Monks Fast to Protest Tibet Policy


From the quiet prayers of Tibetan monks to the loud chants of "Free Tibet," Swedenborg Chapel was the locus of Tibetan protesters against Chinese President Jiang Zemin's speech on Saturday.

"We are hoping to give Jiang a strong message that people all over the world need freedom and that freedom is a basic human right," said Ngodup Sangpo, one of the organizers of the rally and a member of the Tibetan Association of Boston, which helped stage the event.

A fast involving 30 people accompanied the protest. The fasters included Tibetan monks, members of the Tibetan community in Boston and other supporters of the Tibetan cause. Three people fasted for 48 hours, nine people for 24 hours and 18 people for 12 hours, said Tsering Bhokro, a 48-hour faster.

Many of the fasters said that hunger is a small sacrifice to pay.

"Many political prisoners in Tibet have to go without food for long periods for time, so 48 hours shouldn't be such a big deal for us," said Teddy Chery, a 48-hour faster.


Among the protesters was Dawa Tsering of the Office of Tibet in New York City, a representative of the 14th Dalai Lama.

Tsering, who attended rallies in each East Coast city Jiang visited, said he is still hopeful of a meeting between the Chinese president and the Dalai Lama.

"[The Dalai Lama] will look forward for the future and for negotiating with China for the future of Tibet," Tsering said.

In his speech in Sanders Theatre on Saturday, however, Jiang said he would not agree to meet with the Dalai Lama until the Dalai Lama had renounced his "separatist" intentions.

Protesters at Swedenborg Chapel were particularly concerned with the issue of political prisoners. Many carried signs demanding the freedom of several prominent Tibetans, including the Panchen Lama, another Tibetan religious leader.

The Panchen Lama is six years old and now lives in Beijing, where the Tibetan community claims he is being detained.

"He should be playing outside with other kids now, not living under house arrest in Beijing," said Sangpo.

People attending the rally were not only protesting conditions in Tibet but also conditions in Taiwan, the Chinese government's policy on the death penalty, and labor conditions in China.

Among these protesters were representatives of Amnesty International.

"We are protesting about practices of execution in China," said John R. Osborne, the Northeast regional coordinator of Abolish the Death Penalty, a part of Amnesty International. "We hope that there will be a growing consciousness to stop oppression in China and Tibet."

Members of the Boston International Socialist Organization also attended.

The rally included a large contingent of concerned students form Harvard and other universities in the Boston area.

"If we don't speak out for them, no one else will," said Nancy M. Lynn, an undergraduate at Boston University.

Many protesters felt that although the rally was a relatively small event, it communicated an important message.

"Maybe, if [Jiang] sees all of these protesters, this little bit will help," said Chhuni Cheshatsang, a member of the Tibetan community and a resident of Watertown, Mass.

"We want this protest to make an impression on Jiang and the world in general," Sangpo said.CrimsonRuss J. FleischmanA ROSE OF RESISTANCE: A Tibetan monk was one of many sympathizers and participants in a hunger strike.