(Text of an E-mail interview given by me to a journalist writing for " Avvenire" , a Catholic journal of Italy )
Question:Since the end of the Olympic Games silence has fallen about the situation in Tibet. What is really happening today?
Answer:The violation of the human rights of the Tibetans continues.There is a systematic attempt to suppress their devotion to and reverence for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. It is a crime even to have in one's possession a picture of His Holiness. To intimidate the population and to prevent any new uprisings against Beijing, arrests of Tibetans suspected of sympathy for His Holiness and being critical of the policies of Beijing are made periodically under the pretext of a campaign against splittism.Despite this, Tibetan defiance continues.
Question:How China is “colonizing” Tibet?
Answer: The policy of settling a large number of Han Chinese in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas and exercising economic pressure on the Tibetans to seek their livelihood in other parts of China in order to reduce the proportion of ethnic Tibetans in the Tibetan homeland continues. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) continues to have a strong presence in Tibet and its requirements for the defence of Tibet are given priority over the requirements of the Tibetans for their livelihood. A conference on Tibet called the Tibet Work Forum held in Beijing in January,2010, under the auspices of the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party recognised for the first time that most of the development in Tibet till now has been infrastructure related and that, as a result, while the urban areas have developed, there has not been adequate development in the rural areas. Since most of the Han settlers live in the urban areas, it will not be incorrect to say that they have been the main beneficiaries of whatever development has taken place in Tibet. Visitors to Tibet, who praise the development in Tibet under Chinese rule, do not study and analyse which sections of the population have been the beneficiaries of the development that has taken place.Separate Data relating to the development of the Han and Tibetan sections of the population are not available for an objective statistical study. The Tibetans allege that it is the Han settlers, who have been the major beneficiaries of the development and not the native Tibetans.While the world has recognised Tibet as an integral part of China, it has not been insisting that China should follow a policy of Tibet for the Tibetans giving priority to the economic, social and spiritual needs of the Tibetans first.
Question:Is the Chinese regime controlling the monasteries?
Answer:Yes it is.The Ministry of Public Security, which is the internal security agency, keeps a tight control over the functioning of the monasteries and other places of worship. Periodically, when the PLA apprehends unrest on important anniversaries such as the anniversary of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the anniversary of the flight of His Holiness to India, the anniversary of the 2008 uprising etc preventive arrests of Buddhist monks are made.There are severe restrictions on the Buddhist monks taking out religious processions and on monks of different monasteries meeting each other.
Question:Are the monks free, right now, or not? And, if yes, what “kind” of freedom are they allowed? Is this freedom increasing or decreasing compared to the past or not?
Answer:The monasteries are allowed to hold their regular prayers and the people are allowed to visit the monasteries for prayers and for seeking the spiritual guidance of the monks, but any reference to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to his teachings on such occasions is a crime punishable with imprisonment. One can officiate as a monk only with the prior persomission of the Ministry of Public Security. The monks have the "freedom" to perform their spiritual tasks in accordance with their religion provided such performance does not violate the directives of the Ministry and disturb law and order. Tibetan Buddhism in Chinese Colours and prayers to Buddha in accordance with the requirements of the Chinese Communist Party and the directives of the Ministry of Public Security are the norms.The "freedom" allowed to the monks continues to be subject to severe restrictions.
Question:Is Tibetan Buddhism under some threat in these days or not?
Answer:It is. Apart from imposing and enforcing severe restrictions on the monasteries and monks, the Chinese have sought to undermine the influence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama over the Tibetan people and increase the influence of the Panchen Lama appointed by the Communist Party.The Chinese are determined to ensure that the reincarnation of His Holiness, when he dies, will take place as laid down by the party and the Government and that God and the people will have no say in determining who is the reincarnation of His Holiness and hence should succeed His Holiness. After having imposed Tibetan Buddhism in Chinese colours on the Tibetan people, the Chinese are getting ready to impose a Dalai Lama in Chinese colours on the Tibetan people.The Chinese are seeking to create a new Buddhism in Tibet, which would totally break with the beliefs and traditions of the Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism yes, Tibetan Buddhism No----that is the Chinese objective.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )