Dozens march for Tibet

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 03-12-2023 7:20 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, and representatives of Sen. Ed Markey met with exiled Tibetan leaders in the Pioneer Valley in recent days, expressing support for self-determination for the region, which has been controlled by China for the last 64 years. 

Dozens of Tibetan expatriates of all ages marched from Amherst to Northampton to Easthampton on Friday to mark the anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising of 1959 and protest against Chinese suppression of the region’s people and culture. 

The marchers began at 9 a.m. in front of the Amherst Town Hall, raising a Tibetan flag and chanting a prayer for peace and for the 14th Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who has lived in exile since Chinese military forces took control of the area and forced him to flee. Tibet is currently administered as an autonomous region of The People’s Republic of China. 

The marchers arrived in Northampton around 2:15, raising their flag and chanting “Stop the Killers!” and “Free Tibet,” accusing the Chinese government of torture and genocide of the Tibetan people. 

“Tibet’s national, cultural and religious identity is threatened and manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party,” said Jhamba Dolkar, the vice president of the Regional Tibetan Association of Massachusetts, who spoke in front of demonstrators in Northampton. “Brothers and sisters inside Tibet reserve the right to practice their own religion, the right to have freedom of expression and speech, freedom to follow their own unique culture and freedom to learn and speak their own language.” 

She compared the Tibetan people’s struggle with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, citing the latter example of what can happen when world leaders intervene, while also saying that the same attention has yet to be granted to Tibet. 

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“His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] is one of the most respected and spiritual leaders of the world, and his presence gives comfort for Tibetans and his followers,” she said. “One of his many messages is, never give up.” 

Thondup Tsering, a member of the Tibetan government-in-exile, spoke about the events of March 10, 1959, when an uprising in Tibet against the Chinese government took place over fears that the Dalai Lama’s life was in danger. 

“On this day, let us remember the men and women, and let us make sure their sacrifices are never forgotten,” Tsering said. “For those who support human rights, I think it’s really important to tell you of this struggle.” 

Tsering, along with Tibetan writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue, met with McGovern on Saturday to discuss self-determination for Tibet. A statement from McGovern was read on Friday’s demonstration in Northampton by Koby Gardner-Levine, the congressman’s regional manager for Northampton. 

“People around the world know about Tibet and its history because of persistence and determination such as yours,” the statement said. “Today we stand with you and Tibetans around the world, in your struggle for dignity.”

Alexander MacDougall can be reached at amacdougall@gazettenet.com.

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