For Tibetans, Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine Sparks Bitter Reminiscences – The Diplomat

I do know what it means when Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’s “liberating” Ukraine – China’s Chairman Mao Zedong used the identical slogan when he despatched his troops to Tibet in 1949-50. Likewise, Putin’s allegation of rampant “neo-Nazis” in a rustic headed by a Jewish man echoes Mao’s accusation of “foreign powers” ruling in Tibet, a rustic that did the whole lot potential to maintain foreigners out within the title of defending Buddhism. Tibetans name this “a horn on the rabbits’ head.”

But what the struggle in Ukraine jogs my memory of essentially the most is the basic human willpower to face up in opposition to overseas invaders. Like the Ukrainians resisting Russian invaders, many Tibetans fought the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for years. Even after His Holiness the Dalai Lama and people who adopted him escaped to northern India, the boys of my hometown continued preventing the Chinese till they had been captured or killed.

Like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in 1958 my grandfather and different regional chieftains in addition to the monastery leaders declared “The War of 18-to-60 Fighters,” which meant all males from age 18 to 60 had been to have interaction within the battle in opposition to the Chinese invaders. Most Tibetans had no weapons however joined the combat with swords and rocks. Between September 1959 and January 1960, the CIA air-dropped arms and provides with a couple of members of its skilled Tibet’s Chushi Gangdruk Voluntary Army, the most important group of Tibetan fighters, on three events, with every supply together with a number of hundred rifles, gentle machine weapons, and medication. At least one drop not removed from my city included three mortars. The weapons helped the fighters however weren’t almost sufficient to equip every man.

I now suppose that Tibetan fighters may need saved their nation in the event that they’d had a Zelenskyy and the extent of worldwide consciousness and help that Ukraine has as we speak. Our chief, His Holiness the Dalai Lama — traditionally acknowledged because the reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion — has lengthy believed his singular precedence is to hold out the mission of peace. He was subsequently understandably in opposition to struggle and violence. Nevertheless, many Tibetans fought voluntarily, led by chieftains, businessmen, and monks. But within the exterior world, the CIA was maybe the one group who knew in regards to the brutality of this struggle.

Many a long time later a former CIA operations officer in control of the Tibet Program, Roger McCarthy, shared long-buried information in regards to the final battle my individuals fought in Chakra Palbar. “The sad, sad, sad story is that very few chose to go and leave, and understandably so,” recalled McCarthy in a video produced by Lisa Cathey, daughter of one other former CIA Tibet Program officer.

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“[That] group came under merciless attacks by reinforcements of Chinese who came with long range artilleries,” he mentioned, including that Beijing despatched in an aerial bombardment. “The more accurate statement is that they killed thousands, thousands, and thousands [of Tibetans] and captured maybe a few hundred.”

Among these captured was my uncle Ngawang Rabgyal. He and plenty of different Tibetan POWs quickly died of hunger at an notorious borax mining camp in northern Tibet, the place survivors estimate that tens of 1000’s perished.

Perhaps the success of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shall be decided by Western tolerance of rising petroleum costs. But it doesn’t matter what occurs, as fashionable Tibetan historical past reveals, individuals’s combat for freedom is not going to finish even with defeat on the battlefield.

In 1969, a decade after Beijing absolutely managed Tibet, individuals like my father and his pals re-launched their insurrection. PLA troopers and authorities brutally killed my father, letting stray canine carry away the limbs of his physique.

Today China continues to occupy Tibet. I do know why Beijing received’t label Putin’s struggle an invasion: Its unprovoked invasion within the Fifties additionally relied on a closely distorted historic narrative designed to confuse Chinese residents and the world. Russian troopers’ barbaric acts, uncovered by way of the our bodies in Bucha, mirror China’s inhumane therapy of my murdered father’s physique. But what they neglect is that such cruelty can solely make individuals extra decided to hold their marketing campaign from one era to a different.

When I hear reporters in Poland asking Ukrainians about how their households in Mariupol are doing, I take into consideration how lengthy it has been since I misplaced direct contact with my circle of relatives in Tibet. It’s been a decade since I used to be final in a position to converse to my siblings. I take into consideration how China’s full lockdown of Tibet prevents us from figuring out what number of Tibetans are jailed or whether or not any of my members of the family are within the now notorious re-education camps. Today, unbiased journalists are utterly barred from coming into Tibet, and if Tibetans ship details about the state of affairs that China doesn’t need the surface world to know, it might actually value their lives.

On February 6, 2021, Kunchok Jinpa, a former schoolmate of mine, died from torture whereas serving a 21-year jail sentence for sending info to a buddy in India about an environmental protest in Driru County in 2013. Six months earlier than his demise, a 36-year-old lady named Lhamo from Jinpa’s hometown additionally died from torture in jail. Her crime was sending her personal cash to India (and her cousin was arrested alongside along with her for sending non secular books). In 2020, a monk whose household lived close to my village died from torture shortly after his launch from jail. His crime was purportedly possessing the digital picture of then a 3-year-old boy from India who was acknowledged because the reincarnation of an area lama.

In the three easternmost counties of Tibet’s Nagchu Prefecture – China’s so-called “rebellious regions,” and subsequently essentially the most restricted – Chinese authorities routinely examine private telephones for proof of contact with members of the Tibetan diaspora. Traces of contact are grounds for arrest and arrest can imply demise by torture. In this manner Tibet stays a battlefield for Chinese authorities.

Since 1987, Tibetans inside Tibet have adopted nonviolence to hold out their wrestle to regain their homeland. Since 2009, not less than 159 Tibetans have self-immolated, one of many current fatalities being 25-year-old Tsewang Norbu, a preferred singer from Nagchu Prefecture. Since then, not less than two others have self-immolated.

The motion of a 20-something pop star and 158 different self-immolators – the vast majority of whom are beneath 30 years of age – reveals that resistance inside Tibet is now being carried out by the third era of Tibetans educated beneath the Chinese system. In this regard, each Tibetans and Ukrainians remind us that resistance is a pure act for people confronted with their very own extermination, it doesn’t matter what type it would take. The act is just not a selection however an affirmation of id that turns into the bedrock of future generations.

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