SAN DIEGO─Members of the San Diego Tibetan Community and San Diego Friends of Tibet gathered Sat., Mar. 22 at Balboa Park near 6th and Laurel for a peaceful vigil.
The vigil included presentations on the situation in Tibet, action alerts, recitation of poetry, and chanting. A loving-kindness meditation was held and prayers were said for peace in Tibet. The two-hour vigil concluded with the singing of the Tibetan national anthem, with many in the crowd joining in.
Violent Crackdown by Chinese Authorities
Supporters from many backgrounds came to express their solidarity with the Tibetan people. They shared experiences and information about the recent violent crackdown by Chinese authorities on monks and civilian protesters in Tibet which has drawn international criticisms. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, calls the situation in Tibet a challenge to the world's conscience, and Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urges Beijing to show clarity by allowing foreign observers access into the region.
Kalsang Peling, one of the event organizers, read a press release issued Mar. 18 by the Dalai Lama. In it the Dalai Lama expressed his gratitude to world leaders and the international community for their concern over the recent turn of events in Tibet and for their attempts to persuade the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with the demonstrations.
He said in the press release, "Tibetans have been reduced to an insignificant minority in their own land as a result of the huge transfer of non-Tibetans into Tibet; the distinctive Tibetan cultural heritage with its characteristic language, customs and traditions, is fading away; in reality, there is no religious freedom in Tibet; even to call for a little more freedom is to risk being labeled a separatist."
The Dalai Lama continued by saying he remained "committed to taking the 'Middle Way' approach and pursuing a process of dialogue in order to find a mutually beneficial solution to the Tibetan issue."
Jhampa Kalsang, a Tibetan doctor and owner of a Tibetan gift shop in San Diego, was born in Nepal and grew up in Dharamsala, India. He said in a speech, "What is really going on in Tibet is unbearable: the killing of monks, nuns and laypersons, over 800 killed, thousands in jail. Military trucks and the military control Lhasa. Monasteries are surrounded by the Chinese army. Monks and nuns have no freedom to practice original [Buddhist] things."
Kalsang added, "Tibetans are peaceful people, but resentment due to repression has built up in 49 years. Fortunately, all over the world we have good support by the world media. For the first time we have a lot of media attention."
Dr. Dorothy Berger, co-chair of the International Tibet Support Network said in a speech, "For almost 50 years, Tibetans have undergone untold suffering in their quest for human rights, religious rights, and self-determination. A massive influx of Chinese military is under way, and unknown numbers of Tibetans are wounded or dead or incarcerated and undergoing torture."
She called on people to do something by taking action online. She said, "Gatherings like this are wonderful, and they are happening all over the world. However, Tibet does not fall within the narrowly defined strategic interests of any of our governments. This is a moral issue, and moral issues are not generally first on their agenda. There have been wonderful symbolic gestures, such as the one by Nancy Pelosi. However, governments are not going to act in anything more than a symbolic way unless they hear from us."
Action Requested by Supporters
Berger identified three issues that require people's action: 1) Getting the international press back into Tibet; 2) Changing the route of the Olympic Torch; 3) Pressuring our governments to act.
Berger said the last two foreign reporters had been escorted out of Tibet on the previous day. She said, "Getting the international press back into Tibet is the primary issue. With no observers, China has a free hand to arrest and torture." She suggested that people send letters to the Beijing Olympic Committee, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and our own government.
Berger said that the Olympic torch should not go through Tibet to the proud top of Mt. Everest. "Can you imagine," Berger asked, "that torch going through the streets of Lhasa, and the Tibetans having to come out into the streets, smile and wave flags while their families are in jail being tortured?"
"Boycotting the Olympics is hard on athletes," Berger said, "but we're thinking about it. What we are asking is that no presidents or heads of state attend the opening, and that will send a message to China."
For more information about The International Campaign for Tibet go to: http://www.savetibet.org