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Annual review 2011

A Students for a Free Tibet UK report

Photo: SFT Launching the Enough! campaign in Nice

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About SFT UK


Students for a Free Tibet UK (SFT UK) works in solidarity with the Tibetan people in their struggle for freedom and independence. The SFT UK network is part of the international SFT movement of young people and activists around the world. Through education, grassroots organising, and non-violent direct action, we campaign for Tibetans’ fundamental right to political freedom. Our role is to empower and train youth as leaders in the worldwide movement for social justice.

SFT UK’s vision is of an independent Tibet, as part of a just and equitable world, free of oppression, in which there is respect for the earth and all living things. We see a world where young people realise that they can and must take responsibility to change our world for the better, and are equipped with the skills and knowledge to do so effectively and non-violently.

SFT UK has an volunteer board who manage their own projects within the organisation. These projects range from campaigns to fundraisers and grassroots to administrative responsibilities. SFT UK does not have an office and board members use their own resources. The board are elected every October, with board positions lasting for two years. Any SFT UK supporters may apply for the board, and are encouraged to take part in SFT UK training conferences, attend SFT’s flagship Action Camps or to have run their own Tibet group at uni before applying for the board. SFT UK is especially keen to train and recruit more Tibetans to join the board and to get active within the network. The board has up to eight members and the Chairman is elected by the rest of the board in April, a position which lasts one year.

Thank you to all of SFT UK’s board members and others who have volunteered over the year, and to those who have moved on to prominent roles elsewhere like former National Co-ordinator Jigdal’s move to SFT India. And a special thanks to all of SFT UK’s supporters and donors, without whom we would not be able to grow this organisation and be a part of the strenghtening of the Tibetan independence movement worldwide.

Bhoe gyalo!

Students for a Free Tibet UK C/O Unit 9, 139 Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 3HF, UK E-mail: Web: Twitter: Facebook:


SFT UK’s board members through 2011: - (Current): Pema (Director), Liam, Gabriel (Chair), Sonam, Tsephel, Lisa, Tom. Padma, Jigdal and Claire left the board in 2011 after moving out of the UK, Sum-Lung left to concentrate on his studies.

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Contents ____________ 1 Introduction 2 Tibet today

3 Campaigns

-The Enough! campaign -Nomad Rights -The Lhakar movement -Political prisoners -Other campaigns

4 Lobbying

5 Network building -Grassroots -Coalitions -Training

6 Communications

-Traditional media -Digital media -Supporter communications

7 Finance

-Fundraising -Finances

4 5

7 9 10 11 12 13

14 14 15

16 16 16

17 18

Photos: Flag protest in Tibet, Uprising Day march in London, Tibetan nomad on the plateau, the Enough! campaign launch in Cannes, arrested monks paraded on Tibetan streets, outside parliament for the debate on the crisis in Tibet. More info -


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Introduction ________________ This has been a year of epic change around the world. In spite of the Chinese government’s refusal to acknowledge the inevitable forces for freedom that are steadily building, Tibetans in Tibet are challenging China’s control at every turn.

At SFT, we’re working around the clock to maximize the impact of their actions while pushing the movement forward and achieving milestones for Tibetan freedom, and at SFT UK we’re building our presence and strengthening our network to support Tibetans in Tibet.

2011 has been a significant year for us. Tibetans inside Tibet have reached a breaking point. On the 1st December, Tenzin Phuntsok became the 12th Tibetan this year to set himself on fire in protest against China’s oppression. Seven are known to have died, and pamphlets handed out in Ngaba, Eastern Tibet suggest that more Tibetans are prepared to take this drastic and tragic action. But we do not have the luxury of despair. At this critical time, we must give Tibetans in Tibet a reason to hope. We must show them that their actions are being heard and met with overwhelming global support.

We know what we’re doing isn’t in vain. Following SFT’s protests at the G20 in Cannes and the Global Day of Action involving Tibet support groups across the world, we received an audio message from Eastern Tibet: “We know about your efforts on our behalf, especially your global actions around the world… everything you do brings a huge relief to us.” Thank you to everyone who has supported SFT’s campaigns and programs in 2011. Together, we are giving Tibetans in Tibet that reason to hope, and SFT UK will keep building this movement in 2012.

12 The number of tibetans known to have set themselves on fire in protest against chinas oppressive rule in 2011 Photos: Shocking photo of the self-immolation of Palden Choetso and a vigil in London for those who self-immolated.


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Tibet today _______________

The current status of the Tibet movement and what it means for SFT UK

A year of resistance

2011 has been a momentous year for resistance movements worldwide. It’s also been a year where some of the world’s longest standing and most brutal dictators have fallen. Some of these changes have come amid violence and others through peaceful means, but all show us something which we must always bare in mind in activist work; however powerful oppressive regimes are and however difficult the challenge of opposing them may be, things change.

What became known as the ‘Arab Spring’ in early 2011 started with non-violent protests in Tunisia, where long-simmering grievances against the oppressive dictatorship of Zine Al Abedine Ben Ali developed into large scale peaceful protests after the self-immolation of market trader Mohammed Bouazizi. Shockwaves echoed through the Middle East when the protesters successfully toppled the regime, with similar success in Egypt, despite dictator Hosni Mubarak starting out commanding the world’s third largest army. Elsewhere, Libyan resistance fighters ended Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year reign, South Sudan gained independence from Omar Al-Bashir’s tyrannical rule and the deaths of other brutal leaders like Al Queda’s Osama Bin Laden and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il demonstrated that terror can be defeated. The ‘Arab Spring’ even struck China itself, where authorities scrambled to contain a series of protests inspired by the ‘Jasmine Revolution’. In fact, China is increasingly becoming a hotbed of discontent, with some 180,000 protests against the state in 2010, prompting the government to spend more on ‘internal security’ in 2011 than on it’s massive army for the first time, but which has failed to prevent huge protests like those in Dailan and Wukan in 2011. Meanwhile Chinese activists like Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei have again taken centre stage this year, and more and more Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongolians are using technology to find ways around state controls. Tibetans, who have resisted Chinese rule for over 60 years, are not alone.

It’s a trying time for authoritarian regimes and a true renaissance for civil resistance movements. This isn’t lost on the oppressive Chinese Communist Party, who cite ‘stability’ as one of their primary concerns. China is unstable, and the Chinese state’s continuing focus on flooding Tibet with military and limiting Tibetans’ connections to the outside world shows that the peaceful Tibetan resistance represents a significant threat to China’s control. And it’s a resistance which has evolved significantly in 2011.

53 billion £5 The amount China spent on ‘internal security’ in 2010; an increase of 16% Photos: Crowds calling for change in Morrocco as part of the ‘Arab Spring’, Chinese citizens resist the state in the town of Wukan, Tibetans under arrest in a series of leaked photos and video exposing state brutality in Tibet. More info -


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The Tibet movement

In 2011 we’ve seen some real changes in the Tibet movement, both inside and outside Tibet.

There can be little doubt that despite China’s attempts to hide information about the ‘Arab Spring’ from citizens under it’s control, Tibetans have been inspired by these events. There has also been a clear change in the movement since the Tibetan uprising of 2008. The movement has diversified; we’re not just seeing monks and nuns, the traditional leaders of political movements in Tibet, take to the streets. We’re also seeing students, artists, writers, musicians, environmentalists, businessmen and nomads take part in all manner of activities in 2011, from street protests to petitions for political prisoners, from human chains at mining sites to flag hanging off the roofs of buildings, from expressing Tibetan national identity in the arts to forming the Lhakar civil disobedience movement which is sweeping across Tibet. There can be no doubt that the Tibetan freedom movement is being led by Tibetans in Tibet. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said this year, Tibetans in Tibet are our boss, and it’s up to us to support them. The movement outside Tibet is also changing, and not only with the transition within the Tibetan government-in-exile. What has long been a ‘support’ issue is becoming a true resistance movement. Tibet is no longer the ‘dead cause’ some people believed it to be before 2008, and this year of successful resistance has again exposed the myth that ‘non-violent movements don’t work’. We’ve seen non-violent movements come to fruition this year, and we’re seeing such a movement grow in Tibet today. Tibetans in exile are also leading this movement, and this is something which SFT seeks to encourage and facilitate. Tibetans will always have supporters to help them, but they themselves are the true and rightful leaders of this movement. The more young Tibetans who can be trained and developed to lead, both inside and outside Tibet, the sooner an independent Tibet will become a reality.

But it’s also been another hard year for Tibetans. As China steps up its repression, 12 Tibetans have taken the drastic step of setting themselves on fire to highlight what is happening in their country. At least seven have died and reports indicate that many more are willing to take this potentially fatal action. Many hundreds of Tibetans still languish in some of the most horrific prisons in the world, suffering all manner of torture which many do not survive, while more Tibetans are being arrested, beaten and imprisoned for as little as sending e-mail to friends about Tibet, making documentary films, owning MP3 recordings of ‘subversive’ songs, complaining about police brutality or refusing to denounce the Dalai Lama. And Tibetans are still being denied education rights, fair job opportunities and religious freedom while hundreds of thousands of nomads are being forced into tenement housing reminiscent of the reserves into which Native Americans were placed as their culture was pushed close to extinction. There’s still a long and difficult road ahead before Tibet gains its freedom.

1 to every 10 some reports state that 55,000 troops were placed into ngaba in march, a rate of around 1 to every 10 tibetan citizens


Photos: Tibetans take part in a daring action to fly a large photo of the Dalai Lama and national flag off a building, the extent of Chinese military build-up in Tibtan areas. More info -

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Campaigns _______________

What SFT UK is doing to promote freedom for Tibet

The Enough! campaign

SFT, in collaboration with other Tibet groups, launched the Enough! Campaign for global multi-lateral action to end the crisis in Tibet, where 13 young Tibetans have self-immolated in protest against Chinese rule; 12 in 2011 alone. Until 2011, there had only been one known case of self-immolation, that of the young monk Tapey in 2009. But on 16th March, 20-year-old monk Phuntsok Jarutsang of Kirti monastery in Eastern Tibet set himself on fire. He was set upon and beaten by Chinese police and later died in hospital, most likely of his burn wounds. His action highlighted the depth of despair Tibetans are feeling over the abuse and oppression they suffer at the hands of the Chinese regime. In particular, it underlined the repressive controls exerted on Tibetan monasteries, where Chinese ‘work teams’ descend on these religious centres to carry out ‘patriotic re-education’; forcing monks and nuns to recite communist texts and demanding they denounce their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. In 2011, the UK’s Conservative Party Human Rights Commission reacted to news from Tibet by explicitly calling for an end to patriotic re-education, adding to the US State Department’s ongoing criticism of China’s repression of religion in Tibet. But China’s reaction to Phuntsok’s self-immolation was not confined to monasteries. Hundreds of Tibetans protested against the authorities, who laid siege to Kirti, attempting to starve the monks out, beating two senior citizens to death in the process. They arrested hundreds of monks and laypeople, even sentencing those close to Phuntsok for ‘murdering’ him. These harsh tactics didn’t work, and in August another monk, Tsewang Norbu of Ngaba, also died of self-immolation, and similar cases erupted, with teenagers Lobsang Kalsang, Lobsang Konchok, Kalsang Wangchuk, Chopel, Kyayang and Norbu Damdrul, Dawa Tsering and the nun Tenzin Wangmo all self-immolating in October. Another nun, Palden Choetso, self-immolated in November and former monk Tenzin Phuntsog in December.

These incidents came amid a build-up of military presence in Tibet, which SFT and other groups documented with photos, footage and eyewitness testimony throughout the year. They’ve also taken place alongside a growing amount of protests and inventive methods of civil disobedience by Tibetans from all three regions, showing that the Tibetan people have had enough of Chinese rule. The Enough! campaign is designed to echo the demands of Tibetans inside Tibet and to press for multi-lateral action from governments across the world to call on China to end it’s oppression of the Tibetan people.

5,000 The number of tibetans who attended the enthronement of a life-size portrait of the dalai lama in kham, subverting state controls

Photos: SFT activists launch the Enough! campaign in Cannes, Tibetans enthrone a life-size image of the Dalai Lama, protest at the Chinese Embassy, London.

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On 2nd November, more than 100 actions were carried out in 65 cities and at the G20 Summit in Cannes, France to launch the Enough! campaign.

SFT and Tibetan Youth Association in Europe members rappelled off the Cannes Railway Station, unfurling protest banners and Tibetan flags. A week later, US Secretary of State Clinton urged China to reform its Tibet policies and other high-level politicians have followed suit. SFT UK sent activists to take part in those actions, helping to grab media attention for the Tibetan cause across the world. SFT UK also staged protests, political theatre and ‘Chalk Tibet’ actions outside some of London’s most prominent landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus and the Chinese Embassy. Similar actions were organised throughout 2011, most notably around the self-immolations of Tibetans in Tibet. Through actions like these, we can not only make more people aware of what’s happening in Tibet and join the movement, but we make sure Tibetans who are abused, imprisoned and killed while standing up for their rights and their country are not forgotten. For its part, the Chinese government and Embassy has responded by blaming the crisis in Tibet on ‘external forces’; proof again that they use the worldwide Tibet movement as a scapegoat for their own failed policies because they see it as a threat.

The Enough! campaign is gaining popular support, with over 40,000 people, including Nobel Laureates, politicians, celebrities, and musicians, signing the pledge at We brought this petition to world leaders at the G20, and groups in the UK and across the world have passed it on to their governments. In the US, the petition was given directly into Barack Obama’s hands. We also used the success of the petition to work alongside Avaaz to launch another petition about the crisis in Tibet, for which we gained over 670,000 signatories in 2011.

Both public protests and international support can make a difference, as we’ve seen across the world in 2011, and in 2012 we’ll continue to push for multi-lateral action for Tibet. The US, Japan and the EU have already issued very positive statements, while in the UK there was a parliamentary debate on Tibet, the first since 2008, led by the Liberal Democrat’s Deputy Leader Simon Hughes, and there have been calls from the Foreign Secretary for greater freedom in Tibet.

Tibetans’ demands are probably best summed up by teenage monk Norby Damdrul, who, as he selfimmolated in October, called for “complete independence for Tibet”. This is the cornerstone of SFT’s message, and in 2012 we will continue pushing for an end to the Chinese occupation.



Photos: Political theatre at Downing Street, London on the Global Day of Action and some of the notable celebrities and politicians who signed the Enough! petition. Sign the petition -

The number of people who signed the Enough! petition in 2011

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Nomad Rights campaign

The Chinese government is quietly pursuing a sinister plan to force all 2.25 million Tibetan nomads off their ancestral land into reservation-style, concrete housing blocks. Once there, their livestock are confiscated or slaughtered, no jobs or education in urban skills is offered and they slip into poverty. In September, SFT launched the Nomad Rights campaign to raise the global alarm and to demand an end to China’s forced resettlement. A week of protests coincided at the UN General Assembly, and was launched, along with a video on the plight of Tibetan nomads that has been viewed over 8,000 times. SFT UK kicked off the Nomad Rights campaign in April by organising SFT’s first ever environmental conference at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London, where we invited experts on the Tibetan plateau from around the world. They delivered seminars on climate change, mining, resettlement, alternative incomes and the culture of the plateau, offering scientific insights which can be used in the international campaign to protect this vital environment and the nomadic culture which has managed it sustainably for thousands of years.

We’re also expanding our networking both at a grassroots and NGO level by linking up with environmental groups, like the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, with whom we have common ground regarding the deterioration of the Tibetan plateau. The plateau has a significant bearing on the planet’s environment, not only because it houses the sources of many of Asia’s largest rivers like the Ganges and Brahamputra, but because the speed at which the Tibetan ice sheet is melting will have catastrophic consequences for downstream nations like India and Bangladesh if it isn’t tackled. Enviromental groups understand that Tibetan nomads have preserved this environment for thousands of years, while China’s rapid industrialisation of the region, including damming and deforestation, is accelerating the impact of climate change. SFT’s area of expertise is Tibetans’ rights, but allowing nomads to continue their traditional lifestyle is also vital to ensuring the survival of the plateau.

The battle for nomad rights is a battle for the land itself, and that’s a key part of SFT’s message. Inside Tibet, we’ve seen an increase of protests against mines, pollution and deforestation, including one incident in Maisu where Tibetans sabotaged chainsaws and set up a constantly manned checkpoint to stop Chinese loggers entering a forest to cut it down. The world can’t let what happened to the Native Americans and Aboriginal Australians happen to Tibetan nomads, and in 2012, we’ll be taking the nomad issue to new audiences, to governments, companies and international bodies to push for respect for nomad rights.

2015 The year by which china aims to ”‘“”end tibetan nomads way of life forever.’” Photos: A nomadic resettlement compex and a nomad living on the Tibetan plateau (photo: Jim McGill) More info -


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The Lhakar movement

One of the most exciting developments to come out of Tibet in 2011 has been Lhakar; the Tibetan selfreliance and non-cooperation movement. It’s important for two main reasons; first it’s been entirely led by Tibetans inside Tibet and second, it marks a shift to the next stage of peaceful independence movements. Tibetans have begun mass organised civil disobedience. They’ve said they are inspired by Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement, which brought independence to India against apparently insurmountable odds.

What began as a campaign to take simple actions on Wednesdays (‘Lhakar’ meaning ‘white Wednesday’; the Dalai Lama’s ‘soul day’) has evolved, spread and expanded. Tibetans are engaging in low-risk and sustainable activities; eating only in Tibetan restaurants, buying only from Tibetan shops, not using Chinese words while speaking Tibetan. One prominent case involved Tibetans in Nangchen in Kham complaining about the high price of vegetables being sold by Chinese sellers, as Tibetans are often paid less than Chinese immigrants, even for the same jobs. When the sellers refused to lower their prices, Tibetans banded together, with Tibetan vegetable sellers from other counties traveling to Nangchen to sell vegetables at affordable prices, forcing Chinese buisinesses to close. Other examples include Tibetans fining each other for using Chinese words and insisting that those who attend religious festivals, including Chinese security, wear Tibetan dress. Actions like these are spreading across Tibet, and are helping Tibetans develop a greater sense of unity while underlining their cultural and national identity as Tibetans.

To promote the Lhakar movement in exile, SFT supported the launch of and launched, encouraging Tibetans and supporters worldwide to take a Lhakar pledge and for Tibetans to do something intrinsically Tibetan every Wednesday and blog about it. This is creating a sense of unity in the exiled community as well and helps exiled Tibetans, especially those who have never been able to visit their own country, to feel connected to their culture and people.

The Lhakar movement has a strong future and the togetherness it creates echoes the protest calls from inside Tibet, where we’re seeing more cases of Tibetans calling for unity among the Tibetan people; a message which is being distributed through music, film, art and poetry and which the Chinese state is having difficulty keeping up with. Tibetan writers like Tashi Rapten, Pema Rinchen and Jolep Dawa were arrested in 2011 for their work criticising the Chinese state and encouraging unity among Tibetans, but their work is being shared; another avenue, like Lhakar, which Tibetans are using to maintain and strengthen their national identity. SFT UK will continue to promote Lhakar and the Tibetan artistic renaissance in 2012, while both training and encouraging more exiled Tibetans to take part.

6 yuan

Photos: Exiloed Tibetans mark Lhakar by eating Tibetan tsampa, vegetable market in Nangchen.


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The difference in price between a kilo of apples being sold by chinese (8 yuan) and by tibetan sellers (2 yuan) in nangchen.

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Political prisoners

Hundreds of people are being held for political reasons in Tibet today. We can’t highlight every case, and the truth is that many Tibetans are taken away secretly, with little or no news about their arrests, treatment and wellbeing known. But by highlighting the cases of individual prisoners, we can not only campaign for their release but shine a light on the systematic detention and abuse of Tibetans under Chinese rule. Sometimes this improves the treatment they receive, sometimes they are released early but always their names, their lives and their heroism are not forgotten.

SFT UK has been working alongside a global network of groups to promote, which highlights 12 prisoners. We have been promoting actions based around these prisoners using different methods, such as a text message campaign for imprisoned cadre Norzin Wangmo, petitions for Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche and Lobsang Tenzin and a video letter writing action for film maker Dhondup Wangchen. SFT UK also helped organise a visit to the UK by Dhondup Wangchen’s wife Lhamo Tso, who spoke at the SFT UK conference in Hull.

SFT UK also reports news of new cases, such as those which occurred during a series of protests and crackdowns in Ngaba and Kardze during 2011, and on the development of cases such as fears over Lobsang Tenzin’s health in prison. SFT UK also launched the ‘Guardians for a Free Tibet’ webpage, which highlights six prisoners and asks supporters to help fund our work to highlight their cases while also taking actions for that prisoner in the local area. We also join other Tibetan, Chinese and Uyghur groups for protests to highlight political prisoner cases on Human Rights Day and other key dates.

Sadly 2011 has also seen the deaths of more Tibetans in prison and further instances of the Chinese state’s practice of torturing inmates and releasing them to die in hospital so that records do not show they died in custody. 2011 has included disturbing cases of Chinese aurthorities beating, arresting and torturing children as young as 13 and a case where a young woman with no connection to a self-immolation case was tortured for a week because she was the daughter of a man authorities suspected of sharing There are at information about the crisis in Tibet. In 2011, film has been leaked of Chinese least 850 police beating Tibetans, while in one of many cases, a Tibetan man was beaten political to death apparently for speeding on his motorbike. It is important to report cases prisoners in of detention, abuse and torture to expose China’s brutal rule in Tibet and to embarrass the Chinese state, who place great value on ‘saving face’ in public. tibet, with China cannot ‘save face’ or convince the world that it is a ‘developed’ nation many more when it is seen to continue this backward, medieval approach to Tibetan dissent. detained and

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beaten during ongoing crackdowns.

Photos: Imprisoned Tibetan heroes Jigme Guri, Runggye Adak, Dhondup Wangchen, Norzin Wangmo, Paljor Norbu, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, Lobsang Tenzin, Bangri Chongtrul Rinpoche, Tashi Rabten, Kunga Tseyang, Kelsang Tsultrim and Dolma Kyab.

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Other campaigns

Occupation is no vacation The St. Regis Lhasa Resort became the first luxury hotel in Lhasa in November 2010, and UK-based Intercontinental Hotels plans to open another huge complex in 2012. SFT’s senior staff met with St. Regis’ executives in the US and in London we leafleted share-holders at Intercontinental’s board meeting in May and spoke to them about the occupation of Tibet and how Tibetan workers are often marginalised in their own land. With China constantly banning foreign tourists from entering Tibet and the crisis in the country, it’s important that we reach out to companies looking to invest in Tibet and show them that not only is that investment insecure, but that it is contributing to the abuse and oppression of the Tibetan people.

Stop mining Tibet One of China’s main reasons for occupying Tibet is to extract it’s vast natural resources, which China uses to fuel it’s industrial centres drive it’s economy, but Tibetans continue to stand up to show that they oppose these developments in their country. We’ve been taking part in postcard campaigns against China Gold in Canada and are encouraging the World Gold Council, based in the UK, to certify gold from Tibet ‘conflict gold’, thereby making it less valuable to extract for export markets. Many foreign companies have pulled out of Tibet over the years, but cases like one in Kardze in September, where Chinese mining officials opened fire, injuring two Tibetan labourers, represent the true face of China’s mining operations.

Wen Jiabao UK visit When senior Chinese ministers visit the UK, it’s important they know the level of support that exists for Tibet, and that they ‘lose face’; one of their key things they wish to avoid on state visits. SFT UK and other groups made sure Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s 2011 visit and the media attention surrounding it was filled with images of Tibetan flags, slogans about human rights and coverage of the true face of China’s leadership. We had a letter printed in the Guardian the day before the visit, and had our protests covered in the Metro and Standard newspapers and prime time bulletinns on BBC, ITV and Sky TV. SFT UK also used the opportunity to speak to delegates at Wen’s speech at the Royal Society, including former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy spent more money than ever bussing in paid Chinese flag waving ‘supporters’, who failed to gain comparable media coverage. Wen’s visit was another PR disaster, following Vice President Li Keqiang’s visit earlier in the year.

Refugees in Nepal The treatment of Tibetans in Nepal is likely to be an area of concern in 2012, after SFT’s successful campaign to put pressure on Nepalese authorities not to send 23 young Tibetan refugees back to face arrest and torture in September. China’s influence in Nepal is worrying, and SFT UK will be encouraging Nepalese politicians to defend their sovereignty and Tibetan’s rights by refusing to kowtow to China.

1,000 The number of children thought to be infected by lead poisoning in the water supply from a mine in amdo. Photos: Some of the Tibetan refugees who were eventually given safe passage from Nepal to India, protest during Wen Jiabao’s UK visit.


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Lobbying ____________

How SFT UK is pushing for political action for Tibet

Every year, SFT UK co-organises the Mass Lobby for Tibet, bringing UK politicians face-to-face with UK Tibetans and supporters. It’s a great way to build relationships with MPs and bring the issue home to them. It’s part of a worldwide drive to gain political support for the Tibetan people. At the same time as the UK lobby in March, more than 100 Tibetan-Americans and supporters descended on Capitol Hill to urge greater congressional support for Tibet. The next day, SFT Canada arrived in Ottawa for two days of lobbying the Canadian parliament for Tibet. National Tibet lobby days were also held in Sydney, Australia, New Delhi, India; and Tokyo, Japan. And we’ve seen some positive statements of support from British MPs, for whom Tibet is an issue with cross-party support, especially important now that we have a coalition government with a small majority. British voters’ opinions count, and SFT UK will be running training sessions in 2012 to empower UK voters, particularly Tibetan constituents, to help create an effective mass lobby force for March and continue the dialogue with MPs throughout the year.

We’ve also seen some encouraging signs around the self-immolations in Tibet, with the first parliamentary debate on Tibet since 2008 and strong words of encouragement from supportive MPs such as Simon Hughes and Fabian Hamilton, who we will be working with in 2012 to follow through some of their recommendations on where next to take the Tibet issue to build momentum in parliament. It was great to see around 50 UK-based Tibetans attend the debate, helping bring the issue home to MPs.

We’re also reaching out to MPs at party conferences. SFT UK’s Pema met delegates and posed some difficult questions to Chinese Vice Ambassador Qin Gang at the Labour Party Conference this year, forcing him to avoid the issues of human rights abuses and oppression in Tibet. Again, a Chinese state representative was embarressed in front of his peers, and again the real issues behind the propaganda were exposed to British MPs.

SFT UK is also supporting the International Tibet Network’s drive to be more joined up in our approach to world leaders. China is good at using divide and conquor tactics; picking off other nation’s complaints about human rights abuses one by one, but we’ve shown with the Enough! campaign that if we approach governments across the world at the same time, we can gain further-reaching support and we hope to encourage nations who value the principles of democracy and freedom to work together to condemn China’s opposition of these principles; principles which we all have a vested interest in protecting.


according to mp’’s researchers, the amount of constituents who need to write about an issue before an mp regards it Photos: Pema (SFT UK) and Karma (TYUK) deliver a letter to the Prime Minister’s office, UK-based Tibetans important. meet supportive MPs at the parliamentary debate, Pema and Tsephel meet Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay.

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Network building

_______________________ How SFT UK is helping build the Tibet movement

In 2011, SFT expanded its international online action network to over 60,000 people and our Facebook network grew to over 100,000. SFT has national networks in 10 countries, and 650 chapters, most based in universities. SFT currently employs 12 staff members worldwide, which from mid 2011 has included SFT UK’s Director Pema Yoko, who has been working remotely for SFT’s HQ in the US as well as leading SFT UK. In 2012, SFT UK aims to make this a permanent paid position, giving us more capacity to focus our work in the UK and build SFT UK into an effective non-profit organisation. Grassroots We’re also looking to expand our grassroots chapters in the UK, and have been pleased to see the Hastings and Edinburgh Tibet groups getting so active this year. We’ll be working to develop them in 2012, along with targeting new groups, visiting universities and expanding into sixth forms to raise awareness about Tibet and train young people to be advocates for social justice. We’ll also continue working with our established groups like those in Hull and Essex, continuing to provide campaigning materials, fresher packs, weekend training sessions and speaker tours. We’re growing as an organisation, but students will always be our backbone. We’ll be strengthening our commitment to empowering young people in the UK in 2012, and hope to see more students making an impact on their campuses and joining the board. Coalitions SFT UK’s influence in the UK Tibet Support Group coalition has grown in 2011, with us more able to take the lead in organising events such as the Panchen Lama vigil and Global Day of Action protests. We’re keen to strengthen the coalition in 2012 and help streamline our activities to put Tibetans in Tibet at the centre of everything we do. With the March Uprising Day and Mass Lobby coming up, 100 years after Tibet’s last official declaration of independence, we and our partners will keep putting Tibet on the map.

We’re also keen to develop our networking in other coalitions which SFT UK is a part of, such as Chinese, Uygur and Tibetan Solidarity UK and the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition. SFT UK also launched our One Struggle website to show how different causes are affected by the Chinese state, and will continue to network with peaceful causes oppressed by the Chinese state.



Photos: SFT banner, members of Hull Human Rights Action group protest, Tibetans, Chinese and Uyghurs mark the anniversary of theTiananmen Square massacre. More info -

the number of countries which currently have an sft presence.

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Training is a big part of what SFT does, and SFT UK are expanding our opportunities to develop new advocates for Tibetan freedom while also teaching people about their own rights and political freedoms and how to use them. SFT training teaches young people not only about Tibet, but about social justice and the principles which underpin a free society. These are the principles which will benefit generations to come!

We were delighted to be taking part in the training of delegates at SFT’s flagship Free Tibet Action Camp training week in Germany this year, where we joined some of the best Tibet activists and experts in the world for a packed schedule of hands-on interactive training sessions for Tibetans and supporters from around the world. We continue to develop our own training sessions, and were encouraged by the passion and commitment of students taking part in SFT UK’s annual training conference in Hull.

We’ve also started taking our training sessions to new audiences this year, notably to the Tibetan community, and we hope to deliver more training to UK-based Tibetans in 2012, particularly in the build-up to the mass lobby. We’re also planning more focused training sessions with our university groups and one-on-one training for prospective board members.

It’s all about developing people to lead this movement, especially developing Tibetan leaders. In 2011, SFT held leadership conferences in the US, UK, Japan, Taiwan, and Canada, attended by more than 300 students, activists and Tibetan community organisers, who were trained in nonviolent resistance, online and mobile security, public speaking, grassroots recruitment, media advocacy, and direct action coordination. We’ve also played an active role in delivering training sessions for other Tibet support groups in the International Tibet Network and SFT international has been developing the Lhakar Academy in India, where future leaders of the movement can learn everything they need to bring the Tibet movement to the next level. SFT UK’s Pema was one of the first graduates this year.

It was also great to work with a whole new generation of free thinkers when SFT UK had a three day tent in the Kids Field at the Glastonbury music festival, where we taught kids Tibetan phrases, got them making Tibetan hats and rangzen bands and colouring yaks. SFT UK had stalls at other outdoor events as well, such as the Womad world music festival, all attracting new people to the cause and building networking opportunities. In 2012, we’ll continue reaching out to tell people about Tibet and train them on how to take action.

2000 the year of the first sft action camp. look out for the next one in 2012!

Photos: SFT UK’s tent in the kids field at Glastonbury, SFT training activists at Action Camp in Germany.

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How SFT UK is raising awareness about Tibet

Traditional media

SFT UK continues to get the Tibet issue into newspapers and TV reports, most notably by organising protests, vigils and being a part of SFT’s daring non-violent direct actions. We’ve been quoted in most of the main news outlets this year, whether as SFT UK or as part of coalitions, and this also helps more people find out about what’s happening in Tibet.

SFT also gets information out of Tibet, including shocking video footage of the self-immolation of the nun Palden Choetso and the protests which Tibetans took part in following her death. SFT HQ uses contacts on the ground inside Tibet, and from those who have fled into exile. As part of the network, we share this information with the public, with news agencies and with other Tibet groups, ensuring that the voices of Tibetans in Tibet are heard by as many people as possible, and that the Chinese state cannot abuse Tibetans and their rights behind closed doors. Many people are unaware that abuses occur in Tibet on a daily basis; China cuts communications and bans journalists to prevent news coverage, but the more we expose each case, the more visible the truth about China’s occupation of Tibet becomes.

Digital media

We’re living in a digital world, and SFT is leading the way on using social media to generate support, networking opportunities and grassroots organisation tools. SFT UK have been tweeting throughout marches this year and streaming our fundraising events live to supporters. We’ve also been using more accessible social media campaigns such as the Ai Weiwei f*ck off campaign on Twitter and Tumblr, which coincided with us helping artists highlight Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei’s case at the Tate gallery, and which was re-tweeted by musician MIA, bringing the issue to new audiences. SFT UK also shares the work of the Tibet Action Institute; an offshoot of SFT International which educates on internet security for Tibetans inside and outside Tibet and develops apps with which Tibetans can share information and expose what is happening in their country without being tracked and arrested.

Supporter communications

In 2011, we’ve also been developing our supporter communications, including the SFT UK magazine, which is available as a digital magazine, with each issue read by hundreds of people. We’ll continue to share information about what’s happening in Tibet in 2012, and encourage supporters to do the same.


Photos: Sky News are refused access to Ngaba, where troops flood the streets, messaging at London protest.


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the age of tibetan school girl Tashi Palmo, beaten, arrested and denied medical treatment for calling for independence.

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Finances ____________

How SFT UK is funding its work


SFT UK had a highly active year when it came to events, both fundraising and campaigning based, resulting in a higher income total than expected. This was largely due to the decision to grow the organisation this year and employ paid people in part time roles, first as consultants then effectively as staff. This resulted in more events being planned and more donations gained, but also in more expenditure on wages. SFT UK presented ‘Poetry in Resistance’ to celebrate banned works by Tibetan writers in 2010 and followed it with ‘Revolutionary Beats’, highlighting Tibetan music, which has been steadily becoming a new protest tool in recent years, with political sentiment in popular songs by the likes of Tashi Dhondup and Sherten as well as rap group Yudrug. Tibetans in exile have also been getting in on the musical revolution, with the Shapale Song going viral. As well as raising awareness, SFT UK has been raising funds selling merchandise at stalls, through online appeals and with the second sponsored momo eating competition. During part of the year, SFT UK paid Padma Dolma and Pema Yoko for part time work on both fundraising and campaigns. Padma organised a string of events and Pema wrote cash appeals and focused on encouraging supporters to give a regular gift by joining SFT’s rangzen circle. Going forward, we hope to encourage more people to join the rangzen circle to secure more regular income which will keep SFT UK sustainable. We will also continue to organise events and write quarterly cash appeals.

As SFT UK currently does not have an office, a large amount of funds are saved on rent and bills, and as the board use their own resources, funds are also saved on equipment. This makes SFT UK a relatively cheap organisation to run and allows us to spend more on our campaigning and events. In recent years we’ve agreed that it’s time which is the biggest expense for us; there’s so much we want to do, but outside work and studies we just haven’t had the time to do it, so now by employing somebody, even on a part time basis, we’re seeing the benefits and starting to grow as an organisation which is able to carry effective campaigns and organise professional events. That ability brings us closer to our goal of bringing freedom to Tibet, and it’s SFT UK’s supporters who make it possible so thanks to everybody who’s attended an event, made a donation, bought a t-shirt or joined the rangzen circle in 2011!

£3 the monthly amount supporters can join the rangzen circle for, making sft uk’’s campaigning sustainable.

Photos: SFT UK at the Womad world music festival, momo eating and SFT Hastings get into the Lhakar spirit.

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Donations Donations Grassroots income Total

Other fundraising Events Online appeal Merchandise sales General donations Total Grants


Total income


Printed materials Total



Merchandise Total

General Total

Staff and consultants Total

Membership fees Total

Total expenditure Account total end of year 2011**


* Denotes income up to and including December 2011 ** SFT UK’s financial year ends in April.

£3,725.46 £1,359.27 £5,084.73 £3,138.30 £1,203.48 £820.63 £444 £3755.84 £1,939.65


£893.50 £2,784.18 £1144.47 £789.42 £6,172.50 £71.63

£11,855.70 £781.09

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10 reasons to support SFT in 2012 Reason 10: SFT is grassroots

We’re a network of students, Tibetans, activists, professionals, artists, volunteers, and many others working at the grassroots level to mobilise people power in a way that truly changes the course of history.

Reason 9: SFT is global

We are everywhere. With members in more than 50 countries, chapters and networks in 35 countries, and offices in 4 countries, our constituency spans the globe.

Reason 8: SFT is diverse

SFT’s membership is composed of Tibetans, Americans, Europeans, Indians, Chinese, Canadians, Australians, Japanese, Taiwanese, and dozens of other nationalities with diverse cultural backgrounds and political viewpoints — because the goal of Tibetan freedom unites everyone.

Reason 7: SFT is about youth

Our base of young Tibetans and supporters know change is possible. We harness the passion, commitment and inexhaustible energy of youth in our work for Tibetan freedom.

Reason 6: SFT is nonviolent

We apply nonviolence theory and practice to our activism for Tibet because we believe it’s the most effective way to achieve our goal. There is no better way to fight for peace than to promote nonviolence as a weapon.

Reason 5: SFT is cutting-edge

SFT’s membership and leadership is made up of the most talented innovators, strategists, and visionary techies. We use the latest information technology and social media tools to successfully execute campaigns and actions that inspire Tibetans and directly challenge China’s control over Tibet.

Reason 4: SFT is about training

We invest in the next generation of Tibetan leaders and Tibet activists through our unique leadership training programs. Our Free Tibet! Action Camps and regional trainings help young leaders hone their skills to effectively lead strategic campaigns and nonviolent actions for Tibet.

Reason 3: SFT is about a better world

We believe in hard work and in having fun. We emphasise the importance of humor and laughter in our work, so that freedom is not merely the destination but also the journey.

Reason 2: SFT is strategic

We carefully plan and strategise before we act. Our leadership has the vision, experience, and strategy to develop and execute effective campaigns and actions.

Reason 1: SFT is for an independent Tibet

 ltimately, we believe that the social, economic, environmental, and cultural interests of the Tibetan people U can only be truly safeguarded if Tibet is an independent nation. We know this goal is possible and will we work everyday to achieve it.


Tibet will be free.

2011 annual review A report by Students for a Free Tibet UK

SFT UK 2011 review  

A look back on what we did in 2011

SFT UK 2011 review  

A look back on what we did in 2011