By Tenzin Wangmo
Tibetans unfurl 40 foot "Xi Jinping: Tibet Will Be Free" ballon banner at Marriot Hotel in Los Angeles while US government officials meet with Xi Jinping.
Los Angeles, CA: Carrying signs and chanting “Tibet will be free,” Tibetans and supporters from San Francisco and Los Angeles trailed China’s future President Xi Jinping at every location he visited during his first official visit to the United States.
“Xi Jinping is here representing a regime that is right now engaged in an-all out vicious assault on the Tibetan people,” said Tenzin Tselha, of the Students for a Free Tibet. “As a Tibetan –American, I demand that our leaders stand up for the values Americans and Californians care about most - freedom, democracy and basic human rights - and urge China to stop its bloody crackdown.”
While Vice President Xi Jinping was visiting Los Angeles reports stated that Losang Gyatso, age 19, self-immolated in Ngaba town in eastern Tibet at 2:30pm Beijing Standard Time on February 13. Twenty-three Tibetans have now set fire to themselves in Tibet since 2009, 10 since January 2012, in an unprecedented show of defiance to Chinese rule. In an effort to stop news of the unrest reaching the world after security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters calling for Tibetan freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese government has sealed Tibet off to foreigners and journalists.
Over 400 Tibet activists protested on Thursday and Friday with approximately 150 people traveling in buses from San Francisco Bay Area. On Thursday, one Tibetan activist and two Tibet supporters disrupted Xi Jinping’s business delegation meeting at ChinaMart in Los Angeles. Giovanni Vassallo, President of the Bay Area Friends of Tibet grabbed the mic and started shouting “Free Tibet” and “Human Rights over trade,” while Bonnie McCalla recorded the action.
Vasallo was taken away by security forces and arrested for interrupting the business delegates meeting.
“The Chinese government wants the world to believe this new generation of leaders are more open and democratic, when nothing could be further from the truth,” Vasallo said. “Beijing's ultraviolent rule in Tibet, and abuses against Chinese people, show that China remains a repressive and authoritarian state.”
Similar activities took place Thursday night when Xi Jinping met with Chinese business delegates at the JW Marriot Hotel where he was staying. Students for a Free Tibet board member Yangchen Lhamo and Tenzin Wangmo along with San Francisco Regional Tibet Youth Congress board members Yangchen Dolkar and Tsokyi Choera made an attempt to enter the room where the meeting was being held. As Chinese delegates came out of the room, they raised the Tibetan National flag and started shouting “Xi Jinping - Tibet will be free!”
Video can be viewed here - http://bit.ly/wsyS9t
“Our goal was to show the next Chinese leader that the next generation of Tibetans are more dedicated to our freedom movement than ever and we will never give up,” Lhamo said.
“The Chinese government is using extreme violence against any Tibetan who dares to publicly call for Tibetan freedom, but the more violent they are, the more Tibetans will resist.”
Protest activities included a massive 40 foot-tall balloon banner with the message “Xi Jinping, Tibet Will be Free!”
On Friday, as Jinping met with Vice President Biden, Governor Brown, and other U.S. officials at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live. Tibetans and supporters protested outside the hotel from 8a.m. to 9.p.m.
Tibet protestors met Jinping’s motorcade four times on Friday alone. At one point, the motorcade changed route and headed in the wrong direction on a one-way street. This moment was extremely encouraging for the protestors, as it confirmed that Jinping definitely received the message that Tibetans will never give up.
Around 8 p.m. Friday night, Jinping attended the Lakers game, where he was met yet again with Tibet activists shouting Free Tibet in the stadium as they unfurled the Tibetan National flag.
Tashi Wangden, President of the SFRTYC and Giovanni Vasallo of BAFOT attended the Lakers left the stadium during half time after they were told by security to leave.
Beijing's desperate attempt to maintain absolute control through violent force is exacerbating an already tense situation and only making Tibetans more determined to resist,” said Tashi Namgyal, President of the San Francisco Regional Tibetan Youth Congress.
“China must be pressured by the US government and other world government to immediately reduce the tensions, dismantle the checkpoints, withdraw the troops, and respect Tibetans’ basic rights,” he said.
The chilling images and reports coming out of Tibet of Chinese police viciously beating unarmed Tibetans have moved the world to action. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a Senate resolution expressing deep concern about the current situation in Tibet and steadfast support for the Tibetan people. Just a week before the senate resolution, the city of Berkeley in California also unanimously passed a resolution to stand up for Tibet, acknowledging the courage displayed by the Tibetan people in Tibet.
“While Xi Jinping watched the Lakers game for his amusement, Tibetans in Tibet are burning themselves while demanding their freedom” SonTse, Board member of the Tibetan Association of Northern California said. “It’s time for China to raise its game on human rights.”
----Protests jointly organized by Tibetan Association of Southern California and San Francisco Team Tibet (San Francisco Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Association of Northern California, Committee of 100 for Tibet, Bay Area Friends of Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet.)