100 years ago, Tibet was at a crossroads. The Chinese Manchu Empire invaded in 1910, forcing the Dalai Lama into exile. But Tibetans pushed the invaders out and reclaimed independence on 13th February 1913.
100 years on, Tibet is again occupied, but more and more, Tibetans are rising to push China out, laying down their lives for the cause. On 13th February, Tibetans and supporters across the world proclaimed independence; a date which also marked a shocking milestone; 100 Tibetans have now self-immolated since 2009.
Most countries have an independence or national day regardless of its current political status and Tibet is no exception. February 13th 2013 marked 100 years since Tibetans proclaimed the restoration of their independence. Tibet has been occupied by China since 1949-50, so this proclamation remains the last legitimate statement by Tibetans on the status of their nation.
On Wednesday, February 13th (the 3rd day of Tibetan New Year), Tibetans and supporters worldwide commemorated the centennial of Tibetan Independence Day,including in London, where the proclamation of independence scroll was unveiled at the Tibetan Peace Garden, and in Edinburgh. In occupied countries, observing independence day has become a powerful expression of a people’s desire for freedom, and from now on Tibetan Independence Day will be marked on 13th February until Tibet has its independence back.
NDTV report on Tibetan Independence Day 2013size>
Almost 100 years after Tibet last proclaimed independence, Tibetans’ national spirit is still strong, both inside and outside Tibet. During over sixty years of brutal occupation, China’s increasingly violent, paranoid and desperate attempts to eradicate all things Tibetan has been one of the most monumental failures of our times. Tibetans still take pride in wearing Tibetan clothes, in eating Tibetan food, in following Tibetan religion and culture and in putting their lives on the line to do what the 13th Dalai Lama did in 1913; to declare Tibet as an independent nation.
Former political prisoner Palden Gyatso unravels the 1913 proclamation scroll, scroll close-up and SFT Executive Director Tendor addresses the crowd in Dharamsala on 13th February last year. Watch out for the unveiling of the scroll in the UK this February!size>
Secure the past, shape the future
1. WRITE TO YOUR MP: Go to writetothem.com and tap in your postcode to send an email to your MP. Tell them 100 Tibetans have now self-immolated since 2009 and it’s been 100 years since Tibetans were last in a position to proclaim their independence. Demand that the British government takes part in multi-lateral action to end the human rights abuses which China has imposed in occupied Tibet and which have created the current crisis.
2. WRITE TO THE CHINESE EMBASSY Make it clear to the Embassy that British citizens respect Tibetans’ right to self determination, and that despite China’s propaganda, that the British public realise that the Tibetan nation is still strong in Tibetans’ hearts and that they understand it is China’s policies which are causing the crisis in Tibet. Send the Embassy a copy of the proclamation of independence in English or Chinese to remind them of the true legal status of Tibet.
Ambassador Liu Xiaoming
49-51 Portland Place London W1B 1JL
020 7299 4049
And you may want to write to other nation’s embassies too, sending them the proclamation and asking them to stand with Tibetans on this important anniversary by urging their governments to take part in multi-lateral action to end the current crisis in Tibet.
Recreation of the declaration of independence and it’s signatory His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lamasize>
Over 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire inside Tibet in protest against Chinese rule; most of them in 2012 and three already in 2013. Others have done so outside Tibet to stand in solidarity, and nobody knows how many unreported or unproven cases there have been. Tibetans are increasingly taking strategic actions for their country, including mass protests against mining, education rights and human rights abuses, banner hangs, boycotts and civil disobedience. And China is responding in the same old way it always has; oppression.
The more that China outlaws the very things that make Tibetans Tibetan, the more ordinary Tibetans become activists; the more Tibetans resist. No empire, not even China, can hold back such resistance forever.
Today, Tibetans are risking their lives and freedom to fly the flag of the Tibetan nationsize>
In commemorating the historical legacy of Tibet’s independence, we are not only securing our past but also shaping our future, as we work toward fulfilling our vision of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and all Tibetans uniting in a free and democratic Tibet.
I, the Dalai Lama, most omniscient possessor of the Buddhist faith, whose title was conferred by the Lord Buddha’s command from the glorious land of India, speak to you as follows:
I am speaking to all classes of Tibetan people. Lord Buddha, from the glorious country of India, prophesied that the reincarnations of Avalokitesvara, through successive rulers from the early religious kings to the present day, would look after the welfare of Tibet.
During the time of Genghis Khan and Altan Khan of the Mongols, the Ming dynasty of the Chinese, and the Ch’ing Dynasty of the Manchus, Tibet and China cooperated on the basis of benefactor and priest relationship. A few years ago, the Chinese authorities in Szechuan and Yunnan endeavored to colonize our territory. They brought large numbers of troops into central Tibet on the pretext of policing the trade marts. I, therefore, left Lhasa with my ministers for the Indo-Tibetan border, hoping to clarify to the Manchu emperor by wire that the existing relationship between Tibet and China had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other. There was no other choice for me but to cross the border, because Chinese troops were following with the intention of taking me alive or dead.
On my arrival in India, I dispatched several telegrams to the Emperor; but his reply to my demands was delayed by corrupt officials at Peking. Meanwhile, the Manchu empire collapsed. The Tibetans were encouraged to expel the Chinese from central Tibet. I, too, returned safely to my rightful and sacred country, and I am now in the course of driving out the remnants of Chinese troops from DoKham in Eastern Tibet. Now, the Chinese intention of colonizing Tibet under the patron-priest relationship has faded like a rainbow in the sky. Having once again achieved for ourselves a period of happiness and peace, I have now allotted to all of you the following duties to be carried out without negligence:
1. Peace and happiness in this world can only be maintained by preserving the faith of Buddhism. It is, therefore, essential to preserve all Buddhist institutions in Tibet, such as the Jokhang temple and Ramoche in Lhasa, Samye, and Traduk in southern Tibet, and the three great monasteries, etc.
2. The various Buddhist sects in Tibet should be kept in a distinct and pure form. Buddhism should be taught, learned, and meditated upon properly. Except for special persons, the administrators of monasteries are forbidden to trade, loan money, deal in any kind of livestock, and/or subjugate another’s subjects.
3. The Tibetan government’s civil and military officials, when collecting taxes or dealing with their subject citizens, should carry out their duties with fair and honest judgment so as to benefit the government without hurting the interests of the subject citizens. Some of the central government officials posted at Ngari Korsum in western Tibet, and Do Kham in eastern Tibet, are coercing their subject citizens to purchase commercial goods at high prices and have imposed transportation rights exceeding the limit permitted by the government. Houses, properties and lands belonging to subject citizens have been confiscated on the pretext of minor breaches of the law. Furthermore, the amputation of citizens’ limbs has been carried out as a form of punishment. Henceforth, such severe punishments are forbidden.
4. Tibet is a country with rich natural resources; but it is not scientifically advanced like other lands. We are a small, religious, and independent nation. To keep up with the rest of the world, we must defend our country. In view of past invasions by foreigners, our people may have to face certain difficulties, which they must disregard. To safeguard and maintain the independence of our country, one and all should voluntarily work hard. Our subject citizens residing near the borders should be alert and keep the government informed by special messenger of any suspicious developments. Our subjects must not create major clashes between two nations because of minor incidents.
5. Tibet, although thinly populated, is an extensive country. Some local officials and landholders are jealously obstructing other people from developing vacant lands, even though they are not doing so themselves. People with such intentions are enemies of the State and our progress. From now on, no one is allowed to obstruct anyone else from cultivating whatever vacant lands are available. Land taxes will not be collected until three years have passed; after that the land cultivator will have to pay taxes to the government and to the landlord every year, proportionate to the rent. The land will belong to the cultivator.
Your duties to the government and to the people will have been achieved when you have executed all that I have said here. This letter must be posted and proclaimed in every district of Tibet, and a copy kept in the records of the offices in every district.
From the Potala Palace.
(Seal of the Dalai Lama)
Source: W.D. Shakabpa, ‘Tibet: A Political History’size>
Tibetans gather at the unraveling of the scroll and SFT UK’s former Director Pema Yoko reads the proclamationsize>
SFT UK is run mainly by volunteers who use our own resources. You can help us grow by joining the rangzen circle to help us campaign not just now but all year, every year until Tibet is free.