By JESSIE BRUNNER
Members of the Tibetan Youth Congress stage a hunger strike outside the Downtown Berkeley BART station in support of three people on a hunger strike in New York. (PHOTO/GEORGE DERK)
Clutching prayer beads and waving Tibetan flags, approximately 25 Bay Area Tibetans and supporters gathered for a hunger strike in Berkeley Saturday morning joining similar hunger strikers in New York.
The three New York strikers were beginning their 16th day without food as Bay Area sympathizers set up camp next to the Downtown Berkeley BART station at 9 a.m. in preparation for a 12-hour hunger strike.
“It is very important that the world acknowledges their sacrifices, their commitment to nonviolence, and above all, the truth of their struggle for freedom,” said Topden Tsering, president of the San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress, which hosted the event.
Hunger strikers are calling for the release of Tulku Tenzin Delek, a Tibetan lama arrested by Chinese police two years ago for his refusal to denounce allegiance with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader.
They also demanded to learn the whereabouts of Ghedun Choekyi Nyima, the second-highest religious leader of Tibet who was abducted in 1995, when he was six years old.
“We are hopeful that people of the world will stand up and the U.N. will begin to realize that the Tibet issue is really grounded in the very ethics of justice, nonviolence, compassion and peace,” Tsering said.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington joined in the fasting, thanking participants for sacrificing both food and time for their cause and praising their peaceful tactics as a “powerful contrast” to the violence of today’s world.
“Some people confuse peaceful protest as a sign of weakness, but I believe a hunger strike is a far stronger and more powerful form of protest,” Worthington said.
Strikers toted signs urging Chinese officials to reveal the location of Nyima, requesting for U.N. intervention and asking passing drivers to “Honk for Tibet.” They spent the day praying for the health and safety of those fasting, singing, and meditating.
Organizers also circulated appeals to be signed and sent to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, listing their demands and asking the United Nations to resume debate on the Tibet issue.
Tsering plans for larger events in the future, including hosting longer hunger strikes and organizing a massive rally in Downtown Berkeley.
“Progress isn’t being made so we have to do something to get people to pay attention to the injustice that is going on,” Worthington said.