No `Rights` for `Humans` in China

The humble Lamas have been at the receiving end of China’s plan to build a great country.

Updated: Jan 12, 2011, 15:16 PM IST

Kamna Arora

No one possibly understands the pain of being a prisoner in their own country than the Tibetans. Peace loving to the core, the humble Lamas have been at the receiving end of China’s plan to build a great country. A country, high on development but perhaps low, very low on taking into its fold voices of dissent.

Voices that cry out to be heard; voices that seek a better tomorrow for their future generations…

The Awakened

Dawa Tsering was kept in a detention centre for five months. Held by the Chinese police for protesting against the government, he was just 17 then.

A young Tibetan, who dared to raise voice against the Chinese government, he was mercilessly beaten for months and grilled countless times in the detention centre before being pushed into a life in solitude for four years.

The year was 1989 and Tsering did not lose strength. He could not lose hope as he represented - after the 1959 uprising - the ‘awakened generation’ which raised its voices against the tyrannical ways of the Communist elite.

His tormentors, steadfast in their belief in the revolution, didn’t stop at just torturing him to silence, they subjected him to “political re-education” – a potent weapon employed by the Chinese government to change the psychology of the prisoners towards Beijing.

Tsering was also `re-educated` and, before his release, forced to write two letters – one promising that he would not disseminate any information regarding the conditions in Chinese prison. And the second proclaiming that he would try to become a good Chinese citizen and that he accepts communist Chinese government.

However, the ‘awakened’, at great risk, did just the contrary.

He not only publicised the torture he went through but also openly criticised Beijing and paid the price…

Tsering left his motherland for India in 1993; not because he feared for his own safety but for the sake of his family. In China, if someone turns “revolutionary”, his family is made to pay - they are kept under surveillance and denied employment.

Much snow has melted on the mountain passes through which he made the arduous journey but Tibet has not changed. The persecution of the “free-thinkers” continues and there seems to be no end in sight.

The Rebel

On 5th of March 1995, 17-year-old Ngawang was distributing leaflets propagating ‘Free Tibet’ when he was nabbed by the Chinese police. When asked what motivated him to protests against the Chinese government when he knew what the consequences would be, Ngawang said he has a sense of history.

He proclaimed that Tibet was never a part of China. And certainly, he knew how brutal could Chinese government be, since his grandfather, who was arrested during 1959 uprising, never showed up again. A rebel was born.

Ngawang was kept in the detention centre for 10 months. Like other prisoners, he was subjected to physical torture, which he said could not be described in words. He was put in solitary confinement for most of the 10th month and beaten more often. They would make him kneel down, tie him up, handcuff him to the window for hours - it was humiliating and painful, recalled Ngawang.

The State’s men wanted him to follow their “understanding” of the government, but Ngawang, the rebel, did not surrender.

From the detention centre, Ngawang was sent to Drapchi prison for six years. He underwent ‘political re-education’.

He was angry but his outbursts were countered through more beating, more degradation.

The situation turned for the worse in 1998. He and his fellow prisoners were asked to help the officers in hoisting the Chinese flag and they protested.

Recalling the incident, the Ngawang, said: “We were imprisoned for protesting against China and in prison how could we accept Chinese flag on Tibetan land.”

But they were forced to attend the event. Protests followed ending with the shooting down of 10 political prisoners.

Ngawang was released in 2001 but his life had changed. The Chinese Police kept a watch on his activities. He had to give his phone number to them - which he was not allowed to change – and was asked to report his whereabouts on a daily basis.

But the mutineer refused to be cowed down. He participated in the 2008 protests while being fully aware that, from then, he could not be able to live in the lands of his ancestors, he had to move on to escape prosecution, escape death.

He left Lhasa for the mountains and hid there for 10 months, hoping against hope that providence would come to his rescue. He knew he was asking for too much but then leaving motherland was like leaving his soul behind.

But he did make that journey across the white expanse - most Tibetans cross over during winters as the Chinese are forced to lower their guard due to the inclement weather. He reached India on January 01, 2009.

A born crusader, Ngawang is now campaigning for justice.

He points out that despite China’s claims to the contrary, the number of political prisoners being freed from jails is much lesser than those who are being tortured and left to die inside the jails.

Thrashing the Chinese claims of economic development in Lhasa, Ngawang said that these claims are nothing more than eyewash.

“In mainland China, the development is for people, but in Tibet, the buildings, rail links are just for befooling the world. Yes, roads are being made in Tibet, but to connect only those villages which are rich in minerals. There is no help for those who are in need. There is no meaningful development in Tibet,” he says.

Mulling over the situation, he poignantly added: “The Chinese government wants Tibetans to depend on it.”

And as a pointer to the stifling situation in Lhasa, he revealed that not many in Tibet know what the world was doing for them.

“It is only after reaching Dharamsala that I came to know about all the efforts being made by a number of organizations and institutions across the world. However, the help is not reaching Tibetans at all,” he rued.

“The Chinese are not giving jobs to those who have not passed their subjects in Mandarin. They are doing this just to force Tibetans to abandon learning their own language. There are no cultural rights, no human rights, no language rights in Tibet,” he added.

Although, Ngawang still dreams of independent Tibet, yet he is okay with the middle path chosen by the Dalai Lama.

And, unlike Tsering, who is now meaningfully employed with a human rights organisation, Ngawang is still struggling for survival in his new home.

Despite his best efforts, he is still to find a job, although he is optimistic of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile helping him to find sustenance.

Life in Dharamsala is not easy. Away from his family, away from the misty mountains he called home, but he is fighting for a day when his land would be free, a dawn that would reveal the shining golden roof of the majestic Potala Palace in its resplendent glory of the lore…he is waiting.