Blog: celebrating Tibetan resistance this March

Eleanor at a Tibetan Uprising Day march in 2015
Eleanor at a Tibetan Uprising Day march in 2015

5th March 2016
Post by Eleanor

I’m really looking forward to the next few weeks.  We’ve been doing a lot of planning and preparing during the last couple of months and March is when we get to show you everything we’ve been working on.

But first I have to acknowledge the dreadful events of the last few days.  I must confess, I had started daring to hope that we’d seen the end of the self-immolations.  I understand that self-immolation protests are carried out deliberately by people who feel compelled to sacrifice their lives in order to draw international attention to the situation in Tibet.  Therefore, it’s not quite right to call them tragic – they’re not accidents or things that have happened to someone.  There’s nothing passive or hopeless about them.  They are very strong statements.  Nevertheless, the loss of life is heart breaking and the details of each protest are always very difficult to process.  And it’s galling to watch government representatives shake their heads and say “yes, yes, it’s dreadful” and then go and sign trade deals with China anyway. Surely these lives are worth more?

The campaign will honour Tibetans who have given so much to the freedom struggle.

Fortunately, the month of March is all about celebrating Tibetan resistance and we can put all the mixed emotions that we have after the self-immolation protests into our work.  It starts on Monday with the launch of our crowdfunding campaign.  This is a new thing for Free Tibet so we’re a little bit nervous but really excited at the same time.  The campaign we hope to fund will focus in on the core issue of freedom in Tibet and bring that message to hundreds of thousands of people via billboards in major world cities – New York, London and Sydney.  It’s a chance for supporters to have a real stake in a specific campaign.  We’ve set quite an ambitious target and we literally won’t be able to do it without you.  The campaign will also honour Tibetans who have given so much to the freedom struggle by featuring their faces on the billboards.

Next up will be the March 10th anniversary events.  Tibetans feel, quite rightly, that the anniversary of the 1959 uprising should be commemorated on the right day.  However, many people are unable to take time off work on a weekday and this is why we have traditionally held events on the nearest weekend.  This year we have decided to solve the issue by doing both.  So, on the 10th itself there will be a rally outside the Chinese embassy, a peace march (on the pavements rather than the road) and a Tibetan cultural event in the evening.  On Saturday 12th there will be a second event with speakers, video, music and campaign activities.  Our key speaker on the 12th will be Lobsang Tsering, nephew of the late Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.  We had an anxious wait for his visa to come through but everything is now arranged and we’re looking forward to welcoming him to London.

Later in the month we’ll be welcoming Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar.  She is the Vice-President of Gu Chu Sum, the Tibetan association for political prisoners, and worked very closely with the Tibet Watch team when we compiled our joint reports on torture for the UN.  She and I will be speaking at a number of events around the UK.  The tour is called Blood on the Snows and will run from 29 March to 9 April.  We’ll be sharing the inspirational stories of Tibetan monks who survived torture in Chinese prisons and continue to defy China’s attempts to silence their voices.  I’m very much looking forward to working with Namgyal again and also to getting out and meeting Tibetans and Tibet supporters in different cities.

Before the tour starts we'll have the launch of Tibet Watch's latest report.  This one looks at the vital role that monasteries play in Tibetan society and also in Tibetan resistance. The report launch will coincide with some new activities which the campaigns team have been preparing - so keep an eye on our website if you'd like to get involved.

Eleanor is Director of Free Tibet and also of our research partner Tibet Watch. She joined the movement professionally in April 2013, having previously been Director of Casework for legal charity Amicus, where her work focused on the death penalty in the US. With a law degree and an MA in human rights, Eleanor has worked for many other campaigns and projects, including One For Ten, PeaceBrigades International, the Burma Human Rights Documentation Unit and the British Institute of International & Comparative Law. She has been a supporter of Free Tibet since her student days and has supported the Tibetan cause for over 20 years. Read updates from her on Twitter and each month on our blog.