Dozens of Tibetans and their Taiwanese supporters rallied in the pouring rain last night to remember the 94 Tibetans who have self-immolated since March last year in calls for freedom and human rights, as 10 Tibetans began a 49-hour hunger strike in Liberty Square in Taipei.
Although the night was cold and the rain that had fallen all day had caused minor flooding in Liberty Square, dozens of Tibetans and Taiwanese still showed up to take part in the event to remember the Tibetans who died protesting against the Chinese government’s repression of their freedom of religion and expression.
After lighting candles in front of a portrait of the Dalai Lama, Tibetans wearing traditional outfits and headwear with the Tibetan flag printed on it quietly recited Buddhist chants to pray for those who have sacrificed their lives for the Tibetan cause.
“Ninety-four Tibetans have self-immolated — and honestly, I don’t know when it will stop — not for their own personal reasons, but for the well-being of the Tibetan people, the Tibetan culture and our religious traditions,” Regional Tibetan Youth Congress (RTYC) Taiwan president Tenzin Chompel said. “This is the highest form of protest.”
He said the hunger strike in Taiwan was part of a globally coordinated action by Tibetans and supporters of the Tibetan cause ahead of International Human Rights Day, which is tomorrow.
“We are making an urgent call to the international community to pay more attention to the suffering of the Tibetans, and we urge that the UN send an independent delegation to Tibet to investigate human rights violations,” Tenzin Chompel said.
He said that they would launch a 49-hour hunger strike because in the Buddhist culture, a 49-day memorial service is held for the deceased, because Buddhists believe that after death, one’s spirit is lost for 49 days before knowing where to go, and needs guidance from the living.
Dawa Tsering, chairman of the Tibet Religious Foundation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama — the de facto representative office of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Taiwan — said that while many self-immolators have died, it has become the obligation of all Tibetans to carry on their mission.
“We would be ashamed if we forgot about them, and did not carry on their mission,” Dawa Tsering said.
“Letting the world know what they have sacrificed, as well as the suffering of the Tibetans, is the least we can do now,” Dawa Tsering added.
RTYC Taiwan vice president Tenzin Namdak asked Taiwanese supporters to help spread the message and try to persuade the government to show concern for Tibetans.
“How heartless it is if anyone disregards the message that these people tried to deliver with their lives,” he said.