Tibet's resistance to decades of colonial suppression of China

Kirti and Ngaba have been in the international news frequently over the past many years because a maximum number of self-immolations by Tibetans against China's colonial rule over Tibet have happened in this region.
Representative image
Representative image

BEIJING: While Chinese leaders, especially President Xi Jinping leave no chance to flex muscles and boast about China's power and influence across the globe, it is interesting to note that they are finding themselves helpless and desperate within the boundaries of their own colonies. Whether it is Tibet, East Turkistan (Xinjiang) or South Mongolia, there have been several reports related to China's coercion and frequent announcements about new laws and regulations to control religious activities among the local populations, Tibet Press reported.

However, the people of Tibet have refused to accept China's rule despite more than seven decades of colonial suppression and oppression. Their faith in Buddhism and Dalai Lama is one of many ways they adopt to express it. On the other hand, the Chinese rulers appear to be deeply annoyed by Uyghur's faith in Islam and Tibetans' and Mongolians' faith in Buddhism despite all the efforts.

On one part it is seen as a challenge to the atheist communist leadership and on the other, it represents their determination to maintain their original national identity and refusal to dissolve them into the Chinese Han identity. Both are interpreted as an act of defiance to the communist rule and hence a 'splitist' activity which is dealt with as the worst 'crime' against the Chinese state.

This anger and the desperation of Chinese rulers of these colonies reflected itself once again early this month on the 4th of August when authorities in Ngaba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan province of China issued formal orders threatening Tibetans against posting any messages on social media related to the 80th birthday of 11th KyabjeKirti Rinpoche who happens to be the abbot of the Kirti monastery of Ngaba. Kirti is among the most important and influential monasteries in the Ngaba and Dzoge regions of original Tibet. Kirti and Ngaba have been in the international news frequently over the past many years because a maximum number of self-immolations by Tibetans against China's colonial rule over Tibet have happened in this region. On the last count, the total number of such known immolations in Tibet was over 154, Tibet Press reported.

Kirti Rinpoche is a learned Buddhist scholar, a vocal critic of China's rule over Tibet and an active supporter of Tibetan independence. He had escaped to India along with Dalai Lama in 1959. Yet another report about Beijing's worries against the ever-increasing popularity of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet and China itself came out late last month on July 27 from Yunfu, a prefecture-level city in Guangdong which is among the most prosperous and industrialized provinces of China.

The communist administrators of Yunfu formally issued a "Notice on the Boycott of Illegal Missionary Activities of Tibetan Buddhist Monks" which was aimed at the visiting Tibetan monks who come there from Tibet and other countries. Xi's this new campaign is now finding its expression in the obsession of CPC with Gyaltsen Norbu whom it has been showcasing before the Tibetan people and the world as the 'real' 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama. The 10th Panchen Lama had initially proved to be a useful tool in the hands of Beijing when the Dalai Lama escaped to India and the Chinese used him to placate the Tibetan people's anger.

However, the 10th Panchen Lama fell from the grace of the Beijing rulers when he openly challenged Mao on his claims about bringing 'happiness and prosperity to the Tibetan people under Chinese rule. He was later rehabilitated after serving jail and the labour-camp ignominy for over a decade but suddenly died under mysterious circumstances in Tibet in 1989 after criticizing the Beijing rulers for their misdeeds in Tibet.

In mid-June this year Norbu was advertised by the Chinese media as presiding over a Buddhist symposium which was held by the Tibetan branch of the Buddhist Association and was aimed at "promoting the Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism". Norbu was picked up by CPC from nowhere in 1995 as the 'real' Panchen Lama when he was just 5-year-old.

This sudden decision of the CPC came in the wake of the Dalai Lama recognizing another boy, 6-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, as the new 'incarnation' of the 10th Panchen Lama after some Tibetan members of the China-appointed search team leaked details about their findings to the Dalai Lama in exile. Gedhun and his parents were quickly lifted away by the Chinese police and CPC installed Norbu as the 'real' Panchen Lama. 27 years after this abduction the world has yet to hear about the fate of Gedhun and his parents.

However in its desperation to tame the Tibetan masses the Beijing government has been brandishing Norbu as the 'supreme' religious leader of Buddhism on international forums as well as during many Buddhist events in China and Tibet. But the trick has not worked. Rather, inside Tibet, local Chinese administrators have to use their powers, including the police, to force local Tibetans to attend Norbu's congregations.

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