New Zealand Tibetans are growing increasingly more concerned about their friends and family in Tibet as graphic images continue to flood from the troubled area.
In Wellington, around 300 people stood in solidarity with the Tibetan community at a rally on the parliament steps. They were calling for Government action to help the situation in Tibet and condemning the looming free trade deal with communist China.
Karma Tenzin, a local Tibetan, spoke about the crisis in Tibet reaching New Zealand.
“The brutal crackdown by the Chinese are affecting us here in New Zealand as we manage to get small pieces of information out of Tibet.”
He said a Christchurch-based Tibetan has been told that his cousin has been taken to a prison in Tibet's capital city, Lhasa.
“It is likely he is being tortured there, right now,” Mr Tenzin said.
He added that a Tibetan in the north of New Zealand, managed to have a conversation with a family who are under house arrest in Lhasa.
“They talk about bodies and people being shot. One woman was shot dead as she tried to leave her house.”
A Tibetan on the West Coast has been told that at least eight bodies have been found in his monastery in the east of Tibet. He believes they could be his friends and family.
“A Tibetan in Wellington knows his monastery is under lockdown. He is hearing of more and more by nomads, monks, nuns, even remote places.”
“We have news from our friends in Australia too, of remote areas and villages being completely shut down. We heard that people are being shot. We have seen pictures of bodies.”
“Every Tibetan has a story like this. We lost our land. We lost our culture. We want to live as Tibetans in our own land. We are weeping, we are hurting, but we are also determined we will never give up.”
Green Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke spoke of the Chinese communist regime's long repression over Tibet.
“All the efforts of a ruthless, one-party state that has dominated Tibet for about 50 years, all their efforts cannot stop the truth getting out in the end.”
He expressed concern at Miss Clark for “trying to take a neutral attitude” on the Tibet crisis.
“That is not good enough. Do we stand with the oppressor, or do we stand with the oppressed?
He said we shouldn't have “a dollar each way”.
Trade Agreement Under Fire
Mr Locke also fired at the free trade deal with China, suggesting a suspension in the dealings.
“I think our government has a special opportunity at the present time…because there is a scheduled signing of a free trade agreement…in Beijing next month what better signal could New Zealand send to the Chinese government and to the world, to say, 'We will not be going to that signing in April'.”
He said there should not be a preferential trade agreement with China “on the backs of the Tibetan people with the blood of the Tibetan people”.
Miss Clark is determined trade plans will not be derailed. She said on national radio yesterday that New Zealand would not halt or change plans to have a free trade deal, even if it was learned the Chinese regime had been heavy-handed in Tibet.
“I think that would be ridiculous,” she said.
Friends of Tibet chairman Thuten Kesang joined a large crowd in Aotea Square in Auckland to appeal to the New Zealand Government to do something.
“Tibet is actually under virtual martial law.”
“This protest is not actually against anybody. This protest today is to remember those Tibetans who are suffering in Tibet today,” he said.
There were simultaneous protests in Aotea Square and outside Helen Clark's office in Mt Albert where members of the Free Burma Campaign gathered to show their solidarity.
Auckland City Councillor Cathy Casey was among supporters in Mt Albert.
She said she has never supported a free trade agreement with China, mainly because of human rights concern, but also because of the harm to New Zealand's manufacturing industry.
“The human rights abuses should not and can not be ignored. It seems to me the Prime Minister is putting trade ahead of people.”
She said if Helen Clark cared about people she would do something about the allegations of organ harvesting in China.
Today's Rallies Were Requesting That:
1) The New Zealand government write a letter of condemnation to the Chinese regime over the brutal atrocities now occurring in Tibet.
2) The New Zealand government urgently request a delegation of independent monitors be allowed into Tibet immediately to ascertain exactly what is going on there and to protect the Tibetans from further violence.
3) The New Zealand government must call on the Chinese regime to immediately release all prisoners and those who are locked up in monasteries and schools across Tibet.
4) The Olympic torch should not go through Tibet or up Mt Everest.
From Amnesty International New Zealand spokesperson
Also speaking in Auckland was Migrant Workers Union organsiser Joe Carolan.
“In a week where there are hundreds of people butchered in Lhasa and around Tibet, where people who have been under the yolk of oppression have risen up, we have the disgusting sight of the Prime Minister of this country preparing to go and sign a free trade deal with these butchers in two weeks time.”
He said 78 percent of people in New Zealand believe we need to take harder action and “not just talk hot air about human rights but back that up with concrete action”. He said many people in the trade union movement know the Chinese economy is built on slave labour.
“People do not have the right to form trade unions, they can not go on strike, and it's also built on the blood and the oppression of the national minorities in Sichuan Province, in Tibet and these people deserve their freedom.”