Tibetans Worldwide Mark Anniversary of 1959 Uprising Against China’s Rule

2021-03-10
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Tibetans Worldwide Mark Anniversary of 1959 Uprising Against China’s Rule A Tibetan living in Taiwan observes Tibet's National Uprising Day in a ceremony in Taiwan's capital Taipei, March 10, 2021.
Photo: RFA

Tibetans and Tibet supporters around the world marched on Wednesday to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of a March 10, 1959 national uprising in Tibet against rule by China, which had invaded and forcibly annexed the independent Himalayan nation nine years before.

Thousands of Tibetans died in the uprising and subsequent crackdown by China, and March 10 remains a politically sensitive date for Chinese authorities in Tibet, who routinely tighten surveillance and security measures in Tibetan areas of China to block protests ahead of the anniversary.

In a day of activities to observe the anniversary around the world, Chinese authorities tightened security around Tibet, with government officials in the Tibet Autonomous Region's Lhoka city deploying security personnel in front of office buildings and driving military vehicles in processions along the city streets, a local source told RFA's Tibetan Service.

Banners carried on the vehicles read, "Those who violate the law will not escape punishment," spreading fear among local residents, RFA's source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Protest events and rallies were held on Monday in cities across Australia, Canada, the United States, Europe, Taiwan, and India, where activists from the Tibetan Youth Congress stormed the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi and were held briefly by police before being released.

“For more than 60 years, millions of Tibetans have died and thousands of monasteries have been destroyed under China’s continuing repressive policies,” TYC general secretary Sonam Tsering said following the event.

“So when the Tibetans inside Tibet have not lost faith in our struggle, we in exile must, and will, continue to keep the Tibetan issue alive,” Tsering said.

Speaking at a ceremony held in Dharamsala, India—seat of Tibet’s exile government the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA)—CTA exile political leader, or Sikyong, Lobsang Sangay said Tibetans around the world had come together Monday to mourn the loss of “over a million Tibetans [who] have lost their lives in the past six decades under Chinese rule.”

“But we are also here to mark the undaunted resilience of Tibetans in Tibet,” Sangay said. “Even under the threat of losing their lives, they continue to protest by protecting and preserving our language, our religion, our culture, our land, and our identity.”

“As a college student, I am so happy to be taking part in commemorating the anniversary of our National Uprising Day,” Norzin Lhamo, a resident of Mysore in South India said, during a march to commemorate the event.

“I just hope that we get our freedom, and am looking forward to the day when Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile can finally unite.”

In the UK, Tibetan flag-raising ceremonies were held in Woolwich, Amherst, Northampton, and Easthampton, with another flag raising held in front of City Hall in Richmond, California, in the U.S., while in Europe peaceful protest rallies were held in Rome, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, and Vienna.

In Nepal, a country with close economic and political ties to China, authorities meanwhile barred Tibetans living in the country from marking the uprising’s anniversary, sending a notice on March 6 to the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office in Kathmandu appealing to Tibetan residents of Nepal to refrain from organizing protests or public gatherings.

“March 10 is a sad day,” said Tibetan resident Choesang Dolma.

“And though I can’t go out to observe this day here in Nepal, I am so proud of the other Tibetans around the world who will march in the streets to commemorate this important day,” Dolma said, adding that she would close her restaurant for the day to mark the event.

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Taiwan observes Tibet's National Uprising Day in a ceremony in Taiwan's capital Taipei, March 10, 2021. Credit: RFA

US lawmakers voice support

U.S. lawmakers on Monday also voiced support for Tibet, with U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi saying, “Today, we continue to stand with the Tibetan people and honor those who sacrificed all for their rights and freedom.”

“Tibetan men, women and children want simply to practice their faith, speak their language and celebrate their culture free from violence and intimidation. Yet, Beijing for decades has waged a campaign to destroy Tibet’s proud culture and history.”

“[This] remains a clarion call for action to freedom-loving people worldwide,” Pelosi said.

“I stand in solidarity with all the Tibetans around the world in commemorating the 62nd anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day,” added Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern, speaking in a video message in support.

“Your actions today will send messages that we remember all who lost their lives and who are driven from their homes in Tibet,” McGovern said, at the same time urging the administration of U.S. President Biden to “effectively implement” legislation supporting Tibet signed into law by former president Trump.

The U.S. State Department in a statement meanwhile called on China to “respect the human rights of Tibetans and the preservation of Tibet’s environment as well as the unique cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of Tibetan traditions.”

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Tibetan Uprising Day event held in Taipei_ByRFA Mandarin Paul Lee_03.jpg
Taiwan observes Tibet's National Uprising Day in a ceremony in Taiwan's capital Taipei, March 10, 2021.

A similar history and struggle'

Also on Monday, the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress—representing ethnic Uyghurs in exile and at home in northwestern China’s Xinjiang where more than a million members of the mostly Muslim minority group have been held in political reeducation camps—voiced support for Tibetans’ struggle for freedom.

“Uyghurs and Tibetans share a similar history and struggle,” the WUC said in a statement. “Both people saw their land and fundamental freedoms being stripped away from them.”

“Today, Tibetans and Uyghurs are living under the repressive genocidal regime of the [Chinese Communist Party], and the diaspora community lives in exile, advocating for democracy and fundamental freedoms,” the WUC said.

Formerly an independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following the failed March 10 uprising.

Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.

The Tibetan diaspora is estimated to include about 150,000 people living in 40 countries, mainly India, Nepal, North America, and in Europe. About 7 million Tibetans live in Tibet and adjacent provinces of China.

Reported by Lobsang Gelek for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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