I am a Tibetan elder who has been visiting Santa Barbara over the past 11 years. Just yesterday (June 4) I was visiting the UCSB campus when I learned of the article written by Jiefeng Zhou titled “Filtering Out the Propaganda of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile” in the Daily Nexus (June 1), and feel that it is my responsibility to respond to his statements. It seems very clear to me that he is repeating the propaganda that the Communist Chinese government has been repeating for decades. Even though in his letter he states, “I should make it clear that I am not speaking on behalf of any government or organization (my father, who is a communist, always calls me ‘Liberal J’),” it seems that he isn’t aware of the propaganda lens through which he sees the Tibetan situation. Does he know that several Chinese who had lived in Tibet have reported and written books about the actual situation in Tibet after leaving China and coming to the West?

Is he even aware of the hundreds of articles written by foreigners who have seen with their own eyes the situation of the Tibetan people under the Chinese Communist rule, most notably by such human rights organizations as Amnesty International?

Many times, Mr. Zhou uses the word “slave” or “slavery” when describing the situation in Tibet before the Chinese so-called “liberation” of Tibet. The slavery that existed in America, and that still exists in places like Sudan, never existed in Tibet. In fact, since 1959, Tibetans have become slaves under the Communist Chinese, with less freedom than ever before. If China is “destroying the brutal institution of slavery and granting everyone their equality,” then why have over 130,000 Tibetans risked their lives to escape since 1959? Each year, over 1,000 Tibetans escape over the Himalayas into Nepal seeking freedom from Communist rule and the destruction of their cultural and religious heritage. Ninety-nine percent of these refugees are peasants and nomads. Why would they leave if they “never had it so good,” as Mr. Zhou writes in his letter?

These are topics that I would like to discuss publicly with Mr. Zhou and anyone else who would like to participate. This is an open invitation to Mr. Zhou and others to continue this discussion in a friendly way with a sincere desire to bring the truth to light.

I would like to convene a public meeting when I return to Santa Barbara in early July. Whoever would like to help arrange and take part in such a meeting, please come forward. Perhaps a Chinese organization might even like to arrange it. Please e-mail if you would like to have such a forum to help solve this historical dispute.

Narkyid Ngawangthondup is a historian and the official biographer for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is speaking tonight at 7 in Buchanan 1930.