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From Tibet the Cry is “Rangzen!”

Wednesday, Mar 10, 1993
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The word “Rangzen” (independence) is the most constant and powerful refrain in nearly all protest documents that have come out from Tibet in the last few years, whether it be lengthy petitions to the United Nations, humble scraps of paper surreptitiously passed on to tourists, or wall posters hurriedly pasted up in the night (sometimes upside down) on the walls of Lhasa city. In fact, every political demonstration and protest has had as its essential demand, independence for Tibet; followed by a demand for human rights, and expressions of loyalty to the Dalai Lama as the sovereign ruler of Tibet. Hundreds of such posters, leaflets, pamphlets and manifestos have made their way out of Tibet. A representative few are discussed below.

The most recent of such documents is a copy of a poster that was pasted up in the centre of Rongbo town (on the wall of the official guesthouse) in Rebkong, Amdo (Qinghai province). Another copy of the poster was also pasted in another section of the town. The poster is essentially a warning to Tibetan people not to believe in the White Paper issued by the Chinese government, and it assures the people that Tibetan independence will come soon. It also warns all Chinese to return to China. The document claims to be issued by the Rebkong branch of the Committee for Independence (Rangzen tsok-chung). It is dated 26 (?) 1992.

A poster dated 1 August 1992, and acquired by a Swiss-Tibetan visitor to Lhasa last year, carries a warning to those Tibetans “working against the struggle for the rightful cause of independence”. Interestingly enough, the warning is not only directed at those collaborating with the Communist Chinese, but extends to those in the pay of Taiwan. Tibetans in exile visiting Tibet are also warned against doing business in sacred images, as also are such dealers in Tibet. The poster concludes on a stern note of warning to all malefactors: “We the people, know who you are. You are following the wrong path. You must change your ways. Otherwise you will soon have to exchange your ill-gotten money with your life. The nation of Tibet belongs to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. The Three Regions (Cholka sum) Amity Society.”

A nine page petition to the “leaders of the United Nations”, describing human rights abuses in Tibet and the many guises (economic reforms etc.) under which Chinese immigration to Tibet was taking place, concludes with these lines, “Though the Tibetans at the moment cannot show their gratitude to the UN, as our nation is under the oppression of the enemy, one day, when Tibet gains its independence, the people will surely do so. Jointly from the people of the three regions of Tibet (Cholka sum thunmong), on the twenty-fifth day of the sixth moon of the Fire Rabbit year.”

Another memorandum, dated 4 October 1987, from the same group is addressed to the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. It thanks the 150-odd congressmen for sending a message to the Chinese government in 1985, protesting against the oppression of the Tibetan people, and also stating that Chinese claims to Tibet are unfounded and false. The memorandum also mentions that on the 22 October 1986, the American Federal Reserve Bank(?) passed a regulation wherein was mentioned that Tibet was an independent nation(?).

The memorandum concludes, “When we Tibetans heard this we became very happy. Our sun of happiness has risen from the West. Furthermore, the statement that Tibet is completely independent has been like food to a starving man and water to a man dying of thirst. It has made us drunk with joy. From the people of the Three Regions (Cholka sum).”

A mimeographed list of slogans is dated 10 December 1988. The slogans were probably meant for a demonstration, maybe the one to commemorate the United Nations Human Right’s Day, which is mentioned at the head of the list. The slogans are uniform in structure, and somewhat Chinese in character with the cry “Ten thousand years to…,” (Tibetan: ku-tse tri-drak, Chinese: wan-sui) preceding all the slogans:

Ten thousand years to the “historically significant Tibetan nation!”

Ten thousand years to the struggle for Tibetan independence!

Ten thousand years to the memory of the Tibetan people who struggled against China for forty years!

There are also separate slogans praising the demonstrations of 27 September 1987, 1 October 1987 and 5 March 1988

One unusual document is a leaflet distributed during a demonstration in Lhasa on 10 December 1988. The first declaration in the leaflet, in Tibetan and English, is unequivocal: Tibet is an Independent Country. This is not only one of the few docu-ments where an English translation is provided, but where the document has been printed off a hand-carved woodblock, exactly in the way traditional Tibetan books were printed.

Perhaps the most important political document to come out of Tibet since the last wave of protests began is the “Drepung Manifesto” in 1988, published by Drepung monks who had all taken part in the first demonstration in Lhasa on 27 September 1987. Printed as an eleven page pamphlet using wooden blocks (as the above mentioned handbill), the text is a manifesto for an independent democratic Tibet. (For an interesting analysis of this text see: Ronald Schwartz’s “Democracy, Tibetan Independence and Protest under Chinese Rule”, The Tibet Journal, Vol. xvii, No.2, Summer 1992.)

But the most expressive — especially in their brevity — of such documents must be the short messages on scraps of paper slipped into the pockets of tourists or palmed off into the hand of some visitor. One such, written almost certainly by a person from Amdo, with the distinctive spelling and syntactical differences from standard Tibetan literary form, states bluntly: “You Chinese must not remain on Tibetan soil. The three provinces of Tibet are independent. From five hundred people of Gansu.” (Parts of Amdo have been incorporated into Gansu province.) No date.

Another brief appeal (undated), this time to the world: “You people from the outside, please help the Dalai Lama to get Tibetan independence (Bod-jong rangzen). We pray for His long life. In this peaceful land surrounded by high snowy mountains, the source of all benefits and happiness is the Dalai Lama.” (This last sentence is a direct quote from the old Tibetan national hymn).

The saddest of these appeals is one directed to His Holiness:

Gongsa Kyapgon Gyalwa Rinpoche, please, we entreat you, all Tibetans want independence. We are all in great sorrow as we do not have independence. Independence, please, please.

Spring 1993
USTC Newsletter

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