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Students fight for freedom of Tibet at Olympic events

October 9, 2007

By Natalie Hale
Deseret Morning News
Published: October 7, 2007
The handmade banner that hung from China's great wall could barely be 
seen through the mist, but its message in Chinese and English was 
clear - "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet."

The handful of American and Canadian protestors, some sons and 
daughters of exiled Tibetans and others simply sympathizers to the 
cause, rappelled down the ancient wall and sent the message that they 
wanted independence for Tibet live around the world using video cameras.

The act itself, in addition to stirring up thought about the issue, 
managed to get the students detained and deported by the Chinese 
government.

Lhadon Tethong, the executive director of the Students for a Free 
Tibet, held a press conference Saturday before Utah residents, many 
of them members of Utah's growing Tibetan community.

On Aug. 8, the year marker before the start of the 2008 Olympic 
Games, Tethong was among the thick of things in China. After seven 
days of protesting and discussion, she and her friends were detained 
that afternoon and interrogated for six hours. The words that were 
spoken to her before she was deported were still fresh in her mind.

"You are reported to be promoting Tibetan independence and human 
rights," the interrogator told her. "You are undermining the 
stability of Chinese society, and you must go now to Hong Kong."

Tethong said Chinese secret police had followed her group, but she 
couldn't figure out why the police hadn't taken action against them 
earlier. She said the police probably couldn't decide what to do, as 
messages of openness and acceptance were being touted to the 
international community to promote the Olympics and mark the one-year 
countdown to the Games.

"In China, there are the three forbidden topics," Tethong said. 
"Taiwan, Tiananmen and Tibet."

Tibet was annexed by the People's Republic of China in the 1950s by 
leader Mao Zedong, forcing the Dalai Lama and his government into exile.

Tethong had crossed the line, but it wasn't the first time her 
organization used the future games in Beijing as leverage to raise 
awareness of the current political and humanitarian situation in Tibet.

Earlier that year, on April 25, Tenzin Dorjee, the deputy director of 
the Students for a Free Tibet and a son of refugee Tibetans in India, 
staged a demonstration at the base camp of Mount Everest, where some 
Chinese people were going to be doing trial runs of taking a mock 
Olympic torch to the top of the peak.

Dorjee and other protestors held up a banner with the same modified 
Olympic theme: "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet" while singing the 
Tibetan National Anthem before all at the camp.

"They definitely weren't expecting us," Dorjee said. "We sent live 
feed to New York on YouTube and were arrested within 25 minutes."

Dorjee was detained for two-and-a-half days, and he was interrogated 
and threatened.

But the terrifying experience hasn't stopped him and Tethong from 
promoting their cause for Tibet's independence from China.

"A generation has grown up completely in exile, but still, because of 
grandparents and parents, they very strongly identify as Tibetans," 
Tethong said. "Our mission is to work in solidarity with Tibetans for 
the restoration of independence and human rights."

For more information about the Students for a Free Tibet organization 
and to watch video of their protests, visit 
www.studentsforafreetibet.org.

E-mail: nhale@desnews.com

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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