In 1963, 7-year-old Tibi Lhundub Tsering was picked up by his foster parents at Zurich Airport in Switzerland. His birth mother Youden Jampa, who was at a work camp building roads in India, knew nothing of her son's whereabouts.
This is the beginning of the uncomfortable truth presented in the Swiss documentary Tibi and His Mothers directed by Ueli Meier.
According to the documentary, Tibi was one of the supposed 200 "Tibetan orphans" who were brought to Switzerland in the 1960s from the Nursery for Tibetan Refugee Children in Dharamsala headed by Tsering Dolma, the older sister of the 14th Dalai Lama. They were moved through a program run by Swiss entrepreneur Charles Aeschimann and that had received approval from the Dalai Lama himself.
Aeschimann, director of an energy company at the time, adopted Tibetan children after reading about Tibetan refugees and the Dalai Lama's call to American and European families to take Tibetan children into care and give them a Western education.
Contrary to the expectations of the foster parents in Switzerland, only 19 of these children were orphans, while the vast majority had at least one parent in Tibet, often both, according to Meier in the bonus features of the DVD edition, citing a report by Aeschimann.
In a confidential letter dated February 1963, the Swiss ambassador to India at the time said that he discovered many of these "orphans" selected in Dharamsala actually had at least one parent. He warned against the "human and spiritual difficulties" faced by children who became "contractually assigned care items" thanks to the agreement between Aeschimann and the Dalai Lama.
Meier said that during his research for the documentary, many documents were found that showed Aeschimann and the Dalai Lama had divergent interests in their arrangement. While Aeschimann wanted to create a refuge for the children, the Dalai Lama appeared to intend to turn the children into elite members for the "Tibetan government-in-exile."
According to letters between the two, the Dalai Lama never mentioned the psychological well-being of the children after being separated from their parents and only had limited discussion with Aeschimann about them. Meier made these revelations in an interview with Swiss German-language daily Neue Zuricher Zeitung, which ran a series of reports in September questioning the "Tibetan orphans" program.
"The Dalai Lama manufactured the orphan problem to further his 'Tibet independence' initiative, causing hundreds of families to be torn apart in the process," said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a news briefing in Beijing on October 15. She accused the Dalai Lama and his clique of abusing the children involved and casting aside their rights.
"The Dalai Lama's actions trampled on the individual rights of all of those children and violated common ethics and morality. All humane, justice-loving people cannot help but condemn acts such as these," Hua said.
As for Tibi, protagonist of the documentary, the tender care and devotion of his foster parents cannot replace the love of his birth mother. He almost lost himself, having an emotional breakdown, after he visited his birth parents for the first time years later and realized that his mother will never be able to understand him.
The film accompanied Tibi on his journey to visit his birth mother in India and his time with his foster mother in Gruningen, Switzerland. "While observing the now quiet everyday life of the two old women, distant memories float silently, sometimes painfully, to the surface," according to the introduction to the film.
The director said that, during his research, he learned many former foster children tragically separated from their birth parents.
With little to no command of their mother tongue, the "orphans" have difficulties communicating with their birth parents, some of them having given up on attempts at family reunion altogether. Faced with insurmountable cultural and linguistic barriers, they find themselves estranged from their local communities.
Meier pointed out in the interview with the Swiss newspaper that a study published in 1982 by the University of Zurich found that of all Tibetans who had grown up in Switzerland, suicides were only reported among the "Aeschimann children."
Meier said that he sent an interview request to the Dalai Lama's bureau in Geneva, but was given the silent treatment.
The "Tibetan orphans" incident has lifted the veil on the callous and hypocritical Dalai Lama clique, who have been masquerading as pacifist and benevolent, said a Xinhua News Agency report on October 17, adding that it was merely one trick used to deceive the international community and win undue sympathy.
The incident was much more than "morally ridiculous," as labeled by Neue Zuricher Zeitung, but a despicable crime that the Dalai Lama clique committed against the Tibetan people, it noted.
In spite of the Swiss media's call for a sincere apology, the Dalai Lama clique feigns ignorance without the slightest remorse for their deeds.
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