27 May 2006


This blog is dead!

This blog is dead - long live the new blog! As a result of the launch of the self-censored Google.cn this blog has moved. Read more about this and keep up to date with SFT UK news, views and action at the new blog - freetibet.blog.co.uk

See you there!

16 May 2006


40 Years Since the Cultural Revolution Began

May 16th 1966 marked the start of the Cultural Revolution, what would become one of the darkest and most destructive periods in the history of China and Tibet.

It began as a purge of Chinese Communist Party leaders by Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, but it quickly spiraled out of control into a mass denunciation of many of China’s leaders and academics and the rejection of everything associated with the past. Chinese youths in particular, under the guise of the Red Guard, took it upon themselves to punish officials and intellectuals they deemed to be opposed to the work of Mao and to physically destroy most of China’s historical and religious buildings.

In Tibet, the Cultural Revolution had appaling consequences. Across the country hundreds of thousands of Buddhist monks were forced to disrobe or were killed and more than 6000 monasteries were destroyed. Religious statues were melted down and the gold shipped to China for government use and sacred texts were burned or used as toilet paper. In a country where religion, culture and politics are intertwined, the loss of the monasteries also meant the loss of libraries that held centuries of learning, philosophy, poetry and art and it meant a loss of cultural centres and the focal point of communities across Tibet. The loss of human life during that period is unimagineable.

What little has been done to undo the damage of the Cultural Revlution in Tibet is mainly through the work of Tibetans themselves. To this day the Chinese government remains unaccountable for the killing and destruction that happened in the decade following 1966, their paltry attempts to restore Tibetan culture have mainly been gaudy stereotypes for the benefit of tourists. Even now public debate on the Cultural Revolution is banned, the government satisfied to just sweep it under the carpet.

But sadly, the atrocities of the Cultural Revolution are not confined to the past. Today Tibetans are still being arrested and tortured for practicing their culture and beliefs or for speaking out against the occupation. So today we remember those who suffered during the Cultural Revolution and those who suffer still.

15 May 2006


Last Chance to go to Action Camp!

There's only a couple of days left to apply for the best SFT event of the summer, Free Tibet Action Camp!

Action Camp is your chance to receive training on everything from fundraising, grassroots campaigning, climbing, media advocacy, teaching Tibet, non-violent direct action skills and more from some of the most experienced activists in the world, as well as have a great time with other young people who are passionate about Tibet.

It's happening at the beautiful Pauenhof Retreat Centre near Dusseldorf, Germany from the 20th-26th of June and costs just €75 (about £50), which covers all your food, training and your transport from Dusseldorf airport (DUS or NRN) or Duisburg railway station.

But time is running out, so if you want to have the time of your life at Action Camp this summer, fill in an application form here and send it to tendor@studentsforafreetibet.org by May 17th.

For more information visit www.studentsforafreetibet.org/actioncamp or send an email to tendor@studentsforafreetibet.org


Life Sentence for Choeying Khedrub

It has recently been confirmed that Tibetan political prisoner Choeying Khedrub has been sentenced to life in prison for "inciting splittism".

According to official information passed on to the Dui Hua Foundation, Choeying Khedrub, a senior monk, was accused of printing and distributing leaflets calling for Tibetan independence, along with 3 other monks and 2 lay people. For the "crime" of endangering state security and "supporting splittist activities of the Dalai clique" (a Chinese name often used for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile), he was sentenced to life in prison on January 29th 2001 and was sent to Drapchi Prison, although he is now believed to be in Qushui Prison. The other men recieved sentences of between 3 and 15 years.

Until now little has been known about the case of Choeying Khedrub, but you can read the full report by the International Campaign for Tibet here.

27 April 2006


Tibet on the BBC

All this week the BBC news website has been running a series of articles about Tibet in their Asia-Pacfic section. There's some great stuff on there including:
A profile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
An article on the possible future of the Tibetan cause
Tibet in pictures
The story of a monk who fled Tibet
Testimony from former policial prisoner Ngawang Sangdrol
A photo essay on the life of a Tibetan nomad
And a guide to Tibet's major issues, which includes a rather ridiculous Chinese propaganda film from the 1950s (according to which Tibetans weren't able to feed themselves before the Chinese came, which is interesting given that there wasn't a famine recorded in Tibet until the 1960s).

If you've got a few minutes, it's all worth a look, just click on the links.

UPDATE: A couple more items have been added since this was posted including an article discussing the likely consequences of the Golmud-Lhasa railway and the reflections of three Han Chinese migrants on life in Tibet

(Photo from "Life of a Nomad" on the BBC news website)

26 April 2006


Monks from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery joined vigil for the release of Panchen Lama in London

London, 25 April:  Tibetans and human rights activists holds a candlelight vigil and protest outside the Chinese Embassy in London on the 17th birthday of one of the world’s youngest political prisoners - the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. The demonstration, organised by campaigns groups Tibetan Youth UK (TYUK) and Students for a Free Tibet UK (SFTUK), aims to highlight the lack of religious freedom in Tibet, and to free Gedhun Choekyi Nyima from China.   Monks from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, Bylakuppe, India, who are on tour to UK, joined a vigil for the immediate release of the Panchen Lama.
“For the past eleven years Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has been detained in Chinese custody at an undisclosed location. As long as the Chinese government continues to deny all requests from the United Nations and international governments to see him, his well being cannot be confirmed. At the same time, and despite a constitution that claims to allow citizens freedom of religious belief, Tibetan Buddhists have been deprived of their religious leader and denied the entitlement to exercise their own rights,” said Alli Barnes of SFTUK.  
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima has been missing since 17 May 1995, three days after His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognised the then six-year-old as the true reincarnation of the late 10th Panchen Lama, the second most important spiritual leader of Tibet.
Alice Speller, National Coordinator of SFTUK said, “The Chinese governments’ continued detainment of the Panchen Lama is a clear violation of both domestic and international law. It is part of a longstanding campaign to use religion to tighten control over Tibetan people, by a government that associates Tibetan Buddhism with separatist sympathies. Under Chinese occupation, religious practice has been severely restricted - monasteries and nunneries have been razed, expulsions from these institutions have been widespread and Tibetan people have been jailed and tortured for their loyalty to the Dalai Lama.”

Despite repeated appeals to gain access to him, no international agency or human rights organization has been granted contact with the young Panchen Lama or his family.  But on the other hand, the Chinese government has always been trying to win the recognition for their appointed Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, often called as the "Chinese Panchen".  At the recent World Buddhist Forum, the first ever held in China since 1949, the Chinese government displayed of their chosen Panchen Lama is an attempt to gain support from the Buddhist communities.
“We are here, as Gedhun Choekyi Nyima turns 17 in confinement, to demand that China release the young political prisoner and meet its claims to respect religious freedom in Tibet. The young Panchen Lama must be free to receive his traditional and religious studies that befit him. The relationship between the institutions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama has to be preserved as an established custom for the future of Tibet. So, the safety and future of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima is of serious concern” said Karma Chura-Tsang of TYUK.
Students for a Free Tibet UK and Tibetan Youth in UK strongly demand the Chinese government for the immediately and unconditionally release of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.  We also call upon the international community to step up their support and pressure the Chinese government for the release of the Dalai Lama recognized the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
Note: TYUK & SFTUK has submitted their appeal letters to the Chinese Ambassador in London, Hon'ble Foreign Secretary and Minister for Children, UK Government for the immediate release of the 11th Panchen Lama.

24 April 2006


SFT India go online

Check out SFT India's new webiste at www.sftindia.org - there are some great photos in the gallery!

21 April 2006


Hu Jintao protests in Washington DC

President Hu Jintao’s first state visit to the US has been marred by protests: a Falun Gong supporter disrupted the official welcoming ceremony at the White House while hundreds of Tibetan, Uighur, Taiwanese, Falun Gong and pro-democracy demonstrators massed outside to protest Beijing’s human-rights policies.

Check out the latest protest updates and photos on the SFT international blog

10 April 2006


Meanwhile, in Exile House...

Tibetan independence activist Tenzin Tsundue (in the red bandana) joined SFT India in the office earlier this week for a spot of campaign planning. Tsundue last hit the headlines for his protest from the top of a tower as Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao visited an Indian University. We saw some amazing TV news footage of the protest, including the moment when he gets hauled back onto the balcony by the police, which looked rather painful...

Anyway, the time in Dharamsala has been a really useful chance to do some planning and strengthen links with the SFT crew and SFT UK will definately be doing some international collaboration in the run up to Beijing 2008. Students for a Free Tibet seems to be increasingly popular in Dharamsala, at least judging by the numbers of shops that seem to be (voluntarily!) sporting SFT stickers and the number of travellers taking home Beijing 2008 "Games Over, Free Tibet" stickers. I'm also going to keep checking the new sftindia.org website, which is going live shortly, and promises to be the place to go for news of action in exile.

01 April 2006


Free Tibet! Action Camp - June 2006

The second SFT Free Tibet! Action Camp to be held in Europe will take place from 20-26 June near Dusseldorf, Germany. See the SFT website for details and an application form. It's an amazing week of training, workshops, action planning, meeting Tibet campaigners from around the world, and campfires! Don't take our word for it - here's what Rob Slinn said about last year's camp:

It was a great privilege to be part of such a fantastic event. I’ll never forget the experience I had, and would strongly urge anyone who has the chance to go on future action camps to do so! You’ll learn some great skills and meet some amazing people. SFT action camp rules! (read Rob's full article in our newsletter)

Word of warning - get your travel plans organised soon as apparently there are some wee football matches happening down the road... Check out Ryanair for flights to Dusseldorf or Eurostar for the greener option :)

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