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A very short, powerful video of Tibetan students questioning Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and the doubts that have arisen because of the ban on Dorje Shugden. This is a must-watch video to understand what is happening within the Tibetan communities, and how Tibetans are finally speaking up against the ban, and recognising its unfair and undemocratic nature
By: Kay Beswick
In an effort to appear more open and democratic, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA; Tibetan leadership) held a question-and-answer session with a group of Tibetan students. Assuming the students would ask questions that gave the leadership a chance to look modern, open and democratic, Sikyong (Prime Minister) Lobsang Sangay soon realised he had severely underestimated the analytical and observant nature of this new generation of Tibetan youth.
When questioned about his administration’s policies towards Shugden practitioners, Lobsang Sangay was obviously irritated and frustrated. The irritation arose from the fact the Tibetan leadership is unused to being questioned by intelligent, educated children who ask questions without any bad intent, but that exposes their lies or forces them to create new untruths to cover their previous ones. That Sikyong Lobsang Sangay was irritated is interesting – if Mr Sangay had nothing to hide, why be irritated at all? Why not just openly and happily answer the questions?
At best, Lobsang Sangay’s answers were evasive and at worst, they were outright lies. Either way, the Prime Minister was certainly consistent in answering the questions in the same way, by bringing up the topic of ID cards. Lobsang Sangay’s logic was this – if the Tibetan leadership really wished to discriminate against Dorje Shugden practitioners, they would withhold the ID cards. According to Mr Sangay, the fact Dorje Shugden practitioners have their identity cards is proof that religious freedom exists. Unbeknownst to the world, many Tibetans acquire Indian, Nepalese and Bhutanese citizenship or just the passports for the last 30 years. These passports are not difficult to obtain. Using these passports they travel to various countries and within India. This does not need Lobsang Sangay’s or the CTA’s assistance. So no ID cards are necessary for Dorje Shugden practitioners as insisted by the CTA.
We are not sure what question Mr Sangay was answering, because none of the students questioned the right of Shugden practitioners to have ID cards. For them, it is a given that every Tibetan has a fundamental right to an ID card, being a member of their community. Thus it is astonishing for Lobsang Sangay to even contemplate that it is an appropriate response to withhold someone’s ID card when the person does not worship a state-sanctioned religious deity. It reflects the Tibetan leadership’s very basic understanding of democracy, as well as the methods that they have contemplated to deal with the *Dolgyal issue. In fact, the reality is that when Dorje Shugden practitioners apply for their identity and travel papers, that is when they are identified as Shugden practitioners and thereafter face on-going persecution for their religious worship and faith.
The Prime Minister’s answers were full of contradictions, which is unsurprising because they were not the truth. After all, if his answers were truthful then they would never change, being factual in nature. One of the biggest contradictions was the Prime Minister’s claim that the CTA never created a separation between Dorje Shugden practitioners and the Tibetan population. In his answer to Student #2, Lobsang Sangay said that “from our side, no one has never restricted Dhogyal people from whatever they are doing.” Yet, in his answer to Student #3, the Sikyong brought up the existence of a Green Book that prohibits Dorje Shugden worshippers from participating in the Middle Way political process. This prohibition is a separation itself, and it is proven by the CTA’s officially-sanctioned Green Book AND the resolutions passed by the CTA denying Dorje Shugden practitioners’ their rights to freedom of religion, worship and practice. The existence of this Green Book and the resolutions clearly contradicts Lobsang Sangay’s claim that “From our side, no one has never restricted Dhogyal people from whatever they are doing.”
To Students #1 and #2, Lobsang Sangay said that the separation of the monasteries is a problem. To Student #6, Lobsang Sangay said that the separation reflects the freedom that Shugden practitioners have to open their own monasteries and centres. Does the Sikyong not realise that the separation of the monasteries does NOT show religious freedom? That it shows Shugden monks were forced to leave their monasteries, because they could not practice in peace there? Why open new, smaller institutions and risk a lack of support and funds, and the threat of closure, if they were not forced out of their original monasteries? If they were not expelled, why not just stay in their original institutions with their teachers and friends, and have guaranteed access to shelter and education? It is incredible to think that Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard-educated individual, does not see how many contradictions he presents to his audience in such a short span of time. He does not respect the intelligence of his own Tibetan population. It is also very short-sighted of Mr. Sangay to keep insisting on and promoting the belief that it is religious freedom for the monasteries to separate…when has separation and division ever resulted in growth and unity for any society? If Mr Sangay truly does not “want Tibet become like India and Pakistan”, he should reconsider whether this separation of the monasteries is something he should continue to rejoice in as a sign of religious freedom and progress.
Student #6 also asked Lobsang Sangay about the signs on restaurants and shops discriminating against Dorje Shugden practitioners. Mr Sangay responded saying that the CTA never separated anyone. Yet, Lobsang Sangay never answered the student’s question about the existence of the signs, in the same way his administration remains silent on them. To remain silent on the signs is the CTA giving their indirect approval for them. And why was Lobsang Sangay not able to refute the existence of the signs directly and completely? Why did he avoid the topic? Because he cannot deny the personal experience of the students who saw for themselves the existence of signs banning Shugden practitioners from restaurants and shops.
The Sikyong told the students that the CTA had tried to initiate dialogue with Shugden practitioners “since ‘75, and especially from 1995”. We at DorjeShugden.com would like to request the Sikyong provide proof of such dialogue, or proof of attempts at dialogue. There has never been any proof or record of dialogue with Dorje Shugden practitioners. If the Sikyong wishes to make such claims, DorjeShugden.com requests him to provide correspondence to back up these claims that there have been attempts to initiate dialogue. Up until now, there are no transcripts, audio recordings, video recordings or even photographs that would back up such a statement.
This same request for evidence could be applied to the accusation that Dorje Shugden practitioners commonly face, which is that we receive money from Chinese sources. Student #4 saw through the ridiculous nature of this accusation, telling Lobsang Sangay that Shugden-practicing students are poor (no doubt thanks to the lack of opportunities for their parents due to the discrimination instituted by the leadership). Notice how the Prime Minister does not reply to the student by insisting that the accusation is the truth. If the accusation were true, why does Lobsang Sangay not stick to that accusation as an answer? Why does he change his answer to say that Dorje Shugden practitioners are intent on “harming the name and fame of the Dalai Lama”? One cannot help but wonder if Lobsang Sangay was reluctant to insist on the accusation, because he was nervous that the student might ask him to provide proof of these accusations.
In fact, the CTA may wish to consider a change in strategy towards the Dorje Shugden ban. Since they claim that China is behind the protests, why not release the ban (therefore ending the protests) and see how the Chinese government reacts? Since the Tibetan leadership is keen to be a thorn in the Chinese government’s side, removing the cause of the protests altogether (by releasing the ban) will mean that the Chinese leadership no longer has any alleged influence on the Tibetans who practice Dorje Shugden.
The Tibetan leadership also need to consider how they will continue implementing the ban in Tibet should they be granted the autonomy they clamour for. China practices religious freedom and allows Dorje Shugden practice. Therefore if China grants autonomy to the Tibetans, it will mean that the Tibetan leadership’s ban of Dorje Shugden will have no meaning or real power; being the larger nation, China’s policies override those of the Tibetan leadership’s. What will happen then? Will the Tibetan leadership release the ban on Dorje Shugden, or insist that the Chinese allow them to continue banning this deity and thus risk offending the Chinese leadership? The Tibetan leadership needs examine whether their policies on individual issues contribute effectively to their larger goal of autonomy.
Since it is clear that Shugden practitioners are not receiving money from Chinese sources, supporters of the Tibetan leadership’s ban also need to contemplate what benefit there is for Shugden practitioners to continue protesting against the leadership. First, it makes Dorje Shugden practitioners look unreasonable in the eyes of the people who blindly support the Dalai Lama. Second, as demonstrated by Student #4’s experience, Dorje Shugden practitioners do not receive a financial reward for the protests. Since Dorje Shugden practitioners gain neither fame nor money from the protests, what other reason would there be for them to protest, if not because of the suppression, discrimination and ostracization that they suffer because of the illegal ban?
These protests just may grow and if the Tibetan leadership is not careful, may even begin to include more and more Tibetan youth. After all, as demonstrated by this group who confronted Lobsang Sangay, the new generation of Tibetans will not be as afraid or blinded by the CTA or the Dalai Lama. Student #6 in fact, had the courage to politely demand Mr Sangay to consider that “Dhogyal people are also Tibetan, and they have Tibetan blood and bones. Being Tibetan, give them rights to religion. Even in India has this rights called “secularism ethic” so, I think we should also follow that rules.”
It is personal experience of the ban here that has given the students the upper hand in exposing the Tibetan leadership’s hypocrisy and lies in their answers. Students were not only asking questions but they were explaining their own personal experience about their Dorje Shugden friends being persecuted and oppressed. Therefore at the ground level, there are persecutions that Tibetans can see for themselves despite the CTA’s denials, and young Tibetans are increasingly unhappy about the disunity being generated by the ban. As the Tibetan youth continue to be more exposed, they are getting braver in seeking justice for ALL of their Tibetan brothers and sisters, and not just for non-Shugden worshippers.
The problem is that there is no culture of questioning authority in Tibetan society. And the problem for Lobsang Sangay is that these were just children asking innocent, yet analytical, questions without any motivation to shame their leadership. Yet, when faced up against such innocence, the Tibetan leadership had no choice but to expose their hypocrisy and lies once again. The other problem for Lobsang Sangay is how respectful these children were of the Dalai Lama. It meant Lobsang Sangay was unable to accuse them of being against the Dalai Lama, although they asked questions he did not like, because they demonstrated traditional Tibetan etiquette of revering the Dalai Lama. The fact they were all also fully Tibetan meant Lobsang Sangay could not accuse them of being foreigners with a poor understanding of Tibetan society.
It is refreshing to see intelligent young Tibetans compare the CTA’s farcical democracy and those of other genuine democracies. The CTA’s version of democracy could never compare. Why are large sectors of Tibetan people segregated and marginalized due to their religious practice? The youths can see in India where most were born and raised, that no such democracy exists in Tibetan society. Within the Indian society, religion is not an issue and the government never interferes with the religious beliefs of its population. The CTA located in Dharamsala, North India has not learned genuine democracy from their host country in the 50 over years they have been there. However the 150,000 Tibetan exiles in India, especially the educated new generation, are seeing through the untruths. The CTA is losing their grip as we can see clearly in this video. In simple terms, this video was another huge public relations disaster for Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, their ban and CTA. It does not show democracy but how their lies are being questioned.
After the passing of the Dalai Lama, which we hope will not be soon, the Tibetan youth will not care regarding “Dolgyal” and the old way of doing things. As it is, with the Dalai Lama alive, they are already seeing through the lies and deception, and they are questioning the establishment now. The more the CTA lies, the more these youth will realise their leadership is hypocritical. In this way, the CTA are being short-sighted by undermining their own power base, and disillusioning the people who will vote for them in the future. In fact, if the CTA was smart, they would court these youngsters by being open, honest and a true democracy, to build support for the future. If the Tibetan leadership wishes to make democracy a reality in Tibetan society, they have to be prepared to be confronted by questions from Tibetans who are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lies and hypocrisy that their leaders feed to them. The first step to this would be the lifting of the unfair, illegal and undemocratic ban against Dorje Shugden practice. The ban must come down now.
*Dolgyal is the Tibetan leadership’s derogatory way for referring to Dorje Shugden