Tibet Issue Interview

With Students For A Free Tibet
Executive Director Tendor

Tibetanlife's Tibet Issue Interview...

1. Do you think that China is ready for democracy?

answer: Yes. The people are always ready for democracy, it's only the Chinese leaders who're not ready and will never be. That's why the people have to take power and use nonviolent action to democratize China.

2. In your blog 'Yarlung Raging' , you talked about the idea of the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamsala giving Bejing a deadline to meet the requested demands for autonomy. How would this bolster the Tibetan movement and strengthen the position of the Tibetan government?

answer: It's human nature to respond to deadlines. Students don't turn in their assignments until the deadline. The Chinese government doesn't want Tibetans to fight for independence. They hate the idea of genuine autonomy, and they hate independence even more so. If there is a threat of Tibetans declaring independence, China will take the compromise made by Dharamsala much more seriously.

3. In your amazing and informative article 'Tiananmen 2.0: Why China Is Not Immune to the Tunisia Effect', you said that in Tunisia and Egypt the uprisings were organised by the educated online, middle class youth who wanted a say in how their country is run. Do you think this is the case in Tibet and China? (organisers of the 2008 Lhasa riots, Tiananmen, Jasmine and all other smaller uprisings?)

answer: Yes, both in Tibet and China, there were many educated youth who were involved in the uprisings and protests. Many of them are netizens who are using the internet to educate themselves and others on issues that matter. In the Tibetan uprising, there were of course many monastics involved, but to some extent they represent the educated class in Tibet too.

4. Since successful uprisings take years of behind-the-scenes strategic planning, training and organizing by groups of activists and youth leaders, what can Students For A Free Tibet and it's supporters do to help them out, online or otherwise?

answer: First of all, we can equip ourselves with the skills and knowledge we need to become more effective in our activism. Students for a free Tibet organizes dozens of trainings in all continents that teach Tibetans, students and activists how to wield nonviolent tools such as the media, protests, art, writing, boycotts, direct actions, internet and cell phones to our advantage. Secondly, we must break the geographic divide between Tibetans in Tibet and those in exile. That's why we try to develop and expand the digital networks that connect us to Tibetans inside Tibet.

5. You said that "Largely unknown to the world, Tibetans today are engaging in a growing noncooperation movement...by making a conscious effort to speak only in Tibetan, to eat only in Tibetan restaurants, or to buy only from Tibetan shops. Tibetans are channeling their spirit of resistance into social, cultural and economic activities that are self-constructive (promoting Tibetan language and culture) and non-cooperative (refusing to support Chinese institutions and businesses)." Is this going to be enough? What else are they doing or what else should they be doing to help the Tibet issue?

answer: What is enough or not will be determined by the degree to which the Chinese government can withstand pressure. These noncooperation tactics involving boycotting Chinese businesses are truly powerful because they can be practiced by large numbers of people, with minimal risk to their safety, so these actions are sustainable. The key is to get to a point where these actions are practiced not just by thousands of people, but by hundreds of thousands, possibly millions. That's when such actions can break the legs of empire.

6. In your mission statement SFT says that it 'works in solidarity with the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom and independence', isn't this going against what His Holiness the Dalai Lama is calling for, autonomy within China?

answer: Struggling for independence doesn't go against His Holiness's Middle Way approach, it goes beyond that. We must understand that the Tibetan independence movement and the autonomy movement are not contradictory, they're simply different. It is the Chinese government that goes against His Holiness's approach as well as the independence movement.

7. Do you have any other comments or new ideas that you would like to share with our readers?

answer: I urge everyone to join the nonviolent movement to free Tibet. It's not just the issue of 6 million Tibetans. From a global climate and environmental perspective, what happens on the Tibetan plateau affects the entire world. Besides, if we desire peace in the world, the best way to ensure that is by helping a nonviolent movement to succeed. Victory to the Tibetan freedom movement will alter people's perception of violence versus nonviolence forever.

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