In this interview, we explore the journey of Tenzin Passang La, a passionate Tibetan activist who serves as the National Director of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) in India. She discusses the challenges encountered in activism and emphasizes the significance of international collaboration in advocating for Tibet's human rights. Through her experiences, she sheds light on the ongoing human rights violations in Tibet and outlines strategies aimed at empowering Tibetan youth and fostering global awareness of this critical issue.
1. Can you share a bit about your journey and what motivated you to become involved in Tibetan activism?
The deep-rooted commitment to the Tibetan cause is always there since my childhood, while I witnessed the numerous Tibetan Uprising Day protests, the 2008 protest, and more. The immediate moment of activation was the incident in my first year in college in 2015, when my Classmates failed to recognize Tibet as a country, while I realized they thought of Tibet as a small city in India when they asked me “Tenzin, are you back to Tibet for a week-long exam break?” That moment made me realize the need for global awareness of the Tibetan movement which ignited my passion for activism. My journey into Tibetan activism began in 2015 when I joined the SFT Delhi chapter.
2. What are the most significant challenges you've encountered in your activism, and how have you overcome them? Could you highlight some of the achievements or positive changes you've witnessed or been a part of?
As an activist, I've encountered challenges ranging from restrictions on freedom of expression to financial limitation, and youth mobilization, sometimes there is too much to do, but we could only focus on a few. Overcoming these challenges involved firstly the determination to movement, strategic planning, and harnessing the power of youth activism. However, overcoming these challenges is a challenge in itself. Achievements include successful awareness campaigns, engagement with international communities, and fostering a sense of solidarity among Tibetan youth activists.
3. In the context of raising awareness about Tibet globally, how do you see the impact of your activism? How important do you think international collaboration is in addressing the challenges faced by Tibet, and what steps do you believe should be taken to foster greater global support for the Tibetan cause?
The impact of our activism is evident in the increased global awareness of the Tibetan cause in the past 60 years in exile. However, that is far from our potential. Through social media, online campaigns, and collaborations with international partners, SFT India has the mission to amplify the voices of Tibetans in and out of Tibet. International collaboration is crucial, I feel the responsibility is on all of us to address the challenges faced by the Tibetans on a global platform. I believe fostering greater support involves continuous outreach to your friends and networks, diplomatic efforts, and leveraging shared human rights values to build alliances.
4. In what ways has His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama served as a source of inspiration for you?
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has always been a source of inspiration for me. His teachings on compassion, nonviolence, and the pursuit of justice have guided my activism. While I face hurdles or lose hope, his resilience in the face of adversity and dedication to the Tibetan cause inspires me to continue the fight for freedom and human rights.
5. How has Human Rights Day been acknowledged about the Tibet cause, and what role has the United Nations played in addressing human rights issues in Tibet?
Human Rights Day holds significant importance for the Tibetan cause. It provides an opportunity to shed light on ongoing human rights violations in Tibet. We all know that Tibet, a crucible of suffering since China's occupation, remains an open prison. This indelible truth is etched in an oppressive shade of surveillance, repression, and control that chokes the lifeblood of Tibetan existence, mutilating our identity, culture, and spirituality. The United Nations plays a vital role in addressing these issues, and efforts to engage with UN mechanisms, such as submitting reports and advocating for international scrutiny, are crucial steps in holding China accountable.
6. With your experience and leadership as the National Director, how do you plan to leverage Students for Free Tibet-India's platform to bring attention to the ongoing human rights violations in Tibet under Chinese rule?
As the National Director of SFT India, I focus on leveraging the platform to bring attention to ongoing human rights violations in Tibet. One of our goals is to counter China’s propaganda and policies. This involves strategic advocacy, expanding our online presence, and collaborating with international organizations and most importantly empowering youth activism to ensure that the Tibetan cause remains in the global spotlight.
7. Given your background in organizing impactful programs like the 'Free Tibet! Action Camp' and 'Little Lhasa Program,' how do you plan to further empower Tibetan youth and activists within SFT-India to actively address and raise awareness about Tibet's human rights situation?
SFT’s is a grassroots-based organisation, we prioritize harnessing the power of youth. Building on experiences like organizing the 'Free Tibet! Action Camp' and 'Little Lhasa Program,' I plan to empower Tibetan youth within SFT-India further. This includes providing training, resources, and opportunities for activists to actively address and raise awareness about Tibet's human rights situation. The goal is to nurture a generation of informed and passionate advocates for Tibet.
8. In your opinion, what are the most pressing human rights violations faced by Tibetans today, and how do you intend to engage with local and global communities to raise awareness and enact change in these specific areas?
Occupied for nearly seven decades, China’s rule in Tibet is one of the last remnants of 20th-century colonialism. By intentionally uprooting Tibetan children from their families and culture, making them live in state-run boarding schools, the Chinese authorities are using one of the most heinous tools of colonization to attack Tibetan identity. Three out of every four Tibetan students ages 6-18 being separated from their parents and communities and living under state control Colonial Boarding school. Not only that, Xi Jinping has embarked on a mission to erase Tibetan names from cities, towns, and regions, aiming to erase these identities from global consciousness and usage. Through this interview I request everyone to condemn China's concerted efforts to eradicate the distinct Tibetan identity, encompassing the language, culture, history, and way of life.