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1959 Tibet Uprising Is World's Important Day of Protest

self-immolations in Tibet. Photo: Outlook Tibet
Universal David and Goliath: The outcome matters for Australia in unseen ways, March 10 (Uprising Day) is an important day of protest for Tibetans and supporters globally. This was true also in Sydney, Australia. Yesterday (10th March) was a quiet Saturday morning, and a significant gathering with great energy and deep sadness was happening in Martin Place.


Over 200 people gathered to protest the ongoing human rights abuses in Tibet. There have now been 26 tragic and unspeakably painful self-immolations, a wave of courage and desperation. There were moving speeches from a wonderful mix of supporters, including Rev Bill Crews, Greens MP Lee Rhiannan, a lovely Chinese actress, and bear-like Community leader and ex-political prisoner Nigan, from Dee Why. The young Tibetan men and women (representing all the youth organisations in exile) ran the event, and it was gracefully co-ordinateded by Tsering Kyinzom from the Australia Tibet Council. Photos of all the people who have set fire to themselves were held tenderly by the Tibetans, and candles and incense lit for them. A picture of Peace Laureate His Holiness the Dalai Lama faced encouragingly out, his compassionate face in stark contrast to a Chinese flag waiting to be used in the role-play. Prayers were said reverently for this week's dead by Tibetan monk Geshe Samten.

I looked over and saw the Tibetan children playing under the City to Surf sign, and felt again the need for far more Australians to join the very real cries of the world. So many of us know the truth, and love and admire, yet in a busy world only strong regulars take action, and speak out, and attend key events.

The powerful role-play of the last week's deaths and arrests was particularly poignant: A 19 year old girl, a mother of four and a young man, and that is all who have been confirmed. The stories of arrest and treatment were powerfully re-enacted as told by witnesses.

It is frustratingly and increasingly hard for authorities (despite more and more billions spent on control) to keep secrets in China.

There was much recent surprise and delight for some Tibetans (especially the yearning elderly) when China amazingly allowed visas for some of the Tibetans to go to India for teachings. When they returned, aided by the Nepali police, many were detained at borders and airports, and 're-educated' and interrogated, some for weeks. Tricking those yearning old people who endured hardships to fulfil lifelong dreams, China's 'kindness' turned out be just another vehicle for harsh interrogations, searches, and brutal confiscation of precious objects, photos, scripture fragments and blessed beads. By February/March, the majority who went were arrested, and many have allegedly not returned home. Names given under duress have been reportedly used.

One wonders what is to be gained by punishing people in this way for spiritual commitment. Does China really think it will endear them to those who are tortured, and make them finally want to give in and happily become Chinese?

Young Australian blogger Tsering spoke again on behalf of famous Tibetan blogger Woeser, again under house arrest in Beijing this week, for speaking up against these detentions. 'What did you see at the Kalachakra teachings?' they asked as they beat. 'What did they say?' and 'How much money did you give the Dalai Lama and other lamas?' It wasn't as if the thousands of Chinese spies who also went couldn't have given them all the information they needed. Why hurt religious old people?

Lee Rhiannon spoke about the deep commitment of the Greens to Tibet, reminding the Tibetans what an inspiration to us they all they are, for their philosophy, courage and deep commitment to real compassion as the way for a good life.

Important action was called for, from the UN, the international community, the Australian government, Australian people enjoying freedoms and rights, our new Foreign Minister Bob Carr, and the media.
Recently a motion was moved in the Australian Senate by Bob Brown and Sarah Hanson-Young, urging assistance for Tibet. It asked for a UN fact-finding mission, restrictions to be eased. It was defeated, not passed by BOTH major parties, with only the Greens and Nick Xenophon's full support.

It was pointed out once again how the world admires so many things about China, and how it has the potential to contribute to human values and world peace, but first it needs to learn to gain the trust and respect of the world. The world's pleas, just like those for the tortured children of Syria, fell on deaf ears. China is so going the wrong way, in 2012!
I thought about this a few hours later at the peaceful protest in front of the Chinese Consulate in Camperdown. This grim gray building is covered with razor wire. From time to time the sliding steel gates opened silently behind the police, as if to taunt, or perversely 'invite' the Tibetan torture survivors children and families back into their 'home'. Strange mind games. Strange culture of secretive paranoia and control. The Tibetans ignored the threatening intent.

The Consulate events have become regular, and the AFP always attend. That is for the safety of the Tibetans and supporters as much as the security of the well-insulated silent Consulate. The worst violence ever seen here by Tibetans is a mass throwing of shoes over the fence. Tibetans are non-violent, even if it nearly kills the young ones.

The Chinese speakers spoke passionately for freedom for Tibet and Tibetans, and all Chinese people. I was reminded as I stood there that 55 million Chinese people are still in labor camps and prisons in China, and that over 100 million have died under that blood- red flag in 60 years of 'Communism'.

At the end of the solidarity and action, their was a minute of silence, for those Tibetans dying in the last weeks, or even possibly today. Then there was a prayer of peace. The activists packed up their flags and banners and signs of protest. The Tibetan families chatted for awhile as the children played, and they moved off peacefully.

The 10th of March is a tribute to all the Tibetan political prisoners, an important day of great sadness, and a reminder of the great strength of the Tibetan community. It is a day to remind all Australians to speak out for the rights of the Tibetan people.

It all reminded me that we are a nation of privilege. We really do have a responsibility be more aware of others in the world, and less media-sedated and comfortable.
As I passed all the people sipping coffees, eating in cafes and enjoying the lovely sunny day, I felt sad but content to have been once again at the right place at the right time. No church could have left me with such a feeling.

Thank you SBS for your morals in attending. I also could not help but think cynically that if Kim Kardashian had been there, perhaps more media would have bothered to cover the whole story. The Tibetans by contrast are grateful for any coverage at all.

You may reach Kerry Wright at JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING