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China Up Close
By Gregg - 4 May, 2000

Page 2 of 5

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The Tibetans

The young man sitting across from me spoke some English. We were keeping warm round the stove as a snow storm picked up outside. "I am Tibetan boy," he said, "My name is Danny."

I asked him how he learned English. He explained he'd been to India°™had studied for two years in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile. Danny was from a Tibetan village not far from where we were sitting°™a sparsely populated region in northern Sichuan.

The border with the Chinese province of Tibet was quite some distance away but Tibetans constitute a majority in these parts as well as in parts of Gansu and Qinghai and of course in Tibet itself. (Prior to the Chinese takeover, the country of Tibet included most of Qinghai as well as the modern-day province of Tibet. Half of China's four million Tibetans live outside the province of Tibet.)

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Being that Danny isn't from Tibet, I imagine he's perceived as less a threat by the Chinese authorities as young Tibetans living in say Lhasa. Still, I was surprised to learn that he'd been permitted to go for two years to study amongst the Tibetan refugee community abroad. If he didn't have strong pro-Tibetan, anti-Chinese feelings before he left, I figured he was likely to have developed them by the time he returned to China. I didn't get the chance to ask. I'd gone out to use the toilet and when I returned Danny was gone.

Certainly going abroad couldn't be so easy for all Tibetans, I thought. A week later this was confirmed. The Labrang Monastery in Xiahe (Gansu Province) is one of the six most important monasteries of the Gelugpa sect (the Dalai Lama's sect) of Tibetan Buddhism. Over 1000 monks live and study at Labrang's five institutes.



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