07/29/2011, 00.00
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More than 5,000 Tibetans meet in China to reassert their national identity

Lay people and monks from dozens of monasteries meet for ten days in Kardze (Sichuan) to discuss, in Tibetan, values and national unity. Participants were very emotional about the event, especially the young, “who are ready to risk everything to defend our culture.”
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – More than 5,000 Tibetan monks and lay people gathered at the Lithang Gonchen Monastery in Kardze (Ganzi in Chinese) in Sichuan between 15 and 24 July to talk about values and Tibetan national unity, defying a Chinese ban. Here is an interview of a Tibetan leader with AsiaNews.

Atruk Tseten is a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile based in Dharamsala (India). He told Radio Free Asia that Chinese authorities tried first to limit the number of participants, then they declined to interfere, but their security forces remained camped near the venue where the event was held.

The meeting “had a great impact on the younger Tibetans attending, and helped to uphold their identity as Tibetans,” Atruk Tseten said.

The gathering was organised in every detail. Participants were instructed to speak only in Tibetan and wear traditional Tibetan clothes.

About 100 monasteries were invited, but only 40-50 were able to send delegates, including monks from Kirti monastery, which has been under direct police control for months. About 300 of its monks were forcibly removed earlier this year, whilst the rest have been subjected to “patriotic education”.

Tibet accuses China of being engaged in a cultural genocide. The Tibetan language is banned from the Tibetan administration and schools. In recent years, writers in Tibetan have been jailed just for describing the life and hardships of the Tibetan people.

Even though it is illegal, portraits of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama were on display. On other occasions, Chinese authorities have jailed people for that.

“Many people told me that for the first time in their lives they felt as if they really could see His Holiness the Dalai Lama in person and seek his blessings”, Mr Tseten said.

“For the past 60 years, the People's Republic of China (PRC) believed that the Tibetan heart could be converted to a Chinese one, either by force, apparent economic development and financial benefits. However, this massive demonstration is a manifestation of the Tibetan heart and Tibetan spirit. Nothing can convert the heart of the Tibetans into Chinese,” said Prof Samdhong Rinpoche, a former Kalon Tripa (prime minister) of the Tibetan government in exile.

“This generation of Tibetans have not seen His Holiness, the Dalai Lama (in exile since 1959). This gathering is evidence of the faith and allegiance Tibetans have for his the Dalai Lama. They are completely bound by love and devotion for the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism. Their commitment to the teachings and spiritual leadership of the Dalai Lama remain steadfast.”

“The PRC's attempts at a cultural genocide have proven futile as evinced by this gathering, which takes places in spite of the fear and suspicion that the PRC may use brutal force like they did recently at the Kirti Monastery.”

“Tibetans have risked arrests, torture and 'disappearance' to assemble there, choosing to risk everything in order to celebrate and preserve the Tibetan culture”.
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