Category Archives: sft

A Personal Account of Tibetan Uprising Day in Toronto

March 10, 2011

10:40 am I look around and see familiar faces. With umbrellas in one hand and placards and flags in the other, most of Toronto’s Tibetans are braving the cold damp weather to mark the 52nd anniversary of the Tibetan people’s uprising of 1959. Less than a week ago we were dressed in our chubas and sipping chhang at the Exhibition Place celebrating the first day of Losar. Today the chubas are less festive and we are all gathered to mark a more solemn and historic moment in Tibet’s past. Fifty-two years ago on this day over 300,000 Tibetans converged around the Norbulingka palace forming a barrier between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese unit stationed on the outskirts of the city. The people rose up to protect their leader and to protest the presence of Chinese troops on their land.

Tibetans and Tibet supporters gather in front of Queen's Park

11:15 am I’m walking behind a couple with a baby in the stroller. The parents have a small Tibetan flag attached to the stroller. Many school age children are marching alongside their parents and grandparents. Every year I see more babies and elderly folk- the former are born Canadian, the latter come from Nepal and India to be reunited with their sons and daughters. Parkdale has turned into Little Tibet. Not surprisingly, Tenzin is the most popular name for boys and girls in Parkdale. The young Tibetan Canadians around me are passionate and articulate. If China thinks the passing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama will signal the end of the resistance, it is gravely mistaken. There is a new generation of Tibetans both inside Tibet and in exile ready and waiting to take charge of the struggle. We are shouting slogans for freedom, justice and demanding an end to China’s illegal occupation of Tibet. The boys behind me start chanting shame shame, China shame. The woman in front of me mutters that she thought we weren’t doing that particular slogan anymore. Apparently no one else got that memo.

Marching to the Chinese Consulate from Queen's Park

11:35 am We are marching up Yonge St. past numerous adult novelty stores. Passing strangers and cars honk and give us the universal gesture of approval- thumbs up. I can’t help but notice the occasional smirks we get from a few people. I have no way of knowing they are Chinese so I won’t make that assumption.

12:15 pm Three cops rush over to a young Chinese man on the sidewalk across Bloor street near St. George. A fellow marcher tells me the man threw a small bottle of Billy Bee honey into the marching line a few rows ahead. This sour moment is quickly forgotten as we near the Chinese Embassy. Our chants grow louder as we get closer to the Embassy. Once there, we hear words of encouragement from longtime Tibet supporter Cheri Di Novo, former MP of Parkdale-High Park Peggy Nash, and Toronto City Councilor Gord Perks among others. Cheri puts things in perspective by reminding us that we are “one year closer to a free Tibet.”

MPP for Parkdale-High Park and long-time Tibet supporter Cheri DiNovo

Former MP and long-time Tibet supporter Peggy Nash

12:50 pm I think about the not-so-sweet billy bee incident from earlier. I have in the past been confronted by people who believe in the far left’s version of a feudal Tibet devoid of any of the rights Tibetans are now fighting for. When the owner of the local French patisserie learned I was Tibetan he told me he was happy for me because Tibetans were no longer shackled by ‘old Tibet’s’ brutal feudalism. I find it hard to have meaningful discussions with people who have already made up their minds about Tibet instead of doing a bit of research. What’s tragic is that Chinese citizens believe their government’s propaganda. When a family friend visited Tibet in the late nineties, she found the treatment of Tibetan people by Chinese settlers in Lhasa quite unsettling. While at Norbulingka, the summer palace of His Holiness the Dalai Lamas, she saw a minor scuffle between a Tibetan and a Chinese. It ended with the Chinese person remarking something to the effect of “After all we have done for these barbarians, they treat us with such contempt.” It is hard to even begin engaging with people with this mentality. I wonder if the honey jar thrower had the same thought when he saw us marching on Bloor St.

Cheuk Kwan, Toronto Association for Democracy in China

I push these thoughts out of my mind and focus on the now. It’s still drizzling but the chanting hasn’t stopped. We sing the Gyallu, the Tibetan national anthem, followed by O Canada. Then comes a prayer I have heard sung numerous times but do not know the words to: Tseme Yonten. The full translation can be found here. One verse is especially apt for the day:

Those unrelentingly cruel ones, objects of compassion,

maddened by delusion’s evils,

want only destroy themselves and others;

May they achieve the eye of wisdom, knowing what must

be done and undone, and abide in the glory of friendship

and love.

I urge all Tibetans and supporters to continue fighting for what is right. Take your Lhakar pledge today and join the growing strategic nonviolent movement that started inside Tibet. For Dhondup Wangchen, Norzin Wangmo, Jigme Gyatso, and the countless other political prisoners suffering in Chinese prisons. Bhod Gyalo!

Nawang, SFT Toronto

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It’s Happening: Tibetans are Rising Up

Jigme Gyatso, a Tibetan hero and political prisoner profiled by SFT

Jigme Gyatso, a Tibetan hero and political prisoner profiled by SFT

Things have changed in Tibet. Really changed. Since last spring, Tibetans have been in the midst of reclaiming their nation in a way that has never been seen. They are risking everything simply to shout out the words “long live his holiness” or “human rights;” they are mobilizing in the hundreds, sometimes thousands with nothing more than home-made flags and their unyielding desire for freedom.

In response, entire towns have been militarized, monasteries emptied out to prevent monks from organizing, and foreigners have been once again barred from entering Tibet. In its effort keep an illegal and shameful occupation going, China has shown everyone that for all of its talk of democratization and progress, it is a totalitarian state through and through, buying its way into the rest of the civilized world with promises of profit.

Yet the more the Chinese government attempts to quash the resistance, the more determined Tibetan people become. (Apparently the Chinese government has been too busy torturing and killing Tibetans to realize this). Since China began their crackdowns and terror campaigns after last year’s March protests, the Tibetan revolution has continued – peaceful protests have been reported all over traditional Tibetan areas and continue to this day.

On February 15th, a 37 year old man named Lobsang Lhundup staged an impromptu protest in Lithang shouting “No Losar (Tibetan new year celebrations) this year” and “Long live his holiness the Dalai Lama.” He was quickly joined by between 100-200 Tibetans. The Chinese police and Public Security Bureau officials came and beat the protesters and detained Lobsang.

Lobsang was later told he’d be released if he signed a letter calling on Tibetans to celebrate Losar and also criticizing the Tibetan government in exile for not encouraging Losar celebrations. He refused and remains in detention today.

The next day, along with Lobsang’s relatives, 300-400 Tibetans gathered to protest in the same place. The shouted “free Tibet” and “don’t celebrate Losar.” The officials brutally beat the protesters and detained 23 of them. All shops were ordered to close on the following day and armed police set about patrolling and identifying protesters who got away.

Though this is a tragic time for Tibetans, it also an inspiring and defining moment. Tibetans inside Tibet are taking the lead and they’re not giving up. They are organizing boycotts, blogging, refusing bribes despite their poverty, and protesting no matter the consequences.

Somewhere deep inside the Chinese officials’ minds, they must be scratching their heads and wondering why they are in Tibet in the first place and how they can possibly get rid of this massive thorn in their side.

Biggest Tibetan Demo Ever in Toronto – March 23, 2008

On the first Sunday of spring, in Toronto where the streets were relatively quiet because of the Easter long-weekend, thousands of Tibetans and Tibetan supporters rallied through the heart of downtown Toronto to protest China’s brutal crackdown on the uprisings inside Tibet, and to call on Canadians everywhere to be aware of and support the Tibetan cause.

The crowd gathered first in front of the local high school in Parkdale, which has the highest concentration of Tibetans outside of India and Nepal. The Tibetan Joint Action Committee was yet again the main organizer of the event, and the response from the Tibetan community towards the call of action was overwhelming in all aspects.

Funds were raised, volunteers signed up, refreshments donated, transportation loaned… the Tibetans in Toronto has stepped up tremendously in light of the recent unrest inside Tibet. “To see all of us collectively coming together with such determination to make rallies like these successful, not just from the various organizations, but also the ordinary Tibetans, is just truly inspiring and emboldening,” said Lobsang Khedup, one of the organizers behind this event.

“I hope and I do believe that we can sustain this energy all the way to the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. And ultimately till the day comes that we no longer have to suffer under the tyranny of the Chinese government.”

Stretching for more than three blocks, the loud and colourful procession of protesters made their way along Queen St., Yonge St., and Wellesley St., eventually ending up in front of the Ontario Parliament building. The route, specifically chosen to get exposed to as many Torontonians as possible, took a little under three hours to complete, with the organizers managing to conduct three dramatic die-ins during the rally.

“What’s happening here?” asked one curious bystander who marveled at the long line of protesters fully lying down on the streets and chanting slogans. When she was told of the reason behind this action: to signify the brutal suppression tactics of the Chinese govt. on protesters inside Tibet, she shook her head ruefully and pledged to support the Tibetan cause in any way that she can.

Heavy media presence followed the rally from start to finish. All of the local networks covered the event, with some live broadcasts of the rally and the die-ins.

After reaching the Parliament building on Queen’s Park, a number of prominent speakers addressed the protesters and voiced their outrage at the Chinese govt., calling on the Canadian parliament to put more pressure on behalf of the Tibetans who were suppressed immensely by the recent buildups of troops everywhere inside Tibet. MP Peggy Nash (NDP), Michael Craig of Amnesty International, and Rukiye from the East Turkistan community of Canada all spoke passionately, from their own unique perspectives, on the issue of Tibet’s independence.

The rally concluded at around 3 in the afternoon, and everyone was reminded of the hunger strike in front of the Chinese consulate starting from Tuesday, March 25 till Friday, March 28. It begins from 10 am and goes on till 4 in the afternoon.

There is also a protest rally planned on Monday, March 31 for the “International Day of Action for Tibet.” So far, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Toronto has organized more than four actions since the uprisings in Tibet began on March 10, 2008. The JAC comprises of Students for a Free Tibet Canada, Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association Ontario and Dokham Chushi Gangdruk. The committee was formed to collectively challenge China in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.

Protest in the Nation’s Capital – March 20, 2008

[Ottawa – Sunday, March 23, 2008] As people in Ottawa prepared for the long-weekend ahead on a cloudy and chilly Thursday morning, a riveting sight of more than seven hundred people holding the multi-coloured snowlion flags of Tibet enlivened the city and roused the Parliament Hill with chants for freedom and justice like never before.

Ottawa - 1

Tibetans from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Peterborough, Belleville, Lindsay and other towns convened on the steps in front of the Parliament building along with many Tibetan freedom supporters from Ontario and Quebec. There were nearly six hundred Tibetans from Toronto, almost everyone one of who had come by bus in the wee early hours of Thursday. The trip from Toronto to Ottawa takes more than five hours, but none of the Tibetans showed any sign of tiredness or sleep deprivation. Instead, the significance of the place, and the importance of the time, propelled the voices of the demonstrators to a riotous level previously unheard of. And they sustained it all day long, from nine in the morning till four in the afternoon.

The historic rally in Ottawa, which came ten days after the March 10 Uprisings, was unprecedented in both scope and exposure. Wangdu Duntak, the President of the Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) chapters in Ottawa, was amazed at the size of the crowd that had gathered on Parliament Hill. “This is …,” he remarked. “Wow. I’ve never seen so many Tibetan flags in one place before.” Mr. Duntak, a Tibetan-Canadian born and raised in Belleville, Ontario, and presently studying at the University of Ottawa, was one of the main organizers for the rally in Ottawa.

Ottawa - 2

The ceremony began as the gong for 9 o’ clock rang from the clock tower and resonated across the hallowed grounds of the Parliament Hill. The Tibetans sang their national anthem, followed by the Canadian one. A minute’s silence was observed for the more than one hundred Tibetans who were killed as the level of violence and uprisings grew everywhere in and around Tibet. Bhutila Karpoche, board member of SFT Canada and one of the executive members of the Tibetan Joint Action Committee (JAC) — the committee from Toronto who had organized the rally in Ottawa — gave an impassioned speech lambasting the Chinese regime for their violent and heavy handed tactics in suppressing the dissent in Tibet, and called the government of Canada and the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to demand China to stop their brutal reprisals and to remove Tibet off of the planned Olympic torch relay route.

Ottawa - 3

MPs Paul Dewar (NDP) and Pierre Poilievre (PC) personally addressed the rally, and the latter also read a statement on behalf of Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada. “As His Holiness the Dalai Lama told me when I met him, and as he has been saying recently, his message is one of non-violence and reconciliation and I join him in that call,” Mr. Harper said in the statement.

The Tibetans acknowledged the statement from the Prime Minister, but still demanded that the Canadian government can do more. “We have seen from the events that have unfolded over the last week that the Tibetans feel very strongly against the totalitarian authority and the mass colonization of Tibet by the Chinese,” said Sonam Dorjee, Vice President of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress and also one of the executive members of the JAC. “We urge the leaders of Canada to do more. We have a lot of leverage against them. They rely on our technical prowess to feed their economy. Let’s not forget that it was our own Bombardier company that played a key role in the construction of the railway lines which have now exponentially increased the number of ethnic Han Chinese moving and settling into Tibet.”

Ottawa - 4

From Parliament Hill, the demonstrators filed into two rows each as they prepared for their rally to the Chinese embassy in Ottawa. They first stopped for an impromptu meeting with UN officials at their office in downtown Ottawa. JAC members Bhutila Karpoche and Sonam Dorjee went inside to hand over their memorandum as the rally gathered outside the UN office building and chanted slogans of “Wake Up, Wake Up: UNO!”, among others.

Ottawa - 5

From there, they headed over to the Chinese embassy, where a heavy police presence awaited them. All points of access to the embassy was shut down, with at least one police officer manning each corner of the area. Steel barricades were placed on the traffic island that separated the two one-way streets in front of the embassy. The protesters gathered on the street away from the embassy and continued their protests for nearly three hours.

Cameras could be seen from some of the windows of the embassy building, apparently recording the faces of the protesters. One of the speakers at the protest held the microphone and screamed, “I know you can see us here. I just hope you can hear how loud we are!” The protesters jeered loudly and waved their flags energetically.

Ottawa - 6

The media coverage of the event in Ottawa was also unprecedented. Scores of cameras followed the rally from the Parliament building to the Chinese embassy. Live coverage of the protest was broadcast all across Canada, as all members of the JAC repeated their demands and messages as best as they could. “Stop the violent suppression and arbitrary detentions in Tibet. Send a UN fact-finding mission to Tibet. Remove Tibet from the Olympic torch relay route. Open Tibet to the international media right away.” These were the core demands that Bhutila Karpoche, one of the media spokespersons, said to the press at the rally.

As the rally drew to a close, the protesters quietly began to collect the various placards and flags into a cargo van. Some of them looked tired, after standing, walking and protesting for nearly seven hours straight. Some of the eyes were teary, and more than a few had sore throats from having strained their vocal chords for so long. But all of them were still passionate and were more than ready for another rally in Toronto, to be held in Parkdale on Sunday, March 23, 2008. The grim images of dead Tibetans in Tibet still burned in the minds of the protesters, and they were willing to fight for as long as it takes.

The rally in Ottawa was a relatively peaceful affair, thanks in large part to the cooperation and support of the local police department. They accommodated the stop in front of the UN office in spite of a late notice, and ensured that everyone in the rally was taken care of. They also arranged a bus to take some of the more elderly protesters from the Chinese embassy to the gathering spot in downtown Ottawa. A stark contrast from the violence that the Chinese cops unleashed on the monks who were conducting a similarly peaceful demonstration in Lhasa, Tibet ten days ago.

Ottawa - 7

Next stop: Toronto – Sunday, March 23, 2008. Gathering at 9:30 AM in front of the Parkdale C.I on Jameson Avenue.

To Ottawa! (March 20, 2008)

This is a call to all freedom fighters and humanitarians to gather in front of the Parliament Hill on Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 9 AM. The international spotlight is now focused squarely on the happenings inside Tibet. This is our moment to link arms with our brothers and sisters back in Tibet and turn that spotlight into a worldwide pressure.

Tibetan Monk

How long can China continue to cover up their violent and brutal suppression of millions of Tibetans inside Tibet? How much lower can they sink without drowning in their own lies and filth? Is the IOC really willing to cover up their bloody hands for the sake of greed?

We can change that outcome. And we can do that right up to the face of the monster.

What: Ottawa Tibetan Rally
When: Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 9 AM
Where: The Parliament Hill & the Chinese Embassy.

See you on the streets!

For Tibet! For Tibetans!

March 14, 2008 – Tibetans in Toronto Perform “Sangsol” Ceremony in Solidarity of Tibetans Detained in Tibet

[Friday, March 14, 2008 – Toronto, Canada] Amid reports streaming in from all major news outlets about fresh uprisings and revolts erupting all across Tibet, Tibetans in Toronto gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate building to perform “sangsol” (prayer ceremony) in solidarity with those that are being detained and hurt in the clashes.

Mar 14 Sangsol 1

More than seventy Tibetans and some Tibetan supporters gathered at noon in front of the local Chinese consulate as new updates kept coming in from Tibet, India and Nepal about the escalation of the tension and violence in those areas. The last-minute gathering, which was organized by the Joint Action Committee (JAC), was a much more sombre affair compared to the raucous crowd that had protested in the area just four days ago for the Tibetan National Uprising Day. A hushed tone of prayers and murmurings resonated through the crowd as they sat cross-legged on mats, behind steel barricades that the police have set up in response to the unprecedented action by the two Tibetan Canadian youth who scaled the consulate roof and waved the Tibetan flag from atop.

Mar 14 Sangsol 2

Sonam Dorjee, executive member of the JAC, expressed his gratitude to those that had gathered on such late notice, and also voiced his outrage towards the violent crackdowns being exercised on the Tibetans inside Tibet by the Chinese troops and police. He addressed the crowd in both Tibetan and English, and urged the Indian officials to release the Tibetan marchers that were being detained in India.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the brave Tibetan brothers and sisters who continue to defy the illegal authority of China over them,” said Mr. Dorje. “There is an urgency that is now sweeping our movement and catapulting it into the international spotlight. Let us use this opportunity to pressure the Chinese and expose the world of the brutal crimes against humanity being perpetrated in Tibet and China.”

Mar 14 Sangsol 3

Four Tibetan monks led the ceremony with prayers for the protection of those who are being arrested in Tibet, for the health of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and for the peaceful resolution of the recent events.

“Buddhism is a core aspect of the Tibetan identity”, said one of the monks who asked not to be identified. “The Chinese have tried so hard for so many years to wipe our culture away — it becomes understandable when the frustrations boil over to such an extent that the Tibetans resort to violence in Tibet.”

“The monks and nuns in Tibet feel like their time for justice is slipping away. The demonstrations in monasteries over the past few days show the world how badly China has been curbing our right to practice our own religion and, in effect, trying to marginalize and even eradicate our culture.”

Mar 14 Sangsol 4

After about two hours of prayers, the crowd stood up to perform the end-ritual of the ceremony. Handfuls of ground barley were shared among the people; after which they chanted the last concluding prayers, raised their hands with the barley powder, and then flung it in the air with cheers of “Lho Gyalo”. This act of tossing the ground barley in the air is an act of warding away evil omens and calls for the protection and well-being of those concerned.

Mar 14 Sangsol 5

The Tibetans in Toronto have had a busy week since the rally on Monday, March 10. The community has been abuzz with the reports of actions from all over the world; and tomorrow, Saturday, March 15, at the local Parkdale library at 10 am, they prepare to felicitate and honour the two youth who climbed the Chinese consulate building, and in a matter of minutes, symbolized the dissent and energy of an independence movement that has been going on for nearly fifty years now.

March 10 Uprising Day Reports from all across Canada – Ottawa, ON

[Mar 10, 2008 – Ottawa, Canada] As always, it was freezing cold; especially since we just had a snow storm this weekend, so we had to trudge our way through the snow during the whole protest. We had a good turnout and of course had a lot of fun. We had representatives from the Canadian Parliament pledging their support to our cause and denouncing the human rights atrocities by the ruling Communist party of China.

The national media of Canada covered the rally, so we’re very excited about getting Tibet’s cause known throughout the nation. We are pumped for the actions planned for the summer in Ottawa, and can’t wait to start cracking on them.

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Filed in by Tenzin Lobsang, SFT Ottawa.