By Tenzin Sangmo
Photo: Norbu W. Gyachung
DHARAMSHALA, March 25: More than a thousand Tibetans and supporters staged a pro-Tibet protest in Paris yesterday upon the arrival of the Chinese President Xi Jinping on a two-day state visit to France on the final leg of his European tour.
The protestors came out with the Tibetan national flags and placards calling for freedom in Tibet and resumption of dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The assemblage proceeded from the esplanade of Human Rights of the Trocadéro from 01:30 pm up to the Champ de Mars Peace Wall on the opposite side of the Eiffel Tower which lasted till 07:00 pm.
The protest was jointly organized by six NGOs in France consisting of the Tibetan Community of France, Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), Regional Dokham Chushi Gangdruk, U-Tsang Welfare Association and Domey Welfare Association.
France is home to a vibrant Tibetan community of 6,000 Tibetans represented by the Office of Tibet in Brussels.
French Senator Jacqueline Eustache-Brinio, the chief guest at the event, said her biggest hope is to see a French parliamentary fact-finding delegation sent to Tibet. She proclaimed she sent a letter to the French President about the emergency situation in Tibet and how the Freedom House, a US-based human rights advocacy group in its 2018 report ranked Tibet the second least free region in the world after Syria.
The non-Tibetan supporters amounting to an estimated 20% of the congregation included members from Uighur Association of France, a Vietnamese association, a lone Mongolian protestor among many others.
The Uighur Association of France represented by Omer Ali said, “My Tibetan brothers are sisters are living through the same experience as we Uighurs are since 1949. If it continues like this, these two people will be wiped out from history.”
The protestors called out the dire human rights situation in Tibet leading to the self-immolation of 153 Tibetans inside Tibet since 2009, following the crackdown and heightened restrictions post 2008 Tibet unrest.
“A letter addressed to the French President and cosigned by the leaders of the six Tibetan NGOs called on Macron to raise the issue of Tibet and urge for the resumption of dialogue,” said Tenam, a board member of SFT France.
In its address to the gathering, the SFT representative said the Chinese model of governance is detrimental to the European model of governance and stressed the need for European leaders to have a frank discussion in order to defend it.
“The event was successful in its turnout and media coverage as any such events jointly organized by associations across the political spectrum makes possible,” said Tenam.
In the view of the state dinner this evening for Xi Jinping at the French presidential palace, there is another protest planned in Paris tonight at the same place. This time, associations like the Amnesty International, International Federation of Human Rights, Ligue of Droits de l’Homme, Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture, International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), Reporters Without Borders, Solidarity China and others are attending.
Xi is expected to sign energy and other agreements with Macron today, then meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday in Paris.