Chinese Interference in Lhakdor-la’s Public Talk

PRESS RELEASE
September 21, 2005

WE ONLY WANT TO HEAR THE DHARMA

The Dharma Rain Centre, a recently formed organization was today advised and pressured by the Deputy Consul-General of China at Mumbai to cancel a public meeting being organized by the Centre, a group engaged in promoting the understanding of various spiritual traditions, including Buddhism.

Though it is unconventional to address a Press Release in the first person, I am afraid that this is the only way in which I, the founder-member and Secretary of this organization, can do justice in narrating the unconventional, unwarranted, illegal and shocking interference by a senior member of the Chinese diplomatic corps of China, in the affairs of a private organization in India, and thereby in the way Indian citizens conduct themselves in their religious, social and political life.

When the Deputy Consul General Mr. Song, rang me up on my cell phone as I was on my way out of Mumbai on a retreat, I thought he was genuinely interested in knowing details about the public talk that the Ven. Geshe Lhakdor-la, (a senior and experienced Tibetan Lama, official translator to the Dalai Lama and Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives) is scheduled to give on Tuesday, September 27, 2005 at 6.30 pm at the Rama Watumall Auditorium in the K.C. College premises. His topic is “Combining Head and Heart: Wisdom and Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism”. However, having verified who he was speaking to, he bluntly said he wanted us to cancel the program as this was political interference in the affairs of China.

Despite all my efforts to convince him that this was not a political topic or a political meeting, he insisted the speaker had close ties with the Dalai Lama who was using India as base for anti-China activities. At this point, I had to politely remind him that this was India, a democratic country unlike China, and we had every right to conduct any meeting, religious, political or otherwise. I reminded him that the Dalai Lama was one of the world’s most respected leaders, and as an Indian I was proud that India had given him sanctuary and the opportunity to save his country’s religion and culture, despite its illegal occupation by China.

Mr. Song then decided to take a more personal angle and asked me what was my relationship with the ‘Friends of Tibet (India).’

It will be recalled that last year, as a result of similar interference and pressure by the Chinese embassy and consulate, the Asian Film Festival was forced to withdraw a retrospective section on Tibet, from the films screened. At that time, I was the spokesperson for Friends of Tibet and he was obviously referring to that. I reminded him that I was the same person who had spoken to the BBC (The World Today) about that disgusting and obnoxious episode. I have informed him that we support not only Friends of Tibet, but all Tibet activists around the world. We may not always agree with everyone but we shall always defend their right to say what they wish and the manner in which they wish to say it.

We call upon all freedom loving individuals and organizations to protest this extra-territorial influence and ‘diplomatic license’ that the Chinese diplomatic corps here in India is deluded into thinking it possesses. I have suggested to Mr. Song that instead of wasting his time and energy with activists like me, and bullying and terrorizing small organizations like the Dharma Rain Centre and the Friends of Tibet, he should quickly get round to negotiating with the Dalai Lama and maybe then we can all sing a different Song. A song of Universal Responsibility and World Peace.

And of course, the meeting is on. Do come in large numbers. Mr. Song is also invited. If you wish to speak to him and convey your feelings his telephone number is 022- 56324304.

With loving kindness and compassion for all, especially those who trouble us the most,
Yours truly,
For Dharma Rain Education Society,
Aspi B. Mistry.
Secretary.

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CHINA CLOUD OVER LAMA LECTURE
by Anupam Dasgupta

DNA September 23, 2005.

Intervention by the Chinese Consulate in Mumbai has put a question mark on the fate of a religious lecture session in the city scheduled for September 27 and to be addressed by a Tibetan senior monk (Lama). Officials of the Dharma Rain Education Society – a registered organization – promoting understanding of various spiritual traditions including Buddhism and which organized the lecture session said the deputy consul-general of China in Mumbai Mr. Song Yumin called them up and asked them to cancel the programme.

The talk will be given by the Ven’ble Geshe Lakhdor-la, dirctor of the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, Dharmshala, Himachal Pradesh. Geshe Lakhdor-la is also the official translator of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. “The diplomat said the lecture session should be cancelled immediately as it would tantamount to political interference in the affairs of China”. Aspi B Mistry, secretary of the society has alleged. Mistry was a software consultant and NGO activist who was attracted to the Buddhist philosophy.

A staffer at the Chinese Consultate said Yumin was out and would return only Friday morning. “You can only talk to him tomorrow morning”, one of the consulate staff said. Itt may be recalled that last year, as a result of a similar controversy following alleged Chinese pressures, the Asian Film Festival organizers were compelled to withdraw a retrospective section on Tibet from being screened.

Recounting the incident, Mistry said: “Dy.C.G. Song called on my cell and started inquiring about my relations with the functionaries of the Friends of Tibet (India). I objected to this and even invited Mr. Sing to personally come and listen to the lecture session to clear his doubts. Moreover the Friends of Tibet is a different conglomerate altogether and is not prescribed.” The session, planned at the K.C. College auditorium, will deal with the topic: “Combining Head and Heart – Wisdom and Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism.”

C A Kalyanpur, national coordinator for the Friends’ of Tibet (India) said “This is ridiculous. The Chinese Consulate should first understand how the Dharma Rains Education Society operates. Theirs is solely a religious mission devoid of any political connotation.”

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IF IT’S RELIGION, FINE: CHINESE CONSULATE
by Anupam Dasgupta.

DNA September 24, 2005.

The Chinese Deputy Consul-general Song Yumin made it clear on Friday the Consulate would not raise objections if the Dharma Rains Education Society goes ahead with its lecture session “keeping things strictly religious.” Yumin said, “We are indeed keeping a close tab on the activities of this society because of its perceived proximity to the members of the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE) and its leader, the Dalai Lama.”

“However, the society can go ahead with its September 27 lecture session, if and only if, it is a purely religious function,” Yumin said. He added if the society deviated from its objectives, “we shall have no option but to directly interfere in the matter.”

Yumin also confirmed he had discussed the issue with the society secretary Aspi B Mistry and enquired about the “nature and content” of the scheduled programme.

DNA had reported on September 23 that intervention by the Chinese consulate has put a question mark on the fate of the religious lecture session. Ashok Chavan, state minister for industries and cultural affairs, who left for China on an official visit on Friday night, said he would look into the matter since the allegations are serious.

“However, our relations with China are improving, and we hope to settle this amicably,” he said.

The Society is unfazed by the consulate’s stand and will go ahead with the Tuesday programme. “Let’s make it clear that we shall not be brow-beaten by anybody since our conscience is clean,” Mistry said.

The city’s China experts expressed surprise at what they saw as an “unjustified meddling in the internal affairs” of a registered organization.

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CHINESE EMBASSY ‘GIVES’ GO-AHEAD TO LECTURE
Times of India September 24, 2005

Mumbai: The Chinese consulate would have no issue to pick up with the mSeptember 27 talk by a Buddhist lama in the city if it was ‘religious in nature’, Chinese deputy consul general Song Yu Min said on Friday.

The apparent softening of stance came a day after he called up organisers Dharma Rain Education Society and asked them to cancel the programme as it seemed to be interfering in China’s internal affairs.

The lecture is to be given by Dharamshala-based Library of Tibetan Works and Archives director Lakhdor-La. Organisers said on Friday that the talk was very much on.

Min preferred not to talk about the phone-call on Friday. “It is not a big deal. When I called up the organisers, I was acting in my official capacity,” he said.

Dharma Rain Education Society founder and secretary Aspi B Mistry gave a more detailed account of Min’s call. “He insisted that the speaker had close ties with the Dalai Lama who, he (Min) claimed was using India as a base for anti-China activities,” Mistry said.

Lhakdor-la has also been the official translator of the Dalai Lama’s works. The talk on September 27, at a private auditorium, is slated to be on “ Combining Head and Heart: Wisdom and Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism”.

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SOCIETY SEEKS COP COVER FOR LAMA LECTURE
by Anupam Dasgupta.

DNA September 26, 2005

The Dharma Rain Education Society has decided to seek police cover for Tuesday’s lecture session by senior monk Ven’ble Geshe Lakhdor-la amid reports of interference by Chinese Consulate in the city. The Society has sent a formal invitation to Chinese Deputy Consul-General in Mumbai Song Yumin.

Lakhdor-la, a lama in the Tibetan spiritual leadership hierarchy, is the director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharmsala, Himachal Pradesh. He is also the official translator of the Dalai Lama. Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order) Anup Patnaik said, “We will ensure everything goes smoothly.” Dharma Rains Education Society secretary Aspi B Mistry said, “We may even take up the matter with New Delhi, if needed. We are planning to inform various international social organizations about the unjustified intrusion on the part of Chinese Consulate.”

The DNA reported on Friday that the Chinese consulate in Mumbai had put a question mark on the fate of the religious lecture session by describing the session as interfering with the internal affairs of that country. Song Yumin had said that the Consulate was keeping a close watch on the activities of the Society because of its proximity to the members of the Tibetan Government in Exile (TGIE) and the Dalai Lama. However, he said that they would not raise objections if the Society went “ahead with its lecture on strictly religious way.”

Mistry said, “It is a shocking interference on the part of the Chinese Consulate to meddle in the private affairs of a registered Indian organization.” The six month old Dharma Rains Education Soceity – a registered organization is devoted to promoting various spiritual traditions including Buddhism. The lecture will be held at K C College.

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NO PEACE GONG THIS
Harsh Kabra

Outlook Magazine October 10, 2005

What would have quietly passed off as a public discourse on Tibetan Buddhism turned into an unseemly display of Chinese insecurity over the Tibet issue. When Geshe Lhakdor-la, senior Tibetan Lama and author, addressed a 170-strong audience at a South Mumbai auditorium on September 27, all he did was expound on the relationship between compassion and suffering, which he stated, binds all sentient more than any religion. But this wasn’t before Song Yumin, China’s deputy consul general in Mumbai, tried his best to foil the talk, smelling “political interference in the affairs of China”.

On what was clearly a spiritual agenda, Lhakdor-la, official translator to the Dalai Lama and director of the Dharamshala-based Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, was in Mumbai at the behest of the recently formed Dharma Rain Education Society (DRES), an organisation promoting the understanding of spiritual traditions. But less than a week before the talk, Yumin called Aspi B. Mistry, DRES secretary, and sternly asked him to cancel the talk, repeatedly referring to the speaker’s affiliations with the Dalai Lama, who, said Yumin, “was using India as a base for anti-China activities”.

“This is an unconventional, unwarranted, illegal and shocking interference by a senior member of the Chinese diplomatic corps in the affairs of an Indian organisation,” fumed Mistry, as he pressed ahead with the lecture. Yumin maintained he was only acting in his official capacity. He told the press the consulate had been “keeping a close tab on the activities of the society because of its perceived proximity to members of the Tibetan government in exile”. He even threatened direct intervention “if the society deviated from its objectives”.

Mistry was earlier in the news in August last year, when as spokesperson for Friends of Tibet, a Mumbai-based group sympathetic to the Tibetan cause, he had blamed the withdrawal of the Tibetan package from the Third Eye Asian Film Festival in Mumbai to pressure brought on by the Chinese embassy.

Website Editor’s Note: Although the above news stories give a fairly good account of what transpired in those days, there is at least one major inaccuracy. At no point in time did the Dharma Rain Education Society formally, informally, or in any other manner seek police protection. Aspi Mistry.

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