China has invited the world to visit in August 2008. Exactly one year out, I've traveled to the heart of the nation that has brutally occupied my homeland for over 50 years. Follow this blog, as I share what I see, feel, and experience... leaving Beijing wide open.

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August 2007
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Meeting Jacque Rogge

I finally met Jacques Rogge today. Not exactly an official meeting; I confronted him as he was leaving his hotel. (Below is a video of our brief encounter.)


Paul and I arrived at the hotel lobby good and early and parked ourselves by the door. I thought the hotel security would either kick us out or take Rogge out the back door, but they didn’t. They did put a lot of security and other people between us and Rogge as he came out of the elevator. So I had to shout quite loudly to get his attention:


“Dr. Rogge! I’m Tibetan and I’d like to talk to you about Tibet, and human rights.”


He looked at me with the most un-interested expression I have ever seen. He barely glanced up from his blackberry. And in a moment he was whisked out the door and into a mini-bus.


The SFT crew at HQ in New York was capturing the whole encounter on live streaming video (but i won’t tell how just yet). I couldn’t help but feel emotional when I sat down to explain on the web-cam what had happened.


It’s a weird feeling to be in that position: waiting in a luxurious hotel lobby, surrounded by a bunch of people who are hostile to my presence, hoping to speaking to a very powerful man who doesn’t want to speak to me. This is a man who has so much influence over the very people who are causing so much pain and suffering to my people. Just one word from Dr. Rogge in favor of Tibet, or human rights in general, would hold so much weight with the Chinese government; it would send waves around the world - especially at this moment.


What would the Chinese government do if he decided to challenge them on their promises? Withdraw from hosting the Games? Never! Can you imagine Beijing saying “We don’t want the Games now that you have confronted us publicly?” Not a chance! They want this so badly. And eventually, that is the whole point of giving them the Games in the first place. This is an opportunity to influence China and make the world a better place.


But Rogge and the IOC won’t do it. They don’t want to set a precedent and get bogged down in the “pesky issue” of the human rights records of their Olympic hosts. And that’s why all talk of Olympic ideals, at least in this case, is a cruel joke.


Comment from the Battle of Lexington
Time: August 7, 2007, 7:11 am

Great work, Lhadon!

I will be surprised if Jacques Rogge misses this opportunity to meet with you like a civilized person and listen to your concerns about the Olympics. I’m sure he realizes that his denial of your request will be perceived by the outside world as a tacit approval of China’s human rights record.

It’s so sad, because in 2001 the IOC promised the world that giving the Olympic Games to Beijing would guarantee an improvement in human rights to international standards. One would think that Mr. Rogge would relish the opportunity to meet with you and prove the success of the IOC’s own claims. If he can’t seem to “find the time,” then it seems as though he’s trying to hide something. Perhaps he’s trying to hide his own shame.

Or perhaps he’s not ashamed, and truly believes that he’s doing the right thing. If so, then it should be easy for him to provide evidence to that fact. I’m sure he’s too smart to think that the world will simply not notice that he’s turned his back on one of the ethnic minority groups that is being represented by the 2008 Games. The IOC has repeatedly admonished NGOs about “politicizing” the Olympic Games, but clearly his refusal to even meet with a Tibetan is the clearest indication of who has chosen to make the Games political. How long will Mr. Rogge stand back and deny any culpability for what is taking place in China throughout these Games.

I wonder if Mr. Rogge would have responded the same way if an ethnic minority in Germany had requested a meeting to discuss brutal treatment by the Nazis prior to the 1936 Berlin Games? Surely, he wouldn’t want to tell a Jew not to politicize the Games? As Germany paraded around with pomp and bravado, showing the world its military and economic might, would Rogge have clapped along and cheered?

There is an account by Esther Wenzel of the 1936 Berlin Games that sounds eerily familiar:

“In the summer of 1936, Berlin, Germany, was the “sparkling jewel” of the European continent. The city was of course ready to entertain the world for the XI Olympiad. Bright red banners with black swastikas, flags of 52 competing nations, greenery, and flowers decorated the public buildings and the streets.

The main focus for visitors who came from all parts of the world was Unter Den Linden. This was the beautiful boulevard going through the center of the city all the way to the Bradenberg Gate. The tourists and visitors came to see and applaud the finest athletes in the world.

At the same time, there were uniformed troops marching here and there in the streets. Often officers strolled into hotels or business places. Museums and public buildings would often remain closed so that the visitors could watch a parade of young boys and girls in uniform.

This ominous undercurrent was sensed but ignored in all the festivities. It was a unique moment in history. No other Olympic Games, before, or since, ever took place under such circumstances.”

… Until Now!

I am sure that Mr. Rogge does not want his tenure as IOC President to be remembered as a period of genocide and hypocrisy. I would think that the IOC would want to be proud in this moment of glory — the one-year countdown to the Beijing Olympics — not hiding in shame. If they have truly made the human rights situation in China better by giving them the Games then they should be honored to meet with us and present us with evidence to this effect. After all, we weren’t the ones that insisted that the Games will be good for China, there were. Now is the time for them to show us all their great victory for the Chinese people, not turn their backs and scamper into elevators and fancy banquet halls while a Tibetan waits patiently for an unreturned phone call.

Will Mr. Rogge be able to ignore the fact that just last week hundreds of people were rounded up and arrested for peacefully speaking publicly about their desire to see the Dalai Lama return to Tibet? Or, will Mr. Rogge ignore the 14 hunger strikers in Delhi who are currently on Day 29 of a hunger strike until death, and ask only that the IOC produce conclusive evidence that the human rights situation inside Tibet is acceptable? After all, this is what the IOC itself promised to do! But would Mr. Rogge rather see people die than simply show the world even a modicum of evidence that they are trying to achieve their stated goal?

Surely, Mr. Jacques Rogge is not the kind of man who would let this happen on his watch. Surely he is not political tool, or a coward.

But if not, then what is he?

Mr. Rogge, what kind of man are you?

Comment from tenzing
Time: August 7, 2007, 7:49 am

hi lhadon,
hope u are safe. keep up the good work. This article was just featured in today’s nytimes with your quotes.

China Praises Its Progress Toward Olympics

Published: August 7, 2007
BEIJING, Aug. 6 — With a year remaining before the 2008 Olympics open here, Beijing officials on Monday gave an upbeat progress report about their preparations, even as critics warn that China may fall short on Olympic commitments on the environment, human rights and press freedom.

In a news conference with foreign and Chinese journalists, two Beijing Olympics officials said that Olympic construction was accelerating and that the main structural work had been completed for major venues like the National Stadium and the National Aquatics Center. Efforts are also under way to train thousands of volunteers, while thousands of employees in service industries are receiving special training as part of a citywide civility campaign.

But while the two officials focused on the immense logistical challenges of staging the games, the hourlong briefing also touched on disputes that are sharpening as Beijing prepares for a celebration in Tiananmen Square on Wednesday to begin the one-year countdown to the opening ceremony.

Wang Wei, a vice president of Beijing’s Olympic organizing committee, said a monitoring system was being created to ensure the safety of food and medicine for the more than 10,000 athletes taking part in the Olympics. Mr. Wei said that global positioning satellites would be used to track trucks delivering food to the Olympic village and that inspections would be conducted at farms and slaughterhouses. Items approved for delivery would be labeled with electronic bar codes.

The monitoring system is a response to growing international concerns about the quality and safety of many Chinese exports, particularly food and pharmaceutical supplies. Chinese officials have maintained that the country’s food is safe, but they also have begun an effort in recent weeks to crack down on domestic manufacturers that produce counterfeit and shoddy goods.

Mr. Wang emphasized that Beijing had held numerous past events without any problems of food contamination.

Local Olympic officials hope this week will provide a public relations boost for the Beijing games and have scheduled a number of events, including the Tiananmen celebration and a separate unveiling ceremony for an official theme song.

But various groups also are seizing on the countdown to attract attention to their causes. On Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists is holding a Beijing news conference to release a report that is expected to say China is failing to meet the promises it made on press freedom when it lobbied to be selected as the host for the Games. Reporters Without Borders held a demonstration on Monday on a pedestrian bridge near the Olympics planning committee, and the police detained some of the participants at the scene for about two hours, the Associated Press reported.

An advocate of Tibetan independence, Lhadon Tethong, executive director of New York-based Students for a Free Tibet, has been filing daily updates on her blog as she tours Beijing this week. “It’s an opportunity for us to highlight this issue and let the world know that Tibetans are still suffering,” Ms. Tethong said.

She said three unmarked vehicles followed her for two days but did not approach her or detain her. Asked if her mere presence in Beijing proved that officials were tolerating more criticism, Ms. Tethong said: “I think they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They’ve got the whole world watching right now.”

Jiang Xiaoyu, an executive vice president for the Beijing Olympic Committee, said interest groups should not try to politicize the games. Yet he also seemed resigned to the idea that the criticism would continue. “We’ve already heard a lot of voices from different sides, and we are mentally prepared that such voices will become louder in the future,” Mr. Jiang said.

Politics aside, Beijing is also rushing to make certain that the city will be ready. Officials have already said that the number of motorists will be sharply reduced during the games. But the two officials declined to confirm reports that Beijing would conduct traffic tests this month of restrictions that would keep a million cars off city streets.

Pollution also is a major problem, though Mr. Wei said Beijing’s air quality had steadily improved since 1998. There have been reports that officials are planning to shut down factories and take other steps to reduce pollution during what is being promoted as a “green” Olympics.

Comment from Lobsang Tsering
Time: August 7, 2007, 10:11 am

Thanks Lhakdon la,

May you able to stay longer in China for your mission even though there are dogs watching at you everyday. Please be wisely and your time to china is important for us.

Lobsang Tsering

Comment from JKonchokBarrett
Time: August 7, 2007, 10:26 am

Lhadon-la, you’re doing fantastic work and with the unveiling of the banner on the Great Wall, I think Tibet supporters, pro-democracy movement supporters and in general, human rights supporters of all stripes will be ratcheting up increasing pressure as the countdown draws closer.

Granted that the PRC’s temerity knows no bounds, but the eyes of the world will be watching. Battle of Lexington’s post is well-taken, but my view of Rogge is considerably more dim. Albeit that he has supported environmental policies and although the man’s a doctor, I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how clear his conscience is while managing the Olympics in a country almost right up there with the US in fuel emissions (not to mention their rape of the Tibetan plateau and what that means) and whose human rights record is so putrid.

Yep, he’s a champion of the earth:

And in case anyone’s interested, here’s Amnesty’s weighing in on the whole Olympic debacle:

It’s my deepest hope that over the next year, we see increasing awareness about what can only be called the China Problem and a concomitant increase in commitment from all corners on addressing the occupation of Tibet. I’ve been waiting, fruitlessly, to see the same kind of pressure put on the PRC that was applied to South African government during the apartheid years.

Rangzen, kids, rangzen!

Comment from Rebecca
Time: August 7, 2007, 11:28 am

Hi Lhadon,

We’re with you in Paris!
The unfurling of the banner was really peaceful and effective–very moving. Thanks for you and your teams’ courage and intelligence.
Can a real unthawing take place and genuine dialogue occur? The protests make me think so.
Did you see the bit today about the demotion of the High Chinese General over the Chinese-Nepal border shootings? Keep it up.
Lots of love,

Comment from tashi
Time: August 8, 2007, 7:05 am

dear lhadon,
it is a critical time for we tibetans. but we do see a huge ray of hope. so i guess we have to withstand all this hurdles coming our way and believe in our cause. as you say” THIS IS THE TIME” for us to bring a change in our history. So let work together and never loose your heart and at the same time be careful.
we will be heard, IOC AND mr rogger has to listen if not then we will make them do so in a way….

Comment from Tenzin L
Time: August 8, 2007, 9:19 am

It takes a lot of courage and sacrifice to put ones own life on hold and pursue the dream. Awareness is important but I feel guilty that other have to suffer the cost of awareness they bring. I can empathize with the sense of emergency people on hunger strike feel, they are ordinary people not government officials…stuck in between…who are we to say they are wrong in continuing their strike…that’s the only avenue left for them to show their disappointment towards Olympic committee, china and world…and we have no right to take that way from them…..
I agree this is the time for us Tibetans, who had been cornered all through history…to stand up and show china and world, its not ok to ignore us, cause we don’t fall under any of their strategic agenda…injustice accepted is justice denied.

Comment from didi
Time: August 8, 2007, 1:42 pm

It’s happening here in eastern Europe too. Instead of beijing, there’s moscow controlling not tibet, but moldavia. We’re too poor spirited to do anything constructive. All respect and our entire good will to you.

Comment from songwriter
Time: August 9, 2007, 9:02 am

Hi Lhadon
Heart felt thanks for your efforts to free Tibet.
As you suggested in your video, it has to be a global effort like the movement to free South Africa was. It took protests in the streets, both in South Africa and worldwide; political and economic sanctions from many countries over many years; artists across all discplines making not only the horror of apartheid but the beauty and dignity of south africans part of their creativity including mega-concerts to raise awareness; diplomats and celebrities played their parts in front of and well behind the scenes; teachers in classrooms around the world teaching about what was going on; South Africa finally having a president who was interested in playing his part in unlocking the chains of apartheid; etc. etc. etc. This is the same effort, one world working together, that will bring about freedom for Tibet.
I see that you also tried to speak with jacques rogge. While on the one hand it makes sense to try and speak with mr. rogge, I wonder if you put more weight on that potential conversation than you needed to. I believe mr. rogge is in fact just another paper tiger and you may be assuming he has more power than he actually does. Like so many people in leadership positions, it’s all about the money and “how it looks” and mr. rogge needs to do his part to ensure the money flows and that the games are a “success” under his watch. Like a horse with blinders on, if the issue of Tibet doesn’t fit with the making of money and a “successful” games, why should he care?
I agree with you that china hosting the 08 games is a fantastic opportunity…to “push the potential of this moment”…to “challenge the chinese leadership”. One of the things that comes to mind is that much in chinese culture focuses on saving face. Many social, political and personal actions and behaviors are motivated by this one thing…saving face. How many ways are there for china to get out of Tibet and save face? If china percieves there are no ways to get out of Tibet and save face then perhaps they will never go…at least not without a massive and perhaps even more brutal fight. I don’t see any nation willing to take on that kind of fight with china. Besides, it’s not necessary when we can see from the unfurling of your banner how afraid the chinese leadership is of WORDS. Bravo…you attacked them with your words and they sent you out of their country.
As you get more people from around the world, from all levels of society…politicians, celebrities and well known dignitaries, media, citizens, etc. involved in being a part of freeing Tibet, I wonder what strategies, what words, each of us might employ. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
Peace and justice for us all , including the chinese, through peace and justice for Tibet.

Comment from dee
Time: August 10, 2007, 5:29 am

I agree with you whole-heartedly. It seems China has snuck in and taken over Tibet. The same is happenning with Taiwan with the whole world watching on with their hands behind their backs. Suppressing the free and democratic people of Taiwan into submission. I feel for you and your people and wish you luck.

Comment from sburris
Time: August 10, 2007, 8:17 am

Dear Lhadon: As the co-director with Geshe Thupten Dorjee of the Tibetan Heritage Institute of Arkansas, we both deeply endorse and admire your efforts on behalf of the Tibetan people. We have followed your most recent travels with great interest, and are happy that you have returned safely. The point that you made in your video upon returning to Toronto, the point concerning technology, was spot-on: a digital camera, a laptop, wireless, and you caused some genuine discomfort for one of the world’s most brutal empires. But it wouldn’t work without your measure of commitment, bravery, and compassion. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Lhadon. We will keep you in our prayers and meditations.

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