The Taiwan Friends of Tibet yesterday said it was dismayed by an exhibition of Tibetan religious and artifacts at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, calling it an exhibition of “stolen Tibetan art” and a tool for China’s political propaganda.
“The ‘Treasures from the Roof of the World’ exhibition that opened on July 1 is actually an exhibition of ‘Tibet’s stolen treasures,’” the organization said in a press statement.
“The exhibition, organized with the help of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region Administration of Cultural Heritage, not only tries to create an image that China is the legitimate ruler of Tibet, but also attempts to cover up the fact that China rules over Tibet with an iron fist,” the statement said.
Many of the religious items on display in Taipei, the statement said, had been collected from the more than 6,000 Buddhist monasteries that were destroyed after the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1959.
The majority of those monasteries were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.
Former Taiwan-Tibet Exchange Foundation deputy secretary-general Own Su-jei (翁仕杰) reminded visitors to “be aware of the underhanded political intentions behind the exhibition, which has all the appearance of a purely artistic event.”
Items on exhibit include centuries-old Buddhist sculptures, traditional Tibetan silk paintings known as thangka and other religious items.
Regional Tibetan Youth Congress Taiwan chairman Tashi Tsering said that as a Tibetan, the exhibition made him furious.
“The religious art crafts on display are sacred items for Tibetans,” he said. “These items are all in the hands of Chinese and they are sending them to exhibitions in whichever country they want without asking Tibetans, as if these were their own national treasures.”
Li Jieh-mei (李介媚), another member of the organization, said: “How would Taiwanese feel if China organized a tour of Taiwan’s Atayal Aboriginal dance around the world, only to tell people that it’s a traditional Chinese folk dance?”
“Visitors may be under the impression that China is taking good care of Tibetan religious crafts, but in fact, the Chinese government is repressing Tibetans’ freedom of religion,” Li said.
In related news, the exhibition organizer had asked Dawa Tsering, chairman of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama — the de facto representative of the Tibetan government-in-exile — to offer recommendations for the exhibition, but he turned the request down because Dawa said the wording in the official exhibition guide presented a Beijing-centric view of Tibetan history.
The Dalai Lama, who was forced into exile in India in 1959, will be celebrating his 75th birthday tomorrow.