US Congratulates Tibetan Exile Political Leader Penpa Tsering on his Election Win

Taiwan also congratulates Tsering on his win in a message welcoming stronger ties between the Tibetan exile community and the self-governing island claimed by China.

US Congratulates Tibetan Exile Political Leader Penpa Tsering on his Election Win

The United States has congratulated Tibetan exile political leader Penpa Tsering on his election as Sikyong, or head of Tibet’s India-based government-in-exile, the Central Tibetan Administration, following the official announcement of Tsering’s win on May 14.

“The United States congratulates Penpa Tsering on his election as the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) next Sikyong,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Twitter on May 14, after Tsering’s win was announced.

“We look forward to working with him and the CTA to support the global Tibetan diaspora,” Price said.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago, following which Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world.

The Tibetan diaspora is now estimated to include about 150,000 people living in 40 countries, mainly Indian, Nepal, North America, and in Europe.

In an unprecedented move, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan—a self-governing island claimed by China as a renegade province—also congratulated Tsering on his electoral win in a message sent to the CTA’s representative in Taiwan and a letter sent to the new exile leader.

Speaking to RFA’s Mandarin Service on May 17, Kelsang Gyaltsen Bawa—representative of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the de facto embassy of Tibet’s exile government in Tapei—welcomed the CTA’s growing ties with Washington and Taipei.

“In 2020, the United States passed the U.S. Support for Tibet Act, which acknowledges the legality of the [exile] Tibetan administration,” Bawa said. “Our democratically elected chief executive can also be officially invited to visit the U.S. State Department and the White House as a result of the new U.S. policy on Tibet,” he said.

“Now the most important test for Penpa Tsering will be whether peace talks [with Beijing] can be opened through the Middle Way. He is well-known for his faithful adherence to the Middle Way policy of the Dalai Lama,” Bawa said.

“Will the Chinese government respond positively? This will need to be observed and tested [over time],” he said.

Divisions persist in the Tibetan exile community over how best to advance the rights and freedoms of Tibetans living in China, with some calling for a restoration of the independence lost when Chinese troops marched into Tibet in 1950.

The CTA and the Dalai Lama have instead adopted a policy approach called the Middle Way, which accepts Tibet’s status as a part of China but urges greater cultural and religious freedom, including strengthened language rights, for Tibetans living under Beijing’s rule.

Universal values

Also speaking to RFA, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council—which manages the democratic island’s relations with China—congratulated Tibet’s exile community on the success of their election for a new leader.

“Democracy, freedom, and human rights are universal values,” the Council said. “We express our respect for the Tibetans around the world who braved the [COVID-19] pandemic and showed the true power of public opinion.”

In a May 16 article, China’s official Global Times newspaper predicted that Penpa Tsering as head of the CTA will now continue what the Times called a policy marked by repeated failures.

“The so-called ‘middle way approach’ is to realize a Tibetan ‘high degree of autonomy’ and then independence,” Zhu Weiqun—former head of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Consultative Conference—told the Times in an interview.

“This is impossible, and the essence of the approach has been seen through,” Zhu said.

Call to boycott Olympics

In a statement this week, a coalition of rights groups representing Tibetans, Hong Kong people, and ethnic Southern Mongolians and Muslim Uyghurs called on world governments to boycott the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, pointing to China’s “campaign of repression in East Turkestan, Tibet and Southern Mongolia, as well as an all-out assault on democracy in Hong Kong.”

“Participating in the Beijing Olympic Games at this time would be tantamount to endorsing China’s genocide against the Uyghur people,” the rights group said, referring to China’s suppression of Uyghur culture and internment of more than a million Uyghurs in a vast network of political reeducation camps in northwest China’s region of Xinjiang.

“It is now up to the international community to take action,” the rights groups said.

Reported and translated by RFA’s Mandarin Service and Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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North Korean Factory Hunts Down Workers Who Fled for Higher-Paying Fisheries Jobs

With government pay so low, employees of a machinery factory skip work to harvest clams and crabs.

North Korean Factory Hunts Down Workers Who Fled for Higher-Paying Fisheries Jobs

A machinery factory in a North Korean border city has sent agents to track down workers who abandoned their government-assigned jobs when coronavirus idled their plant and headed to the coast to harvest seafood for higher wages, sources in the country told RFA.

The workers fled the Ragwon Machine Complex – a state-of-the-art maker of drills, excavators and pumps in the city of Sinuiju – to work on boats or at aquaculture farms on the Yellow Sea, where picking clams and catching crabs for export to China pays better than state factory jobs.

Even at the showcase factory in Sinuiju, a major city on North Korea’s Yalu River border with China, workers needed side jobs to because paltry government salaries are not enough to feed families.

“Hundreds of workers rushed away to another region of the country without getting factory approval, saying they had to earn money for food,” a resident of Uiju county in North Pyongan province’s told RFA’s Korean Service last week.

“The reason why they are looking for work far away from here is because a limited amount of maritime trade with China has resumed since April, and they are hiring a lot of daily workers for the foreign-currency-earning clam and flower crab farms on the West Sea,” said the source, using the Korean term for the Yellow Sea.

The complex, estimated to have 4,000-5,000 workers, appeared willing to look the other way when hungry workers drifted off last year when production was nearly idled for lack of raw materials brought on by international nuclear sanctions and the closure of Sino-North Korean border during the coronavirus pandemic.

But now that it plans to restart operations with an easing of border closures, workers are ignoring calls to return because they can’t afford to go back to their government-salaried jobs, sources told RFA.

According to the Uiju resident, the factory’s management has organized a task force to search the West Sea aquacultural sites for its missing workers.

“Only some of the workers were caught and forced to come back to work at the factory, but they couldn’t find the rest. It’s not going to be easy to find them either, because they can hide their identities while they go make money at sea,” said the source.

Another source, a Sinuiju resident, told RFA that the Ragwon machinery complex is an example of the regime’s purported shift toward tech since 2011, when Kim Jong Un came to power.

“They say the factory has computers controlling a lot of the manufacturing process, which workers complete using heavy equipment and machine tools, but the surrounding Ragwon-dong is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Sinuiju -- it’s all propaganda,” said the second source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“It looks good from the outside, but because of sanctions against North Korea and the pandemic, steel imports aren’t coming in and factory operation has stopped. They cannot even give food rations to their workers,” the second source said.

The second source said that some of the families of the men who work at the factory live in squalor.

“Their wives make tofu to sell at the local marketplace and the family will only eat the leftover pulp. They are struggling to make ends meet right now,” the second source said.

“But since some maritime trade has resumed, the trading companies and foreign-currency-earning seafood industries are hiring men to man fish with nets and fix and maintain boats,” the second source said.

North Korean exports of seafood, which were banned in 2017 by U.N. Security Council sanctions aimed at cutting funds for Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, used to earn the country an estimated US$300 million a year.

The factory workers have no choice but to abandon their posts for the opportunities at sea, even in the face the harsh punishment of having their membership in the ruling Korean Workers’ Party revoked.

Membership in the ruling Korean Workers’ Party is seen as a status symbol that can also be a gateway to better housing, employment, education and food in the impoverished country.

“However, workers are preparing for punishment and continue trying to make money, saying that it is far more terrifying to starve than to be forced to leave the party.”

Food shortages are affecting labor in many different industries all over the country. RFA reported earlier this month that hungry construction workers in Pyongyang had begun robbing and murdering residents to try to find money to buy food.

U.N Special Rapporteur on North Korean Human Rights Tomás Ojea Quintana warned in a report in March that the closure of the Sino-Korean border and restrictions on the movement of people could bring on a “serious food crisis.”

“Deaths by starvation have been reported, as has an increase in the number of children and elderly people who have resorted to begging as families are unable to support them,” said the report.

RFA reported earlier this month that North Korean authorities were warning residents to prepare for economic difficulties as bad as the 1994-1998 famine which killed millions, as much as 10 percent of the population by some estimates.

Kim Jong Un was quoted in state media in April as saying the country faced grim challenges.

“Improving the people’s living standards ... even in the worst-ever situation in which we have to overcome unprecedentedly numerous challenges depends on the role played by the cells, the grassroots organizations of the party,” Kim said during an opening speech at a meeting of cell secretaries of the ruling Workers’ Party.

Reported by RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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