Sunday, June 30, 2013

Extreme Weather in Tibet

Mount Kailash and Rinzin Wangmo
Recently Xinhua reported: ‘Extreme weather reported in Nagri [Ngari], Tibet’.
The Chinese news agency affirmed that according to the Chinese Meteorology Administration, heavy rain storms have been reported since June 15 in the western part of Ngari Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region [north of Uttarakhand]: “It is a rare weather condition recorded at this time of year. In Burang [Purang] County, the precipitation hit a new record on June 17, to reach an all-time high,” asserted the agency.
The Purang County, north of Pittoragarh district of Uttarakhand had experienced moderate rainfalls till June 16, when it was struck by a very unusual rain storm with a precipitation of 73.6 mm, the strongest rainfall ever recorded in a single day in June.
The next day, the precipitation for Purang County reached 96 mm, creating a new record of precipitation for June. As the result of this extreme weather condition (due climatic change?), the first batch of Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims reached the Tibetan border with a delay of six days.
On June 20, the fifty one first yatris finally crossed over to Tibet from 17,500 feet high Lipulekh Pass in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand.
Ranvir Singh, an ITBP officer declared: “All members of the first batch are hale hearty and they braved the two km track on snow at the Pass to reach the Chinese territory."
Due to bad conditions of the roads and bridges en routes, the following eight batches of the ‘Kailash yatra’ were canceled by the External Affairs Ministry.
But Tibet seems to witness other ‘climatic change’, a political one.
Will it be remembered as the Tibetan Spring or will the Winter soon set again?
In this context, the interview of Prof Jin Wei of the Communist Party School generated a lot of speculations on the Net and in the world media.
So did the announcement that some monasteries would have received the permission to display photos of the Dalai Lama; further it would not be necessary anymore for the monks to criticize or demonize the Tibetan leader. What a big change!
I have also mentioned on this blog, the opening to public sight of the stone pillar on which is recorded the 821 CE Peace Agreement between China and Tibet.
You may think that there is definitively a climatic change for the best on the Roof of the World, but it may not be the case.
Read the recent reports of Human Rights Watch on the 'Grid System', 'Red Armband Patrols' or the relocation of nomads on the plateau.
The touring of Chen Quanguo, the TAR Communist Party boss in different Tibetan prefectures (Lhasa, Shigatse, Nagchu) does not herald a new era of peace and stability. It is still the old way of dealing with Tibet.
Recently, Chen Quanguo went to Shigatse and threatened the monks at Tashilunpo Monastery; he denounced the Dalai Lama, 'a splittist', according to him and told them that under the 10th Panchen Lama the monastery was patriotic. He said that he sincerely hoped that the monks would continue to be 'patriotic' under the 11th Panchen Lama.
Does it mean that some monks are not sincere patriots?
Apparently Chen also visited a number of Public Security posts to see if the lists of neighborhood residents were up to date, separating properly permanent residents, temporary residents and the ‘floating population’.
Chen would have checked if the ‘grid’ system was properly in place.
When he met the People’s Armed Police and the Public Security Bureau officials, he stressed the need to step up efforts to thwart cross-border plots (from India?).
All this is not very cool.
It sounds more like the continuation of the Tibetan Winter.
Cooler was the visit of Gary Locke, the US Ambassador to China who traveled with his family and some of his staff to Tibet to 'increase his familiarity with local conditions'
The three-day trip was organized by the local government (though Padma Choling, the senior most Tibetan official was touring in the United States at that time).
This was the first visit by an American official to the TAR since 2010.
More interesting in my opinion, is the visit to Lhasa, a week earlier, of Rigzin Wangmo, the only daughter of the previous (the 10th) Panchen Lama.
According to The South China Morning Post, Wangmo, “travelled to Lhasa on her first visit for several years. Thousands of Tibetans greeted her outside Jokhang Palace before being dispersed by police.”
The Communist Party's United Front Work Department had stopped her from entering the region for many years.
In 2006, Rinzin Wangmo, sometimes called Renji, ‘Princess’ gave a long interview to The Southern People Weekly (Nanfang Renwu Zhoukan).
Thought the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party immediately blacklisted media coverage of Rinzin Wangmo to “avoid disturbing religious figures”, we have an English translation of the interview.
At that time, Wangmo gave several unknown details on her life-story to the Chinese publication: “I came into the world in June 1983. I’m sure a lot of people were surprised at my dad’s marriage and wondered how the Panchen Lama could marry and have a baby. Many people raised in mainland China aren’t familiar with the conventions of Tibetan Buddhism, which belongs to the Mahayana branch. …Having said that, my dad was the first Panchen Lama to marry. Six hundred years passed from the First Panchen Lama to my dad, so for me to be the daughter of the Tenth Panchen Lama makes me feel a deep relationship with the Buddha.”
The Panchen Lama, his wife and 'Renji'
Her mother Li Jie, was the granddaughter of a Kuomintang general, Dong Qiwu.
‘Renji’ recounted the origin of the ‘70,000 characters petition’, a long missive that the Panchen Lama wrote to Zhou Enlai and the State Council; she said: “This ‘Letter of 70,000 Words’ bluntly enumerated seven key points, which attracted serious notice from top officials in the central government. Although Premiere Zhou Enlai disagreed with some of the views in the letter, he agreed that my dad had raised some valid issues. But a little more than a year later, this ‘Letter of 70,000 Words’ was labeled as reactionary.”
The Panchen Lama was to spend more than 10 years in detention, in most difficult condictions, often been beaten and humiliated by the Red Guards: “The 10 years in prison wore my dad down physically and psychologically, and after his release he craved the comforts of a secular family life.”
She said that at the age of 44, the 10th Panchen Lama was blessed with a daughter; it was her, Rinzin Wangmo.
Now comes an even more interesting part of the interview: “One hundred days after I was born, the party elders Deng Yingchao [wife of Zhou Enlai] and Xi Zhongxun came to my home. Deng gave me my childhood nickname, ‘Tuantuan’ or ‘Circle.’ She picked me up and said, ‘This baby’s face is so round, you should just call her Circle!’The deeper meaning was a wish for an unbroken circle of solidarity and harmony between the Han and Tibetan peoples. In Chinese, the word ‘circle’ carries the meaning of solidarity.”
Xi Zhongxun is President Xi Jinping’s father. One can imagine the bond between the two families.
Wangmo then recalled the tragic (and very mysterious) death of the Panchen Lama in Shigatse: “In the past, we had always just accompanied my dad to the plane when seeing him off. But that time, my dad couldn’t bear to part from us, and had people call me into the plane’s cabin time and time again. He kept telling me things, like that I should study hard so I could assist in his work in the future, and that I must obey my mom. The Living Buddhas [Rinpoche] who were with my dad at the time later recalled that he was very emotional in his regret at leaving us, and that he asked the Living Buddhas to take care of his family as they had taken care of him.”
On January 28, 1989, the Panchen Lama suddenly passed away after having dared to criticize the Party.
Rinzin Wangmo later went to the United States to study. Though the Universities of Virginia and Columbia accepted her as a graduate student, she decided to come back to China, where the Communist Youth League admitted to a Ph.D. program at Tsinghua University.
What is fascinating and timely is the description of her return to Lhasa some ten years ago. She remembered: “The year I turned 18, the government arranged for me to return to Tibet. This was the first time I went back to my native land without my mom. Although communications and transportation are not too advanced, and living conditions are quite basic, news that the daughter of the Panchen Lama had arrived quickly circulated, and every day thousands of people, young and old, sometimes entire villages, came to see me.”
She continued: “All they wanted was to receive my blessing and to present me with a pure white khatag. As I gave them khatags in return, one after another, my arms became so sore that I could barely lift them.
“At the end of my 45-day visit, tens of thousands of Tibetan people gathered in the square of the Jokhang Temple to see me off. With tears in their eyes, they said, ‘Please come back often. We’ll miss you.’ Even as my car drove off, people continued to stand there, waving at me. At that moment, I felt that the responsibility I had taken on was heavier than the soreness in my arms.”
She concluded: “I know the spirit of my dad is blessing me, and that his eyes are watching me...”
The same thing seems to have happened again last week.
Isn’t interesting? Was the hand of son of the official who blessed her when she was born, behind the event?
Everything is possible when the climate start changing.
But it is difficult to know in which direction the wind will blow next political season.
Will it be the same cold Winter Wind or a more refreshing Spring Breeze?
It will probably be decided in Beijing.

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