01/02/2009, 00.00
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After 50 years in exile, hope for a return remains strong as Tibetans try to keep traditions alive

by Nirmala Carvalho
Many Tibetans will mark 50 years since the 1959 uprising in exile. Today’s greatest challenge for them is to retain intact their cultural and religious traditions whilst developing an appropriate educational policy for the younger generation. Tibet’s Prime Minister-in-exile Samdhong Rinpoche talks about his hopes for the new year.

Kalon Tripa (AsiaNews) – On 10 March 1959 Tibet’s national uprising began but it ended with many Tibetans escaping into exile. Fifty years later Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, talked to AsiaNews answering some questions about the present and the future of his people.

How will you be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the uprising?

It will not be a happy moment; no one will be celebrating. It will mark 50 years of hardships and sadness in the history of the Tibetan people and its struggle. But it will be an important moment to start planning for the future solution of the Tibetan problem; yet we do not know whether we will live in exile for another 50 years or not. If that is the case we shall have to find ways to preserve our rich heritage, cultural identity, and religion so that Tibetans can be and think like Tibetans.

What was the greatest source of angst in these past fifty years?

Of all the pain and angst we have had to endure, the worst was our inability to get the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to change its policy. Our brothers and sisters living inside Tibet have seen the systematic dismantling of Tibet’s culture, religion and identity and this has caused untold damage to Tibetans as a whole. Those who stayed behind live under constant threats and suspicions; their dignity as humans and as believers is serious violated.

Secondly, we are inexperienced in the field of education. We lack the experience to develop a national policy in the matter. We have become aware of the huge difficulties inherent in this domain since it was not taken up earlier on by the exiled community. No task in our view could be more challenging, more vital and more relevant in our struggle for survival as a nation in exile than education.

We absolutely must come up with plans and introduce changes to meet our educational goals and formulate our own Tibetan education policy in exile. We need to formulate our own education policy in the Tibetan context, which should embody a vision for the future growth and development of the community and for the role that education ought to play in national development.

Education has to prepare young Tibetans for the realities of present-day life in exile. The essential task of education is to preserve our national and cultural identity despite being uprooted from our motherland.

In the recent past the Dalai Lama has often described India’s attitude as overcautious . . . ?

I do not consider the comments by His Holiness the Dalai as negative or as a critique. Without India’s cooperation, we would not have managed for the past 50 years and for this we are grateful. In fact on 31 March, we will host a “Thank India Day” to show our appreciation. What the Dalai Lama was referring to were those specific diplomatic actions undertaken by Indian authorities to avoid frictions with the People’s Republic of China. Unfortunately, China views India’s virtue as a sign of weakness.

What are your hopes for 2009?

Our sincerest hope is that a solution to the Tibetan issue will be found. We hope for the emancipation of Tibetans living inside Tibet and also the emancipation of the Chinese people because every human being has a fundamental right to be free.

There is immense suffering and oppression of both Tibetans and Chinese under the totalitarian government of the People’s Republic. What is more, most human rights abuses in China have been largely ignored.

For this reason we would like to see some change. Currently, there is no freedom of speech or thought. But we do hope that human rights abuse against our people will end, and that the dilution of our culture that results from mass immigration by Han Chinese (China’s dominant ethnic group) will be stopped.

We shall celebrate the Tibetan people’s embrace of non-violence, and call on world leaders and the international community to find a peaceful solution to the Tibetan question on this 50th anniversary of our exile.

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