專訪西藏青年會主席 Tenzing Jigme
文 / 林綉娟 ‧ 圖 /余嘉芳
但若在網路上搜尋「藏青會」，卻看到很多中共對於藏青會是恐怖組織的指控。2009年是西藏抗暴50週年，藏青會特別出版了一本《RESPONSE: The Response to Communist Party of China’s Allegations》（中文版為：《拒絕沉默──針對中共不實指控的回應》）回擊中共的指控。到底藏青會是什麼？是青年人的社運導師還是所謂的恐怖份子？藉著現任藏青會主席訪問台灣，終於有機會請他釋疑。
全球最大的藏人運動網絡西藏青年會(Tibetan Youth Congress)主席Tenzing Jigme在四月訪台，參與串連藏台港運動者自由、民主、自決權的圓桌會議，做了幾場公開演講並拜會立委交流台藏議題。在這篇專訪中，Jigme談到自己參與藏青會的經過，介紹藏青會的工作策略，也分享了他對台灣社會的觀察，以及對西藏運動跨國結盟的想像。
雖然有些政治人物立場反覆，但偶而也會出現勇於發表真實想法的政治人物，Jigme舉例，前陣子印度政務官Pema Khandu 大膽提出跟印度接壤的是西藏而不是中國，氣得中國不停跳腳。像這樣認同人權、平等跟正義等概念的政治領袖就算支持我們的訴求，但回歸現實面，這些政治人物仍須回應自己的選民。而對於台灣的民意代表來說，他們可以用邀請達賴喇嘛來台或通過決議案等方式表達支持。Jigme表示，現今資訊傳遞快速，當政治人物發表支持西藏運動的聲明傳入西藏境內，總是達到鼓舞人心的效果，達到超越國界的影響力。
From Tibet to Taiwan — Organizing Movements and Building International Allies
~An interview with Tenzing Jigme, chair of Tibetan Youth Congress
This April Tenzing Jigme, the current chair of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), was in Taiwan to speak at a Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong activists’ roundtable on democracy, freedom, and self-determination. During his 10-day visit, he also made several public speeches and met with Taiwanese legislators on Tibetan and Taiwanese issues. In this interview Jigme spoke about how he got involved in TYC’s work and shared his insights on Taiwanese society.
From banking to non-profit
Born into a family with both parents being social movement leaders in Kathmandu, Tenzing Jigme grew up knowing that he would also dedicate his life to the Tibetan movement when the time came. Jigme first went to study in the United States and then worked in the banking industry after graduation. In 2013, his time came when he was elected as the chair of TYC, for which he quit his job and assumed the position without hesitation. He explained with a smile, “My boss thought that I must be getting a much better salary being a chair of a global organization. But I just smiled and said nothing.” In fact, the salary offered from TYC was undoubtedly nowhere near what he was making in banking. Jigme believed, though, that this was what he was meant to do. In the end, he said, “Everyone has to make some sacrifices.”
TYC was founded in October, 1970, headquartered in Dharamsala, which is where the Indian government hosts the Tibetan government-in-exile, known as the Central Tibetan Administration. TYC currently has over 40,000 members globally, granting membership exclusively to ethnic Tibetans. Besides the Tibetan independence movement, TYC also endeavors to preserve Tibetan culture and promote education. The fact that many members of the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan Parliament are former TYC members highlights the importance of TYC’s work of youth development.
Social services as an action to promote Tibetan independence
On top of its campaign work, TYC organizes a variety of social service work, including constructing latrines, schools, computer centers, and refugee centers to serve the local communities. Another example of TYC getting involved can be seen by its activities during the 34th Kalachakra Empowerment in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India in January 2017, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave a teaching in person. Pilgrims from all over the world streamed into Bodhgaya, and TYC’s 250 volunteers arranged pick-up, security, emergency, and elderly and handicapped care services to ensure the event ran smoothly.
Speaking as to why TYC chose social services as its form of action while its main goal is to call for Tibetan independence, Jigme explained that the action was decided based on the demand for social services and the movement’s philosophy. First, when the Tibetans began their exile in India, there was immediate need for infrastructure such as schools and playgrounds. Second, TYC takes inspiration from Gandhi, who believed social services could mobilize and unite people, both being critical elements to achieve the movement’s goal. As the largest Tibetan movement organization in the world, TYC is one of the only groups with the capacity to offer such service. Further, Jigme considers serving the pilgrims who attended the Kalachakra as an extension of Buddhist teaching in itself. For the Tibetan movement, the youth volunteers today will become the activists of tomorrow, and TYC provides opportunities to gain experience, insight, and dedication.
Speaking tour: boosting morale
Jigme also highlights another important work of the TYC as being its speaking tours. These speaking tours only takes place once every two years because of geographical difficulties. A two-month tour was arranged from March to May this year, covering India, Nepal, and Bhutan. TYC has over 60 chapters in these three countries alone. The board members of TYC were split into three groups, each assigned to visit one of three locations: Northern India; Central and Southern India; and Nepal, Bhutan, and Northeast India. “Being a part of the movement could be hard and time-consuming, and it’s very often frustrating, “Jigme cautioned. Therefore the main purpose of the speaking tour is to visit the local chapters and boost their morale to keep the activists going. The speaking tour not only reaches out to the local communities, it also promotes TYC in schools to attract potential future members.
In addition to the speaking tour, TYC also organizes visits to sweater markets. In India, there are more than 100 sweater markets where Tibetans all over India gather to sell sweaters during wintertime. Selling sweaters is the main source of income for Tibetans. Meeting the Tibetan sweater vendors informs TYC of the situations in different regions, which is very helpful to TYC’s work. Jigme said that the sweater business has its ups and downs, but that business was quite good last year.
As for the future direction of TYC, Jigme said, “The main responsibility is to focus on the situation inside Tibet. That’s why educating the youth, strengthening the movement and organization is especially important.” Not only has TYC been exerting its influence by lobbying, protesting, and forming alliances, the organization also continues to further sophisticate its strategies to include non-violent resistance and the evaluation the feasibility of its actions in responding to the worsening situation inside Tibet.
Taiwanese: Courageous people with strong national identity
The Sound of Independence in the Tibetan Community in Exile Youth, Social Movement, and Politics.
During his 10-day visit in Taiwan, Jigme found Taiwanese people to have an in-depth understanding on Tibetan issues and felt hopeful. He pointed out that the common adversary that Taiwan and Tibet share is the Chinese Communist Party. Therefore, he added, deepening the mutual understanding between Taiwan and Tibet is key to tackling the common issues both countries face. Having been to so many countries and talking with so many people, he noted that, “there’s something unique about Taiwan.” Interacting with Sunflower Movement activists was an inspiring experience for Jigme. He noticed that Taiwanese people might seem nice and smiley on the surface, but deep down they have a strong self-identification of being distinctly Taiwanese.
Moving forward in a volatile international political landscape
With the Chinese economic and military power on the rise, the challenges that the Tibetan movement faces also intensify, highlighting the importance for Tibetan movement activists to reach out to the world. Although one country must sustain itself with trade, the fact that super powers will always seek to maximize their profits leads to a volatile international political landscape. Jigme mentioned that people were thrilled to learn about the phone call between Presidents Trump and Tsai in 2016, but he also pointed out that only with time will we find out what the politicians really want. The recent meeting between Presidents Trump and Xi informs a change in direction of the USA’s attitudes towards China, proving the unpredictable behavioral pattern of politicians. Jigme emphasized that in order to make progress, activists can only work harder even as things get frustrating.
International allies making impact beyond borders
Jigme said that although some politicians frequently change their positions, once in a while there are politicians who are brave enough to speak the truth. For example, in early April, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu made a bold statement about India having borders with Tibet instead of China, which angered the Chinese government. Jigme further explained that given that some political leaders who recognize the concepts of human rights and justice are willing to support TYC’s cause, these politicians still have their own constituents to listen to. Jigme also gave some examples on how Taiwanese political leaders could help to make impacts beyond national borders: “They can take a step further now to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Taiwan, educate people in Taiwan on Tibet issues, make statements in public, and to pass resolutions.” He also provided a list of actions that Taiwanese political leaders could take to support the freedom and independence of Tibet. “We’re always looking for hope and inspiration. When civil leaders make statements, it makes a huge difference,” said Jigme. He added, “News travels very fast these days. Something like that would give hope to people inside Tibet.”