New group calls attentionto plight of embattled country

Peter Kauffner

Tibet sits atop the world, but not high enough to escape the conflicts of the modern world. The mountain nation has a history as uncertain as its future, a controversial past that will likely gain new attention in the United States with the release this year of several movies set in Tibet.
Public awareness of Tibet’s Buddhist culture and of the human rights violations now occurring there needs to be raised on campus, said the officers of Students for a Free Tibet at the group’s kickoff meeting Thursday night. The group, which was registered as a student organization in December, drew about 15 people to the meeting.
Susan Kangus, a member of the group, said that under the Chinese, who have ruled Tibet since 1951, “an entire culture is being destroyed in the name of materialism and fascism.”
Kangus said that she was especially impressed by a presentation by Tibetan nuns that she once attended. “People are being subject to horrific tales of torture for something as simple as writing ‘Tibet is free,'” she said.
“For me, this is a politically active group, but I know those kind of labels scare people off. So that is why we have meetings like this where we try to emphasize Tibetan culture,” said Kayva Yang, the group’s treasurer. Yang is a junior in international relations and visual arts.
But Yang has yet to convince her own father, who is Chinese, of the need for the group.
“My father has studied a lot of history from the Chinese point of view, so he thinks that Tibet was a part of China in the past and that it is free (now). So we have a lot of conflict about the idea of Students for a Free Tibet,” Yang said.
Tibet was under the control of the Chinese Empire until 1913, when the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s traditional religious leader and ruler, issued a proclamation of independence. China was not able to make its claim of sovereignty effective until 1951, when Tibet was occupied by Chinese forces. The 14th and current Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to India in 1959 during an anti-Chinese uprising. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
The Twin Cities have the largest concentration of Tibetan refugees in the United States with a population of 400 — and that number is expected to triple within the next two years.
One thousand Tibetans were admitted to the United States under a lottery held in 1992. “Now, their close family members are arriving here,” said Thupten Dadak, a former president of Tibetan Education Action, a community group that aids resettling Tibetans.
Dadak said Minnesota reminded many Tibetans of home, but that there are some differences.
“Tibet is quite cold, but it is not like Minnesota,” said Dadak.
Chiung-Tao Shen, a Taiwanese graduate student and president of the Minnesota Chinese Student Association, said she thought that Tibet should remain a part of China. “If it was possible for (Tibet to separate) peacefully, I would say yes,” she said.