Mon, Mar 14, 2011 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Tibetans share their uprising stories with the world

Tsewang Dhondup and Lobsang Thupten, both of whom were involved in the 2008 Tibetan uprising, tell the ‘Taipei Times’ about being shot and fleeing from Chinese authorities. They hid in the mountains for more than a year before escaping to India. Now they are traveling the world to tell their story

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Lobsang Thupten, left, and Tsewang Dhondup display pictures of gunwounds to Konka, a Tibetan monk who took part in an uprising against Chinese rule in 2008, during an interview yesterday.

Photo: Loa Iok-sin, Taipei Times

For many people around the world, the massive uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet and other areas of China inhabited by Tibetans in March 2008 might have been just another example of Tibetans voicing their resentment toward Chinese rule. However, for Tsewang Dhondup and Lobsang Thupten — two Tibetans from peasant families in the remote mountainous village of Tehor in Sichuan Province’s Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture — it was an event that completely changed their lives.

Born in 1970 and raised in the Chinese-controlled Tibetan autonomous region, Tsewang and Lobsang know all too well that China’s propaganda about “improving the lives” of Tibetans and “respecting Tibetan culture and religion” is all lies because of what has happened to their fellow villagers and themselves.

“If the quality of life has really been improved and modernized, why don’t we have basic things, such as a decent elementary school in our village?” Tsewang said in an interview with the Taipei Times yesterday.

“From first to fourth grade, we didn’t have paper or pencils or even classroom furniture,” he said. “We sat on the ground, each of us was given a tree branch and we wrote on the dusty ground. There were four teachers at the school and the one with the best education had graduated from the same elementary school and remained as a teacher because he could not pass the entrance exam for middle school.”

Education wasn’t something that villagers valued either because they knew that Tibetans did not enjoy the same opportunities as Chinese, even if they had the same education background, Tsewang said.

Since school was mandatory, many Tibetan children from farming villages were forced to go to school.

“Traditionally, many Tibetans were farmers, but when we are in school, we learned nothing, while at the same time we lost our skills to work on the farm because we had to stay in school instead of helping on the farm,” he said. “Thus, when we get out of school, we became nothing — we were just wasting time at school.”

“It’s not that I didn’t want to learn — I always wanted to learn more, but I didn’t have the chance to,” Tsewang added.

Originally, his village was self-sustainable, having always grown potatoes and other crops, “but since the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] took control, they forced us to plant useless things, such as thistles and thorns, to -intentionally make us dependent on the outside,” Tsewang said.

Resenting the Chinese government for his whole life, Tsewang finally saw what he thought could be an opportunity to overthrow Chinese rule on March 24, 2008.

Tsewang said he was helping to build an aqueduct for a local monastery along with more than 100 other villagers, when he heard what sounded like chanting and gunshots.

“We knew what happened in Lhasa, so when I heard it, I was quite excited because the uprising was finally happening in our village,” he said.

Without anyone giving orders, all the villagers working on the aqueduct dropped their tools and rushed to the scene of protest.

In front of the local police station, Tsewang saw hundreds of people — monks and ordinary villagers — chanting slogans including “We want the Dalai Lama back” and “Tibet must be free.”

Police officers tried to arrest the protesters, Tsewang recounted, but whenever a protestor was taken by the police, others would rush and clash with the police and try to free the protester.

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