The democratically elected leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile, Sikyong Penpa Tsering, has said that China is “striking at the very root” of Tibetan culture, as per The National Press Club. Tsering made the remarks at the National Press Club Headliners Newsmaker event attended by actor Richard Gere on Wednesday.
The National Press Club is a professional and social club for working journalists and communications professionals in Washington, D.C., as per the club’s official website. Tsering said: “China rules Tibet with an iron hand.” He accused the Chinese Communist authorities of phasing out Tibetan language programs in local schools, changing the names of small towns to create Chinese influence and placing increased restrictions on Tibetan Buddhist clergy.
Through these changes, China is “striking at the very root” of Tibetan identity, he said. He said his biggest concern regarding Tibet’s future is that “our identity will be completely exterminated.”
He said that from 2009 to last year, 157 Tibetans have committed self-immolation due to the oppression they face in their land. “It’s not as if Tibetans can’t kill Chinese people, but they burn themselves to death, hoping against hope that the Chinese government will pay some attention to their plight or hoping against hope that the international community will come to their rescue. The freedom that the free world takes for granted does not exist in Tibet,” he said as per The National Press Club’s website.
He spoke of Tibet’s rich cultural heritage, referring to its reputation as “the root of the world” and citing its repository of ancient Indian Buddhist wisdom. But he added: “Religious freedom does not exist.” Tibetans are afraid to express their opinions due to increased Chinese government surveillance within their communities, Tsering said.
“There is an atmosphere of fear. You can’t trust anybody,” he said, noting that many people fear informers and compared Tibet’s situation to Stasi surveillance in former East Germany. Tsering was in Washington to rally support for the advance of the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act, also known as the Resolve Tibet Act, legislation that would recognize a state of existing conflict between China and Tibet and boost US support for a peaceful resolution.
Meanwhile, Voice Against Autocracy reported that the repression in Tibet has intensified over the decades and China’s constant attacks have constantly deteriorated the lives of Tibetan people. Ever since China attacked the sovereignty of Tibetans in 1951, Tibetan’s lives constantly deteriorated. And ever since the protest in 2008, over 150 people have self-immolated as a form of protest.
Even after 150 people self-immolated, the relatives of protesters were tortured. They are routinely harassed, thrown into prison for “re-education”, denied political and medical rights, and even killed outright if deemed a threat.