Tibet: No Voice

In recent years, China has been emerging as a major world leader through its massive population and economic growth. China’s extremely massive population has allowed it to grow economically at an alarming rate, which has put it on the fast track to becoming one of the wealthiest nations in the entire world. But this massive growth has been built on top of the people of Tibet. Tibet, through her history, has been under Chinese rule through China’s long dynastic period. Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, Tibet had finally gained autonomy. This freedom was allowed to last until 1951, when the Chinese government invaded Tibet, and dissolved its government eight years later. The outcry for Tibetan autonomy has been immense, but the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has not only ignored negotiations, but has stifled this cry by denying those who speak out their right to free speech or freedom in general. The people of Tibet are denied their rights to speech and religion, locked in check by Chinese government, while the outside world only hears of China’s happy administration of the Tibetan “Autonomous” Region.

My life has been touched by this conflict through my close friendship with a man in the center of it all, Namgyal Wangchuk Lhagyari Trichen, or just Trichen as I have come to know him. Trichen is the currently exiled king of Tibet, and has not been home for over a decade, living instead in an Indian refugee camp until he came to America and went to boarding school. Studying Chinese with Trichen, living together with him, and being good friends with him have shown me the immense tranquility and kindness that have come from his experience of this conflict. However, such a man, let alone an entire people, should never be forced to endure this kind of turmoil. There is no justice in the subjugation of an entire people, no matter what the rationale behind it is. There is no justice in the imprisonment and silencing of those who seek only to be treated equally. And there is no justice in the exile of a kind man who only seeks to go home and live with the people he loves so dearly.

To those who listen to the official reports of China-Tibet relations are lead to believe that Tibet is respected and given the true autonomy that its people want. These reports chronicle a revival in the relationship Tibet has with China, going so far as to even label the region of Tibet as the Tibetan Autonomous Region, despite this name being a complete misnomer. China has on a façade: to the public it offers Tibet religious freedom and the right to speak freely on any topic, while the reality of the situation is diametrically opposed to this.

As The Economist puts it in their article “Asia: Welcoming Lamas; China and Tibet,” “China’s top official in Tibet, a Tibetan by the name of Legqok, assures visitors that Tibetans enjoy complete religious freedom. But in Lhasa’s monasteries and temples, the police presence is heavy, and the talk among monks is of beatings, arrests, and forced political education.” [1] The façade of China’s peaceful treatment of Tibet’s people falls flat on its face when there are documented reports of pacifist monks being assaulted by Chinese “peacekeepers.” Even more shocking than the brutalization of these individuals is their imprisonment and brainwashing. It is ethical to imprison and reform a criminal who poses a threat to the public, but the act of caging and brainwashing a peaceful monk is morally bankrupt. Some might argue that there are many terrorist acts made in an attempt to attain Tibetan Autonomy that have been documented by the Chinese government.

These people are blinded by the smokescreen of Chinese propaganda. The vast majority of these terrorist acts are of people speaking out against the government, completely devoid of violence, while the vast majority of those convicted as “terrorists” are actually pacifist monks speaking out.[2] The last documented violent act that has been attributed the struggle for Tibetan autonomy was a bombing in Chengdu in 2002, which was carried out by unknown perpetrators and attributed by the government to Tibetan separatists.[3] These people speaking out are silenced and ignored despite wanting the base right to be treated as human. An extremely horrifying injustice in this situation is that the Chinese government has left Tibetans with two options: to either suffer in silence without the freedom to practice their own religion or speak their minds, or to speak out and be eliminated swiftly. These injustices are made even more heinous because they are imposed upon the Tibetans simply due to the fact that they are Tibetan.

This conflict strikes a nerve in me because of the heartbreak I have seen it cause in a man very close to me, Trichen, the currently exiled king of Tibet. Trichen lived comfortably in his home country until he was a little over ten years old, when he, his mother, and his sister were forcibly removed from Tibet, while his father, the current king at the time, was taken into Chinese custody. His father passed away while imprisoned as a revolutionary, leaving Trichen as the rightful king. After his exile from his home country, Trichen had been forced to live as a refugee in India until he finally was old enough to come to America to attend high school. Trichen and I had lived together in our boarding school’s dormitory for the last two years before our graduation. While living together, we often talked about this conflict and its effects on him: I talked with him about his desires to return to his childhood home, about his difficulty learning Chinese – the language spoken by those who persecute him, and about his worries about his family living in a small refugee camp. Through living with him, I experienced a minute fraction of what he felt through his life, and it left me feeling hollow – as though there were no justice at all in the world.

But with all these things, Trichen took them with a calm serenity that baffled me. His burning desires to return home were tempered by teachings bestowed upon him by the Dalai Lama: patience, kindness, mindfulness, and understanding. And it is in these moments where these qualities in him shine brightest that the greatest injustice of this conflict rears its head. An innocent man with a reverence for life and a generous soul is currently being denied his right to step foot in his homeland by those who see this man’s desires as conflicting with theirs, simply because he was born king – something completely out of his control. A good man, Trichen, has been denied his dreams by forces that seek to build an empire on top of those dreams.



[1] “Asia: Welcoming Lamas; China and Tibet.” The Economist Sep 21 2002: 66-41. ProQuest. Web. 22 Nov. 2013 .

[2] Karmel, Solomon M. “Ethnic Tension and the Struggle for Order: China’s Policies in Tibet.” Pacific Affairs 68.4 (1996): 485-508. ProQuest. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

[3] Sperling, Elliot. “China Digs in its Heels in Tibet.” Far Eastern Economic Review 172.3 (2009): 48-51. ProQuest. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

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1 comment

  1. Urgyen Dolma

    Dear Jack Mihalcik,

    Thank you very much for writing, posting and educating people of the Tibet situation. Good to know it’s not only me that’s concerned about Tibet at Fordham.