5/29/02—Tashi Delek!

It’s been a good week for the freedom fighters. The Chinese-appointed ruler of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) is in Cali right now, and SFT is out there with a few other groups and lots of Tibetans making him wish that he’d stayed home.

Tuesday was the opening of what was supposed to be a month long propaganda-laden exhibit of "Tibetan culture" in Cupertino. The mall canceled it after one day of protests.

Yesterday, Legchoe, the head of the TAR, was at a banquet in San Bruno with the exhibit organizers and a huge Chinese delegation. Tibetans with tickets to the banquet showed up, and the Chinese delegation ran out into the street - end of banquet (see below for Alma’s hilarious report).

Today, Legchoe is meeting with Gray Davis and several CA State Senators, and is facing Tibetan protestors inside and outside the Capitol. During the protests, Tenzin Choephel was arrested and held briefly before being released without any criminal charges. The Chinese had hoped to establish a sister-state relationship between CA and the TAR (what?!?) but after a little pressure the Senate is now saying that's not on the table.

For people who tried to take action on this but had problems getting it to work, it should be working fine now. Even though it looks like we have forced them to drop the sister-state idea already, we should still make sure they hear from us this week so there’s no talk of reconsidering. Email California Senators by clicking here:


Meanwhile, Lhadon was in Dallas today, confronting ExxonMobil at their Annual Shareholders Meeting over their role in PetroChina’s massive West-East Pipeline project connecting East Turkestan and Tibet with Shanghai. Lhadon was part of a huge coalition of peoples and organizations affected by ExxonMobil operations around the world – see www.stopexxonmobil.org for more details.



No sister-state relationship between CA and Tibet until TIBET IS FREE!

Please take part in this URGENT ACTION!

Click here to send emails to the California State Senate, telling them that there will be no sister-state relationship between Tibet and California until TIBET IS FREE. Ask them to pressure Lekchoe, Chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, to end his crackdowns on Tibetans inside of Tibet. http://actionnetwork.org//campaign/sftca

Tomorrow, May 29, the California State Senate will receive Lekchoe, Chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) to discuss the establishment of a sister-state relationship between California and Tibet. Lekchoe has ruled in Tibet with an iron fist and has become well known for his harsh campaign against Tibetan support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Tibetans inside Tibet have suffered much under Lekchoe’s rule.

Just to give you an idea of Lekchoe's policies, here is a quote from him in the Agence France Presse:

"We must expose and criticize the Dalai Lama group so the peasants and herdsmen can recognize its reactionary nature and they can confidently and firmly maintain the ethnic unity of the motherland and have a clear stand against the Dalai lama group and against splittism."

A sister-state relationship between California and the Tibetan Autonomous Region would acknowledge that the TAR is a State of China, instead of part of a nation under illegal occupation. Moreover, a sister-state relationship would signal California’s approval of the Chinese government’s brutal policies of repression and gross human rights violations against the Tibetan people.
China’s motivation behind this absurd plan is to encourage California businesses to invest in Tibet. However, most of the projects the Chinese government encourages in Tibet are politically motivated, and aim to turn Tibet into a resource extraction colony. So far, China’s so-called “ Go West Campaign” has brought no benefits to the Tibetan people – rather, it has marginalized them economically and has stripped their land if its natural resources.

American business and government must not profit from China’s exploitation of Tibet, and must certainly not lend their approval to China’s continued oppression of the Tibetan people.

A sister-state relationship between California and the Tibetan Autonomous Region is a ridiculous idea. There will be no sister-state relationship between California and Tibet, until TIBET IS FREE.


Washington, D.C. May 24, 2002 (ICT) - The International Campaign for Tibet called on the California Senate today to postpone consideration of a sister state relationship with the Tibet Autonomous Region until the Tibetan people are able to exercise basic rights and benefit from such a relationship.

On Wednesday, May 29, the Chinese-appointed Governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lekchog (sometimes spelled Lekchoe or Leqgog), is visiting Sacramento to discuss a sister state relationship with government officials.

"Establishing a sister state relationship with an occupied territory rife with human rights abuses is more likely to consolidate China's authoritarian rule there than benefit the Tibetan people," said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

"Establishing a sister state relationship with Tibet would be an affront to all Californians who are concerned about human rights and Tibet," said Tenzing Chonden of Los Angeles who represents North American Tibetans in the Tibetan exile parliament.

Governor Lekchog and his delegation are visiting in an effort to build economic and political ties between California and Beijing's puppet government in Tibet. The visit is sponsored by the California International Relations Foundation, a non-profit corporation providing assistance to the California State Senate to develop ties with foreign governments.

In 2000, the California International Relations Foundation sponsored an official visit of the governor of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which resulted in the establishment of a sister state relationship with California driven predominantly by business interests.

Many of Tibet's natural resources have been exploited for the benefit large state-owned or quasi state-owned Chinese companies. ICT supports a broad array of international humanitarian and development initiatives in Tibet but has opposed several large-scale extractive industries which were unlikely to bring substantial benefit to local people.

"We encourage economic development and trade investment that benefits the Tibetan people and abides by ethical guidelines so as not to marginalize Tibetans, either economically or by bringing even greater numbers of Chinese migrants into Tibet," Mr. Ackerly said.

Within the hard-line Communist political spectrum in Tibet, Governor Lekchog is considered to be somewhat moderate as a compliant leader trusted by Beijing. His delegation will also visit an exhibit in Cupertino called "Tibet Culture and Commerce," which is being protested by a number of Tibetan rights groups.

Lekchog's visit comes amidst continuing Congressional concern over Beijing's destructive policies in Tibet. Three resolutions and a major Tibet bill - the Tibetan Policy Act - have been introduced in the 107th session, with strong support in both chambers.
Bay Area Tibetans and supporters foil Chinese propaganda exhibit
By Topden Tsering May 25, 2002

The story of Tibetan triumph, the Chinese defeat, the emotions in between that marked the first day of China's "Culture and Commerce" Exhibit on May 24 can best be told in first person. Allow, me, therefore my personal voice.

The drive was long, the 280 freeway traffic unusually crazy, and racing against our appointed protest time was the minute hand on my watch. Inside our car panicked Students for a Free Tibet's Thupten, Alma, Jamyang, Tibetan Association of Northern California's Ugyen la and myself when suddenly ringed Alma's mobile phone. Most protestors had gathered outside the exhibit and one had already been kicked out of the shopping mall for displaying a "Free Tibet" placard. Our hearts sank.

Sonam Topgyal la from Committee of 100 for Tibet was loitering outside the mall, the first casualty this day of China-Tibet standoff.
The exhibit was a grand display of color pictures, of Tibetan monks blowing horns, of women bedecked with jewelries, of sporting men and cheerful children, of the Potala palace and lush green landscapes, glittering testimonies to China-censored Tibet reality.

Lhasa Moon Restaurant's Tsering Wangmo was fighting back her tears. Clutching her hands was a stocky Tibetan woman in sheepskin chupa, a member of the Chinese theatrical troupe, her eyes all damp. "Let us not cry," she was saying. "This is a happy moment for us to see you all here." Another woman and a man from the troupe were inviting into the exhibit a group of Gyuto monks whose hands though clasped in responsive greetings, their feet hesitated over the threshold. For an instant, the politics of it all gave way to bonding of hearts. The tears were real, however much synchronized the smiles.

Hovering around this emotion-charged group was another elderly lady in bright red chupa. Upon seeing us approach the exhibit corridor with banners, placards and Tibetan flags, she stepped forward to shake our hands. Identifying herself as the organizer, a Chinese "whose grandfather was a Tibetan", a Bay Area resident and "long-time Tibet's friend", she said to us: "Please, let's not spoil this, something I and my husband have worked so hard for, to bring Tibet's culture to Cupertino."
I remembered her name from the exhibit announcement, more recently from an e-mail exchange between her and Ugyen la, where, in response to the latter's complaints, she had expressed surprise that there were so many Tibetans in Bay Area and had offered us fair representation in the show. The options before us seemed limited. And I reminded her of the e-mail.

"We will let you go ahead with your exhibit provided you agree to our three conditions," I said. "First, we want a picture of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in there; secondly, we want our placards and banners (containing graphic depiction of Chinese repression in Tibet) displayed alongside your pictures; and thirdly, we want our own traditional performers (Chaksampa's Techung la and Tsering Wangmo la) to present their numbers and speak briefly on Tibet's reality after that." Several suspenseful minutes passed before she answered. In my head I was working out the next strategy. She said, "Of course." I wasn't sure if I had heard her right.

Soon followed a scampering for space for our own voices of truth in this chamber of charade. Former political prisoner Palden Gyatso looked on from life-sized posters, Chinese torture weapons displayed before him, the slogan reading, "Stop Investing in China's Repression in Tibet". Chinese soldiers threatened to burst forth from another poster, their bayoneted guns in attack position, the caption lettered, "Don't Invest in Genocide." Dwarfed into obscurity besides these and other such banners were the Chinese pictures of Tibet, the forced smiles, the glistening rooftops, the postures in camaraderie, the frozen moments in studio lights. It was as if the exhibit were a Beijing government-paid showcase of their history of oppression in Tibet. Right down to that black and white placard which besides in English and Tibetan carried a slogan in Chinese as well: "Tsui Yo Xizhang (Free Tibet)".
When we were sticking on the walls the pictures of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one Tibetan from the Chinese group demanded that they be taken down. "You have to understand. This is going to create us problems back home," he said. I replied that we cared for them as our own brothers and sisters, but that getting across the message of Tibetan independence aspiration was equally important. "Besides we have the permission from the Chinese organizer herself, and if anyone would face reprisal for all these, it would be her." He wouldn't budge.

Another Tibetan woman from his group joined him. "This is an exhibit of Tibetan culture, why make it political?" Pointing at a picture, she added: "Doesn't it look like Tibet to you?" It was of a Tibetan monastery, newly painted, an imposing structure in prosperity. Right below it was a poster of our own: a destroyed monastery in ruins, visible between its broken beams a glimpse of the distant Potala Palace.
Tsering Dolma from San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) shot back: "What about this one? Is this not in Tibet as well?" The woman countered: "But that is an old picture." Tsering replied: "And what has changed? Tibet was an occupied country in 1959. Is it still not an occupied country today?" Silence.

The next attack came from the most unlikely quarter: Lobsang Choephel from Radio Free Asia in Washington D.C. "You don't understand anything," he said to me. "It is these guys who're going to suffer retaliation for all your doings
here." I told him about the permission, about my belief that the Chinese government would hold accountable the lady organizer for this fiasco if anybody at all, and that finally the issue for us was to disprove China's claim of contentment in today's Tibet. What he said to me then hit me like a lightning. "I doubt if you would stand your ground a minute more if it were Chinese soldiers facing you. We have faced such situations, you know nothing." When I replied it was not my purpose to give him a proof of my courage, that my duty was to represent Tibetan Youth Congress and what it stood for, he cut me short: "What Tibetan Youth Congress? Don't tell me about it? Not at least to me, who has founded the organization." I couldn't belief my ears. I still don't. Ugyen la tells me he heard the same thing.

The Chinese lady was a bundle of half-truths and half-lies, reeling claims and excuses equally preposterous. Behind her tears, for all my colleagues' skepticism, subtly visible was a well-meaning intention. "Please, understand us," she whispered to me in Tibetan. "The Chinese man in blue shirt behind me, he is from the consulate and he absolutely objects to Dalai Lama's pictures." The confrontation ensued with more heated exchanges between the Tibetan protestors on one side and the lady organizer's American husband on the other. Though a mixed bag of over-the-head arguments, he was unmistakably the business mind behind the exhibit, one of two individual faces to this Chinese propaganda politics. Halfway into his ramblings, he was talking about anything else but Tibet and China, among them a sermon on American history of repression.

The long and short of the story: They had to close down the exhibit and we said: "Thank You Very Much." So abruptly came the Tibetan victory, at least on that first day of exhibit, the campaigns' smooth sailing was little hard to believe. During the strategizing meeting amongst members from Tibetan Association of Northern California (TANC), Bay Area Friends of Tibet (BAFT), Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) and San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress (SFTYC), each person seemed to have his own explanation into the whys of what transpired in that mall. Speculations sometimes gel so well with analysis, but it was plain instincts that contributed to our coup of the exhibit's closure: a lot of suspicion and a little trust, even towards a Chinese.

The first of the 30 days of China's "Commerce and Cultural Exhibit" ended with success for Tibetan protestors. Although looming over our shoulders was the evil of "TAR-California Sister-states Relation" politics, the occasion called for a little jubilation. For tomorrow would be another day, a brand new chapter, in free Tibet campaign against Chinese propaganda and the hypocrisy of California legislature. Of uncertain victory and unseen defeats, of the emotions in between.

Acknowledgement: The creative minds and untiring hands behind the wonderful posters and banners belonged to Sasha and Henry from San Francisco. The protests are being jointly organized by San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), Tibetan Association of Northern California (TANC), Bay Area Friends of Tibet (BAFT) and Students for Free Tibet (SFT). Thank you to Minnie from Tibet Justice Center, John from International Lawyers for Tibet and Tibor, a self-professed "whenever you need me" Tibet activist, for all your support.

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