Tsering is a Tibetan-American living in Boston. Every Wednesday, he joins the other Tibetans for a Candle Light Vigil commemorating those who died in the March uprising in Tibet in 2008. Every day, like many former political prisoners who escaped from the Chinese rule, he lives with memories of pain and estrangement from his native land.
At the age of 20, Tsering entered Ganden Monastery near Lhasa. Five years later, on March 5, 1988, he joined the pro-independent demonstrations in the Barkhor, in the city center, and was arrested by the Public Security Bureau. He was detained in Cell No. 7 of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s Detention Center.
While Tsering and thousands of Tibetans were being jailed or held in detention centers throughout Tibet, the Dalai Lama addressed the European parliament in Strasbourg on June 15, 1989. In the Strasbourg Proposal, Dalai Lama put forward the idea of “a genuine autonomy” the basis for negotiations with China on the future of Tibet. However, China rejected this by saying that the proposal was "independence, semi-independence or independence in disguised form.”
In March 1989, Tsering was given four-year prison sentence for his part in the peaceful protest and was transferred to Drapchi Prison. He was interrogated everyday to undergo “thought change” and was forced to do “reform through labor.”
A year later, Tsering and other political prisoners demanded change in the prison conditions and asked reasons for the transfer of five fellow inmates to another prison. In a brutal reprisal the prison guards charged the prisoners with guns and electric batons. They tied Tsering's hands behind his back, and inserted an electric baton into his mouth. They also shot him through the stomach. One of his kidneys burst. When Tsering regained consciousness, his clothes were soaked in his blood, urine and excrement.
The Dalai Lama was offered the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1989 for “his struggle for the liberation of Tibet" and because he had "consistently opposed the use of violence.” Talks between the Dalai Lama and China resumed in 2002 and so far nine rounds were held with no outcome.
While the negotiations between the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese go on, the fundamental issues of human sufferings remain unaddressed. Tsering’s story is a case representing the agony that Tibetans undergo everyday in today’s Tibet. The blame for this failure rests mainly with China for its intransigence and lack of trust in the Dalai Lama and his political overtures.
China is playing a waiting game for the Dalai Lama to pass away, hoping that the issue of Tibet and its global support base will fade in time. This is a shortsighted policy which in the long run will bring more troubles for China. It will only invite a further grassroots movement against Chinese rule, and the resulting crackdowns will engender even more resentment and dissents in Tibet.
What the world can do is to pressure China to bring about political reforms. Economic gains are imperative, but basic rights for people are non-negotiable. People living in the free world must urge China to respect the aspirations of the Tibetan people and their desire to live in freedom. Recent events inside Tibet have proved that suppression leads to resistance and brutality breeds revolt. If Chinese leaders continue to deny Tibetans their fundamental right to self-determination, they must be ready to face a united resistance by Tibetans and their supporters all over the world.