The Ultimate Political Spinmaster, the 14th Dalai Lama

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By Shashi Kei

Most people of the free world grow up hearing stories of Chinese oppression of the Tibetan people and the destruction of their culture and religion. The same people watched video clips and news of the Dalai Lama in his maroon and yellow robes speaking words of wisdom, and preaching peace, tolerance and universal love. And so, for the most part of people’s lives, that is the extent of their understanding of the Tibetan issue: the peaceful and gentle Tibetans being oppressed by the ‘brutal’ and ‘wicked’ Chinese, and a wise and humble monk giving his life to secure freedom for his people and continuance of an ancient religion. But how real is this version of the Tibet issue by which the Dalai Lama and his government, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), have successfully marshalled the support of the people of the world, prominent leaders of the free Western nations and unaccountable millions in foreign aid?

In 2010, the current affairs show Cross Talkhosted by veteran journalist Peter Lavelle made a number of observations which questioned the authenticity of the Dalai Lama’s Tibet as the world imagines it. That, and other assumptions which arose during the show continue to be relevant today, if not more so because ongoing support for the Dalai Lama’s mission comes at an increasingly high stake. Essentially, at issue is whether Western support of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan cause has been based on reality or a constructed myth – a myth that has been allowed to perpetuate due to decades of effective propaganda that has clouded the modern man’s critical judgement when it comes to the Dalai Lama.


Myth #1: The Dalai Lama’s life work is to return Tibetans to their homeland and restore their freedom before the invasion of the Communist Red Army.

Sino-Tibetan history is exceptionally complex and it would be farcical to read a few chapters of Chinese or Tibetan narration and conclude that Tibet historically came under China’s sovereignty or that Tibet was always a free nation. Without doubt, the Chinese army did take Tibet by military might and their policies in Tibet from 1959 to the late 1970’s were disastrous towards the Tibetan people. While no one can or should deny China’s human rights failings during that period, the question that needs to be asked is whether the Tibetans fared any better under centuries of rule under past and present Dalai Lamas. It is indisputable that Tibet was not the Shangri-la that many had imagined and was never the peaceful, free and harmonious society that the Dalai Lama and his clique often conjure up. For up to 95% of the Tibetan population, life under the Dalai Lamas was hell on earth.

The Dalai Lama’s Tibet was a theocratic feudalism and the ruling elite of monks (of which the Dalai Lama was the head) exploited the people mercilessly. The Tibetan people were mainly serfs or slaves and were not entitled to any rights whatsoever. Concepts such as justice and legal process were completely absent and the ruling class, which concentrated in the person of the Dalai Lama, was absolute law. The Tibetan penal code was marked by extreme cruelty, often with punitive measures consisting of severe floggings, mutilations of limbs, gouging of eyes, pulling skin off the flesh of those being punished, and such like torture.

For generations, the Tibetan people were kept in check by the ruling class of Lamas wielding a double edged sword – fear of present physical punishment and superstitious terror of religious repercussions in the afterlife. These were indoctrinated into the minds of simple and uneducated peasants and serfs for centuries, and each subsequent generation of Tibetans became more accepting of their fate without question. The common belief was whoever opposes the will of the Lamas opposes the will of the Buddhas, and will inevitably find themselves in the lower realms in Buddhist cosmology. This culture of fear-based reverence continues to this day, and manifest in unquestioning loyalty to the Dalai Lama. Therefore when the Chinese army invaded Tibet, the only people who lost their rights to live as they chose were the ruling class – the Dalai Lama class – not the Tibetan people in general.

The Tibetan fight for freedom that the Dalai Lama mustered so much world support for, is no more than an effort to reinstate this ruling class into the seat of power, ironically with the aid of nations that have themselves fought and transcended similar oppressive governments during the Dark Ages.The terrible conditions that the average Tibetan used to endure while under the rule of the Dalai Lamas is something that the Dalai Lama sidesteps. Instead, he argues that his vision and hopes for his people is to live as free people under a democracy, and with that the Dalai Lama went about setting up a ‘constitutional democracy’ for the Tibetans in exile beginning in 1963, or at least appeared to do so.


Myth #2: The Dalai Lama’s Government is a Democracy and the Dalai Lama is a Champion of Human Rights and Equality.

In 1991, the Charter of the Tibetans in Exile was adopted. It is based on the spirit of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which “guarantees all Tibetans equality before the law and enjoyment of rights and freedom without discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, language and social origin”.

The CTA proudly declares on its official website that this is the ‘supreme law’ governing the functions of the CTA and shall be the model of government that the Dalai Lama would apply to all Tibet when he regains the motherland. But the fact is, all these positive developments were merely clever posturing to cater to Western sensitivities for the Dalai Lama to gain world support for his plan. On closer investigation, this ‘supreme law’ is not something the Dalai Lama or the CTA has respected, abided by, upheld nor protected.

After 55 years of Democracy Day celebrations, the CTA today is no more than a one-party state with no opposition, staffed by key members who are personally endorsed by the Dalai Lama, whose primary objective is to anticipate the wishes of the Dalai Lama, and whose most significant act of Parliament in recent history was to ban the 360-year old Buddhist practice of the deity Dorje Shugden and curb the rights of its practitioners.

The extent to which the Dalai Lama has gone with his religious persecution shows that democracy for the Tibetan people is simply a ploy to win world sympathies. Even the Dalai Lama’s relinquishing of his political power may very well be a deft pre-emptive move to distance himself from an illegal abuse of human rights he instigated under the religious ban. How can the CTA be considered a democratic government when:

  • The Dalai Lama unilaterally decides to abandon the Tibetan fight for independence without any debate in parliament or public referendum on a matter deemed of utmost importance to his people; (See:
  • The only independent newspaper Mantso formed to educate Tibetans on democracy was forced to shut down;
  • Article 20 of the Tibetan Constitution pertaining to Executive Powers reads: “There shall be a Kashag and a Chief Kalon primarily responsible for exercising executive powers of the Tibetan Administration subordinate to His Holiness the Dalai Lama”? Clearly the Constitution is not the supreme law governing the Tibetan people if it is secondary to one man’s wish. That absolute power still lies with the Dalai Lama;
  • Parliament passes a decree prohibiting Tibetans to “indulge in the propitiating of Shugden”
  • [And for good measure] The Tibetan Constitution is casually amended to preclude members of a religious belief (Dorje Shugden) from sitting in the judiciary and government;

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And at the community level the Dalai Lama personally instigates public oath-swearing in the monasteries, and initiates an identity-card campaign to isolate practitioners of the religious belief that he no longer favors, making social life impossible for anyone not prepared to bend to his will. Dorje Shugden worshippers are denied their right to vote and even basic welfare (much of it from foreign aid meant for all Tibetan refugees) is denied its worshippers. And when after 18 years of relentless persecutions, the Dorje Shugden believers together with their Western counterparts decide to exercise their constitutional rights and protest the Dalai Lama’s breach of the most basic of human rights, the Dalai Lama’s supposed democratic government respond by publishing a hit-list of targeted protesters, even providing addresses, knowing that this would bring harm and injury to those named. The CTA habitually incites the Tibetan public into violent mobs and turning them against those who oppose the Dalai Lama, by labeling them as ‘traitors’ and ‘enemies’ of the people.

In March 2014, the CTA Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay described demonstrations against China as a noble struggle for Tibet and praised the voice of young Tibetans “who clearly and loudly demand their identity, freedom and unity” ( Two months later, the same Lobsang Sangay labels the peaceful protests against the Dalai Lama, asking for freedom to practice their religion as acts of a fundamentalist cult associated with the propitiation of Dolgyal (derogatory name for the deity Dorje Shugden).

Clearly the Tibetan Prime Minister does not feel that freedom should be universally enjoyed, and the provisions of freedom in the Constitution means nothing. Unfairly and without any evidence, the Dalai Lama and CTA label Shugden worshippers as traitors and Chinese spies, and explain the ban as a means to protect the Tibetan cause from Chinese sabotage. But it would appear that they are not all that concerned about Chinese infiltration because Ogyen Dorje Trinley, whom the Dalai Lama endorsed as the 17th Karmapa (over a Tibetan candidate) and whom many believe to be possibly the Dalai Lama’s successor, was raised and trained in China and has for a mentor Tai Situpa Rinpoche, who was clearly suspected by Indian intelligence as a real Chinese spy. Moreover, the Dalai Lama’s own Prime Minister, Lobsang Sangay, has secretly travelled on documents that identify him as an Overseas Chinese National, a fact he vehemently denied until evidence was produced in 2011.

Lobsang Sangay Questioned about his Overseas Chinese National recognition

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To the Western public, the Dalai Lama contends that the Shugden ban is justified because it is not religion but ‘spirit worship. In a democracy, how can any one single person dictate the religion of another to be illegitimate, immoral, unholy, and unlawful and publicly call for its elimination? No democratic government or citizen of a liberal society who lives under constitutional protection of his or her right to practice a faith would tolerate, for example, a Muslim leader calling for the eradication of people of the Christian faith, or a Catholic Pope declaring the Protestant Christian practice to be uncanonical and therefore forbidden. But when it comes to the Dalai Lama, they turn a blind eye even when the Dalai Lama declares the faith of a western practitioner, a citizen of the U.S., to be wrong.

The Dalai Lama speaking to a crowd of 15,000 people in Mexico City, 2013, on Secular Ethics… ironically


Myth No. 3 – The Tibetan Cause that so many people in the West have supported is a fight to Free Tibet

And this is perhaps the unkindest cut of all. This myth persists because that is what the Dalai Lama sold to the world public in seeking their support which he has enjoyed for decades. Most supporters of Free Tibet would be unable to articulate exactly what the Tibetan cause is today. Their unfounded reverence of the Dalai Lama blinds them to the fact that real freedom for the Tibetan people was no longer a possibility after 1988 when the Dalai Lama signed away the Tibetan people’s independence in Strasbourg. And even before the Tibetan people caught on to what the Dalai Lama had done, his Prime Minister Sikyong Lobsang Sangay publicly accepted communist rule, the complete opposite of the Tibetan people’s hopes which the Western world has also upheld.

Excerpt from dialogue between Lobsang Sangay and Jerome Cohen at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington in May 2013

COHEN: Do you think you can institute democracy in a genuinely autonomous Tibet? Will there be real, free political elections, freedom of expression? It would be unique to the People’s Republic, wouldn’t it? SANGAY: That — democracy is what we practice in exile. We are not asking that democracy be implemented or be allowed inside Tibet. What we’re asking is rights, as per the provisions of the Chinese constitution. So democracy is what we practice, but this is what we aspire. But that’s not part of what we’re asking to the Chinese government.

And to further questioning by Cohen:

SANGAY: That’s when — that’s right. So we are not asking for democracy for Tibetans inside Tibet…” [Source:]

For years, Lobsang Sangay left no room for any misinterpretation when he said “Only democracy can resolve the issue of Tibet”and yet finally, the Tibetan leadership states without reservation that it was not fighting for freedom or democracy as it had led the world to believe, but for ‘provisions’ under a ‘Chinese constitution’ which means it accepts Communist rule. ‘Free Tibet’ should now appropriately be defined thus, ‘Keep Tibetans Oppressed Under Communism But Give The Dalai Gang Special Privileges’. Is this what millions of dollars and years of sponsorship was for? Is this what 126 Tibetans set themselves alight and sacrificed their lives for? To return Tibetans to communist rule that the Dalai Lama has viciously condemned? That could have been accomplished in 1959 itself.

The people of the world supporting the fight for a genuine ‘Free Tibet’

The world has been duped by the Dalai Lama and his government and in buying into the manufactured myth of the Dalai Lama as a ‘victim’ of China’s oppression, they turned a blind eye to one of the longest abuses of human rights in modern world history which remains till this day. As a corollary, the Dalai Lama rendered the image of the Unites States as a champion of the free and liberal world, a joke.

In a recent public statement, National Security Council spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, indicated that the recent meeting between the U.S. President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama in February this year was a sign of U.S. concerns about human rights abuses in Tibet. Presumably, this is on the back of the 2012 U.S. State Department’s report on human rights conditions in China, which reported that the Chinese Government “engaged in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of China’s ethnic Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association and movement”.

How can the U.S. expect China to take their alleged concerns seriously when the U.S. continues to support the very person who is behind one of the most unrestrained abuses of human rights in current times? It should be clear now that the Dalai Lama and CTA have never had the best interest of the Tibetan people in mind. The Dalai Lama choreographed a ‘Tibetan struggle’ and along the way leveraged on world support to consolidate his power amongst the Tibetan people and drew millions of dollars annually into coffers that remain unaccounted for.

The Dalai Lama’s only Tibetan strategy since 1959 was to avail himself to be used as the ‘Tibet card’ useful to both India and the U.S. in their geopolitical machinations with a rising super power. But all political gambits have an end-game and ultimately, the U.S. and China will have to find common ground to work on and it is the freedom and culture of the Tibetan people that would have been sacrificed. It is now only the Tibetan people unified that can stand in the way of this disaster. If the Tibetans end up under a Communist regime, then the past half a century of struggle, hardship and sacrifices would have been for nought. It is time for the West to support a real Free Tibet cause rather than the one they have been defrauded to assist. For that, they have now to lend strength to the true fight for freedom and abolition of an illegal religious ban.

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  1. It is interesting to also note that the Dalai Lama had suddenly announced in 2011 that he would like to be removed from his association with the CTA.

    Before 2011, the Kalon Tripa position was subordinate to the 14th Dalai Lama as mentioned in the above article under Section 20 of the Constitution.

    But in 2011, the Dalai Lama abruptly announced that his political authority would be transferred to the then Kalon Tripa.

    As a result, on September 20, 2012, the 15th Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile unanimously voted to change the title of Kalon Tripa to Sikyong in Article 19 of the Charter of the Tibetans in exile and relevant articles.

    The Dalai Lama was and is essentially saying – Sikyong, CTA, you are on your own now. Do as you think right and as a democratic government in exile.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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