DHARAMSHALA, March 10: On the eve of the 53rd National Uprising Day of Tibet, wife of jailed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen broke into tears as she spoke at New York Times Square at an open-air press conference.
Excerpts from Dhondup Wangchen’s film, “Leaving Fear Behind,” a hard-hitting documentary carrying interviews of ordinary Tibetan people on their views of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, were screened beneath a large screen brought by China’s state news agency Xinhua for presenting the official government point of view.
Blaming the Chinese government for the ongoing wave of self-immolations in Tibet, Lhamo Tso, 40, questioned: “Why are they doing this? Why are they burning their own bodies? Their life is the most important thing they have.”
“When I hear that Tibetans are self-immolating, I feel a knife through my heart.”
Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison for “subversion” on December 28, 2009 following a secret trial. In prison Wangchen contracted Hepatitis B and has been reported in poor health.
“I want to ask for your help in the release of my husband — in the release of my husband and in the release of other political prisoners in Tibet,” Tso, who last spoke to her husband in 2008 said breaking down into tears.
“I’m here in the center of the United States but my heart and mind are always with my husband.”
Organisers of the press conference, Amnesty International USA, Reporters Without Borders and Committee of 100 for Tibet, said they chose Times Square to increase the visibility and specifically to counter the “official government point of view” broadcasted over the Xinhua screen on a skyscraper.
In the run up to today’s Uprising Day commemorations, three Tibetans died in self-immolation protests in Tibet last week. One Tibetan was shot dead in the face while two others were seriously injured in yet another case of police firing on unarmed Tibetans suspected of taking part in peaceful anti-China protests a few days earlier.
26 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire since 2009, calling for the return of Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and freedom in Tibet.
Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay, the de facto prime minister of the Tibetan people, in his Uprising Day statement today said Tibet has “become one of the most militarized areas in the region” and is currently under “an undeclared martial law.”
“Today, there us no space for any conventional protests such as hunger strikes, demonstrations and even peaceful gatherings in Tibet,” Dr Sangay said. “Tibetans are therefore taking extreme actions such as the one by 26 Tibetans who have committed self-immolations since 2009.”