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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Tibet Awareness Day: Let us not bend before China's threats

March 30, 2010

March 29, 2010
By Migmar Gyalnub

Portland's declaration of March 10 as Tibet Awareness Day is not something
the city did for first time. The first such proclamation was issued in 1997
during Mayor Vera Katz's time in office. The news of that first proclamation
didn't go global because it was kept low key. This year's declaration also
was low key; it was barely noted in the news until the Chinese reacted.
Thanks to China's consulate in San Francisco, the proclamation has attracted
wide attention.

Commissioner Randy Leonard and Mayor Sam Adams are neither naive nor
ignorant about the situation in Tibet and China. In fact, they believe in
freedom of speech, freedom of expression and human rights. I believe the
mayor and commissioner did what they believed to be right, and I appreciate
their courage.

Tibetans have nothing to offer to them, nor do they have people who can
lobby for their cause. Let's be thankful that we can post comments or write
what we think because we live in America. If we were in China, it would be a
different story. Liu Xiabo, who co-authored Charter 08, a declaration
calling for political reform, greater human rights and an end to one
party-rule in China, was put in prison with an 11-year sentence. What was
Liu's crime? Nothing but an expression of basic human rights that we all
take as guaranteed.

Are we willing to sacrifice our confidence and our ability to hold our heads
high and without fear because of China's threats of economic consequences
for Portland? We as Americans have pride, and it's not right for us to bend
to the pressure tactics of China. Trade benefits both America and China.
Those who support China give the impression that if China stops doing
business with us, it would only cause great losses to Oregon. But it goes
both ways. If we lose, they lose too.

Portland is not the only city in the country that has proclaimed March 10 as
Tibetan Awareness Day. Cities such as Berkeley, Calif.; Boston, Mass.;
Charlottesville, Va.; St. Paul, Minn.; and the states of Wisconsin and
Washington have done the same. Do they not have trade with China?

When people in Tibet go for peaceful demonstrations to express their basic
human rights, no one is sure if they will come back home for the night to be
with their families. Despite the very real fear of being killed or
languishing in prison, Tibetans are fighting and not giving up. Maybe
Oregonians who are scared about Chinese economic powers should take courage
from the Tibetans in Tibet. If we are scared, we are dead. Shakespeare
wrote: "Cowards die many times before their deaths, The valiant never taste
of death but once."

So let us not die many times. Instead, let's hold our heads high without

Migmar Gyalnub lives in Southeast Portland.
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