By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, January 29: The largest pro-independence group in the exile Tibetan community today sent a radical signal to Tibetans worldwide to forgo this year’s Losar (Tibetan New Year) celebrations and to observe 2009 as a “Black Year” to stand in solidarity with fellow brethrens in Tibet.
Tibetan Youth Congress today announced that it will instead organize a series of protest and signature campaigns during and around Losar time to highlight China’s “illegal occupation of Tibet” and the plight of Tibetan people under its decades of repressive rule.
“To recognize and honor the sacrifices of our martyrs and to express our solidarity with the brave men and women of Tibet who continue to withstand unimaginable hardships to uphold the sovereignty of our nation, the identity of our people and for the truth to prevail, TYC declares that it will not celebrate the Tibetan New Year,” organization president Tsewang Rigzin said at a press conference here today.
For Tibetans, Losar is the most auspicious and special occasion for mass celebration in a year. The celebrations usually last no less than three days.
“As the 2009 also marks 60 years of China’s invasion and 50 years of occupation of Tibet, TYC declares the year 2009 as black year,” Tsewang added.
China sent military troops to occupy Tibet in late 1949. An abortive uprising by Tibetans in capital Lhasa in 1959 forced their leader the Dalai Lama and hundreds of Tibetans to flee into exile for the first time in their long history.
Several other Tibetan NGOs have also signed calls to skip this year’s Losar, first time that such an unprecedented move has been made in the course of their freedom struggle. The move has been largely sparked off by initial calls from inside Tibet to skip celebrations this year in response to last year’s deadly military crackdown on Tibetan unrest, which observers say has resulted in deaths and detention, and numerous cases of enforced and involuntary disappearance of Tibetans across Tibet.
However, inside Tibet, Chinese authorities are said to be deliberately encouraging Tibetans to celebrate the New Year with pomp and festivity, in some cases even giving out gifts and special presents to encourage celebrations.
This year, Losar (2136 Earth Ox Year) falls on 25th February, just over two weeks before the 50th commemoration of the March 10th Tibetan National Uprising of 1959. March 10 will also mark one year since protests by Tibetan monks in Lhasa last year erupted into biggest protests among Tibetans in decades.
The pro-independence youth organization today announced that its members under its worldwide regional chapters will take part in hunger strikes, peace rallies and prayer vigils to observe the forthcoming New Year.
The organization president also said its members will throw two huge effigies of Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China, and Current Chinese President Hu Jintao, both of whom are despised by Tibetans for their repressive measures in Tibet, on the 29th day of the 12th month, a day before Tibetan New Year eve, when Tibetans participate in a religious ceremony to exorcise evil spirits from the previous year. For Tibetans year end is also of special significance and they set-off a fierce demon effigy on fireworks to drive away personal obstacles and to avoid misfortunes. The organization also urged all Tibetans to do the same as a symbolic protest.
China has been preparing for the possibility of more unrest in Tibet this year. Chinese authorities have already begun a security sweep in Tibet ahead of the region’s most sensitive anniversary in years, with state media saying at least 81 people have been detained.
The Public Security Bureau of Lhasa began a “strike hard” campaign against crime on Jan. 18, with raids on residential areas, Internet cafes, bars and rented rooms, the state-run Tibetan Daily said in a Sunday report posted on the China Tibet News, a state news Web portal. Among them were two people who had “reactionary music” on their cellphones, the report said.
The operation, announced as part of a campaign against crime, is seen by Tibet independence advocates as a move aimed at intimidating Tibetans ahead of the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that forced the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader, and hundreds of fellow Tibetans to flee into exile.
“Yet in these most difficult times our brethrens have steadfastly upheld the truth of our history in its most pristine form and committed in securing the future of our nation by standing firm in our rightful fight for independence,” Tsewang said.
At the press conference, Tsewang reiterated TYC’s call on China to “end the illegal occupation of Tibet and to immediately release all the political prisoners of Tibet languishing in Chinese gulags”.
“TYC also appeals to the world community at large, the UN, EU, respective governments and individuals to lend their invaluable support so as to bring forth constructive developments in the Tibetan struggle,” Tsewang said.
The Tibetan Youth Congress, which claims some 30,000 active members under its worldwide regional chapters, does not support the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way policy that seeks “real and meaningful autonomy” instead of outright independence for Tibet.
China has lately tried to denounce the Tibetan pro-independence group by condemning it as a "violent terrorist" outfit and equating it with Al-Qaeda.
The youth organisation rubbishes the allegations as “baseless” and “unfounded” saying it is a non-governmental organization seeking to restore Tibet’s once independent status with "non-violence and peace" as its core founding principles.