even meets the messenger of peace. China was fumed at the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize for HH Dalai Lama.

“It is interference in China’s internal affairs, It has hurt the Chinese people’s feelings. “Tibet’s affairs are wholly and purely China’s own business. The Dalai Lama is not simply a religious leader but also a political figure . . . who aims to divide the mother country and undermine political unity.”

Wang Guisheng, counselor at the Chinese embassy

Let alone the Nobel Prize, even the birthday wishes to HHDL on Twitter by World leaders in 2021, doesn’t go well with the Chinese regime.

Birthday greetings to Dalai Lama by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a futile attempt to show attitude to China

Chinese State media Global Times

In 2016, the United States and Canada co-sponsored a conference built around Nobel peace prize winners, on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council’s 31st session in Geneva. HH Dalai Lama was invited to the conference, which was chaired by UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore. China voiced “strong dissatisfaction” and lodged solemn representations on the invitation to HHDL.

Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long been engaged in activities to split China instead of a simple religious person. Dalai Lama, the biggest serf owner in old Tibet , is not entitled to talk about human rights.

China firmly oppose Dalai Lama to visit any country with any identity or in any name. China is also against officials from any country to have contact with Dalai Lama in any form.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei

On 28th July 2021, more than 100 Nobel Prize winners accused China of ‘bullying’ after an effort to stop HH Dalai Lama and a pro-Taiwan independence chemist from speaking at the Nobel Prize Summit in April alongside the Nobel Foundation. On April 25, the embassy emailed the academy, demanding that the Dalai Lama and Taiwan chemist Lee not speak at the first-of-its-kind summit, which focused on climate change and sustainable development. However, His Holiness Dalai Lama came and delivered a peaceful message and ignored the distractors completely.

The Chinese authorities for several years have been promoting the propitiation of the Shugden Sect inside Tibet as a part of their campaign to undermine the Dalai Lama.  Two Tibetans in the Tibet Autonomous Region have been imprisoned for allegedly discouraging the propitiation of the Shugden ‘protector’ spirit in Tibet.

Inside the PRC, officials have long used Shugden propitiation to create divisions between Tibetans, often encouraging Tibetans to propitiate Shugden and offering financial inducements to do so. Shugden statues have been installed in monasteries in different parts of Tibet, often against the will of resident monks.

In some cases, even small monasteries connected to Shugden have had large amounts of funding from the government compared to much larger monasteries with a higher population of monks where Shugden is not propitiated. In 2008, thousands of yuan were allocated to a relatively small monastery in Amdo which propitiates Shugden. In contrast, the much larger monastery across the river in Takstang Lhamo had its school closed down and struggled for funding after monks participated in a peaceful demonstration, asserting their Tibetan identity.

The Dalai Lama has repudiated the propitiation of Shugden (also known as “Dolgyal”) for its sectarianism and the Tibetan community should stay alert from the activities of Shugden.

The second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism is Panchen Lama. Dalai Lama appoints the Panchen Lama and along with the council of high lamas, Panchen Lama in turn is in charge of seeking out the next Dalai Lama.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is the 11th Panchen Lama, as announced by His Holiness on 14th May 1995. Three days later on 17th May, the 6-year-old Panchen Lama was kidnapped by the Chinese government.

Gedhun Choekyi Nyima remains forcibly detained by the Chinese government, along with his family, in an undisclosed location since 1995

original Panchen Lama
New Chinese Panchen Lama

Six months after Gedhun Choekyi Nyima’s abduction, Chinese authorities announced that they had found the so-called “real” reincarnation of the Panchen Lama. They named Gyaltsen Norbu, a Tibetan boy and the son of two Communist Party members, the Panchen Lama. He is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a top advisory body to China’s government, and a senior figure in China’s state-run Buddhist Association.

On June 27, 2022, it was revealed that China is planning to relocate 17,000 Tibetan people. More than 130,000 people in more than 100 Tibet towns will be covered under the relocation plan in the following eight years under the guise of protection of the environment. This is not just a one-off case but the Tibetan community has been suppressed in the following brutal ways over the decades altogether.

Suppression of Tibetan Voices
  • Tibetans face intense surveillance in their daily lives, with security cameras, police checkpoints and party officials monitoring their movements and activities.
  • Peaceful protests are suppressed with severe violence. Protesters are imprisoned, tortured and may even be shot.
  • China has repeatedly violated UN conventions through extensive use of torture against Tibetan political prisoners.
  • Prisons in Tibet are full of people detained for simply expressing their desire for freedom. They are arrested and convicted for peaceful acts, such as waving the Tibetan flag, calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and sending information about events in Tibet abroad.
Cultural and Religious Suppression
  • The Tibetan flag and national anthem are banned.
  • The CCP has attempted to erase the Dalai Lama from Tibet. Possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama or mentioning him in public can result in imprisonment and torture.
  • Thousands of monks, nuns and students have been forcibly evicted from their residences in communities such as Larung Gar and Yarchen Gar and thousands of homes demolished.
  • Writers, singers, artists and teachers are jailed for celebrating Tibetan national identity and for any criticism of China’s rule.
  • The Tibetan language is under threat; Chinese is the language of schooling and business, while Tibetan is restricted and marginalized.
  • Tibetan school children are also being denied classes in their mother tongue, and increasingly being taught in Chinese instead. Schools teaching in Tibetan are being forced to close.
  • Around 800,000-900,000 Tibetan children have been separated from their families and forced to undergo education in colonial boarding schools, where they are subject to indoctrination, an attempt by the CCP to eliminate Tibetans’ national identity.
  • Travel for Tibetans is restricted, with police checkpoints monitoring movement and permits required to visit ‘sensitive’ religious areas.
At least 157 other Tibetans have self-immolated since its occupation. Out of these, 141 did so within Tibet, while the remaining five were living in exile.

His Holiness Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Cause he stood for have been an inspiration for generations of Tibetans. He suggested the following scenarios for picking the next Dalai Lama in various speeches:

  • Picking a new successor from India
  • Appointing a female Dalai Lama
  • No reincarnation-based Dalai Lama

This is to avoid China from choosing a puppet Dalai Lama who will demolish the Tibetan way of life forever. The literal meaning of Dalai Lama is an ocean of wisdom and he is the only peaceful force who can change things around for the peaceful Tibetan community in exile for decades.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”: His Holiness Dalai Lama


Hwa-Young compiled and curated this report

Hwa-Young (South Asia Analyst of Ij-reportika)

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