An old friend sent the above photograph of me and Samdhong Rinpoche having a spirited side discussion at the first Tibetan Youth Conference in October 1970. Perhaps he sent the photograph to remind me I had not written the second part of the essay I posted in 2019, where I recounted Samdhong Rinpoche’s bid for the presidency of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) and the creation in 1972 of his political party Bhö Rawang Denpey Lekhul (Tibetan Freedom Movement). So I want readers to consider this piece to be an over-long and overdue second part of that first essay (with Tibetan language audio) that I posted three years ago.
At the conclusion of that first essay I mentioned that Rinpoche appeared to have been strongly attracted to leftist authoritarian philosophies, which in the late 60s and 70s was exemplified by the “Thoughts of Chairman Mao” (Máo Zédōng sīxiǎng) made famous everywhere around the world through the agency of the “Little Red Book” (Máo Zhǔxí Yǔlù ), a collection of Mao quotations that every Chinese had to carry with them at all times. It was probably at Varanasi, where he was the principal of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, that Samdhong Rinpoche set about organizing and documenting his political ideas, to produce his own version of Mao’s famous tome.
“THOUGHTS OF SAMDHONG”
Samdhong Rimpoche came out with his “Thoughts” around the mid-seventies. Tibetans called it “Samdong gi tawa” or the ideology or philosophy of Samdong. Rinpoche was careful enough not to commit anything to print, and instead recorded his thoughts on cassette tapes and distributed copies to groups of his former students and followers who listened to the cassettes in secret meetings. It was all very hush hush and conspiratorial.
One cassette made it to Dharamshala. The TYC Centrex (of which I was then a member) managed to borrow it for an evening. The ideology of the “Thoughts” was admiring of Mao and the Soviet Union and unsparingly anti-American. It promised a utopian future for Tibet where education would be free and all land would be nationalized. It was otherwise fairly pedestrian and I don’t recall anything that was outstanding or interesting. Though the original cassettes don’t seem to be available, the “Thoughts of Samdong” was printed in 1996 as a booklet titled Tibet: A Future Vision and appears to have been updated and considerably sanitized — ideologically speaking. Nonetheless, many of the proposals in the earlier “Thoughts” come through in the printed version.
Samdhong Rinpoche advocates an economy that rejects both socialism and capitalism and where “Trade through barter system will be encouraged… the role of money and its absolute value has to be curbed.” Pol Pot, the leader of the genocidal Khmer Rouge, also abolished money, markets, and private property — blowing up the Central Bank in Phnom Penh to underscore his point. The former Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi in his 1975 Green Book” (al-Kitāb al-Aḫḍar) also inspired by Mao’s Little Red Book, has a paragraph on abolishing money.
Samdhong’s Future Vision promises religious freedom for all Tibetans but refers to the Bönpos, Christians, and Muslims in Tibet as “microscopic minorities”, which raises uncomfortable questions. There may be few Christians in Tibet but Bönpos and Muslims (especially if you count the Muslims in Amdo) are far from a tiny minority. Furthermore, does the term ‘microscopic’ mean we should view Tibet’s minorities as insignificant as microorganisms? Considering the violent persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar and Tamils in Sri Lanka, Tibetan Buddhists should avoid any kind of demeaning language in discussing religious minorities.
Samdhong Rinpoche also calls for a future Tibet to be a “compact society” where any kind of “groupism” will be discouraged, which almost certainly means a partyless “pseudo-democracy” like Russia or China where one ruling establishment (or party) controls all political power.
I remember that the “Thoughts of Samdhong” was treated as a joke in Dharamshala back in the seventies. Just the same, the “Thoughts” may have served to remind the exile establishment of Samdhong’s Rinpoche’s troubling political ambitions and his attempted “soft” coup of 1972. But then a decade later the foundations of Tibetan exile politics had shifted significantly. The Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) had till then been a staunch loyalist organization behind the Dalai Lama and the exile government. But the TYC’s goal of Tibetan independence was now getting in the way of His Holiness and the Kashag’s newfound policy of seeking dialogue with China, especially after the Dalai Lama’s “Strasburg Statement” of 1988. The TYC, led by president Lhasang Tsering, strongly opposed the surrender of Tibetan sovereignty contained in the Statement.
A fresh political player was needed in Dharamshala, and a Samdhong candidacy was perhaps then re-evaluated. It probably did not hurt that Rinpoche was also bitterly opposed to the Tibetan Youth Congress and had refused to allow a TYC regional chapter to be set up at his Institute at Varanasi. It also perhaps helped that Juchen Thupten Namgyal was then the senior minister in the Kashag. Thupten had been an active member of Samdhong’s political party of 1972.
Samdhong Rinpoche was summoned from Varanasi and nominated by the Dalai Lama to be his personal choice in the Tibetan Parliament. It should be made clear that Samdhong was never elected to parliament and did not then have a Green Book that all Tibetan political candidates and voters were required to possess. But the fact of Samdhong being the Dalai Lama’s nominee, cleared all obstacles in his path to office and sent an unmistakable message to the members of the exile parliament. Samdhong was unanimously elected as Speaker of the Assembly, serving two terms from 1991 to 2001.
THE STRASBURG STATEMENT
On 15 June 1988 His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg offered to relinquish Tibet’s sovereignty in return for China allowing Tibet to become an autonomous and democratic political entity within the PRC. Near the conclusion of his address the Dalai Lama said “… most Tibetans will be disappointed”, but he also gave this assurance “… the Tibetan people themselves must be the ultimate deciding authority… in a nationwide referendum.”
On September 23,1988 China issued a statement saying it was prepared to negotiate. The exile government made its first mistake by including Michael Van Walt, the self-styled “Dalai Lama’s lawyer” in its negotiating team. Beijing objected to the presence of a foreigner. Beijing further rejected Dharamshala’s proposal of Geneva as a neutral venue and insisted on Beijing or Hong Kong. Although Dharamshala agreed to all the changes, Beijing then refused to communicate with it any further.
In April 1993, following a performance at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, His Holiness made an unexpected political statement which hit the exile-community like a bombshell. He stated that “… the many efforts made by him and the Tibetan government to negotiate with China had made no headway. He also expressed his fears that earlier Chinese overtures concealed a darkly insidious and long-term plan for ensuring the end of Tibetans as a nation and people. He concluded that Tibet now faced its greatest danger in the ever-increasing migration of Chinese settlers.”
The Kashag made public all official documents and correspondence between it and China since 1979. MANGTSO printed a special issue with a ten-page supplement on October 31 1993. Other Tibetan journals such as Tibetan Review and Sheja published these letters and also articles and commentaries.
That same year “The Dalai Lama also released a statement, where in no uncertain terms, he stated that all the efforts by him and his government to negotiate with China had failed” He repeated this in his 1994 March 10th statement. Then in his 10th March statement of 1995 the Dalai Lama declared:
Many Tibetans have voiced unprecedented criticism of my suggestion that we should compromise on the issue of total independence. Moreover, the failure of the Chinese government to respond positively to my conciliatory proposals has deepened the sense of impatience and frustration among my people. Therefore, I proposed last year that this issue be submitted to a referendum.
PLANNING THE REFERENDUM
It couldn’t be clearer that the Dalai Lama genuinely wanted the exile public to make a free choice between independence and autonomy. So how was this process so egregiously and effectively sabotaged?
A preliminary meeting was convened on August 21, 1995, chaired by the speaker of the exile parliament, Samdong Rinpoche, and attended by ministers, members of parliament and secretaries of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) to discuss the parameters and organization of the referendum. The two choices in the proposed referendum were independence and autonomy. At this meeting “autonomy” was renamed Middle Way (umaylam). Buddha described his Middle Way as a mid-point between extremities; between the extreme of self-mortification and the extreme of sensual indulgence. Naming the policy of surrendering Tibet’s sovereignty to Communist China the “Middle Way” was a clever move. It was also deeply dishonest, almost certainly a sacrilegious act.
Dispensing with the semantics, the only two choices for the proposed referendum were obviously Independence and Middle Way, and by any common-sense standards should have been the only ones. But two other absolutely irrelevant and bizarre options were added, almost certainly to downplay the stark and disturbing contrast between the two choices and also to muddy the waters of what was evolving into an unashamed swindle. Samdong Rimpoche offered his own pseudo-Gandhian doctrine of “Truth Insistence” (denpae utsug) as one further choice. If that weren’t bizarre enough, “Self-determination” (rang-thag rang-choe) was also proposed as a choice for the referendum. A puzzled Western supporter writing about the referendum commented “If you are holding a referendum, you do not include ‘do we have the right to hold a referendum’ as one of the choices.”
On September 2, 1995 the Kashag issued a 12-page instruction to the heads of Tibetan Settlements outlining the four options: Rangzen, Middle Way, Truth Insistence and Self-Determination to be considered for the referendum. In August 1996 small teams of MPs traveled to various settlements to explain the four options to the Tibetan people and to conduct the actual referendum. They immediately ran into a minefield of controversy.
CONDUCTING THE REFERENDUM
One of the first referendum meetings was held at Rajpur, a settlement relatively close to Dharamshala. That same evening at the Amnye Machen Institute we received a phone call from a former reporter for MANGTSO who had attended the meeting. He told us that in their presentation, the MPs had dropped not very subtle hints that failure to vote for the Middle Way would be tantamount to disloyalty to the Dalai Lama. The public became confused but also very angry.
A former senior Kashag minister who had retired to Rajpur, Mr. W.G. Kundeling, was the first to speak after the MPs. He flat out declared that he found the whole idea of giving up the goal of independence unacceptable, but that he also had no desire to go against the wishes of His Holiness. He would therefore not take part in such a referendum. (Some time after the meeting Kundeling was violently attacked at his home by masked intruders. He fortunately survived. Some have suggested that the attack might have resulted from his opposition to the Middle Way). Others spoke up at the meeting, saying much the same thing as Kundeling did. A few also pointed out that since the Dalai Lama had openly declared that his Middle Way policy had failed in his last two 10th March statements, how could he now be asking the public to vote for the Middle Way?
In Rajpur nearly everyone declared that they would not participate in the referendum. Some added that if the parliament and CTA wanted the Dalai Lama to continue with Middle Way, they should tell him so themselves and not “wipe their hands on the public” (mimang la lakpa chi). Words of the Rajpur meeting spread quickly throughout the exile world and in communities like the one in New York City, angry words were exchanged with CTA officials. Nearly everywhere people refused to participate in the referendum.
It should be remembered that independence had till then been the single sacred goal of every Tibetan, and the Tibetan word “Rangzen” had been drummed into everyone’s head, repeatedly through songs, plays, publications and the political rhetoric of Tibetan leaders, not least of all the Dalai Lama who in every one of His March 10 speeches repeatedly assured all Tibetans they would one day return to a free and independent Tibet.
SPINNING THE REFERENDUM
Back in Dharamshala this whole debacle was misrepresented and reinvented by the exile Parliament under Samdong Rinpoche in a breathtakingly deceitful manner. An initial statement was issued claiming that the earlier public meetings organized by the MPs had not been to hold referendums, but only to conduct polls or surveys to collect “…suggestions and public opinions on whether the referendum was to be held.” Then on September 18, 1997 during the fourth session of the 12th exile parliament, an unanimous resolution was passed.
“Among the views received from the Tibetan public, following a preliminary poll, the majority expressed preference for dispensing with the referendum, leaving it to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to take decisions from time to time in accordance with the prevailing political situation and circumstance. Altogether 64.60 percent of the opinions received demanded that the referendum be not held and favoured for His Holiness and the Central Tibetan Administration to decide.”
The “preliminary poll” referred to was the failed referendum effort in August 1996 to conduct the referendum in Tibetan settlements and communities. The 64.60% is a complete invention. No one is certain whether the public refusal to participate in the referendum was expressed by a show of hands, paper ballots or walk-outs. Nearly all the public meetings had ended chaotically.
The Tibetan public had refused to take part in the referendum and had definitely not said they were “… leaving it to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to take decisions from time to time.”
THE SECOND REFERENDUM SWINDLE
On October 25th 2008, following the Beijing Olympics and China’s brutal crackdown on the massive anti-Chinese protests throughout Tibet, His Holiness, speaking at a Tibetan Children’s Village event declared that the lack of any sincerity from the Chinese government in the dialogue process and the worsening state of affairs within Tibet following the widespread anti-China protests had made it impossible for him to continue with his current policy. “I have now asked the Tibetan government-in-exile, as a true democracy-in-exile, to decide in consultation with the Tibetan people how to take the dialogue forward”, the Dalai Lama said. An “Emergency Meeting” (zadrag tsongdu) was called for that November.
A press release from the Dalai Lama’s private secretariat quickly followed. “The future course of the Tibetan movement, including the possibility of a historic switch from demanding autonomy to a demand for full independence, will be the focus of a special meeting next month of around 300 delegates representing the worldwide exiled Tibetan community. ‘The only non-negotiable aspect is that the movement will still be non-violent. Everyone is agreed on that,” the Dalai Lama’s spokesman Tenzin Taklha told AFP.’”
Tibetans everywhere became tremendously excited and galvanized, far more than in ’95. In 2008 large-scale revolutionary protests had not only erupted throughout the Tibetan plateau, but the exile public and supporters had conducted what seemed like a never-ending series of well-publicized demonstrations, actions and peace marches everywhere around the globe. Dharamshala became full to bursting with international TV crews and journalists for the Emergency Meeting.
But in spite of His Holiness’s clear call for a transformation of our fundamental policy, Samdong Rimpoche (now prime minister) in an interview on Voice of Tibet said “We are committed to our Middle Way Approach and we will continue our efforts for a genuine autonomy within China’s framework, and that will not change.” Under Rinpoche’s aegis the Tibetan People’s Movement for MIDDLE WAY was organized, and Samdhong Rimpoche delivered the principal address at its first conference in February 2008.
As prime-minister, Rinpoche made sure that only Middle Way Movement leaders, officials, settlement heads and MPs, serving and retired, were invited and paid full travel expenses, including airfare from USA, Europe and elsewhere. No one else received expenses or even invitations. No Tibetan scholar, historian or intellectual was invited. The largest political organization in the Tibetan exile world, The Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), was only allocated two seats. All other Rangzen based organizations and individuals did not receive invitations. A few us went anyway – on our own dime. We were a very small minority at the Emergency Meeting.
Members of Rinpoche’s Middle Way Movement – had in previous months held public meetings in many Tibetan settlements where they set about poisoning the minds of the older generation against the TYC and Students For A Free Tibet (SFT), whom they claimed had gone against the Dalai Lama’s wishes with their mass protests and peace marches earlier that year. They also exploited the ignorance and fears of the common people with scare stories, one being that the Government of India would deport Tibetan refugees if Tibetans gave up the Middle Way and chose Rangzen.
On the second day of the Emergency Meeting it became clear what the strategy of Samdong Rinpoche and his followers was. Middle Way Movement members and representatives of Tibetan settlements and centers in India and Nepal insisted that the written proceedings and resolutions of the public meetings they had earlier organized back in Tibetan settlements and communities, along with signatures of all the participants, be included in the records and resolutions of the Emergency Meeting. These documents and the thousands of signatures (unverified or unattested) overwhelmed whatever discussions had taken place in the Emergency Meeting itself, and the actual votes cast by the participants of the Emergency Meeting. Practically no mention was made in the final resolution of alternative policy ideas and strategies raised at the meeting by the few Rangzen advocates participating.
The concluding session of the Emergency Meeting created the distinct impression of near unanimous support for the Middle Way. In his concluding speech Samdong Rinpoche declared complete victory, claiming that over 90 percent of Tibetans now clearly supported the Middle Way. (Putin’s bogus referendum in Russian-occupied Ukrainian provinces only managed 87%).
Samdhong Rinpoche also claimed that clandestine telephone surveys had been conducted inside Tibet. This was an incredibly brazen lie if we remember that following the massive and repressive security crackdown throughout Tibet, following the 2008 Uprising, even the minimal communication that we earlier had with Tibet, was completely cut off.
UNDERMINING THE ONGOING FREEDOM STRUGGLE
Despite the subversion of the Dalai Lama’s two referendum initiatives on Tibetan independence, exile Tibetans kept up their campaigns of non-violent activism for Tibetan freedom. All were inspired and energized by the public protests inside Tibet from 1987, 1989, and 2008 onwards.
Samdhong Rinpoche now set about actively preventing Tibetan people from organizing and participating in Free Tibet protests and demonstrations. Rinpoche publicly condemned such rallies by exile Tibetans which he insisted were insulting to the PRC and discouraged the Chinese government from granting “meaningful autonomy” to Tibet. In his role as prime minister of the exile government (2001-2011) Samdhong Rinpoche also forbade all government officials from participating in Free Tibet demonstrations and March 10 rallies.
In March 2011 the Dalai Lama announced his resignation as Head of State. The traditional name of the Tibetan government, Ganden Phodrang, was now used for His Holiness’ personal foundation. When Samdhong Rinpoche’s term as prime minister expired that same year, he took up the directorship of the Ganden Phodrang Foundation. This foundation now became an extra-constitutional authority to leverage exile politics. For instance an important lama (Thomtok Tulku) was sent on a tour of Tibetan communities in the USA to instruct members not to celebrate the centenary of the Great Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s declaration of independence.
Through his newfound and completely unconstitutional powers Samdhong Rinpoche succeeded in creating internal divisions within Rangzen organizations. In 2013 five regional chapters of The Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) were coerced to break away from the main Congress. In 2012 when a TYC president expressed his desire to work together with another freedom organization, the Tibetan National Congress (TNC), Samdhong Rinpoche pressured TYC delegates at their annual conference to pass a resolution preventing the TYC from having any contact with TNC. Earlier most political organizations in the exile community generally worked together effectively for the common cause. Not anymore.
Radio Free Asia (Tibetan Language Section) had been the most effective publicist for the Tibetan cause, notably during the 2008 uprisings in Tibet, when much of the extensive international coverage on Tibet carried the RFA byline. A Samdhong acolyte Kalden Lodoe and RFA president Libby Liu successfully schemed to remove Jigme Ngabo, the very capable head of the Tibetan section. Samdhong Rinpoche was not only hostile to Jigme but “… had been harshly critical of RFA’s Tibetan service and had issued standing instructions to kashag ministers and senior officials not to give interviews to RFA or participate in its programs.”
In March 2015, Samdong Rinpoche’s Middle Way underlings, who had taken over the organization of the March 10 rally in NY City, enforced a ban on all slogans offensive to the PRC such as “Free Tibet”, “China Out of Tibet”, “Tibet Belongs to Tibetans” etc. Free Tibet protesters were told to leave the rally and when they refused Rinpoche’s underlings called on the NYPD to remove them. The police officers said they could not arrest people for expressing their first amendment right to free speech (See Facebook video). Even Western Tibet supporters at the rally were intimidated and bullied by Rinpoche’s underlings. One female SFT member holding a “FREE TIBET” placard was insulted and threatened: “You are going to suffer. SFT is going to suffer. Your family is going to suffer” (See Facebook post).
A former Assembly speaker, Karma Choephel, who had openly declared his loss of faith in the Middle Way Policy, and even chaired a session of TNC Conference in Dharamshala for Tibetan independence (June 2012), was persecuted by Middle Way advocates and hounded relentlessly, perhaps even to his tragic death in 2016. A climate of fear, distrust and division was created throughout the exile world. Any talk of independence, or association with persons or groups advocating Rangzen, could have you labelled as “opposing the Dalai Lama” and consequently ostracized from the mainstream community.
In Dharamshala and other Tibetan centers and settlements schools and monastic communities had always taken part in March 10 demonstrations. They were now officially banned from doing so. Even the teaching of Tibetan history has now been discontinued in Tibetan schools.
Samdhong Rinpoche himself never appears to have participated in a March 10 demonstration, or any protest rally for Tibetan freedom or even human rights. But in a 2006 Swiss TV program Rinpoche was seen alongside the Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva, leading a demonstration against SYNGENTA, a global agri-business company.
It would appear that Samdhong Rinpoche’s earlier Mao inspired political ideology was now evolving in a more profitable New Age spiritual direction. The latest online version of “Tibet a Future Vision” contains far more Buddhist references and phraseology than in previous print versions. A clear expression of Rinpoche’s new politico/spiritual direction appeared in a lengthy interview in the New York Times: ”Political separation from China is not important … China is not our enemy,” Samdhong Rinpoche said. ”China is a people [sic.] who need our cooperation, who need our guidance, spiritually.”
Was Samdhong Rinpoche proposing that by giving up Tibet’s political sovereignty Tibetan leaders or lamas might gain some advantageous position in the PRC’s power structure, perhaps as “spiritual guides”? Similar brainless schemes have been proposed in New Age dharma circles that Tibetans give up independence in return for the PRC acknowledging the Dalai Lama as the Buddhist leader or “Pope” of China. But Samdhong Rinpoche’s New York Times statement makes no mention of the Dalai Lama as the “spiritual guide” for China. So, the question might be asked, does Rinpoche see himself as occupying such a position?
Samdhong Rinpoche has repeatedly positioned himself as far more accommodating to China than the Dalai Lama. For instance, His Holiness though calling for “meaningful autonomy under China” has never condemned Tibetan independence activists and freedom fighters. Samdhong Rinpoche in a public talk in New York City in 2010 attempted to incite the Tibetan community to oppose independence activists who he claimed were more dangerous than the Communist Chinese.
Samdhong Rinpoche has furthermore condemned all Tibetans who took up arms to defend their nation, and blames them for the destruction and suffering caused by the Chinese in Tibet. “When China attacked us, we were not non-violent. Although we were a Buddhist country, our people had reacted very violently. That didn’t gain anything for the Tibetans, but it helped China to suppress the Tibetans very brutally.”
This is the equivalent of saying that the daily death and destruction endured by the heroic Ukrainian people under unceasing Russian missile and drone attacks, is the fault of the Ukrainians themselves for not surrendering peacefully to Putin in the first place.
Unlike the Dalai Lama, Samdhong Rinpoche has no hesitation in making obsequious statements of praise to the PRC. An excerpt from Rinpoche’s 2007 Brussels speech: “We are as patriotic towards PRC as any citizens of the People’s Republic of China, including the majority Han nationality. I also recall Samdong Rimpoche declaring enthusiastically that the Qinghai-Tibet railway (fast-tracking Chinese immigrants to Tibet and removing Tibet’s mineral wealth) represented a genuine economic benefit to the Tibetan people.
I could go on and on with further examples of Samdhong Rinpoche’s sycophantic declarations of loyalty to the PRC. But as off-putting as they are, they alone do not constitute evidence of Rinpoche’s complicity in any conspiratorial activity with China.
Then in December 2017 the Indian media and even the academic world began to buzz with stories that Samdhong Rinpoche had visited China. One article by a former Indian RAW Intelligence officer, Jayadeva Ranade, in Rediff.com, claimed that Samdhong Rinpoche had made a four-day stay in Kunming, capital of China’s Yunnan province. Ranade speculated that Rinpoche would have met with You Quan, whom Chinese President Xi Jinping had appointed director of the United Front Work Department (the department that gathers intelligence on and attempts to influence elite individuals and organizations among overseas Chinese, exile Tibetans and comparable communities). Another account by a former Indian Ambassador in a column in The Wire wrote on Dec. 4, that Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche made a “discreet visit” to Kunming, China and met You Quan, head of the United Front Work Department that deals with overseas Tibetan affairs.
Samdhong Rinpoche issued a denial a couple of weeks later. Unfortunately, Tibetan president Lobsang Sangay had earlier been questioned at a talk in New Delhi. “Dr. Lobsang Sangay said that the close aide (Samdhong Rinpoche) of the Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama did visit China. ‘It was at most, a private visit’ Dr. Sangay said on Thursday in New Delhi.” (Samdhong Rinpoche’s birthplace Jol is in Gyalthang in northwest Yunnan province).
Nearly all media speculations on the reasons for Rinpoche’s China trip was that he was preparing the ground for future Sino-Tibetan negotiations. Anyone with even cursory knowledge of Sino-Tibetan affairs would have to dismiss such an eventuality outright. Not only has Beijing openly, repeatedly and unequivocally dismissed the possibility of any such contingency on the issue of Tibet, they have even hardened their earlier “one nation two systems” status granted to Hong Kong and Taiwan, a status Dharamshala coveted, but from which it was humiliatingly excluded.
Now with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement crushed and Taiwan facing the real possibility of a PLA invasion, the only reason I think Beijing might want to meet a senior Tibetan exile leader like Samdhong Rinpoche would be to discuss tying up any loose ends in the finalization of its takeover of everything Tibet-related, including the exile community and the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. Furthermore, the senior exile leader at such a confab would not be a negotiator but a clandestine “agent of influence” who would be receiving instructions from the director of the United Front Works Department — perhaps to arrange or “fix” the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama to Beijing’s satisfaction.
In a possibly related incident, Samdhong Rimpoche even seems to have permitted a businessman/spy working for China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) “…operating as a cutout – a civilian who can operate without attracting official attention…” to meet the Dalai Lama. According to a recent article in the New Yorker this agent Guo Wengui “took several trips to meet with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader whom Beijing regards as a dangerous separatist. Guo said that he conveyed messages back and forth, and that the government offered him awards for his services.” Guo Wengui later admitted in an interview in a Chinese online journal, that “Beijing officials asked me to kill the Dalai Lama.”
Lastly, it might be pointed out that consistent with his authoritarian ambitions, Samdhong Rinpoche has created a personality cult around himself. The many branches of his Middle Way Political Party are entrusted with organizing elaborate birthday celebrations for their “great leader”. Samdhong Rinpoche was 83 years old last month, and his birthday was celebrated with much éclat on 5th November by his followers, but perhaps not as grandly as his pre-Covid birthday celebration in New York City which boasted an enormous quadruple tier confectionary marvel, featuring miniature staircases leading of the sides to supplementary cakes, all in a light shade of emerald-green.
These birthday events feature performances by schoolchildren and speeches where Rinpoche’s titles: “His Excellency, His Eminence, Professor, khelwang (great scholar) kyapche (great protector)” are diligently recited. Such grandisose titles also appear on Rinpoche’s own website where he is refered to as “dagnyed chenpo” (great being or mahatma) Lopon (master teacher)” Quite a few followers eulogize Rinpoche with such expressions as gyalwa yab-say or the “Victorious Father and Son” implying that Samdhong Rinpoche is somehow equal or near equal to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Another follower even refers to Rinpoche as “the shoulder that lifts the head”. Perhaps implying that he is the real power behind the throne.
Samdhong Rinpoche setting himself up as equal (or near equal?) to the Dalai Lama, in conjunction with the disturbing news of his conspiratorial dalliances with the director of the United Front Work Department in Yunnan, and his permitting an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security to meet and have chummy photo opportunities with the Dalai Lama (when there was, on the agent’s own admission, a real risk to His Holiness’s life on that occasion) should shake-up all Tibetans from their deep complacency, and force them to demand of their elected Assembly (chitue) representatives an urgent and thorough investigation into this deeply disturbing matter.
I am aware that many Tibetans, because of their genuine devotion to His Holiness, will find it difficult to accept the facts I have laid out in this investigative report, and further bring themselves to acknowledge that in our history there have been ambitious lamas who have broken faith with their nation and even with their “root” lama, the Dalai Lama himself. To offer one example, in 1896 the regent, Demo Rinpoche Thinlay Rabgyal, colluded with the Manchu Amban to sell out the young 13th Dalai Lama. Fortunately for us, Demo’s plot was exposed before he could harm His Holiness and usurp the Ganden Phodrang throne.
Will we be as fortunate, next time around, when another power-hungry lama succumbs to his perverted ambitions and religio-ideological fantasies and betrays His Holiness and the Tibetan nation to his Communist masters in Beijing?
 Jamyang Norbu “Extinguishing the Embers of Freedom (Part 1)” Shadow Tibet.https://bit.ly/3Ugzphz
 Extinguishing the Embers of Freedom (Part 1) (Audio) Sound Cloud.https://bit.ly/3WqIiag
 Professor Samdhong Rinpoche Tibet: A Future Vision, Tibetan Parliamentary and Policy Research Centre, N. Delhi, 1997.
 Ibid p.22
 Ibid. p.35
 Ibid. p.17
 Edward Lazar, Tibet: The Issue is Independence, Parallax Press, Berkeley California, 1994 pp 26-27.
 Jamyang Norbu, Shadow Tibet: Selected Writing 1989 to 2004, High Asia Press, New York, 2004, pp 110-111.
 Tibet Support List (TSG List)
 Jamyang Norbu, “The Great Middleway Referendum Swindle” Shadow Tibet , https://bit.ly/3vfOSUA
 Woeser Gyaltsen Kundeling along with Dronyer-chenmo Phala was instrumental in the Dalai Lama’s escape in 1959. In the PRC’s first proclamation on the Lhasa Uprising issued by Premier Zhou Enlai on March 28, 1959, Kundeling is prominently named as one the eighteen leading traitors. Some time after the meeting Kundeling was violently attacked at his home by masked intruders. He fortunately survived. Some have suggested that the attack might have resulted from his opposition to MWA.
 Interview with Sonam Wangdu Chugatsang, Nov. 2022.
 Sydney Morning Herald, October 27, 2008
 “Interview with Samdhong Rinpoche” Voice of Tibet, October 2008.
 Jamyang Norbu, “A Not So Special Meeting” Shadow Tibet, FEBRUARY 4, 2009 https://bit.ly/3YzU57r
 Discussion with Wangpo Tethong, Switzerland, 2006.
 His Eminence Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, The online version (August 18, 2014) Tibet: A Future Vision (bhod kyi mahong thong-tsor), http://samdhongrinpoche.com/en/tibet-a-future-vision/.
 Barbara Crossette, “Tibetan Monk Prepares Exiles for a Political Shift”. New York Times International Sunday, July 21, 2002
 Jamyang Norbu, “Looking Back From Nangpa-la” Shadow Tibet, JULY 1, 2019, https://www.jamyangnorbu.com/blog/2019/07/01/looking-back-from-nangpa-la/?hilite=%27Nangpa%27%2C%27la%27
“A Bit More Dangerous Than the Communist Chinese” (You Tube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-_7sBcuyqA&t=122s
 His Eminence Professor Samdhong Rinpoche “I have Lost Faith In Modern Science” http://samdhongrinpoche.com/en/i-have-lost-faith-in-modern-science/
 “Samdhong Rinpoche’s speech to the 5th International Tibet Support Group Conference”, Tibetan Bulletin May-June 2007, Volume 11 Issue 3.
 Jamyang Norbu, JUNE 20, 2013 “Middle Way Economics” SHADOW TIBET https://bit.ly/3YGjrAs
 “Cautious Sangay says Samdhong Rinpoche made a “private visit” to China. December 15, 2017 https://www.phayul.com/2017/12/15/39926/
 Evan Osnos, “Patriot Games: Guo Wengui has been linked to Chinese Intelligence, the FBI., and Donald Trump. What is he after?”, The New Yorker Oct, 2022.
 ForbiddenNews https://www.bannedbook.org/en/bnews/topimagenews/20190208/1077541.html
4 Replies to “Samdhong Rinpoche and the Subversion of the Tibetan Freedom Struggle”
One of the recommendations from the First Special General Meeting on Tibet held in 2008, in regard to the policy and stance of the CTA also stated that “…looking at the Chinese Government’s behavior in the past, views to stop sending envoys and to pursue complete independence or self-determination if no result comes out in the near future were also strongly expressed.” In a week’s time, it’ll be 2023 and 15 years would have elapsed since.
My sister casually shared this JAMYANG NORBU’S Dec 2022 article, “Samdhong Rinpoche and the Subversion of the Tibetan Freedom Struggle,” on my FB two days ago. After reading it, I felt I should comment on JN’s lies and fabrications and took off a big chunk of my Saturday.
Maybe that “friend” of Jamyang Norbu might have meant sarcasm to remind JN of the first moment when he, as an entitled Tibetan aristocratic scion, got the first taste of a non-aristocrat, that too coming from a Khampa Tulku trained in Tibetan Buddhist logic and discipline and has all sophistications to speak in the modern tongue of democracy, freedom, and equality. Fifty years have passed, and JN has gained nothing other than age and animosity. JN is acting like the same entitled, disgruntled, spoilt aristocratic brat as he was decades ago!
I do not fall for JN’s optics game, nor do I think SR is in “a spirited side discussion” as JN claims to raise himself on an equal footing as SR.
SR is a leader respected for his truthfulness, courage, and sacrifice. He has class and has no time to entertain! It is but natural for entitled people to be offended and envious. With all humility, I accept that it must be difficult for JN to pretend to advocate egalitarian Rangzen views when deep within, he yearns for control, domination, and enslavation of the old Tibet half a century yonder. But this does not mean he can dump baseless allegations on every person he envies.
GOOD FOR JN TO ACKNOWLEDGE TO THE TIBETAN WORLD THAT PROFESSOR SAMDONG RINPOCHE HEADED THE FOUNDING OF BOD RANGWANG DENPAI LEGUL (BRDL) IN 1972
There is a cute Tibetan saying, “secrets are not revealed when asked but spilled when waited patiently.” It is like fishing. In the past, JN has repeatedly tried to force out Samdong Rinpoche from his historical contribution to TYC and BRDL in favor of a Kasur (name withheld out of concern for JN). Today, I am happy that JN accidentally bit the bait and wrote, “I recounted Samdhong Rinpoche’s bid for the presidency of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) and the creation in 1972 of his political party Bhö Rawang Denpey Lekhul (Tibetan Freedom Movement).” It is audacious enough for JN to call the pan-Tibetan BRDL “a political party.” SR founded the BRDL and suggested that Dharamsala-based Bozhung Ganden Photrang manage BRDL. It is unbecoming for a 73-year-old self-acclaimed freedom fighter to brand it a “political party.” For correction, BRDL is officially spelled Bod/Bhod Rangwang Denpai Legul. I write this because JN has the habit of picking on others for using simple adjectives such as “compact” in his blog.
WHO IS SAMDHONG RINPOCHE?
From someone who barely had a leisurely coffee talk with SR and whose relationship is built on envy, jealousy, and resentment, JN’s observations are far-fetched. I will not elaborate here. If we see TPiE members today tap their table, wait for their turn to speak, or invoke a procedural error during the parliamentary proceedings in the spirit of decorum and sanctity of the parliament, it is all due to SR’s kindness. For months and months, SR brought in his parliamentarian and scholar friends in workshops to train the elected members of the Eleventh ATPD. If JN cares to research, he can compare the Eleventh ATPD with the previous Tibetan People’s Deputies (TPDs) terms. But I doubt if JN has the largesse to acknowledge others’ greatness.
To say that SR’s contribution to the democratization of our Tibetan administration is extraordinary would not be untrue. Even Kasur Juchen Thupten, who JN teams up with SR this time, acknowledged SR’s contribution in drafting the 2011 Charter for the Tibetans in Exile. SR is a constitutionalist parliamentarian whose knowledge and experience of the constitution comes through years of interactions with the Houses and ministries of the govt of India and is not limited to random parroting of articles and provisions. SR is a highly respected academician, educationist, philosopher, and writer whose knowledge of the Tibetan language, religion, history, and politics has no equals today. Tibetans respect and revere SR, which considers HH essential and integral to our struggle for freedom. SR does not alienate HH or deny HH his fundamental freedom of expression. SR has headed many Indian academic bodies. Although JN has not attended any college, I have been considering him intelligent for a man. But reading this blog, I doubt JN knows the true value of education.
Before SR, CTA was managed like a large private firm. After SR came into the Tibetan political scene, he began to draft policies on everything. He introduced a privatization policy despite opposition from many pockets to save millions from being pocketed and embezzled. Tibetan public knows that managers of debt-ridden Paljor business were later seen bidding for the same bankrupt firms. CTA has been inundated with complaints about large-scale corruption, running of private business in CTA Paljor firms, redirecting official customers and sponsor to family/private businesses, and misusing CTA human resources and infrastructure for private businesses. (All these are documented and can be declassified through RTI as per the penal codes of our local government here.) Money was unaccounted for, and complaints fell on deaf ears in the past. A Kasur (name withheld out of concern for JN) allegedly spent several hundred lacs of Indian Rupees on buying just one dry, useless plot with no replenishable groundwater somewhere near Agra. Thankfully, Tibetans are kind enough not to suspect a kickback in these land and other deals. I have no intention of opening pandora’s box but to show that there was no policy, rules, or accountability governing the money flow.
CTA was running schools with no standard education policy, and SR drafted one, which ATPD unanimously approved. As for foreign relations, the Memorandum on the Genuine Middle Way Policy outlines our international policy focusing on resolving the decade-long Sino-Tibetan conflict. SR succinctly presented HH’s, ATPD, and Tibetan people’s demands to the PRC. This is a significant achievement.
Although SR is a Buddhist monk, he was a staunch believer of secularism and has worked hard to relegate the Department of Religion (erstwhile Department of Religion and Culture), which has a Buddhist majority, into a mere council with no departmental power in the spirit of true democracy and in contrast to what JN tries to stir the society on the use of words like “microscopic.”
On internal affairs, he worked towards registration of co-operative societies, retaining land-lease documents for all settlements, and introducing organic farming (Unfortunately, some senior CTA employees derailed this farming program which has a short-term yield and less monetary gain but more incredible social, health, and ecological benefits and long-term financial gain for the farmers). He straightened out the rules to conform CTA recruitments to the Indian UPSC style and allowed an equal opportunity for all young Tibetans. This was the first time that disenfranchised sons and daughters of ordinary Tibetans who had no connections to powerful families or political echelons saw Dharamsala for the first time and developed a renewed sense of Tibetan unity and belongingness after years of estrangement and second-class treatment.
Before SR, CTA followed the age-old nepotistic recruitment system, where powerful families competed to appoint their acolytes, henchmen, sidekicks, and brokers. JN has benefited from this old recruitment process which prioritized connection and recommendation over qualifications. Today, everything is systematized, and the rule of law governs supreme.
I don’t want to comment on whether SR’s financial, educational, and other policies are right or wrong. At least, SR gave us unforeseen policies on every governmental aspect that ATPD and the coming Tibetan generation can amend and improve for a better future. It is disrespectful for someone like JN to pretend not to know these historically important milestones.
ANOTHER FAILED ATTEMPT AT PAINTING SAMDHONG RINPOCHE AS MAO ZEDONG
Paint SR as Mao Zedong is a low blow, and such behavior only makes JN, who is 73 and sees himself as a public figure, look peevishly childish.
JN is attempting to project Mao Zedong in SR. There are Tibetan writers, novelists, scholars, activists, farmers, armed members, and professionals. But, when it comes to knowledge of Tibet and Tibetan in the context of the Sino-Tibetan conflict, no one, including JN, knows better than HH. I am not saying this because HH is/was our king, lama, and Chenrezi, all in one, but because HH has clocked the greatest number of hours working on Tibet issues from as early as 16. HH has met and spoken to world leaders, monarchs, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, scientists, and whatnot. When someone like HH has trusted SR since the early 60s, who cares if some disgruntled person is unhappy.
SR served two terms as ATPD Chairman and two terms as Kalon Tripa. Does JN think all Tibetan Chitues and other citizens are dumb and stupid? Why does HH not see it? Why do Tibetans not see a Mao Zedong in SR the way JN wants to?
What is wrong with Mao’s thoughts? Mao Zedong’s thoughts are great and have inspired millions of Communist Chinese to topple the Qing dynastic remnants and the KMT. Even Bawa Phuntsok Wangyal and Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, whose son RFA Ngabo’s pic JN has in this blog article, followed Mao’s thought. It was not Mao’s thoughts but Mao’s actions, which contradicted his thought, that caused the death of over 90 million Chinese and non-Chinese. Once Mao gained his position, he craved greater power, domination, and supremacy, which tempted him to kill and destroy his opposition for charges of supporting capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. Mao’s thoughts were great, but his actions not only failed to match his thought but contradicted them. Mao spoke virtuously but acted vilely. The same applies to Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, whose thoughts did not work under evil despots. Why can’t a monk speak of democracy and communism with the same respect for their theoretical aspiration to deliver social animals to a humanly possible state that some term “utopian.” SR has also spoken extensively on HH’s and Gandhian philosophy. Why can’t SR have an opinion of what is good or bad in any given thought or philosophy, whether Mao, HH, or Gandhi?
WHO IS JAMYANG NORBU’S REAL TARGET?
Jamyang Norbu is attacking Samdhong Rinpoche for two primary purposes. Firstly, he cannot criticize His Holiness, and Secondly, he wants to cripple his Holiness’ indirectly. SR is one of them. In short, JN is doing what PRC wants. If JN flips and sides with the PRC tomorrow, he can act like a straight-faced turncoat. He has criticized His Holiness and CTA enough to earn a red-carpet welcome from the PRC.
SAMDHONG RINPOCHE AND RFA
Jamyang Norbu blames SR for the RFA Kalden Lodro/Libby Liu and Ngabo fiasco. I understand that, as a fellow aristocrat JN will support Ngabo, but why drag Samdhong Rinpoche?
Kalden Lodro is a former monk of Namgyel Monastery and is very close to everyone in the then Private Office. People see him as a Yabshi loyal. Ngabo Jigme is the scion of the aristocratic Ngabo family and was the head of RFA for sixteen years until he lost the position in 2012. Both KL and NJ are fighting for the director’s position.
When KL became the RFA head in 2012, rumour had it was through LS’s blessings. Under opponents’ pressure, US Congressman Dana Rohrbacher wrote a letter to RFA President Libby Liu and Sikyong LS in November 2012, accusing them of teaming up for “political censorship.” Many suspect the other side for instigating and influencing the US Congressman. Whether due to the rumour or KL’s loyalty to his faction, KL reduced interactions with LS. Important LS interviews were handled by RFA stringers. It was the same story with SR. SR was denied adequate media coverage by KL’s RFA and by VoA.
KL/Libby Liu issue is personal, and the issue with Ngabo is a fight for power and control. So, why insert SR here?
With Tenzin Namgyel Tethong in VoA, JN’s support in anointing a fellow aristocrat in RFA is understandable. However, it is not healthy for the fourth pillar of democracy as there will be greater danger of control, censorship, and manipulation of media and information in exile. Ordinary Tibetans do not even know how KL and Ngabo (whose members work for PRC) got their jobs at RFA, or how people Karma Gyatso Zurkhang, who posted comments in this blog comment, got into VoA. Ordinary Tibetans cannot wrap their head around thinking about what they lack that people like Zurkhang possess that landed them posh jobs in the US capital!
Also, why do we need KL or Ngabo? Why should we not have another person as the head of RFA and VoA and solve the power struggle once and for all? Why is JN so invested in installing NJ and removing KL? What families are involved in this RFA power struggle?
JN comments on Samdhong Rinpoche’s book “Tibet: A Future Vision” and criticizes his ideas. JN uses publication devices like footnotes to show that his works are amply researched. Unfortunately, he misses the crucial part.
The opening sentence of the Preface says, “Through this booklet, the author has tried to present HIS IDEAS about the future shape of Tibet.” Why can’t SR express his views when JN can spew rubbish in our community? SR’s views do not contradict ATPD/CTA’s policy and rules governing employees. If former people from the Private Office/Ganden Phodrang Kasur Tenpa Tsering, Kasur TN Tethong, and former envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen Tethong express their views publicly, why can’t SR? He helps Ganden Photrang but is not an employee.
I consider JN to be smart, but he misses both the complexity and the subtlety of SR’s views. Things like “microscopic” and “compact” are qualitative, subjective, and relative. Drawing comparisons to the Rohingya and Tamil issues is an overkill. Rohingya and Tamil issues are communal issues spurred by religious intolerance. SR’s reference to Bonpo, Islam, and Christianity was of religious harmony, toleration, and acceptance, and not of conflict, denigration, or persecution vis-à-vis Buddhism as the dominating religion of Tibet. I think JN should reread the book.
JN comments on barter system. These minor irksome nitpicking. But allow me to indulge. What’s wrong if SR proposes his views for a future Tibet? Scholars who realize the ills of capitalism view the modern world from the lenses of neo-imperialism and neo-colonialism. The “greed-demand-consumption” control cycle dictates our life and we are uncontrollably dragged into this forceful whirlwind of capitalistic control. What is wrong if SR expresses his view on freeing oneself from this bondage of capitalism?
JN calls SR’s views a “joke”! What are JN’s views? Did education, farming, freedom struggle, or economic policy ever cross JN’s mind during all these years he was badmouthing in our small society? I have listened to many of his talks and never felt that JN himself had/s any political views per se, whether good or bad. JN only throws tantrums.
JN talks about “remembering Samdhong Rinpoche being treated as a joke” JN’s people made SR look like a joke and shoved him out of Dharamsala. SR was forced to work as a principal in various schools like Dalhousie, Darjeeling, and Varanasi, which SR sees as a great “trust” shown by HH. JN’s clan had SR, and many other Tibetans evicted from Dharamsala. When HH proposed to draft the first constitution in 1969, it was JN’s clan that opposed it out of fear of losing their age-old grip and control over Tibetan society. Little did they know that exiled Tibetan would become a mosaic of Tibetans, now made of not only the suppressed Utsang and Ngari people but also “unruly” ones from Kham and Amdo. JN and his clan wanted HH to be a puppet leader. They blame SR for their failure. HH had a vision and determination back in the 60s to democratize our society, and SR helped further HH’s goals.
Today, as HH is growing older and cannot walk without help, JN is trying to create a rift between HH and other true Tibetans like SR. Without SR, the stage will be clear on how to draw a deal between families in controlling HH’s years of immobility and his reincarnation.
What has SR got to do with His Holiness’ Strasbourg Proposal and Lhasang Tsering for JN to fill his article? Why complain about Michael van Walt for the matter? As far as I hear from people who have seen and interacted with Michael, he sounds more Tibetan than JN. Whatever big or small Michael has contributed, we should feel grateful. Strasburg Proposal is a documentary addendum to the fifth point of His Holiness’s Five Point Peace Plan of 1987. What’s wrong with that?
JN talks about the referendum as if people have lost memory of the event. SR has himself complained in several speeches that “Truth Insistence,” which JN terms as his “own pseudo-Gandhian doctrine” of “Truth Insistence,” was entered by the referendum committee. Firstly, we all know that JN doesn’t know as much about Gandhian Philosophy as SR to term a view as “pseudo.” SR even complained that four points, especially “Truth Insistence,” in referendum do not correlate well with other options. So JN need not lie by entering “TSG List” in his footnote to imply something else.
Middle-Way is a policy adopted by the ATPD. Even if we consider the public referendum a bogus movement, we had 40+ direct representatives of Tibetans in the ATPD that voted to adopt Middle Way as CTA’s policy. As long as ATPD does not initiate another referendum or amend the current policy, JN’s tantrums will not bear any substantive result.
Then JN talks about the “Emergency Meeting” (zadrag tsongdu) by quoting a press release that stated, “The future course of the Tibetan movement, including the possibility of a historic switch from demanding autonomy to a demand for full independence, will be the focus of a special meeting next month of around 300 delegates representing the worldwide exiled Tibetan community. Then he quotes Secretary Takla stating, ‘The only non-negotiable aspect is that the movement will still be non-violent. Everyone agreed on that.”
With all due respect, what do we mean by “Everyone is agreed on that.” As I mentioned before, the Middle Way was adopted by the ATPD and neither His Holiness, HH Secretary Takla, nor Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche has the constitutional power to overturn MW policy and call for a referendum. The right and power to move a referendum rest with the ATPD. His Holiness’ legislative power was limited to “assenting, withholding, and returning a Bill,” and not outrightly nullifying, amending, or overwriting an existent resolution, particularly something as huge as a public referendum, without passing it through ATPD.
So, without any ATPD resolution calling for a second referendum, JN’s claim that SR pushed the Middle Way holds no water. Is JN implying that SR must follow His Holiness and His Secretary’s commands, and defy, disregard, and violate the existing ATPD constitutional articles governing the Middle Policy?
If some Tibetans felt galvanized at that time, it was because people did not know that a second referendum must undergo due legislative process, unlike the first referendum. Seeing that JN does not know this, I can reasonably guess how many Tibetans will have had a false impression of the entire episode.
If ATPD has introduced a bill on the floor calling for a second referendum or appointed a committee for the same, please enlighten me.
Jamyang Norbu connects opposition of the Middle Way Referendum to a physical assault on Kundeling Woser Gyaltsen. Mean people resort to baseless insinuation. If JN knows anybody from the Middle Way group attacking KWG, JN can say it. Given that JN can spew out as much as the dirt of Thames River from his mouth daily, it should not be hard for him to spell out the names of the alleged culprit(s). Was it HH? Was it SR? Was it CTA?
Lhasang Tsering, JN’s mentor and guide, was the Rangzen leader during that time. He lived in McLeod Ganj and was at his bookstore on the main street from 9 to 7. Lhasang’s wife walked the market every day, and their daughter studied at TCV. Why were they not attacked? Taktser Rinpoche was another strong voice? Why did nobody criticize Taktser Rinpoche?
There was a rare case of a CTA employee (not named here) inviting CTA’s displeasure for speaking against MW. It was blown up a bit in the past. The issue was because that CTA employee was denouncing MW in violation of ATPD’s resolution and CTA Employee Rules. ATPD adopted Middle Way, and CTA staff were bound to follow the policy. CTA has no objection to non-CTA staff expressing their views. Even Chitues are free to do that. It is called parliamentary democracy. The person later resigned. SR and CTA respected his right to vent his opposition as a private citizen, and he is doing this freely to this day. Ask the person if he received a single letter of objection upon leaving CTA.
SAMDHONG RINPOCHE’S ACTIVITIES
SR’s visit to the Kham region in Tibet (Please say Kham and not Yunan. It is a PRC designation.) and interactions with Chinese officials are confidential. JN had one audience with HH, and he misrepresented and misquoted HH. SR had over a thousand audiences with HH, and there was no case where SR misrepresented or divulged more information than necessary. It takes immense courage, integrity, and composure to be able to brave criticism for the sake of HH and the Tibetan cause.
There is also the factor of confidentiality in government works. SR’s “secrecy” through his trips is insignificant compared to how CTA and Security Department functioned when JN’s father-in-law Drungyik Lhamo Tsering, then a confidant of Kungo Gyalo and Alak Jigme, was at the Security Department. I will not elaborate to avoid further inter-regional split and mistrust within our society. Picking on SR and turning a blind eye to others is unfair.
In his ten years of service as Kalon Tripa, SR held nine rounds of dialogue to resolve this protracted Sino-Tibetan conflict. He handed our demands to the Chinese counterparts. Irrespective of the outcome, there was an effort and a process. This is not something JN or I can do. Dr. LS could not have even one talk, and he had his reasons. PT is through his first term, and the prospect looks bleak. PT might get lucky or bring up similar reasons. Time and situation are different, and comparing SR with LS or PT is unfair.
A Chinese Guo Wengu met SR and HH. Guo Wengu was said to have divulged that “Meng Jianzhu, secretary of the Political and Legal Committee of the CPC Central Committee,” told him to “kill the Dalai Lama.” Firstly, what Chinese person will have the courage to publicly disclose the name of a high-ranking PRC official for wanting to “kill” HH? Secondly, what’s wrong with that? Sino-Tibetan negotiation involves sitting and speaking with PRC people who have killed our Tibetan brothers and sisters and whose brothers and sisters we Tibetans have killed. Suppressed enmity and hatred are regular items on the negotiation menu. Gyari LG was furious with Chinese officials on many occasions. Likewise, HH and SR operated in an intense red zone. JN blares from the megaphone in front of an embassy heavily guarded by the police forces of the host country or JN’s country of citizenship. JN is confident he can meet his pals back in the Chinese bar for a cold beer after the 10th March Uprising event. SR and Gyari do not know if they will come back alive after their visits to Kham and TAR. That’s the difference between a leader and an irresponsible critic.
Then JN speaks of SR’s birthday. After people like JN and others began to blame SR for no reason, the Tibetan majority felt it unfair and celebrated SR’s birthday in unprecedented ways to show support. Everyone, HH Sakya Gongma, HH Karmapa, and big and small Lamas are celebrating birthdays. Why can’t SR? People throng in hundreds to celebrate SR’s birthday across the globe and exercise their freedom of movement. Nobody forced them. People’s respect is earned, not commanded. We saw JN revel even for a small felicitation (self-conferred or conferred by close friends?), and he eagerly flew hundreds of miles. SR’s case was different, and people were celebrating his birthday all over the world birthday despite his absence, which is fantastic!
JN has a problem with niceties like Kyabje, Khevang, etc. I don’t know if there are people, despite the association with Rangzen, who truly trust JN. But hundreds of Tibetans are willing to lay down their lives for SR out of sheer respect for his selfless service to Tibet and the Tibetans. Hundreds come to listen to SR. SR is a Geshe Lharampa, a PHD, and a professor besides many other things. SR refuses to accept any kind of honorary educational degree. What educational qualification or community service has JN achieved to ridicule SR’s scholarship? Does JN have that same spirit and benevolence as SR to refuse honorary degrees from any university?
JN talking about SR’s position on war and non-violence by drawing Ukraine example is laughable. How can we expect someone lucky to have his family, extended families, relatives, and pet Lhasa Apsos escorted safely to India to understand the value of human lives? People are self-immolating, and we must stop them. As long as you lack the courage to sacrifice yourself on a battlefield or douse yourself in petrol, no Tibetans have the right to instill and instigate a battle or self-immolation of our brothers and sisters in Tibet. (I don’t consider JN’s short trip to Mustang to spy on Khampas for the Dharamasala’s aristocratic power a “military” service). In SR’s dictionary, JN is a non-violent man with no military experience! SR is from Khampa and has seen how many people related to him, and his Khampa friends and teachers have died in the war against China, leaving behind aged parents, widows, and orphans. SR and JN have different DNA. SR is preaching non-violence but is the kind that will never retreat; JN is the type who starts a fight and will be the first to flee. The only grace is that we Tibetans are not at war with China like Ukraine. Or else it will be a litmus test for many Tibetans in exile.
JN speaking about SR “supression” of Rangzen movements is bit embarrassing and low blow to read. SR was the Kalon Tripa and was bound to being a Sino-Tibetan Resolution according to the ATPD-enforced MW policy in whatever ways possible.
JAMYANG NORBU AND NEW-AGE EMBELLISHMENT OF SOCIAL PROFILE
There is an old saying, “If neither facts nor law is on your side, you pound the table.” When wisdom, knowledge, virtue, experience, and trust unfriend you, all you are left with is to blame, blame, and blame. This has been the tactic adopted by many younger Tibetan generations. Few Tibetans today criticize HH, SR, and CTA to raise their social profile and gain media publicity. This is sad and shows the lack of confidence in one’s strength. A frail person relies on a walking stick, and a flagrant survives by trampling on others!
I support Rangzen. Karma Choepel and Lhasang Tsering, who I call the “Rangzen Brothers,” are good examples of Rangzen activists. If the majority supported Rangzen in favor of MW and SR manipulated votes, as JN alleges, the Tibetan majority would not have remained silent. The ATPD would not have kept silent. We remember how KC and TYC presidents as people who voiced Rangzen in the parliament those days.
Most people agree that MW’s popularity is due to the policy’s strength in today’s international politics and HH’s blessings. Despite that, KC was able to put his case for Rangzen in opposition to MW in ATPD sessions, term after term. People listened to and responded to him, and the debates in the parliament were civil. Lhasang did the same and went as far as to say HH “begged” him in Strasburg. The fact that KC and LT could speak freely and without fear of consequences indicates the high spirit of Tibetan democracy.
SR’s interactions with KC and LT were in official and formal settings, and all their debates are documented and preserved in Dharamsala. Any Tibetan, including JN, who feels they have enough bone to pick against SR can research these ditto parliamentary transcriptions. If such things have happened, people are free to file a class action, defamation, and damage lawsuits against SR in a Tibetan or Indian civil court, now or in the future.
JN has criticized HH, CTA, and officials like SR for years without any substantial or textual basis. Neither HH, CTA, nor SR feel the need or pressure to respond or clarify. JN has the habit of mischaracterizing people disproportionately. To mischaracterize SR, JN revealed his true character and likened SR to despots like Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Gaddafi in this blog article. JN should try opening his diarrhea mouth in regimes of these despots and then see what happens.
I will not say much here. Today, many Tibetans, including myself, support Rangzen but are in a dilemma regarding its expression in the community. We have most of the TYC and SFT doing well. But the sad part is that a few publicists have begun to hijack these Rangzen movements, start alternative cliques, and turn the movement into street circuses. Look at the kind of people in the Rangzen leadership. I am afraid that not long after, the temerity and audacity to criticize HH and CTA will become the essential criterion in becoming a leader of the Rangzen movement. This will harm our Rangzen movement. I see a lot of dedicated and sincere Rangzen activists. I also see a few pseudo-Rangzen “activists trying hard to achieve one goal of becoming a “pseudo” Subash Chandra Bose or Bhagat Singh! Let me remind these people that Bhagat Singh and SC Bose sacrificed their lives for freedom! In layman’s words, “they died for freedom”!
Rangzen has raised JN’s profile, but JN’s actions and mouth only harm Rangzen. Today, Rangzen has become a mix of many things. More than a movement for regaining our lost independence, Rangzen is becoming an easy avenue and an effective tool to denounce HH, Middle Way, CTA, and the Tibetan cause!
Rangzen and Middle Way must co-exist, and all Tibetans should have equal freedom to support any movement they want! China is our enemy, and both sides should not forget this.
In all ten years of Dr. LA’s tenure, JN criticized SR. Halfway through PT’s tenure, JN still behaves like a forlorn lover who has not found closure. At 73 years of age, it is time to age wisely and nicely. If JN continues such disrespectful behavior against HH, SR, or any person who has selflessly served Tibetan and TIbetans, he cannot expect us to keep quiet and turn blind to the piles of garbage in JN’s own backyard in the future. This time, I have tried to keep the discussion civil and refrain from going personal as much as possible.
I hope Samdhong Rinpoche did not negotiate with China on HHDL reincarnation.
Samdhong Ripoche owes an explanation to the Tibetan people, and I am sure he can defend himself and deflect this scathing dig out about his dilly-dallying with China, and apparent anti-Tibet (Rangzen) fervor will haunt, not on only him, but his core followers, and gullible Tibetans.