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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China fears Tibetans’ pledge not celebrate New Year

February 17, 2009

by Nirmala Carvalho

Tibetan rights groups are planning to protest against China’s ongoing
harsh repression by not celebrating New Year. Beijing is trying to show
that everyone is happy; at the same time it is persecuting and arresting
anyone in favour of the boycott. Here is an interview with a Tibetan
official.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Students for a Free Tibet India (SFT) and three
other groups of Tibetan refugees (Tibetan Women’s Association, GuChuSum
Movement and the National Democratic Party of Tibet) have decided this
year not to celebrate Tibetan New Year set for 25 February. Instead they
plan to commemorate the Dalai Lama’s 50 years of exile and protest
against China’s current campaign of repression in their country.

Tibetan New Year is called Losar and is the country’s main annual
celebration. Like China’s it takes place over several days and involves
the whole country.

But “how can we celebrate anything when our fellow Tibetans have been
killed, arrested and tortured arbitrarily?” SFT’s National Director
Tenzin Choeying (pictured) told AsiaNews.

History teaches how important such ‘cultural events’ are. In 1987 monks
from every monastery gathered in Lhasa for Monlam Chenmo for a great
prayer festival that comes after New Year. It eventually turned into the
first large scale protest against Chinese rule.

“China wants to show the world that Tibet is quiet; that people are
happy because of higher standards of living; that only a few disgruntled
people are protesting. This is why the Chinese authorities have handed
out 500 yuan to each Tibetan to buy firecrackers for Losar,” Tenzin
explained. “At the same time police have told hotels in Xiahe (Gansu)
that the city was closed to foreigners.”

In Tibet itself police have arrested many Tibetans on suspicion of
supporting the no-celebration Losar campaign.

“Worldwide protests by Tibetans last year showed the world the strength
and determination of Tibet’s younger generations,” Tenzin further said.
On the occasions of the Beijing Olympic Games, “Tibetans were present in
every city of the world to protest and this has strengthened our resole”
to fight “for a non-violent resolution to the Tibetan issue.”

But there is “a climate of fear inside Tibet.” The country “is like a
military camp [. . .]. Our people are suffering intense repression.
There are armed People's Armed Police in the streets, keeping strict
watch on the movements of ordinary people.”

“Evidently China believes that the use of brute force and a massive
settlement of Han Chinese, can turn Tibetans into a minority in their
own homeland.” Such “gross violations of human rights should not be
ignored by world leaders if they are sincere when they say they want
harmony and ethics in the world.”

“In the Khum area in Pasho, a youth was killed in police custody after
police interrogation,” Tenzin Choeying lamented. The young man had been
detained “for protesting along with his friends” against Losar celebrations.
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