Lhamo Wangden, an SF State senior studying hospitality and business administration, is Tibetan and proud. So, when it was announced that Bay Area Tibetan groups would be hosting political demonstrations for the 54th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising, she jumped at the chance to volunteer.
“I was born in India, and have never been to Tibet — where both my parents were born.” Wangden said. “This event has allowed me to be connected to my culture in a profound way.”
On March 10, 1959, thousands of Tibetans took to the streets in Lhasa, Tibet, in protest to China’s occupation of the country. Today, Bay Area Tibetan groups such as the Tibetan Association of Northern California, Bay Area Friends of Tibet, SF Regional Tibetan Youth Congress and the Students for a Free Tibet Bay Area hosted the political demonstrations in San Francisco and Berkeley drawing nearly 100 Tibetan allies.
Demonstrators started off their protest in Berkeley, and gravitated their way to San Francisco. The group marched to the Chinese Consulate, then to their final stop at Union Square, shouting slogans such as,”Tibet belongs to who? Tibetans!”
At Union Square, the northern California Tibetan groups hosted a showcase of Tibet-related entertainment such as a Tibetan Children’s chorus, speakers from the Tibetan community and a performance from the political folk band, “Dharma Bums.”
The event comes at a time when at least 107 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in the past four years in protest of the Chinese government’s policies regarding Tibet.
Kunjo Tashi, president of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, feels that now is as good a time as any to raise awareness for the self-immolations happening in Tibet.
“The situation in Tibet is very grim right now, and we need to let the world know what is happening,” Tashi said. “With this event, as we do every year, we are trying to get support and educate Americans on what is happening in Tibet.”
Rangzen Alliance, a Tibetan activist group, claims that 1.2 million Tibetans have perished since 1954 from labor camps, famine and battling the Chinese occupation.
Martin Salazar, 33, from Gilroy, Calif. happened to catch the demonstration. Though he admitted he does not know much about what’s going on in Tibet, he believed that celebrating the anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising is important, nonetheless.
“I’ve seen what’s happening to Tibet on the news, but I had no idea it was this bad,” Salazar said. “It’s good that they’re doing this.”
Tashi urges concerned citizens to write letters of concern about the Tibetan crisis to the Chinese Embassy and consulate and elected official such as the president, and to tweet about the self-immolations that are occurring in Tibet as a course of action.