By HILDA MUÑOZ
Hartford, Connecticut: Chemi Lama spoke before protesters outside the state Capitol in Hartford Monday about meeting her Tibetan grandfather for the first time last year after he got a permit to visit the border at Nepal.
The teenager from Old Saybrook said she and her brother wanted to call their grandfather last week to make sure he wasn’t hurt during any of the demonstrations that have sprung up in Tibet. But they feared that the phone call might put him in danger and decided against it, Lama said.
“We couldn’t even call him to make sure he was OK,” said Lama, 17.
Lama’s story was meant to serve as an example of injustices against Tibetans by the Chinese government. Chinese oppression was the reason between 30 and 40 protesters — mostly members of the Tibetan community in Connecticut — gathered outside the Capitol.
The demonstration, organized by the Tibetan Association of Connecticut, was prompted by a series of protests in Tibet this month connected to the Olympic torch run for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Foreign media have been cut off from Tibetan communities, and thousands of troops have been dispatched to quell the most widespread demonstrations against Chinese rule in nearly five decades.
Protesters in Hartford prayed and sang in their native tongue. They held or were draped in Tibetan flags. Some held signs calling for freedom and human rights.
Tashi Phuntsok, of the Tibetan Youth Congress, told the crowd that Tibet is not a part of China, but a once-independent country that is being occupied by the communist regime.
“Tibet is an occupied nation so it must be recognized as an occupied nation by the rest of the world,” he said.
Thondup Tsering, a member of the Tibetan Association of Western Massachusetts, spoke about the protests by monks, college students and middle school students in Tibet and other Tibetan areas in March and the number of people either killed or injured during those protests.
He called upon the United States government to demand that the Chinese government allow foreign journalists back into Tibet, allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide services to those injured during the protests and allow an international human rights organization to conduct a fact-finding mission.
“We appreciate your sympathy, but Tibet today needs your action,” he said.
The protesters and speakers also addressed the Olympics and the torch run, which began its journey from Greece Monday.
“Why would you want to bring the torch into Lhasa city [the Tibetan capital]? Why would you want to bring the torch to Mount Everest, which is a spiritual place for the Tibetans?” Tsering said.
“The only reason that I can think is to fool the international community and to legitimize their colonial rule over Tibet. I can assure you — by doing this, China is adding insult to injury, and we Tibetans will not stand silently.”
Contact Hilda Munoz at firstname.lastname@example.org.