New York, April 28 - Tibetans who visited the hunger strikers this morning on the 27th day of their protest fast were shocked to see the state to which they had wasted. Dolma Choephel in particular was reduced to a critical condition; she could no longer stand on her feet, a witness said.
The swiftness with which their health has deteriorated was due mainly to their having to commute every day for nearly one hour between the protest venue outside the UN building in Manhattan and Steinway in Queens, where they spend the night. A New York law does not permit the strikers to spend the night around the UN building. What's more, the weather in New York over the past month has vacillated dramatically between the wintry cold and the nigh-summer heat. It also rained from time to time while the strikers do not have even a tarpaulin sheet over their head. What is remarkable, however, is the spirit of fortitude and defiance they continue to display. In an open letter to Kofi Annan, they said, "After 27 days, we are no longer hungry for food, only for freedom and justice."
The trio went on to say that they had taken this course of action as the most serious non-violent means to display the depth of "our frustrations and resolve". "We represent the young generation, born as stateless refugees and yearning to live in freedom in our own country," said the open letter published today in International Herald Tribune.
The hunger strikers deplored the fact that the media and the world community pay attention only to those who resort to violent means and take innocent lives. True this may be of the UN, emasculated as it is by the permanent membership of China, the hunger strikers should nonetheless take heart from the gestures of support and concern they have received from so many quarters.
The Czech mission to the United Nations urged the hunger strikers to end their fast, informing them that although the diplomatic community may not have responded visibly to their demands, there has been much activity and attempts, `under the surface', " to coordinate steps which might be taken, given the timing and procedural mechanism of the UN, as well as other consequences of the global politics".
In a moving letter, bespeaking the natural concern of a nation that knows what it means to be enslaved and repressed, Ms. Ivana Grollova, Second Secretary of the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic, expressed her mission's appreciation and support for the courage and determination of the young hunger strikers. She said, however, that their suffering would make no difference to those do not care for the Tibetan people while it "morally tortures" those who do care.
The young hunger strikers' death would "weaken the potential of the Tibetan nation even more, while their lives, their peaceful spiritual activities, their education and moral profile can serve the Tibetan people much more and enrich the future generations more effectively", Ms. Grollova said. The Czech mission gave an assurance that its government would continue to explore avenues for keeping the Tibetan issue on the top of EU agenda in its dialogue with China.
A Tibetan Youth Congress update on the hunger strike reported that Mr. Miloon Kothari, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, had visited the hunger strikers and given a commitment to raise the Tibetan demands in the United Nations.
Mr. Seishu Makino, Chairman of the Japan Parliamentarian Group for Tibet, wrote to say that members of his group recognise the demands of the hunger strikers as the voice of the people of Tibet. Makino called on the United Nations to "immediately and seriously consider their demands", and "take necessary actions without further delay to save the lives of these three youths". Yesterday, Denma Lochoe Rinpoche, former abbot of Namgyal monastery, visited the hunger strikers and led a prayer meeting, joined by hundreds of Tibetans and supporters, for the success of the purposes of the strike. He told them that from the Buddhist point of view, it is wrong to take your own life. "However, it is also true that what you are doing is for a very noble cause. Therefore, I really don't know what to say."
In the evening, the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York and New Jersey organised a candle-light vigil to commemorate the sixth anniversary of "Thubten Ngodup's martyrdom". Ngodup immolated himself in 1998 when the police disrupted an unto-death hunger strike in New Delhi.
On 25 April, the Youth Congress undertook a solidarity march in Washington, D.C. Over 160 Tibetans from New York and New Jersey bused to the US capital and held a rally in front of the Chinese Embassy.
A report by OoT, New York