Demonstrators march to consulate
By Deanese Williams-Harris and Peter Mueller
Chicago Tribune reporters
As China celebrated the opening day of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, more than 500 protesters marched through the streets of Chicago against the country's 57-year occupation of Tibet.
Carrying makeshift black coffins and Tibetan flags, the group marched from Water Tower Place to the Chinese Consulate at 100 W. Erie St. shouting "Shame on China." Many supporters said Friday that Tibet's cries for freedom are ignored because of economics.
"We are here to let the world know that they are feeding a sleeping giant," said Jigme Norbu, a nephew of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader. "By 2020, China will be the superpower and if the world doesn't wake up, one day even America will be under its rule."
Norbu asked people to boycott products made in China and spoke about recent dangers of such products including toys and medicine.
Norbu was part of a group of 15 core protesters who started a 180-mile walk July 25 in Madison, Wis., after the Dalai Lama finished a session of teachings in the Wisconsin capital. The walk ended at the Chinese Consulate Friday.
The protest was largely peaceful, but police arrested a man who stormed into the crowd while holding up a picture as he yelled repeatedly in Chinese.
Demonstrators said the man was yelling "Long live the Chinese." Someone in the crowd snatched the photo from the man's hands but before a scuffled ensued, police arrested Lian Run Xiong, 20. He was charged with disorderly conduct, said police spokeswoman JoAnn Taylor.
Dozens of police officers on foot and horseback monitored the protesters as they prayed and chanted while sitting in the streets.
Pema Chinyam, 16, a student from Minnesota, said she hopes the protest will shed light on human rights violations against the Tibetan people.
"The occupation of Tibet is brutal," she said. "Not only are they imprisoning and killing innocent people, they are trying to destroy our culture."
Palden Gyatso, 77, a monk who spent 33 years in a Chinese prison, came out to speak to the crowd. Gyatso urged the protesters to follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama and take the middle path.
"The Dalai Lama's offer of full autonomy for Tibet is a good offer for the Chinese government. Now it is time to listen to his holiness and solve the situation," Gyatso said. "We have no military, but power. Our calm will prevail."
The group's organizer, Larry Gerstein, read a list of demands on a loudspeaker aimed at the consulate.
They included: withdrawal of troops from Tibet, release of political prisoners and religious freedom for Tibetans.
Consular officials did not respond to calls Friday.