In 1959, my homeland of Tibet was invaded and forcibly taken over by Communist China.

Fortunately, the Dalai Lama escaped, and over 100,000 Tibetans subsequently followed him into exile to India. Around 1965, a cultural revolution was set into motion inside Tibet and continued over the next 10 years; during this period, monasteries were desecrated and destroyed. With the intention of transforming Tibet into a Chinese territory, the Communist regime implemented all possible strategies, physical and psychological, soft and harsh, with the aim of eradicating Tibetan culture.

It is easy to change one’s physical condition, but extremely difficult to transform one’s mindset, especially culture and tradition passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years.

When I was in Tibet, they forced us to participate in indoctrination. We were fed ideas that the times of old Tibet were of hardship, that a new dawn of happiness had arrived. They claimed that dharma, or religion, is bad; they severed relationships between monasteries and the lay community. Communist officials hindered promising students from entering into monasteries. Officials would pull these young men aside and entice them to enjoy material life and worldly indulgence. Shops selling liquor and tobacco, and even brothels, were positioned near monasteries.

Another tactic was construction of railway and road networks. It may seem that these projects were undertaken for the benefit of the Tibetan people; in reality, Chinese citizens were encouraged to relocate to Lhasa. Young Chinese men and women were brought to Lhasa, and marriage between Tibetans and Chinese was encouraged, with monetary incentives.

Recently, I witnessed something unthinkable: in Kirti Gompa, a monastery, members were ordered to display a thangka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting usually depicting a deity) with the picture of Chinese Communist leaders, such as Mao Zedong and Xi Jinping, next to the statute of the Buddha, denoting equality of the two. They announced the national flag of China was to be hung next to the dharma flag on top of the monastery. Kirti Monastery is one of the main centers of the preservation of Tibetan religion and culture, and is thus seen by the authorities as a Tibetan stronghold of resistance.

When I speak with people inside Tibet, I feel their growing anguish. When it comes to altering one’s deep-rooted culture and beliefs by force, the suffering is unimaginable.

I was born during the cultural revolution in 1965. I have witnessed grave suffering. I had to flee. I feel strongly that if those of us who are outside Tibet don’t speak up, no one will. So I speak up as I have every March 10, Tibetan Uprising Day, to say I am extremely disheartened and I want to share this message with the public.

For those of you who support the truth, I urge you to pay attention. Those who support the cause of Tibet, you are not only supporting a small political territory, but a nation of people who for centuries strived to live in peace.

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