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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?"

Sombre new year for Tibetans

February 27, 2009

Trade festivities for protest over crackdown


Last Updated: 26th February 2009, 3:04am

Tibetans living in Parkdale traded party favours for a candlelight vigil
last night on the first day of the Tibetan New Year.

More than 300 Tibetan-Canadians and their supporters stood in front of
Parkdale Collegiate Institute on Jameson Ave. to pray for the estimated
200 Tibetans killed and thousands imprisoned by the Chinese government
in the past year.

"The new year is the most beloved time traditionally for Tibetans," said
organizer Tsering Lama, 24, of Students for a Free Tibet Canada.

"But this year, we're mourning. This is also to send a message to the
international community that things inside Tibet is not OK."

The Chinese government has been trying to downplay the oppression and
handing out coupons to Tibetan civilians to celebrate the new year in an
effort to whitewash the violence, Lama said.

"They have launched a campaign against anyone who wants to speak up for
human rights or who are supporters of the Dalai Lama," she said.

China has been tightening its grip on Tibet to prepare for the 50th
anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile on March 10. Last year, a peaceful
protest by 200 monks to mark the anniversary erupted into violent riots.

People in the crowd waved Canadian and Tibetan flags as guest speakers
chanted and prayed.

Lama estimates there are about 3,000 exiled Tibetans living in Parkdale
and about 5,000 in Toronto, which is the largest congregation after New
York, India and Nepal.

"The whole world today prays and carries a heavy heart," Parkdale-High
Park MPP Cheri DiNovo told the crowd.

"Everyone stands with you as fellow Tibetans, because when one of you is
beaten or killed for justice, all of us are beaten or killed for justice."

Dawa Gyaltsen, 49, said while he doesn't have any immediate family in
Tibet, he still feels he's lost loved ones.

"It's terrible," he said. "Every Tibetan here is frustrated. Behind the
smile, we all feel it deep inside us. As long as the Chinese occupation
is there, the Tibetan people can never live in peace."
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