This post contains references to and quotes from Wikileaks cables. If you are a member of the US Forces, a US government employee, an employee of a contractor to the US government or someone otherwise forbidden to read this material please
DO NOT PROCEED
Do not endanger your livelihood or risk trouble for yourself if you are in that kind of position.
If you have chosen to proceed despite all that I applaud you.
Wikileaks has just released thousands of US Embassy cables relating to China, Taiwan and elsewhere. There are 108 pages of listings of cables released today Aug. 23, 2011. A number of the cables deal with the situation of Tibet and the control over Tibetan Buddhism that the Chinese government is exerting.
I’ve been scanning the cable database for the past few hours and reading through some of them. It’s both interesting and in parts greatly disturbing.
Although there are thousands of documents today and more to come, I want to highlight some that I have come across so far which give some illustration of the current situation as it relates to Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Tibetan cultural issues. I certainly hope that the “official” Buddhist press, such as it is, picks up on some of this material. There’s enough to fill your next 10 issues already.
While a lot of it is descriptive in terms of updates to situations and status reports other parts merit further scrutiny. In the last example, I want to point out how carefully some of this data needs to be examined in order to get to the points which are often understated. Diplomats tend to word things in a very careful fashion.
Cable 07BEIJING2477 Tibetan Scholars: Cultural Preservation Cannot Be A Boutique Luxury is a report written by staff at the American Embassy in Beijing and was sent 2007-04-13 09:35. It outlines the current pressures on scholars in particular in preserving Tibetan culture. As well it discusses the fragmentation of Tibetan culture and the Tibetan people along the lines of modernization, Sinization, language loss, economic pressure, educational opportunities, political instability, academic limitations and other factors.
This big picture overview gives important insight into the cultural situation faced by Tibet within China.
Cable 09CHENGDU87 TIBETAN LANGUAGE INTERNET IN THE PRC sent 2009-05-22 04:49 discusses the increasing use of Tibetan language among a growing computer user group. It is interesting in that as software has increased in capability to facilitate the use of Tibetan, the use of the language online as well has grown. Also mentioned is the closure of some Tibetan language websites and detention of e-activists including the specific case of Kunga Tsayang, a monk from the Labrang Monastery in Gansu Province who wrote numerous hard hitting essays.
Some of the censorship problems are outlined including the sudden banning of Tibetan language instant messaging on QQ which is a very popular IM site. Mentioned as well is the practice of shutting down websites and internet access on important Tibetan cultural and particularly political occasions and when the Dalai Lama making the news in some way.
One major note is that the vast majority of the Tibetan language websites have their origins outside of Tibet (the TAR region) and mostly originate in the Qinghai and Gansu Provinces.
As well there is a long list of websites which have Tibetan content or which are primarily written in Tibetan.
09CHENGDU315 TIBET PARTY LINE PITFALL: "TIBET HAS BEEN PART OF CHINA sent 2009-12-18 09:39 outlines the problems with the Chinese government’s slogans that have been used to oppose Tibetan independence or true autonomy. It gives a historical perspective as well as analysis of the variations of the phrases used by the PRC. The report is quite critical of the Chinese government’s usage and rationalization for these phrases because government controlled press in Tibet (TAR) “quoted” American officials as using these slogans when they did not. It appeared to be a propaganda effort to make people believe that the US is in agreement with Chinese policy in the area. A good deal of the controversy relates to American relations with the Dalai Lama.
The cable author concludes:
12. (SBU) Foreign visitors and scholars are sometimes victims
of misrepresentation of their statements in the PRC press on
sensitive issues. For example, translations of foreign books,
including books by prominent Americans including the memoir of
as then-senator Clinton (on references to Tiananmen) are
sometimes censored. Each time, the offended foreigner, if they
dare to try to set the record straight, has not been able to
reach the Chinese audience with a reply. The problem of "Tibet
has been part of China since ancient times" is not a historical
one. The problem is politicizing historical questions.
That is the core rationale for revisionist history.
09CHENGDU305 TIBET: TAR JUSTICE SERVES THE PARTY, SOCIALISM, AND UNITY sent 2009-12-15 06:04 discusses the issue of prisons and re-education programs in Tibet. Here is an excerpt with consular note highlighted:
6. (SBU) Deputy Director He said that the Justice Bureau also is
in charge of the detention of people under China's re-education
through labor system (laodong jiaoyang zhidu), which was
established by the National People's Congress in 1957. This
system is well suited to China's national conditions, he said.
[Note: Reeducation through labor (laogai/laojiao) enables Public
Security to sentence a person to detention for up to two years
without appeal, judicial review, or oversight. In 2009, the
Chinese Ambassador to UN/Geneva revealed that the PRC had 320
such administrative detention centers with 190,000 prisoners
(URL tinyurl.com/unhr-rev-china-2009). Flora Sapio, an Italian
China law expert, has much information about China's reform
through labor system on her blog "Forgotten Archipelagos" at URL
florasapio.blogspot.com. End Note]
Cable 09CHENGDU288 TIBET: RELIGION MANAGEMENT OFFICIALS EXPLAIN THEIR SYSTEM created 2009-12-07 07:58 is from the Consulate at Chengdu. A Chinese government representative gave a presentation in Lhasa which was attended by consular officials and this cable summarizes the content of that presentation.
It covers some topics related to the population composition of the area labeled Tibetan Autonomous region (TAR) otherwise known as Tibet. There is some amount of obfuscation regarding figures for the area as the cable writer notes-indicated in orange:
(SBU) Ngapo Jinyuan said that ethnic Tibetans comprise 95
percent of the 2.83 million population of the TAR. The
populations of the Lhopa and Monpa minorities are about 10,000
each. The ethnic regional autonomy system conferred rights on
the peoples of the TAR, and thus the "Tibetans became masters in
their own house in 1959," Ngapo Jinyuan asserted. The TAR was
established in 1965, but the "Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy"
was not passed until 1984. [Comment and Note: This official's
"95 percent ethnic Tibetans" is highly misleading because it
does not include the PLA soldiers and PAP police, the "Help
Tibet" officials from inland China, and the many hundreds of
thousands of migrants ethnic Han migrant workers to the TAR, who
stay for months or years at a time (refs A and B). End
A further note regarding reincarnated lamas within this cable:
The tradition of identifying reincarnated lamas has
been resumed, Ngapo Jinyuan said. The 11th Panchen Lama was
indentified around 1992. Since the 1980s, the government has
recognized the identification of 40 reincarnated lamas in the
The same cable describes information given on becoming a monk or a nun.
Process of Applying and Being Approved as a Monk
8. (SBU) In response to a question from CG, Ngapo Jinyuan
explained that if someone wants to become a monk or nun, they
need to get permission from their parents, then communicate
their intention to the county government, and then get
permission from their prospective monastery or nunnery. The
monastery or nunnery will test the candidate and put them on the
religious candidates list for two years. During those two
years, if they respect the rules and regulations of the
Democratic Management Committee (DMC), then the candidate can
become a monk or nun. In principle, the Communist Party of
China gives people the freedom to practice their religion.
However, in practice, some monasteries do not have the economic
and intellectual capacity to accommodate many monks.
This DMC committee is used to manage all the monasteries external affairs.
10. (SBU) In response CG's question, Ngapo Jinyuan said that
the DMC is different from the "government working group." The
DMC is responsible for monastic religious affairs and financial
management. All the monasteries have DMCs, and all of its
members are monks. [Note: At the Gandan Monastery outside of
Lhasa, the DMC director said that the Gandan DMC has 22 members:
eleven monks and eleven government officials. The 11 government
officials do not participate however in some of the decisions
about the internal management of the monastery. End Note.]
There are obvious conflicting messages being given as to the composition of these committees. The presenter states members are all monks yet in reality many on the committees are government officials as the consulate note mentions.
9. (SBU) The number of monks in a monastery depends upon how
many monks the monastery can support and train, Ngapo Jinyuan
asserted. The labor of monks is lost to their village, but many
families feel that a monk in the family brings them glory.
Children are not allowed to become a monk or a nun before they
complete their nine years of compulsory education. Formerly,
monks from outside the TAR could study in TAR monasteries
without getting special permission, but now they need the
permission of both their local government, and the TAR
government, in order to do so.
This lack of capacity for providing for the training of monks and nuns is quite interesting considering that in the same presentation just prior to these claims the presenter boasted about the amount of rebuilding and new building the Chinese government had done.
5. (SBU) Since 1979, the Chinese central government has
invested nearly one billion RMB in the reconstruction of temples
and other religious sites, Ngapo Jinyuan explained. Although
much money is still needed for economic development, the
government continues to make large investments in the protection
of religious sites. People are free to practice their religion,
but "illegal" and "separatist" activities are not allowed, he
6. (SBU) As we had heard in meetings with Vice Governor Wu and
with the United Front Department (refs C and D) the right of
people in the TAR to religious freedom was stressed. Ngapo
Jinyuan said that there are four Tibetan Buddhist schools with
1700 religious venues and 46,000 monks and nuns in the TAR.
There are four mosques with 4000 Tibetan Muslims and one
Catholic Church with 700 Tibetan Catholics in the TAR. All
monasteries conduct normal religious activities. Many
monasteries were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution but
after 1978, most of them were rebuilt and the celebration of
over 40 religious festivals has resumed.
With the death, relocation, imprisonment and exodus of thousands including monks and nuns since the cultural revolution, why is there not adequate capacity to train monks if the levels of facilities have been restored? Is the demand for monk training that high? And if monks from other areas, as the cable also states, are now not freely permitted to train there but must get permissions from both their home counties and the TAR officials–an unlikely possibility in most cases–how are all the spaces being filled?
The presentation is extremely contradictory. Perhaps a committee needs to be struck to compose the propaganda message a little more consistently if an amateur analyst such as myself can pick out these glaring contradictions.
I strongly urge people to look up topics that pertain to their interests or their own countries in the Wikileaks cables. There may be someone sitting in prison right now who risked everything to bring them to public attention or there may be someone else living in fear day in and day out that they too will be detained without charge, apparently indefinitely, because their conscience overrode their orders.
I will make further posts here on any cables that related to Buddhism, Tibet and religious/philosophical/ideological matters. On my other blog, Memeo, I will make notes on anything else related to politics, culture and society, activism or related matters, as I look through this batch of cables. There are many more cables to come so that could make for a lot of blog posts.
(addition) Full text cable search available here cablegatesearch.net/search.php