Our Nation Episode 14 – all about Tape’s protest

March 1st, 2009 § 0

Tendor and I talk about Tape’s self-immolation and what drives a human being to take such an extreme action.

Tiananmen Square Protest!

August 9th, 2008 § 5

Tiananmen “Tibet Die-in” Protest 080908 from Students for a Free Tibet on Vimeo.

Please watch this video. Five free Tibet activists staged a dramatic die-in today in Tiananmen Square, in the shadow of Chairman Mao’s famous portrait. Tiananmen Square was, of course, made infamous in 1989 when the Chinese government unleashed a massacre against pro-democracy demonstrators. I’m proud that these five protesters brought a message of Tibetan freedom to this important place in Chinese history. Just as China wants to use the Olympics to make the world forget June 4, 1989, it too wants the world to forget about its ongoing crackdown in Tibet. Today’s protest will help ensure that Tibet’s voice is not silenced.

The five protesters were Chris Schwartz, 24, of Montreal, Canada; Diane Gatterdam, 55, Evan Silverman, 31, and Joan Roney, 39, all from New York; and David Demes, 21, of Germany.

I hope these activists’ protest will inspire others around the world to speak out against China’s occupation of Tibet. I hope the action team is safe and doing well. Your actions prove yet again that we will not be silenced.

An interview with Jamyang Norbu – part 1

September 10th, 2007 § 11

I tried something new today. Inspired by my interview with Amber Mac on WebNation, I interviewed Jamyang Norbu via skype. It worked ok besides the occasional feedback (sorry!) and this is the first of three parts.

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Jamyang Norbu is an acclaimed Tibetan writer, thinker and activist. His novel, The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, won the Crossword Book Award – India’s highest literary prize. He has lived many lives in the Tibetan exile community including a brief stint in the Tibetan resistance. He served as Director of the Tibetan Institute of the Performing Arts (TIPA) and a founding member of the Tibetan Youth Congress. Jamyang’s many articles and commentaries on Tibetan society and politics have informed, inspired and sometimes even enraged countless Tibetans. The boldness of his voice, the clarity of his opinions, and the elegance of his language has challenged a generation of Tibetans to open their minds, and encouraged more than a few to pick up the pen and be courageous in their writing.

Jamyang is also my cousin. I remember when I was around 16 years old and he came to Victoria, BC on a speaking tour with Lhasang Tsering – former member of the Tibetan resistance force in Mustang, Nepal; two-term President of the Tibetan Youth Congress; and another giant in the Tibetan freedom struggle. We stayed up late that evening listening to Jamyang and Lhasang talk passionately about the Tibetan political situation. At one point Jamyang was speaking in such an animated way that his plate of food ended up flying from his lap and onto the floor. Little did I know what an important role Jamyang would play in helping to inform and shape my political understanding and activism for Tibet.

We were speaking on the phone today about the timeliness and importance of letting people know about the Boycott campaign – http://www.boycottmadeinchina.org/ – when I asked him if he would do a short interview for BeijingWideOpen. I know many young Tibetans want to hear his thoughts and opinions more, and I think others who are new to the Tibet issue would benefit from hearing his views. Jamyang has an incredible ability to take a seemingly muddled topic or debate and make things clear and simple by always focusing on the fundamental human desire for dignity and justice. You can never be sure of what he might say next but one thing is always certain – when it comes to taking on detractors of the Tibetan fight for independence, his words can be like daggers.

When a Chinese government agent comes to SFT HQ

August 20th, 2007 § 25

A Chinese government agent came to our office today. We’ve had a couple of visits like this before. They usually work for a Chinese media outlet based in Beijing or are researchers/academics. They ask a lot of questions and don’t take any notes. They are mostly pretty friendly and have a lot of time to talk and “exchange views.” One guy even brought us gifts.

Today I just couldn’t do it. I felt so outraged at the whole situation. I didn’t even realize I was having such a strong reaction until he was gone. He said he wanted to speak to the Director and when he saw me he said, “Oh, I’ve seen you online.” I bet. I said I was busy – I was – and that I would get in touch with him later. I walked him straight out that door and watched until he left the building.

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Many people from our side argue it’s important to talk to these guys and share information. But today I just couldn’t stand the thought of engaging with this person who was just there to collect information about us that he will send back to Beijing. All talk about the importance of “sharing views” seems so bogus to me right now. These people are not genuine in their engagement. They don’t want to talk with us in order to gain a better understanding of our views or to resolve the situation in Tibet so that 6 million Tibetans can live in peace. They want to learn as much as they can about us so that they can figure out how best to fight us and ultimately destroy our movement.

The strength of my reaction today surprised me. I think it’s because of the experience I just had in Beijing. I know some will disagree with me. But the truth is that we don’t have to be so accommodating toward our oppressor! Why should we feel so obligated to give the Chinese government the information they think they need to destroy us and obstruct our freedom struggle? Maybe some will understand me when I say that it felt good to send that guy away empty handed.

The technology of our dissent

August 17th, 2007 § 6

I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of this blog and the banner on the Great Wall over the past few days. So much of the attention our actions in Beijing garnered was because of the technology we used to challenge the Chinese government. More than one story focused on the tools that helped us blast our message around the world. Such simple yet powerful tools have given a new generation of Tibetans unconventional weapons to fight for our people.

Check out this CityTV interview I did with Amber Mac via Skype Video Chat.

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The importance of video, and YouTube specifically, to our countdown protest cannot be overstated. For people around the world to see the banner on the Great Wall and what I was doing in Beijing almost as it happened, had a huge impact on the action. It created excitement amongst our supporters, helped us get a response from the IOC, grabbed the attention of the media and may have protected us from a harsher response by the Chinese government. And while we were doing our thing in Beijing, so many other Tibetans and supporters were using the same technology to create a buzz around the International Day of Action for Tibet on the 8th. In London, SFTers and young Tibetans made this awesome video for the launch of Team Tibet UK.

To some, this technology is dangerous. It challenges the control the Chinese authorities have over people and the ideas they are exposed to. That’s why they try to block people from using it in China and Tibet. One of my heroes, the Tibetan writer Woser who lives in Beijing, has been targeted more than once. Last July, when she dared to post birthday wishes to His Holiness the Dalai Lama on her blog, the Chinese government shut her down. Far more dangerous than my words, Woser’s were in Chinese, and read religiously by young Tibetans in China and Tibet who can speak and read the language of the oppressor.

Already a number of young Tibetans in exile have set up blogs to express their feelings about China’s occupation of Tibet. Tenchoe from SFT India just set up From the Warriors and Tsewang Dorjee started one called Wake Up Beijing 2008.

When I was in China I used proxy servers to get around the Chinese censors and read about the protests in Lithang and the hunger strike in New Delhi. Just being able to see what other people were sacrificing for the cause of Tibetan freedom gave me courage to keep going. I was also able to read the comments being posted on this blog and feel the impact we were having in real time. Perhaps most encouraging were some of the messages from Tibetans inside Tibet. They said they found inspiration and strength in my actions, and in return I drew the same from theirs.

And that’s exactly why Beijing hates to see us use this technology – it lets us meet each other, share our ideas and convictions, and feel powerful in our solidarity.

Thoughts as I return home…

August 10th, 2007 § 49

I am on the plane and we’ve just started our descent. According to the captain we’ll be landing in 20 minutes.

I think there’s a guy following me on the plane. Or maybe I’m just totally paranoid now. But I’m pretty convinced…is this what happens after just one week in China as a dissenter?

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They pulled Kate and I over at Hong Kong immigration. Not Sam. Just us. They said that they had a message from the police to stop us so that they could interview us. After much paperwork and copying our passports and typing information into various computers, they let us go. According to the official, who said he wasn’t allowed to ask any questions, the police no longer wanted the interview. Yeah right. They have all the info they think they need now to keep us out. But they can’t. It’s not that easy.

I’ve been able to read the blog now properly. As it’s not blocked outside of the mainland of the People’s Republic of China. And it’s been amazing to see all of the support we’ve received from people around the world. Thank you to each and every one of you. And to all our critics and dissenters. Please, critique away. It’s not a problem. That’s the beauty of democracy and truly free and open societies – you can express your opinion and – even if you’re against us expressing ours – you won’t get locked up!

I know we did this and got off pretty easy. And while I appreciate that some people think I did something brave, I’m not sure I did. Bravery is standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. Bravery is getting on a stage in Tibet and calling for the return of the Dalai Lama. Bravery is going to Beijing to petition to get compensation for your confiscated farmland to the very same government that probably took it in the first place. All this, with no protection. No foreign passport, government, or official body that will defend you.

What I did, what we did, it was nothing in comparison. But I hope and I pray that somehow we have made a difference in the battle for human rights and freedom in Tibet and in China. The Olympics spotlight is on the Chinese leadership now and they want the world to believe they are open and free. But they are not. They demonstrated this by deporting me at the very moment that the one-year countdown to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games was taking place in Tiananmen square. Paul and I just wanted to attend. To see it for ourselves and to blog about it like one should be able to in any place that truly enjoys freedom.

Some people have said we got what we deserved. Others have suggested we got off to lightly and should act more responsibly next time. I think it is the regime in Beijing – unelected, unaccountable and tyrannical – that should act more responsibly. I think our government, governments around the world, corporations doing business in China and the IOC itself, should act more responsibly. They are the ones who have clear and direct influence over Beijing. They are the ones who could make a huge impact by doing just a little in the way of speaking up for and promoting human rights and democracy.

Until this happens, we will keep doing what we have to do – challenging China’s control over Tibet and working to make the occupation too costly to maintain. One thing is clear in all this Olympics mess, the Chinese government cares what the world thinks. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to get us all to like them with slogans like “One World One Dream.” Knowing this, we must push them to change. And if our direct actions are seen as stunts by a few, I trust the vast majority will see them for what they really are, nonviolent expressions of dissent and protest to bring positive social and political change to people living under brutal oppression.

For Tibetans, Uighurs, Southern Mongolians, Taiwanese, Falun Gong, Christians, Catholics, farmers, factory workers, lawyers, doctors, journalists and every other person who lives under fear of persecution by the Chinese Communist Party and their goons, I say, we will never give up.

We stand with you.

On behalf of our wonderful members and supporters around the world,

Lhadon Tethong
Executive Director
Students for a Free Tibet

Lhadon and Paul have been detained

August 8th, 2007 § 48

UPDATE 8/8 12pm Eastern: We’ve received a quick call from Lhadon saying that she, Paul, and the “Great Wall 6″ were being put on a plane to Hong Kong. We have no official word at this point. As this is Lhadon’s blog, we hope the next post up here will be from her, somewhere safe and sound. Stay tuned.

SFT staff: We recorded this video from a live skype videoconference with Paul and Lhadon at an Internet cafe about a day ago. They thought at the time they were going to be picked up by one of the thirty “minders” (aka plain clothes security agents) outside. They were able to return Tuesday evening to their hotel without incident.

Unfortunately, at about 2pm on Wednesday in Beijing, Lhadon and Paul (who has been accompanying her during this trip), were picked up by uniformed Chinese police and taken for questioning to a local police station. At this point, we haven’t heard from them since a text message sent by Lhadon confirmed this shortly after their detainment.

Please keep Paul and Lhadon and the other Tibet activists detained in Beijing – Sam, Mel, Leslie, Nupur, Duane, and Pete – in your thoughts, and continue to spread the word about this blog.

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We will provide more information here as it’s available to us, as well as ways for you to take action. For now, if you feel moved by the work that Lhadon and Paul have been doing, please participate today in the August 8th International Day of Action or consider donating to SFT’s Olympic Action Fund.

August 8, 2007

Contact: Kate Woznow (Hong Kong) + 852 657-34874
Tenzin Dorjee (New York) +1 917-304-4571


Hong Kong – On the day of the one-year countdown to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Lhadon Tethong, a prominent Tibetan independence activist and the Executive Director of Students for a Free Tibet, was detained in Beijing. Ms. Tethong was picked up by Chinese authorities together with her colleague Paul Golding, a long-time advocate of Tibetan freedom, and taken to a Beijing police station.

For the past seven days, Ms. Tethong, a Tibetan-Canadian, has been traveling in Beijing, openly blogging at www.BeijingWideOpen.org to expose the reality behind China’s propaganda campaign surrounding the Olympic Games. She and Mr. Golding have been under heavy scrutiny from Chinese authorities, followed at all times by several vehicles as well as plainclothes security officers on foot. This number increased to 30 plainclothes followers after a protest by six activists from Students for a Free Tibet yesterday on China’s Great Wall.

“At the very moment that China is proclaiming Olympic ideals of peace and humanity, it has turned around and silenced Ms. Tethong and Mr. Golding for nothing more than freely expressing their views on the Beijing Olympics and Tibet,” said Tenzin Dorjee, Deputy Director of Students for a Free Tibet. “The Chinese government’s detention of these observers during the one-year countdown exposes the blatant propaganda behind China’s efforts to promote an image of itself as a free and open society.”

Tethong and Golding’s abrupt detention comes just hours before tens of thousands of people, including national Olympic Association delegates and members of the International Olympic Committee, are gathering in Tiananmen Square for the official countdown celebration. Chinese authorities have not responded to requests by relevant embassies of the six Tibet activists detained on Tuesday for unfurling a 450-square foot banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008″ in English and Chinese. The whereabouts of the six activists are still unknown.

Tibetans and supporters around the world – from New Delhi to Rome to Ottawa to New York – are holding protests today to mark the countdown, calling on China for a resolution to its occupation of Tibet by August 2008.

Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) is a network of young people and activists campaigning for Tibetan independence, with 650 chapters in more than thirty countries worldwide. SFT is based in New York, with offices in Vancouver, London, and Dharamsala, India. www.studentsforafreetibet.org.


Me on CTV

August 7th, 2007 § 18

My interview yesterday on Canadian television, who ran a good story on the Great Wall protest.

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Free Tibet on the Great Wall

August 7th, 2007 § 47

I am at a loss for words. This morning, 6 amazing people of conscience risked their lives to defend the Tibetan people.
Click here to watch the video.


At 9 am today Mel, Sam, Leslie, Pete, Nupur and Duane dropped a 450-square foot banner from the Great Wall of China. News of this action has already spread around the world, inserting the message “One World One Dream Free Tibet” into every news story being filed about the one-year countdown to the 2008 Games.

This is what the Chinese government gets for trying to sell the world a lie. They want the Olympic spotlight and they want to improve their global image without actually doing anything to change their authoritarian ways. Simply window dressing the capital at this time is not enough.

We don’t know where the ‘Great Wall 6′ are right now. There is no word yet. But they are in the hearts, minds and prayers of countless of people around the world. We trust the Chinese authorities will treat them well and release them soon. The whole world is watching…

A (Brief) Close Encounter

August 6th, 2007 § 10

After missing IOC President Jacques Rogge by seconds on Monday, I decided to head back to the the lobby of his Beijing hotel this morning and wait for him. The video’s not the best but check out our brief encounter…
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