Thursday, May 1, 2008

Free Tibet : March 10

By Sooyeon Kim

More than one thousand people protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet marched from downtown Manhattan to U.N. headquarter on 42nd street. With loud chants they waved yellow Tibetan flags and signs reading "Free Tibet" and "Boycott Beijing Olympic", written in both English, Tibetan and Chinese.

The rally was organized to commemorate the anniversary of Tibet's 1959 National Uprising Day, when thousands of Tibetans rose up against the forces of the Chinese occupation to protest Chinese rule and to protect the Dali Lama from the Chinese Liberation Army. Almost five decades later protests are being held, not only in New York City, but worldwide, in India as well as London, calling for the end of human rights abuses by the Chinese government, which is scheduled to hold the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

"This year, we have one more reason to come here other than just remembering the 49th anniversary of Tibet's Uprising Day," said Tsering Palden, President of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress. "We are protesting China using the good name of the Olympics to cover up its abuses In Tibet."

Palden, who came to the U.S. in 1999, also mentioned that the increasing number of Tibetan people in New York City, as well as the growing Tibetan communities throughout New Jersey and Connecticut, has allowed more Tibetans to join the march every year.

"Since we moved here from the refugee camp in India in 2004, we have come to join the march every year," said Sonam Lama, holding her 6-month old daughter in her arms. "This is our baby's first time here. I really hope all our family can go back to Tibet again and that my daughter can meet her grandparents who live there now."

Along with many young Tibetans wearing traditional masks, old ladies wearing traditional bright-colored skirts, and organizers moving busily to check for obstacles like food vendors and crosswalks, there were also a few old Buddhist monks walking in the march, holding their hands in front of their chests.

"I prayed that the holiness of the Dalai Lama blesses these people," said Tenjin Daua, a Buddhist monk from a temple that houses only three monks in Howell, New Jersey.

The march, organized by groups of Tibetan exiles, is not directly associated with the Dalai Lama, who nonetheless is Tibet's spiritual leader and has led non-violent activism against the repression of the Chinese government, according to Palden.

Among these Tibetan people, there were also non-Tibetan supporters joining the march.

"I've been involved with the Tibetan community since 1991 and have known many Tibetans and learned what happened there. Once you know about it, you have to do something," said Sandra Boss, a board member of the Unites States Tibetan Committee, as she handed out flyers to people on the streets. "We will keep reminding people that Tibet is real and alive. And they have to help us. I say 'us' because after all these years, I feel like I'm Tibetan."

New Yorkers, facing the endless march guarded by police officers, paused on their ways to watch the scene.

“It's a very strong and powerful presentation." said Andrew Zack, " China needs to change if they really know the meaning of The Olympics. It's about harmony and fairness."

There were also tourists who were lucky enough to view the colorful rallies through the skyscrapers on 3rd avenue.

"I spent time in India and my son spent time in Nepal. We got to know about the problem in Tibet, and we absolutely support them," said Alice Baley, from Boston."I'm happy we managed to get here at the exact right moment to see this. The size of it is impressive."

In spite of this massive march, some news from the other rallies were heard via the subscribed text messages sent from one of the organizers saying that the Indian government has declared the march illegal and has even arrested people.

Asked if people would be discouraged by the news, Palden answered,

"Honestly, I don't even expect China or the U.N. to do something dramatic or respond to our march today. But we'll just keep knocking on the door until they listen. I don't know when it's gonna be, but they will, someday."

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