Wearing a helmet with a small Tibetan flag on it, while carrying photographs of those who died for the Tibetan cause, Amnesty International Taiwan board member Tashi Tsering, an Indian-born Tibetan-Taiwanese, launched his “Cycling for a Free Tibet” campaign in Taipei to raise public awareness of Tibet and remind President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of his promise to take an interest in the state of human rights in Tibet.
“There are 6 million Tibetans who are living as if they are trapped in a small warehouse, peeping out through a small window to see if there’s any help or support out there. We should show them that we’re out here for them,” Tashi said during a short break in Liberty Square in Taipei before continuing on his cycling campaign.
“I only have one mouth, but I should speak for all 6 million suffering Tibetans,” he added.
Since the end of last month, Tashi has cycled the streets of Taipei two days a week, carrying the Tibetan flag, photos of Tibetans who died for the cause and a placard listing the Chinese government’s human rights violations against Tibetans.
Tashi has targeted sites with political significance and tourist importance in his cycling campaign, including the Presidential Office, the Legislative Yuan, Taipei 101 and the National Palace Museum.
“I want to tell tourists from around the world — especially those from China — what’s really happening in Tibet under Chinese rule,” Tashi said. “I also want to remind Ma, who promised during the 2008 presidential campaign that he would support human rights in Tibet, yet has not done or said anything about it since being elected.”
“He even refused to meet with the Dalai Lama when His Holiness visited in 2009,” Tashi added.
Although Tashi’s cycling campaign has become a routine, the Presidential Office and police seemed more cautious yesterday, after several of Tashi’s friends said on Facebook they would join his cycling campaign.
Tashi said the Presidential Office’s security department and the local police station called him the day before and yesterday morning at 6am, asking for his schedule and where he planned to cycle yesterday, while also telling him not to stop or shout slogans in front of the Presidential Office.
A man who claimed to be a security officer from the Presidential Office showed up when Tashi and his friends were near Taipei Railway Station, and left after confirming that they were only four people and not a crowd.
Despite have attracted the attention of the government, Tashi said he was happy when a Chinese tourist gave him a thumbs-up during a pause at Liberty Square, though the man was apparently told by the tour leader not to do so.
“I was also very touched one time, when a Chinese tourist came back to shake my hand after all the others in his group got on the bus,” Tashi said. “I think that’s a gesture of support, and I believe that one day, China will change.”
Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Tsai Chi-hsun (蔡季勳), who accompanied Tashi yesterday, criticized the government’s actions towards a simple and peaceful “cycling campaign” as “inappropriate,” calling on the government to respect the universal right to freedom of expression.