1998: Fayetteville Honors Tibetans | Street Jazz

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

1998: Fayetteville Honors Tibetans

Posted By on Tue, Dec 30, 2008 at 9:36 AM

Ten years ago, the Fayetteville City Council honored the brave and beleaguered citizens of Tibet For those who may agree with the recent editorial criticizing such “toothless” resolutions, consider Frank Parigi’s words from this article:

“If we do not take the time to speak out now, who will? How can we say that we care about freedom, or the fate of human beings, if we do not try hard to bring an end to this destruction? We may not be able to change anything standing alone here in Fayetteville, but working with the rest of the world, we can change everything.”

This is another excerpt from my book about Fayetteville, “Ozark Mosaic.”

To Break the Chains
Fayetteville Honors Tibetans
Written by Richard S. Drake
 
To some extent, Tibetans have been reduced to passive onlookers to the destruction of their culture and national identity. This situation is guaranteed by a violent clampdown on voices that go against Chinese policies and by a pervasive surveillance and control that creates Tibetan fear and distrust toward other Tibetans. But many people continue to protest openly despite the threat of immediate imprisonment and interrogation under torture. They try to encourage other Tibetans to act according to what they believe. And they appeal to the international community for political support. - Anders Hoejmark Anderson, of the Tibet Support Committee, speaking at the “Social Development: A Tibetan Experience” conference held in Copenhagen, March 9, 1995.
 
On March 10 (the anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army) Fayetteville will join communities across the world in declaring solidarity with the people of Tibet, who have lived under the cruel yoke of Chinese domination for several decades. The resolution (“Fayetteville Tibetan Independence Day”) was introduced by Alderman Randy Zurcher, at the behest of Students for a Free Tibet, a local group which is concerned about conditions in Tibet.
 
Zurcher says, “The most important reason for this resolution is that in one way or another, everyone on earth is connected. If we as Americans sit by while we hear of the atrocities carried out by the Chinese government on Tibet, we are not much better than the oppressors.
 
“On the other hand, if communities around the nation voice their opposition to these atrocities as the Fayetteville City Council has, President Clinton will no doubt get the message that trade must not be separated from human rights.”
 
Like many oppressed peoples, the people of Tibet have a story which is rarely heard amidst the tumult of a loud, fast-moving world, especially since China has been so adept at silencing critics of its Tibetan domination (including pressure on movie studios who would present the truth). But if the story is not heard by many more, and soon, there may be no one left to tell their story. Many feel that Tibet, a small country with a culture going back over 3,000 years, is in very real danger of extinction.
 
As Frank Parigi, of the Fayetteville-based group, Students for a Free Tibet, says, “Tibet is one of the worst examples of human rights abuses in the world today. It is a people and a culture enduring deliberate genocidal attack by the People's Republic of China.”
 
So far, the Tibetan people and their leader, the Dalai Lama, have relied upon diplomacy and nonviolent measures in their struggle for freedom. Unlike other oppressed peoples, they have not resorted to the use of violence and terrorism, in accordance with their Buddhist belief in non-violence.
 
Still, without international intervention, there seems no way to stop what may ultimately be the destruction of a way of life which has withstood so much.
 
Timeline - A journey to Holocaust
 
1949: Tibet is attacked by 35,000 Chinese troops, as China claims (without legal basis) sovereignty over the tiny country.
 
1951: Under what is known as the “17-Point Agreement,” China agreed not to interfere with the existing governmental structures, and further agreed to allow the society to go on as it was. Eastern Tibet saw these promises broken immediately, and in 1959, China turned its back altogether on the agreement.
 
1959: The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and temporal leader, flees the country. 100,000 Tibetans leave as well. The Tibetans rebel against the Chinese. By Chinese accounts, 87,000 Tibetans are killed. By Tibetan accounts, 430,000 are killed during the uprising and the following 15 years of guerilla warfare.
 
1950-1984: It is estimated by many exiles that 260,000 died in prisons and work camps during this period.
 
1998: There are still Tibetans, so desperate to leave a land laid to waste by their Chinese oppressors, who brave the 19,000 ft. Nanga-La Pass, below Mount Everest. But once in Nepal, all too often they are turned over to Chinese authorities. Torture is used on a regular basis against political prisoners. Many of these prisoners are given little food, and forbidden to speak. 3,000 are estimated to have been imprisoned since 1987. Their offenses range from writing letters, distributing leaflets or talking to foreigners about the situation in their country.
 
A majority of prisoners (with sentences averaging seven years) are monks or nuns. The number of female political prisoners has tripled. Independent observers are barred from attending the trials of the accused.
 
And then there were none?
 
China has encouraged many of its people to relocate to Tibet, especially into major urban areas. It is said that in eastern Tibet, Tibetans are outnumbered by three to one. In 1994, China  announced plans for a railway linking China and Tibet. Besides speeding the influx of Chinese immigrants, the railroad project will deplete valuable resources.
 
The official language of Tibet is now Chinese. In public schools, all references to an independent Tibet have been excised.
 
Perhaps 6,000 monasteries and shrines have been destroyed, and after release from prison, nuns are forbidden from rejoining their orders.
 
India is concerned, since there are signs that three nuclear missile sites, along  with 300,000 ground troops, are now located in Tibet.
 
Throwing a Lifeline
 
In Fayetteville, Students for a Free Tibet is one group determined to help make a difference. Member Frank Parigi says, “The primary focus of this organization is to educate people about the Tibetan cause, and to create ways to further the goal of Tibetan independence.”
 
But, he adds, it isn’t all grimness. “Tibet is a very spiritual culture, and since boundless joy is one of the great spiritual treasures a person can receive, Tibetan culture can also be very joyful.”
 
Parigi says that though the official name of the nationwide grassroots organization is “Students for a Free Tibet,” that should not be taken to mean that only students are invited to join. Rather, anyone who wishes to help, or merely learn more about Tibet, is invited.
 
At the Fayetteville city council meeting at which this resolution was introduced, Alderman Donna Pettus pointed out that during the holocaust in Germany, no one made the effort to oppose the terrible mass destruction that the Third Reich was bent upon.

Frank Parigi says, “Today, Tibet is undergoing a holocaust just as horrifying. If we do not take the time to speak out now, who will? How can we say that we care about freedom, or the fate of human beings, if we do not try hard to bring an end to this destruction? We may not be able to change anything standing alone here in Fayetteville, but working with the rest of the world, we can change everything.”

Ozark Gazette - March 9, 1998

rsdrake@nwark.com


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