Blog: Why I protest

Tenzin Tsundue
18th November 2016

Guest post by Tenzin Tsundue

Your mobile phone most probably runs on a 'Made in China' lithium battery that China has mined out of my country - Tibet. China has been exploiting billions of dollars' worth of natural resources, like lithium,  from Tibet for free while brutally suppressing Tibetan resistance and flooding Tibet with millions of migrant workers from China. I protest because this is not right. China has been plundering Tibet in its sixty years of military occupation and is now selling it everywhere, calling it global trade. Globally, there is hunger for trading cheap 'Made in China' products. 

Although around the world people are sympathetic with the Tibetans and love His Holiness the Dalai Lama, most people do not know (or ignore) that, in order to continue cheap Chinese manufacturing, the ancestral Tibetan nomads and farmers are being resettled in 'reservations', kind of artificial villages. Since the Tibetan language is being systematically replaced by Chinese, the fear of genocide has prompted over 145 Tibetans to burn themselves in self-immolations. I protest because most people do not know they are direct beneficiaries from the suffering of the Tibetans inside Tibet. Tibet is under multi-layers of colonization.

Tenzin Tsunde and friends

I protested at the BRICS summit in India (my birth place), because Xi Jingping, who continues to run the dictatorship in China and denies basic freedom and democracy to the Chinese people, is attending. I'm a Tibetan refugee and it is my moral duty to stand up and say "NO!" However, I do regret that I am protesting at a place where the honourable Indian Prime Minister is also present. Tibet's Independence is India's security.

Tibetan protesters in the back of a police car in Goa
Protests against China in Goa
Parasailing with Tibatan flag and Free Tibet banner

The summit was held in Goa, and was well policed, making it difficult to take action. Other groups were also there attempting to protest, throwing ink on all the posters of the Chinese, showing up at the airport to protest and even parasailing at Calangute-Baga with a massive Tibetan flag. I managed to get very close to the venue by being careful with my timing. When the cops were out looking for me during the daytime, I was sleeping. I used to make my moves at night. In the end, I spent around 20 hours in a marsh near the road where the motorcade of the leaders was to pass, waiting. On October 15, I saw a motorcade approaching and stepped out with my banner and shouted slogans. This turned out to be the car for Russian President Vladamir Putin. I was arrested and spent three nights at the Sada jail. My only aim was to register a verbal and symbolic protest. I hope that, even jokingly, Putin mentions the protest to Xi Jinping, then my protest was successful.

Newspaper clippings of Tenzin Tsundue's protest

Above: Some of the newspaper coverage of Tenzin Tsundue's protest.

I have been fighting for the Tibetan cause for 23 years now. I did my schooling in a Tibetan refugee school in Himachal Pradesh and then got a BA from Loyola College in Chennai. I started organising small student rallies and exhibitions on Tibet. After doing my BA I decided to go to Tibet, got arrested, and from there start a revolution. I got arrested and was beaten by the Chinese. They told me, “You’re born in India, you’re an Indian. Go back.” I came to Mumbai and did a double MA in English and Philosophy from Bombay University. I started writing stories and poems, that’s my source of earning.

Since then, I have been protesting against the occupation and also bridging the gap between the elder generation and the younger generation to prepare them for the struggle. People ask if the 'Free Tibet' movement is losing its traction with the younger generation, but I was the eldest amongst the 100 odd activists who came to protest against Xi Jinping. Except me and one other, the rest were below the age of 20. They are college students who left their classes to come out and protest. The movement is being passed on to a new generation.

About the author: Tenzin Tsundue is a poet, writer and Tibetan activist. He won the first-ever Outlook-Picador Award for Non-Fiction in 2001. He has published three books to date which have been translated into several languages. Tsundue's writings have also appeared in various publications around the world including the International PENOutlook, and The Times of India. He joined Friends of Tibet (India) in 1999 and is the current General Secretary.