Protests against Chinese rule continue in Tibet

Policeman beats monk in Tibet protestsLast week in Lhasa, Tibet, monks and nuns started peaceful marches to show support for Tibetan independence and demand the release of monks who had been detained as they celebrated the Dalai Lama’s receipt of the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, CNN reports. Police responded by blocking some marches, firing tear gas into others, sealing off monasteries, and arresting monks and students who joined the protests.

The protesters had been largely peaceful until Friday, when monks attempted to march to the capital, rights groups said. When Chinese police blocked them, laypeople joined the protest and began lashing out at Chinese authorities.

Ethnic Tibetans then turned their anger to shops, market stalls and vehicles owned by Han Chinese, the predominant ethnic group in China. The Chinese government estimated that 10 people were killed in the clashes. According to The New York Times, however, Aides to the Dalai Lama said they had confirmed 80 killings of Ethnic Tibetans, including 26 victims killed just outside Drapchi prison. Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala said they had also received news that at least two Buddhist monks had set themselves afire in protest.

In response, the Chinese government has taken strong measures to quell the protests. The Washington Post reports that Chinese police conducted house-to-house searches in central Lhasa Monday and rounded up hundreds of Tibetans suspected of participating in anti-Chinese violence. The large-scale arrests and official promises of tough reprisals suggested the Chinese government has decided to move decisively to crush the protests despite calls for restraint from abroad.

The Dalai Lama responded by urging Tibetans to refrain from violence and accusing China of waging “cultural genocide” in Tibet. He called for an international inquiry into the suppression of protests there, his strongest defense to date of Tibetan Buddhists who have staged an uprising against Chinese rule.

The Los Angeles Times writes that the uprising presents the most serious challenge in years, if not decades, to China’s iron grip over its restive minority population. It comes at the most inconvenient time, with human rights activists already calling for a boycott of the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics.

Meanwhile the protests continue to spread to other parts of Tibet, and the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, India.

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Unrest as Tibetan protests spread

Protesting TibetanA number of protests by Tibetans and Tibetan sympathizers have led to conflicts with authorities in Tibet and India.

A hundred Tibetan exiles on a six-month protest march to their homeland defied the Indian government’s orders to halt Tuesday, and could be headed for a conflict with the local police. The protestors have been marching from Dharamsala, the headquarters of the exiled Dalai Lama, to protest the continuing Chinese occupation of their homeland. They had planned to arrive at the Tibetan border in August, just before the Beijing Olympics begin.

The Indian authorities have forbidden the marchers from leaving Kangra District, in which Dharamsala lies, but the marchers have vowed to continue towards Tibet. The Indian government hosts 100,000 Tibetan exiles.

China announced Tuesday that it had quashed a protest by Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. Dozens have been reported to have been arrested for marking the anniversary of an uprising against Chinese rule.

“Yesterday afternoon some monks in Lhasa, abetted by a small handful of people, did some illegal things that challenged social stability,” foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters.

In a second day of protests, Chinese security forces fired tear gas at 600 monks taking part in a demonstration.

In Delhi, police detained a group of over 30 women who gathered outside the Chinese embassy, chanting slogans such as “Free Tibet” and “No Olympics in China.”

The protests against the Chinese Olympics are independent of the Dalai Lama, who has said that China has a right to host the games.

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Health alert: meditation

WIS: As many of us look for ways to de-stress our fast-paced lives, new research finds focused meditation may work better than just relaxing.

Researchers at the University of Oregon compared students who used relaxation techniques to those given just 20 minutes of meditation training. After less than a week, they found a significant difference.

Amir Tahami, a meditation instructor with Sun & Moon Yoga Studio, says “time to find that inner peace that’s inside of you.”

Used for centuries in religious practice, today, people meditate in class, or on a park bench.

“[It] allowed me to relax a bit more,” says Klia Bassing, who teaches employees to meditate at work.

Bassing said, “They kept saying I’m so stressed out. I need something. I need something to relax, to help me focus. I’m having trouble sleeping at night”…

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When meditation spurs revolution (Taipei Journal, Taiwan)

wildmind meditation news

Manik Mehta, Taipei Journal: Normally imperturbable New Yorkers have recently been visibly shaken by simulated scenes of religious persecution in China staged in bustling areas of New York such as Times Square and Grand Central Station.

Followers and friends of the Falun Gong movement, which professes only to teach traditional Chinese methods for improving psychic and physical wellness involving simple exercises, meditation and development of xinxing–or heart-mind nature–enacted scenes dramatizing Beijing’s brutal suppression of the movement. They replicated the torture chambers purportedly used in China to punish Falun Gong members who refuse to renounce their beliefs and practices.

Amateur actors dressed as Chinese prison guards pretended to administer electric shocks to chained female Falun Gong practitioners, with faces contorted in agony and bodies covered with torture marks. Another simulation showed a woman prisoner in chains hunched over in a cramped “birdcage.” “Eeeek!” screamed a female passerby upon seeing the birdcage and its bruised and bloodied occupant. “Don’t tell me this is really happening in China?” Similar anti-torture tableaux, in tandem with petition and letter-writing campaigns, have been staged in cities and on university campuses the world over since November. The disgust and horror of onlookers, be they in New York, Munich, Taipei or Lima was proof that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

According to data provided by the Friends of Falun Gong organization, more than 1,600 followers have been tortured to death in China, while hundreds of thousands continue to languish in jails without formal charges or legal recourse. More than 100,000 have been sent to labor camps and another 1,000 have been tortured in mental hospitals, it is claimed.

Worldwide sympathy and support for the Falun Gong can only mount if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership persists in its knee-jerk reaction to even loosely organized groups that it perceives as posing a threat to its authority. Already, virtually every democratic society in the world is highly critical of Beijing for its violation of human rights on a vast scale. It is notorious for its suppression of religious groups, its complicity in driving farmers off their land, its backsliding on its legal commitment to allow Hong Kong to function as a free and autonomous entity, or its calculated annihilation of the Tibetan people’s cultural and linguistic heritage.

China’s embassies and consulates around the world are regularly bombarded with petitions pleading respect for Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans and other abused religious, ethnic and social groups.

For its part, the U. S. Congress has expressed its strenuous objection to the Chinese government’s treatment of Falun Gong members. On July 24, 2002, by a vote of 420-0, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed resolution H.R. 188, urging the Beijing authorities to cease such persecution.

The resolution reads, “The campaign of persecution [against the] Falun Gong has been carried out by government officials at all levels, and has permeated every segment of society and every level of government in the People’s Republic of China.” An issue of particular concern to U.S. politicians is the fate of an American citizen of Chinese origin, Charles Li, who is languishing in a prison in Nanjing and, according to Falun Gong sources, being beaten and subjected to brainwashing because of his association with the organization. When he refused to attend a brainwashing session in July at the behest of prison guards, it is said, another inmate knocked Li to the ground and dragged him down a staircase.

According to Falun Gong members taking part in anti-torture street presentations, Li has gone on hunger strikes and been confined to the prison clinic. It has been reported that when a U.S. consular official traveled from Shanghai to Nanjing to pay him a visit, prison officials refused him entry.

The Beijing authorities have categorically denied that Li’s arrest was related to his personal beliefs or association with the Falun Gong. The movement’s supporters point out that they deny such a connection because, otherwise, it would be tantamount to admitting that they are engaging in religious persecution–this, despite their insistence that freedom of religion is well-protected in China.

Original article no longer available


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China’s former leader sued for genocide (Scoop)

Eleven NZ citizens and residents filed a lawsuit in the Auckland High Court today against Jiang Zemin, the former president of China.

“It’s part of the biggest human rights case in the world since WWII… In the end, we plan to bring Jiang Zemin to the International Tribunal,” says Theresa Chu, a lawyer who brought a similar case to court in Taiwan and also the director of International Advocates For Justice. “Twenty-seven lawyers from 21 countries are working to bring Jiang and his cohorts to justice across the world.”

The group’s barrister, Chris Lawrence, a former Proceedings Commissioner of the NZ Human Rights Commission, as well as a past delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, said that the case was unusual because the plaintiffs sue over events in China. “The Chinese legal system, controlled as it is by the defendants, is unable to provide my clients justice. So we are seeking to bring Jiang Zemin to justice in NZ. This case will explore the extent to which New Zealanders who have been subjected to gross human rights abuses in other countries can seek justice in our courts.”

Also named as defendants in the suit are Jiang Zemin’s primary primary accomplices in the persecution of Falun Gong: Luo Gan and Li Lanqing. Together with Jiang, they stand accused of directing a systematic campaign of genocide over the past five years.

The group held a press conference outside the Auckland High Court this morning followed by what they called “The Great Wall of Courage.” The hundred-plus collection of Falun Gong practitioners lined up along eight blocks of Queen St. holding banners and handing out flyers in an effort to raise the public’s awareness of their plight.

Falun Gong describes itself as an ancient Chinese meditation practice, in which practitioners adhere to the principles of “ Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance” in their daily lives. The practice grew exponentially during the 1990’s at a grass roots level, and a Chinese government survey in 1999 estimated between 70-100 million people practiced it.

A government policy of harassment began as early as 1996, and culminated in a full out persecution in July 1999. Since then human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, in addition to the UN, and the US State department, have documented serious human rights abuses, including systematic torture, rape, killing, brainwashing, and mental institutionalization of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners.

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China detains Buddhist, U.S. group says (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

A Chinese Buddhist leader was detained and some of his American followers dragged away when they tried to hold a ceremony at a temple in northern China that they had paid to renovate, according to members of the group.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday protested to China over the “mistreatment of American citizens” and sought assurances that the spiritual leader, Yu Tianjian, would be treated fairly.

The Buddhist Foundation of America, based in Los Angeles, believes Yu was arrested for “inciting superstition,” said Dan Kendall, a member of the group.

Yu lived in the United States for five years and now resides in Beijing, though he also leads the Dari Rulai Temple in Los Angeles, Kendall said. According to the U.S. Embassy, Yu’s followers say he holds permanent U.S. residency.

“We have no details about his whereabouts or his condition,” a U.S. Embassy spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. “We call on the Chinese authorities to ensure that Mr. Yu’s rights to due process are respected.”

Kendall said he and six other Americans gathered last week with Yu at the 800-year-old Dari Rulai Xingyuan Temple in the Inner Mongolia region to prepare for its rededication following a year of renovation work. The group had raised US$3 million (euro 2.4 million) for the renovations and to construct new buildings at the site, he said.

But local authorities “physically dragged us out,” and took away personal belongings including Buddhist statues and artifacts, Kendall said.

Original article no longer available

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Thousands Gather to Commemorate Ban on Falun Gong (The Epoch Times)

Stephen Farmer, Epoch Times: Washington, D.C. will be the site of a series of activities to commemorate the Chinese government’s ban on the Falun Gong spiritual practice. The ban was announced on statewide television July 22, 1999 although officials began efforts to suppress the group before then.

On July 22 in Washington, a group of youths riding bikes from Canada will join thousands of Falun Gong practitioners from around the world for rallies, anti-torture exhibitions, a “Great Wall of Courage,” and a conference.

In 1992, Mr. Li Hongzhi founded Falun Gong in China. Practitioners call it a cultivation, or self-improvement practice. It features Mr. Li’s teachings and meditation exercises.

Falun Gong became popular in China very quickly, perhaps because of the health benefits many practitioners reported. Sherwood Liu, a Falun Gong practitioner and researcher at a university in Florida said, “My parents, in their 70’s, benefited tremendously. My mom was in constant pain from arthritis and my dad had facial spasms and imbalanced vision that caused headaches. Their problems all went away after a few months’ practice.”

According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, which reports on Falun Gong issues, a government survey in 1999 found between 70-to-100 people were learning the meditation system. On April 25, 1999, some 10,000 adherents petitioned the central government in Beijing to stop mistreating practitioners. Then-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin began putting in place a campaign to suppress Falun Gong soon after.

On July 20, 1999, Chinese police began rounding up those they identified as “leaders” of the practice. Since then, the government has adopted stringent measures to suppress Falun Gong, including arrests and imprisonment. The information center reports that at least 1,000 practitioners have died as a result. They say more than 100,000 are detained in China’s labor camps.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the U.S. State Department and other human rights and governmental organizations have issued reports documenting the mistreatment of Falun Gong practitioners.

Practitioners inside China have responded with peaceful acts of civil disobedience that aims to counter what many consider government propaganda. They continue to leaflet and display posters. Some have gone so far as to tap into state-owned satellite TV signals. Outside China, Falun Gong practitioners hold rallies, parades, bike rides, concerts, exhibitions and other means to call attention to the persecution.

Original article no longer available…

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On a mission (The Oberver, UK)

Ed Douglas, The Guardian: As the exiled leader of Tibet flies into Britain, supporters detect a fresh urgency in his pleas for an end to Chinese oppression. At 68, the Buddhist monk knows his people’s hopes live or die with him.

y the time the Apache leader Geronimo surrendered in 1886, stifling the last gasp of native American resistance, ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody had been touring for three years with the Wild West Show, selling a version of the world he helped destroy.

Something similar happened in the old Tibetan capital of Lhasa this month. Visitors to the Jokhang temple, the spiritual centre of the country and its religion, reported that the Chinese authorities had installed metal barricades across the inner temple’s entrance to make sure that tourists can no longer sneak in without paying.

The irony won’t be lost on Tenzin Gyatso, once the most important inhabitant of Lhasa but now a longstanding exile in India and better known as the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet and of the Tibetan Buddhist diaspora.

Just as Buffalo Bill cashed in on a disappearing world, the Chinese have created a Tibetan Wild West Show. The Dalai Lama may be in charge of a ‘splittist clique’, but Lhasa’s temples and his former homes – and all that they represent – are a superb business opportunity.

His Holiness wouldn’t recognise much else of his old home town. For at least a decade it has had more in common with a generic modern Chinese city than the ancient capital of a wholly different culture. More recently, the city’s authorities have acknowledged what had long been known; more Chinese now live there than Tibetans.

That he wants to return is undisputed. The Dalai Lama arrives in Britain for the first time in five years this week, on his never-ending tour to drum up political and popular support for his people’s cause. In their struggle to achieve some level of self-determination in the face of China’s 54 years of occupation, the 68-year-old monk remains by far their most powerful asset. He himself fled Lhasa in 1959, despairing at the broken promises of the Chinese, his dramatic escape fixing his plight in the world’s eye ever since. The democratically elected Prime Minister of Tibet’s government-in-exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, is also in London next week, lecturing at the International Society of Ecology and Culture. But everyone knows who the real draw is.

The Dalai Lama has his critics. Rupert Murdoch told Vanity Fair in 1999: ‘I have heard cynics who say he’s a very political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes.’ Given Murdoch’s ambitions in China, the put-down was laughable. The Dalai Lama doesn’t wear Gucci shoes, not even metaphorically, and to describe him as a political monk is like asking whether the Pope is a Catholic. Holding the future of millions of his fellow countrymen in his hands, what choice does he have? If anything, some critics argue, he has proved not political enough.

But there was a whiff of a more serious charge in Murdoch’s charmless sniping. The Dalai Lama is not as thoughtful as he might be about his public profile. And his willingness to meet pretty much anyone who asks can leave the public with the impression, however unfair, that he likes hanging out with movie stars. Christopher Hitchens has said that he heads ‘a Hollywood cult that almost exceeds the power of Scientology’.

Some of the celebrities devoted to the cause of Tibet have a long-standing commitment, like the glamorous Joanna Lumley, whose grandfather was a trade agent in the Tibetan town of Gyantse, close to the Indian border, and a friend to the Dalai Lama’s previous incarnation. As Kate Saunders, the Tibet specialist and a friend of Lumley, puts it: ‘People like Joanna can be very useful to the Tibetan cause. She has access to the right people, is friends with politicians and can raise a lot of money.’

Others, you feel, have a less than firm grip on what his life’s work means. Sharon Stone, barefoot and with a boa draped across her shoulders, invited the audience at an event in Los Angeles to applaud ‘the hardest-working man in spirituality … Mr “Please, please let me back into China!”‘ Or even Tibet.

The Dalai Lama’s secretariat, at times naïve, at times frustrated by their leader’s openness, hasn’t always picked the right openings for him to spread the message. He suffered particularly at the hands of CNN host Larry King, who introduced him on his Millennium Special , ‘as a leading Muslim’ – not a mistake Larry would make now – and then, six months later, conducted an interview which made the Tibetan leader appear incomprehensible.

Martin Scorsese’s film Kundun, which the Dalai Lama saw and admired, went some way to explaining that beneath the National Geographic glitz of Tibetan culture is a country with a gritty political history. But it is difficult for Westerners to get past the ineffable exoticism of the Dalai Lama’s childhood.

He was born Lhamo Thondup, the fourth son and fifth child to survive of Choekyong Tsering, a farmer from a small village called Takster in north-eastern Tibet in the former province of Amdo. Amdo has been swallowed up into the modern Chinese province of Xining. The boundaries of the Tibet Autonomous Region are often confused with historical Tibet. In fact, the TAR is a fraction of the old territory. Takster is, unsurprisingly, off limits to tourists.

Tibetan agriculture – and society – was largely feudal but the family worked for themselves, leasing a small parcel of land and growing barley, potatoes and buckwheat as well as keeping a herd of yaks, sheep and goats.

This life was interrupted by the arrival of monks from Lhasa. Through clues left by his predecessor, they identified the child as the fourteenth Dalai Lama. The family moved to Lhasa and while the young lama began his training, the family became involved in Tibetan political life. His mother was adored, but his father became embroiled in the internecine bickering which hamstrung any chance the Tibetans had of resisting the Chinese. The Dalai Lama’s brother, Gyalo Thondup, told the writer Mary Craig that he was convinced his father was murdered to get rid of a political nuisance.

From a young age, the Dalai Lama has been mesmerising in the flesh. After attending his enthronement in 1940, British diplomat Basil Gould said he had ‘never seen anybody assume more complete and natural control of great assemblies’. That ability has only deepened with the passing years. He can hold a crowd of agnostic Westerners in the palm of his hand despite simple English, but he is most impressive with his own people. Speaking Tibetan, his voice seems to possess a more serious tone.

When Mao heard that the Dalai Lama had fled Lhasa in 1959 in the face of rising tension with his Chinese overlords, the Great Helmsman is reported to have said: ‘In that case we have lost the battle.’

If his leadership is totemic, it hasn’t always been politically astute. Many believe the Tibetans missed an opportunity in the 1980s to take advantage of a thaw in relations when Deng Xiaoping invited exiled Tibetans to return home. In 1989, His Holiness declined an invitation to attend the funeral of the Panchen Lama – effectively the second-most important spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibet scholar Tom Grunfeld described it as ‘probably the gravest error of his political life’.

The 1990s were a lost decade, but his government in exile seems to have learned from its mistakes. Discussions have resumed with the Chinese, and there is cautious optimism that these may lead towards some kind of settlement. His special envoy, Washington-based Lodi Gyari, is an astute lobbyist in Washington – the Dalai Lama met President Bush in 2001 – but some are concerned he is not sufficiently on the wavelength of the current Chinese leadership.

There is also the suspicion that all the Chinese have to do is wait until the Dalai Lama dies. Even if the discovery of the next Dalai Lama proves uncontroversial, it would be decades before he became a political force, by which time the idea of Tibetan autonomy will have lost impetus. His Holiness seems aware of these dangers, saying that his administration must now ‘turn its face to China’ for a solution and putting his foot on the diplomatic gas pedal. Luckily for Tibet, the Dalai Lama is in rude health.

His acknowledgement of Western advances – he always advises the sick to use whatever medicine will work – and his deep spirituality put the Dalai Lama at an interesting crossroads. His ideas about compassion strike a chord in the West but he is equally forthright on the damage consumerism and sexual freedom can inflict on individuals. Not attitudes, you feel, that would go down well in mainstream America.

He feels strongly about the environment and the damage inflicted on it. ‘An environment that is full of life is much better, much more attractive. Forests without animals or birds, bad. Without trees, even worse,’ he has said. Given the environmental price China is paying for its economic growth, he has a point.

Those of his people still in Tibet will continue to be second-class citizens in their own land. More or less, urban Tibet is now Chinese and making economic progress, while rural Tibet remains as it was, without health care or education.

Meanwhile, Tibet’s natural resources are beintrucked east. Soon a railway between Chengdu and Lhasa will open and the process will accelerate. Critics of the Dalai Lama say the old system in Tibet was backward and oppressive. But both communism and Chinese consumerism have plunged the people of Tibet into a morass of corruption and indifference.

With the Beijing Olympics on the horizon, perhaps the Chinese will see the merits of letting the hardest-working man in spirituality come home.

Dalai Lama

DoB: 6 July 1935 (Takster, Tibet)
AKA: Tenzin Gyatso, Lhamo Thondup, Ocean of Wisdom (a translation of Dalai Lama), Yeshin Norbu (Wish-Fulfilling Dream), Kundun (the Presence)
Jobs: Exiled head of state of Tibet, Buddhist leader

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Dalai Lama a hit before setting foot in Canada (C-News, Canada)

Emily Yaerwood-Lee, C-News, Canada: His Toronto event will be held at SkyDome and in Vancouver, tickets for two spiritual teaching events held in a 4,000-seat auditorium were snapped up in 20 minutes.

A fight reportedly broke out when a man who’d stood in line for tickets found out the appearance was sold out after the Vancouver event was moved to a 15,000-seat venue, the extra tickets were sold out within days. It was a different story when the Dalai Lama last visited Canada in 1993. About 4,000 turned out to see him in Vancouver.

Victor Chan, an organizer of the upcoming Vancouver visit who is also co-authoring a book with the Dalai Lama, suggested the Dalai Lama’s message of peace and compassion is one people are craving in a time of post Sept. 11 uncertainty.

He said the demand for spiritual teaching events is unprecedented.

“This is something I have not come across,” says Chan, who has travelled extensively with the Buddhist leader.

The Dalai Lama, whose celebrity supporters include actors Richard Gere and Goldie Hawn, speaks of common secular ethics and said spiritual growth does not need to come from religious faith.

His mantra of non-violence has been his calling card since he and thousands of his countrymen fled their Himalayan homes in Tibet in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile in India.

The Chinese government claims Tibet as part of its territory and refuses to negotiate even limited autonomy with the Dalai Lama – who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for promoting human rights in his homeland – unless he acknowledges that authority.

Former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien both failed to meet the Dalai Lama during previous visits and it’s not known yet whether Paul Martin will see him.

But Thubten Samdup, national president of the Canada Tibet Committee, says one of the reasons for the Ottawa visit is to thank more than 100 MPs who he says have supported a campaign to have Canada facilitate negotiations between the Dalai Lama and China.

There is a bit of vindication in having his visit to Canada receive more attention this time around, agrees Samdup, who attributes the added interest to the Dalai Lama’s international profile.

“His name has become synonymous with non-violence and peace.”

It’s not just interest in the Dalai Lama that’s on the rise.

The 2001 census found the number of Buddhists in Canada increased 84 per cent over 10 years, representing about 300,000 people or roughly one per cent of the population.

The religion, with its many branches and spinoffs including various types of Tibetan Buddhism, has become attractive in the mainstream, says Suwanda Sugunasiri, founder of Toronto’s Nalanda College of Buddhist Studies and a former president of the Buddhist Council of Canada.

But he doubts the Tibetan style of Buddhism is responsible for much of the increase reflected in the census, attributing it instead to an increase in immigrants from other Buddhist countries.

Some of the religion’s popularity among North Americans could come from its hold on the media, says Frances Garrett, a Tibetan religion scholar at the University of Toronto.

“Probably because it’s kind of more picturesque,” says Garrett. “It films better.

“There are these highly exotic-looking rituals that are fascinating to people. Other forms of Buddhism … are more oriented to meditation and who wants to look at someone sitting on a meditation cushion?”

Its teachers may also seem more glamorous because of “their being exiled from Tibet and everyone’s very interested that they’ve been imprisoned,” says Garrett.

But for all of that interest, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism have often been misunderstood in the West, says Tsewang Thethong, a former minister from the government-in-exile who now lives in Victoria.

“The Dalai Lama was called the god-king, which he simply detests,” says Thethong. “Even we don’t use that word.”

The Dalai Lama, born in 1935, is believed to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama and the incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.

He is viewed as an enlightened spiritual master.

But he “works very hard to make sure people do not cling to this idea that he is some kind of a supernatural being with some remarkable powers,” says Chan, who was in Prague with the Dalai Lama when a journalist insisted on asking about the holy man’s telepathic abilities.

“Her question to him was, ‘These days, do you tend to use more e-mail rather than telepathy, or do you use telepathy more?”

The reporter wouldn’t let up, “even after the Dalai Lama said he didn’t know anything about telepathy,” says Chan.

Samdup acknowledges Tibetans of his father’s generation would have viewed the Dalai Lama as a god-king.

“Those Tibetans who believe in him as the ultimate saviour, slowly that generation is dying,” he says.

“In my father’s time, Tibet was very isolated so religion played a very important role. In my life it doesn’t play that big a role.”

Samdup, who counts himself a Buddhist, says he appreciates the Dalai Lama’s humility.

He’s seen the teacher tell crowds they will be disappointed if they’ve come to see him perform a miracle.

“He really doesn’t want people to have this notion that all Buddhists are enlightened and Tibetans are super human beings. People tend to have these preconceived notions that they are all monks and nuns and elevate and fly around.”

For his part, Chan doesn’t expect many of the people who snapped up tickets to see the Dalai Lama are even that interested in his brand of Buddhism or want to become practitioners.

“For me, anyway, what the Dalai Lama represents are very universal, secular values,” says Chan. “He talks a lot about the warm heart. This is something universal that all the religions are advocating.

“It’s not Buddhism or Tibetan Buddhism per say that attracts people. I think people are attracted to him because he transcends that.”

The Dalai Lama will be in Vancouver April 17-20, Ottawa April 21-24, and Toronto April 25-May 5.

[Original article no longer available]
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64 Falun Gong Torture Deaths in China in 3 Months (Scoop, New Zealand)

Labor camps routinely release practitioners on the brink of death to avoid responsibility; most die days after release.

Between November 2003 and January 2004, reliable sources in China reported details on 64 Falun Gong practitioners who died from severe torture suffered in Chinese detention centers and labor camps.

Deaths from torture and abuse were reported in 17 provinces throughout China, from Heilongjiang to Guangxi; from Sichuan to Beijing.

Torture techniques reported include severe beatings, electric shocks, force-feeding torture, and injections of nerve-damaging drugs. Among the reported deceased was a 70-year-old woman and a 33-year-old man.

According to witnesses and those familiar with the cases, all but one of the deaths was the result of severe beatings or torture. In one case, a woman from Yitong County, Jilin Province reportedly “fell” from a tall building while in police custody.

Released, Only to Die at Home

In 23 of the cases, the victims died of their injuries shortly after being released from custody. Falun Gong practitioners thought to be near death are often released by Chinese authorities hoping to avoid responsibility for the deaths. In many cases, the victims die within days or even hours of their release.

According to knowledgeable sources in China, each forced labor camp operates with a “death quota:” That is, the number of Falun Gong practitioners that are allowed to die in the forced labor camp as camp authorities take them through the violent “transformation” process to force them to renounce Falun Gong. Additionally, each forced labor camp is rewarded for making a Falun Gong practitioner renounce his or her belief in Falun Gong. Consequently, labor camp officials often aim to avoid forfeiting one of their death quota numbers for a dying Falun Gong practitioner without first obtaining their bonus reward from making him or her renounce Falun Gong.

These sources say a practitioner can only be considered to have fully renounced Falun Gong when he or she has written multiple statements denouncing the practice as well as assisted in persecuting fellow Falun Gong practitioners.

Northeast China Remains Deadliest

China’s northeastern provinces remain the deadliest overall. Of the 884 total number of verified deaths (reports / sources), Heilongjiang Province accounts for 15% with neighboring Liaoning and Jilin Provinces each accounting for approximately 11% of the total.

Shandong Province, situated southeast of Beijing, also accounts for approximately 11% of all deaths.

The name list of those whose deaths were reported in the last three months are: Xie Wenping, Gao Shiping, Li Shuli, Wang Ruxing, Meng Xiao, Zhao Guo’an, Li Aiping, Tang Meijun, Li Xuelian, Wang Defeng, Yan Hai, Ma Lizhi, Guo Jifang, Zhao Yanxia, Shen Lizhi, Bai Hong, Gu Chunaying, Chen Guijun, Liao Minghui, Yu Guizhen, Song Ruiyi, Ye Wenying, Liu Chengjun, Li Xiaoyuan, Wu Yuan, Wang Congbu, Yu Chunhai, Yang Shulan, Deng Huiqun, Song Youchun, Yuan Xiangfan, Zuo Guoqing, Wu Simin, He Guozhong, Zhang Congmin, Li Xindi, Li Liang, Pan Siyuan, Li Li, Xuan Deqiong, Zhang Dabi, Xiao Peifeng, Li Deshan, Chen Changfa, Li Chouren, Ma Guilin, Lu Guifang, Li Jun, Guo Sulan, Wang Jiguo, Song Yonghua, Xuan Honggui, Zhang Xiaodong, Tian Junrong, Sun Yanqin, Li Yutong, Li Ruqing, Lu Bingshen, Zhou Liangzhu, Lu Xiufang, Lu Xingguo, Zheng Libo, Zhou Caixia.

Background Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a practice of meditation and exercises with teachings based on the universal principle of “Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance.” Practiced in over 50 countries world-wide, Falun Gong has roots in traditional Chinese culture. With government estimates of as many as 100 million practicing Falun Gong, China’s Communist leader Jiang Zemin outlawed the peaceful practice in July 1999 (report). Since that time, Jiang’s regime has intensified its propaganda campaign to turn public opinion against the practice while imprisoning, torturing and even murdering those who practice it. The Falun Dafa Information Center has verified details of 884 deaths (reports / sources) since the persecution of Falun Gong in China began in 1999. In October 2001, however, Government officials inside China reported that the actual death toll was well over 1,600. Expert sources now estimate that figure to be much higher. Hundreds of thousands have been detained, with more than 100,000 being sentenced to forced labor camps, typically without trial.

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