Free Tibet: Recent violence heats up local movement
"The world should not accept what is happening," says Tseyang, president of the Tibetan Association in Charlottesville, in response to the violent suppression of recent protests in Tibet. Tseyang, who prefers that her surname not be printed for fear of repercussions to her family in Tibet, is extremely worried about her friends and family there. "I can't sleep, I can't eat, I've been crying for days," she says.
For the past three days, Tseyang has been protesting at the Chinese Embassy in DC. along with about 25 other Charlottesville-area Tibetans. She says more than 100 people from all across Virginia and Maryland have demonstrated at the embassy.
"All of us living here in Charlottesville," Tseyang says, "have family in Tibet." She has been unable to speak with any of her relatives because, as she explains, "the Chinese government has cut off all the phones in Tibet."
Just three days after Charlottesville commemorated Tibetan National Uprising Day on March 10– a decision that drew the ire of China– by flying the Tibetan flag over City Hall, demonstrations rippled across Tibet and the globe in some of the largest protests since the late 1980s.
Former city councilor Rob Schilling, who opposed the city decision, said that the recent events in Tibet have only strengthened his opposition. "Somebody on City Council should have thought of the possible ramifications before they marched forward with this proposal," he says.
Joe Montoya, of the Charlottesville-based Tashi Choeling Bhuddist Center, says that the center is planning to hold meetings to provide support for local Tibetans and enforce the sense of maintaining a commitment to help free Tibet. The center, he explains, wants "to promote good feelings to all people, including our local Chinese residents."
The Chinese ultimatum that demonstrators halt protests is due to expire tonight at midnight, and Tibetans and their supporters around the world nervously are waiting to see what will unfold.
"It's very sad," says the Reverend Don Lansky at Unity Church, concerned about the arrests of Buddhist monks. "These are religious people. The cornerstone of their religion is nonviolence and loving compassion. These are harmless, defenseless people. These are human rights violations. People of every faith should be concerned."
Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris, who supported the controversial City Council decision to fly the Tibetan flag at City Hall, said in a speech at the March 10 ceremony, "It is very important that we as a free people do not turn a blind eye to other people who are also searching for their own freedom and support their nonviolent resistance to oppression." Norris was unavailable for comment at press time as to whether the city of Charlottesville plans further demonstrations of solidarity with Tibet.
Tseyang has organized a film screening downtown tonight of the movie Kundun about the 1959 uprising. The screening takes place in the McIntire Room at the Central Library at 6pm.