By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 10 March 2020
Despite the coronavirus scare, Tibetans gathered together in McLeod Ganj for the most important annual Tibetan event, marking the Tibetan uprising of 10 March 1959 against the invading Chinese.
From the podium at the temple of their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Tibetan political leader Lobsang Sangay proclaimed: “We are here, together as one people, on the 61st anniversary of that day, to pay our tribute to those brave daughters and sons of Tibet, and to draw inspiration from their sacrifices in our struggle to restore freedom and peace in Tibet.”
“If the Chinese government harbours any hope that the Tibet issue will gradually lose its momentum, we would like to send the clear message that we will persist.”
There were a good few hundred people in the audience despite the global fear of the spread of the virus, attentively listening to their leader’s speech.
Favouring dialogue to achieve autonomy rather than independence for the Tibetan people, Sangay said that peace in Tibet can be only restored through the Middle-Way Approach. “Therefore, the Chinese government must resume dialogue with the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
He criticised the Chinese government for denying basic human rights to the people in Tibet by arresting peaceful protesters, detaining people on suspicion of possessing pictures of the Dalai Lama, and putting restrictions on religious freedom. He also condemned the mandatory “ethnic unity” legislation that is set to take effect from 1 May this year. This law legalises inter-racial marriages, provide subsidies to Chinese migrants, and attempts in other ways to sinicise the Tibetan identity.
Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile Pema Jungney spoke on the occasion, saying that the Chinese government must respect people’s freedom and human rights, and change its hardline policies. “Were it able to do that, it is certain that the people of all the nationalities in mainland China will be able to enjoy a life of peace and happiness, free of anxieties.”
He said that the nature of the Tibetan struggle is based on the creed of peace and non-violence and the policy of the Middle Way, and there is no way this will ever change.
Two Czech Republic parliament members — Frantisek Kopriva and Dana Balcarova — were the chief guests, and expressed their full support of the Tibetan cause.
The five NGOs that organised the march down the hill from the Tsuglakhang Temple in McLeod Ganj to Dharamshala called on the Chinese government for the release of all Tibetan political prisoners, including the 11th Panchen Lama.