London: - Anyone who was on Facebook and has links to the Tibetan cause will have seen the petition on Avaaz that was being shared and signed all around the world last month. While it reached a hugely impressive million signature it was hollow to this editor. While a million people have taken to social media and signed the petition it does not effect Tibet in the long run and in fact it highlights what is going wrong with the Tibetan cause.
A million signatures does not equate to a million people on the streets speaking up for those who cannot speak out. Nor does it represent a million people willing to take to the streets in the future because of it. The petition itself is highly simple in it signing, making it easy yes, but it's ease has resulted in it's number. I tweeted the fact that it only took one minute to fill in, that was the selling point.
The undeniable fact is that this petition failed in it's aims. It hoped to get the United Nations' members to vote no to allowing China into it's Human Rights Council and to get the media's attention. While the petition reached its million the UN did not take note, it almost unanimously voted in favour of letting China join the council. China got more votes to join the Human Rights Council than France and the UK did when they attempted entry in the past. China received 176 of 192 votes and all they needed was 97. The media also took little notice showing the steadfast stance that most media outlets take when it comes to China and Tibet.
The thing that most worries me is the loss of focus in the Tibetan cause created by the sheer volume of Tibetan organisations, who for the most part sing from the same hymn sheet in the aim for increasing well-being for Tibetans. However, a new campaign by some Tibetan organisation aiming to stop Intercontinental building a hotel in Lhasa really drives home this loss of focus.
We as Tibetan supporters are become less in numbers, it is a simple fact. The reason for this is to me because of campaigns such as these, focussing less on the plight of Tibetans who need our help and more on big business taking advantage of the opportunity to make money. There will always be companies such as Intercontinental who will aim to profit from loss, it's sadly in human nature. For an outsider going on to Free Tibet's website or picking up leaflets printed by Students for a Free Tibet and seeing information about Intercontinental makes me mad at the company not sympathetic for the Tibetan cause.
The self-immolations that have left us all shaken have been shied away from by NGO's as they see it as a too delicate topic, but the 124 who took such a sacrifice did it for the Tibetan cause and using their names and faces is a way of remembering them and honouring their dying wish. They died striving for basic freedoms in Tibet not to stop someone putting up a hotel. Putting the opinions of whether self-immolations are ethical or not surely hiding them from history is a worse act?
Media all around the world printed about the immolations, with the names and faces of those who died for the Tibetan cause for all to see and learn about. It is not the big companies that will make someone who does not know about Tibet stop and ask questions but the face of Lobsang Kalsang or the many others who we have lost. The personal story of one has always had a greater effect than just a number. We can relate to Palden Choetso; she had a mother and a father, she had dreams and inspirations, she had a smile, a laugh.
Personally as a journalist, someone who is suppose to be unaffected by the world unfurling and failing us, I admit that when I lie in bed at night I see the faces of those who have died in such a painful and horrific manner. I think of what led them to drinking gasoline and stepping into the excruciating last minutes of their lives. I know that this effects everyone in the Tibetan community and I also know that by using their names and faces we can keep their memories and aspirations for Tibet alive.