By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, March 28: Hundreds of Tibetans and their supporters Saturday staged a protest rally to highlight what they describe as “50 years of Chinese oppression in Tibet”.
Tibetan exiles shout slogans against Chinese government as they burn a Chinese flag during a street march to commemorate 50 years of Tibetan freedom struggle in New Delhi, India, Saturday, March 28, 2009. (Photo: AP /Gemunu Amarasinghe)
The protesters marched through the streets of Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibet’s Government-in-exile in northern India, carrying Tibetan flags and wearing “Free Tibet” headbands, and shouting “Stop 50 years of torture."
The protest came as Beijing celebrated the newly created “Serf Emancipation Day” on Saturday. The enforced celebration, the organizers of today’s protest, however, say, is taking place at a “time of high tension in Tibet when the entire region remains under de facto martial law.”
The Tibetan Government-in-exile on Friday dubbed the newly created holiday as a “massive propaganda” by Beijing to hide its “ongoing repression in Tibet.”
China vowed on Saturday to "severely crack down on any separatist activities" in Tibet as it launched the new national holiday.
On March 28, 1959, China forcefully dissolved the Tibetan Government in Lhasa after crushing down a massive uprising by Tibetans against a decade long Chinese presence in their homeland. The ensuing events forced the Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans to flee their homeland into exile for the first time in Tibet’s history.
Beijing sent military troops to occupy Tibet in late 1949. China contends that old Tibet was feudal and repressive and claims that its military occupation of the Himalayan region has “liberated’ Tibetans.
Tibetan Government-in-exile says over 1.2 million Tibetans died and more than 6,000 monasteries were razed to the ground as a direct result of Chinese communist rule over the years.
“Today, it is hard to come across a Tibetan family that has not had at least one member imprisoned or killed by the Chinese regime,” the exile government said in a press release yesterday.
Still image from a video footage recently smuggle out of Tibet shows Chinese police beating handcuffed Tibetans in the aftermath of March 2008 unrest in Lhasa. The video - China’s Brutality in Tibet Exposed
- will be screened at a gathering in Dharamsala today.
Five prominent Tibetan groups - Tibetan Women's Assocation, GuChuSum Movement of Tibet, National Democratic Party of Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet (India) and Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (Dharamsala) organised today’s anti-China protest here.
“Serf Emancipation Day” is a blatant propaganda ploy by the Chinese government to convince the world that Tibetans are happy under Chinese rule but no amount of propaganda can hide the truth of what has actually been 50 years of Tibet’s enslavement, the groups said in a joint press statement.
Protestors also performed a short skit showing Chinese police beating up and torturing Tibetan demonstrators in Tibet this morning before taking to the streets. The organizers have also planned a candle light vigil later in the evening and will screen a rare video footage
showing China’s brutal treatment of Tibetans in the aftermath of the March 2008 unrest.
The video, recently smuggled out of Tibet, was released by the Tibetan Government-in-exile last week.
“Despite the fierce clampdown of the Tibetan Uprising in 2008, Tibetans inside Tibet have continued to show their resentment against China's Oppression.” said Ngawang Woebar, a former political prisoner and the president of GuChuSum Movement of Tibet.
“China is claiming that everything is normal inside Tibet and that the Tibetans are happy, but the irony is, they are banning foreign media from witnessing the reality of the situation within Tibet,” Woebar said.