Students protest China’s occupation of Tibet

By Clayton Norlen

Tibetan Students held a demonstration in the Union Food Court on Thursday to bring attention to what they perceive are human rights violations that the Chinese government commits.

“We’re here being a voice for the people in Tibet who are voiceless,” said Phuntsok Choedon, a junior in mass communication. “Fifty-five years of oppression is enough. We want to begin the dialogue they can’t have.”

The student demonstrators, many of them Tibetan Americans, said that Tibetans are entitled to basic rights such as the freedom of speech and self-expression. Students said the United Nations and the United States should investigate China’s suppression of religious freedom and the recent deaths of protestors who were killed during a military lockdown.

“We don’t want to be selfish enjoying freedom,” said Ihaksam Chiedon, a junior in nursing. “That’s why we’re here demonstrating, so U students know we need their support.”

After the March 14 riots in Tibet, the Chinese government said that 22 people died, while Tibetan exiles say the violence and the harsh crackdown afterward have left nearly 140 people dead.

“We’re just trying to raise awareness,” said Lala Norgyal, a freshman majoring in visual design. “I don’t agree with the violence that has been happening, I agree with the Dalai Lama and nonviolent protest.”

China’s ambassador to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong, said at an environmental conference in Washington this week that his government moved against protesters to defend law and order and not to suppress religious freedom.

“What happened in Tibet is a law-and-order issue,” he said.

In his conversation Wednesday with Hu Jintao, president of China, President Bush called for a “substantive dialogue” with representatives of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans’ spiritual leader who lives in exile in India. He also called for access for journalists and diplomats to Tibet.

Some students at the demonstration said they will be attending a protest in San Francisco on April 8 when the Olympic Torch is in the United States. “We support the players, but I don’t support China hosting the Olympics,” Norgyal said.

Leaders of France and Belgium have warned they might boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing to protest the way the Chinese are dealing with Tibetan protesters.

“China is going to be a major power by hosting the Olympics,” Choedon said. “And if they are a power, they should establish human rights.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

U students protest China’s control over Tibet in the Union building.