Hundreds took to the streets of Paris on Wednesday in honor of the 51st Tibetan National Uprising Day. While holding signs reading, “Stop the Torture in Tibet” and shouting messages of “Hu Jintao: Assassin!”, demonstrators marched along the Seine towards the Chinese embassy, where the group strengthened its calls for freedom.
For the Tibetan exiled community, National Uprising Day is one of the most important events of the year, alongside New Year festivities in February. The day marks the anniversary of March 10th, 1959, when Tibetans in the capital city of Lhasa rose up against their nearly 9 years of Chinese occupation. Despite the Tibetans’ peaceful protest, a bloody battle ensued and almost 90,000 Tibetans were killed. Exiled communities worldwide use the day as a platform to promote justice for Tibet.
As per tradition, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, made a statement from his home in Dharamsala, India. He reiterated his desire for Tibet’s autonomy, despite Beijing’s continually hard-line stand. The Dalai Lama called on Tibetans to respect others, educate themselves and continue working to preserve Tibetan language and culture. He also expressed the need for China’s 1.3 billion citizens to have free access to information and greater transparency within the country.
Tseyang, a board member of the Communauté Tibétaine de France, who jointly organized the Paris demonstration with La Maison du Tibet, hopes that the day’s protest will bring some sort of change within the current Sino-Tibetan dialogue.
“The Chinese government should try to better understand the situation,” she said as she marched, “Tibet and China are in their ninth round of talks and there are still no concrete results.”
The Dalai Lama sent envoys to Beijing at the end of January to resume negotiations between China and Tibet, which again were fruitless. International intervention has not yet produced any significant change for the Tibet issue, which often gets pushed under the table due to Chinese pressure or in favor of more pressing political concerns. U.S. President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama last month, resulting in angry reactions from the Chinese government.
Sonam Topgyl, an exiled Tibetan living in Paris, believes that the Uprising Day protest will be useful in its ability to bring light to the situation in Tibet and to show China that Tibetans are still fighting for freedom. “When it comes to politics, it’s difficult. But what France can do is to talk about the Tibetan situation to the rest of the world,” he said. Uprising Day demonstrations were planned for today in cities across France, as well as in other parts of the globe.
Above all, Sonam hopes that talking about Tibet will one day result in real change. Holding his Tibetan flag high in the air as he marched, he said, “What I would like is for Tibet to have the same rights as in France – culture, religion, everything.”