UK SFT ONLINE EDITION
After Egypt and Tunisia, are we closer to seeing China’s oppressive regime fall?
Students for a Free Tibet UK, Unit 9, 139 Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 3HF
SFT UK news
It’s been a jam-packed few months for SFT UK! I’ve just got back from India, where I spent a month with other young Tibetan activists from around the world in a leadership training program set up by SFT’s Tibet Action Institute initiative. We’re even more confident now of moving the non-violent struggle for Tibetan independence forward!
Contents News 3-9
-Ngaba crisis -17 points -Kalon Tripa -Inner Mongolia -More news
-Pure Earths? -Lhasa hotel -Panchen Lama
14-17 Get active!
-March/lobby -SFT Guardians -More stories
-Free Ai Weiwei -US vs firewall -Smurfyleekz
20-21 Grassroots -Action Camp -1 Struggle -More stories
The SFT UK board
But there are other things that have inspired us over the last few months. We’ve all
12-13 read about the protests and revolutions sweeping across the Middle East, and
-Hu’s Next? Can the ‘Arab Spring’ spread?
You can be a big part of that too. As a volunteer-run group, of course we always appreciate the donations you make, big or small, but there are other ways you can get active. The first thing that really got me into SFT’s mission was taking part in Free Tibet! Action Camp. This August, action camp takes place near Dusseldorf in Germany, and if you’ve been to SFT trainings before I’d really recommend you take that next step by coming to camp. You’ll learn from the best Tibetan activists on the planet and make new friendships along the way. It only costs 100 Euros, including meals, and if you book early you can get a plane ticket for as little as £50. If you’ve missed the 30th June application date, don’t worry- SFT UK’s conference is in October; another great place to get involved.
-Prisoner focus: Tapey -Notice board
these have had an impact in China, where ‘Jasmine Style’ protests have taken place. We’ve also seen protests against government policies in China, mass protests in Inner Mongoia and the most active period of protest in Tibet for some time, with dozens of separate incidents in Kyegu, Ngaba and Kardze and a new Lhakar civil disobedience movement. One of the things that’s struck me every time I’ve heard about a new protest is that these brave Tibetans aren’t just calling for freedom, they’re vocally using the word ‘independence’. With His Holiness the Dalai Lama stepping back from his political role and exiled Tibetans electing a new political leader, the time for debate is now, the time for strengthening the movement is now and the time for the Tibetan people’s desire for independence to be amplified is now. SFT is leading the call for an independent Tibet; if you agree, join us- the winds of change are blowing, China’s worried and now’s the time to be involved. We’ve also been reminded this spring about why Tibet’s freedom is not only critically important, but urgent. Chinese forces have laid siege to Ngaba, with some 55,000 troops swarming the streets, conducting intrusive ‘patriotic re-education’ sessions, beating protesters, killing senior citizens and arresting hundreds. China is doing what it always does- cracking down. But our message is clear. The message coming out of Tibet is clear. It’s clear from the Mongolians, the Falun Gong, the Uyghurs, the Chinese dissidents and figures like Ai Weiwei. It’s the same message that’s coming out of the Arab Spring; the age of dictators is over; we have the tools, the passion and the inspiration to unite against tyranny. The Tunisian and Egyptian people have got active and got change. Let’s make Tibet next on that list. Bhoe Gyalo- Free Tibet!
Pema Yoko, National Co-ordinator
Photos: Footage has emerged of monks who escaped police on motorbikes after ths protest in 2010 & troops crack down in Ngaba this spring. SFT UK board (left to right): Pema, Tom, Liam, Lisa, Claire, Sum-Lung, Gabriel
Crisis in Ngaba
Kirti monastery in Ngaba, Amdo has been under military lockdown since 16th March, following the death of the young monk Phuntsok Jarutsang.
Troops have swamped the area and carried out beatings on protesters. At least two elderly civilians have been killed while over 300 monks have been detained. CCP ‘work teams’ amounting some 800 officers have been carrying out ‘patriotic re-education’ at Kirti monastery; demanding that monks study propagandist texts and denounce the Dalai Lama. In an attempt to prevent news from Ngaba getting out, the Chinese regime have put Kirti monastery under military blockade, closed local shops, arrested monks and civilians, banned foreign tourists from the area and cut internet and phone lines. At one stage monks were blockaded inside the monastery without food; troops told locals not to bring food to them and it was feared they could starve to death.
Ngaba, and Kirti monastery especially, has been a hotbed of protest for years, and was the site of a massacre in 2008, when Chinese troops fired on peaceful protesters, killing at least ten. Despite a significant military presence and regular crackdowns, Kirti has remained a thorn in the side of the Chinese regime.
21-year-old Phuntsok marked the third anniversary of the massacre by setting himself ablaze in the market town as a means of protest against Chinese rule. Chinese police doused the fire and beat Phuntsok before bundling him into a van. Local Tibetans stepped in to protect Phuntsok, but he later died of his burns. It’s difficult for us to imagine how deeply Phuntsok must have felt about the situation in Tibet that he chose to carry out this act, but his self-immolation has done what he intended; drawn attention to what is happening in Tibet and re-vitalised resistance in the area. The authorities soon flooded Ngaba with troops and laid siege to Kirti monastery, sparking further protests from monks and lay people. During these peaceful protests, two Tibetans, 60-year-old Dhonkho and 65-year-old Sherkyi, were reportedly beaten to death by Chinese forces. They were part of a group of around 200, mostly senior citizens, who were camping outside Kirti in support of the monks. The very fact that the Chinese state is prepared to flood Tibetan areas with troops, send hundreds to silence monasteries and beat senior citizens to death reveals the truth that it is scrambling to hide; that it has lost control in Ngaba. At least two of the detained monks have now been sentenced. Lobsang Dhargye and Kunchok Tsultrim both received three year sentences after refusing to take part in ‘patriotic re-education’. This is the second time Lobsang has been jailed after being arrested for protesting in 2008. Two Tibetan women arrested on 22nd April, Choko and Serkyi, were released on 17th May, having been severely tortured. Their physical condition is said to be critical. The UN has criticised China for orchestrating the forced disappearance of the missing monks, but China claims they are being held for ‘education’.
The crackdown at Kirti is part of the Chinese authorities’ ongoing campaign to subvert and control Tibetan Buddhism; hoping that by doing so it will be able to control the Tibetan people. The vilification of the Dalai Lama and the detention of the six-year-old Panchen Lama Gedhun Choekyi Nyima are other examples of this oppression. The Tibetan people do not want to live under the iron fisted rule of the Chinese regime; a regime which is as bungling as it is oppressive. But China will continue to subject the Tibetan people to this torment because contrary to its rhetoric, China under the CCP is not a developed nation. It is so fearful of the Tibetans, with their national pride, their progressive political views and their deep culture, that it arrests children and kills senior citizens to maintain its ugly grip on the region. And the CCP has similar policies when it comes to oppressing Chinese dissidents and the Chinese people’s freedom. It’s a policy which hasn’t worked in Tibet over the past 60 years, which isn’t working in Ngaba today and which will never work until Tibet is once again being ruled by Tibetans.
You can send an e-letter calling for an end to the crackdown in Ngaba, read more ACT NOW! about the crisis and watch video footage at www.sftuk.org/tension-ngaba
Photos: (From top) Chinese troops swamp Ngaba, Phuntsok, Kirti monks showing support of the Dalai Lama (c100tibet), Kirti in June 2011
Overpriced veg? No thanks!
Tibetans in Nangchen County in Kham have begun using a new method of civil disobedience; boycotting Chinese vegetable stores. Prices have soared in recent months, quadrupling for some staple products. Sidelined from economic developments and often paid lower wages than Chinese migrants for the same jobs, local Tibetans are struggling to afford standard items like apples, cabbage and potatoes. When community leaders went to speak to Chinese vegetable sellers, the businessmen refused to lower their prices and police failed to help so the community decided to boycott the Chinese sellers. One said "we were inspired by the effective use of boycotts in other struggles, especially from the Indian independence movement."
Since then, Tibetan businessmen from Xining have agreed to travel to Nangchen to sell vegetables to the community at affordable prices, leaving the Chinese businesses with little trade. The idea has spread to Dzado, Surmang and Jyekundo counties and has moved on from just vegetables; Tibetan businessmen are bringing flour, oil, tea and wheat to sell at affordable rates, undercutting Chinese sellers. Police have said that if the boycott ‘becomes associated with Tibetan independence’ they will step in. Such is the attraction of the boycott that an order has gone out reminding police officers that they and their families themselves must not take part by buying from the boycotters. The movement demonstrates that simple, peaceful resistance can defy the status quo. A boycotter asked if he would go back to Chinese sellers if they lowered prices said "no; we want to see the stores close… (we’ve been) ripped off for too long." The boycott is part of the growing 'Lhakar' movement in Tibet, where Tibetans are embracing strategic non-violent resistance in creative ways. You can read more at www.lhakar.com
Pride and unity
Authorities in Jyekundo have seized DVDs of a documentary film about the devastating earthquake which took place there last year.
The film ‘Hope in a Disaster’ praises Tibetans who got together to help the recovery effort and speaks of ‘unity’ among the Tibetan people. Hundreds of copies were confiscated from shops, thousands from the home of a monk and a restaurant was fined for screening the film. It is thought that the authorities are nervous about the film because it portrays the fact that Tibetans from all three provinces; Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang, assisted in the aftermath of the quake. Though Tibetans see all three as the sum of Tibetan land, China has incorporated Amdo and Kham into Qinghai and Sichuan and feels threatened by references to greater Tibet. Hundreds have joined a thumb print petition urging the state not to arrest the monks who made the film.
References to Tibetan unity scare the state as they strengthen Tibetans’ sense of national identity. The Chinese state continues to arrest intellectuals and protesters who express such notions, with 4 arrested in March for links to exiled writer Gendun Tsering. Meanwhile Tsering Kyipo, Jampa Ngodrup and Lobsang Thubten are in hiding after distributing leaflets about independence, their families detained until they give themselves up, while a string of people have taken similar action in Kardze and monks were stopped for carrying a picture of the Dalai Lama; another symbol of Tibetaness.
Fear the shapale! Song lyrics are becoming an increasingly prominent tool in the resistance against Chinese rule.
So true to form, Chinese authorities are dealing with this artistic expression by clamping down. More and more songs are being banned and MP3s and ring tones are treated as contraband by security forces. More than 20 young Tibetans have been rounded up in recent months for downloading banned songs, such as one entitled ‘Sound of Unity’. A Tibetan named Tenzin said “If someone has this song (on their mobile phone), they are detained, jailed from 10 to 15 days, heavily fined, and even brutally beaten… They confiscate mobile phones from young Tibetans and open them, and if they hear songs sung by singers like Kunga in Tibet, or by singers in exile, they detain them.” Even songs with no specific political messages get banned.
One is a tongue-in-cheek rap about shapale meat pies by Swiss-based Tibetan Karma Tenzin, which went viral online and prompted state censors to issue a warning ordering people to delete the song. This new trend of targeting Tibetans simply for listening to music again demonstrates the depth of insecurity felt by the Chinese state, and is in direct violation of China’s constitution, which states that religious and cultural identity must be protected. Silencing political figures is one thing, but denying people’s creative expression is not sustainable for a developed nation, and will only create further unrest and instability in Tibet and beyond.
PHOTOS: Vegetable sellers are the new focus of Tibetan resistance, survivors of the 2010 Jyekundo earthquake,Swiss-Tibetan rapper Karma Tenzin: see the video at Dechen’s blog http://bit.ly/l4GrOu
Tibet’s democracy: China’s conundrum
The exiled community elected a new leader to head the Tibetan Parliament in Exile on 27th April. Lobsang Sangay assumes the role of Kalon Tripa, co-inciding with the Dalai Lama stepping back from his political role. The move strengthens Tibetan democracy and could open up wider debates about the future of the movement to seek freedom for the Tibetan people. It exposes the fallacy of China’s propaganda that Tibetans are a ‘backward’ people and that the Dalai Lama’s monkhood seeks to rule over them as ‘serfs’. Tibet scholar Robbie Barnett said "It's very interesting that the Dalai Lama has pulled off this success in having an election where the community has chosen the younger, more secular, more modern candidate. That's a huge achievement for the Dalai Lama's strategy to get Tibetans to develop a lay leadership."
Lobsang Sangay, who was born into a humble family in India after his parents fled Tibet in 1959 and graduated from Harvard Law School, scored 55% of the vote. He supports the Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ approach but was formerly affiliated with the pro-independence Tibetan Youth Congress. The Chinese government’s reaction has been less than positive; propaganda labeling Sangay a ‘terrorist’ and an ‘illegitimate official’, had begun even before he was elected. Sangay responded, "it seems that what makes them nervous is that I was elected through a democratic mandate… in Tibet, Tibetans… are not allowed to vote, so I enjoy more credibility and legitimacy than any Chinese party leader in Tibet… the Communist Party doesn't enjoy any legitimacy; …they're nervous about the contrast that's being drawn." The Dalai Lama further underlined his view that Tibetans must decide their path for themselves by rejecting an appeal from the Tibetan government to become ‘ceremonial head of state’. His Holiness said "rule by spiritual leaders or... kings is an outdated concept, so I take pride and freedom to voluntarily relinquish the political power.” The Dalai Lama will now be known as ‘the Protector and Symbol of Tibet and Tibetan People’.
China has rejected the election of Sangay and has bizzarely stated that the Dalai Lama does not have the right to step down; strange that a party which claims it has ‘liberated’ Tibet from the Dalai Lama’s rule wants him to remain Tibet’s leader. A new law has also come into effect which bans the Dalai Lama and other monks from reincarnating without state approval. Again, this policy seems confused for an atheist government. The tactic is to gain control of Tibetan Buddhism by choosing the next Dalai Lama using the CCP’s Panchen Lama, but these statements simply make the Chinese government a laughing stock while Tibetans embrace democracy. It doesn’t take much to work out which approach has a future and which is painfully out of touch.
Monks die of torture
Two monks have died as a result of the torture they suffered while jailed. Jampa Pelsang of Ganden monastery had been imprisoned since 1996, when he and other monks staged a protest against ‘patriotic re-education’ sessions. Jampa suffered numerous terrifying methods of torture while serving a 15 year sentence and was released on the brink of death on 6th May this year; a common practice to ensure that tortured inmates technically die outside the prison system. After Tenzin Yeshi, Jampa is the second of the monks arrested at the time to die of torture, while another, Lobsang Wangchuk, was shot dead while in prison.
Another monk, Jamyang Jinpa of Labrang monastery, died on 5th April. He was one of the monks who was arrested for protesting in front of foreign journalists in 2008. Jamyang was also tortured to the brink of death in jail before being released to die outside. He is the second of the Labrang press tour monks to have died this year after Sangey Gyatso, who had fled into mountains after the protest, succumed to illness he contracted while on the run, unable to go to hospital for fear of being arrested. These heroes of the Tibetan cause will not be forgotten.
China to reform?
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has said China could lose its economic achievements unless ‘institutional’ changes are made, though when asked about political reform, he avoided the question. But it’s important not to assume that Wen is talking about advances towards democracy. He said "if we are to address the people's grievances we must allow the people to supervise and criticise the government.” However, senior official Wu Bangguao underlined that the CCP would never adopt multiparty democracy. Both Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao are due to retire in 2012, when the CCP will elect new leaders; a choice in which citizens have no say. It may well be that a lack of genuine reform could lead to greater discontent in China.
Photos: Lobsang Sangay, the new Kalon Tripa, Ganden Monastery, and (inset) Jamyang Jinpa, Sangey Gyatso (left, with hand to the camera) during the protest which captured the attention of the world’s press and after which Jamyang was arrested and Sangey on the run.
17 points of disagreement SFTUK 3
For 60 years, the Chinese government has tried and failed to consolidate control over Tibet. Despite the unimaginable suffering they have endured for the last 60 years, Tibetans have resiliently defied Chinese rule.
May 23rd was the 60th anniversary of the ’17 Point Agreement’, which Tibetans signed under duress in 1951, and which was later revoked by the governments of both China and Tibet. This year, the CCP state has been upscaling its propaganda that it has ‘liberated’ Tibet, and SFT and other Tibet groups are countering their claims. SFT Executive Director Tenzin Dorjee said “China’s ‘celebration’ of its 60-year occupation of Tibet is an affront to Tibetans everywhere and especially to those in Ngaba County where Chinese security forces continue their attacks on Kirti Monastery; one of the most important places of worship and learning in Tibet.”
With some 55,000 troops in Ngaba alone, we don’t have to look far for a stark reminder of the realities behind China’s propaganda; Tibet is a country kept in a perpetual state of lockdown by an oppressive occupying regime. Despite the propaganda, Chinese policies in Tibet continue to fail. Tibet’s students are losing out due to discrimination, Tibet’s workforce is suffering due to a lack of equal opportunities, Tibet’s religious institutions are repressed by draconian controls, Tibet’s society is held back by tight restrictions on the internet and free speech and Tibet’s unique environment is being decimated by short-sighted polices which aim to make a quick buck with complete disregard for the future health of the plateau.
Meanwhile, Tibetans are finding more and more brave and ingenius ways to challenge Chinese rule and assert their national and cultural identity, and other groups supressed in China like the Uyghurs, Falun Gong, Mongolians and Chinese democracy activists also continue to speak out against the Chinese state. China’s attempts to whitewash the true situation on the ground are falling on deaf ears, and the oppression which continues in Tibet today cannot last forever. Like China’s propaganda, its grip on power appears solid at a glance but is fragile under the surface. Tenzin Dorjee concluded “The Chinese government continues to rule Tibet with an iron fist, but as the recent uprisings in the Arab world have demonstrated, no amount of force can outlast a people’s desire for freedom.” China named Lhasa 2010’s ‘happiest city in China’; a gesture which shows the disrespect contained within its propaganda.
China will be increasing its propagandist messages this year as it seeks to cement its perverse view of history. It will also be celebrating 90 years since the formation of the CCP on 1st July. 90 years of propaganda which still hasn’t suck. The rhetoric remains the same; China’s government is for the people, represents the people, works for the people and is inseparable from the people. Yet every year that the rich, autocractic Chinese elite trample on the people and deny them a voice to maintain power, it seems they have less and less people convinced... You can read the report by SFT and other Tibet groups in English, Chinese, Tibetan, German, Spanish, French, Dutch, Polish & Japanese at www.chinasfailedtibetpolicies.org
1 Tibet was liberated? In reality, Tibet was invaded. in 1949 and is occupied today. 2 Minorities benefit? China is trying to eliminate the Tibetan nationality. 3 Chinese rule consented? China keeps Tibetans down with a huge military presence. 4 Tibetans prosperous? Tibetans are excluded from the economic boom. 5 Dalai Lama a tyrant? He’s stepped back to further Tibetan democracy. 6 Language protected? Tibetans protest against being forced to learn in Chinese. 7 Tourism in Tibet strong? China closes Tibet to tourists to hide brutal crackdowns. 8 ‘Serfs’ emancipated? Tibetans feel the current system is ‘hell on earth’. 9 Religious rights secure? ‘Patriotic re-education’ bans free-thinking monks. 10Environment protected? Famine, desertification, dams and mining damage the land. 11 Population flourishing? Mass migration benefits China, amounting to colonisation. 12 Nomads better off?. Forced off their land, they are hurled into poverty in ghettos. 13 Infastructure boosted? New railways used to ferry migrants in & resources out. 14 Water quality healthy? Dams create large flood areas, shortages downstream. 15Mortality rate improved? Sidelined Tibetans can’t afford medicine, activists are killed. 16 Culture thriving? A second cultural revolution is in place, crippling the arts. 17 Tibetans happy? If so, why does the military need to swamp the streets?
Photos: China’s propaganda claims are easily rubbished with photo, video and eyewitness testimony
Inner Mongolia errupts in protest
Thousands of herders and students in Chinese-occupied Inner Mongolia have taken to the streets to protest against the destruction of grazing land and the murder of a herder by Chinese miners. SFT UK stands in solidarity with the Mongolian protesters.
There are many cultural similarities between the Tibetan and Mongolian people, among them the environmentally friendly way in which herders live on the land. Sadly, another similarity is the way the occupying Chinese government is destroying this land to make way for mining projects, removing herders and depriving them of both their cultural freedom and their ability to sustain themselves. Mongolians have long been concerned about this environmental damage, but since China announced that it sees the ‘Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region’ (IMAR) as the ‘energy base of China,’ there has been a new flood of mining companies arriving to exploit these natural resources. Hundreds of new coal mines have been set up and some 250,000 herders have been forcibly displaced in recent years, their livestock often killed. The Chinese state uses the same rhetoric as it does with Tibetan nomads, claiming that herding damages the ecosystem then pressing on with huge mining projects on that self-same land. Bayaguut, a Southern Mongolian dissident, said “more Chinese will come to our ancestral land, kick out the Mongolians, destroy the environment and plunder the mineral wealth… What we will be left with is a barren land uninhabitable to human beings.”
Since April 26th, herders had been blocking Chinese mining trucks from trespassing on their grazing land as they passed through, which was leading to land being damaged and livestock killed. At a protest, the driver of a Chinese coal truck murdered Mr. Mergen, one of the Mongolian herders who had organised the blockade. A witness said that the driver shouted “my truck is fully insured, and the life of a smelly Mongolian herder costs me no more than 40,000 Yuan” before killing him. (40,000 yuan is under £5,000). Instead of arresting the killer, the local Chinese authorities attempted to bribe Mr. Mergen’s widow and mother with large sums of money, angering the family and herders. In another fatal incident, Chinese coal truck drivers reportedly decided to drive their trucks straight into the protesters. One driver ploughed his truck into the crowd, killing a Mongolian herder named Morigen. This time, two drivers were arrested.
Protests have continued, including one in whch some 2,000 students took to the streets of Shillin-hot to oppose the environmental damage and the handling of Mr. Mergen’s death. Hundreds of officers have been dispatched and at least three herders and one student have been badly beaten and taken away. Others have had phones and cameras confiscated and Mr. Mergen is being hailed as a “Southern Mongolian national hero and martyr who sacrificed his life to defend the Mongol land from Chinese intruders.” An observer reported the lockdown; "as I got on the train at Hohhot, the place looked like it was preparing for war. There were special police everywhere wearing bulletproof vests."
Like in Tibet, troops have been photographed in terrifying numbers, facing off against unarmed protesters. Like in Tibet, fear and intimidation are being used to whitewash injustice and corruption. And like in Tibet, this crackdown is failing to deter the Mongolian people from standing up for the rights and freedoms they deserve and to demand that the environment is protected. We should support these brave Mongolian protesters and their cause. Read more about Inner Mongolia at www.sftuk.org/onestruggle
Journalists targeted in Beijing & Shanghai
In February, an American correspondent was badly injured when he was punched and kicked by security officers and dragged into a building where the beating continued for ten minutes. Later that day, BBC journalist Damian Grammaticas and his team were attacked by plain clothed policemen, who threw them into a police van. During the assault, an officer deliberately slammed the van door into Grammaticas’ leg several times. Huge numbers of security personnel have been banging on hotel doors first thing in the morning to see press passes, monitoring reporters’ apartments, filming them, hacking email accounts and detaining dozens seeking to report protests inspired by the ‘Arab Spring’. A New York Times journalist was called and told not to ‘try to topple the party’- a sure sign of the overblown paranoia Grammaticas observed, saying “the revolts in the Middle East seem to have tapped into fears felt in China's leaders and its security apparatus”.
Photos: Students protest in Shillin-hot, a banner reading ‘Peace for the Mongols, Freedom for the Mongols’, hundreds gathering to protest the handling of Mergen’s case, Mr. Mergen’s body surrounded by other herders, riot police in Right Ujumchin Banner, Grammaticas is pulled away
Hundreds of Tibetans staged peaceful protests in Kyegu town between 1st and 3rd April. They were making a stand against the government’s policies on reconstruction and land allocation following last year’s earthquake in the Jyekundo area of Kham, which killed over 2,500 people.
Local Tibetans are unhappy about the way the Chinese government plans to divvy up the land, as some of the best locations are being prioritised for Chinese immigrants, leaving Tibetans who have lost their homes, land and family members in the disaster to be pushed to the sidelines. They held banners and chanted slogans such as ‘our land belongs to us’ and ‘put ordinary people’s benefits first’. One of the protesters said "the protesters were beaten, and many were injured. Several of them were detained and taken away." Over 40 were detained, though 12 were released a few days later. Jyekundo is a largely Tibetan area with a firmly Tibetan identity, and there are serious concerns among locals that the Chinese authorities are using the rebuilding process to ‘sinicise’ the area at the expense of the local Tibetan people and culture.
The price of ‘progress’
The Chinese government is accelerating its building of hydroelectric dams after previously slowing such projects due to concerns over the amount of people they were having to relocate from flood areas. Most of China’s electricity is generated through coalfired power stations, but the government has renewable energy targets for 2020. Analyst Shao Minghui said "That means each year, the equivalent of one new Three Gorges Dam will be added in China over the next decade.”
But though the move towards renewable energy is positive, the Three Gorges project has caused major problems. This year, the government has made some unprecedented comments about the project, acknowledging serious failures. The State Council cited problems in the relocation of residents (1.4 million have been displaced), ecological damage and the worsening of geological disasters among the negative side-effects of the project. It also admitted that irrigation and water supplies downstream had been affected. The reservoir created by the dam has also left cultural heritage sites underwater and its weight has created potential for seismic events like landslides in the future. Critics have also noted that since pollution is rife in China, if such a large reservoir becomes infected, it would be disasterous for water quality across the region.
Elsewhere, the Chinese government defended its decision to build a mega dam on the Brahmaputra in Tibet. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said "China has always had a responsible attitude and places equal emphasis on development and protection", but this does not tally with the admissions over the Three Gorges. India is concerned that the Brahmaputra dam will disrupt water supplies for its own people downstream.
In other news, China will complete an extension to the China-Tibet railway by 2015. The railway is used to ferry Chinese immigrants into Tibet, many of whom receive grants and are paid higher wages than local Tibetans for the same jobs, reducing Tibetans’ employment opportunities. The railway also ships Tibet’s natural resources back to China’s industrial centres.
Read more about the dangers facing Tibet’s environment in SFT’s ‘Roof of the World’ report: www.sftuk.org/about/sft-uk-publications
Prominent Tibetan writer sentenced
Another highly popular Tibetan writer, Tashi Rabten (Theurang) was sentenced to 4 years in prison in June. His book ‘Written in Blood’ contains poems and essays covering oppression in Tibet and Tibetans’ desire for freedom. Tibet groups are calling for his release.
Photos: Banners in Kyegu reading ‘Help for the Yushu disaster area should put ordinary Tibetans first’, ‘Our land belongs to us’ and other slogans, Jinhe hydropower station in Chamdo, the Three Gorges dam, Tashi Rabten
More Tibetans imprisoned
Tibetans continue to be arrested for demanding human rights and freedom from Chinese rule. On March 19th, a 60 year old Tibetan man named Gerik was detained and beaten on suspicion of passing information about the Ngaba crisis to the outside world. He is thought to have been tortured and his current whereabouts are unknown.The authorities have made an example of him by also carrying out brutal beatings on his family. His 52-year-old wife Donkho and 23-year-old daughter Metok were attacked and detained by Chinese authorities, with Donkho released a few days later and Metok held for two weeks. Reports from the area said “(Metok) was beaten so badly that there were fears for her life. But authorities did not allow her to be admitted to hospital, and she is still lying on her sickbed at home without receiving medical treatment.” The fact that the Chinese state is prepared to undertake such horrendous actions against an innocent Tibetan woman simply because her father reported the brutality of the regime serves to illustrate the depth of its fear and paranoia.
Others connected to Gerik fled and have not been seen since. Lobsang Tsepak, a Tibetan studying in Beijing, was arrested, apparently also for sharing information about the Nbaga crackdown and writer Sherab Gyatso was detained. A monk named Lobsang Khedrub was detained on 6th May for unknown reasons. In Kardze, Ngawang Lobsang and nuns Jampa Tso, Jampa Lhato, Tseyang and Riga were all arrested after shouting slogans about freedom and independence in four separate incidents, and Lobsang Palden was detained for writing freedom messages. Three monks were beaten with iron bars in June for shouting ‘Free Tibet!’ and ‘Long live the Dalai Lama!’. “Passers by saw blood dripping from the iron rods of the police and the pavements were stained with blood from the beating”. Protester Wangchen Gelek was also beaten in March and Goyang in June. All can expect the brutal treatment typical of the Chinese regime, and possibly harsh sentences. On 3rd May, two monks, Tulku Janhchub and Pesang from Chamdo, were sentenced to three years imprisonment for protesting against the state’s seizure of monastery land. In Lithang, a man named Dolkar was arrested for allegedly bombing an empty police station; punishable by death, though the evidence is unknown. And businessmen Sonam Bagdro and Tashi Topgyal, once respected by the state, got 15 and 5 years for suspected involvement in political activities. In Kanlho, two Tibetan teenagers were sentenced after being arrested late last year for taking part in peaceful protests against Chinese rule. 16-year-old Thupten Dhargye was handed a one and a half year sentence while his friend Dorpel, 15, was apparently released because the torture he suffered while detained was so severe that he was in no condition to stand trial. He was handed back to his family with no explanation over his arrest or condition. Neither of the boys were allowed to see their families while being held and the legal procedures in place for dealing with juveniles were apparently ignored. These cases come during the traditionally turbulent spring season, which contains various anniversaries marked by Tibetans. Kalsang Gyaltsen of the Tibetan parliament said "the whole region is under tight control and suppression. They have recently boosted spending on law enforcement... which suggests they will continue to use these methods to deal with disadvantaged social groups and ethnic minorities."
China cracks down on dissidents
But the Chinese state doesn’t limit its savage treatment of dissidents to Tibetans. World renowned artist Ai Weiwei has been imprisoned since 3rd April. drawing the anger of political and artistic communities across the world. SFT UK has joined Chinese rights groups to demand his release.
Other prominent Chinese lawyers and rights activists such as Jiang Tianyong and Ran Yunfei have been rounded up in recent months, and while some were released, others remain in detention or under house arrest. One such dissident is Chen Guangcheng, who was jailed until last year after lifting the lid on forced abortions, accusing government officials of coercing up to 7,000 women in Shandong to abort or be sterilized, though he was convicted on charges of damaging property and disrupting traffic. It isn’t uncommon for dissidents to be charged with crimes apparently unrelated to the reason for their arrest, as may be the case with Ai Weiwei; accused of tax-related crimes during detention.
But Chen’s ordeal hasn’t ended with the completion of his four year sentence. He has been kept under house arrest and recently made a video of the conditions under which he has been living. Chinese security forces were quick to act when the video was released, bursting into his Chen’s home and beating him and his wife Yuan Weijin. Chen, who is blind, also stated that the couple had been refused medical treatment after the attack, and since then his phone has been cut off and officers in vehicles block entry to the house. The current crackdown on Chinese writers, artists and dissidents is said to be the worst in over a decade, and many believe it to be a backlash against the possibility of protests inspired by the ‘Arab Spring’.
Photos: Gerik, Dhonko and Methok were all detained, Chinese activists Chen Guangcheng and Ran Yunfei
On 15th April, SFT UK hosted its first ever academic conference, ‘Pure Earths?’, which focused on Tibet’s environment and took place at SOAS in London.
The event was a great success and opened up new areas of discussion about the environmental problems facing the Tibetan people and how we, as an activist group, can best tackle these issues. Tibet’s environment is one of the most important and fragile in the world, so we need to ensure that this environment is protected for generations to come. It was great to have some of the world’s top experts on Tibet’s environment together, giving us the facts which we can use to educate our campaigning work.
A big thanks to Dr. Mika Sillanpää (Helsinki University of Technology), who spoke about the impact of mining on Tibetan rivers, Emilia Sulek (Humbolt University, Berlin) who spoke about the yartsa gunbu (caterpillar fungus) industry in Amdo, Dr. Tobias Bolch (University of Zurich) who spoke about climate and glacier changes, Dr. Andrew Fischer (Erasmus University) who spoke about labour transitions and growth, Emily Yeh, who talked about environmentalists in Tibet via videolink and Gabriel Lafitte, who spoke about nomadic relocation. People know about the religious and human rights aspects of the Tibetan cause, but a lot of people don’t realise that tibet houses the sources of many of Asia’s rivers, which roughly a billion people downstream depend on, and the third largest store of water-ice on the planet. We must protect that environment.
Thanks also to everyone who attended, including Lama Jabb, who added a showstealing Tibetan Braveheart video. We all learned something at ‘Pure Earths?’, and special thanks to Padma, who pulled off organising this amazing conference with almost no funding, in her own time and often when she wasn’t even in the country! Padma has now left the SFT UK board to move overseas and will be sorely missed but we know she’ll carry on campaigning for Tibet!
The day after the conference, we had a day of strategic planning, led by Tendor, Lhadon and Kate from SFT HQ and Gabriel Lafitte and attended by young Tibetans, SFT university chapter members and supporters. We discussed what areas we should work on, and started developing SFT’s nomadic campaign.
Tibetan nomads have lived sustainably off the land for thousands of years, moving from place to place with their tents and livestock. It’s a way of life which has been a characteristic of Tibetaness for generation after generation, and sadly it’s a way of life which is at risk. The Chinese government, desperate to control Tibetan nomads, wants in their own words, to ‘end the nomadic way of life forever’. They feel that if Tibetan nomads are kept in one place, they will pose less of a threat as China will be able to use all the means of monitoring and intimidation with which it keeps tabs on the rest of the Tibetan population. There are some 2.5 million nomads in Tibet, but they are being forced into tenement style housing by their tens of thousands every year, deprived of their mobility, their livestock and their means to support themselves, as the skills which have helped protect the Tibetan plateau for so long are of no use in an urban environment. The very skills needed to safeguard the delicate ecosystem of the plateau are being lost while the pace of industrialisation speeds up the degredation of Tibet’s environment, and we can’t let that happen.
This is as much a human rights issue as an environmental one; Tibetan nomads have the right to decide whether they want to live in their traditonal nomadic culture or move into urban life. It’s a choice which we will campaign to defend. So thanks to Nathan Hill at SOAS and all who came to the conference!
Contact us for some nomad campaign postcards and help us put pressure on China to stop forced resettlement: email@example.com
Photos: Four pictures of the Tibetan nomadic way of life; horsemanship, working with herds of sheep and other livestock, moving across the plateau with yaks and tents, the vivid costumes of nomadic festivals (photos 1 and 4 Vincent Van Den Berg), the ‘Pure Earths?’ conference.
Occupation is no holiday
British company InterContinental Hotels has signed a contract to build a huge 2,000 room hotel in Lhasa, opening in 2012. SFT is concerned about this luxury resort as it is highly unlikely that Tibetans will benefit from the project, with Chinese immigrants favoured for employment opportunities and Tibetans not consulted about large scale developments in their own country. The fear is that the hotel will be used by the Chinese state to further sideline the Tibetan people.
SFT UK and other Tibet groups delivered a letter to InterContinental and handed out information to shareholders outside the company’s meeting in London on 27th May. We urged them to consider the ethical and reputational implications of the project. As Tibet is a restive region, and the Chinese state deals with unrest by flooding streets with troops, putting areas under lockdown and beating and killing unarmed Tibetans, it is not the kind of place which will provide a sellable holiday destination for InterContinental, and the instability of the region makes the project a huge financial gamble. We hope that InterContinental Hotels make sensible ethical and business decisions regarding the future of this project. They should certainly bear in mind the case of hotelier Tashi Dorje, sentenced to life, apparently for donating to a charity, just last year.
The first-ever five-star hotel in Tibet opened in Lhasa in May. SFT also approached representatives of the company which runs the St. Regis Hotel during their meeting in the US, and brought the issues to shareholders. Companies have a part to play in promoting human rights, freedom and equality in Tibet, and to make sure they do not invest in projects which contribute to the oppressive nature of the Chinese regime.
Where is he?
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama, was abducted by Chinese authorities aged just six years old and he and his family are still missing today, 16 years on.
In May 1995, Chinese officials burst into the home of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, seizing this innocent child and his family. None of them have been seen or heard from since. Gedhun was recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama; a controversial figure who spent eight years in a Chinese jail and died in mysterious circumstances in 1989. China sees Gedhun as a symbol of Tibetan identity and a threat to China’s dominance of the region. They believe that by removing this boy and replacing him with their own ‘state sponsored’ Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu, son of a Communist official, they will be able to select the next Dalai Lama; one of the Panchen Lama’s traditional duties. Now that the Dalai Lama has ceded political power, this logic seems even more twisted than ever.
So we stage a vigil for him outside the Chinese Embassy on his birthday, 25th April, every year to stand in solidarity with him and the other political prisoners being held, tortured and torn away from their families in Tibet today. This year, the event doubled as a protest against the crackdown in Ngaba, and we also made stickers baring his photo and the lingering question; ‘where is he?’
This innocent six-year-old boy and the one haunting photograph of him remains a thorn in the side of the Chinese state. It reminds the world of the true nature of the CCP; an aggressive, paranoid establishment which has no limits to its obsession with controlling the Tibetan people. It will even abduct children to fulfill its aim of clinging on to Tibet and the natural resources it holds. That’s why we have to continually turn that thorn in China’s side. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has been denied a childhood, denied a voice, denied his freedom, just as the Tibetan people have been denied their right to rule their own country and to enjoy the freedoms which all people, children or adults, Tibetans or otherwise, deserve to enjoy. Every time Chinese officials see his photo, all of this is plain to them; that’s why we must make sure they see it often.
You can support the Panchen Lama by signing the new Twitter ‘Twittition’ ! W O N online at http://twitition.com/m6jo8 or get some ‘where is he?’ stickers CTfrom us and stick A(left) them in places where people will see them (limited); firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: InterContinental’s Zhejiang Hotel in China & talking to shareholders in the UK, Tibetans & supporters attend the vigil for the Panchen Lama at the Chinese Embassy and protest against the crackdown in Ngaba.
Why the ‘Arab Spring’ is a threat to the Chinese regime First Tunisia, then Egypt; this year we’ve seen a wave of resistance sweeping across the Middle East, consigning oppressive regimes to history. And the Chinese government is keen to stop its own people from watching these events unfold. What is it scared of?
When Hosni Mubarak’s oppressive regime in Egypt fell in January, China blocked internet searches for the word ‘Egypt’ and state media reported Mubarak’s resignation without covering the manner in which he was forced from office; by huge crowds of Egyptians demanding freedom. There’s still a long way to go for Egypt, but with Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime in Tunisia suffering a similar fate, and with resistance movements challenging state control in countries like Libya, Algeria, Bahrain and Yemen, Hu Jintao and the Chinese politburo must be having some restless nights. Can they really hide the truth about the power of protest from the Chinese people?
Evidently not. Chinese internet users constantly find ways around government controls, and are well aware of the ‘Arab Spring’. Chinese photographer Wang Qi tweeted “The jasmine flower has already bloomed—it’s lovely. The peony has yet to blossom—it’s anticipated” while before his recent arrest, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei reacted to the events in Egypt by speculating about how the same could happen in China; “It only took 18 days for the collapse of a military regime which was in power for 30 years and looked harmonious and stable. This thing that’s been maintained for more than 60 years, it may take several months.” For four weeks, Chinese microbloggers arranged ‘strolling protests’ in 13 cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzou, but Chinese authorities were quick to act; beefing up security and detaining scores of known human rights activists and lawyers in advance. Among those detained was Jiang Tianyong, a lawyer who represented Tibetan prisoner Jigme Gyatso. Ran Yunfei and Chen Wei, prominent writers and long term critics of the state, were charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’ (the same charge for which Nobel prize winner Liu Xiaobo was given an 11 year sentence in 2009) for backing ‘Jasmine Rallies’ online. Around 200 were detained, prevented from leaving home or went missing; the detentions designed to discourage citizens from attending such rallies.
Though the small-scale protests themselves had little impact, it appears that Chinese protesters are testing the water, especially on the internet, where calls for ‘Jasmine Style’ uprisings have continued. It’s clear that the Chinese authorities are concerned about the potential for such actions. "Some people say this movement… is not going to be successful like that in Tunisia or Egypt,” said Hua Ge of Jasmine blog mwww.molihuaxingdong.blogspot.com, “but in those countries it took 3 or 4 the people to make preparations and finally, there was a peaceful transition."
Protests and strikes over social matters are already frequent in China; just this June hundreds clashed with riot police in Guangzhou and Lichuan, and recently protests have led to the authorities backing down over plans to build chemical plants, introduce web censorship software, raise fees for truckers and uproot trees. Most protests are sparked by anger over corruption, housing and unemployment. Though these are generally dealt with swiftly, they are exactly the issues which provided a catalyst for many of the Middle East protests, and such frustrations have a tendency to bubble under the surface until they reach boiling point. Even Hu Jintao commented this spring that "our material base for resolving a range of social problems remains quite weak" and many analysts believe that the CCP’s unwillingness to embrace political reform will doom its ambition to ensure stability.
"Stability trumps everything" said an anonymous Communist Party official, and China’s stability relies on its economic growth, but also on military might. It’s spending more on internal security than ever; this year up 13.8% to £58 million and a further £55 million on the army. If China’s leaders are confident that resistance movements can’t mount a meaningful challenge to the state, why does it need the extra security? And is flooding restive areas with troops the answer? Egypt has the third largest army in the world, but this didn’t save Mubarak.
The reality is that just like any other oppressive regime, a groundswell of popular discontent could have the same impact in China, especially if and when the economy starts to falter. What’s happening in the Middle East shows us those who say ‘things will never change’ should take a closer look at history. In fact, they don’t even have to look that far; look at the present. Dictators are dropping like dominos. If he were in Hosni Mubarak’s shoes, what would Hu do? PHOTOS: Jasmine-inspired protests in Chinese cities. Next page: Unrest and political change in Africa and the Middle East in 2011.
A raft of issues such as a lack of free elections, police corruption, high food prices, unemployment and low wages led to 18 days of protests in Tahrir Square which ended with the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak. Military leaders sided with the people and now run a transitional government.
The revolt in Tunisia began when a college student set himself alight as a means of protest after police confiscated the fruit cart he relied on for income. His death sparked weeks of demonstrations which ended in January with the ousting of autocratic President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Tens of thousands have taken part in a string of protests against human rights abuses by President Bashar AlAssad, in which hundreds have been killed. Al-Assad lifted the state of emergency which has existed since 1963, but violence had errupted in Syria with many killed.
High unemployment, high prices and political reforms are some of the issues which have led to thousands taking part in a series of protests. Clashes with pro-government demonstrators have caused injuries and deaths. King Abdullah II’s has been forced to promise to create a new government.
Long term non-Kuwaiti citizens have protested for more rights, with arrests made after some 200-400 people were dispersed with tear gas. With 100,000 non-citizens, this issue has been bubbling under the surface for some time.
Protests against delays in housing projects and the detention of relatives of massacre victims came to a head when police shot dead 35 protesters on 18th February. Since then Libya has descended into a state of civil war. Gaddafi’s forces continue to kill citizens indiscriminately while rebels battle over key cities, backed by NATO air strikes.
Protesters took to the streets of Manama to demand reform and some for the removal of the royal family; the government has been accused of torturing some human rights activists. Four were killed and many wounded in the initial response by security forces, but protests have continued.
After four set themselves on fire in protest, 37,000 took to the streets to demand that King Mohammed relinquish some of his powers. The King, maintaining healthy support, agreed to constitutional reform.
Demonstrations were aimed not at the ruling Sultan but at low wages and a lack of jobs. After tear gas was fired, the Sultan replaced the Ministry of the Economy and created 50,000 new jobs and new benefits.
Escalating food prices, housing issues and unemployment sparked protests, with people demanding political reform. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika agreed to lift the state of emergency which has been used to silence critics since 1992, but the protests have continued. Bouteflika has stated that he plans far reaching reforms to placate the protesters.
Opposition to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics has been simmering since protests against election fraud in 2009. This spring, opponent Mir Hossein Moussavi, under house arrest, called for widespread anti-government protests.
Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo has finally been removed from office after holding onto power despite losing November’s election. He has been blamed for over-spending on weapons, corruption and mass unemployment. The post-election crisis left 3,000 dead.
Demonstrators clashed with security forces, demanding an end to the National Congress Party’s brutal rule. Many were beaten and some remain missing. This year, South Sudan gained independence from the North but Omar Al-Bashir’s forces have violated territory.
Hundreds arranged online to rally, demanding Hamas, Fatah and others heal political rifts after Al-Jazeera exposed corruption.
We’re seeing unrest across Africa and the Middle East, some of which is peaceful, some not. We, and free states, must ensure that peaceful movements like Tibet’s succeed.
Shias protested after an activist was killed by police. Partly brought together on a Facebook group, they called for equal rights and the release of political prisoners. Women have also defied a ban on them driving.
Protesters have called for the removal of President Al Abdullah Saleh, blamed for high unemployment and poverty. After a series of killings during protests, army troops joined the protesters. Saleh refused to sign a peace deal which required him to step down, but has since been badly injured during violence and left the country for treatment.
Protesters clashed with police in the Kurdish region, complaining about corruption, food and power shortages. In initial protests, police killed one protester and injured 57, leading to further unrest in which rock-throwing protesters were pushed back with water cannons.
Thousands of protesters calling for President Ismail Omar Guelleh to step down ahead of elections were charged by riot police and tear gassed. Up to 300 opposition leaders were arrested and torture was reportedly used against them. Guelleh won the election after the opposition decided to boycott.
Lhasa brought to London On March 10th, Tibet supporters from across the UK descended on Westminster for the annual Mass Lobby of Parliament. They were meeting with their MPs to demand that they stand up for Tibet by calling on the government to hold discussions with the new Kalon Tripa and sign an Early Day Motion condemning the on-going Chinese government crackdown against Tibetan dissidents; particularly academics and intellectuals.
This was the third lobby organised by the coalition of UK Tibet support groups and built on the amazing successes of previous years. New additions included live tweets and video blogging from inside and outside Parliament, which gave the event a digital edge to involve people far beyond those attending.
With a clear message sent to the government, over fifty MPs from nine different political parties (and an independent!) signing the Early Day Motion, and visits to the protest opposite Parliament by politicians including long-time Tibet support Fabien Hamilton and government minister Norman Baker, we certainly made an impact! Last year, one of our lobby asks was for the British government to set up a consulate in Lhasa to better monitor the human rights situation there. This spring, the Foreign Office has announced that it will be appointing an extra 50 envoys to China. We will continue to press the government to ensure that at least some of these are stationed in Tibet.
So a huge thank you is due to everyone who turned up (especially the intrepid group of SFT students who set off at 7am to make the 200+ mile trip from Hull)... but there is still more to do. Please get in touch with your MP to keep this pressure on. We often take our democratic rights for granted -but these are the very same rights that Tibetans are struggling for every single day.
Two days after the lobby, Tibet flags were once again flying on the streets of London for the annual Freedom March. A vibrant and active year for Tibet groups, media coverage of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses following the arrest of Ai Weiwei and a bit of sunshine combined to bring out the biggest turnout for years.
Over 500 people gathered near Parliament then marched to the Chinese embassy via Downing Street, where representatives from Tibet support groups handed in a letter calling on the Prime Minister to meet his commitments to human rights in dealings with China. Like at the lobby, Twitter and Facebook were used throughout the march to keep supporters in the loop- updates on our location even swelled numbers as we went along! The final rally at the embassy was an impressive sight, with statements from the Dalai Lama’s representative Thubten Samdup, members of the Tibetan community and Kate Hoey MP. Songs were sung, interviews were given, banners were held high and no one was left in any doubt that we will be back, louder, stronger and more determined every year until Tibet is free. Write to your MP using our mass lobby asks: ACT NOW!
1. Call on the Foreign Secretary to publicly welcome the election of the Kalon Tripa, Lobsang Sangay, invite him to the UK and encourage the Chinese President to engage with the Kalon Tripa. 2. Sign EDM 1434: ‘Arrests in Tibet’ and call on the British Ambassador in China to follow up on cases of arbitrarily arrested Tibetans, including writers, bloggers and artists, and to seek their release.
Photos: Tibetans and supporters take to the streets of London in their thousands for the 10th March rally, which takes place every year. The march was a proud festival of colour, celebrating Tibet’s vivid culture and calling for an end to Chinese occupation and oppression.
SFT UK hits the road
Summer’s here and SFT UK will be setting up stall at some of the UK’s most lively outdoor events. We’ll be entertaining the kids at the Glastonbury festival between 24th and 26th June, doing face-painting, mandala colouring and showing kids the richness of Tibetan culture in the children’s area, and we’ll also have SFT information for adults. Then we’ll be at Womad world music festival at Charlton Park, Wiltshire between 29th and 31st July, where we’ll have a stall for information and merchandise. Come along and see SFT UK at these events and others throughout the year!
Wen Jiabao in London
Watch out for SFT UK’s protests around Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to the UK, most likely on Sunday 26th and Monday 27th June. Wen and the Chinese Communist Party ban protests inside China and Tibet, but they have no such power in the UK, where our right to express political views with non-violent protests is a legal right. Members of China’s politburo can try to smother dissent at home, but when they travel, they should always have to face chants, banners and Tibetan flags- reminding them of what they go to great pains to hide; that the Tibetan cause is alive and well. See what happens and read about other upcoming protests you can join at www.sftuk.org
Art for Tibet
We’re excited to share our plans for an art extravaganza which will be taking place this autumn – Art for Tibet.
We’ll be building on the success of last year’s Art for Tibet New York in what’s set to be a fantastic exhibition of art as well as raising valuable funds for SFT UK! We’re working with artists from all around the world who support the Tibetan people’s struggle and who understand the importance of being able to freely express themselves politically, religiously, culturally and artistically. These artists have generously donated their work for us to exhibit and the show will culminate in an online fundraising art auction where you could get your hands on a unique piece of art! We already have some fantastic pieces of art including some works from Tibetan artists and we look forward to telling you more about this exciting event as our plans develop. You can see the art sold in New York at www.artfortibet.com
Art for Tibet 2011 is part of SFT UK’s Renaissance Series, which seeks to highlight the creative work of artists and intellectuals in Tibet and their persecution by the Chinese government. Since 2008, more than 50 Tibetan artists and writers have been imprisoned, tortured, harassed or have disappeared in the crackdown, simply for reporting or expressing their views, writing prose or poetry, or sharing information about Chinese policies and their impact on Tibet today. Through Art for Tibet 2011 we will be showing our solidarity with persecuted Tibetan artist who so bravely risk their lives for freedom.
ACT NOW! Do you know an artist who you think would want to be part of this exclusive event? Or perhaps you know a gallery who would be interested in hosting the exhibition. We’d like to hear from you! Please contact Pema at email@example.com
Just when you thought it was safe to eat your favourite Tibetan meal in peace, the unbridled terror of SFT UK’s second momo eating contest arrived! After last October’s sickening pig-out saw Tenzin Yingyen crowned momo maestro after savaging a staggering 42 momos in ten minates, six intrepid competitors attempted to take his title in the champion’s absence.
The event took place at Junction Rooms in Dalston, raising funds to pay for SFT UK’s environmental conference, which took place a day earlier. Spectators sponsored the competitors to eat as many chilli-caked momos as possible in the allotted time frame. In the dark and dingey basement of the Junction Rooms, former SFT Director Lhadon Tethong started the clock and the dough-drenched debauchery began!
It was energetic, it was epic, it was emotional, but just like Highlander, Neo and Buffy, there could only be one and this depraved carnival of culinary horrors was just the thing to determine who was the sickest splittist. In ten minutes of heaven and hell which must’ve seemed like an age to the true olympians of momo munching, it was neck and neck between former SFT board member Ben and undercover momo eater extrordinaire Palden until Palden pipped him at the post, claiming the title of SFT momo king with a new world record of 48 momos! If he ever sees a momo again, he’ll probably cry... then eat it.
Photos: The SFT UK stall, Wen, momo madness and New York Art for Tibet pieces by Youvak Tuladhar and Shie Moreno
Tiananmen remembered By Wong Sum-Lung
4th June was the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In London we began our activities early in the afternoon with a flash mob in Trafalgar Square, where we unfurled a banner and held up the names of victims of the crackdown. Afterwards, we gathered in Chinatown to listen to speeches by Jeremy Corbyn MP and Chinese pro-democracy activists. In the evening we gathered outside the Chinese Embassy to hold a vigil and to listen to Shao Jiang, a survivor of the massacre. Other speakers included Xia Ze, Stephen Ng, Lucy Jin and Paul Golding.
I grew up in Hong Kong and there every 4th June would be marked by a candlelight vigil, which would take place out in the open no matter what the weather, just as Szeto Wah insisted. As protests swept mainland China in 1989, Mr. Szeto and a number of others came together in Hong Kong, then a British colony, to form the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. He would go on to chair the organisation until he finally succumbed to cancer in January, less than two months from what would have been his 80th birthday. Thanks to Mr. Szeto’s tireless campaigning, the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong has consistently drawn crowds of more than 100,000 in each of the past three years. Because I knew him personally from attending activist meetings, this year’s 4th of June took on particular significance as the first that Mr. Szeto did not live to commemorate. Similar vigils have been organised around the world, but in China, memorials are prevented. This year hundreds were turned back from a vigil in Shanghai, while those trying to get to Tiananmen Square to remember the victims were detained. Meanwhile activists such as Bao Tong and Ding Ziling were kept under house arrest.
I am thankful for the solidarity that a number of Tibetan friends showed us throughout the day, especially since I believe that we Chinese and Tibetans should be united in the face of communist oppression. I was also particularly moved by the presence of Mr. Song, who had come from mainland China. He was on a business trip to Wales and Scotland, but Mr. Song came to London especially to participate. I thanked him for his support and he said, referring to the open wound of Tiananmen, “well, it’s a problem for all of us.” He meant that I didn’t have to thank him because China was, after all, his country too, and he was just doing something for his country. However, as China becomes more powerful and influential in the world, it’s problems are becoming the world’s problems. We all have a stake in whether China acts responsibly, so let’s continue to hold the Chinese government accountable and rally around the Tiananmen Massacre until justice prevails.
Get kitted out this season!
It’s always been one of the simplest ways of supporting Tibet and it’s also one of the most effective! A lot of people don’t even know what Tibet is, where it is or that there are abuses of human rights and freedoms going on there. You can help change that just by wearing one of SFT UK’s many t-shirt designs. And you can look good doing it too! We’ve just had some new designs in from India, so look out for the new Made in Tibet and Tibet hoodie designs on the SFT UK website and at our stalls at events. And we’ve got more than t-shirts; you can get SFT shoulder bags, badges, stickers, hoodies, flags, books, greeting cards and incense and whatever you buy, you know you’re helping Students for a Free Tibet at the same time. As SFT UK is a voluntary organisation, we have no office and use our own equipment, you know your money is going directly into funding our work for Tibet. Sadly there are always costs to campaigning, but you can keep us going and get something back by buying merchandise. Visit the online shop at www.sftuk.org/sft-online-store and shop online.
SFT UK magazine
We love making this magazine and we hope you like it too. We can’t always afford to print every issue, but if you’d like to make a donation to help us get this magazine printed so people get the chance to read it, please contact us. Meanwhile, we’ll keep writing it online, where you can also read the first two issues! ISSUE ONE: Rangzen: Main article from Jamyang Norbu’s blog ISSUE TWO: Cracks in the System: Main article by Shao Jiang www.sftuk.org/about/sft-uk-publications or search for sft on www.issuu.com
Photos: Chinese democracy supporters are joined by SFT UK and other members of Chinese, Uyghur and Tibetan Solidarity UK (CUTS UK) for the 4th June memorial activities at Trafalgar Square, Chinatown and the Chinese Embassy, SFT UK merchandise & magazines
Help us support prisoners
Campaigning for the release of political prisoners is a core focus of SFT UK’s work. There are at least 800 political prisoners held in Tibet today, and many more who are missing and may well be imprisoned without trial. Those who do face trial are often denied legal representation, are savagely beaten, struck with poles, iron bars and sticks, prodded with electric batons, chained to chairs and ceiling fittings, denied food, water or medical treatment and are found guilty based only on confessions which they are forced to make while being tortured. China’s notorious prison system is known as one of the most brutal in the world, and many inmates are there for one simple reason; for proclaiming their Tibetan culture and nationality and demanding freedom.
But China cannot flaunt international laws, and indeed its own laws, regarding the treatment of prisoners if it’s prevented from acting behind closed doors. By popularising the individual cases of political prisoners, we open up those doors to the Chinese prison system and reveal what’s going on behind the rhethoric, behind the propaganda and behind the veneer of ‘harmony’ which they claim exists in Tibet. There is no harmony for Tibetans who dare to be Tibetan; only abuse, incarceration and death. We know that campaigning for political prisoners works. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it works as the Chinese state would never admit that it feels pressured on this issue, but we can look at the cases themselves. The Drapchi nuns, including Ngawang Sangdrol and Phuntsok Nyidrol; jailed and tortured, in Ngawang’s case since she was 13 years old, have all now been released. Jigme Gyatso was treated better the second time he was jailed, when his case had been made public, assistant film maker Golog Jigme said his torture ended when campaigns in his name began, Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche’s death sentence was reduced to life and some argue that Dhondup Wangchen and Phurbu Rinpoche received shorter sentences than many feared they would get because their cases were made known around the world. The outreach power of the internet means we can highlight more prisoner’s cases to wider audiences and by lobbying members of Parliament, staging protests, gathering petitions and organising events, we can make sure that political prisoners’ cases are known and that these brave Tibetans do not disappear from the radar when they’re imprisoned as the CCP wants them to. Even when they’re jailed, prisoners can be powerful symbols of resistance, both for Tibetans inside Tibet and for people around the world. But of course campaigning costs, and SFT UK is a voluntary organisation, so you can help by giving a small regular donation to us by standing order or online via Paypal, which will make sure we can continue campaigning for Tibetan political prisoners. You can become an SFT UK Guardian for a prisoner of your choice by donating £3 per month; less than a train ticket, a happy meal or an iced latte! Even if it’s small, a regular donation is great for SFT UK as it means we know what funds we’ll have coming in and be able to plan campaigns more effectively.
We’ve chosen 6 prisoners who we’re focusing on; pick one and you’ll get a pack and updates about them and can leave a message to them on the Guardians minisite. Help keep SFT UK going by becoming a Guardian at www.sftuk.org/guardians
Tibet book club!
Johnathan Green gave a talk with SFT UK & Tibet Society earlier this year. The new edition of his book is out now.
Ever wondered where to start in choosing a book to read about Tibet? There are hundreds of books from academic research into the history of Tibet to travel literature, not forgetting the wealth of Tibetan writers sharing their own personal experiences of living under occupation. Well help is on hand! This summer we’ll be launching our new book section on the SFT UK website where we’ll be recommending some great reads and keeping you up to date with the latest releases. We’ll also have a section on Tibetan music and films. And the best thing is you’ll be able to buy any books you’re interested in and support SFT UK as well! We’ve joined Amazon’s affiliate scheme where we can earn up to 10% every time people click from our site to Amazon to buy one of the books, such as Johnathan Green’s moving ‘Murder in the High Himalaya’, about the Nangpa La shootings. So not only can you enjoy reading a new book and learn more about the Tibetan cause, but you’ll also be directly helping to fund our work!
Photos: Ex-prisoner Palden Gyatso with torture wepeons, be a Guardian for revered monk Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche, environmentalist Karma Samdrup, film maker Dhondup Wangchen, cadre and writer Norzin Wangmo, the Panchen Lama or monk Phurbu Rinpoche
Fighting the firewall
The US has hit out at China this year over internet controls, criticising the complex system of blocking, monitoring and hacking which prevents people living under Chinese rule from accessing world-popular services and sharing information.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton pointed out that the internet played a key role in bringing down the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes, and that the ‘Great Firewall of China’ cannot remain effective forever. "They will face a dictator's dilemma,” she said, “and will have to choose between letting the walls fall or paying the price to keep them standing… Those who clamp down on Internet freedom may be able to hold back the full expression of their people's yearnings for a while, but not forever." The primary function of the internet; the sharing of information, frustrates the Chinese state, but no nation can fully control it.
The US sees China’s internet controls as a denial of universal freedoms, and is pledging an extra $25 million dollars per year (in addition to the $20 million it already spends) to develop technologies and training which people living under the CCP and other oppressive regimes can use to get around these controls. The move has angered the CCP, which is desperate to keep China’s 450 million internet users in the dark about a range of issues from human rights to successful public protests in the Middle East to it’s own brutal policies against Tibetans, state corruption and the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Since the announcement, snippets of Clinton’s speech shared by US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and others online have been deleted. He said "It is ironic that the Chinese are blocking an online discussion about Internet freedom." Qiao Mu, director of the Center for International Communications Studies in Beijing, said he posted around ten microblog entries about Clinton’s speech and was sent a message from web admininstrators saying his account was being reviewed due "harmful information" being posted on it.
Microblog sites like Twitter are of particular concern to China because information can spread quickly and be very difficult to control. Bill Bishop, a Beijing-based investor, said "All it takes is a retweet by one of the 'spreaders,' like a famous journalist or one of the folks with a huge following, and you have tens of thousands or more who see it almost immediately." We’ve seen that with the likes of Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo. And Professor Bu Zhong said "The traditional one-way flow of information, from official media to the audience, is being altered by the multi-way flow of information online because of social media... suppression does not always work anymore. What's happening today was not conceivable in China 10 or 20 years ago."
Smurf rocks Lhasa
For the third year running, China’s propaganda ‘holiday’ Serf Emancipation Day failed to secure the attention of the world’s media. China introduced it to mark what it calls the ‘peaceful liberation’ of Tibetan ‘serfs’- what Tibetans call China’s brutal occupation. China’s claim that Tibetans were ‘serfs’ before the invasion is laughable, so every year ‘Smurf Emancipation Day’ emerges online to poke fun at the CCP’s claims. This year, photos of a daring non-violent direct action by the Rangzen Smurf were smuggled out of Tibet and broadcast online via the new undercover Smurf newswire Smurfyleekx, which leaks secret information to the public on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
The Rangzen Smurf was photographed playing the Tibetan national anthem on a guitar on the roof of the Jokhang temple in Lhasa; a bit like U2’s video for ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, though obviously the Rangzen Smurf is much more heroic than Bono. Photos of the new generation of Smurfs using music to challenge the evil Gargamao Empire in Amdo and Kham were also leaked. A new ‘Smurfy Saturday’ movement is emerging in which Smurfs use civil disobedience, refusing to buy Gargamao’s goods or paying a fee every time they use a Gargmalian word. Smurfs are increasingly using brave and clever means to expose the fact that Smurfs are not really free and that they, not Gargamao, should be running the Smurf Village. You can see the whole photo story at www.smurfswillbefree.wordpress.com
Photos: People have to register at net cafes so are monitored, computers popular in Tibet (Jim McGill) Clinton’s speech on censorship, Jon Huntsman’s microblog, smurfs in Lhasa, Kham, being invited to drink tea in Amdo and at Sera monastery
F*ck CCP, Free AIWW!
AI Weiwei’s could be one of the cases which breaks the Chinese government’s back. He’s their worst nightmare; a confident, popular artist who knows his rights and isn’t afraid to challenge the state head on. It’s little surprise that the government doesn’t know what to do with him; intermitently arresting him, releasing him, beating him and letting him speak his mind. As a famous figure with support among the Chinese people, if they keep him imprisoned, he becomes a symbol of their oppression. If they leave him alone, his ideas about free speech and expression spread to new audiences. For now, they have chosen to imprison him, and people who aren’ t usually interested in politics are joining in to condemn the state’s actions.
In London, three galleries where his work takes pride of place; the Tate Modern, Lisson and Somerset House, have joined artists by organising imaginative protests and calling for his release. SFT UK has joined these protests, such as artist Hamish Fulton’s ‘Slow Walk for Ai Weiwei’ at the Tate Modern. London Mayor Boris Johnson joined the campaign to release Ai Weiwei, saying “In China, the very fact of his disappearance has itself disappeared. Plug his name into a Chinese search engine, and nothing comes up. They have super-injuncted him out of the story.”
In May, after a month in prison, Ai Weiwei was finally allowed to meet with his wife for twenty minutes, but has remained in custody. It appears that he has been tortured to extract a confession for tax-related charges which may be a cover for silencing him on political matters.
There are lots of imaginative ways to express support for Ai Weiwei, such as the ‘F*ck Off’ photo campaign. Based on Weiwei’s infamous picture in his ‘F*ck Off’ exhibition (top left), supporters are invited to take photos of their one-fingered salute to objects representing the Chinese government. Tibetans in India have joined in, and even musician MIA tweeted the campaign to her followers. Weiwei has said "(The CCP) have to have an enemy. They have to create you as their enemy in order for them to continue their existence." In Weiwei’s spirit, let’s be a clever and gutsy enemy!
Support Ai Weiwei
-Upload YOUR F*ck off photo to www.smurfyleekx.tumblr.com -Tweet Weiwei articles using the #AIWW hashtag -Write to your local MP about the case. www.writetothem.com -Attend CUTS UK events, posted on Facebook -Visit the Tate, Lisson or Somerset House, who are displaying his work -Watch & share Weiwei’s documentary ‘disturbing the peace’ online. You can find it embedded at www.sftuk.org/free-ai-weiwei
Can I call 110?
An anonymous blog post from www.rangdrol.net
When robbers and thieves commit crimes in the streets or markets we are not worried because securities agencies like 110 exist. But who do we call then for some other troubles? Can we call 110? If I am a writer’s wife and police burst in and take away my husband without any reason, can I call 110? If I am a traveller and suddenly a group of police burst into my hotel room, can I call 110? If I am an old man taken into custody and tortured, can I call 110? If I am a driver taking a patient to hospital, police stop me and meanwhile the patient dies, can I call 110? If I am monk and police block the way and beat me from head to toe, can I call 110? If I am a nomad and one day police order me to move to a settlement, empty and ruin my house and force me to accept starting over in a new livelihood, can I call 110? I won't write more because it may be claimed such things could only be made up. But such cases are always happening in our society. When robbers and thieves make trouble, we call 110. But suppose sometimes the troublemakers of our society are not thieves and robbers but the police themselves. Then to who should we call for help? Can we call 110? This entry has been paraphrased from the original blog. Read the full translated entry at www.highpeakspureearth.com Photos: Weiwei and ‘fuck-offs’ to the CCP by Weiwei, Beijing Olympic mascots, SFT India join in, the Gormo-Lhasa railway, more India, to an ugly monument to ‘harmony’ in Lhasa, outside the Tate Modern, to the CCP’s Panchen Zuma, MIA’s tweet
Free Tibet! Action Camp
Are you passionate about the Tibetan cause? Have you been to SFT trainings or events and want to make a difference? Are you ready to take that next step?
Free Tibet! Action Camp is a week-long event packed with training and skill sharing from strategic campaigning to abseiling trees! It’s where the next leaders of the Tibetan movement are made, and YOU can be a part of it! Some of SFT’s top activists started out at Action Camp. Some of SFT UK’s board members learned everything they know about non-violent direct action there and so many Tibetans and supporters feel energised, confident and inspired after attending camp.
This year, Free Tibet! Action Camp takes place between 5th and 11th August in the idyllic setting of Pauenhof, near Dusseldorf, Germany. It’ll be a packed week where you can get basic and advanced training on grassroots organising, strategic campaigning and non-violent resistance. Camp costs just 100 Euros, and that covers campsite accomadation, food for a week, transport to and from Dusseldorf airport and of course the best Tibet activist training money can buy!
It’s also a great place to meet people who share the same ideas as you and are also passionate about bringing freedom to the Tibetan people. There are a limited number of places, so we have to pick the best candidates for camp. We’re investing in the future of the movement and the stronger we can make SFT activists, the stronger we can make the movement. The registration period closes on 30th June, so register now if you’re interested in coming along, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about camp. But above all, help us keep the Tibetan movement going- we have momentum, we have commitment and we have justice on our side, and so do the Tibetan people. Let’s make sure we’re best equipped to help them!
Read all about Action Camp and resgister on the Action Camp minisite: www.sftuk.org/camp
Be part of history!
SFT UK was founded by students in 2003. Since then, we’ve grown and founded chapters all over the country. We’re also growing as a non-profit organisation and influencing members of Parliament, new groups of supporters and the media.
At SFT UK, we’re proud of what we’ve achieved, always with a limited or no budget, fuelled by our passion and that of our supporters. And we’re proud to be an integral part of SFT’s international network; a strong voice for Tibetan independence which is growing across the world. We’re proud of current and former SFT UK board members and supporters who went to Beijing during the 2008 Olympics and became front page news for the daring non-violent direct actions they staged. And we’re committed to growing SFT UK.
When people ask about joining SFT UK, they often say ‘but I’m not a student’. You don’t have to be. SFT UK represents a growing range of support groups, and we’re finding support in different areas of the community. That includes people involved or interested in film, art, music, politics and human rights as well as other communities seeking the same rights and freedoms as the Tibetan people. But students will always be our backbone and we take pride in being born from the same kind of resistance ethics as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protesters and so many other student movements of the past. So we’re always on the lookout for students to start chapters in their universities, and we have a range of means to support people who are interested in doing that, from providing resource packs to DVD films, hands-on training, talks and speaker tours. So if you’re interested in getting active for Tibet at uni, we can help you every step! You don’t have to be a university student either; we also want to reach out to colleges, sixth forms and schools, so if you’re a student, or even if you haven’t studied for years, it’s never too early or late to get involved!
event or learn more. SFT UK runs a weekend conference every autumn, NOisWthe! perfect ACTwhich place for UK students and others to get started. Contact us for info.
Contact us at email@example.com if you want to start a group, stage a one-off
Photos: Previous Action Camps, London protests by Luke Ward, Chinatown ac tion, UK protests in the 90s, SFT UK’s Iain Thom raises the Tibet issue outside the Olympic stadium in Beijing in 2008
Christians under fire
As part of SFT UK’s One Struggle campaign we’re working with other groups that suffer under CCP rule, which has highlighted the plight of Christians and other religious groups in China itself.
The suppression of religion is not a new concept in extreme socialism; indeed Russia under Stalin and North Korea under Kim Il Sung both operated large anti-religious campaigns, popularly believed to be in response to a fear of political unease. For most of us in the Western world, religious freedom is something we take for granted. In fact, in the 2001 census, almost 0.8% of people in England and Wales stated their religion as Jedi. At a staggering 390,127 people, it’s clear we can claim to follow even fictional religions without risk to our lives and welfare. But in China, followers of spiritual movements such as Falun Gong are arbitrarily arrested, tortured and killed. Alongside Ai Weiwei, the Panchen Lama and Tibetan culture is the rapid disappearance of religion in China. Or so it would seem.
China was historically a largely religious state; primarily Confucian until around 1911. Since then, Christianity, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam have blossomed to become the most influential religions in the country. Catholicism and Protestantism are the official Christian sects, however what has become more popular is the house-based Christianity that prioritises the Bible and Jesus over the political views of the state. The most talked about of these churches is Shouwang, which has around 1,000 members. Recently around 100 people were detained from the Shouwang’s congregation whilst a service was taking place outside, amid fears that they were taking part in political or human rights movements as well as religious. Reports have included witness statements that children as young as 2 have been detained. Spokespeople from Shouwang have said the church has experienced problems finding a venue to hold their services due to large numbers and have also blamed the government for interfering in their search for a new location. Reports say that constant political intervention into Christian gatherings have forced congregations further underground, while prominent Christian rights activists like lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who also defended Falun Gong in court, disappear without trace.
As the Chinese Communist Party intrude into religious assemblies, the image of the state faces a speedy downward turn. China’s human rights record is already dubious; perhaps recent events will prompt Western governments to act. SFT UK will use One Struggle to strive to amplify the voices oppressed groups and strengthen all of our causes by networking together.
Article 18: religious rights
The oppression of religious belief by the Chinese government is widespread and ruthless. In response to the recent crackdown on the Shouwang Church and in solidarity with Buddhist, Falun Gong, and Islamic practitioners who are continually denied the right to express their beliefs, SFT UK will soon launch an exciting new campaign as part of our ‘One Struggle’ networking; Article 18. The campaign’s name comes from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.” This tallies with what we at SFT UK believe: that the people of Tibet, China, East Turkestan and Inner Mongolia have the right to hold and express their religious beliefs without fear of attack, imprisonment or intimidation. Last year the newly built Fushan Church in Linfen City, Shanxi Province was demolished by hundreds of Chinese government employees and police; worshipers sleeping in the building were attacked and 10 more were arrested for submitting an official complaint. But it’s not just Christians. Falun Gong sources claim to have verified the killing of least 3,074 practitioners by the Chinese regime since the movement was banned in 1999, and Uyghurs are also denied religious rights as the state bans texts and destroys mosques. As an organisation we don’t subscribe to any faith, but we’ll always defend the right of others to do so. In coming months we we’ll be working with representatives of Tibetan Buddhism, Falun Gong, Chinese Christianity and Uyghur Islam to raise awareness of the Chinese regime’s persistent violations of Article 18 and fight for for freedom and justice. SFT UK supports Christians oppressed in China and other causes. Read more about how we’re networking with them on the minisite: www.sftuk.org/onestruggle
Photos: Police block worshippers from entering the Shouwang church in Beijing recently, Shouwang followers continue to sing hymns outside, Pastor Wang Zhanhu, who was put in a coma after a police officer beat him with a baton and a Chinese Christinan is led away by police.
Missing since self-immolation protest in 2009
As the crackdown in Ngaba has unfolded, attention has again been drawn to Kirti monastery and the history of resistance shown by the monks there. Over years of protests, crackdowns, ‘patriortic re-education’ and killings, the Chinese government is still struggling to stop Kirti monks from standing up against Chinese rule, with the monks prepared to lay down their lives and freedom to ensure their non-violent struggle is not forgotten.
Another demonstration of this resitance came in February 2009, when a young monk in his twenties set himself alight to bring attention to the stuation in Tibet. Tapey had earlier been one of around 1,000 monks who was prevented from celebrating the Monlam festival when the Chinese authorities locked the entrance to the main prayer hall at Kirti in an attempt to deny the monks their religious right to observe the festival. Tapey walked into the main market square in Ngaba shouting slogans and holding a hand-drawn Tibeatan national flag (it is considered a crime to print or possess the flag in Tibet). He poured petrol over himself and set himself alight. Witnesses said they heard gunshots and turned to see that Tapey had fallen to the floor, surrounded by armed Chinese police. The police extinguished the flames and bundled him into a van, which drove away. Unlike Puntsok Jurutsang’s self immolation this spring, Tapey is thought to have survived the incident, but has not been seen since. Following the incident, there were reports that Tapey had been told he would have to have one arm and one leg amputated, but that he refused, saying that the wounds to his limbs were not serious enough to require amputation. The reports suggested that the amputation was not demanded because of burns, but to remove evidence of bullet wounds in his arm and leg, allowing the authorities to claim that he had not been shot. It has not been reported whether or not the operation was carried out, and Tapey’s current whereabouts and wellbeing are unknown.
: Bhuchung D. Sonam’s poem about Tapey:
My brother Tapey has set himself on fire. Sorrows raining down, beating My eyeballs are swimming. Freedom Must you drink blood before you come. To us thursting under the clouds of occupation. Winds blow, leaves fly, dust rise Waves slapping high, Against my boat. Freedom, your footstep Is what I want to die for
Self immolation is perhaps the most dramatic form of protest somebody can undertake without resorting to harming others. Tapey and Puntsok Jurutsang aren’t the first to carry out such protests, the most famous case probably being that of Vietnamese monk Thích Quảng Đức, who burnt himself to death in protest at the persecution of monks in 1963. Thubten Ngodup, an exiled Tibetan, died after self immolating at the end of a hunger strike in India in 1998 and there have been a wave of self immolations during the Arab Spring in the Middle East this year.
It’s hard for people to understand things being so bad that people decide to set themselves alight as a means of protest, knowing they could lose their lives, but such acts are not considered sins in some forms of Buddhism, and the attention they draw can save the lives of others; the main intention of such protests.
Photos: Tapey, on the floor after his protest, the protest itself, surrounded by police, Thubten Ngodup, Thích Quảng Đức
SFT UK NOTICE BOARD
‘Little Tibet’: th e story of a Tibetan man’s trip t0 Ladakh , the closest he can get to home. Film ou t soon.
SFTUK 3 ‘Murder in the High Himalaya’ by Jonathan Green docum ents the tragedy of 17 year old Tibetan nun Ke lsang Namtso’s brut al killing, captured on fil m by climbers. New edition out now.
Free Tibet! Action Camp takes place between 5th and 11th August: 100 Euros covers campsite accomadation, food, travel from Dusseldorf & training. Register by end of June at www.sftuk.org/camp If youâ€™ve missed Action Camp, remember SFT UKâ€™s annual conference & training takes place in October 2011