Taiwanese should take the capture of Tibet by China to heart and support the Tibetan people’s pursuit of freedom, Tibetan rights activists said yesterday.
“Buddhists in Taiwan in particular should understand that people of the same faith in Tibet are suffering brutal oppression when they’re currently engaged in so-called religious exchanges with China,” Taiwan Friends of Tibet (TFT) chairperson Chou Mei-li (周美里) said at a symposium.
Participants at the symposium, organized by the TFT and Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP), yesterday in Taipei said that Tibetans striving for democracy under Chinese domination are being forced into extreme acts such as self-immolation.
Since 2009, 56 Tibetans, mostly monks, including 53 in China and three overseas, have committed suicide by setting themselves ablaze to call for Tibetan independence and religious freedom.
The reasons Tibetans killed themselves by burning themselves alive was similar to Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) who also set himself on fire, Chou said, “because it was their last resort — under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regimes respectively — to speak out to the world about what they believed in.”
What happened in Tibet after it signed the 1951 17-point Sino-Tibet Treaty would be a good example for Taiwanese to reflect when thinking about cross-strait relations, especially at a time when President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) appeared to be interested in signing a peace accord with Beijing, she said.
Sadly, Tibet was a reclusive country with a limited military presence and international engagement at the time, she said, “most of all, the Tibetan people were not vigilant and falsely believed that China would keep its promise of maintaining religious freedoms and social systems.”
“The peace treaty turned out as the prelude to a Chinese invasion and takeover,” Chou said.
The former director of Taiwan’s Regional Tibetan Youth Congress Tashi Tsering, who was born and raised in India and who has lived in Taiwan for 14 years, said self-immolation was the only way Tibetans are able to make the world take notice of their hardship following more than half century of Chinese oppression.
“While the People’s Liberation Army is armed with guns, Tibetans only have stones in their hands. Despite their protests against Beijing, Tibetans never killed Han people and would never resort to terrorism,” Tashi Tsering said.
Khedroop Thondop, a nephew of the Dalai Lama, explained to the audience that the negotiation process between Tibet and China since 1959 had been unfair and concluded that Beijing could never be trusted and the regime was not interested in understanding or respecting Tibetan culture and religion, which is why he supports Tibetan independence.
The self-immolations were actually sacrifices made to appeal their loss of freedom and beliefs, the vice president of Amnesty International, Taiwan Lin Shu-ya (林淑雅) said.
Beijing’s accusations that the dead monks had “violated the spirit of Buddhism by committing suicide,” is a distortion of the true spirit of Buddhism and is ironic given the atheist nature of the Chinese regime, she said.
Another irony was that most of the people who died after self-immolation were young people who grew up under Chinese influence and education, she said.
“That fact tells you something,” Lin said. “They could not know much about history and yet those young men would still be willing to sacrifice their lives because they longed for respect and dignity as human beings.”
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