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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

So Why Protest? Ask Palden Gyatso

July 4, 2008

By Maura Moynihan
July 4, 2008

One is routinely asked, why are you heading off to yet another Free
Tibet demo? A few protesters pitched against the mighty People's
Republic of China, come on, get real, do something productive, like,
upgrade your iPod. Aside from the fact that shouting China Out Of
Tibet with your friends always reminds those passing by that Tibet is
in chains, there are plenty of reasons to keep up the heat as the
Summer Games approach.

The protests have already done the world a favor by exposing the CCP
for what it is. The militarization that was summoned to "protect" the
torch was met with resistance, and was thwarted. Not one demonstrator
was critically harmed in the path of the Blood Torch, a testament to
the power of a non-violent people's movement. Now we're approaching
the main event, where China is going to test-run state-of-the-art
surveillance and suppression techniques for the world's biggest
sporting event. If the PSB soars, God help us all. If they sputter,
raise your flag and have a drink.

But the most compelling purpose for heading towards the Chinese
Consulate with a Tibetan flag is to speak for people who are in
jails, torture cells and graves, who would join you if they could.
Just ask Palden Gyatso.

Palden has come to New York City with a new documentary about his
life, "Fire Under the Snow". It tells of his childhood in old Tibet,
his monastic education, and how he was arrested by PLA soldiers in
1959, soon after Dalai Lama took flight to India. His crimes were
only that he refused to denounce his Buddhist teacher or state that
Tibet belonged to China. He was savagely beaten, he saw his friends
die in torment, for decades he was given no more than two cold buns
each day for his food. He had to pray in secret; if anyone was caught
intoning prayers, they were severely punished. For two years his
hands and legs were shackled with iron bars, in the years that
followed he had electric cattle prods shoved into his mouth and stomach.

In 1992 Palden was released and escaped to India, smuggling a cache
of electric cattle prods, knives and shackles used upon Tibetan
prisoners. I met Palden in 1994, when he showed the torture
instruments to the United States Congress. For decades many had
struggled to bring information about conditions in Tibet under
Chinese rule to the world when propaganda was accepted as fact.
Palden came as a gift; a survivor of 33 years of enslavement, a
living witness to Communist China's cruel and vast gulag, to speak
for the dead.

As he sits in my Manhattan home, Palden paints exquisite calligraphy
of ancient Tibetan scripts. He studies history books, with a keen
interest in the Mao and the Communist victory in China. He explores
the New York streets with grace and delight, everywhere he makes
friends, incites conversations. He listens to Tibetan broadcasts for
news of his homeland, as the radio transmits desperate voices
describing arrests, beatings, terror and despair. At the daily vigil
before the Chinese Consulate, Palden joins local activists praying
not just for Tibet, but also for those who died in China and Burma,
in the earthquake and cyclone. Last month Palden asked a friend to
take him to Ground Zero, to pray for those who perished on 9/11, and
those now dying in Iraq.

The Tibet movement has no army, no wealth, pitted against the
colossal PRC, but in the Rangzen Spring of 2008, the Tibetans rose up
against the People's Liberation Army and the people of the world
stood with them. As the late great Abe Rosenthal wrote in his 1995
essay, "You are Palden Gyatso";

"So why do some members of Congress hold hearings, Americans around
the country raise money for Tibetan freedom, and why is it so useful
to listen to a monk with a bent, twisted back, scars on his body and
startling clarity in his eyes? The reason is that those who do what
is within their talent, influence and means for Tibet become part of
a movement for the abolition of slavery. Sooner or later abolition
movements triumph; it is written."

There's a Free Tibet Demo happening every day, in a city near you.
Come and bring your friends. Palden Gyatso will be there.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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