Tagged: China

A conversation with Speaker Penpa Tsering – Part 1

Here is the first part of an extensive conversation—well, as extensive as it can get in 30-plus minutes—that I had with Sikyong candidate Speaker Penpa Tsering. We met in one of Parkdale’s ubiquitous Tibetan-owned establishments, Shangri-la restaurant, where we discussed his Sikyong 2016 campaign so far, the state of Tibetan democracy, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lukar Jam, Tibet Support Groups, Donald Trump, and Rob Ford, among others.

Continue reading


Of Tibetans Banning “Free Tibet”

Tibetan Protest in Vancouver, BC. Oct 21, 2005.

A simmering dispute in the Tibetan diaspora came to boil this past week when organizers of the annual Tibetan National Uprising day rally in New York City publicly clashed with demonstrators that carried placards and shouted slogans containing the words “Free Tibet”. The opposing counterparts fell in two camps: those who advocate for Rangzen (Tibetan independence; absolute freedom from China) and those who favour Umay-Lam (Middle-Way Path or genuine autonomy; similar in some respects to Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two System” setup). The Umay-Lam supporters, it seems, wanted nothing to do with “Free Tibet” at this year’s rally.

Even though the point of contention in New York City on March 10, 2015, rested on what was and wasn’t permissible at the event, the discord points to a deeper issue: One that has been debated vociferously many times in India, and is finally wedging itself in the burgeoning Tibetan communities in North America. On the face of it, the question is about determining Tibetan sovereignty and the future of Tibet. What this incident points to though, is the more complicated question of who decides the future of Tibet.

Continue reading

Seventy two and counting + Toronto Protest on Nov 14

Everything that’s needed to be said has been said.

The searing clarion call from Tibet. The ripples of anguish across the communities in exile. The amoral handwave by the Chinese ruling class. The deafening silence from its detractors in the mainland and beyond.

Everything that’s needed to be said has been said, and yet we find ourselves unable to confront the malignancy of the situation. For those of us outside Tibet, we do our part in going to protests. We write impassioned essays. We get arrested. We get into online arguments.

We pray.

And yet the simple fact of the matter—the skin of the truth—is that we don’t know. We shout a lot, but at the core, within that gauze of work and life and shit, we are at a loss for words. We wonder how the picture of a charred body pricks us, reminds us of our injustice and insecurity, and of our connection to a piece of land many of us have never stepped foot on.

We think we know what drives a young teenage monk to pour fuel on himself and strike a matchstick. We hope we can relate to a mother of three children when she abandons them for the Cause.

What is it that binds us together?

Where is that mischievous, irrepressible smile?

How deep is our well?

My days are ordered with quiet streets and bulbous figures wrapped from head to toe against the November cold. They are insulated within walls and windows, muffling the clinks of streetcars and the wayward songbird. They are filled with breaks of coffee and tea from the computer screen. They are chores pushed back and messages to be returned.

They are not this.

But every week, they become closer. Bit by bit.

There is a protest happening tomorrow, Wednesday, in downtown Toronto. At Richmond St. and Yonge St. In front of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It has to do with the pending sale of Canada’s natural resources to a group of investors in China who have financed the forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads. Tibetans nomads who have now resorted to burning their bodies in order to express their defiance.

It will happen at 10 am in the morning. I know it can be inconvenient, but please try.

We may not know who we are or what we ought to do. But we know this much: our righteous condemnation against a transaction that facilitates the destruction of the Tibetan people, culture and land must be felt and heard.

Especially if it is inconvenient.

Flames of a Ghost

Naked hills, soft like infant mountains, with
No trees and birds; no song for the heavens.
Stubborn lines of lungta stretched by stray squalls—
Wishful prologues; polyester in abeyance.

Folds of red gather around the pyre;
Their intoning chants quite mellifluous.
Burning juniper and black flesh recall
Crushed barley that is spread lightly, superfluous.

Ashen fingers light a hundred eight lamps,
As the tips of hair recoil at heat this close.
Saffron shadows sauntering in the hall
Attempt to console the hums of past, future ghosts.

My head was clear though my heart beat in protest.
Amidst the frenzied screams I was at peace.
Petroleum skin flinched in withdrawal;
Vows in situ, I hope to go back to the trees.

The coldest of winter beset by flames
That melts the edges of uncertainty.
Do you hear these shouts that disturb the Wall?
Don’t make scrolls of martyrs yet; please first hear my plea.

Immolations in Tibet Continue Unabated

The wave of self-immolations show no sign of subsiding as another woman in Tibet, this time a mother of three, set herself on fire and perished on the scene. This brings the total tally to 38, including the two men in Lhasa earlier this week.

Many Tibetans here in Toronto are becoming increasingly numb to such news from Tibet. It used to be that the initial shock and horror of the news was followed by a call for action: protest, candle-light vigil, prayers, lobbying at the Parliament, etc. Now, many of us talk about the self-immolations over breakfast, we might make a comment or two about the parsimonious coverage from our news outlets, and then we go on with our lives. When previously every new report of self-immolation was a sign of an imminent judgment day for our struggle, now they barely register in our social media updates.

Continue reading

Thoughts on Machik’s TGAP Forum

The spectre of a Quebec-wide shutdown following news of the passing of Bill 78 loomed somewhat intriguingly as my girlfriend and I crept along Highway 40, waiting to enter Montreal on a sultry, late Friday afternoon. With the road packed for kilometres with drivers going away for the Victoria Day long-weekend, I managed to catch up on the controversy surrounding the Charest government’s decision to pass a law that makes it illegal for a group of ten or more people to gather on a street without prior notice to the police, among other things. In the face of this absurdity, it only seems logical for a province proudly steeped in a history of uprisings and protests to respond with hundreds of thousands of galvanized students and activists on the streets the following week.

But none of this had any bearing on why I was stuck in this rush-hour gridlock.

Continue reading