Dharamshala: September 3 marked the first day of the indefinite hunger strike organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) in New Delhi. They said that it was planned in “solidarity with the self-immolators inside Tibet and to appeal for immediate international intervention” with regards to the deteriorating human rights crisis in Tibet.
Three TYC Central Executive members took part in the strike; Vice President, Dhondup Lhadar, Organizational Secretary, Penpa Tsering and Cultural Secretary, Jigme Shoipa. It was scheduled to start at 10:00 am IST. However, due to police presence it finally kicked off at 12:00 pm IST.
In a release, TYC said that previously organized hunger strikes in April 2011 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi and February 2012 outside the UN Headquarters, New York, were called off after the European Parliament committed to support the peaceful struggle against the oppressive Chinese government and promised to keep the Tibet issue high on their agenda. In the second instance, the strike was called off when representatives of the UN Secretary-General, Ban-Ki-Moon, handed over a letter of assurance signed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
“Since none of the promises have been put into action, and the alarming rise of the number of self-immolations inside Tibet is a huge cause for concern for everyone, TYC decided to launch another hunger strike and show the willingness to sacrifice until the world bodies keep their promises,” said the hunger strikers.
With the launch of this hunger strike, TYC hopes to appeal to the EU, UN, world governments and NGOs to immediately fulfill the promises made by them during the earlier TYC hunger strikes through a multilateral approach and demand that China give immediate access to governments, international organizations and the media to travel in Tibet to learn about the true situation and aspirations of the local Tibetans. Lastly, to release Tibetan prisoners of conscience including The Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, and Tulku Tenzin Delek, and stop the witch hunts in Tibet that target public intellectuals, religious leaders, poets, musicians and singers and artists.
Tibetans from all over, especially students, planned to take part in the strike. When the event finally began two hours later, Tenzin Norsang, TYC Joint Secretary explained the reason for the delay was the police’s preventive measures of barring and surrounding major areas, thus stopping a large number of Tibetans from participating.
The former chief minister of the Indian state of Uttrakhand, which shares borders with Tibet, assured the Tibetans that as long as the Brahmaputra River flows down form Tibet to India, “The cause of Tibet will be upheld and truth shall prevail.” Also present were Aasha Reddy, an ardent supporter of Tibet and Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, member of Tibetan parliament.
Tsewang Rigzin, President of TYC, called on Tibetans in exile to heed to the sacrifices and aspirations of Tibetans in Tibet and take active participation in the campaigns being led by exile groups. He also urged US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to raise the issue of Tibet with Chinese leaders during her two-day Beijing visit beginning on August 4.
TYC Vice-President Dhondup Lhadar, who fasted for the second time, said that fasting was “one of the most effective means of non-violent protests.” Hunger striker, Jigme Shoipa shared that it is “his turn (now) to make the sacrifice and is (thus) here for the indefinite hunger strike.”
However, later in the day reports came in that the three Tibetan hunger strikers were detained by Indian authorities. They were forcibly removed from Jantar Mantar, sometime around 8:30 pm IST. The police cited due to the Chinese Defence Minister, Liang Guanglie, visit to India, for security reasons they were begin detained at the Connaught Place police station. Authorities reinforced that the three would be released in the morning.
“Despite our repeated appeals, the police maintained that the hunger strike was a security risk to the on-going visit by the Chinese Defence Minister,” Norsang said.
Liang Guanglie arrived in India on Sunday, September 2, on a four-day visit from Sri Lanka with a 23-member delegation.
It is uncertain whether the fast will continue, although the hunger strikers and TYC were adamant about the protest going on.
The first day of the strike ended with a protest march against the visit of Liang Guanglie to India.
TYC has also called for a ‘Global Day of Protest’ on September 18 to appeal to the UN to “immediately intervene and pressure China to douse the fiery protests inside Tibet.”
The Tibetan Youth Congress also urged Tibetans and supporters to take part in a ‘Global Day of Action’ on September 24 by contacting the UN, EU, world leaders and parliamentarians through email, phone and fax for concrete support to resolve the issue of Tibet.