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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?"

Tibetan students and families rally to protest Chinese occupation

April 17, 2009

Clare Lynch
Sophian (Smith College, New York, NY)
April 15, 2009

Last Saturday, Tibetan students and families
gathered in front of City Hall, rallying to
protest 50 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet.
The rally was sparked by China's crackdown after
a peaceful protest in Tibet on March 10.

"Many brave Tibetans, particularly young monks
and nuns, stood up and did protest, knowing their
lives were at stake, and were eventually taken
away to prison, injured, and some killed,"
organizer Tenzin Yangchen '10 said. "We are
rallying for those voiceless in Tibet and to show
solidarity with people inside Tibet who risk
their lives just to speak for basic human rights."

Protestors began arriving around 5 p.m. Families
with young children gathered and helped light
votive candles. Other protestors brought handmade
signs and leaflets to distribute to pedestrians.
At 5:30, approximately 60 protestors, led by a
Buddhist monk, started walking slowly towards
Bridge Street, chanting and waving signs,
attracting the curious attention and encouraging
honks of passing people and cars.

"We hope to show recent human rights issues that
the Chinese government had violated," Yangchen
said. "Moreover, we hope to encourage Chinese
government to have serious and meaningful
dialogue with the Tibetan government in order to
resolve the Tibet issue peacefully."

The event was organized by 5 College Students for
Free Tibet, in an attempt to educate Americans
about political and religious oppression in Tibet.

"We hope to promote awareness about the Tibet
cause to this very active community," Yangchen
said. "Moreover, we want to get people involved
in the cause, which is cause for justice and
basic freedom. We hope to educate people about recent happenings in Tibet."

Despite the general name recognition on the
streets for the "Free Tibet" cause, many students
are "not really" aware of the situation in Tibet,
said University of Massachusetts student Tenzin
Bhuti, who participated in the rally.

"China does a good job of covering up their
actions," Bhuti said. He saw the rally as "a way
of showing their brutality to the outside world."

Chand Nirankari, grassroots coordinator for
Students for Free Tibet, came from New York to support the rally.

"The Five College area is one of our strongest
regions," Nirankari said. "It's important to do
this kind of work with local communities and university involvement."

Community involvement was very obvious at the
rally. A large number of families attended, from
older relatives to small children wearing hand-knit caps.

This aspect of the rally was particularly
poignant, according to participant Beth McGann '12.

"Looking around at the diverse ages, the
grandparents reciting prayers and the kids who
don't understand the issues but are here because
it's their country, you can see the damage being
done to all the different generations," McGann said.

Rally participant Kelsey Hoffman '12 said she was
prompted to join the rally to bring light to the
human rights violations in Tibet.

"More people should be aware of it, more people
should be aware of what's going on," Hoffman
said. "If a person in the U.S. was arrested and
sentenced to death just for being an activist,
people would be outraged and the U.N. would call it a grievous violation."

"I feel there should be so many more Smith students here," Hoffman said.

The rally concluded with a vigil, speech, poetry
reading and chanted prayer on the steps of City
Hall. After the organizers thanked all the
participants, hot tea and snacks were handed out
and the marchers were invited to a screening of
the documentary "Uprising in Tibet" in Neilson Library.

Overall, the rally emphasized hope and peaceful
solidarity among Tibetans, Americans, students, families and activists.

"Tibetans have not given up," Tenzin Dechen '10
said. "We may not be many here, but we are in
spirit with struggle of Tibetans in Tibet."

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