Thursday, March 15, 2007

March 10th article in UW student newspaper, The Badger Herald

Madison rallies for 'Free Tibet'
by Peter Sielski
Monday, March 12, 2007

With chants of “China out of Tibet” and “No Olympics for China,” approximately 250 Free Tibet supporters rallied on State Street Saturday morning to protest the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

The rally was part of globally recognized Tibetan Uprising Day, commemorating March 10, 1959, when more than 100,000 Tibetans gave their lives in a peaceful, non-violent uprising against China’s invasion of Tibet.

Rallies like the one in Madison occurred all over the world Saturday, according to Wisconsin Tibetan Association member Sherab Lhatsang.

Tom Boman, a member of Madison’s chapter of Students for a Free Tibet, said this year’s demonstration was two-fold.

“One, we are hoping to introduce the 2008 Olympics campaign in Beijing, where there will be a series of protests,” Boman said. “The other [aspect] is to revitalize the movement as people have gotten comfortable with themselves — so we are trying to get them active again.”

In addition to Madison’s SFT, members of WTA participated in the rally. Both groups said the rally was an effort to raise public awareness and push for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“We want to show that we will fight for our country to preserve our culture and preserve our traditions, which were destroyed by the Chinese,” WTA President Tenzing Lobsang said. “China is the worst country in the world regarding human rights, and all democratic, freedom-loving countries should boycott the Olympics given that.”

According to Asius Vangio, a member of Madison’s SFT, Saturday’s event was a success.

“With his Holiness the Dalai Lama coming here in May, I think that this is going to draw a lot of attention to SFT and the Tibetan community in Madison in general,” Vangio said.

After marching down State Street, the demonstrators went to the state Capitol to hear from a variety of speakers, including Madison Democratic state representatives Spencer Black and Joe Parisi — both of whom helped pass a resolution labeling March 10 as Wisconsin Tibet Day.

“We are looking for a free Tibet for Tibetan people to have the right to preserve their heritage and worship as they wish on their own land,” Parisi said.

Other speakers included two University of Wisconsin students — Tenzin Dhanze and Tenzin Woeser — as well as Vangio and longtime Tibetan supporter Chris Hall.

While he acknowledged a boycott of the Olympics in China is not likely, Dhanze said it would probably be more successful to get individual athletes to refuse to compete.

According to WTA Secretary Dechen Choedon, the protesters, more than 90 percent of whom were American citizens, chose to show their American pride by carrying a United States flag and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“Now we are a part of the U.S.,” Choedon said. “It is our way of honoring and respecting the nation in our own way.”

Since March 10 landed on a Saturday, many younger supporters were able to attend, which WTA and SFT said was important and encouraging for their purpose.

“It gives us a lot of hope that the second generation is actually carrying our struggle,” Lhatsang said. “[The struggle] is not going to end — they are going to carry that forward as long as Tibet is not free, which is inspirational to us as well.”

According to Lhatsang, the main issues facing the Tibetan people include a lack of freedoms, a poor school system and brothels. Lhatsang added — with a large influx of Chinese people — Tibetans are slowly becoming a minority in their own land.

“[Tibetans] who try to bring their children into India to Tibetan schools can be prosecuted,” Lhatsang said. “Even if you have a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, you can be locked up for 10 to 20 years.”

Print Version of the Article

More Pictures from Rally

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