A Tibetan is turning a prayer wheel. Photo: Martinnewmanphotography.com
Contrary to some Western media reports, the Tibetan culture has been well protected by China's policies, French author Maxime Vivas who is writing a new book on Tibet said during a recent interview with Xinhua.
He found a Tibet different from what has been described by the Western media after his visit to the region in 2010, and his preconceptions were radically changed by the experience.
"When I left for Tibet, I had two ideas that had been inculcated in my mind by the media that the religion was oppressed, and the Tibetan culture had been destroyed," he said.
However, "when we left the Lhasa Gonggar airport, we started to see signs in Tibetan...and then we saw traffic signs and newspapers, then we heard it on the radio and on the television," he said.
"We even visited a university where the students and professors were rather proud to show us how they created a software application in Tibetan script," he added.
In the old times, under the Dalai Lamas, only monks and aristocrats went to school, and 95 percent of the Tibetan population was illiterate, he said, but now all Tibetans go to school and know their language.
Vivas saw discrepancy between his preconceptions and what he observed upon arrival. So he began an impassioned investigation into the politics of 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, and wrote a book "Not So 'Zen': The Hidden Side of The Dalai Lama," the first book of its kind published in the West.
The book, which refutes the long-time self-beatification of the Dalai Lama, has been translated into English, Spanish, German, Tibetan and Mandarin.
He pointed out that all member nations of the UN recognize Tibet is a part of China, and Tibet is protected as an integral part of the Chinese territory by the Chinese constitution.
Vivas began his literary career as a novelist with a novel Paris Brune (Editions Le Temps des Cerises), which won the 1997 Roger Vailland Prize and received positive reviews in the media.
The retired civil servant, having worked with the French postal service and France telecom, published later another novel The Cathedral At The Bottom of The Garden, which was also well-received and had been chosen for a film adaptation, though the sudden bankruptcy of his publisher put a halt to its success.
It was only later that his work turned to politics. In 2007, Vivas published The Hidden Face of Reporters Without Borders: From the CIA to The Hawks of The Pentagon.
His most recent book Marine Le Pen, co-written with his son Frederic, was aimed at the leader of the far-right French political party the Front National.
Having published 17 books and with several upcoming projects, Vivas showed no signs of slowing down, and it appears that politics will remain the focus of his writing for the immediate future.