WASHINGTON, DC: Over 300 people from New York, New Jersey, Charlottesville, and Philadelphia, attended the launch of flame of truth torch relay in Washington, DC, on 2 September. Kasur Lodi Gyari, former special of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Kasur Shewo Lobsang Dhargay and former members of the Tibetan Parliament took part in the relay.
Mr Tashi Namgyal, a member of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile from north America, handed over the torch to Mr Karma Gyatsho, President of the Capital Area Tibetan Association.
As the procession began from Dupont Circle in downtown Washington, DC, it was joined by Mr Harry Wu, head of the Laogai Research Foundation and a prominent Chinese rights activists. The procession stopped briefly near the White House where the participants sang the prayer of the words of truth. They then marched on towards the historical Freedom Plaza with a group of young children leading them.
Following welcome remarks by CATA’s Passang Tsering, Mr Tashi Namgyal said the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile has initiated the global flame of truth relay in view of the deteriorating human rights situation and the increasing number of self-immolations in Tibet.
He called on the international community and the United Nations to heed the aspirations of the Tibetan people. He said, “We would like to call on the UN, the international community, organisations and individuals who support freedom and justice to carry out thorough investigations to find out the truth about the situation in Tibet. The United Nations needs to be reminded that the Tibetans, too, are members of the global community and the UN has the responsibility to safeguard the Tibetan people, as it is doing in the case of the people of Libya, Syria, East Timor, etc.”
In a specific appeal to the United States, he said, “As we meet here in Washington, DC, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is arriving in China this week , and so I call upon the United States Administration to raise the issue of Tibetan self-immolations with the Chinese leaders and to express its strongest condemnation of China’s policies in Tibet that are leading to the dire situation in Tibet.”
He added, “It is fitting that we are gathered at a spot that has been named Freedom Plaza to honour American civil rights leader Martin Luther King. While we are already sending a strong message to Tibet and China from this relay, let us all salute the courage and determination of the Tibetans in Tibet and rededicate ourselves to doing everything possible so that there is end to their suffering. May the sun of freedom shine quickly on the Land of Snows.”
The names of the Tibetans who committed self-immolations were then read by a group of children, following which the message from Congressman Frank Wolf was delivered.
Congressman Frank Wolf said: “I would like to thank the Capitol Area Tibetan Association for hosting this important event as well as everyone in attendance today. I stand with you in solidarity with the people of Tibet and condemn the repressive actions of the Chinese government.
“Gatherings such as this are critical to maintaining attention and to increase public awareness of the horrible atrocities taking place in Tibet. In a crey of protest, more than 50 Tibetans have set themselves aflame in desperation at the abuses they have suffered at the hands of the Chinese government. I’ve traveled to Tibet and have spoken to many individuals who are begging for help from the outside world. Tibetans are a peaceful people, but they currently have no way of protesting or ending the restrictions imposed upon them. The deteriorating situation must be addressed by the international community, with US leadership, before it spirals out of control.
“Freedom Plaza is a fitting place to hold this gathering. The symbolic nature of Freedom Plaza makes it the perfect location to send a message to the people of Tibet and the rest of the world that we hear them and are working to end their oppression. It is long past time for this administration and this State Department to prioritise Tibet in our dealings with China. In a Constitution Day speech, President Reagan famously described our founding documents, which enshrine base liberties, as a “covenant we have made not only with our ourselves, but with all of mankind.” We risk breaking that covenant with the people of Tibet if we do not champion their cause during this time of need,” Congressman Frank Wolf said.
Addressing the gathering, Representative Kasur Lobsang Nyandak spoke on the developments in Tibet and how it impacts the future of the Tibetan struggle. He urged the Chinese authorities to realise that it is only in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama can China hope to achieve a mutually-beneficial solution to the future of Tibet.
Prominent Uyghur leader, Ms Rebiya Kadeer, in her remarks said she had admiration for the sacrifice of the Tibetan people, adding that both Tibetans and Uyghurs were facing a cultural genocide.
She asked the Tibetan people to keep up the flame of truth as there was hope and light at the end of the tunnel./ She added that people who do not lose hope would ultimately get their freedom.
Mr T Kumar of Amnesty International said he had come to express the solidarity of Amnesty International with the Tibetan people. He said Amnesty International was dedicated to highlighting the plight of the Tibetans, adding that the issue of the Panchen Lama was something that they are constantly concerned about.
Chinese rights advocate Harry Wu, head of the Laogai Foundation, and prominent writer Yu Jie spoke next. They both spoke of their concern as Chinese at what was happening to the Tibetan people. They highlighted the right of the Tibetan people to determine their own destiny.
A message of support from Chinese democracy activist Wei Jingsheng was also read to the gathering.
Mr Nguyen Bich of the National Congress of Vietnamese Americans addressed the gathering expressing his support to the Tibetan cause.
Ms Mary Beth Markey, President, International Campaign for Tibet, thanked the people for participating in this campaign and urged all the people, not just those participating in the relay but the others who are in the vicinity, to add their voice to send a clear message to the Congress and the Administration on Tibet.
The speakers also signed a petition on Tibet to be submitted to the United Nations.