Tibetans march to mark uprising’s 60th anniversary

  • Participants in the Walk For Tibet begin their march from Amherst Town Hall to Northampton City Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Participants in the Walk For Tibet begin their march from Amherst Town Hall to Northampton City Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Above, Tenzing Kyinzom, a participant in the Walk for Tibet, stands among the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. Below, Participants in the Walk For Tibet begin their march from Amherst Town Hall to Northampton City Hall. JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Thondup Tsering, president of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association, addresses the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Dolma Tsering, a participant in the Walk for Tibet, stands among the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Dolma Tsering and Tenzing Kyinzom, participants in the Walk for Tibet, stand among the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Tenzing Kyinzom, a participant in the Walk for Tibet, stands among the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Participants in the Walk for Tibet gather in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Members of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association stand before the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • State Rep. Mindy Domb stands with members of the Amherst Town Council in front of the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Thondup Tsering, president of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association, addresses the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Thondup Tsering, president of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association, stands among the crowd gathered in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

  • Participants in the Walk for Tibet gather in front of Amherst Town Hall on Sunday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day.  —JACQUELYN VOGHEL

Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2019 7:05:27 PM

AMHERST — Like thousands of Tibetans, Thondup Tsering, president of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association, grew up in exile.

Tsering’s parents worked at a road construction camp high in the Himalayan Mountains — the main source of livelihood for Tibetan refugees at the time — while Tsering lived at the Tibetan Children’s Village, a community for orphaned and destitute refugee children. He would only see his family once every five or seven years, but the Children’s Village became “a second home,” he said, and he grew up with many children in “very similar situations.”

Tsering and his family were among the estimated 100,000-plus Tibetans who fled from Tibet to India over the past six decades, seeking the same refuge that had been given to Tibetans’ spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, following the 1959 Tibetan Uprising.

To commemorate the event that allowed the Dalai Lama to escape to India, where Tibet now operates a government-in-exile, around 65 people took part in a march Sunday, with more gathering on the steps of Town Hall in support, on the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising.

Despite snow and temperatures that were at times below freezing, walkers embarked on a two-and-a-half-hour trek from Town Hall to the Northampton City Hall.

“As people who live in the free world, at least we can do that,” said Tsultrem Kunsang, secretary of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association. “Because the people in Tibet, they don’t have the right to speech, religion … but for us here to sacrifice this one day, we can at least do that.”

On March 10, 1959, thousands of Tibetans surrounded the Dalai Lama’s palace in Lhasa amid fears that the Chinese government planned to abduct the Dalai Lama, who had been invited to a theatrical performance at the Chinese military headquarters.

The Tibetans prevented the Dalai Lama from leaving or being taken from the palace until he was able to flee to India, but many were killed in the uprising.

“Had the Tibetan people not surrounded the palace and rose up against the Chinese … the story of Tibet would have been a closed chapter many years ago,” Tsering said.

“It is due to the bravery and the courage of these brave men and women that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was able to get to India,” he continued, “and today the Tibetan cause is very much alive and in the international spotlight.”

Members of the Amherst Regional Tibetan Association were joined on the Town Hall steps by state Rep. Mindy Domb and members of the Amherst Town Council, while state Sen. Jo Comerford and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern sent messages of support. At Northampton City Hall, the participants were joined by state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa.

“As a community, Amherst is dedicated to human rights,” Domb said from the steps of Town Hall, “but it often takes activists to raise the issues and make us aware of the current struggles, and I stand with you — and I’m so grateful to stand with our Town Council and our town manager and many in our community with you today, and every day, for a free Tibet.”

Around 100 Tibetans live in the Pioneer Valley, according to Tsering, and both Northampton and Amherst declared March 10 Tibet Day alongside the international observance.

While the day brought out a showing of solidarity, the anniversary is also a source of sorrow and frustration for Tibetans, as some in the crowd remarked.

“This is a sad day for me,” said Dolma Tsering, Thondup’s wife. “There are so many Tibetans who are killed.”

“For us, walking from Amherst to Northampton in this weather is nothing compared to Tibetans in Tibet,” she added, citing human rights abuses they suffer.

The Central Tibet Administration reported in 1996 that 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of the Chinese occupation. Since 2009, 153 Tibetans have also self-immolated, Kunsang said as he addressed the crowd, setting themselves on fire in response to human rights abuses for which China has been widely criticized.

Tenzin Tsundue of South Deerfield said Tibetan Uprising Day is “a good day to get to know my people and myself,” as he has never been to Tibet himself due to the strict travel restrictions set in place by China.

Like Tsering, Tsundue’s parents also fled from Tibet to India, wishing to follow the Dalai Lama. Tsundue has heard stories of Tibet and looked at pictures of his family’s homeland, but said that it is frustrating to be unable to visit Tibet himself.

“I’ve always wanted to go there, but the travel restrictions and Chinese policies make it really hard to do so,” he said as he stood in front of Northampton City Hall, holding a sign that read “Stop the Killings in Tibet.”

In response to these travel restrictions, McGovern introduced the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which was signed into law in December. The law restricts Chinese officials responsible for imposing travel restrictions into Tibet from entering the United States.

Tsering continues to visit India about once every two years, always making a point to visit the Tibetan Children’s Village on each return trip. He has never returned to Tibet since his family fled, but hopes to someday.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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