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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."

One way out of Beijing

August 24, 2008

China gives Montreal activist Chris Schwartz the expected boot, but
he still considers himself lucky
by TRACEY LINDEMAN
The Montreal Mirror
August 21, 2008

Chris Schwartz looks a little sleep deprived but remarkably relaxed
for a guy who was just deported from China. After a 30-hour flight,
including layovers, from Hong Kong back to Montreal and an intense
day of media interviews, Schwartz looks happy to be sipping coffee in
St-Henri's Café Joe's.

The 24-year-old former West Islander has dedicated most of the last
decade to the cause of Tibetan freedom, since his days at Loyola High
School. His mother is from Ireland (giving him dual citizenship), and
both his parents -- with whom he lives in a Verdun condo—are
supportive of his activism. He sits on SFT (Students for a Free
Tibet) Canada's national board of directors, and traveled to San
Francisco earlier this year to protest the Olympic torch relay
through Tibet. He went to Beijing because he felt speaking out there
would resonate a little more loudly than doing so here. And he was
voted ninth loudest activist by Mirror readers in 2007's Best of
Montreal poll—but next year, his chances at No. 1 are pretty good.

Dressed in a Superman-blue T-shirt featuring the Om symbol instead of
a giant S, Schwartz talks about being detained for about six hours
during which he was routinely interrogated, before being shipped from
Beijing to Hong Kong, where he languished in a hotel room for five or
so days. The Chinese government couldn't wait to get rid of him—he
says they drove him to the Beijing airport at over 140 km/h. He
arrived at Pierre Elliott Trudeau last Friday night and was welcomed
by a throng of journalists, friends and fellow pro-Tibetan activists.

But none of this really matters to him, he says. What really matters
is why he was in China in the first place.

Tiananmen bust

The Aug. 9 protest in the historic, bloodstained Tiananmen Square was
short-lived -- men who appeared to be plainclothes officers quickly
put a stop to the five-person demonstration -- but it shone a light
on China's record in Tibet. When Schwartz entered China on his Irish
passport (he was denied a visa as a Canadian), he knew he'd probably
get arrested, but he also knew whatever happened to him would be
nothing compared to what happens to Tibetans when they protest.

"When Tibetans speak out, they are thrown in prison, they are often
times tortured and sometimes killed," Schwartz says—which was largely
the case last March, when thousands of Tibetans inside Tibet
protested against China's occupation. Schwartz says Tibetans have
continuously protested since March 10, Tibetan Uprising Day, in
efforts to bring attention to their struggle at a time when China is
in the international spotlight.

Tibet was an independent state until 1949-1950, when communist China
invaded and annexed it. In 1959, after a decade of violence, angry
Tibetans in the capital of Lhasa revolted against China's presence
and were met with brute force, killing what the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile, headed by the Dalai Lama, estimates at 87,000
people. However, the Chinese government maintains Tibet has been part
of China for centuries, that the invasion was a peaceful liberation
and that today, Tibetans are perfectly content being part of China.

Predictably, Schwartz doesn't believe a word of what the Chinese
government has to say about Tibet. He says the police and military
have a large and unwavering presence in Tibet, which has only
intensified since last March. In July, the Times of London reported
that around 1,000 monks were preemptively arrested and shipped
outside of Lhasa until the end of the Olympics to quell potential
unrest—and embarrassment. "The monasteries in Lhasa are largely empty
right now," Schwartz says.

China's empty promises

He's quick to say SFT is not against the Beijing Olympics, but
Schwartz thinks the International Olympic Committee has failed to
hold China to promises it made when it was awarded the Games.
Schwartz says one of the conditions the IOC laid out for China was to
grant free and unfettered media access to the entire country;
however, he says, most journalists aren't allowed into Tibet. The
Times also reported that a British journalist was beaten up and
arrested for reporting on a pro-Tibet demonstration staged by
foreigners in China.

Schwartz isn't sure whether he's banned from China for a month, a
year or the rest of his life. While he recognizes holding a
demonstration in Tiananmen Square will not free Tibet by the end of
the Olympics, he's planning on running with the momentum pro-Tibet
forces have garnered to push onward for Tibetan freedom.

"This is such a critical moment for Tibet. They are yelling and
screaming for people to speak up," he says.
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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