Why We Must Protest – Part I

Lhadon Tethong, September 11, 2014

Some people have suggested that Tibetans not protest Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to India. Some even say: we can protest all year long but just for now let’s give it a rest. Sadly, this is completely backwards thinking. If you want to stage an effective protest – one that actually has some results/impact – a moment like this is the time to do it.

Aside from our moral obligation to speak out, there are two major reasons we must continue the protests:

The Chinese want nothing more than for our public protests to go away. They find them embarrassing and costly for their political image. We can see this during Chinese leaders visits in foreign countries where they try to cajole and threaten their hosts to have protesters removed or hidden from sight. They have even identified it themselves as a major problem in numerous internal party documents and meetings that have been leaked to the outside world, for example:

From a document leaked in 2001 (https://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/get-involved/action-toolbox/tibet-related-external-propaganda-and-tibetology-work-in-the-new-era):

“During every foreign visit of our leaders, last year, the Dalai clique, with covert incitement and help from western countries as well as Tibet Support Groups, interfered and created disruption through protest rallies. In this way, they gained the highest-level international platform and intervention.”

From doc leaked in 2011 (http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=29687):

“The leaked papers reveal China’s growing concern over its poor international image and specify ways of increasing its diplomatic influence across the globe. The documents propose more stringent ways of preventing critical voices and critical news reports from finding their way to foreign media columns. This includes tightening the reigns on foreign journalists and NGO’s based in China, exerting ‘greater control over the access of Western cultural products to the Chinese market’, and preventing ‘regime enemies from speaking their mind in foreign media’.”

Public protest is one of the main ways we keep Tibet in the news and on the international community’s radar as a problem needing a solution. When we hold public protests around Chinese leaders’ visits to foreign countries we see the Tibetan issue rise to the top of the list of issues discussed in the media and amongst the international community. There might be other major issues on the agenda when Chinese leaders go on tour but we guarantee Tibet gets headlines and attention when we take it to the streets. Our signs, banners and flags, and thus our messaging, makes it into the media and therefore the Tibetan issue is seen by the world as pertinent, relevant and most importantly as a problem demanding a solution.