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28september200911Dharamshala: In remembrance of the demonstration in Lhasa on September 27th 1987, yesterday GuChuSum, the organization of Tibetan ex-political prisoners based in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, held its annual commemoration ceremony.

After preliminary morning chanting and prayers at the stupas that line the back of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama's temple, attendees for the ceremony were treated to a breakfast of sweet rice, Tibetan bread, and milk tea. A drum line from the Tibetan's Children Village (TCV) then played the Tibetan national anthem to commence the ceremony. President of GuChuSum Ngawang Woeber asked the world community and peace-loving supporters to put pressure on China to stop ethnic cleansing and the destruction of the Tibetan language and environment. Aligning Tibetans' plight with that of the ethnic Uighurs, he called for the unconditional end of oppression and release of political prisoners.

28september200913Following President Woeber's speech, Chairman of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile Pemba Tsering, the keynote speaker, addressed the audience. "Speaking of behalf of the Tibetan Parliament, I'd like to compliment the achievements and actions of the ex-political prisoners of the GuChuSum movement and those still under Chinese arrest." Acknowledging the "huge debate" in Chinese between liberals and conservatives, he noted, "Unlike in the times of Chairman Mao and Deng, great changes have taken place in Chinese politics, economics, international relations, and military strategy over the last 22 years. Tibetan NGOs must be aware of these changes in order to stage a new approach for the future survival of the Tibetan struggle."

Chairman Tsering announced the release of two new books, "An Undiscouraged Life," a biography of late political prisoner Shamba Pinso who was imprisoned for 25 years, and "An Analysis of Darkness in Tibet for Fifty Years," about the Tibetan environment and modern educational policy under Chinese oppression, both published by GuChuSum. He praised the organization and all honorable work it has done.

Each syllable of the name GuChuSum symbolizes a month with a day of significance in the Tibetan freedom movement, all related to political protests. "Gu" (Tibetan for the number nine and shorthand for September) represents the uprising of September 27, 1987. Six days earlier, His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented his Five Point Peace Plan to the UN, which called for the return of fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms to Tibetans. China responded by categorically denying his requests and conducting mass demonstrations in Lhasa.

28september200912On the morning of September 27th, 21 monks from Drepung Monastery, bearing illegal hand-drawn Tibetan flags, began shouting pro-independence slogans "Tibet is Independent" and "Long Live the Dalai Lama" while circumambulating the Barkhor. Other Tibetans joined them, and after only a few circuits the number of demonstrators had swelled to nearly a thousand. They were soon met by approximately 200 Public Security Bureau officers, however, who immediately arrested the original 21 monks along with 9 lay Tibetans. The crowd was disbanded, and the arrested were ultimately transported to Lhasa Gutsa detention center. While they day's conflict ended without violence, the protest is considered to be of great significant in the Tibetan freedom movement; it was the first political demonstration in the capital city since the Lhasa Uprising of 1959, and catalyst of many others soon to follow.

To conclude the morning's service, those in attendance were encouraged to participate in tsampa tossing, an offering of good tidings and congratulations. Later in the day, GuChuSum volunteers collected signatures for petitions calling for the immediate release of Tibetan political prisoners from Chinese prisons and detention centers, and held a candlelight vigil that ended back at the Dalai Lama's temple.