From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]



Beijing pledges ‘a fight to the death’ with Dalai Lama
by Jane Macartney, of The Times, in Beijing

Chinese officials want to end the Dalai Lama “cult” (EPA)

China’s new top official in Tibet has embarked on a fierce campaign
to crush loyalty to the exiled Dalai Lama and to extinguish religious
beliefs among government officials.

Zhang Qingli, was appointed Communist Party secretary of the Tibetan
Autonomous Region in May. An ally of Hu Jintao, China’s President, Mr
Zhang, 55, has moved swiftly to tighten his grip over this deeply
Buddhist region.

He was previously head of the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and
Construction Corps in that mainly Muslim western region, overseeing
migration of ethnic Han Chinese as well as border security.

Mr Zhang’s drive to stamp out allegiance to the Dalai Lama, who fled
to India during an anti-Chinese uprising in 1959, has adopted a tone
rarely seen since the mid-1990s. At the time Beijing launched a barrage
of angry rhetoric against the region’s god-king and banned his
photograph after he enraged China by unilaterally announcing the
discovery of the reincarnation of Tibet’s second holiest monk, the
Panchen Lama.

In May Mr Zhang told senior party officials in the region that they
were engaged in a “fight to the death” against the Dalai Lama.
Since then he has implemented several new policies to try to erode the
influence of the 71-year-old monk who China’s rulers believe is
waging a covert campaign to win independence for his Himalayan

Ethnic Tibetan civil servants of all ranks, from the lowliest of
government employees to senior officials, have been banned from
attending any religious ceremony or from entering a temple or
monastery. Previously only party members were required to be atheist,
but many of them quietly retained their Buddhist beliefs.

Patriotic education campaigns in the monasteries that have been in the
vanguard of anti-Chinese protests have been expanded.

Ethnic Tibetan officials in Lhasa as well as in surrounding rural
counties have been required to write criticisms of the Dalai Lama.
Senior civil servants must produce 10,000-word essays while those in
junior posts need only write 5,000-character condemnations. Even
retired officials are not exempt.

Non-governmental organisations in Tibet have not been spared as Mr
Zhang tightens the party’s grip. Previously, these organisations –
involved in aid, healthcare, education and building preservation –
had been able to sign five-year contracts with the Government to work
in the region. But this has been cut to two years and several have been
refused a new contract and must leave.

Mr Zhang told a reporter last week: “The Dalai Lama used to be an
acknowledged religious leader, which is an undoubted fact, but what he
has done makes him unworthy of the title.”

His tone echoed that of a recent full-page diatribe carried in both the
Chinese and Tibetan editions of the Tibet Daily that accused the Dalai
Lama of collaborating with the US Central Intelligence Agency. It said:
“What he pursues is a swindle and nothing stands between his
‘high-level autonomy’ and ‘Tibetan independence’.”

Mr Zhang said few people understood the true nature of the Dalai Lama.
“I still can’t figure out how he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
What peace has he brought to the world?”

The latest denunciations cast into doubt the future of secretive
negotiations between envoys of the Dalai Lama and Beijing over his
possible return to Tibet. The talks resumed in 2002 but have so far
made scant progress.

Shedding light on the process, a Chinese official has said that the
Dalai Lama’s envoys had raised the issue of a “Greater Tibet” but
this is unacceptable to China. Parts of China’s western provinces of
Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan are home to large ethnic Tibetan
populations and many were carved out of Tibet in a government
reconfiguration in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Tibet Daily commentator, identified by the Tibetan name Yedor,
said: “It is easy for one to see the Dalai Lama’s ulterior motive:
eventually seeking Tibetan independence.”

The Dalai Lama has said he does not seek independence but autonomy
under Chinese rule.



Why Young Tibetans Dress All Hip-hop
July 27, 2006

By Tenzin Wangyal

Why do young Tibetans dress up in hip-hop attire, and try to talk and
act like gangsta rappers? This seems to be the preferred dress code for
most young Tibetans living in the US, Canada, even Europe and
increasingly in India and Nepal: a loose baggy jeans hanging
precariously below the waistline; an oversize t-shirt; a baseball cap
worn backward or sideways; and, a pair of boots or sneakers at least 2
sizes bigger. Add the defiant swagger, some hand-signs and some
expressions like Nawmsayin’? (Translation: you know what I’m
saying?), and lo and behold, we have ourselves a Tibetan wannabe nigga,
in short a tigga. No one should take offense at this epithet because I
have seen the same young Tibetans refer to themselves by that name and
regularly greet each other with a “Wassup, nigga?”

Before putting the fashion choice of our tigga brethren under the
microscope, I will acknowledge that our youngsters are probably drawn
to hip-hop fashion for the same reasons that millions of other young
people throughout the world emulate this nonconformist, casual and
rebellious counter-culture. There is also the inescapable presence
hip-hop music has come to have in pop music and culture. On top of
that, most Tibetans in the U.S. live in neighborhoods and send their
kids to public schools where hip-hop clothing is the norm. The teenage
urge to fit in with one’s peers, the fear of being picked on or
bullied or worse, ostracized for being ‘un-cool’, the realization
that they might not be able to assimilate into mainstream white
America, the insecurity and confusion of an adolescent searching for
one’s identity – all conspire to lure young Tibetans to join the
Brotherhood of the Bling.

I am a big fan of Old School Hip-hop, which reflected the true spirit
of hip-hop and was about empowerment, flipping the script and taking
responsibility for one’s future. However, in the recent years, Old
School Hip-hop has been replaced by Gangsta Rap, which has been
influenced by the dress and life styles of thugs and prison mates. For
instance, wearing loose pants had its origins in prisons where belts
are among the first things confiscated when new inmates are being given
their uniforms. Unlike Old School Hip-hop which carried social messages
and was more about ‘sticking it to the man’, gangsta rappers are no
more than unscrupulous businessmen simply catering to what sells – sex,
violence, misogynistic themes, and the pimp and playa stuff –
elevating the scum of society to the status of cultural heroes and
promoting vices as virtues. This has caused many black folks including
intellectuals to worry about the direction in which hip-hop culture is
now headed, and the image it is projecting of the larger
African-American community.

Now just dressing up like a gangsta rapper in and by itself poses no
serious threat. But we all know that wearing a certain uniform or dress
code is like a soft command that makes you adapt your personality,
including your language and mannerisms so that it fits with the image
you are seeking to project by your choice of clothing. In other words,
what you wear requires you to carry yourself accordingly. So if a young
Tibetan feels that to convincingly pull off gangsta rap fashion he
should talk and act like a gangsta, then there is a problem. After all,
their gangsta rap icons flaunt their criminal past as testament to
their own perverse definition of street credibility, most of their
songs extol gang violence and going to prison is seen as a necessary
rite of passage. And from my own personal observation, its seems that
Tibetan kids are just not wearing gangsta rap hip-hop fashion as a
fashion statement but rather taking it seriously and trying to emulate
the gangsta lifestyle, and perhaps harking back to our pre-Buddhist
‘warrior race’ history. The lack of parental guidance and attention
though not the main cause of this problem, certainly plays a huge part
in allowing these sheep to stray far away, and sometimes beyond recall.
In many cities in the U.S., Tibetan parents work more than two jobs or
at least overtime in their one job but when it comes to something more
important, that is parenting, they work only part-time and literally
let (the rest of) the village raise the child.

I am worried by this trend of young Tibetans trying to be all hip-hop
and gangsta because in trying to do so they are unknowingly committing
intellectual suicide by aspiring downward. For example, unlearning
Standard English and taking up Ebonics or Black English (which is a
hybrid of English that was spoken by uneducated white slave owners and
the grammar of African languages) cannot work wonders to ensure upward
mobility at work or life in general. This could partly explain why
Tibetan girls – who unlike their male counterparts are not that much
into hip-hop and prefer to rather assimilate into the more conservative
mainstream – are now faring much better than the guys these days in
academics and consequently, ending up with better careers. However, I
think we Tibetans do not suffer from a lack of collective identity –
in fact there are reasons aplenty to be proud just being a Tibetan,
enough that I would not be embarrassed to even literally shout it from
the mountaintop. We certainly don’t have to scramble to fit in and
assimilate either with the mainstream or with the counter-culture. The
better alternative would be to acculturate, which would allow us to
acquire the ability to function within the dominant culture while
retaining our Tibetan culture and Tibetan-ness.

I can only sympathize with the young Tibetans who dress and act all
hip-hop because I think as much as they are in denial, they find
themselves in a very uncomfortable position – stuck in the middle
with both sides resenting them: the older Tibetans disapprove of these
ra-ma-lugs (neither goat nor sheep) for rejecting our own identity, and
the blacks resent these wannabes for “trying too hard” to copy
them. After all, no matter how you look at it, they “ain’t keepin’
it real”.

{Tenzin Wangyal is an alumnus of TCV School, Dharamsala, and Middlebury
College, Vermont. He currently works in Boston, USA and is on the Board
of Directors for Students for a Free Tibet (SFT). He can be reached at
tenzin_wangyal [at] hotmail [dot] com}

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