Declare Independence!

Lhakar Academy Alums Attend Release of Re-Creation of
Tibet’s Proclamation of Independence

Lhakar Academy Alums standing proudly with the scroll

Today for Lhakar, six alums of the Lhakar Academy joined the new class of participants in attending a historic ceremony in Dharamsala held by Students for a Free Tibet. We all came dressed in our chubas excited to attend the public unveiling of a re-creation of the Tibetan Proclamation of Independence, issued by His Holiness the 13th Dalai Lama.  As we watched the 12 foot-long handwritten scroll unfold to the ground I could tell each one of us was holding our breath in awe of the meaning of this beautiful replica. The scroll was bordered with brocade and silk in the style of a thangka, and was unveiled to an crowd of several hundred Tibetans and supporters including many our friends and colleagues from around the world in anticipation of the upcoming centenary of the declaration in 1913 that proclaimed the restoration of Tibet’s independence following a Manchu invasion. The scroll was unveiled by Ven. Palden Gyatso, Tibet’s second longest-serving political prisoner who was born in the time of the 13th Dalai Lama’s government.

There were many notable Tibetans speaking at the ceremony including Narkyid Ngawang Dhondup, author of the 13th Dalai Lama’s definitive biography; Serta Tsultrim, Member of Parliament; Bawa Kalsang Gyaltsen, Member of Parliament; Dhardon Sharling, Member of Parliament and youth leader; Kanyag Tsering, Kirti Monastery; Tenzin Tsundue, writer-activist; Lhadon Tethong, Director of Tibet Action Institute; and Tenzin Dorjee, Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet. Tendor encouraged the crowd that Rangzen is well within our reach, and reminded us that the longest ruling Communist government only lasted 74 years, so China only has about 10-15 years remaining so we should prepare for its downfall. He compared the long and difficult road to independence like building the bricks together for a house and shared these inspiring words,

We hope this scroll will give Tibetans everywhere a reason to celebrate our history as an independent nation. The history of Tibetan sovereignty is indisputable, and it forms the basis of unity in our struggle to reestablish a free Tibet. A century after the issue of this proclamation, Tibetans of this generation are engaging in concrete nonviolent actions such as noncooperation and civil disobedience to construct our social, political, cultural and economic independence from Chinese rule. Although China controls Tibet’s borders, it has already lost control over the Tibetan people’s actions.

What was also quite amazing was the fact that both Palden Gyatso and Narkyid Ngawang Dhondup were born during the same time as the reign of the Great 13th Dalai Lama. It is really something to think that next February of 2013 will mark 100 years since Tibet proclaimed the restoration of its independence.

Dorjee Tsetan, National Director of SFT India said that “Today is an occasion to remind all Tibetans and the global community of Tibet’s status as an independent nation in the past, as May 23rd marks 61 years since the Tibetan government was forced to sign the 17 Point Agreement. We consider the re-creation of the Proclamation of Tibetan Independence a repudiation of the 17 Point Agreement as well as a fundamental rejection of China’s ongoing colonial occupation of Tibet.”

Here’s a little historical background about the scroll.

The Manchu army sent troops to Tibet in 1909, prompting the 13th Dalai Lama to escape to India. However, as the Manchu dynasty succumbed to a Chinese revolution at home, Tibetans expelled the Manchu troops from Tibet. The 13th Dalai Lama returned to Tibet and issued a proclamation to mark the restoration of Tibetan independence. The text of this proclamation has survived, though the original document has not.

In the proclamation, issued on February 13, 1913, the Dalai Lama states in the fourth paragraph:

“…Meanwhile, the Manchu empire collapsed. The Tibetans were encouraged to expel the Chinese from central Tibet. I, too, returned safely to my rightful and sacred country, and I am now in the course of driving out the remnants of Chinese troops from DoKham in Eastern Tibet. Now, the Chinese intention of colonizing Tibet under the patron-priest relationship has faded like a rainbow in the sky…”

Students for a Free Tibet has produced a re-creation of this historic document ahead of the 100th anniversary of the proclamation. Between now and February 13, 2013, SFT aims to have this scroll distributed in 100 cities – delivered to Chinese embassies, presented to world leaders, pasted on global landmarks.

As alums of the Lhakar Academy and six contributors to Lhakar Diaries, we all felt incredibly lucky to have witnessed such a moment in Tibet’s history.