“I think this is just a preview. I think there will be a lot more than this city is prepared for.”
This was one San Fransican’s reaction to yesterday’s breath-taking protest by proponents of a free Tibet who scaled the Golden Gate Bridge:
The protesters had this to say when contacted by the media:
The climbers, who included Laurel Mac Sutherlin, 30, and Duane Martinez, 27, of Sausalito, made their way 150 feet above the roadway, some 370 feet over the water, to hang Tibetan flags and 40-foot-long banners that read “One World One Dream,” “Free Tibet” and “Free Tibet 08.”
Reached by cell phone as he dangled from the bridge, Sutherlin said he was worried that the torch’s planned route through Tibet would lead to more arrests and that Chinese officials would use force to stifle any visible dissent.
“The leaders of China have said they’ll maintain order at all costs, and we know what that means – bloodshed and violent oppression,” he told the Associated Press. “If the IOC allows the torch to proceed into Tibet, they’ll have blood on their hands.”
Martinez said he and Sutherlin, who are partners, have been involved in the Tibet issue before – both were arrested by Chinese authorities last year. In April 2007, Sutherlin and three other Americans were taken away after holding up a banner at a base camp on the Tibetan side of Mount Everest that read, “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.”
Meanwhile, a “re-education campaign” is already under way in Tibet:
Buddhist monks, civil servants and public school students have been instructed to attend special classes in the virtues of Chinese rule and the evils of their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama. In these classes, the Tibetans read and recite from texts that denounce the Dalai Lama as a “political reactionary” and a “betrayer of the motherland.”
Clashes that erupted last week in Sichuan province’s Ganzi prefecture (known as Kardze to Tibetans) were reportedly triggered when the head of the Tongkor Monastery objected to Communist Party teaching materials that criticize the Dalai Lama. Tibetan activists say eight people were killed in the April 3 incident.
Nevertheless, Communist officials insist that the program be expanded.
Touring a monastery last week, the deputy Communist Party chief for Tibet, Hao Peng, called for strengthening “patriotic education so as to guide the masses of monks to continuously display the patriotic tradition.”
In the midst of the latest protests the Dalai Lama has issued a statement to the Tibetan people:
The English translation to this statement is as follows:
While extending my warm greetings to all the Tibetans in Tibet, I would like to share some of my thoughts.
1. Since March 10 this year, we have witnessed protests and demonstrations in almost all parts of Tibet, even in a few cities in Mainland China by students, which are the outburst of long pent-up physical and mental anguish of the Tibetans and the feeling of deep resentment against the suppression of the rights of Tibetan people, lack of religious freedom and for trying to distort the truth at every occasion, such as saying that Tibetans look towards the Chinese Communist Party as the “Living Buddha”, is an ultra leftist statement and smacks of Han chauvinism. I am very much saddened and concerned by the use of arms to suppress the peaceful demonstrations of Tibetan people’s aspirations that have resulted in unrest in Tibet, causing many deaths, and much more causalities, detention, and injury. Such suppression and suffering are very unfortunate and tragic which will reduce any compassionate person to tears. I, however, feel helpless in the face of these tragic incidents.
2. I pray for all the Tibetans as well as Chinese who have lost their lives during the current crisis.
3. The recent protests all over Tibet have not only contradicted but also shattered the People Republic of China’s propaganda that except for a few “reactionaries”, the majority of Tibetans enjoy a prosperous and contented life. These protests have made it very clear that Tibetans in the three provinces of Tibet, U-tsang, Kham and Amdo, harbor the same aspirations and hopes. These protests have also conveyed to the world that the Tibet issue can no longer be neglected. These protests highlight the need to find a way to resolve the issue through “finding truth from facts”. The courage and determination of those Tibetans who have, for the greater interests of Tibetan people, demonstrated their deep anguish and hopes by risking everything is very commendable as the world community has acknowledged and supported the spirit of these Tibetans.
4. I deeply appreciate the acts of many Tibetan government employees and Communist Party cadres who have, without losing their Tibetan identity, shown grit and sense of what is right during the present crisis. In future, I would appeal to the Tibetan Party cadres and government employees not to look always for their personal benefit, but to work for safeguarding the larger interests of Tibet by reporting the real sentiments of the Tibetan people to their superiors in the Party and try to give unbiased guidance to the Tibetan people.
5. Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, Nobel Laureates, Parliamentarians, and concerned citizens from every part of the world have been sending clear and strong messages to the Chinese leadership to stop the present ongoing harsh crackdown against the Tibetan people. They have all been encouraging the Chinese government to follow a path where a mutually beneficial solution could be reached. We should create an opportunity for their efforts to bring out positive results. I know you are being provoked at every level but it is important to stick to our non-violent practice.
6. The Chinese authorities have been making false allegations against myself and the Central Tibetan Administration for instigating and orchestrating the recent events in Tibet. These allegations are totally untrue. I have made repeated appeals for an independent and respected international body to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. I am sure this independent body will uncover the truth. If the People’s Republic of China has any basis and proof of evidence to back their allegations, they need to disclose these to the world. Just making allegations is not enough.
7. For the future of Tibet, I have decided to find a solution within the framework of the People’s Republic of China. Since 1974, I have sincerely remained steadfast to the mutually beneficial Middle-Way Approach. The whole world knows this. The Middle-Way Approach means that all Tibetans must be governed by similar administration that enjoys meaningful National Regional Autonomy and all the provisions in it, self-rule and full decision-making, except for matters concerning foreign relations and national defense. However, I have said it from the beginning that the Tibetans in Tibet have the right to make the final decision for the future of Tibet.
8. The hosting of the Olympic games this year is a matter of great pride to the 1.2 billion Chinese people. I have from the very beginning supported the holding of these Games in Beijing. My position on this remains unchanged. I feel the Tibetans should not cause any hindrance to the Games. It is the legitimate right of every Tibetan to struggle for their freedoms and rights. On the other hand, it will be futile and not helpful to anyone if we do something that will create hatred in the minds of the Chinese people. On the contrary, we need to foster trust and respect in our hearts in order to create a harmonious society, as this cannot be built on the basis of force and intimidation.
9. Our struggle is with a few in the leadership of the People’s Republic of China and not with the Chinese people. Therefore we should never cause misunderstanding or do something that will hurt the Chinese people. Even during this difficult situation, many Chinese intellectuals, writers and lawyers in Mainland China and other parts of the world have sympathized and shown us their solidarity by issuing statements, writing articles and offering pledges of support that is overwhelming. I have recently issued an appeal to the Chinese people all over the world on 28th March, which I hope you will hear and read.
10. If the present situation in Tibet continues, I am very much concerned that the Chinese government will unleash more force and increase the suppression of Tibetan people. Because of my moral obligation and responsibility to the Tibetan people, I have repeatedly asked the concerned leadership of the PRC to immediately stop their suppression in all parts of Tibet and withdraw its armed police and troops. If this brings result, I would also advise the Tibetans to stop all the current protests.
11. I want to urge my fellow Tibetans who live in freedom outside Tibet to be extra vigilant as they voice their feelings on the developments in Tibet. We should not engage in any action that could be even remotely interpreted as violent. Even under the most provocative of situations we must not allow our most precious and deeply held values to be compromised. I firmly believe that we will achieve success through our non-violent path. We must be wise to understand where the unprecedented affection and support for our cause stems from.
12. As Tibet is currently virtually closed and no international media is allowed there, I doubt my message will reach the Tibetans in Tibet. But I hope through media and by word of mouth, it will be passed on to the majority of you.
13. Finally, I want to reiterate and appeal once again to Tibetans to practice non-violence and not waver from this path, however serious the situation might be.
The Dalai Lama
Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.
UPDATE There will be a protest vigil in San Francisco tonight featuring speeches by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Richard Gere:
Today, Tibetans and their supporters will hold a rally at the United Nations Plaza, at Market and Hyde near the Civic Center BART station, to protest China’s recent crackdown on protesting Tibetans in Lhasa. Actor Richard Gere and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu are guest speakers at the UN Plaza rally. The rally begins at 6 p.m.
UPDATE (2) The Times UK is running a story about the blue-jogging-suit clad crowd surrounding the torch on these relays.
They are from the Chinese paramilitary:
China’s blue-clad flame attendants, whose aggressive methods of safeguarding the Olympic torch have provoked international outcry, are paramilitary police from a force spun off from the country’s army.
A squad of 30 young men from the police academy that turns out the cream of the paramilitary security force, their job at home is to ensure riot control, domestic stability and the protection of diplomats.
The Olympic medallist and organiser of the 2012 Games was overheard saying that the officials had pushed him around as the torch made its way through the capital on Sunday, adding that other countries on the route should “get rid of those guys”.
“They tried to puch me out of the way three times. They are horrible. They did not speak English . . . I think they were thugs.”
His comments came after Konnie Huq, the former Blue Peter presenter who was one of the torchbearers on Sunday, described how she had seen the officials in “skirmishes” with the police. Ms Huq, who was carrying the torch when a pro-Tibet activist tried to snatch the flame, said of the guards: “They were very robotic, full-on…They were barking orders like “run” and “stop” and I was like: Who are these people”.
Scotland Yard is quoted as saying that these individuals came as “part of the package”, and they were told that they “had no executive power in the UK”.
The BBC is also reporting on this:
UPDATE (3) The issue of Chinese paramilitary escorting the Olympic torch is heating up. Per the AP:
At least one torchbearer said she clashed with the squad, and others have criticized their heavy-handed tactics.
Yolaine De La Bigne, a French environmental journalist who was a torchbearer in Paris, told The Associated Press she tried to wear a headband with a Tibetan flag, but the Chinese agents ripped it away from her.
“It was seen and then, after four seconds, all the Chinese security pounced on me. There were at least five or six (of them). They started to get angry” and shouted “No! No! No!” in English, she said.
De La Bigne tried to push several agents away as they grabbed her arm. She said two French athletes who are martial arts experts tried to help her and clashed briefly with the security detail.
The chairman of the London 2012 Games, Sebastian Coe, was even more blunt.
“They tried to push me out of the way three times. They are horrible. They did not speak English. They were thugs,” Coe, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was quoted as saying in British media. A spokeswoman for the London 2012 Olympics committee confirmed that Coe was quoted accurately, but added that he thought he was making private comments.