[caption id="attachment_5552" align="alignright" width="300"] Screen shot of the Tibet Travel Tips posted by Tibetan netizens.[/caption]Since 2008, Chinese Communist Government has been implementing new policies to restrict Tibetans making pilgrimages and travelling in Tibet and the number of Tibetan tourists travelling from other counties in Tibet has reduced dramatically also due to these restrictions. On the other hand, Chinese tourists are allowed to travel anywhere and the number of Chinese tourists travelling to Tibet has been increasing year by year. Leisure travel and sightseeing holidays have become very fashionable and a sign of ‘wealth’ for Chinese people and they love to take photographs to put them on social media and enjoy showing off their wonderful vacation photos. Looking at this from a positive note, we can say that this influx of Chinese tourists has opened some eyes to the restrictions and repressive measures that their government is implementing in Tibet but for the vast majority of tourists, a trip to Tibet ends up being just another vacation to a beautiful place. The Chinese government goes to great lengths to cover up the real situation. The unfortunate part of this story is that Tibetans have been dealing with a deep lack of understanding and respect for Tibetan culture and religious beliefs in the actions of many Chinese tourists in Tibet. Due to the vast differences in culture and outlook between the Tibetan and Chinese people, many Chinese tourists unknowingly or even unintentionally commit aggressions on deeply treasured cultural values of Tibetan people. Activities such as walking or sitting on prayer flags on holy mountains, posing for photographs by riding on the neck of Buddhist statues, smoking in temples, jumping over ritual instruments and Buddhist texts, are not ones that Tibetans can easily ignore - such acts are shocking and anger Tibetans everywhere. Likewise fishing and hunting activities at Tibetan sacred lakes and mountains sites, throwing garbage everywhere, etc are activities harmful to Tibetan environment and resented deeply. Tibetans’ objections to these kinds of behaviors are becoming more and more prominent on Chinese social media, drawing attention to some of the more blatant behaviors and requesting Chinese tourists to make some effort to understand local culture and practices. Many such posts have been re-circulated by both Tibetans and Chinese netizens. We have also included some of them in our Tibet Tidbits news section where we report on news and information outside of the mainstream media. Posted below on this blog, is a translation of an in-depth list of Travel Tips for Chinese tourists compiled by some Tibetans from Chengdu that is now being widely shared on social media.
Travel Tips: Religious Culture and Folk Taboos in Tibet
A. Along the Journey
1. Do not eat donkey, horse or dog meat. 2. Do not make loud noise on mountain tops. 3. Make clockwise passage of temple, mani stone pile or buddhist pagoda. 4. Do not walk over any ritual instrument, fireplace, person, or clothing. 5. Do not stamp over prayer flags or mani stones. 6. Do not put leftover soup and animal bone into fire. 7. Do not eat garlic when visiting temples, holy mountains or holy lakes. 8. Do not whistle or shout in front of holy mountains or holy lakes. 9. Do not kill wild animals. 10. Most Tibetans do not eat fish. 11. Do not use paper with printed or handwritten Tibetan letters for toilet paper or wiping dirt of objects. 12. Do not put your hands on anybody’s head, including that of a child. 13. Do not bother cattle, sheep or goats with colored cloth hanging on their ears because they are “life-spared.” (Those animal who are “life-spared” won’t be slaughtered and will live and die naturally.) 14. Do not take pictures of Tibetan pilgrims doing whole body length prostrations without permission.B. In the Monastery
1. Do not stand on the temple doorstep. Walk clockwise around the monastery. 2. Khata should be offered in the appropriate manner (see "How to offer khata".) 3. Prayer wheels should be rotated clockwise. 4. Do not smoke in places where there are Buddhist statues and thangkas. 5. Do not touch Buddhist statues, books, drums, or mirrors in the temple halls. 6. Do not put Buddhist statues, scriptures, prayer beads on the ground. 7. Do not point your fingers at Buddhist statues, thangkas, or monks. 8. Do not jump or walk over ritual instruments in the temples. 9. Men and women should not act intimately in places of religious worship. 10. Be respectful of all monks and nuns at monasteries, especially the senior monks and nuns. 11. Place your hands together and bow slightly when you meet a rinpoche, but do not shake hands or hug. 12. Do not walk without permission in front of monks and nuns in meditation sessions at the temples.C. As a Guest
1. Tibetans hang tree branches or a piece of red cloth outside of their house when the family has a new born child or a patient. One should not go there uninvited. 2. Only enter a Tibetan house or tent after obtaining the owner's invitation or permission. 3. Use both hands to accept tea, food or gift from a Tibetan host. 4. While in Kham, the host will fill or refill the guest’s bowl with tea, soup, or other dishes. The guest should just allow the host to serve. 5. Do not make loud noise while eating or drinking. 6. Do not dry wet shoes or socks on the family stove. 7. Do not point the bottom of your feet toward people while seated on the floor. 8. Many people may sleep on the floor together. One should not step over other people or their clothing. 9. If sleeping in a room with alter, thangka, or Buddhist statues, do not place feet facing the direction of those objects. 10. Do not urinate in the animal pen.
[caption id="attachment_5543" align="alignright" width="292"] Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.[/caption]On 22 October 2014, the European Parliament, after having undertaken formal hearings with all Commissioner-designates, voted on the new European Commission, led by its President Jean-Claude Juncker, and approved the 27 candidates. The new High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission will be Mrs. Federica Mogherini, Italy’s former Foreign Affairs Minister. She assumes her new position on 1 November, 2014.
Her appointment was the outcome of a long and difficult negotiation process between the European Council and President Juncker. Mrs. Mogherini emerged as a frontrunner for the post early on in the process but had been in the center of heated debates between Member States. In fact, several Eastern European Member States, such as the Baltic States, Poland and Bulgaria, were strongly opposed to her candidature, as she was deemed too Russia-friendly, and threatened to block her appointment. Moreover, many expressed concerns that, at a time of serious challenges and international crises, a candidate with a stronger background would have been more appropriate, as she lacked foreign policy experience, having been in her position only since January.
Therefore, Mrs. Mogherini assumes her new office with the challenge to prove that her commitment to the fundamental European values of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights is unwavering.
We at the International Campaign for Tibet have expressed our readiness to work closely with the new High Representative and have called on Mrs. Mogherini to ensure that human rights are included at every level of EU-China relations.
During her hearing at the European Parliament on 6 October, Mrs. Mogherini stressed her commitment to the promotion of human rights throughout all areas of her work, defining it as the “core business” and a precondition for stability. On that occasion, she also clearly stated that a reassessment of the EU’s relationship with Russia was needed by combining a “mix of assertiveness and diplomacy”.
She did not specifically refer to China and Tibet in her speech and focused more strongly on the ongoing political and humanitarian crises around the world. However, she pointed out that she attached great importance to the rights of ethnic minorities and would work on the prevention of discrimination against them.
We welcome Mrs. Mogherini’s strong human rights language, which makes us hope for a greater collaboration in the next five years.
Mrs. Mogherini has had a Tibet connection. During her time as a Member of the Italian Parliament she has met with the Dalai Lama and participated in the World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet held in Rome in 2009. She has also met with representatives of the Tibetan leadership, including the Sikyong, Dr. Lobsang Sangay.
In recent years we have witnessed a disappointing, systematic downgrading of human rights issues in the EU’s foreign policy. Under Catherine Ashton’s leadership, human rights in the EU’s external action have been reduced to mere, occasional and rhetorical statements. On China specifically, we have often highlighted the lack of concrete progress of the EU-China human rights dialogue, which has failed to deliver improvements on the ground, and regret the fact that the Chinese government was able to reduce the rounds of this dialogue from two to one per year.
We hope that with a new High Representative, the EU will reinvigorate its human rights work and drift away from the worrying double standards it has adopted, and stop condemning human rights violations only in smaller and less strategically interesting third countries, while turning a blind eye towards powerful, strategic partners such as China.
It is urgently needed that the EU rethinks its human rights strategy and adopts a coherent and unified approach towards human rights issues in China and Tibet. This is necessary not only for the EU’s own credibility, but because this is its duty, according to the EU Treaties. We believe that securing human rights anywhere in the world will ultimately bring stability also to the EU and European citizens.
Mrs. Mogherini needs to prioritize this matter at the very beginning of her mandate and use all her exchanges with the Chinese leadership to reinforce the message that the current situation in Tibet is unacceptable for stable EU-China relations.
Only this way she will be able to bring the EU back to its role of human rights champion and promoter, and leave the current image of a weak and divided EU behind.
“United in diversity” is the motto, which the EU has proudly given to itself. It is time that this does not simply remain a slogan. It is time that the EU really starts acting as a strong, united and global actor for human rights and peace.
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