Flying the Tibetan Flag with Tenzin Tsundue

More than 16-time imprisoned Tibetan activist and poet Tenzin Tsundue addresses the 14th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

On having his flag confiscated at the United Nations:

This is the national flag of Tibet and yesterday at the United Nations I tried to take a picture with this in front of the other flags that were raised and the security guard confiscated mine.”

I felt very good. For the first time the United Nations has a Tibetan flag.”

On being imprisoned in Tibet:

“When I was in prison I felt that there was no hope for me, because what happens in prison in Tibet is the Chinese security they cut all relationships that you have with the outside world. There is no access to your lawyer, no sense of schedule that is happening, they will not tell you what’s going to happen, when is the next hearing, when they would do the interrogation.”

I was beaten, I was blindfolded, beaten, tortured, denied food, denied sleep, in order to what they called “break the person”.”

On his hope:

I always believe that there is another way, it doesn’t have to be like this, we don’t have to be enemies. We don’t have to kill each other. We don’t have to hate each other.”

“We will be free and independent and peace will once again rise. China will only be our neighbor.”

Full Remarks

This is the national flag of Tibet and yesterday at the United Nations I tried to take a picture with this in front of the other flags that were raised and the security guard confiscated mine. I felt very good, for the first time the United Nations has a Tibetan flag, and the head over there must be wondering “will China scold me for having a Tibetan national flag?” Plus this guy whose flag it is not coming here to take it away. So the United Nations this morning is a little confused.

This flag was first created in 1916. In the middle of the first world war, when half of the world was not independent, they were under foreign occupation. But I always believe that there is another way, it doesn’t have to be like this, we don’t have to be enemies. We don’t have to kill each other. We don’t have to hate each other.

You know many years ago I got imprisoned in Tibet and when I was in prison I felt that there was no hope for me because what happens in prison in Tibet is the Chinese security they cut all relationships that you have with the outside world. There is no access to your lawyer, no sense of schedule that is happening, they will not tell you what’s going to happen, when is the next hearing, when they would do the interrogation. And even earlier I was beaten, I was blindfolded, beaten, tortured, denied food, denied sleep in order to what they called “break the person”.

At the time there was only one thing that I could think about and there was basic survival as an individual. My Buddhist upbringing, the Tibetan culture, gave me this inner strength that the real force is not the one who is torturing from the outside but the one that is within you. Where you believe that there is a higher purpose you are dedicating your life to and for that, you need to empower yourself. That empowerment is not coming from your anger or hatred or desire for revenge, no nothing like, in fact, you sympathize with the enemy who is undergoing a period of weakness being angry, hating you, greed you over your wealth.

Friends, I always believe that there is another way. It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to be enemies. We don’t have to kill each other. When China first invaded Tibet in 1949, just after the end of the Second World War, just after the beginning of the United Nations. When most of the countries were at that time just beginning to become free and independent, that was the time when China invaded Tibet and they killed thousands and thousands and thousands. But internationally people were mostly not aware and those who were siding with china. China’s military, economic, and political power continued to rise to a point that today China is now aiming to replace the United States as a boss in the world. But I always believe that there has to be another way. It cannot go on like this. China’s occupation of Tibet was also happening at the same time as the occupation of East Turkestan, my friend Rushan will speak about it. It happened with the occupation of southern Mongolia. I wish there was a speaker from southern Mongolia also. It happened with the invasion of Manchuria and Manchuria, southern Mongolia, East Turkestan, and Tibet put together making 60 percent of China’s 9.6 million square kilometres of land. Friends, sixty percent of today’s China’s landmass is occupied. 

It’s based on the same model as the former Soviet Union, all nationalities are clubbed together and formed a country. That’s the model of today’s China. But most importantly I’m not worried about the Tibetan people, I’m worried about the Chinese who are under their government- dictatorial government- and they are suffering there. They have no freedom, they have no democracy. You see today China is the biggest dictatorship in the world with a 1.4 billion population. And sadly international governments support China because many of them think “we support China because they have business interests”. but I always believe that there has to be another way, it cannot go on like this. Dictators supporting dictators and speaking peace at the United Nations but internally work only to suppress more human beings, torture people, and kill them. there has to be another way. I believe that as an activist myself for human rights, for freedom our solidarity is the way forward. Our solidarity can empower us because we understand each other’s pain, we understand each other’s suffering. and one of the things that I bring forward as a Tibetan: do not suffer, do not suffer, take this as a pride to work for the freedom and human rights and believe that this is the right thing to do and find joy in this.

I will tell you that then what is called the enemy will then start to feel insecure. they will feel “my god we are losing” and therefore I want to send this clear message to China: china we are not afraid of you, you are just so funny, you think your weapons and political power and all that you’re doing in Tibet mining, bombing mountains, and mountains, and taking away lithium, gold, copper and feeding cheap ‘made in china’ products to the rest of the world is a model for you? It’s not going to give you any happiness, in fact, your people are ready to rise for another revolution. My message to you China: your misadventure in empire-building is a great source of suffering to your people and in extension to the people of the occupied country and now in search of natural resources you are doing that in Asia, Africa, South America, and around the world. The blue monster you are rising into it is not in the interest of peace in the world. Now is the time for China to reflect and bring genuine peace and happiness to your people and people around the world.

My time is coming to an end. I want to express my gratitude to Switzerland because this is one country that has accepted Tibetan refugees in 1960 when Switzerland was not even connected to Tibet. And my most humble gratitude is to India which is hosting his holiness the Dalai lama and 100,000 Tibetan refugees in India. 

India gave us hope that we will be free and independent and I believe in this we will be free and independent and peace will once again rise. China will only be our neighbor.

 Thank you.

Speakers and Participants

Tenzin Tsundue

Tibetan refugee & writer arrested 16 times for his activism, completed 127-day Himalayan walk for Tibet

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