In October 1950, China’s Purple Military invaded Tibet’s japanese province, posing as a military of liberation from Western imperialism. In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India the place he stays to at the present time. Many hundreds of Tibetan refugees have streamed into India since. Tibet is especially pertinent at the same time as US President Joe Biden guarantees help to Taiwan and Ukraine dominates headlines every day.

For the final 70 years, Tibet has been below China’s thumb at the same time as Hollywood stars swoon on the Dalai Lama’s toes. Many individuals consider Tibet as a separate nation with a definable historical past and a particular cultural identification symbolized by the Dalai Lama. Many are unaware of Tibet’s integration into China and its political subjugation by Beijing. In September 2020, Chinese language President Xi Jinping made clear that Tibet was an integral a part of China’s “impregnable fortress” as he decried the heresy of “splittism.” The destiny of Tibet shines mild on a key concern: can political entities bordering a hegemon train sovereignty?

We live in a world the place the 1945 postwar order is ending. The collapse of the Soviet Union has been adopted by a bloody conflict between its two greatest successor states. Oil costs are hovering and inflation is skyrocketing. Fertilizers and meals are briefly provide as a result of the 2 large exporters Russia and Ukraine are at conflict. So, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and lots of different nations might quickly be wanting bread, if not oil. 

As the present world order breaks down, what’s going to emerge as an alternative? Will we see a extra fragmented world with regional hegemons competing of their spheres of affect? Or will we see a extra multipolar world the place dispersed energy facilities will understand there isn’t a solution to survive aside from mutual respect and inventive collaboration?

I spoke to author and activist Tenzin Tsundue on a spread of points, spanning from his expertise as a Tibetan in India to the state of our trendy world. 

The transcript has been edited for readability. Phrases in brackets are my insertions to supply context and readability to Tsundue’s phrases.

Table of Contents

Roberta Campani: How do the Tibetans dwell in India? 

Tenzin Tsundue: There are about 100,000 Tibetan refugees in India, of which three generations are represented: those that left Tibet (as Tsundue’s dad and mom did), their kids who are actually adults (like Tsundue) and a 3rd era (kids of Tsundue’s era) who now not have direct ties to Tibet. There’s additionally one other group, those that got here out of Tibet in a while, within the early 2000s and as much as 2009 after which it turned virtually inconceivable to get out of occupied Tibet. There’s a regulation in India as per which somebody who was born previous to 1987 within the nation is a citizen whatever the origin of their dad and mom. (But most Tibetans haven’t utilized for citizenship to keep away from weakening the Free Tibet Motion.) Like different refugees, Tibetans can not personal property nor vote. In actual fact, Tibetans don’t even have refugee standing as a result of India, like most trendy nations, doesn’t acknowledge Tibet as a state or nation. 

We’re thought-about foreigners, we have now to get a doc that lasts one 12 months. This makes it exhausting to plan long-term, construct a home or begin a household. Some can get the doc prolonged for 5 years. However it’s exhausting to not have any stability. However, the optimistic aspect of this example is that it maintains the impetus to maintain working in direction of going again to our homeland.

Even when India granted us 43 settlements the place we have now constructed farms, hospitals, and faculties the place we’re self-subsistent, this was lots of work. And now the younger go to cities and have jobs in IT.


Tibet is thought for being the house nation of Tenzin Gyatso, now often called the Dalai Lama. He’s acknowledged each as a religious and political chief. In 2011, the Dalai Lama gave up his political function and handed it on to the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 

The CTA was shaped in 1959. Some think about it a authorities in exile. The Dalai Lama’s handing over energy to the CTA is historic. He needs Tibetans and Tibet to perform democratically. The Sikyong, a determine analogous to a major minister, and a parliament is elected each 5 years. 

Other than 100,000 Tibetans in India, there are one other 50,000 in different nations. All of them can elect members of the parliament and take part in actions of the CTA.


Roberta Campani: What can this impetus obtain given the present scenario in China?

Tenzin Tsundue: China seems at Tibetan tradition and faith as the most important impediment to assimilation. The Chinese language need to homogenize Tibet and scale back it into Beijing’s yard. They see that Tibetans are united over their trigger. They’re additionally united with Tibetans in exile.

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Tibetan tradition may be very totally different from Chinese language tradition. China believes in bombing mountains, making a living out of Tibetan minerals and assets, and damming rivers. In distinction, Tibetans consider that there are gods and goddesses within the mountains, and they’re sacred for our residing. The environment is to not serve us. We’re a part of the surroundings. Philosophically, we take a look at land and assets very otherwise from the Chinese language. Additionally they take a look at folks as assets to make them do low-cost labor and generate profits for the capitalists. That’s not how we take a look at life. Tibetan nomads and farmers are “rehabilitated” in reservations, form of synthetic villages in order that they lose contact and reference to their very own land.


Tibet lies north of the Himalayas. It’s a giant high-altitude plateau inhabited largely by Buddhists who courageous bitter winters and lead largely easy lives. Often known as the roof of the world, historians communicate of a geographical Tibet and a political Tibet. There’s additionally a cultural Tibet related to meditation, spirituality, esoteric practices, mystique and, in our Hollywoodish occasions, personified by the beatific Dalai Lama.

In Might 1951, the Dalai Lama’s envoys have been pressured to signal a Seventeen Level Settlement with the Chinese language. For the primary time, an settlement formally acknowledged Chinese language sovereignty over Tibet. This settlement, although, was signed to keep away from a brutal army invasion by the Chinese language. Beijing has at all times claimed Tibet to be an autonomous area belonging to the Chinese language nation.

The Chinese language Communist Celebration (CCP) claims that it has introduced progress to benighted and feudal Tibet. The CCP says that it has bettered the lives of strange Tibetans by bringing trendy expertise and financial development. The query arises whether or not this progress was price it given the decimation of Tibetan tradition and the destruction of Tibet’s as soon as pristine surroundings.


Roberta Campani: Are you able to give us some background about what introduced the scenario thus far?

Tenzin Tsundue: Tibet had been a free and unbiased nation proper from the start till China’s invasion in 1951. What known as the western romanticization of Shangri-La is Tibet — 2.5 million sq. kilometers of land, geographically the most important and highest plateau on this planet. Tibetans have lived in isolation, untouched by western influences  — they’ve hardly had any relationship with many different nations. After all, Tibet had relationships with Mongolia within the north, China within the east, India to the south and by extension with different South Asian nations, like Nepal, Burma, Bhutan and Pakistan. And that’s how Tibet lived as an unbiased nation for all these hundreds of years. 

And this isolation has additionally created this very distinctive language, tradition, and identification. Within the final 2,000 years, we have now acquired Buddhism from India. It wasn’t Tibetan, it got here from India and right this moment, we’re retaining that and Buddhism has change into the first identification for Tibetan folks. And that’s how we have now lived as a free and unbiased nation and that’s nonetheless current right this moment.

The Tibetans inside Tibet which might be preventing the Chinese language try and 1. homogenize, and a pair of. to make use of Tibet as a colony, which the Chinese language mine and generate profits off. The rationale why Tibetans haven’t been co-opted by Chinese language mining and industrialization is as a result of Tibetans have a really totally different concept of pure assets and the surroundings and that is part of Tibetan identification. We take a look at nature as a bigger universe the place human beings are a part of. We’re servants to nature.

This identification comes from a a lot bigger image of the Tibetan civilization. That civilization, what we’re attending to see, is one thing many nations have misplaced. We now have not. Our Tibetans in Tibet nonetheless consider that the nation is extra vital than the folks. We’re a part of the surroundings. So the continuity of custom that we’re seeing resists the damming of rivers, mining for assets and clear felling of bushes with the intention to generate profits by way of all a budget made in China merchandise.

China is mining and taking all of those pure assets —  lithium, copper, and gold — to make low-cost merchandise for the world. See, how China seems at pure assets may be very totally different to Tibet. The China that’s rising right this moment is just not even the China of Deng Xiaoping or of Mao Zedong. China has accomplished a cultural revolution in so many various phases. So many occasions, China has utterly modified. Tibet could have modernized in several methods, however as a civilization, we’re steady.


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Roberta Campani: It appears that evidently this view makes much more sense now that we have now local weather points: how might your expertise be made helpful for the world typically?

Tenzin Tsundue: I don’t need to be condescending by saying we have now the most effective concepts for the world to repeat. We are going to proceed our faith, our tradition, we have now our very distinctive civilizational beliefs, and if the world, if the worldwide group see that that is of worth, they’ll anyhow take it. 

Roberta Campani: Do you assume there’s something optimistic within the “widespread prosperity” doctrine that China has introduced ahead these previous few years? Particularly, if we think about that inequalities and the broader revenue hole are creating discontent in many of the historically democratic nations. 

Tenzin Tsundue: You and I do know it very nicely, it’s all optics. It’s what political events create to meet their very own self-interest, like Trump tried to create one thing for America whereas pursuing his personal curiosity and Biden is now making an attempt to try this right this moment. The identical goes for the propaganda conflict between Zelensky and Putin. All these optics are for consumption and you can not simply blindly eat that. When China says that it’s making a extra equal society by eliminating the hole between the wealthy and the poor, we perceive it very nicely. These are political agendas and never social providers. 

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And as I mentioned earlier, homogenization implies that China already has what it calls the Chinese language identification and Beijing is making an attempt to impose that on the remainder of the folks. Homogenization doesn’t imply there isn’t a tradition. There’s a tradition however it’s the bulk tradition that they’re making an attempt to impose on the minorities or the folks which might be residing below China’s occupation. That’s homogenization and that is the most important risk that’s taking place in Japanese Turkestan, southern Mongolia, and in Manchuria. And the identical factor is occurring in Hong Kong.

And there’s a risk that China could bodily, and militarily invade Taiwan sooner or later. So this homogenization is the principle issue why Hong Kong didn’t need to change into utterly Chinese language as a result of the Hong Kong folks have their very own identification, a social and a cultural custom there. They usually say “we’re not just like the Chinese language in mainland China.” So that you see, the Hong Kong folks resist as a result of they don’t need to homogenize. They don’t need to be became a Chinese language yard.

After all, bodily, Hong Kong is part of the Folks’s Republic of China. Nonetheless, they’ve lived individually for nearly one or 200 years. They’ve their concepts, identification, methods of residing, and tradition. It’s far more vibrant and democratic there. Now, they’re being homogenized. And the worldwide group didn’t care a lot about dropping Hong Kong.


Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong are usually not legally acknowledged as sovereign states. Due to this fact, different states and the so-called worldwide group can not take a transparent place on them. Nevertheless, these three geographical and political entities are more and more within the information.

In keeping with Professor Yeshi Choedon, “Tibet has been a world concern because the Nineteen Fifties however no severe try has been made to handle this downside on the principle pretext that the standing of Tibet was not clear. The shortage of readability on the standing of Tibet is not only due to manipulation by the Chinese language. The key contributing issue, actually, was Tibet’s personal failure to maneuver together with the tide of the change that was sweeping the world within the 20th century.”

As per Michael van Walt, lawyer and professor on the Institute for Superior Research in Princeton:  “From a authorized standpoint, Tibet has to at the present time not misplaced its statehood. It’s an unbiased state below unlawful occupation.”  


Roberta Campani: What are your ideas about how the scenario might unfold for Tibet? 

Tenzin Tsundue: At present there are numerous prospects. I feel that the 63 years of exile expertise have given us sufficient sense of resilience and understanding of the world’s political situation and our personal existence. The early shock we received after popping out of Tibet to the skin world the place there have been already so many scientific advances. For instance, when my dad and mom got here to India, they have been unable to know what’s a bus, what’s a automotive and what’s a practice. From there we have now come to a scenario the place the third era is working in IT corporations in India. 

So that you see this fast-forward advance and expertise has given us the understanding that finally our freedom battle is one thing we have now to do ourselves. And we have now created sufficient cultural resistance and even resilience that even when nobody helps us right this moment we’re nonetheless capable of preserve our resistance and we’ll come to some extent when China collapses we are going to return to our nation and we are going to re-establish a free, unbiased, democratic Tibet. This a lot confidence is what we have now now.

At present, the Tibetan concern is just not remoted. Greater than ever, the problem of the Dalai Lama, who’s the reincarnation (of his predecessor), is now extra helpful to america, to the European nations and to India as a result of China has now developed from a communist nation to an industrial nation and a superpower. China is right this moment a risk to the western nations, India, and lots of different nations that must deal with China. Now, we have now to work with these different nations which may discover the problems of Tibet helpful to their causes.

Roberta Campani: How might this occur?

Tenzin Tsundue: Look, after we have been protesting in 2008, we have been saying that China is killing Tibetans and that there’s a genocide taking place in Tibet, nobody cared. Everybody went to take part within the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

This 12 months too, in 2022, when the Winter Olympics are taking place, all of the sudden america realizes that there are human rights points with China. That doesn’t imply that they didn’t learn about human rights violations in Tibet and East Turkestan in 2008. This 12 months, 15 nations boycotted — a diplomatic boycott —  these nations are actually discovering these points helpful for them towards China.

That is the understanding we are actually getting as Tibetan refugees. Earlier, Tibetans have been nothing —  oh, these are simply good, good, goodie folks — and the Dalai Lama is non-violent. Now they discover the problem of Tibet politically helpful. So, how do we have now to place ourselves with nations that need to cope with China otherwise? Can we do it? Maybe, we are able to even work with China’s pro-democracy activists who would need to see their nation as a democracy.


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Roberta Campani: Are you in contact with folks in China who need democracy? 

Tenzin Tsundue: After all, we’re in contact with them however they have been themselves persecuted in China and they’re now residing in international nations. 

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Roberta Campani: How might this expertise that has given you and the Tibetan communities abilities and consciousness be useful? How are you going to use that have to boost consciousness about different refugees, because it’s an issue everywhere in the world?

Tenzin Tsundue: It’s not that the West doesn’t know. It’s pretending to not know as a result of its pursuits up till right this moment have been extra into buying and selling with China and never with selling human rights. We’re very nicely conscious of this. As a lot as we wish to work with western nations on human rights and democracy in China and in addition freedom for Tibet, we’re additionally conscious that the West could also be utilizing Tibet right this moment. We wish to work with western nations for democracy in China and freedom in Tibet. 

Roberta Campani: Are you aware there’s a fascination with Tibetan tradition that’s truly not so well-known?

Tenzin Tsundue: I’m not stunned. The consumerism that has taken over the world has, in a approach, homogenized whole manufacturing items which have centered on simple manufacturing. This has come about with large worldwide company corporations as producers and the remainder of the individuals are simply shoppers. This mannequin is a hazard to the surroundings and in addition to human civilization. (That’s the reason there could also be a fascination for Tibetan tradition.)

Roberta Campani: What’s the mission or function that you’ve got chosen? 

Tenzin Tsundue: I’m a small activist based mostly right here in India. The function I’ve assigned to myself is that of a author, I take a look at sure altering elements within the Tibetan group, culturally and emotionally, and I write about these elements. Additionally, as an activist, an vital a part of my function is to maintain the liberty battle going, sustaining the restlessness within the motion. And in addition provide you with new concepts on learn how to cope with the altering political scenario on this planet and learn how to guard towards sure threats, and, on the similar time, take a look at alternatives which may seem.

So, mine is a really small function. Nonetheless, I see it within the bigger image. There’s the Tibetan authorities in exile, there’s His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there are members of parliament, there are numerous different leaders, and as an activist and as a author, I additionally play my small function. However within the bigger image, I see that the Tibetan freedom motion up till now has been inspiring each for the worldwide group and us as a result of we have now maintained nonviolence as the principle thrust of our motion led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 

This has impressed many people, folks within the West, in India and in lots of different locations. They are saying that that is one peaceable group and a motion that they wish to help, and naturally, we have now an enormous variety of sympathizers and supporters, which is how we have now maintained the well being of the motion. We’re hopeful that we will keep on on this approach, and when the opportune second comes about, we are able to recreate Tibet as a free and unbiased state and a democracy. 


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Roberta Campani: How might this occur? 

Tenzin Tsundue: There are three vital components. 

First and crucial are the Tibetan folks themselves. So long as we don’t hand over, there’s at all times an opportunity for us to realize freedom. And if we do hand over, regardless of even when the complete world comes collectively to help us, there isn’t a trigger to help! 

So lastly, the last word objective, the last word authority over the Tibetan freedom motion, is the Tibetan folks. That is crucial reality. 

The second issue is China, as a result of it’s China who, with none provocation, entered Tibet, plundered Tibet, captured Tibet and, for the previous 70 years, China has been sustaining a army occupation of Tibet. There needs to be a brand new form of understanding inside China. The Chinese language should utterly change the way in which they run their authorities and reform their whole construction. They’re now not capable of preserve the occupation of Tibet.

China’s superpower standing comes from how western nations use the nation as an industrial manufacturing facility ground to make low-cost “Made in China” merchandise and ship them to the West. That’s how the West created China and made it right into a monster. Till 1971, China was not even a member of the United Nations. And American intervention changed Taiwan with China within the UN. That’s how China turned a everlasting Safety Council member on the UN and a superpower. Now, China is making an attempt to throw out america from the United Nations. 

(So, China won’t proceed to be the workshop of the world and occupy Tibet without end.)

The third issue is how China goes to keep up its relationships with western nations, and, with that, what are the modifications which might be about to come back about. We now have seen up to now two years throughout the pandemic how the West has began to behave very otherwise in direction of China. Problems with human rights are popping out for the primary time and the western relationship with China is altering. And I feel this relationship will bear dramatic modifications within the subsequent 5 years. All this stuff will throw up numerous alternatives for us.

Roberta Campani: Thanks! Are you continue to hopeful? 

Tenzin Tsundue: I’ve to be! There is no such thing as a choice. 

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Truthful Observer’s editorial coverage.

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