Free Tibet struggle: 60 years on

An exile Tibetan youth with face-painting of Tibet and Tibetan flag, during the 60th Tibetan Uprising Day commemorating the 1959 Tibetan uprising, in McLeod Ganj, India, on 10 March 2019.

An exile Tibetan youth with face-painting of Tibet and Tibetan flag, during the 60th Tibetan Uprising Day commemorating the 1959 Tibetan uprising, in McLeod Ganj, India, on 10 March 2019. Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal

By Lobsang Wangyal

McLEOD GANJ, India, 10 March 2019

Tibetans in exile marked the 60th year since they were driven out of their country by the People’s Liberation Army in 1959, leading to the flight of Tibet’s spiritual and temporal leader the Dalai Lama into exile in India.

On 10 March, the flight’s anniversary, hundreds of exiled Tibetans along with their political leader Lobsang Sangay and his cabinet, gathered in the capital of the Tibetan diaspora, McLeod Ganj, to show their aspiration for a free Tibet. They were joined at the ceremony by a host of foreign dignitaries from the around the world, including the former President of Botswana Serêtsê Khama Ian Khama.

The exiles sang the Tibetan and Indian national anthems while Sangay raised the Tibetan national flag. A one-minute silence was observed as a mark of respect for the Tibetan martyrs who have sacrificed their lives for the cause of Tibet.

Sangay, making his annual speech for the occasion, said, “Over the last six decades, the government in Beijing has brutally repressed the Tibetan people, denied us our basic rights, and consistently pursued systematic policies to crack down on Tibetan language, culture, unique identity, and spiritual practices. In essence, China has deliberately aimed to eradicate Tibet’s civilization from the face of this earth.”

Asking the Chinese government to end its hypocrisy of words like “co-operation” and “dialogue”, Sangay said, “If indeed China earnestly believes that ‘co-operation can bring world peace,’ it should renew its dialogues with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As we have stated repeatedly, the envoys are ready to talk and peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet through the Middle-Way Approach.”

China occupied Tibet in a violent attack in 1959 that led to the Dalai Lama going into exile in India, with tens of thousands following him. He established his exile headquarters in the Indian Himalayan foothill station of McLeod Ganj, rallying for a non-violent, negotiated solution to the Tibetan issue.

The 83-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama proposed to seek autonomy for Tibet, rather than independence, but the talks between the two sides over the proposal have produced no breakthrough over the past few decades.

Foreign delegates from 10 countries and 60 pro-democracy Chinese activists spoke on the occasion expressing their support for Tibet, despite China’s pressure on them not to attend the Tibetan event. After the event, the delegates had a luncheon meeting with the Dalai Lama at his residence.

All the members of the delegation were unanimous in supporting the ‘Middle-way policy’. Some of the members had been warned by the Chinese embassies in their respective countries not to attend the Tibetan event.

The Chinese embassy had pressured the government of Botswana to stop former President Ian Khama from travelling to India for the event. Khama said because of his belief in freedom and human rights, he came to show his support and solidarity for Tibetans. He even had a photo session with a group of Tibetans who had painted their faces with the Tibetan flag. “I will show this photo to the Chinese Ambassador,” he said.

Tibetans and their supporters later marched a few kilometres down to the main hub of Dharamshala, carrying Tibetan flags and shouting slogans including “Long live Dalai Lama,” “Tibet belongs to Tibetans,” “Tibet’s freedom is India’s security” and “India-China friendship is a sham.”

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