Lhadon Tethong, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, has a must-read post up on Tibet Will Be Free about the similarities between this year’s protests inside Tibet and last year’s national uprising.
News from Tibet says that there are protests here and there. All of us on the outside are scrambling to find out the details. We call Dharamsala, New York, London, Beijing, trying to work out what exactly happened. Once we piece together the story we take it to the world.
Again there are so few images. And so far, no moving images. No video. Nothing to show on TV.
But it is happening and everyone knows. We know. 6 million Tibetans and hundreds of thousands of Chinese police, soldiers and officials know.
Just like last year, and the year before that, and fifty years before that, there is a heroic battle raging at the highest point of the earth. It is a test of wills between a people with nothing but faith and a State without a soul.
I know the people will win. They always do when they have this kind of feeling.
As if to prove her point, today we find out that monks in Sey monastery have held a mass demonstration calling for greater rights and freedom.
There is an imperative in the search for freedom. On a long enough time scale, the life expectancy of every dictatorship, every unjust occupation, drops to zero. The Chinese Communist Party has ruled Tibet with an iron fist for what is about the outside edge of most modern dictatorial occupations – over half a century. In this time, they have not come close to extinguishing the Tibetan fire for freedom.
I spent a good amount of time while I was growing up going to school in Ireland. As a result, I also spent a good amount of time learning about the history of England’s occupation of Ireland and the eventual creation of a free republic in twenty-six of Ireland’s thirty-two counties. One of the most important events in the march towards independence for Ireland was the 1916 Easter Uprising, a failed attempt by Irish Republicans to cast off English rule through a poorly executed national violent uprising. Though poor communications, informants, and not enough popular support doomed the Easter Uprising to failure, it played a critical role nonetheless. The English government enacted a harsh crackdown on the Irish Republican Brotherhood, sending over 3,500 people to jail. They executed fifteen of the rebellions leaders, though some had little to nothing to do with it. These harsh actions did more to galvanize public support for Republicanism than the uprising itself. England created martyrs for Ireland and their response hastened the end of their occupation in Ireland.
Last year’s national uprising was undoubtedly an expression of Tibetan’s unwavering desire to be free, a desire shared by all people. The sentiment was felt across Tibet, in all areas and amongst all sorts of people – monks and nuns, nomads and herders, city dwellers and business owners. Last year’s uprising happened because Tibetans want to be free.
But this year there is an added factor, something we see in many of the quotes coming out to the press. China killed thousands of Tibetans in last year’s crackdown on uprising, according to Tibetans inside Tibet. Thousands more have been disappeared and even more languish in jail. Tim Johnson of McClatchy News quoted one Tibetan herder saying: ““After I die, my sons and grandsons will remember. They will hate the government.” This is what China has wrought with their iron-fisted rule.
China’s crackdown on Tibetans, their use of massive shows of military and police force, surveillance cameras, travel restrictions, harsh prison sentences for thought crimes, and violence in response to peaceful protest had added fuel to the fire inside Tibet. Tibetans still know they deserve rights and freedom and they are speaking out for it. But China’s actions have only created a greater imperative for freedom in the minds of Tibetans inside Tibet. They are saying so in their few interviews with western reporters or contacts in the outside world. But more importantly, they are doing so with their continued acts of fearless protest, for they know the consequences for the words they say, the songs and prayers they chant, the pictures they hold, and the banned flag they wave.
Like Lhadon, I agree that the people will win. I hope that Tibetan’s inside Tibet know this too. And as we saw with the tight lockdown of the latest media junket to Tibet, China seems to know it as well and are reacting in the only way that most assures Tibetans will continue their drive towards freedom. It is happening and everyone knows.