tirsdag 10. desember 2019

Torbjørn Færøvik: Fresh in my mind: When Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989

Thirty years have passed since the 14th Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The event is still fresh in my mind because I was sitting in the hall, admittedly behind a lady hat that was far too wide. I remember the well-spoken speech of Egil Aarvik, the chairman of the Nobel Committee, the award winner's thank-you speech and the beautiful song of the Valen Choir.

Tibet's religious leader received the award for his protracted non-violent struggle against Chinese oppression and dominance. “Violence only breeds more violence and suffering. Our fight must therefore be non-violent and without hatred," he said. The ceremony took place in the shadow of the Beijing massacre that same year. A large number of young Chinese were killed when the people's protest was crushed by the People's Liberation Army.

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 along with several tens of thousands of other Tibetans. Life in exile has been both difficult and easy. Easy because he has lived under the protection of the Indian government. Difficult because he has always longed for home, not to the backward Tibet he left, nor to the current state, but to a home where Tibetans can breathe more easily. Therefore, he has repeatedly tried to enter into dialogue with the leaders of Beijing.

The so-called autonomous region of Tibet is almost four times larger than my country, Norway. The population was estimated at almost 3.2 million in 2014. Of these, 90 percent were Tibetans and 8 percent were Han Chinese. The numbers are not necessarily correct. Regardless, Tibetans are in the vast majority. However, they have little or no influence on the development of their own realm. They are discriminated against and feel like second-class citizens. Self-rule exists only on paper. In reality, the Tibetans are ruled by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Dalai Lama does not want to separate Tibet from China, but to fill the formal "self-government" with real content. The Chinese leaders will not. They don't even want to have any contact with the person they refer to as a "traitor", "separatist" and "wolf in a sheep's clothing".

The Nobel Peace winner is not as active as before. He turned 84 in July and has to pay more attention to his age. Several short-term hospital stays have sparked speculation about his health. Still, he has a program that can take the breath away from most people. In recent weeks, he has attended religious events in several places in southern India. Early next year, we will find him in Bodhgaya, where according to tradition the Buddha became an "enlightened".

Unfortunately, he doesn't travel abroad as much as before, partly because many countries no longer welcome him. Norway is one of them. Our government "normalized" relations with Beijing in 2016, after six years in the "Chinese freezer". In a joint statement, Norway promised to respect China's "core interests" and to avoid doing anything that could hurt bilateral relations.

The Dalai Lama has over the years shown an remarkable ability to adapt to the times. He is not only concerned with the cause of the Tibetans, but also the major global challenges. He communicates well with young people and uses both Facebook and Twitter to convey his messages. He is particularly concerned about the environment and shares Greta Thunberg's fear of the future.

As he tweeted on December 5: “Taking care of our own planet is a matter of looking after our own home. We can no longer exploit the earth's resources - the trees, water, air and minerals - with no care for the coming generations. I support young people's protest at governments' inaction over the climate crisis. "

Tibet is also badly affected. The great mountain landscape of the region is referred to as "The Third Pole". Here are the sources of some of the largest rivers in Asia, such as the Yangtze and the Yellow River, and the Mekong. China's increasing consumption of coal has forced the glaciers to retreat. In 2002 I followed the Yangtze River from the China Sea to the source. I found the it in a desolate landscape 5500 meters above sea level. Afterwards, I wrote the book "China - A Journey on the River of Life". By self-examination I could see that the snow was not only white but also gray and black.

The immigration of Han Chinese has also been shown to have negative consequences. Both flora, fauna and wildlife are under pressure due to ruthless human behavior.

The 14th Dalai Lama has for decades been a unique guiding star for his countrymen both inside and outside Tibet. The leaders in Beijing are very aware that he is dearly loved. That is why he is considered so dangerous. In Tibet, the inhabitants are prohibited from owning or displaying pictures of him. In the capital Lhasa, Tibetans are being monitored by police, soldiers and thousands of cameras. The smallest call for opposition is severely punished. Around 160 Tibetans, many of them monks, have burned themselves to death since 2010. The last self-burning took place just two weeks ago.

Despite his elevated status, the Dalai Lama will also die. His passing will most likely trigger a bitter struggle between the Tibetans and the Beijing regime. Who will replace him and become the 15th Dalai Lama? Tibetans have established centuries-old procedures for how to select him. The Chinese leaders, however, keep saying they will decide the case themselves. This is how they intend to rob the Tibetans of yet another tradition.

"The Dalai Lama's reincarnation is a civilizational struggle between the Chinese and Tibetans over who controls Tibetan Buddhism," says Amitabh Mathur, a former advisor on Tibetans affairs to the Indian government. "It's not merely about one individual. It is about who truly heads the Tibetans."

Thirty years after the Dalai Lama was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize, it seems natural to recall the whims of Norwegian politicians. In 1989, there was broad political agreement that he deserved the award. Politicians from all parties stood in line to shake his hand. A Tibet Association was formed in the National Assembly. Børge Brende, a representative of the Conservative Party, was the head of the association for several years. Then he became Foreign Minister. In doing so, he sacrificed the Dalai Lama for what he must have perceived as a higher cause, namely the friendship with China.

In 2010, the award went to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. When the ceremony was over, the party leaders competed to praise the worthy winner for the open mic. Yes, he was worthy of that time. But today?