Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On Turning 32

I am turning 32 today. And it's hard enough not to feel fortunate to be living in a time when history is being rewritten. But what makes me feel doubly grateful is that Tibetans are at the forefront of this great wave of change, shaping our own future, influencing the course of world history.

In the shadow of the highly publicized Arab Spring, a quieter but equally significant revolution is sweeping Tibet. From Lhasa to Kardze to Chamdo to Ngaba, we are seeing acts of nonviolent resistance multiply across the plateau. Amid China's pitch-black oppression, Tibetans are using the most creative tactics including political protests, economic noncooperation, civil disobedience, cultural revival, and social innovation.

While we have been devastated by this year's string of Tibetan self-immolations, we have also been inspired by the unparalleled courage and sacrifice that motivated these acts. The self-immolations, the protests, the boycotts, the vigils, the direct actions, all reflect a turning point -- Tibetans have conquered fear of the Chinese government, and thus sealed its fate well before its death. As we know all too well from the history of other countries, when the oppressed becomes fearless, the oppressor becomes powerless.

The fate of Tibet is intertwined with that of the world. Freedom for Tibet will promote peace and nonviolence around the world. There is no greater argument for nonviolence than the victory of a nonviolent struggle over the largest dictatorship of the century.

I ask you to grant my wish by donating to Students for a Free Tibet -- the organization that is helping to change the course of Tibetan history with its innovative campaigns, dramatic actions, unstoppable activists, all working toward a common vision. Read some highlights of SFT's achievements in 2011. We are working to mobilize the forces of change for Tibet so that the uprisings we've seen in 2011 become a prelude to the revolutions that may come in 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Like Sands in a Mandala

A new Tibetan song I wrote a while ago... below is the English translation of part of the lyrics:

When the mind is at peace
And the body is at ease
And you are with me
All the sorrows of samsara
Fall away like sands in a mandala.

Disillusioned by samsara
I went to seek nirvana
In a retreat in the mountains.
But the mountaintop was barren
In the depth of samsara, I found nirvana.

There is life after death, they say
But it means little to me either way.
To share with you the sorrows of this life,
I will part with the joys
Of a thousand lifetimes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In An Endless Dream

In an endless dream
I was wide awake
guarding you from myself
while wishing the dawn
would never break

In an endless dream
you were fast asleep
or that's how it seemed
until I let my hand
run through your hair

In an endless dream
you opened your eyes
smiling away your surprise
your eyelashes swept through
the floors of my temple

In an endless dream
we walked side by side
not toward any place
but merely into
each other's embrace

In an endless dream
I thought no more
of the future or the past
I just prayed for
the present to last

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Revolution Will Be Tweeted In Tibetan

The Tibetan language is making an unexpected comeback, growing in size, stature, usage, relevance and spread in recent years. I wrote an article in the Huffington Post about this encouraging phenomenon. Check it out here:

Here is an excerpt:

One of the rare advantages of being born a refugee is that you become bilingual by default. As a Tibetan educated in India and the United States, I'm often asked to interpret for Tibetan speakers at meetings, rallies and press conferences. Yesterday, I facilitated a brainstorming session between Nathan Freitas, Tibet Action Institute's Technology Director and a pioneer in digital activism, and Kusho Monlam, a Tibetan monk and pioneer in the computerization of Tibetan language.

As the discussion turned to the technical methods and challenges of creating Tibetan keyboards on Android phones, my usefulness as an interpreter quickly diminished. Nathan doesn't speak Tibetan, and Kusho Monlam doesn't speak English. But somehow, in the universal yet mysterious language of computer programming, they understood each other perfectly. I tried to follow their conversation, not unlike a child listening to grownups talk about subprime mortgages and toxic assets...

It is said that language is a cornerstone of nationhood. The Tibetan people's collective ability to communicate ideas, share stories, conduct business, and express opinions in a unique language all our own is one of the strongest arguments for Tibetan sovereignty. After attending the conference and seeing how the Tibetan language has grown in stature, size, usage, and relevance in the last five years, I was overwhelmed with hope for the future.

Read the full post here:

P.S. Here is a pamphlet SFT published last year: TEN WAYS TO PROMOTE TIBETAN:

Friday, December 9, 2011

Human Rights? Still a Distant Dream for Tibetans

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day, an anniversary that celebrates one of the monumental achievements of the last century. To six million Tibetans who live in an endless nightmare of China's colonial oppression, the concept of human rights, however, remains a distant dream six decades after the birth of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yesterday in the SFT headquarters, we crowded around a laptop to watch a new video that contained raw footage of a Chinese police raid on Tibetan homes in a village near Lhasa in 2008. The video, released by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile this week, was the most terrifying thing I have seen in a long time:

This footage doesn't show beatings or burnings or explosions; the images are much more ordinary and, ironically, much more disturbing -- probably because it could happen to anyone in Tibet. It shows a team of Chinese SWAT and PLA troops, armed to the teeth, breaking into Tibetan homes at dawn, dragging people out of bed, barely giving them time to put on their jackets or shoes, whisking them away with no warrant, no explanation, no nothing.

The first person they arrest is a young man named Tsering Norsang, 32 years old, whose eyes dart from left to right in bewilderment as he is escorted -- for lack of a better word -- from his home. The troops make him kneel down in the snow while they hunt down their next victims, whose "crimes" may have consisted of participating in peaceful demonstrations or sending a text message about someone's detention.

The footage reminded me of World War II movies that reenact scenes of Nazi soldiers rounding up Jewish citizens in Europe. Sadly, for Tibetans, this is not a page from a history textbook, it is an ongoing horror that is driving them to breaking point. Against the background noise of dogs barking and heavy footsteps in the snow, you can almost hear the detainees' hearts pounding against their chests, as their fate hangs in balance in the frigid air of one of the world's most oppressed lands.

Where are they being taken? Will they get a fair trial? Have they disappeared already? Will they return? Where will they be tomorrow, on December 10th, Human Rights Day?

These are the questions the world must answer.

The world is finally speaking out. In an epic display of unprecedented global public support, over 700,000 people have signed pledges to save Tibetan lives.

The British Parliament held a debate on the Tibet crisis this week. Leading the debate, Simon Hughes MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats said, "I hope the government will strongly take up the issue of the self-immolations with the Chinese authorities, and make a robust statement of concern."

Following a lobbying initiative by SFT Japan and the Tibetan community of Tokyo, senior Japanese leaders, including two vice ministers and two members of parliament, pledged their support for the Tibetan cause and signed the Stand up for Tibet petition.

In the age of the Internet, when the entire globe is connected by instantaneous news headlines and realtime social networks, we cannot allow China's fire power and firewall to isolate Tibet into a black hole of oppression.

Contrary to what some may believe, Chinese leaders care about what the world thinks and says regarding Tibet and their human rights record. As bad as it is, the situation could be a lot worse if it weren't for global public pressure and attention.