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SFT DECLARES OLYMPICS VICTORY HISTORIC CAMPAIGN CULMINATES WITH 8 POWERFUL DIRECT ACTIONS INSIDE BEIJING
From the moment the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded China the Olympics in 2001, Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) has worked to ensure that Tibet would be a pressing global issue during the Beijing Games. The final phase of our campaign was launched on April 25th, 2007 when SFT’s Deputy Director Tenzin Dorjee and four Tibet supporters were detained at Mt. Everest Base Camp after protesting China’s plans to carry the Olympic torch through Tibet and to the summit of Mt. Everest. Four months later, marking the one-year countdown to the Olympics, SFT made global news headlines again when an international team of Tibet supporters unfurled a 450-sq ft banner on the Great Wall of China while SFT’s Director Lhadon Tethong openly blogged from Beijing about China’s oppressive rule in Tibet, before eventually being arrested. These strategic actions helped thrust Tibet to the forefront of the growing controversy over China’s hosting of the Olympic Games. In March 2008, just weeks before the start of China’s global Olympic Torch Relay, protests broke out in Lhasa, sparking a national Uprising that spread across Tibet. The Torch Relay then became a magnet for protest as thousands of people worldwide poured into the streets to show solidarity with the Tibetan people and to condemn China’s crackdown in Tibet. SFT members, working together with Tibetan exile communities and Tibet Support Groups, led the charge, organizing mass convergences and direct action protests in London, Paris, San Francisco and Nagano – including a daring banner hang action on the Golden Gate bridge, a breathtaking image that landed on the front page of the New York Times. In the final months leading up to the Games, the Chinese government, determined to carry out an ‘incident-free’ Games, launched the largest security operation in Olympics history. In spite of this, 70 SFT members (including 3 Tibetans) successfully staged 8 high-profile peaceful protests in Beijing; 55 were detained and deported, 10 of whom were jailed for up to 6 days. Overall, SFT activists carried out 25 major nonviolent direct actions in seven countries, held dozens of trainings on three continents, targeted Coca-Cola and other torch relay sponsors with grassroots campaigns, organized high-profile press conferences in five major cities and launched a groundbreaking online video channel: FT08.tv. This Olympic feat was made possible by the hundreds of people helping behind the scenes, volunteering their time and money to help ensure that the voice of the Tibetan people was heard in Beijing and around the world in the lead up to and during China’s Olympic Games. Through these inspiring nonviolent direct actions, SFT was able to keep Tibet in the global spotlight and show China’s current and future leaders that the Tibet issue must be resolved before China will ever be truly accepted as a global leader.
Aug 6: Breathtaking banner hang outside the Bird’s Nest stadium
Aug 19: A night banner action in front of the Olympics Bird’s Nest stadium
SFT activists scale the Golden Gate Bridge
THE MARCH 2008 UPRISING IN TIBET On March 10, 2008, more than half a century after China’s invasion of Tibet, the Tibetan freedom struggle officially entered a new era. As the Chinese authorities were gearing up to play host to the world at the Olympic Games in August, Tibetans across all three provinces of historical Tibet staged an uprising that shocked Beijing, inspired the world, and changed the course of history. It all started when 300 monks from Drepung monastery began marching towards Lhasa. Once halted by the police, they staged a sit-in and chanted prayers including “Galwai Shabten” for the long life of the Dalai Lama. Eventually they were arrested and turned back, but not before people had witnessed their courageous protest and word began to spread. On the same day, 14 monks from Sera monastery staged a peaceful protest outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. They were immediately detained. Then on March 12th, monks from Ganden monastery staged another protest and were blockaded in the monastery by local security forces. It was not until March 14th, when lay people clashed with police while attempting to defend monks from security forces, that riots broke out in Lhasa – ultimately sparking the historic Uprising across the Tibetan plateau.
Tibetans across Tibet rise up
Throughout March and April, news of fresh protests poured out of Tibet. Nomads on horseback rode into town squares carrying Tibetan flags, schoolchildren climbed flagpoles and replaced Chinese flags with Tibetan flags, and Tibetans of all ages poured into the streets and protested outside Chinese government offices. The Chinese authorities were ruthless in their crackdown on the protests, killing at least 200 Tibetans and imprisoning thousands. Despite the overwhelming climate of fear throughout Tibet, protests continued well into the month of June in some areas. China’s crackdown galvanized even more international support for the Tibetan cause and prompted the largest solidarity protests for Tibet in the history of the freedom movement.
2 E.D. Letter Letter from Hocevar Goodbye Kala 3 March Uprising in Tibet 4 Torch Relay Protests 6 Beijing Olympics Actions 8 How We Did It 9 Aug 6 Day of Action The March to Tibet 10 50th Anniversary Leaving Fear Behind 11 Thank You FT08.TV
Well, they can’t say we didn’t warn them. We warned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that China would simply use the Games to try to whitewash its human rights abuses, and that granting China the Olympic Games would do more harm than good.
PROTESTS RAGE ACROSS TIBET AS CHINA RESPONDS WITH BRUTE FORCE
And yes, we were right – not only did China’s leaders fail to honor what few commitments they made, they effectively held the IOC and the major news media hostage: “shut up about Tibet or you’ll lose access.” Hand in hand with the IOC, China even tried to re-brand Tiananmen Square, using the massacre site for Olympics ceremonies.
-SFT Press Release, March 14, 2008
A LETTER FROM SFT’S FOUNDER
SFT’s Lhadon Tethong multi-tasks
DEAR STUDENTS, MEMBERS, FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS, I am not quite sure how we managed to fit all that happened in the past year into a single newsletter. From the historic Uprising in Tibet in March and the global protests during China’s torch relay, to the direct actions in Beijing and around the world during the Olympic Games, so many significant events have occurred in such a short time that it leaves one a bit breathless. But looking back on it all now, one thing is certain: this was a year that has forever changed the course of Tibetan history. At Students for a Free Tibet, we like to call it The beginning of the end. The actions of Tibetans living inside Tibet, their courage and ultimately their sacrifice, shook the world and took China’s Olympic spotlight and focused it squarely on the occupation of Tibet. And thanks to years of planning and training, SFT was ready to make the most of this moment – carrying out high-profile actions in China and around the world that helped keep global attention on Tibet and Tibetan voices calling for freedom and human rights. Inside Tibet today, the situation remains critical. Hundreds of Tibetans are dead, thousands have been imprisoned or disappeared, and the entire country is on lockdown. Most foreign journalists and tourists are still not allowed to enter Tibet, and the few that have made it in paint a terrifying picture – a people living under siege, with snipers on the roof of the Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest temple, and security forces encircling monasteries and entire towns, carrying out a campaign of terror on the Tibetan population. March 10th, 2009 will mark 50 years since the 1959 Tibetan Uprising that led to the escape of the Dalai Lama and tens of thousands of Tibetans into exile. This is an important opportunity to push for a resolution of the Tibet issue. We will pay tribute to all the Tibetans who have died as a result of China’s occupation of Tibet, tell the incredible story of the Tibetan resistance, and focus attention on the millions of Tibetans still living and struggling for their survival inside Tibet today. We must do everything we can to use this moment to say to China and the world: 50 years is enough, the occupation of Tibet must end. At SFT we are often asked, “With no Olympics campaign to focus on now, what do we do?” We believe the answer is simple: stay the course while improving the effectiveness of our organizing and our actions. We must continue to educate the global public, demand action from our governments, engage in protest to spotlight China’s abuses, and finally, we must train Tibetan youth and young people everywhere in effective nonviolent strategy so that they can carry this movement forward and take it to new heights. And now, with the issue of Tibet firmly on the radar of Chinese leaders in China and overseas, we must ensure that Tibetan voices demanding basic rights and freedom are heard by them and by the world. Tibetans inside Tibet have spoken, now let us take their message to the world. In solidarity, Lhadon Tethong Executive Director
We also warned the Chinese Government. As important as the Games were to China as an opportunity to gain global acceptance as a leader on the world stage, we made it very clear that we would steal their spotlight and aim it on their occupation of Tibet. We would strip away their smiley “One World, One Dream” mask and expose the cold and ruthless reality that lay just beneath the surface. And did we ever. SFT pulled off a string of protests in the heart of China, despite a security force so over the top that it effectively turned Beijing itself into an occupied city. For weeks, coverage of China’s “most expensive Olympics ever” included the fact that Tibet was not yet free, and that people from all over the world were risking arrest to speak out. I was in Beijing for about a week serving as a media spokesperson during SFT’s first several actions. This basically meant spending most of my time doing interviews, talking about what SFT activists were doing, and more importantly, why they were doing it. Just about every word I was saying would have been enough to put Tibetans or Chinese dissidents in prison if they’d said it themselves, so I figured it wouldn’t be long before I was deported.
TIBETANS CLASH WITH CHINESE TROOPS IN LHASA; UNPRECEDENTED UNREST THROUGHOUT TIBET
This is the last thing China wanted in Olympic year, thousands of Tibetans on the streets, loudly demanding Tibetan freedom, they brandished their banned flag, pictures of the Dalai Lama...
-March 16, Tania Branigan & Dan Chung; The Guardian correspondents in Labrang, eastern Tibet
They came over the mountains on horseback and on foot, more than a thousand ethnic Tibetans pouring into a remote Chinese town not far from the Tibetan border. Their call…freedom from Chinese rule...
Each day I’d leave the hotel with all my belongings that I didn’t want to lose, thinking I’d never be seeing the hotel again. And each evening, I’d sleep with my bags packed and my phone by my side in case they came for me in the night. I didn’t even bother trying to watch out for undercover officers following me around, knowing that when they wanted to pick me up there wouldn’t be much I could do about it. Somehow I was able to avoid arrest despite all the media attention SFT was getting. You would think it would have been scary, and it was certainly a little stressful at times, but I have to tell you, I had a blast. Every day that I was able to still be there, speaking the truth about China’s occupation of Tibet in the heart of Beijing, the bigger the smile on my face grew. By the time they deported me and several others for holding a banner and the banned Tibetan flag at Tiananmen Square, SFT had already won.
-March 18, Steve Chao: CTV Beijing correspondent captures video footage of a protest by Tibetans in Amdo Bora
Throughout my entire experience in the lead up to and during the Games I was reminded how much time and energy went into securing this victory. As someone who has been with SFT since day one, I’ve witnessed the organization evolve over the past 15 years. I think back to our humble beginnings, and I find myself both inspired and blown away by our growth and accomplishments. SFT has demonstrated, without a doubt, that we have the people, the creativity and the energy to develop smart campaigns that challenge China’s occupation of Tibet at its core. We know how to train and equip our activists and students with the tools they need to continue doing creative and groundbreaking actions for Tibet like the ones you saw this year. With the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising fast approaching, SFT again needs your support. As a grassroots organization, we rely on the support of our members. By making a generous donation today, you can ensure SFT continues to grow and has the resources to utilize every opportunity to amplify the voices of Tibetans inside Tibet. We’ve reached a crossroads in Tibet’s history and in the history of SFT. If there was ever a time to support our work and to further build on the accomplishments we’ve had over the past year, that time is now.
Freedom rider in Bora Site compiled from various sources where protests are reported to have taken place since March 10, 2008.
John Hocevar is the co-founder and former director of Students for a Free Tibet.
Monks interrupted a trip by foreign media organised by the Chinese government in Lhasa. The excursion was meant to show how calm had been restored after riots. The PR disaster was exactly what China did not want.
-March 27, Peter Sharp; Sky Asia correspondent John Hocevar being interviewed for FT08.tv’s Windhorse Report
Kala fires up the crowd at an NYC rally
SFT BIDS FAREWELL TO KALA In October, we were sad to say goodbye to SFT’s Grassroots Coordinator, Kalaya’an Mendoza, or Kala – as he is known affectionately by most. Kala played a pivotal role in organizing SFT’s grassroots members in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, and he revolutionized SFT’s use of creative online tools, including the development of SFTtv, a popular tool that we used to mobilize chapters worldwide. In August, Kala was arrested in Beijing after staging a dramatic protest near the Bird’s Nest stadium one hour before the Olympics opening ceremony. In addition to his tireless work and dedication to the Tibetan people, Kala will forever be remembered for “bringing sexy back” to SFT HQ.
Tibetan monk facing foreign journalists in Lhasa’s Jokhang
Although we miss his enthusiasm around the office, Kala will always be a part of the SFT community, and we know that he will continue to be a source of inspiration to many Tibetans and activists alike. As SFT continues to grow around the world, supporting the work of our grassroots members and supporters continues to be a priority for all of us here at SFT HQ. We want to hear from you! If you have any questions, drop us a line at: email@example.com or a call at: 212-358-0071.
DONATE NOW: www.studentsforafreetibet.org/donate Mail a check: SFT, 602 East 14th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10009 3
Sangye Lhamo, 26, is a nun at Dragkar nunnery. On May 28, 2008 she was detained for protesting with two other nuns, Tsewang Kando and Yeshi Lhadon, in Kardze Town. Their current whereabouts are unknown. Sangye Lhamo is one of the many Tibetan nuns who was detained in Kardze Prefecture in May for taking part in a “second wave” of protests in response to the violent force used by the Chinese army to quash peaceful protests and the stringent “patriotic re-education”campaigns authorities are using to force monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama. By June, more than 80 nuns had been detained. Take action for Sanggye Lhamo and other Tibetan political prisoners: www.studentsforafreetibet.org/ profilesofcourage
GLOBAL PROTESTS MAR CHINA’S OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY As he closed the door behind me, he patted my shoulder and said something I never expected to hear: “Be strong.” I knew that I had witnessed firsthand the deep emotional support that free people everywhere feel for the Tibetan cause.
SAN FRANCISCO TORCH RELAY by: Yangchen Lhamo, SFT Int’l Board Member When San Francisco was announced as the only North American stop along the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay’s worldwide tour, I knew a better location couldn’t have been picked! The city’s long history of grassroots activism and support for human rights, combined with a strong local Tibetan community and SFT support base, made it the ideal location for a showdown with Beijing’s propaganda torch. In January, SFT organized a 3-day regional training in Oakland, and with the help of seasoned activist trainers we developed our direct action, nonviolent de-escalation, and media messaging skills. SFT also joined a coalition of local groups to form SF Team Tibet, and together we organized two days of protests around the torch’s visit. The March uprising in Tibet and China’s violent crackdown inspired hundreds of people to step up into a more active role.
Tendor is arrested in Olympia, Greece
On March 10th, 2008, as Tibetan monks marched into Lhasa sparking a nation wide Uprising, a delegation of Tibetan youth, including SFT’s Tenzin Dorjee, held a lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece to launch the Tibetan Freedom Torch. This symbolic torch toured the world in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics to raise awareness and international support for Tibet. On March 24th, just two weeks after the Freedom Torch had been lit, China held its own ceremony in Olympia to officially launch its international Olympics Torch Relay. Many of the same SFT and Tibetan Youth Association of Europe members who had traveled to Olympia weeks before, returned to protest China’s lighting ceremony and China’s intensified crackdown on Tibetans inside Tibet. Protests organized by SFT and other Tibet groups dogged China’s torch relay from that Tsultrim Dolma Gope carries the Tibetan Freedom Torch in ancient Olympia point on. Massive street protests and high-profile direct actions took place in Paris, London and San Francisco while smaller, but highly symbolic, protests took place in Buenos Aires, Delhi, Bangkok, Jakarta, Nagano, Seoul and Hong Kong. By the end of its international leg, China’s so-called “Journey of Harmony” looked more like a military exercise. Thousands of police lined the entire relay route while the torch itself was flanked by members of China’s elite People’s Armed Police, making it virtually impossible to even see the flame.
A STORY FROM GREECE The New York Times called the daring action “A protest of Olympic proportions.”
Meanwhile, SFT took the lead on an urgent campaign to demand the International Olympic Committee (IOC) cancel the Tibet leg of the torch relay. We released a website www.NoTorchInTibet.org and an animated flash video that jammed China’s official torch relay logo. While IOC Executives met in Beijing in April, we also launched an online film targeting individual IOC board members. Thousands of our supporters faxed and called the IOC demanding Tibet be removed from the torch relay route while we ramped up pressure on corporate sponsors of the torch relay like Coca-Cola. SFT representatives spoke passionately at Coke’s annual shareholders meeting and more than 4,000 letters were faxed to their corporate offices in addition to holding an online Coca-Cola brand-jamming competition.
It was totally surreal to see that the long arm of China is flexing its muscle even as far as Greece. As soon as I got into line at the passport control at Athens airport, there were a few cops waiting to single me out and usher me into a room. They went through both of my bags, taking out even the smallest things, like the chagney (blessed grains from Nechung oracle) that my mom had stealthily put in my bags.
Just days before the torch was scheduled to arrive in early April, we held another direct action training with a huge turnout from the local Tibetan community. It was amazing to see the enthusiasm and sheer number of people willing to risk arrest to disrupt China’s planned propaganda parade. A third training session was held the night before the torch relay to accommodate the many out-of-town protestors, and again the room was packed with energetic and excited faces. On April 7th, asthe San Francisco says “NO” to China’s propaganda torch anticipation mounted, dedicated SFT activists and Tibet supporters climbed the cables of the landmark Golden Gate Bridge and unfurled two banners, reading “One World One Dream” and “Free Tibet 2008.” We held our breath until the climbers reached a secure point in their ascent – there was no stopping them now! I ran up to the bridge with a determined reporter who wanted a close-up shot. A small crowd of tourists, runners, and bikers had gathered to watch and began cheering and applauding as the climbers unfurled the beautiful banners against the perfectly clear blue sky. The massive media frenzy around this picturesque and timely message drove the spotlight to our activities planned over the next two days. The lighting of the Tibetan Freedom Torch and the massive candlelight vigil in UN Plaza the next day drew thousands of Bay Area supporters and international media as well as Tibetans from all across North America.
After the first few minutes, it was obvious that they knew that I knew that they knew. There was no pretending. They cut through the bull, “Are you alone?” “What will you gain by protesting the Chinese government?” “We support your cause.” “Where is your return ticket?” “Are you alone?” “How much cash are you carrying?” “Tell us who else is here with you?” “No one, of course, no one.” And then there was the trick question: “You said you’re alone. So if there are other Tibetans protesting in Olympia, that makes you a liar! Right?” I said to the police, “The Chinese government is spreading its disease of oppression even in the free world. Greece is a free country with a great culture, and I admire that. That’s why I don’t want China to bring its bloodstained torch to the holy city of Olympia. China has blood on its hands – the blood of Tibetans who were killed as recently as today and yesterday for merely expressing their desire for freedom.” They nodded and spoke to each other in Greek as one of the younger policemen, who seemed slightly nervous, finished combing my bags. There were about ten policemen in the room. I took some photos of the bag search on my mobile phone. I don’t know why…maybe just because they were telling me not to use my phone.
Greek police detain Tibet activists outside IOC meeting in Athens, Greece
In May, SFT grabbed international headlines when Campaigns Director, Kate Woznow, and SFT Canada Director, Tsering Lama, along with Free Tibet Campaign’s Matt Whitticase were detained and deported upon entry into Hong Kong, where the three had planned to hold a press conference to demand that the Tibet leg of the torch relay be cancelled. Instead, we hosted our first ever-online press conference via live webcast from Toronto, New York and London, with international journalists logging on from Hong Kong and China.
SFT UK hangs “One World, One Dream: Free Tibet” banner from Westminster Bridge in London
Below is a blog post written by Tendor on March 23rd, after arriving in Athens, Greece to protest China’s torch relay launch.
A month later, in a final showdown with the IOC, SFT successfully held an in-person press conference and staged a dramatic “die-in” in Athens at the executive members’ final board meeting before the Olympics. Although we were not able to stop the Chinese government from taking the torch to Tibet, the actions of SFT members and people of conscience worldwide exposed the Chinese government’s use of the Olympic torch as a cynical propaganda ploy and sent a clear message to the Chinese leadership and the IOC that the global community does not accept Chinese rule in Tibet.
When the older policemen were in the other room watching my DVDs, the younger one stayed with me. I looked at his badge and asked his name. He quickly slid his badge into his sweater and said, “No name.” “You have nothing to hide. You’re not guilty.” I said. “The Chinese government is guilty.” To which he said, “I know. I have seen documentaries and movies about Tibet.” After an hour and a half, the officers made me stand against the wall and took photos of me. The older man who seemed like the boss said I could go now.
On April 9th, the day of the torch relay, we gathered at the Embarcadero in the early morning. Despite the presence of Chinese nationalists – intent on provoking our side – the message of truth rang out clearly that day. Tibetans and supporters, joined by local residents from all walks of life, formed the largest groups we’d ever seen before in the Bay Area. The torch was relegated to a shameful and short sprint through a few city blocks before an unceremonious closing photo shoot on the side of the highway en route to the airport where it was flown out of the city for good. We had won a victory for Tibet!
Tendor confronts IOC President Jacque Rogue in front of journalists
ONE WORLD, ONE DREAM: FREE TIBET 2008 SFT MEMBERS STAGE 8 DARING PROTESTS FOR TIBET IN BEIJING DESPITE CHINA’S MASSIVE SECURITY OPERATION traditional practices and religion, and about the destruction of sacred places.
Aug 8: Flag action before Opening Ceremonies
Aug 9: Protest during equestrian event in Hong Kong
Before that trip I was an elite athlete in Australia. Then I stress-fractured my rib. And then a bout of glandular fever laid me low, forcing me to retire from my life as a rower, training for the Olympics. I did make it to the Olympics, finally, sort of, on August 15th when I rappelled down a 3 storey Olympics billboard in front of the iconic China Central Television building in Beijing to unfurl a 400 square-foot banner that said “Free Tibet” in English and Mandarin. My four British and American colleagues and I made it past hundreds of thousands of security personnel and 300,000 surveillance cameras, on duty for the games, to protest China’s egregious human rights abuses in Tibet.
August 13: Beijing’s Ethnic Minority Cultural Park
Just before dawn, on August 6th, two Tibet activists scaled light poles at the entrance of the Olympic park in Beijing and unfurled banners calling for Tibetan freedom. Creative direct actions in London, Paris, Brussels, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver followed, launching SFT’s two weeks of high-profile direct actions for Tibet during the Beijing Olympics. In the days that followed, 55 activists from the USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Tibet, Australia, and Japan, including three Tibetans with foreign passports, were detained and deported for participating in, observing or supporting Tibet protests in Beijing. These actions included: a display of Tibetan flags near the Bird’s Nest just before the opening ceremony began; a symbolic die-in at Tiananmen Square; a protest by a Tibetan woman with flags outside Tiananmen Square; a blockade of Beijing’s Ethnic Minority Cultural Park; a “Free Tibet” banner hang off an Olympics billboard outside the CCTV – China’s propaganda mouthpiece – headquarters; an LED light banner at midnight outside the Bird’s Nest reading “Free Tibet”; a display of defiant fists and Tibetan flags raised by activists outside the Bird’s Nest; and an open-air press conference in central Beijing to declare Olympic victory for Tibet, attended by over 30 foreign journalists. Protests and direct actions were also carried out in cities around the world, making this a truly global, two-week uprising for Tibet.
I like the Olympics and understand what it means for an athlete to dedicate their life to excellence in Aug 21: A salute and flag raising by activists outside the Bird’s Nest at the end of the men’s 200 meter dash finals, in the spirit of the John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s 1968 Olympic protest after the same event
we signaled that it was time to go, four people did a “die-in” by laying down in the Square, with the Chinese flag and Mao’s portrait in the background. They used faked blood to symbolize all of the death that has come to Tibetans. As they lay there, they draped Tibetan flags, which are illegal in China, across their bodies. A 5th person narrated in English to express to the global community what was happening. For the Chinese in the crowd, no narration was needed. The presence of the Tibetan flag said more than enough. While this 15-minute protest may seem small to many, it is not. The fact that countless bystanders and tourists saw the forbidden Tibetan flag displayed in Tiananmen Square will be historymaking. It is our deepest hope that one day soon it will be Tibetans freely displaying their own flag once again inside Tibet.”
Aug 6: Tibet Will Be Free banner in the heart of Beijing
WHY WE DID IT CATHIE BERREY-GREEN “On August 9th, my husband Al and I, along with our team, took a stand in solidarity with the people of Tibet. We used our freedom and the privilege of our US passports to enter China during the Olympics to shine the light of truth on the atrocities that are happening TODAY to the Tibetan people. There were reports that up to 10,000 troops had been moved into the area of eastern Tibet (a hotbed of
resistance) in order to keep people quiet during the Games. And still today, thousands remain detained or missing in China’s violent and ongoing crackdown against Tibetans who, starting in March, bravely rose up across Tibet to call for their human rights and freedom.
Many have said “Why you? You aren’t Tibetan.” Why us? It’s simple. The Chinese government closed its doors on their own so-called “people.” Countless Tibetans were denied visas during the Games. Some who were given visas later had them revoked days before they were scheduled to leave for China. Others were denied entry once they stepped off the plane in Beijing, where the motto was “One World, One Dream,” Tibetans were clearly not included. As a history teacher in Philadelphia, and as people of conscience, Al and I decided to take a stand in the name of Tibetans whose access to the Olympics had been denied. Each person on our
Cathie & Al posing as tourists in Beijing
Aug 15: Olympics billboard in front of China’s state-run television headquarters (CCTV)
Aug 10: Padma-Dolma Fielitz clings to a Tibetan flag outside of Tiananmen Square
Aug 9: Dramatic die-in at Tiananmen Square
team was there on behalf of a specific Tibetan who could not be. And despite over 300,000 security personnel throughout the city, on August 9, 2008, the action I had been planning for months became a reality. Five non-violent activists, and several more whose names will never appear in the paper, made history. Our action was to take place in one of the most historically political sites in all of China: Tiananmen Square. At 12:15pm, Al and I covertly met our team in between the Beijing 2008 sign and the Monument to the People (which by the way was totally blocked off from- “the people”). When
PADMA-DOLMA FIELITZ “When I got on the train from Shanghai to Beijing, I had already been awake for 30 hours. I could not sleep on the plane, not a single minute. About forty teenaged “German Olympic Fair Play Ambassadors” were having a party on the plane. I was not nervous. My mind switched into a different mode when things got serious. We were originally six, but ended up as two after the others were detained (and as it turns out, deported). From that point onwards my mind became extremely calculating and obsessed with our action. I started scanning every face, realizing that Steve (my last remaining
Aug 13: Blockading entrance to Beijing’s Ethnic Minority Cultural Park
teammate) and I could now get caught at any moment. And I was damn right – the woman who ended up violently interrogating me was the very same I had spotted a day earlier. Right before the action, I was overwhelmed by the number of “plain clothes” police around us. At that moment I was very tense, yet I was thinking about why I was there. I remembered my feeling of solidarity with Tibetans inside Tibet and the inspiration I gained from them in March. And then I was ready to kick some ass. I had been relaxed when I arrived in Beijing because I knew there was a big team of amazing people behind us. The training and safety framework provided by SFT gave me the confidence to focus on pulling off a successful action. Steve and I were arrested together with Adam, John and Maude (other SFT activists involved in a separate action). I did not know exactly what their task was, but I knew they would be ready. This summer was an incredible experience for me, and I think that outside of Tibet SFT really made the biggest and most effective effort to bring Tibet back into the spotlight.”
Aug 22: SFT concludes Olympics actions with a press conference attended by more than 30 foreign journalists
their field. But the subtitle of the Olympic Games is “the games of peace,” and having China host this important international event while continuing its illegal and brutal occupation of Tibet is beyond irony. I took part in the protest action this summer because I feel a personal responsibility to be involved. As a former athlete, a person of conscience, and as someone who has witnessed first hand the fear and intimidation Tibetans live under daily, I vowed to put the same energy into the fight for justice as I had once put into my training.” *To read Nicole’s entire article, please visit: www.studentsforafreetibet.org/Nicole
NICOLE RYCROFT “My journey to arrest and deportation from China began with an astounding bicycle trip through Nepal and into Tibet in 1995. This uphill epic into thin air, past Mount Chomolongma and Chinese border control, introduced me to a people and to a struggle for rights and freedom in Tibet. I witnessed the military occupation, still evident after 40 years, I spoke with people about the suppression of their Eight American Tibet supporters arrive home after being jailed in Beijing
HOW WE DID IT BEHIND THE SCENES OF SFT’S GRASSROOTS OLYMPICS ACTIONS and Yungdrung as outreach and development coordinator this year. As a result of our hosting two SFT Free Tibet! Action Camps in India, we have trained and inspired a new core group of young Tibetan and Indian activists to take leadership roles in the Tibet movement in India. We have also gained the experience and confidence to continue with the leadership training program in the future.
SFT Canada blockades Chinese Embassy in Ottawa
SFT CANADA MULTITASKS During the Olympics, in addition to organizing national events almost daily, SFT Canada had its hands full – Toronto was one of the 7 international media hubs setup to support SFT’s global direct actions during the Games. One of the highlights in Canada was the direct actions in Vancouver and Ottawa that were a part of the August 6th International Day of Action. The actions were unprecedented as they were carried out by Tibetans and a Chinese-Canadian. In Ottawa, six SFTers chained themselves to the embassy gate while two others climbed light poles on either side of the embassy gates and hung banners reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet” in English and French. Meanwhile in Vancouver, a Tibetan locked himself to a life-sized model of a Chinese tank that blocked the entrance of the consulate.
The level of activism amongst Tibetan youth in Dharamsala – the heart of Tibetan exile politics – has increased immensely in the past year because of SFT India’s innovative grassroots approach to campaigns and programs. SFT India plans to mobilize and activate more Indians and Tibetans this year by launching a national speaking tour across major Indian cities with a focus on the most prestigious educational institutions.
SFT India’s Shibayan Raha speaks to journalists
The Ottawa direct action group trained in Toronto for a week before the action. It was great to have such a big group of Tibetans come together – many of whom had never previously participated in any kind of direct action. Everything worked out as planned on the day of the action. The officials at the embassy were furious – we had shut down the office for an hour and a half. It was a great way to shine the Olympic spotlight on China’s illegal occupation of Tibet and show the Chinese leadership that it must take immediate steps to meaningfully and peacefully end its occupation of Tibet. -Bhutila Karpoche, SFT Canada Deputy Director SFT INDIA: A YEAR TO REMEMBER Since 2005, we have now grown from a small Dharamsala-based SFT chapter to a fully functioning national organization with four fulltime staff members. We welcome Shibayan Raha
Tenchoe and I were fortunate enough to be able to attend the historic November special meeting here in Dharamsala. By the end of the meeting I realized that the process of a fundamental shift in the movement has already begun – towards restoring our goal of a free and independent Tibet – and that now is the time for us to work even harder to achieve that goal. -Tenzin Choeying, SFT India National Director
Marchers stage Ghandian-style sit-in before being forcibly arrested
Tibetans resume peaceful march to Tibet in Dehra, India
THE MARCH TO TIBET: RISE UP, RESIST, RETURN “Freeze for Tibet” in Grand Central Terminal
I learned that most of the SFT HQ staff and core leaders were heading to Beijing and other cities around the world to support the global campaign for Tibet during the Games. A few interns and volunteers, including myself, were left in charge of planning actions in New York City. I was specifically assigned the role of volunteer coordinator, which meant that I not only had to help organize actions here in New York City, but I also had to find and mobilize people to participate in our actions. We were all part of Team Tibet New York City, and all together we organized 16 actions. Our most high-profile actions were a video projection on the Chinese Consulate, the “Window Jam” in Union Square and the” Grand Central Station Freeze.”
In 2008 we played a key role in the creation of the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement. The initiative was to bring all the major NGOs in India under a consolidated banner to engage China during the Beijing Olympic Games. One of the key objectives was to join forces in the interest of the larger common goal and in order to work together much more effectively. Another strength of the coalition was that it attracted support and participation from a much broader section of the community. Under the banner of TPUM, inspired by Gandhi’s march, we walked for four months and reached the Tibetan border despite Indian police intimidation and many arrests, and I ultimately spent nearly a month’s time during the march in Indian jail. Our ordeal during the march and the time in jail seemed so small compared to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Tibet.
“One World, One Dream: Free Tibet” banner hang in Ottawa
Tibetan exiles launch historic march to Tibet
On the opening night of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, a group of 20 Tibetans and supporters went to the Chinese Consulate on 42nd Street. We projected videos depicting the military crackdown in Tibet and the use of the Olympics as a political tool by China. We simultaneously hosted a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown in Tibet. This action was intended to inspire and motivate the spirit of the Tibetan people and to show the world what was really happening inside Tibet.
On January 4th, 2008 the Tibetan People’s Uprising Movement was launched by five leading Tibetan NGOs in India, including Students for a Free Tibet India, to strengthen the Tibetan resistance movement and draw global attention to the crisis in Tibet in the lead up to the Olympics. The main initiative of the movement was an historic Return March to Tibet by Tibetan exiles, which commenced from Dharamsala, India on March 10th, 2008. The marchers were determined to return to their homeland and to continue the struggle for freedom with their brothers and sisters inside Tibet.
On June 19th, the eve of the Olympic torch run through the highly militarized streets of Lhasa, three of the marchers were detained crossing into Tibet and dozens others were arrested at a nearby checkpoint. “We came to demonstrate to China, and to the world, that Tibet belongs to Tibetans and we will never give up in our fight for freedom,” said Chime Youngdung before being detained by Indian border forces as he tried to cross the border into Tibet. Although the march officially ended a few days later, protests and actions for Tibet continued across India in the lead up to and throughout the Beijing Olympics.
On Day 4 of the March, as news broke that the protests in Tibet had spread across the plateau, Indian police blocked the march and forcibly removed all of the marchers. Before being carried away, the marchers sat down and linked arms in true Gandhian-style civil disobedience. The next day, a second wave of marchers resumed, defying the government order, and restarted the march, which continued on for more than 100 days.
The incredible dedication of the marchers is a true testament to the Tibetan spirit of resilience and unwavering determination that Tibetans will be able to return home to a free and independent Tibet. Their sacrifice has inspired many Tibetans and supporters alike to work even harder to bring about an end to Chinese occupation in Tibet.
Many times the marchers were forcibly stopped, arrested, and even placed under travel restrictions, but through it all, they continued on.
The Long March Home: Read Jamyang Norbu’s blog post on the March to Tibet www.jamyangnorbu.com/blog/2008/06/16/the-long-march-home/
SFT’S AUG. 6TH GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION
On August 13th, a group of Team Tibet NYC members marched into Filene’s Basement at Union Square with concealed 8 x 10 pieces of paper – each with a letter written on it. This was Team Tibet NYC’s “Window Jam.” As everyone got in position in front of their assigned window, I gave the signal to take out the papers. The letters in the windows read “1 World, 1 Dream, Free Tibet 2008” and were visible to everyone in and around Union Square. It was one of our proudest moments. Two days later, on August 15th, hundreds of Tibetan freedom supporters assembled in Grand Central Terminal for a “flash mob” demonstration to show solidarity with the Tibetans inside Tibet who are suffering under Chinese occupation. We all carried Tibetan flags, and I was holding a huge banner over the balcony that read “Free Tibet.” Through this intense and humbling experience, I learned that a critical part of truly being a Tibetan is to show it through your ACTIONS. Hard work, dedication and sacrifice are what make Tibetans unique. And that is how, together, we can ensure that TIBET WILL BE FREE.”
Daring banner hang in front of Eiffel Tower in Paris Nyendak Wangchen fell 15 feet when her climbing rope was cut by Chinese Consulate staff in San Francisco during her mock-hanging action. She thankfully suffered only minor injuries, but this life-threatening attack gives a glimpse of the reality of China’s brutal rule in Tibet. Nyendak was denied a visa to protest in Beijing during the Games, but her courageous efforts in San Francisco make her a hero to SFTers everywhere.
Team Tibet NYC’s video projection action on the Chinese Consulate
TEAM TIBET NYC SHOWS HOW IT’S DONE “My name is Tenzin Gaphell, and I have been helping out around the SFT office since 2005. As we inched closer to the Beijing 2008 Olympics,
Life-sized tank blocks gate at Chinese Consulate in Vancouver
Tibetans, including former political prisoners, block the gates of the Chinese Embassy in Brussels
Blockade of entrance to SF Chinese Consulate
Banner hang for Tibet on London’s Tower Bridge
TIBET: ONE PEOPLE, ONE NATION,
THUKJECHE / THANK YOU
50 YEARS OF RESISTANCE
Dear Friends, On behalf of everyone at Students for a Free Tibet, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the dedicated individuals and organizations that helped make our ambitious Olympics campaign possible. Without the generous financial contributions from existing and new donors, and the dozens of volunteers – some who donated days, weeks and even months of their time to SFT’s efforts – we would not have accomplished everything we did in 2008.
MARCH 10TH, 2009 MARKS THE 50TH COMMEMORATION OF THE 1959 TIBETAN NATIONAL UPRISING But even a quick look at the history of the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation exposes the absurdity of this claim. In the 60 years since China invaded Tibet, Tibetans from all walks of life have sacrificed their lives to resist the occupation and restore Tibet’s freedom. This prevailing spirit of resistance was witnessed by the world last March and April when an unprecedented tidal wave of protest broke out across all three provinces of historical Tibet. Tibetans old and young – including monks, nuns, farmers, nomads, professionals and even Tibetan students in Chinese cities – risked everything by taking to the streets in protest. Tibet: One People, One Nation, 50 Years of Resistance To honor the courageous resistance of the Tibetan people, SFT has chosen the slogan above to use in all of our 50th commemoration activities. To counter the Chinese government’s propaganda, we must be clear that Tibetans are a people united, belonging to one nation, with a proud history of resistance. In the 50 days leading up to March 10, 2009, SFT is profiling 50 Tibetans who embody the enduring spirit of Tibetan resistance. Learn more at: www.studentsforafreetibet.org/50days Just as tens of thousands of Tibetans took to the streets in 1959, and again in the spring of 2008, we must demonstrate the global strength of the Tibet movement by taking to the streets this March in national capitals around the world. Help make this March 10th the largest global convergence for Tibet ever!
Lhasa, 1959: Tibetans rise up
On March 10th, 1959, thousands of Tibetans surrounded the Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s summer residence, to protect their leader and protest China’s invasion and occupation of their country. In the months leading up to this historic moment, the atmosphere in Lhasa had become increasingly tense as Tibetans from eastern Tibet poured into the capital, seeking refuge from Chinese repression in their towns and villages. Despite Tibetan government officials’ orders to disperse, the people refused to leave and the crowd continued to swell. When the first round of Chinese mortars fell near the Norbulingka on March 17th, the Dalai Lama began his harrowing escape to India on horseback and under the protection of Tibetan resistance fighters. In the following days, the mostly unarmed Tibetan public clashed with the Chinese army for control of Lhasa.Tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed and imprisoned and thousands more fled persecution by making the dangerous journey into exile in India.
At the same time, we must pressure our political leaders to go beyond verbal support for Tibet by taking concrete action to push China towards a resolution. Join SFT’s March 10th lobbying campaign and help take government support for Tibet to the next level. Tibetans inside Tibet have risked everything to raise their voices. We must ensure that their voices are heard in the halls of power around the world. The Beijing Olympics were a turning point for Tibet. Now we must redouble our efforts and push for an end to Chinese rule once and for all. For more ways you can get involved in this historic campaign, please visit: www.M10.org
March 10th, 2009 will mark exactly half a century since that decisive moment in Tibetan history when the people took to the streets to demand that China leave Tibet. Despite the overwhelming suffering and hardship Tibetans have faced under Chinese rule, they have refused to give up their right to freedom and independence. For the past 50 years, the Chinese government has done everything in its power to divide Tibetans and confuse the world about the issue. Tibet’s historical provinces of U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo have been cut up into the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the four Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu & Yunnan. At the same time, the Chinese authorities have tried to convince the international community that the majority of Tibetans are happy under Chinese rule and that it is only a privileged minority who agitate for independence.
SFT SPOTLIGHT FILM LEAVING FEAR BEHIND HIGHLIGHTING TIBETAN VOICES FROM INSIDE TIBET
Leaving Fear Behind is an exceptional film by Tibetans inside Tibet that captures firsthand the feelings, desires and struggles of Tibetans living under Chinese occupation. Filmed in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics, the footage was smuggled out of Tibet in March 2008, on the eve of mass protests by Tibetans across Tibet against Chinese rule. Dhondup Wangchen, the filmmaker, and his cameraman Jigme Golok, a monk, were imprisoned in March 2008. Dhondup Wangchen remains in prison today. Jigme Golok was tortured while in detention before being released back to his monastery in October 2008. The filmmakers traveled thousands of miles, asking ordinary Tibetans to express in their own words how they truly feel about the Dalai Lama, China, and the Beijing Olympics. The resulting interviews are a remarkable portrayal of ordinary Tibetans and their stories of hardship and courage. Imprisoned filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the March 10th, 1959 Tibetan National Uprising, Leaving Fear Behind is a testament
to the determination of the Tibetan people to regain their human rights and freedom. It is also a call to action by Tibetans inside Tibet to global leaders and the international community to help bring an end to China’s occupation of Tibet once and for all. In the lead up to March 10, 2009, SFT is working to highlight the voices of Tibetans from inside Tibet who have courageously resisted Chinese occupation for 50 years. By raising the profile of this exceptional film, we hope to inspire individuals and governments worldwide to take stronger action in support of Tibet.
I would also like to specifically acknowledge and sincerely thank the Tibetan community as a whole, along with Tibetan Associations from around the world, for their overwhelming generosity and dedication to SFT during this historic year. The support we received ensured that our teams were prepared for their actions and were able to return home safely. Your support enabled our communication and tech experts to purchase the equipment required to break through China’s Fire Wall in order to spread our message and images across the globe. With the help of so many of you, our staff was ready to engage the international media and provide thoughtful commentary and analysis, and our students and young Tibetan leaders were trained and ready to deliver cogent messages about China’s occupation of Tibet to their national and local media. Together we made sure that SFT’s global network of activists had the tools to carry out a clear plan of action that engaged Tibetans and the international public alike. Above all, our supporters believed in SFT and encouraged us to work toward our vision of nonviolent change for Tibet. For this we say Thank You. Tenzin Dorjee (Tendor), Deputy Director
TAKE ACTION 1. Organize a screening of Leaving Fear Behind Help make sure the voices of Tibetans who have risked everything are heard around the world by organizing a screening at your school or in your community, particularly between now and March 2009. 2.Contact your government representatives today Urge them to pressure the Chinese government for the release of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen and other innocent Tibetan political prisoners. 3.Contact the Chinese Minister of Justice Write to Chinese Minister of Justice, Wu Aiying and demand the immediate release of Dondhup Wangchen: Chinese Ministry of Justice, 10 Chaoyang Men Nan Da Jie, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, People’s Republic of China firstname.lastname@example.org Visit SFT’s Leaving Fear Behind Action Center: www.studentsforafreetibet.org/leavingfearbehind
SFT honors Beijing Olympics activists at victory party in New York
STANDING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY: A TRIBUTE TO TORCHBEARERS WHO REFUSED TO BE SILENT
Many torchbearers in China’s global torch relay boycotted the event, or staged inspiring protests, to show solidarity with the Tibetan people’s struggle for freedom and human rights. SFT would like to thank these individuals for their courage and inspiration. London: Francesca Martinez, British comedian San Francisco: Majora Carter and Michael Andrew, Social and Environmental Activists Tanzania: Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace laureate, Green Belt Movement of Kenya New Delhi: Baichung Bhutia, Captain of India’s national football team. Bangkok: M.R. Narisa Chakrabongse, Environmentalist Canberra: Lin Hatfield Dodds, Social Activist Seoul: Choi Seung-kuk, Environmentalist Nagano: Zenkō-ji temple monks who refused to host the relay’s opening ceremony
FREE TIBET 2008 TV During the two weeks of the Beijing Olympic Games in August, SFT introduced a new and innovative online video channel broadcasting exclusive interviews, footage from the Beijing protests, and behind-the-scenes highlights not available through mainstream media – live, everyday. The channel was called Free Tibet 2008 Television, or FT08.TV. The web TV channel was designed as a counterpoint to China’s rampant clampdown on media and internet freedom in China. Produced entirely by SFTers and headquartered in London, FT08.TV instantly became the source of an intimate look at the Olympic efforts of Students for a Free Tibet, including video of SFT’s nonviolent direct actions in Beijing during the Olympic Games and interviews with activists who had been arrested and deported from China for staging the protests. Many of the interviews were accompanied by brief ‘video profiles’ of the activists, providing insight into the activists’ methods and motivations. In addition to the produced content, FT08.TV featured hours of on-demand video content submitted by viewers, including mini-documentaries, protest videos, and music videos. The channel employed cutting-edge technology including the internet-based broadcast programs ‘Mogulus’ (still in beta) and ‘Camtwist.’ Visit www.FT08.tv to watch highlights from SFT’s Olympics coverage and exclusive interviews with Tibet activists. FT08.tv’s daily Windhorse Report
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Dates to Remember February 25: First Day of Losar (Tibetan Lunar New Year) March 10: 50th Anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising April 25: Panchen Lama’s 20th Birthday June 4: 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre July 6: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 74th Birthday Protests for Tibet in New York City were held for 166 consecutive days – from March 10th until the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games
YXee\[`ek`Y\k Editor: Heather Reddick Design & Layout: Juice Design SFT HQ: Lhadon Tethong Executive Director Tenzin Dorjee Deputy Director Heather Reddick Operations Director Kate Woznow Campaigns Director SFT India: : Jogiwara Road P.O Mcleod Ganj Dharamshala, Kangra District HP 176219, India www.sftindia.org | +91 1892 221516 Tenzin Choeying National Director Tenzin Choeden Program Director Shibayan Raha Outreach Coordinator SFT Canada: 109-358 Dufferin St. Toronto, ON M6K 1Z8, Canada www.sftcanada.org | 647-722-2350 Tsering Lama National Director Bhutila Karpoche Deputy Director SFT UK: Unit 10, Inner City House 165-169 Lewisham Way, New Cross London, SE14 6QP, United Kingdom www.sftuk.org | email@example.com Pete Speller National Coordinator Banned in Tibet is a semi-annual newsletter published by Students for a Free Tibet. SFT works in solidarity with the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom and independence. As a chapter-based network of young people and activists in 35 countries around the world, we use education, grassroots organizing, and nonviolent direct action to campaign for Tibetans’ fundamental right to political freedom. This newsletter is dedicated in part to the memory of Michalis Sourlis (1974-2008). Michalis was a talented photographer and journalist, and a very dear friend of Tibet.
Students for a Free Tibet International Headquarters 602 East 14th Street, 2nd Floor NY, NY 10009 USA 212.358.0071 Fax: 212.358.1771 www.studentsforafreetibet.org blog.studentsforafreetibet.org
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Banned in Tibet, SFT’s Newsletter.