July 12, 2013

Buddha Buzz: Birthday Celebrations for HHDL Draw Teargas and Gunfire in Tibet

Alex Caring-Lobel

Celebrations honoring the Dalai Lama’s 78th birthday were disrupted on Saturday in the Ganzi prefecture in Tibet when Chinese paramilitary forces fired on a crowd of 500 Tibetans, leaving at least six injured.

Host to a spat of self-immolations and an overwhelming security presence, the area of Tawu (or Daofu, in Chinese) is often referred to as a “volatile area.” Associated Press reports that the crowd was commemorating the Dalai Lama’s birthday by scaling a popular hillside, routinely blocked by Chinese authorities, in order “to burn incense and hang prayer flags.” Chinese officials in Ganzi and the Foreign Ministry both told Reuters they were unaware of the shooting, though it was confirmed by the International Campaign for Tibet and other inside sources. The Foreign Ministry went on to accuse the Dalai Lama of using his birthday to promote his separatist agenda. 

 China’s highest official in charge of religious groups and ethnic minorities vowed, on Tuesday, to take a “clear-cut stand and deepen the struggle against the Dalai clique.” The hardline response seems to be aimed at quelling speculation that China is exploring more progressive policies on the plateau. Reports came in several weeks ago citing discussions about lifting restrictions on displaying images of the Dalai Lama in some areas, an “experiment” in reform that Chinese officials quickly denied, though analysts believe Chinese authorities would want to keep changes quiet when they are being tested in isolated areas. International Campaign for Tibet confirmed that experiments in reform are at least being discussed.

All this comes in the wake of a critique of China’s Tibet policy from the belly of the beast, the influential Central Party School in Beijing. Director of Ethnic Religious Studies Jin Wei said, in an interview with Hong Kong–based Asia Weekly, that Tibet policy is failing and requires reform. She advised that the Chinese government reinitiate dialogue with the Dalai Lama and negotiate with him, thereby recognizing that China's official treatment of the spiritual leader has alienated Tibetans.

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An individual or organization has yet to claim responsibility for the attack on Mahabodhi temple complex and its environs in Bodh Gaya, India, which left two monks injured. (There is, however, no shortage of speculation regarding the perpetrators.) India’s National Investigation Agency has launched a probe, but haven't identified a motive for the series of low-intensity blasts on Sunday.

Monks have gathered in Thailand and Sri Lanka to demonstrate against the attack and rally for peace. You can watch video footage of the demonstrations (via The Guardian) below.

—Alex Caring-Lobel

Image: "Tibetans in China’s Sichuan province attempt to commemorate the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6, 2013."

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David Gould's picture

The reality as I see it, is that the Chinese Communist Party has no good will towards Tibetans. Their religious traditions, the place of reincarnations and especially that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the language and culture which is imbued with Buddhism, is something to dominate, control and ultimately eradicate. It is an irony that Chinese Communists know no middle way. Their way is power by the bayonet, by the informer, by torture, the rape of nuns and the forced abortion of Tibetan women. Their conduct profoundly challenges the values of Buddhism and the response of ahimsa, of bodhicitta and dialogue, which His Holiness has always sought. Arguably, demanding nothing less than Tibetan independence may well have been what should have been demanded of this illegitimate regime.

Richard Fidler's picture

Is 'His Holiness" a translation of a Tibetan term or is it something applied to the Dalai Lama by Western Buddhists? Is it meant to be a parallelism to "The Holy Father" of the pope? Such titles do not impress me. Isn't the Dalai Lama a title by itself? Then why add to it?

Dolgyal's picture

I think you are missing the the main point here: an unarmed Tibetan monk was shot in the head by Chinese security forces on July 6, 2013. See the link I posted below.

Dolgyal's picture

A more detailed report on the Tibetan monk who was shot in the head by Chinese security forces July 6, 2013:
http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=33700&article=Tibetan+monk+shot+in+the+head%2c+Others+severely+injured+for+the+Dalai+Lama’s+birthday+prayers