The welcome of 2139, the Tibetan Year of the Water Dragon, was a mournful affair, both in Tibet and across the global community.
Defiantly, the British diaspora chose to stand shoulder to shoulder with those suffering in their homeland. Although Tibetans were to resist New Year celebrations and observe a period of mourning for those suffering in a year of self-immolations and unrest in Tibet, the British community gathered in London with a series of prayers, speeches, traditional music, pledges, and peaceful protest.
Students for a Free Tibet UK highlighted the positive use of Losar as a tool in exile: a tool to get peoples' attention to the Tibet issue, a method for Tibetans inside to defy the Chinese authority, and as a tool for Tibetans living around the world to be themselves and celebrate our existence.
"Today is Losar, Tibetan New Year, but instead of celebrating, we are here in front of the Chinese embassy" highlighted Phuntsog, a Tibetan student in his twenties. "We are standing against the Chinese rule of Tibet, and in solidarity with Tibetans who have self-immolated. We want to strongly give this message to China - allow media and the United Nations in Tibet, end the crackdown; give Tibetans basic human rights".
Prayers were led by esteemed Buddhist monk Geshe Tashi, marking the tragic loss of life in Tibet, which has witnessed at least 16 deaths from the desperate acts of self-immolation since March last year alone.
Representative of the Dalai Lama in the UK, Thubten Samdup, also gave a moving speech to a crowd of one-hundred, stating the importance of dialogue with China, despite repression, adding:
"Our struggle is never going to be a violent one. One day it will prevail, not only for us, but our children and their children. I appeal to all of you not to despair."
Traditional Tibetan singing, accompanied by skilled musicians, cheered the mood. Tibetans dressed in traditional chubas, held banners, and waved the national flag; which is banned under Chinese rule. Obviously frustrated and embarrassed at the spectacle outside the Chinese embassy however, a member of the Chinese assemblage who was stood near the open doorway of the embassy, swore at the grieving protesters, leading to a rush of around forty furious Tibetans gathering outside the entrance. Police immediately removed the provocateur, and a large delegation of constables, along with around seven police vehicles, surrounded the protesters, who remained peaceful.
Tibetans in Tibet marked the New Year quietly amid a heavy security presence by Chinese armed forces in major towns and cities. Tensions are expected to remain high amid the run-up to March the 10th, the anniversary of the 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, which witnessed the Dalai Lama's escape into exile.
Unlike the colourful and widely celebrated Chinese New Year's celebrations in Britain, Tibetans have marked their traditional New Year with grief and anguish. As the world turns a blind eye to the unfolding human rights crisis in Tibet, global resistance continues. February 22nd, marked the end of a tragic year for Tibetans in Tibet. The year of the Water Dragon must surely offer a brighter future.