Tsewang Dolma, an executive member of the Tibetan Youth Congress exile group, who is currently on a visit to the democratic island of Taiwan, has lent her vocal support to a campaign to release Taiwan democracy activist Lee Ming-cheh, jailed in China on subversion charges, because she sees strong parallels with the situation of Tibetans under the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Born in Kathmandu, a third-generation Tibetan exile, her grandparents fled over the Himalayas from Tibet after the People's Liberation Army (PLA) occupied Tibet. Elected chairwoman of Kathmandu Chapter of the Tibetan Youth Congress in 2013, Tsewang Dolma decided she must unite Tibetans in the wake of a harshly suppressed uprising in 2014. She spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service about the "middle way" of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and working for Tibetan independence in exile:
RFA: How do you reconcile the Tibetan Youth Congress' calls for independence with the Dalai Lama's middle way of autonomy under Chinese rule?
Tsewang Dolma: I have never thought there was any conflict between the the independence route and the middle way. The Dalai Lama’s middle way is born of great compassion for China ... which will have to consider whether to accept it. As for the Tibetan Youth League’s support for independence, this is the innate right of Tibetans ... The Tibetan Youth League requires independence. Of course, it will take time and faith, but there is no conflict with the middle way, because the two are not competing with each other. Our common enemy is the Chinese authorities that oppress and deprive Tibetans of their religion, their freedom and their human rights.
RFA: The Tibetan Youth Congress is the largest Tibetan non-profit organization (NGO). It is accused by the Chinese government of being a "terrorist organization" that splits the country.
Tsewang Dolma: That is not true. The Tibetan Youth League is fighting for independence, which is the birthright of Tibetans. No matter what happens, the Tibetan Youth League will always pursue this using non-violent action. The Chinese Communist Party is smearing us, which shows that what we are doing has been very influential.
RFA: What is your view of the Dalai Lama's desire not to reincarnate?
Tsewang Dolma: His Holiness is 84 years old and still very healthy, and has said that he will live to be 100 years old. This is good news. The Tibetans are very angry that the Chinese Communist Party wants to get involved in the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and that it has begun to think about how to prepare for the next Dalai Lama. This is very funny. The Communist Party of China does not believe in Buddhism and deprives Tibet of its religious freedom, yet it still feels the need to intervene in the reincarnation process. Their methods are very dirty and they should stop intervening in this matter. We will pray for the health of His Holiness, and Tibetans will unite. The younger generation will take on more responsibility. I hope that one day Tibetans will return to Tibet and fly the snow-lion flag from the Potala Palace.
RFA: Taiwanese Buddhists have repeatedly invited the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, but their request has been denied, not just under the nationalist KMT, but during the past two years under Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsewang Dolma: I can understand that if political leaders want to invite the Dalai Lama, sometimes it is very difficult because there are so many things to consider. His Holiness is a good religious leader. He promotes Buddhism everywhere and teaches love and compassion. If the Taiwan government were able to invite him, of course it would be wonderful. I think the Taiwanese would be very lucky to have a visit from the Dalai Lama. But actually, he is very old, and we are very concerned about his health and safety. We all [recently] expressed hope that His Holiness wouldn't take so many trips, but it is a good thing to see him go out in the world to talk about Buddhism.
RFA: What steps is the Tibetan Youth League taking to promote Tibetan independence?
Tsewang Dolma: One of the themes of the Tibetan Youth League’s initiative this year is to appeal to Indian politicians, grassroots leaders and ordinary people by saying that an independent and free Tibet will bring security to India. This view has been supported by many Indians, and many Indians are also angry that the Chinese authorities are persecuting Tibetans. As an exiled Tibetan, I am very grateful to the Indian government for supporting the [Tibetans] for 60 years and helping them to set up the government-in exile, as well as many NGOs and schools. I regret that I did not grow up in Tibet. But I never thought that was unfortunate. I am very proud of being a Tibetan because the Tibetans have a unique nature, including kindness, courtesy, trusting others, [as well as] their own religion.
Reported by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.