Tibetan activist-writer challenges China’s ‘rule of law’ rhetoric in new book

Tibetan writer and activist Lhaden. (File/TCHRD)
Tibetan writer and activist Lhaden. (File/TCHRD)

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has recently obtained a book written by Lhaden, a Tibetan writer and activist living inside Tibet. This latest book, titled ‘Resistance Through Cooperation With Law’ (Tib: Tungol Trimlug’) is Lhaden’s second, published and now being translated into English by TCHRD.

TCHRD presents an excerpt from Lhaden’s latest book translated from its original Tibetan version. He writes under the pseudonym, ‘Di Lhaden’. In this excerpt, Di Lhaden writes about his motivation for writing the book, expresses his belief that Tibet’s non-violent struggle has the potential to achieve genuine peace and reconciliation between the Tibetan people and the Chinese government. Di Lhaden asks the China to acknowledge, rather than violently crush, the legitimate grievances and aspirations of the Tibetan people, which he believes are in accord with the laws and constitution of the People’s Republic of China. He believes that Tibet’s non-violent struggle is inspired by the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

This book represents one of the many voices of millions of Tibetans inside Tibet who live in a system that penalizes human rights activists as criminals and denies basic human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Chinese domestic law and international human rights law. Read in the context of China’s recent rhetoric on rule of law, Lhaden’s book presents a formidable challenge to Chinese claims of respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights according to ‘rule of law’.

The Tibetan language version of this book will be published on 10 December 2014, observed globally as International Human Rights Day. In 2015, TCHRD will publish the full English translation of both the books in hard copy.

Di Lhaden’s first book titled Tsesok Le Trun Pe Kecha (Eng: “Words Uttered With Life On Risk”) was published by TCHRD in March 2011. The book was released on the third anniversary of 2008 Mass Uprising in Tibet and the 16th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. It took more than three years for Lhaden to finish his first book in which he wrote, “Putting my life at risk, I offer this book as an appeal and a voice of the oppressed”.

Lhaden was born in 1980 at Dida Village in Pema County, Golog “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture”, Qinghai Province. Originally named as Lhaden (popularly called Di Lhaden), he was also known by his ordained name, Thubten Lobsang Lhundup. At 11, he was admitted to his local monastery and four years later joined Serthar Buddhist Institute in Serta County in Kardze “Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture”, Sichuan Province. When he was 28, he went to Lhasa to study at Drepung and Sera Monastery; he had to return to his native place shortly after. Lhaden takes a keen interest in writing and has been doing active writing since he was 22 and has won many accolades. Since 2008, he has been visiting various places in Tibet to experience and record the observations for his books.

Since 2008, more than a hundred Tibetan writers, bloggers and cultural figures have been harassed, beaten, detained and arrested over the content of their work by the Chinese authorities in Tibet. There has been an escalating attack on freedom of expression and information in Tibet since the mass uprising. State authorities are using the political unrest in Tibet as justification to further suffocate Tibetans’ free speech rights. The authorities routinely exploit vague domestic legal provisions to criminalize the peaceful expression of Tibetan intellectuals as “politically dangerous”.

Below is an excerpt from Di Lhaden’s forthcoming book:


An Ordinary Man

By Di Lhaden


I am an ordinary man and a devout Buddhist from the Land of Snows. I believe in peace, non-violence, Karma and the Middle-Way. I don’t hold any grudges against other nationalities. I don’t have any wish to destroy the Chinese government or the Chinese people. I don’t think any Tibetan holds such a wish. Our goal is to establish equality and peaceful co-existence between the Chinese and Tibetan nationalities. Our goal is not to seek revenge. As I said before, what we demand are equal rights and freedom. This is the basis of our non-violent movement.

I applaud the rise of China as a global power – its economic and military might. But China has committed some grave errors. China’s ethnic policies have consistently violated the human rights of its national minorities. This is a view held not just by the Tibetans. Other minority nationalities opposing the Chinese government bear testimony to this.

China’s continued violation of the Tibetan people’s rights and freedom has pushed us to the edge. The failure of the Chinese government to respect the terms of the 17-Point Agreement that guaranteed Tibetan autonomy caused the 1959 Tibetan national uprising. China’s failure to negotiate sincerely with the Dalai Lama despite his giving up on Tibetan independence in favor of the Middle-Way approach in 1979 caused the 1987 Tibetan independence protests. Similarly, the rejection of the 2008 “Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy of the Tibetan People” submitted by the Tibetan leadership in exile is responsible for the ongoing tragic self-immolation protests.

If such violations continue, we might see a permanent split between the government and the people. We will face the grave danger of an everlasting violent conflict, turning the country into a war zone. In order to avoid such calamity, I have composed this text “Resistance Through Cooperation with the Law”. My goal, as I said in the beginning, is to realize genuine equality and harmony by securing the rights and freedom of the Tibetan people. I pray to the immortal Kunchok Sum (‘Three Jewels’ of the Buddhist trinity) that this small effort will help open the eyes of the Chinese government to the just laws of Karma, so that the human rights and fates of various nationalities in the country will be changed for better.

I believe we should establish a firm basis for sovereignty if we are to secure the integrity of Tibetan Buddhism. We need to regain our homeland if we want to sustain Tibetan language and culture. If we fail to establish a firm basis for sovereignty, our cherished religion, language, literature and tradition will end up like the proverbial “butter lamp in the wind.” The basis of freedom is to establish a strong sense of nationhood. Many people are confused as to what constitutes the soul of a nation. It seems they do not know what needs to be saved first and foremost. If such an attitude continues then great tragedy will fall on the heads of next generation of Tibetans. Our language and religion will suffer beyond regeneration. It is common sense that language, religion and economy are indispensable for a nation. But we must realize that we should not just be content with them.

In my previous book, I attempted to analyze the legacy of some of the key historical figures of Tibet, including Ngabo Ngawang Jigme. When the latter passed away, I wanted to write an obituary, which I couldn’t do due to certain unavoidable circumstances. I could be wrong, but I have always maintained from the depth of my heart that the late Ngabo was a patriot who cared for the Tibetan people. However, my strong reaction in the previous work was provoked by spontaneous anger. Of course, those who continue to speak out against our national interest on the orders of the government need to be criticized in our writings. This was the reason I wrote the essay [criticizing Ngabo]. I began the essay with these words: “The Ngabo who was speaking against Tibet is a different Ngabo. So my criticism is aimed at that different Ngabo.” This was written as food for thought.

Further, I hope readers will spare some of their precious time to read at least this passage on Chinese state propaganda in my work:

The Chinese state has perfected the art of lies and deception. These lies and deception are propagated through official media, such as when the state TV indicts innocent people as criminals.” Some of my fellow countrymen and imminent writers living in exile have reprimanded me for my critiquing some of the historical figures of our country. I welcomed their point of view, not only because I respect differences of opinion, but also because the strong criticisms were driven by pure love for our nation.

Readers might be surprised by the title that I chose for this work. Let me explain why I chose this title. Generally, non-violent resistance is conducted through what is often referred to as acts of “Civil Disobedience.” However, instead of ‘disobedience,’ I chose the word ‘cooperation,’ for two primary reasons:

▪   First, the word ‘cooperation’ is to reassure that all our actions are conducted in accordance with the law. In other words, the word ‘cooperation’ in the title is meant to refute the Chinese government’s denunciation that Tibetan activity is always illegal.

▪  Second, because of the resentment many Tibetans feel due to injustice, a wrong impression has been created that we disrespect the provisions of the constitution. This is not true. Both the end and means of our struggle are legitimate, as we are pursuing non-violence. The word ‘cooperation’ is meant to emphasize this significant point.

Of course, acts of ‘Civil Disobedience’ are legitimate forms of struggle to resist barbarism and violence. They are not illegal at all. We know it well from the examples of non-violent freedom struggle set up by giants like Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.




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