Category Archives: Tibetology

Tibetan and Uyghur activists targeted with Android malware

While this blog is in no way intended to be political, it dies reflect my thoughts and concerns… in light of my academic interests, and also following on from the last post about the invasion of privacy I thought I would bring this to you attention:

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab are reporting that Tibetan activists are being hit by a highly targeted form of Android malware that seeks to record their contacts, call logs, SMS messages, geolocation, and phone data.

The malware, dubbed Backdoor.AndroidOS.Chuli.a by the researchers, launches what appears to be a standard Android app that apparently contains a message from “Dolkun lsa, chairman of the executive committee of the Word [sic] Uyghur Congress.” However, the app also installs a bugging program that’s controlled by SMS.

When the correct control message comes in via SMS, the malware sends the information, encoded in Base 64, to a command and control (C&C) server running Windows Server 2003 and configured in Chinese. The commands to control the code contain Chinese characters, and the C&C servers are located in Los Angeles, but the commands travel via a domain registered to a Chinese firm.

“The current attack took advantage of the compromise of a high-profile Tibetan activist. It is perhaps the first in a new wave of targeted attacks aimed at Android users,” said the Kaspersky Lab research team. more can be found on The Register here.

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Pointless… to a degree.

Our clever friends across the pond have worked out that not all college degrees are created equal. According to a report by the Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) at Georgetown University, your choice of college major substantially affects your employment prospects and earnings. Who would have thought it!

Having spent the last ten years pottering about with Anthropology, Tibetology, and other dark arts, I was AMAZED to learn that my earning potential is limited when compared to those who plumped for Business School or engineering.

Quite the extent of the divide between anything that might be considered an -ology and the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) is however appalling. At least from my perspective… Topping the list at No. 1, anthropology and archeology represent the worst choice of college major in economic terms. Recent college graduates of the major, those ages 22 to 26, can expect an unemployment rate of 10.5%, well above the national average. When they do land a job, the median salary is just $28,000, compared to a mechanical engineer’s initial earnings of $58,000. Forbes, not well known for their appreciation of the finer points of Anglo-Tibetan relations, commented on the report here.  

Is a four-year college degree (remembering this is an American study) still worth it? Carnevale offers an emphatic “yes,” saying the earnings advantage of a bachelor’s degree over a 45-year career is $1.2 million on average. The advantage of an engineering bachelor’s is a whopping $3 million. However, he warns that if you want to pursue the arts and social sciences, you should either combine the study with a more practical major or go for a graduate degree…. great news if you have a DPhil in Tibetan. Then you are on track to earn a fortune… perhaps that will be the finding of next week’s report?… No? I doubt so too…

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Thupten Jinpa, the Dalai Lama’s English Translator

This is an in-depth interview where Krista Tippett discusses life in a monastery, philosophy, linguistics, and strange experiences with the chief English translator for the Dalai Lama.

Geshe Thupten Jinpa, a Buddhist scholar and former monk, shares the intricacies of Tibetan Buddhism that can’t be conveyed in public teachings, and what happens when this ancient tradition meets modern science and modern lives. His very personable and personal thoughts are insightful, interesting, and wonderfully modest… It’s a long interview, and you have to ignore the technological fiddling at the start, but well worth listening to.

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Royal Asiatic Society. Lecture. 18 January. London.

I doubt many of you will be at a loose end in London tomorrow evening, but if by chance your date has stood you up, or your heating has packed up, you might find warmth and distraction at the Royal Asiatic Society. I will be offering hot air on the subject of looting in Tibet. RAS Student Lecture Weds 18th January.
The next student series event at the RAS will take place next Wednesday evening 18th January and we have a very interesting double bill of lectures lined up. You can read all about it on their blog here.
Timothy Myatt will speak on ‘Trinkets and Treasures: Looting during the British Mission to Tibet of 1904’. Tim’s interest in Tibetan history and culture was stirred after spending eight months teaching in the Tibetan Monastery of Dip-Tse-Chok-Ling in Dharamsala, India, close to the Tibetan Government in Exile. He is now a doctoral student of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at Wolfson College, Oxford and the General Secretary of the Internal Seminar of Young Tibetologists and has edited and published numerous books and papers on Tibetan culture, history and Anglo-Tibetan relations.
Apparently I have given the following comment:

I will present new research examining looting during the 1904 Younghusband Mission to Tibet. I will outline the social and cultural milieu that prevailed at the time and note the role models for, and influences on, those who took part in the mission. I will outline the position of L. Austine Waddell, the ‘archeologist’ to the Mission, and the controversial methods he used to acquire both personal and official collections. The aftermath of the Mission will be studied, focusing on contemporary newspaper reports from London and Delhi concerning the looting. I will then show how selected items looted from Tibet are now presented in British museums and collections, before studying the mentality behind the collectors and their desire to construct archives of achievement and ‘Temples of Empire’ that rationalize a perspective of ‘the other’ and thereby, themselves.

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Cover of the next book…

Please vote for which one should be on the cover of the next book…  the next proceedings of the ISYT!


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Born Digital

For those of you who just can’t wait for the forthcoming three volume epic, nor for the Hollywood blockbuster, nor West End hit musical, here is a link you might find interesting from the Oxford Research Archive … well, mildly distracting for about five seconds… It even has its own QR code for all you clever iKids out there! 

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More on the Tibet situation

Briefly, here are two further perspectives on the sad trend of self immolation in Tibet, one by a Tibetan author, and the other by the Dalai Lama himself on the BBC.


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A Terrifying Trend: Self-immolations in Tibet

Finally the US has found some voice of protest concerning the current, horrifying, trend of self-immolations in Tibet over recent weeks. For more news on one such recent protest follow this link, and sadly there have been many such instances in the last few months.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the occasion of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum to address the issue saying that the US was, “alarmed by recent incidents in Tibet of young people lighting themselves on fire in desperate acts of protest… We continue to call on China to embrace a different path.”

“We have consistently and directly raised with the Chinese government our concerns about Tibetan self-immolations, and we have repeatedly urged the Chinese government to address its counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the unique religious, cultural, linguistic identity of the Tibetan people. We’ve also repeatedly urged the Chinese government to allow access to all Tibetan areas of China for journalists, diplomats, and other observers so that we can get accurate information and so that you can get accurate information.

“And let me take this opportunity to again call on the Government of China to respect the rights of all of its citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognized freedoms, and particularly the rights of Tibetans to resolve their underlying grievances with the Government of China.” These quotes come from the International Campaign for Tibet, and more can be found here.

I should declare my interest in this sorry situation; While I was an English teacher in the small monastery of Dip Tse Chok Ling in Dharamsala I lived in the former cell of Thupten Ngodup (pictured), the former cook and cow herder of the monastery.

It was in 1998 in Delhi that the Tibetan Youth Congress organised a ‘Hunger Strike unto Death’ to pressure the United Nations to implement the International Commission of Jurist recommendation of 1997 report on Tibet. The first batch of hunger strikers consisted of six members of TYC, but the demonstration was disrupted and broken up by the Indian police on their forty-ninth day of fasting. Thupten was part of the second batch of hunger strikers, and set himself alight on 29th April, 1998. Accounts of his death vary, but one, harrowing one, is based on filmed evidence, and can be found here (warning, its not comfortable reading):

“A video shot by Choyang Tharchin of the Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR) shows Thupten making his way to the public toilet. He opened a plastic container of gasoline, which he must have hidden there earlier, and dowsed himself thoroughly. Then he struck a match or flicked a lighter. .. When he came out he was, quite literally, an inferno. The DIIR video makes that horrifyingly clear. We see him charging out to the area before the hunger-strikers tent, causing chaos in the ranks of the police as well as the Tibetans there. A very English female voice — off camera — screams’ “Oh my God” Oh My God” again and again. With that and other screams and shouts, it is impossible to hear what the burning man is saying. According to someone there he shouted “Bod Gyal lo” or “Victory to Tibet”. Others heard him crying “Bod Rangzen”, or “Independence for Tibet.” He also shouted “Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama”. How on earth he managed to shout anything, much less run about as he did is a mystery to me. Every breath he took must have caused live flames to rush into his lungs and sear the air sacs and lining.

The burning man then appears to pause and hold up both hands together in the position of prayer. At this point the fire seems terribly intense and the cameraman later remarked that he could distinctly hear popping sounds as bits of flesh burst from Thupten Ngodup’s body. The cameraman was so shaken he found it difficult to hold his camera steady. Then policemen and Tibetans beat at the flames with rugs and sacks, and finally pushing Thupten Ngodup to the ground, stifled the blaze.” 

I moved into his small cell only a few months later in late 1998. People often ask me why I ended up studying Tibet; why something quite, so, well, pointless? I guess living in such a monastery and community had a profound effect on me, and planted a small seed that really has only begun to germinate. More important, and sad, is that the situation that lead Thupten to set himself alight is still prevailing.

While the international finger pointing goes on, with the Chinese news agencies bitterly criticising the Dalai Lama for not condemning the protests, and the Tibetan Government in Exile urging restraint and dialogue, one thing is for sure, I fear that this distressing and despairing trend will sadly continue.

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The devil is in the detail…

So, if you ever needed reminding why Tibetology, and the detailed analysis of Anglo-Tibetan relations, is important and relevant, here it is: The world’s two largest nations, accounting for about 1/3 of the global population, both armed to the high teeth with nuclear weapons and global ambitions, having an undignified and unfortunate scrap about Tibetan border areas, and the much disputed McMahon Line.

As the article points out, “China, India’s largest trading partner, claims sovereignty over parts of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh and calls it southern Tibet. It refuses to recognize the “imperialist” 1913 Shimla Convention under which Tibet ceded Tawang to India and regards its border with India – the McMahon line – as disputed.”

The McMahon Line is a line agreed to by Great Britain and Tibet as part of Shimla Accord, a treaty signed in 1914. Although its legal status is disputed by China, it is the effective boundary between China and India. The line is named after Sir Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of British India and the chief negotiator of the convention. It extends for 550 miles from Bhutan in the west to 160 miles east of the great bend of the Brahmaputra River in the east, largely along the crest of the Himalayas. The Shimla Convention was a disputed treaty concerning the status of Tibet negotiated by representatives of China, Tibet and Britain in 1914. The Simla Accord provided that “Outer Tibet” would “remain in the hands of the Tibetan Government at Lhasa.” This region, approximately the same as today’s Tibet Autonomous Region, would be under Chinese suzerainty, but China would not interfere in its administration. Not that it really matters, the Chinese delegation walked away, and never recognised or ratified the treaty. 

This spat is important as, while the article is written from an Indian perspective, national pride and tender toes are still evident in the region following a series of disastrous wars in the 1960’s between India and China over the border regions. I do like the reporting that the Chinese ambassador told the journalist to “Shut up!” … however I doubt those were his exact words!


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Paris ISYT Published today…

Great news! The proceedings of the 2009 Paris ISYT conference have today been published through the Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines (RET). Alice, Nicola, Kalsang and I have been working hard editing and reviewing the papers for the last year, and we are pleased that it has been finally published.

The RET is a twice-yearly scholarly and peer-reviewed journal published by CRCAO of the CNRS, Paris, under the direction of  Dr Jean-Luc Achard.

All contributions to the RET are peer-reviewed and to date twenty-one volumes are available as a free PDF downloads.

My article, Trinkets, Temples, and Treasures: Tibetan Material Culture and the 1904 British Mission to Tibet, can be found by following the link.

We are hoping to be able to publish a hard copy of the volume in India this winter, but those that can’t wait to read the rest of the articles, they can be found here. And dont forget that Kobe 2012 is now taking registrations for the next instalment of the International Seminar of Young Tibetologists!

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