Beernem (Belgium):an informative Tibet evening was held in the clubhouse of tennis Aquila in Wingene, Belgium. The theme of the evening was "Tibet, a country, a people, a culture that is suppressed... case closed or just very topical?"
This evening was organized by the Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends that is based in Beernem, the Red Cross Flanders, the municipality of Wingene and Oxfam World Shop. The program included several lectures on Tibet and Tibetan songs by four members of the Tibetan community.
The fifty attendees were warmly welcomed by Paul Vanlaere, integration employee of the Red Cross refugee center in Wingene. He emphasized that the evening was organized at the request of the Tibetan girls themselves, to testify about what is happening in their homeland and the oppression of the Tibetan people by the Chinese government.
Representative of the municipality of Wingene Hedwig Kerckhove who is also Alderman of Development, expressed the support on behalf of the municipality and he gave a short speech.
Dennis Barbion, president of the Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends, who previously had helped the Tibetan girls with the content of their testimonies, first gave a general introduction about Tibet, by situating the country, mentioning some important historical facts such as the functioning of Tibet as a fully independent country before the violent invasion by China, the massive uprising in Lhasa on March 10, 1959 and the flee of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to India. In order to understand the testimonies of the girls later on the evening better, the issue of the escape of Tibetan refugees was also discussed.
Then the girls sang two Tibetan songs. The first song "Ngatso la gyap jo yoe" ("We have supporters") was made in 2012 by a Tibetan who also sung this in public in his homeland. He was arrested and he still is in a Chinese prison now. The song is about the fact that the Chinese government always hide things and don’t tell the real truth about Tibet and the suffering of the people. Only appearances and the outward splendor of the People’s Republic of China are increasingly emphasized without admitting the reality and the abuses. The Tibetan people, however, have much support from people who know better, who have a better knowledge about the problems and the real truth, and the Tibetan people also feel supported by the truth.
After another traditional Tibetan song, Phuntsok Dolma gave a talk. She wanted to tell about the wave of self-immolations in Tibet. At the moment there are already 107 cases since 2009. Phuntsok
gave her lecture in a passionate and smooth way: "Each time that we hear and see those self-immolations, we are deeply touched. The self-immolations in Tibet are non-violent desperate actions, it is a form of civil disobedience against the Chinese dictatorial regime to denounce the failed policies of the Chinese government in Tibet and to demand more freedom. In the past, lots of peaceful actions are done in Tibet, such as demonstrations, peace marches and hunger strikes, but always with serious repercussions from the Chinese government. Many were wounded or even killed during the protest, others were arrested and put in prison. With a self-immolation, one gives a clear signal that doesn’t affect or harm others."
At the question how to see those self-immolations in the context of Buddhism, Phuntsok said: "I am a Buddhist, but I don’t have so much very deep knowledge. But what I do know, that is the essence of Buddhism is about not harming living beings. If you harm others, this brings misfortune to yourself. The people who publicly self-immolate in Tibet don’t do this for themselves. They sacrifice themselves with the hope for change and better living conditions for the Tibetan people. They can’t stand the oppression anymore. They do this for a higher purpose, with the hope that it might contribute to more openness and freedom in Tibet, they do it for our country Tibet and for the Tibetan people."
Furthermore, the question was raised if the self-immolations can change something, seen the tough, unyielding attitude of the Chinese regime. Maybe the self-immolations continue, perhaps there might be even more than 400 next year but without any result. What then?
Phuntsok: "The self-immolations will continue, it is a message to the international community for attention and support for Tibet and for a peaceful solution for the Tibetan issue. It is done with the hope for change. The communist regime can’t last forever. If you look at the global level, there is democracy in most countries, and it has shown that this works well. Someday there will be more openness, democracy and freedom in Tibet and China. In the long term, the CCP is doomed to disappear, this system can not continue."
At the end of her talk, Phuntsok gave the following message: "Economic growth as this is the case in China today is okay, but human rights should be respected in the first place. This is of the utmost importance, and it is much more important than a well-functioning economy."
During the break, the guests could taste khapse, Tibetan New Year cookies that the four girls had made.
After the break, Dolma Palkyi gave a lecture about her escape from Tibet and the shooting of the group of Tibetan refugees by the Chinese border police near the Tibetan-Nepalese border. Dolma testified very brave and accurate about what they have experienced.
Dolma Palkyi: "I’m born in Tibet, in a small village. Together with my best friend Kelsang we decided to flee to India. That moment (in 2006) we were 16 years. We wanted to meet our spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and to study there in our own language and according to our traditions. The trip was long and very heavy, a total of 25 days. First we went to the capital Lhasa, the first three days of the trip were by truck, the rest we had to walk in the mountains. The main problems were that we ran out of food after a few days and some days had nothing to drink. It was very cold, we had no shelter and were very vigilant for Chinese controls. So during the day we always hid and slept, and in the night we walked. We also met western climbers. They gave us some food. On any given day, we had nothing to drink for two days, but we met a shepherd who sold us a plastic bag filled with water. However, not everyone in the group could drink, I also couldn’t as there was not enough water. The only places to find water, was in places with a Chinese base."
"Three times we noticed Chinese border police. We were very careful that they did not see us. The last time they were very close. We were, however, near the border with Nepal, at the Nangpa La pass. We had walked the whole night, it was already morning, but the Chinese were in the neighborhood so we had to go further. Suddenly we heard a bang. It looked like fireworks. We thought that the climbers had a party. Soon became clear that it were gunshots. We could hardly believe that they shot at us. A man in front of me was hit in the leg. We had to go faster but this was difficult because we were almost up to our waists in the snow. The gunshots kept on going continuously, they were fired from machine guns. I looked behind me to see where my girlfriend Kelsang was. With the small hills that we had cross, you could not always see the rest of our group. I wanted to return to see where Kelsang was, but a monk advised me to not to do so and to continue. With the continuing gunfire he said to me to leave my backpack and everything else so that I could go faster. At one time the monk pushed me down and a bullet even hit my hair. I realized that the monk had saved my life. There was panic, but we went through, we had no choice. Then I heard a short but loud scream. It was Kelsang. She was hit by a bullet. I wanted to return, but the monk said I would be shot as well. ‘Think about your own life’ he said. When we finally had reached the border with Nepal safe and well, I asked what had happened with Kelsang. The others could not tell me the truth. They said she was shot in the foot. But she was hit in her heart... and died on the spot."
On that day, September 30, 2006, there were also climbers near the Nangpa La pass, and they have filmed everything. It was the first time in 60 years that flagrant violations of human rights by the Chinese authorities were recorded, the shooting of unarmed Tibetan refugees in the back when they fled.
Dolma Palkyi: "In Nepal we have met the climber Luiz. He told us that everything was filmed. When we told our story, he cried a lot. He has sent the video of the shooting to the press and this was shown throughout the world. Because of this, he has lost his job as a mountain guide and he is persona non grata in Tibet and China. There is a documentary ‘Murder in the Snow’ with the images of the shooting and on which I also tell my story. You can read my full testimony in the book ‘Murder in the High Himalaya’ by Jonathan Green. The story begins in Tibet where I grew up with my best friend, and describes in great detail the escape from Tibet and everything that I and the others in the group have experienced."
When the news of the death of Kelsang was announced, and especially when the video was published, there was a worldwide storm of indignation. Many Tibetans who attempted to escape have been shot by the Chinese border police in the past, this is already the case a long time, but this was the very first time that this was filmed, and that clear evidence was provided. China's response was that it was a group of criminals who were trapped in the prison before and tried to flee the country...
The touching story of Dolma had left a deep impression with the public. Afterwards, at the end of the evening, the Tibetan national anthem was sung. The text was read in Dutch too.
The Tibetan-Flemish Circle of Friends has the book "Murder in the High Himalaya" in stock, with a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a bookmark with the signature of the author Jonathan Green who is living in the USA, and with a handwritten message and the signature of Dolma Palkyi in the book. The books are sold at 15 euros or 20 USD (without shipping). All the profits from the sale of the book are donated entirely to Dolma. For people in Europe the price including shipping is 27 euros, for the USA it’s 45 USD. You can order the book via email to

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