Tibetans wage free speech struggle in San Francisco

Tibetan activists—chanting “Reject China’s bloody torch,” “Olympics in China, torture in Tibet” and “We will never give up”—are gathering daily at midday at San Francisco’s Civic Center in what has essentially become a protest campaign to demand their right to protest. With the Olympic torch set to arrive in the city in less than two weeks, Mayor Gavin Newsom (while paying requisite lip service to the First Amendment) is considering shunting protesters away from the torch route to isolated “free speech zones”—which the Bay Guardian rightly calls “an oxymoron if there ever was one.”

Perversely, the route of the April 9 Olympic Torch Relay through the city is being treated as a closely-guarded secret—despite efforts by Tibetan activists, the ACLU and Supervisor Tom Ammiano to have it released to the public. (San Francisco Sentinel, March 25) China has even asked San Francisco, the only stop for Olympic torch in North America, to shorten the planned eight-mile route in a bid to discourage protesters. (Times of India, March 27)

A Board of Supervisors resolution sponsored by Supervisor Chris Daly (supported by Ammiano) calls on Mayor Newsom to provide access for human rights groups to protest anywhere along the route of the torch run. It also symbolically states that the city receives the torch “with alarm and protest at the failure of China…to cease the egregious and ongoing human rights abuses in China and occupied Tibet.” The resolution was passed March 27 by the board’s Rules Committee, after being rejected by the City Operations and Neighborhood Services committees. A rival resolution sponsored by Supervisor Carmen Chu would simply welcome the Olympic torch “in the true spirit of Olympism, consistent with the United Nations Charter established in this City, and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” It would do nothing to safeguard the right to protest along the torch route. (Bay City News, March 27)

A Free Tibet rally is planned for April 5 in San Francisco’s Union Square, but it remains to be seen if protesters will have a visible presence in the city when the global media converge for the Olympic torch spectacle four days later. Local groups demanding the right to be seen and heard include SF Team Tibet, the Tibetan Association of Northern California, Human Rights Torch Relay, and Global Uprising for Tibet. Further information is available at SFTorch2008.org and Expose Beijing!. Supporters are urged to write Mayor Newsom at: gavin.newsom@sfgov.org

World War 4 Report on the scene in San Francisco

See our last post on Tibet.

  1. Tibetan struggle continues —behind media curtain
    As China tried to rush a hand-selected group of foreign journalists on a carefully-scripted three-day tour of Tibet, a group of 30 monks disrupted their visit to Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, shouting “Tibet is not free!” “Don’t believe them, they are tricking you!” and “They are telling lies!” The journalists were quickly ushered away by government handlers and the area around the Jokhang Temple was sealed off by riot police. It is unclear if any of the monks were arrested. (Students for a Free Tibet, March 27)

    About a dozen pro-Tibetan protesters unfurled banners in a central square in Thessaloniki, Greece, shortly before the Olympic torch relay arrived in the city March 27. The banners read: “China is not worthy of the flame,” and “China stop killing Tibet.” (AP, March 28)

    Although it has largely disappeared from the headlines, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy reports ongoing protests and harsh repression in Tibet Autonomous Region and the adjacent Tibetan regions of the People’s Republic of China. On March 24, People’s Armed Police (PAP) fired indiscriminately on a peaceful protest in Luhuo (Tibetan: Drango) County, Sichuan Province, leaving one dead and another in critical condition. The monks of Drango Gaden Rabten Nampargyalpeling Monastery organized a special prayer session for the deceased the following morning. (TCHRD, March 26)

    Authorities expelled a large number of monks from Chogri Monastery and arrested some nuns of Nanggong Nunnery, in response to local protests. In Getse township, the authorities called a meeting during which the residents were ordered to denounce the Dalai Lama and the “separatist” forces. An elderly woman, Ama Tsanglo, refused to abide by the order and instead called for the fast “return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet.” The township party secretary reportedly responded by beating her brutally. When her son came to her defense, he was arrested. Both Tsanglo and the party secretary have been hospitalized; the whereabouts of the son is unknown. (TCHRD, March 27)

  2. Tibetans march in Berkeley
    Some 300 Tibetans and supporters held a candle-light march along Berkeley’s downtown Shattuck Ave. March 29, while chanting a traditional prayer for the dead. The Bay Area’s Tibetan community will be holding the ceremony every evening at 7 (meeting at the Downtown Berkeley BART station) until the Olympic torch arrives in San Francisco.

    One of the participants was Rinpo Tenzin, a young Tibetan who fled his country in 1998 and now lives in the Minneapolis area. Tenzin led a contingent of Tibetan bicyclists, who will be cycling throughout the Bay Area every day until the torch arrives, in what they are calling a Peace Ride for Human Rights in Tibet. On April 9, the cyclists will leave San Francisco for a cross-country ride to Los Angeles, where they hope to arrive on the 15th, carrying the Tibetan Freedom Torch with them.

      1. Thank you
        It is simply delicious to see the IAC blowing their creds with liberal nubiles by running transparent Beijing-line denunciations of the “Dalai clique.” That’s why we call them the Idiot Left.