London, April 17 - Tibetans and their supporters demonstrated today during the visit of China's information minister Cai Wu at the exhibition "Tibet through the Lens". The exhibition, consisting of a series of photographs of Tibet, is being displayed at the Royal Albert Hall in association with the Chinese government. Given that the Royal Albert Hall usually takes a non-political stance it surprised Students for a Free Tibet UK and Tibetan Youth UK to see them hosting this exhibition. As Cai Wu turned up with his guests and he was greeted with shouts of 'Free Tibet' that could not be missed or ignored, although he alter his plans.
"Photo exhibitions organised by the Chinese government usually portray pictures of well-fed, healthy Tibetans in their traditional garments looking happy and content. The exhibition contained many stunning photographs of Tibetans in festive clothing undertaking routine tasks or standing against picturesque landscapes such as those on wall calendars and in the National Geographic. In reality, Chinese policies in Tibet marginalise Tibetans in their own country in all socio-economic fields." Karma Chura-Tsang, Director of Tibetan Youth in UK said.
"The Chinese government uses exhibitions like this to legitimise their occupation of Tibet" said Alice Speller of Students for a Free Tibet UK. "We are concerned that the Royal Albert Hall, an important institution in British society, is being manipulated by Chinese propaganda. While the Royal Albert Hall describes Tibet as 'a land of ancient history, beauty and magic' the reality for Tibetans living inside Tibet is a land of destruction, abuse and fear." She continued.
The exhibition contained many photographs of Tibetans with computers, mobile phones and radios in a blatant attempt to prove China is developing Tibet. There were several photographs of Tibetan children in school. In 2004, the UN Special Rapportueur on Education reported an illiteracy rate of almost 40 percent in Tibet. Contrary to Chinese Government's claim that compulsory primary education is free of charge, even primary education in Tibet costs up to 6,000 yuan a year (when the average yearly income for Tibetans is approximately 784 yuan). In addition, Tibetans must undertake their entrance exams to secondary level in Chinese not Tibetan. Poor education background decreases access to urban and skilled employment. Tibetans tend to be disproportionately represented among the poor and are affected by increases in poverty and inequality.
"In light of the Olympics being held in Beijing next year, the Chinese government are organizing and encouraging such exhibitions as part of their 'charm offensive', but their propaganda efforts will ultimately fail. The truth about China's injustices in Tibet are indisputable and the movement for Tibetan independence and freedom is stronger now than ever before." Metok Sither of Tibet Youth UK added.
Tibetan Youth UK and Students for a Free Tibet sent a joint letter to the director of Royal Albert Hall.SFT UK is part of the international organization Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), with Headquarters in New York and offices in Vancouver, Canada and Dharamsala, India, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action, SFT campaigns for Tibetans fundamental right to political freedom.
TYUK is a network of young Tibetans living in the United Kingdom who aim to make a meaningful contribution to the Tibetan struggle, to the community welfare and to the preservation of Tibetan culture and heritage. We are a voluntary organisation run by a committee of young Tibetans.
Tibetan Youth UK
0044 77 2550 1995
Students for a Free Tibet UK
0044 77 8698 2222