Why is China's Communist Party Scared of an Orphanage?
For over fifty years, the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) in Dharamsala, India has sheltered and cared for the children of Tibetan refugees who fled from their homeland following the 1959 uprising against the occupying forces of Mao's China. In addition to providing Tibetan children with shelter, health care, and education, the Tibetan Children's Village actively tries to preserve the Tibetan language and teach these children about their cultural and religious heritage.
We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Lobsang Tsomo who represents the Village and we asked her to answer a few questions about the structure and goals of TCV.
VOC: How and when was the village founded?
Lobsang Tsomo: The Tibetan Children’s Village in Dharamsala was found on May 17, 1960. Following the communist Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1949 and the subsequent uprising of the Tibetan people on March 10, 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama—along with over 85,000 Tibetans—escaped into exile in India. It was at once apparent that one of the most critical needs of Tibetan refugees was finding means to provide care for many children who had been orphaned or separated from their families during the arduous journey from their homeland.
His Holiness promptly recognized that the future of Tibet and its people depended upon the younger generation. With this in mind and out of concern for the miserable condition under which so many children were suffering, His Holiness proposed that a center for destitute children be established in Dharamsala. Therefore, on May 17, 1960, 51 children arrived from the road construction camps in Jammu, ill and malnourished. Mrs. Tsering Dolma Takla, the eldest sister of His Holiness, volunteered to look after them.
Initially these children were assigned to the members of the Dalai Lama’s entourage but before long the government of India offered its assistance, renting Conium House to accommodate all the children together. At that time, the center was under the name of Nursery for Tibetan Refugee Children.
VOC: Why did you decide to build a village especially for Tibetan children?
LT: To try and preserve our language and identity. In doing so, we provide our children with an education that is both modern and culturally rooted.
VOC: What does the village offer the children? How does the village help support them?
LT: In addition to looking after the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of the children, TCV seeks to impart the best of modern education along with a deep and intimate understanding of the rich cultural heritage of Tibet.
We cultivate a sense of national identity that will enable the children to share the hopes and aspirations of the Tibetan people to return someday to our homeland.
Finally, we help young boys and girls become self-reliant, contributing members of their society and the world at large. We also support the children by finding sponsors to help us provide them with education and care.
VOC: How many children are adopted by the village each year and what is their background?
LT: Each year, on average between 600 and 700 children are admitted into our schools. These children are from different backgrounds—orphans, destitute, and children with parents. Recently, we begun admitting children who are living in poverty from very remote areas of India as well.
VOC: Can you describe some of your efforts to keep the Tibetan culture alive?
LT: We are the largest Tibetan educational institute in exile. In fact, we have built a Tibetan college in Bangalore, called the Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education, where Tibetan students may join higher degree programs affiliated to the Bangalore and Mysore Universities. The Institute provides the necessary environment for a unique center for learning about both traditional and modern disciplines for the students graduating from the Tibetan schools, so that their education becomes holistic.
VOC: Is there a real campaign in Tibet to suppress traditional Tibetan culture?
LT: Yes. China's repressive policies inside Tibet are part of a campaign to suppress traditional Tibetan culture. Everything that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders do are in some way or other working to dismantle Tibetan identity and language.
VOC: Do you believe that Tibetan culture can flourish outside its native homeland?
LT: Yes, the Tibetan culture will continue to flourish outside Tibet as it has done so in the last 59 years. Even under occupation and with majority of the Tibetans still inside Tibet, the spirit of the Tibetan people will not die that easily.
VOC: How does the Chinese Communist Party feel about Tibetan children’s villages like this one?
LT: For the communist party, TCV is like dust in the eye. What they are trying hard to up destroy inside Tibet, we try to preserve—our language, our culture, and our identity as an independent people. The mission statement of TCV is to ensure that all Tibetan children under its care receive a sound education, a firm cultural identity and become self-reliant and contributing members of the Tibetan community and the world at large. This is exactly what Beijing's campaign of cultural genocide is aimed at preventing.
VOC: Do children who grow up in these villages ever return to Tibet?
LT: Yes, some do return to Tibet and in fact we encourage them to return to Tibet once they finish their college education. Whether one could make it or not depends on procurement of a proper visa; otherwise, they have to sneak back without being caught at the borders—a highly dangerous endeavor.
VOC: Why do you think the CCP is so hostile to the Tibetan people and the Tibetan cultural identity?
LT: China doesn't want to keep a hold on Tibet because they are interested in our culture. All they want is the rich reserve of minerals and resources that Tibetan plateau offers them. Despite 60 years of oppression inside Tibet, the spirit of the Tibetan people is still strong—and the hardliners in Beijing are hostile to that because it means their grip on the plateau isn't complete.
VOC: Has the village, or have you, ever been threatened by Beijing?
LT: In our exile, we do not experience as much visibly threatening behavior from the Chinese authorities. But inside Tibet, it is a different story: the CCP is doing everything it can to jeopardize the Tibetan spirit of peace and freedom and demean our cause. Tibetans continue to live under a pall of fear in their homeland, utterly deprived of their basic human rights by Beijing's brutal and illegal occupation.
VOC: What can readers of this article do to help your cause?
LT: The Tibetan Children’s Village is entirely dependent on international donor organizations and the generosity of individual sponsors. The education and upkeep of the children is majorly financed by sponsorship support and general donations.
There are various ways to support the Tibetan cause through the TCV: for example, readers can sponsor a child for the equivalent of $40 per month. Donors can also choose to support a specific project within the village, like facility improvements or building renovations. We also need scholarship support for our students who are moving on to higher education. Lastly, readers can tell their friends about TCV and about the ongoing struggle for human rights in occupied Tibet!
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is proud to join the Tibetan Children's Village in their fight to preserve the traditional Tibetan culture, language, and way of life from the oppressive persecution of the Chinese Communist Party.