The flame of a candle symbolizes perseverance, awareness, knowledge and spirituality. A symbol used by human rights groups, religions, hospitals and schools around the world, the candle is used as well to celebrate one’s day of birth, or to mourn someone’s passing. The Panchen Lama turned 21 years old on the 25th of April, and we commemorated this event with a candle-light vigil co-organized with various other Tibetan organizations from Toronto. Abducted and placed under house arrest along with his family since 1995, the Chinese government has yet to reveal the whereabouts or well-being of the once youngest prisoner in the world, the Panchen Lama, birth name Gendun Choekyi Nyima.
Since the oppressive regime that is China refuses to acknowledge the worldwide concern for his whereabouts and well-being, we at SFT Toronto created a massive birthday card to install at the front gates of the Chinese consulate in Toronto, with the amazing and creative teamwork of Tenzin Gaychey, Thupten la, Rinchen Dolma, Urgen Sangye, Yaungchen and myself. At around 6:00 pm, we brought the card and set it up across the street, 30 minutes prior to the vigil. More and more Tibetans came in groups to settle and start praying Dolma and Mane (Tibetan prayers). We were joined soon by a large Chinese Falun Dafa group to mourn their own relatives and fellow worshippers of possibly the most oppressed religious group in China, the Falun Gong. It was heartwarming to see such a large group with candles in their hands, and the slowly rising buzz of Tibetan prayers certainly reaffirmed our resolve to keep standing next to our card.
Chinese officials soon drove frantically past us into their consulate, and right away the annoyed Chinese official walked to the RCMP officer stationed nearby to complain about us, two people carrying a well-meaning and harmless birthday card. The RCMP officer approached us and we confirmed that we weren’t blocking any people or cars, and he went back to his car. We then turned our card around so people could come and sign the card that was to be sent to the Panchen Lama, and people came one by one to sign their names. Not 10 minutes passed when suddenly a larger group of police officers in rainjackets rushed to us and ordered us to move to the other side of the street. I mentioned to Urgen later that the dictatorship is spreading through diplomacy, and that I wished we had resisted some more (NO birthday cards, seriously?). So we stayed on side opposite the consulate with our card.
Then we heard the familiar sound of a motorcycle engine come to a stop at our vigil. This was none other than Lhakpa la, a lone bike rider determined to tour the world on his bike to raise awareness about Tibet, the flame of the our movement in his heart. We asked this Tibetan warrior to sign our card, and he gladly accepted to grace the card with his signature.
As the evening came to a close at around 8:15, some statements from Tashi Lhunpo monastery regarding the Panchen Lama were read by Tenzin Lobsang, director of SFT Canada, and Tsering Khangsar, member of CTC. This was a very successful event, with a larger than expected turnout, and certainly helped by the presence of the Falun Dafa group with their families and children. The plight of the Panchen Lama is still very much a serious one, and as Tibetans and Tibet supporters, we will never let something like this be forgotten, because it is a matter that concerns our heart and spirit. Lhakpa la drove off into the night, his ambitions strengthened by the Tibetan support. The cause strong in his heart, his presence, along with all the Tibetans who came to the vigil should be a strong reminder, to ourselves and the public, and certainly to the Chinese government, that some flames never die.
Ugen B, SFT Toronto