Tibet uprising day in Sydney marks 65 years of Tibetan struggle against China's subjugation

Tibetans and supporters gathered to commemorate the National Uprising Day of Tibet at Martin Place, known as the civic heart of Sydney, NSW, Australia, on March 10, 2024. Photo: TPI

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On March 10th, Tibetans residing in the nearby suburbs of New South Wales, predominantly in Sydney, marked the 65th anniversary of the National Uprising Day against the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the ongoing cultural genocide within the region, with particular concerns for the recent wave of mass arrests in Dege County.

Protesters earnestly urged the international communities, including the Australian government to take decisive action against the persistent human rights violations perpetrated by China over the span of seven enduring decades, emphasising the gravity of the situation as it continued to deteriorate. The rally vehemently condemned China's actions, strongly calling for accountability and justice on behalf of the oppressed.

On this day in 1959, thousands of Tibetans took to the streets of Lhasa, the national capital of Tibet, to directly resist China’s invasion, which had begun from eastern Tibet in 1949. The brutal response to the protest led to the loss of thousands of Tibetan lives, and China never admitted, apologised, or disclosed the numbers of Tibetans killed or disappeared in these events. This forced the top leaders of the Government of Tibet, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to flee to neighbouring India, followed by 80,000 other Tibetan nationals.

This year, the commemoration organisers included several new slogans to demonstrate their strong support and emotional solidarity with the people of Tibet, particularly the Tibetans in Dege County of eastern Tibet, who recently faced severe crackdowns, arbitrary arrests, denial and disrespect of their petitions, and discriminatory reactions purposely shown by the Chinese officials and police forces stationed in the Tibetan local areas, as well as repressive policies imposed by the government of China.

Showing large banners with various slogans and raising colourful national flags of Tibet, shouting slogans with emotional voices and facial expressions marked the commemoration, with a large gathering at Martin Place from 9:30 am to 01:30 pm, featuring speeches by different representatives of organisations, guests, and long-term Tibet supporters.

After the Martin Place event, all protesters lined up, rallied, and walked up to the front of the Chinese Consulate in Sydney while raising banners in the sky, including one reading "We Stand in Solidarity with Protesters in Tibet" and shouting slogans against Chinese repression. The rally carefully coordinated the annual commemoration with the recent mass arrests of Tibetan people and crackdowns by China, occurring separately on February 14, 22, and 23, 2024.

The rallying cries echoed to captivate the attention of the global community and governments are delineated thus: "Long live, Dalai Lama; We will never give up, religious freedom in Tibet; People of the world, support Tibet; Tibet belongs to, Tibetans; Stop destroying, Tibetan monasteries; stop cultural genocide, in Tibet; Wake up, UNO; Release, political prisoners; stop child abuse, in Tibet; We stand with, Tibetans in Tibet; UNO, we want justice! Stop torturing, in Tibet; stop abduction of, Tibetan kids; What do we want, Freedom; When do we want it, Now; Who is the killer, Xi Jinping; Allow media, in Tibet; CCP, stop propaganda; stop colonial boarding schools, in Tibet; Stop involuntary DNA sampling, In Tibet; stop mining, in Tibet".

A statement released on behalf of the Tibetan community that will rally today described the significance of the event, saying, “With each passing year, the Tibetan Uprising Day carries an added sense of urgency as the human rights situation in Chinese-occupied Tibet continues to worsen".

A statement issued on behalf of the Tibetan community, ahead of today's rally, encapsulated the profound significance of the event, asserting, 'with the passage of each year, Tibetan National Uprising Day assumes an increasingly urgent tone, mirroring the escalating deterioration of human rights within Chinese-occupied Tibet'.

"Tibet is not a territory of China; the government of Tibet was established more than 2,000 years before the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party's one-party system. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has employed deception and force to assert its claim over Tibet, which constitutes a violation of United Nations resolutions and international law," Tsering Wangchuk, a former Tibetan official living in Sydney, posted on his social media platform.

"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), China has committed serious violations of basic human rights against the Tibetan people since its occupation of Tibet, repeatedly breaking the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore, China has no place or legitimate right to be a permanent member of the UNSC," the Sydney-based Chushi Gangdruk said in a statement issued on March 10, 2024.

The mass gathering of peaceful protests, not confined to Sydney alone, saw Tibetan communities based in Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, and elsewhere, joined by their supporters, commemorating the 65th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising Day. They vehemently condemned China's ongoing occupation of Tibet and decades-long violations of the basic human rights of the people of Tibet while demonstrating a strong sense of solidarity with those who have endured prolonged suffering, including heavy imprisonment, severe torture, generational abuse, racial discrimination, socioeconomic marginalisation, and political repression intentionally perpetrated by China.

"Because, at its core, the Tibetan nationals in Tibet have never been, are not, and will never be inherently Chinese nationals. Hence, their linguistic, cultural, and religious heritage must be systematically eradicated, and their fundamental essence must be reshaped to align with Chinese language and Chinese communist-characterised ideologies across successive generations, ultimately leading to a state where their self-identity becomes unrecognisable one day. This is a core tenet of Chinese policy", said David, a Tibetan human rights advocate living in Australia.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet, which began in 1949 and was completed in 1959, has resulted in immense suffering for the people of Tibet, with over 1.2 million deaths and the near-complete destruction of Tibet's religious and cultural heritage. Prior to Chinese intervention and subjugation, Tibet existed as an independent Buddhist nation, with a unique cultural identity deeply intertwined with its spiritual practices and connection to the land and people. The continued destruction of monasteries, temples, and sacred texts has not only robbed Tibetans of their religious and linguistic freedom but has also eroded the foundation of their cultural identity and unique bond to their homeland. Religion, language, art, and worldview were all integral aspects of Tibetan life, serving as unifying forces within the community and providing resilience in the face of adversity, not in Lhasa, the national capital of Tibet, in all the three traditional provinces of the nation.