Tibetans rise up with City Hall
More than 60 Tibetan refugees and their supporters gathered at City Hall this morning in support of Tibetan National Uprising Day, a commemoration that drew the ire of China, whose embassy emailed City Councilors, accused them of meddling in China's internal affairs and urged them to reconsider flying the Tibetan flag. Charlottesville declined, and Mayor Dave Norris, left center, spoke on behalf of Tibetan independence.
Among the onlookers was former Councilor Rob Schilling.
"I don't think the city has any business getting into this," says Schilling. "I support Tibet, and I'm totally against oppressive China. But I think this should be done on private property." He adds, "What flag are they going to fly next?"
Others, like last year's City Council candidate Peter Kleeman, saw it as an opportunity to learn about the Tibetan community. City Councilor Satyendra Huja was pleased to see the event take place in front of the Free Speech Monument.
Speakers like Khenpo Ngawang Dorjee, left, from the Tashi Choeling Buddhist Center in Albemarle want to use the 2008 Olympics as an opportunity to pressure China and draw the world's attention to Tibet's plight of being invaded and occupied by its powerful neighbor. Dorjee was the fieriest speaker, even with his remarks translated from Tibetan.
He pointed to a flag with the Olympic symbol above a red field and compared it to the blood shed in Tiananmen Square when Chinese citizens sought greater freedom. "Free Tibet," he shouted.
Organizer Tseyang, right, president of the Tibetan Association in Charlottesville, fled from Tibet with her family in 1963, and asked that her last name not be used because of fear of retribution against relatives still living in Tibet.
The United States flag fluttered on a table with small Tibetan flags. Much as Americans feel about their flag, "We Tibetans have the same feeling when we see [the Tibetan] flag," said Tseyang in a choked voice.
A woman carrying a Tibetan flag wiped a tear from her eye.