Ngawang

2001
oil on canvas
20" x 10"
(SOLD)
Ngawang

TIBET: When China forcibly annexed Tibet in 1949, assurances were made that there would be no restrictions placed on religious freedom. Over the next 50 years, the Chinese government not only flagrantly reneged on that promise, but launched a targeted campaign of "re-education" aimed principally at Tibet's 46,000 monks and nuns. To the Chinese, the practice of Buddhism poses a clear threat to unification by helping to define Tibet as distinct from China. Chinese "work-teams" systematically occupy monasteries and nunneries for months at a time, forcing religious leaders to study communist party documents. Those unwilling to denounce the Dalai Lama and accept Tibet as a part of China face harsh repercussions, including expulsion from the monastery or nunnery. In addition, monks and nuns make up more than two-thirds of all known Tibetan political prisoners, often incarcerated for small acts of resistance such as displaying a photo of the Dalai Lama. In the face of this extreme religious persecution, an increasing number, like Ngawang, choose to make the dangerous journey across the Himalayan mountains and into exile in India. Though many depart on religious grounds, no separation is made between their spiritual and political commitment. "Aspiring for liberation and fighting for freedom," they contend, "are not different in practice."