An illustrated talk by Tess Burrows
In 2005 we had the pleasure of a visit to Aberdeen by Tess Burrows, well-known mountaineer and author of "Cry from the highest Mountain."
Tess has climbed many of the world's highest peaks, and is a well-known figure in the international climbing fraternity. She also has a deep concern over the situation in Tibet, and has dedicated the publicity surrounding her expeditions to expounding the truth of what is taking place in that region.
Whilst giving an illustrated lecture in Aberdeen University, Tess, who has spent a considerable amount of time in Tibet and Nepal, mentioned some revealing insights that would not have been available from less well-informed sources. It is clear from her comments that even today, fifty years after the invasion, the average Tibetan suffers considerable hardship under the Communist regime, and that there is in effect a system of apartheid operating in favour of Chinese immigrants to Tibet. One manifestation is that houses belonging to Chinese are modern and new, whilst many rural Tibetans are forced by their financial circumstances to live in huts or even tents. Work for Tibetans is extremely scarce, even in Lhasa it is highly unlikely that a Tibetan applicant will be granted a job whilst there are Chinese applicants for the same post.
One thing she was immediately aware of on entering from the Nepalese border was the Tibetans' generosity; despite their hardship they were always wonderful hosts, invariably offering to share their tea and food with her team. Perhaps even more surprisingly, most bear no resentment for the Chinese; this is simply a facet of the Buddhist line of thinking that you should not bear malice to others under any circumstances, nevertheless it speaks volumes about the resilience and good-naturedness of these people that they show compassion even to an invader of their land.
To illustrate the sheer level of repression, Tess flashed a slide on the screen, saying that if she had dared show this slide in Tibet, she would have been sentenced to two terms of imprisonment, one for seven years and the other for six. The slide contained an image of the Dalai Lama, and the Tibetan flag. Apparently many Tibetans asked her for pictures of His Holiness, but she had to decline the request for reasons of their safety as much as her own.
On her travels, Tess has visited many of the sacred sites and monasteries in Tibet. She remarks that many were razed to the ground during the most fanatical stage of the Maoist revolution, but later were rebuilt once their value to the tourist trade was realised. However, the rebuilt sites have a sham feeling tot hem, and few seem to be active places of meditation or study. She did however have the opportunity to meditate in some of the surviving ancient and holy places, and remarked that the experience of meditating in these buildings was an electrifying one, like none she had experienced before. Somehow the sheer energy of these places makes a deep state of meditation, and even spiritual visions, relatively easy to achieve.
An incident on her Mount Kailash expedition illustrated the kind of persecution that goes on in Tibet; at a checkpoint, a dog approached their group. It was doing no harm, just seeking attention as dogs do, but Chinese guards pulled-out their electric stun-guns and began zapping it repeatedly until it ran away. The guards thought this was a great laugh.
A point she made, however, is that the majority of Chinese citizens show great concern for the plight of the Tibetans; many perform acts of kindness or generosity towards them, such as a Chinese soldier who went to a great deal of trouble to provide a group of Tibetans with a specific type of fish they were looking for but had been unable to find. The problem, as she underlined, is not with the Chinese people living in Tibet, but with the policies of the Communist government itself, and its hired thugs.
Next she related the inhuman way in which Tibetans are treated by the Authorities; for example a large number being herded-into and locked in the grounds of a school for the duration of a Communist official's visit. It became clear that conditions in Tibet have not improved significantly, Tibetans are still very much a conquered people.
You can download the talk here, in MP3 format. (9MB, broadband advised)
Her book can be ordered from Amazon (USA) or Amazon (UK)