Defying Chinese Oppression: Tibetan Uprising Day and the Fight for Independence


“On the 10th of March 1959, the Tibetan people reasserted their Tibetan independence suffering almost nine years of foreign domination. Foreign rule, alas, continues in Tibet but I know that I am proud to know that the spirit of our people remains uncrushed and unshaken in their resolve to fight on till independence is regained. I know that the struggle, which began a few years ago is still being waged in Tibet against the invader and the oppressor who masquerades under the name and guise of ‘liberator’. I can confidently assert that the civilized world is, every day, becoming more and more aware of those, who, in the name of liberation, are crushing out the freedom of defenceless neighbours.”

This was the opening statement of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on the second anniversary of the 10th March Uprising Day in 1961, illustrating to us how Beijing forcefully annexed and occupied Tibet with Tibetans eventually asserting their Independence and self-determination.

Even with more than 60 years, as Tibetans will be commemorating the 64th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising there has been no major shift in Beijing’s attitude towards Tibetans. In many ways things has taken a downward spiral especially since the current People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) took the helm of leadership in 2013.

The official closing down of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa for pilgrims from 8th March to 12th March, 2023 is clearly an attempt to prevent the Tibetans from gathering together to commemorate the Tibetan Uprising Day in Tibet. Likewise on 2nd March just before a week of the uprising day, a young Tibetan woman, Yangtso, 23, was arrested by the police in committing the hard crime of contacting and sharing photos to those outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Sharing of photos and having them out be in public through social media is a freedom of expression enjoyed by the people of the world, yet in China occupied Tibet, Tibetans are constantly prevented for this basic act of freedom and instead get arrested, sentenced and violated for doing so, with Yangtso being the latest known Tibetans arrested for expressing herself.

These two basic acts of a. doing pilgrimage, which is sacred for Tibetans when it comes to their tradition of Buddhism b. sharing their life, opinions and thoughts to the public, including those outside your region. Which are prevented through legal policies are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tactics used by Beijing in controlling, suppressing, and crack downing Tibetans. The very basis of human life is choked out here and when you keep the illegal occupation of Tibetan territory as the base, things are spiced up and we continue to see a constant and daily clashes between the Chinese authorities and Tibetans.

Even though Tibetans both inside Tibet and those in exile have been able to narrate their predicament to the world and have gained popular support and sympathy, there has been no major developments when it comes to either the Tibetans in exile retuning back to Tibet or Beijing guaranteeing freedom of religion and rights to the Tibetans.

A clear example here is the breakdown of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue which for many years was a channel through which Tibetans in exile under the guidance of the HH the Dalai Lama were able to negotiate with the top brass Chinese leadership. According to former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran in his book review titled as ‘The Dalai Lama pursuit of a United Tibet’ he writes ‘The talks were suspended in 2012 when the Dalai Lama gave up his temporal leadership, which devolved on an elected Assembly and a prime minister. The status of the negotiators as personal representatives of His Holiness could no longer be sustained and the new dispensation in Dharamshala did not seem inclined to continue with the earlier practice.’

With China in the rise and still being the head of the global economy supply chain. It has a huge economic clout that time and again is converted and transformed into political clout. They rally behind this and continue to prevent the nations, individuals and organisation who support Tibet access to Tibetans and their Chinese people, who are also under their hardcore suppression.

Since, the onset of the Covid pandemic things seems to have changed in China as there have been protests throughout China with the A4 revolution taking the international media and observers on Tibet and China by surprise. But a clear distinguishable feature to note here is how Beijing is allowing Chinese people to protest and preventing the Tibetans, Ughyurs, Southern Mongolian, Honk Konger etc this same right of dissent. Giving proof to fact that the people of these regions continue to be suppressed even now when the rest of China is having access and means to protest.

This showcase of power and discrimination brazenly within annexed and occupied territories including Tibet and Xinjiang has now seen them listed as the most secret, protected and censored regions of the world by several leading Human Rights Organization including Freedom House. The example of the Tibetan diasporic community only able to verify the death of a self-immolated Tibetan in Tibet after many years since their passing away illustrates the tight net under which Tibetans live under Beijing rule. And each year this strong-hand governance, grows stronger and more vigilant than ever. The recent mention of nearly 100% Tibetans possessing smart phones who are under direct surveillances of the Communist government shows us the level of discretion in which Tibetans live in.

In spite of this mountain load of barriers set up systematically by Beijing in preventing Tibetans in Tibet and worldwide from reclaiming their legitimate independence and territorial lands. Tibetan will continue to call for freedom and justice for their fellow Tibetans, this year to mark the 64th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day, several simultaneous events will be taking place throughout the world with the Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile heading to address the event in Italy, Europe ‘Europe Stands with Tibet’. Some events to commemorate this day have already taken place as in Taipei, Taiwan on 6th March a large rally was held. And in Delhi, India with the G20 meeting taking place earlier this week, Tibetans protested in front of the Chinese embassy.

Beijing’s hesitancy over their governance over occupied Tibet indicates how they still fear Tibetans will rise again to reclaim their annexed territory and nation. We Tibetans knowing this must continue in this path but also engage in innovative means to ease the sufferings and burden carried by our Tibetan sisters and brothers in Tibet – who are directly under the thumb of Beijing and eventually return back and enjoy together a reunited and free Tibet.

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