Al: I appreciate your willingness to give me this opportunity to talk with you about the Tibetan refugee camp here at Patan just south of Kathmandu. Can you give us some idea of the history and the relationship that this camp has with Nepal?
Samdup: We are twenty thousand Tibetan refugees in Nepal, because Nepal is very close to Tibet. Tibet borders Nepal and the Tibetans have been very happy to cross into this country. Because Nepal, being also the land of Lord Buddha, Tibetans feel at home here. Tibet has had a very long relationship with Nepal since the 7th century when a Nepalese princess married a Tibetan king. Both countries have a very deep cultural, religious, and social relationship which has been very consistent for a long time.

Most of the Tibetans settled in Nepal in the early 1960s. The International Red Cross came to help settle the camp, and today there are eleven camps in all parts of Nepal, both in the mountainous region and here in Kathmandu. We introduced carpet making in Nepal at this camp. We attract a lot of tourists to visit the refugee camps to see their artistic carpet weaving. This has given a lot of opportunities to provide income for our people. For many years, carpets have been the number one export of Nepal, and it has been the main source of income for the Nepalese economy. This has also given a lot of employment to the local people as well.

You can see so many monasteries around Kathmandu. Tibetans have been successful in maintaining and preserving their culture and religion-it has been so inspiring. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has always stressed that it is the culture and the tradition that has to be preserved. It is necessary since the Chinese invaded Tibet, and they are changing everything. They are now celebrating fifty years of their so-called peaceful liberation of Tibet. Tibet has never been a part of China.

Al: Tibet has always been separate, and their liberation was anything but peaceful.
Samdup: Yes, sometimes the Chinese say that a Chinese princess also married the Tibetan king, as if that is the basis for occupying Tibet. There is no truth in what the Chinese have been saying. They have caused much suffering after taking over Tibet. I'm fifty-three-years old now; I was born in Tibet. I left my country at the age of eight, and I have never heard from my parents or my grandparents since we were occupied by China.

Al: Can you tell my readers what happened when the Chinese invaded. I read that 1.2 million people were killed and most of the monasteries were destroyed.
Samdup: Under such circumstances, 1.2 million Tibetans have lost their lives by either torture or imprisonment or mass killings. That number also includes my father and my brother who could not escape with me, and today, they are no more. The last time I saw my father and brother was in 1959. There are about 140,000 Tibetans refugees in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Each and every family has lost one or more of its family members. It is such a tragedy that a whole nation of Tibet, the whole people of Tibet, have suffered so much. They have endured such tyranny, such oppression. We cannot forget it and our Tibet.

Al: I wrote an article for my newspaper that hasn't been posted on my web site until I am able to safely get out of Tibet. It is about the Chinese hosting the Olympics. I know that many within the Tibetan community feel that it was a bad idea that the Chinese got the Olympics. However, I personally believe the Olympics will help Tibet get its freedom sooner rather than later.
Samdup: Why do you feel that way? It seems that the world approves of Chinese suppression of Tibet and of other peoples.

Al: Revolution and social change doesn't occur when a people is totally subjugated. Revolutions occur when things improve a little and people get a taste of freedom. With the influx of the international community coming to China, it will have a profound affect upon the society. This peaceful invasion will bring international money, ideas, and scrutiny. I know that China wanted international acceptance for their inhumane human rights record, but the means that they have chosen will result in having thousands of foreigners bringing in the seeds of their destruction.

In addition, China will not only have to deal with an army of Olympic support people from construction personnel, news media, athletes and tourists, but the government oversees vast populations of ethnic groups precisely like the USSR once did. China will not be able to hold itself together. The tide of history isn't moving in the direction of dictatorships. What do you think?

Samdup: Well, it is hard to say because being a Tibetan and being out of ones own country it is very tempting to want to keep China out of the Olympics. It is not China, but the Olympic community that have not been very considerate. The Olympic community has been saying that politics are not mixed with the athletics, but as soon as China won, the Chinese have been saying that this is a big political win. Of course, I realize that China has not won in that way. There are still seven years to see changes in China until they fulfill the requirements of the Olympics, like a free press. All this has to happen before the Olympics start.

See, I'm a Tibetan; I lost my country in 1959 and still the reality is that I cannot go to my own country. China must respect the international rules like giving its people the right to go to his own country and free expressions. Until they change, politics has no meaning in China and has no meaning in the international community.

I am quite optimistic that the Olympics in Beijing will make China more responsible to the international community. It should also make some changes in Tibet itself, because our leader, the Dalai Lama, is always committed to peace. Today's Chinese leaders cannot hold forever in one country all these people. Change is certain to come.

Al: I don't think the Chinese are going to change; I think China will dissolve in the same way the USSR did. It's not that I think that the Olympics is going to make China a better place, China will simply deteriorate. Tibet is a Chinese satellite, which brings me to another question for you, why do the Chinese want Tibet?
Samdup: Tibet is a very huge, vast country, which has many very rich mineral resources. It is very strategic to China for security and military reasons. Tibet, being very mountainous, is called the roof of the world, and Tibet is rich in minerals like gold, coal, and ore. The international community does not know of this.

Al. We saw a tape by Robert Thurman, the first American Buddhist monk. He said that China can't rule Tibet forever. He said that if a woman gets pregnant in Tibet, she needs to go to a lower elevation to deliver her baby. The Chinese lungs aren't like the Tibetans lungs.
Samdup: I think Chinese are not happy in Tibet, because it's a very high plateau that has a very different climate. It's very hard for the Chinese to adapt to it. Today, the Chinese are putting many soldiers in Tibet. Also, the Chinese population is being transferred into Tibet. Most Chinese don't like Tibet, because Chinese are mostly plain's people where Tibet is a very high plateau. Even after fifty years, I think that the Chinese in Tibet always feel they are out of their country. I think it is the military and the central government that is forcing the people to move into Tibet.

Al: When I talked to His Holiness' brother, Dr. Norbu, the one thing that he wanted me to emphasize is the importance of keeping the Tibetan culture going. In fact, we were married at the Tibetan Cultural Center a year ago. I have also written many articles about the plight of the Tibetan people in my newspaper and on my website. I hope to get in and get out of Tibet safely. If I do, Tibet will have a spokesperson in the West. Is there anything else that you would like to say to my readers?
Samdup: I am very encouraged to see so many American students in the colleges and universities who have been supporting the Tibetan cause and who are the leaders of tomorrow. They will definitely contribute to helping the Tibetan people. American Senators and Congresspersons have been very supportive of the rights of the Tibetan people. Many Americans respect our human rights in Tibet as well as valuing the Tibetan culture and traditions. Today, in Tibet itself, the Tibetans cannot learn their own language in the schools. There are no free teachings of Tibetan in most of the monasteries. The monks cannot speak freely unless they accept the Chinese political lies. Every year, we receive two to three thousand Tibetans crossing the Himalayans risking their lives simply to get a better education and to learn their own language. We cannot deny that the Chinese government has changed Tibet. I appeal to the American people, those loving people, to press their government to encourage the Chinese leaders to negotiate with the Dalai Lama a peaceful resolution to the Tibetan question.

Al: I second that, but I hope that the Olympics will bring freedom for your people. Whoever in Beijing that thought that the Olympics would be a good idea will come to regret it.

Samdup: It is true that the Olympics will teach the Chinese population how welcome freedom is.