Away from home: Free Tibet marchers pass through Oakland

By Lindsay Carroll

About 130 people marched through Oakland today to protest the treatment of occupied Tibet by the… About 130 people marched through Oakland today to protest the treatment of occupied Tibet by the Chinese government.

Most of the group members were from Tibet or of Tibetan descent. They came from advocacy groups in places around the country, like New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and the Midwest.

With bright yellow “Free Tibet” shirts and large Tibetan flags, the group marched from Squirrel Hill and Forbes and Murray avenues, then turned down Craig Street to Fifth Avenue on their way Downtown. They stopped at Soldiers and Sailors for lunch.

The protesters said that in 1950, the Chinese government invaded Tibet, which had declared itself independent in 1913. Since, they said that the Chinese have oppressed Tibetan culture and resisted protest.

Tsering Wangdi, who came to Philadelphia from Tibet in 1999, said that people in the region are not allowed to keep pictures of the Dalai Lama, the in their houses. The Dalai Lama, currently in exile in India, is considered by many Tibetans to be their holy leader.

Wangdi said that Tibetans are experience brutal oppression and that many have been killed or gone missing since Tibet’s major uprising in 1959. He said that it is important that Tibetans in the U.S. make sure to advocate for those in their home country.

Another protester, Tsewang Chokden, said he has found that the march is a good forum to express their view in a way that is peaceful and nonviolent — part of the Tibetan culture’s essence, he said.

He said more people will join them tomorrow as they march the same route Downtown.

“We try to represent the voice of the voiceless people from inside Tibet,” Chokden said.

Chokden’s parents were from Tibet, but he was born and raised in India. He said that few Tibetans in the U.S. are originally from the country.

He said that although New York now has the largest Tibetan immigrant population, his current city of Minneapolis used to be the most welcoming towards them.

Chokden said that the Tibetan people want to be negotiate with the Chinese.

“We are not hardliners,” he said. “We are really flexible.

He said the Dalai Lama says that Tibetans have truth on their side, and that they will work to for change even if they have to do it without the help of larger countries, like the U.S.

“Fifty years is a long time for people, but not for a nation,” Chokden said. “As long as our flame doesn’t die, we can still go on.”

For Sangay Taythi, 27, who serves on the Minnesota chapter of the Tibetan Young Congress, the cause is important for future peace.

“If [our cause] is successful, people will see that nonviolence does work in this century,” Taythi said.

He explained that many movements get a lot of attention because they use terrorism or “strap a bomb to themselves,” but Tibetans want peace and negotiation.

Taythi’s parents fled to India after the uprising. He was born in a refugee camp and immigrated to Minneapolis when he was 13.

He said the Tibetan issue is not just about human rights or freedom, but preserving an identity.

“Someday, we don’t want to be like the dinosaurs. We don’t want people to say, ‘One day, there used to be Tibetans,’” he said.