Taipei, March 3 (CNA) Tibetan and human rights organizations will march through the streets of Taipei on Sunday afternoon to show their solidarity with Tibetans and other minority groups who they said are facing oppression in China.
The march, held annually in Taipei in early March since 2004, was originally intended to commemorate those who died during the Tibetan uprising against the Chinese communist rule that began on March 10, 1959.
It has grown over the years in terms of its size and agenda, according to organizers, with this year’s event also meant to show support for the people of Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
At a press conference outside the Legislative Yuan on Friday, Kelsang Gyaltsen Bawa, a representative of the Tibetan government in exile to Taiwan, urged the people of Taiwan to learn lessons from those oppressed by the Chinese government.
Taiwan is a beacon of democracy and it must not go down the same path as Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, said Kelsang Gyaltsen, who heads the Tibet Religious Foundation of H.H. the Dalai Lama.
According to Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet in 1950 and forced Tibetans to agree to the Seventeen Point Agreement the following year.
However, Beijing has since breached clauses in the agreement that said religion and customs should be respected, by rolling out a series of policies aimed at fundamentally changing Tibet’s systems, the representative said.
These changes eventually led to the uprising of Tibetans against the Chinese government in March 1959, he said.
The protesters were violently cracked down by the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso was forced to flee to India, where he later formed a Tibetan government in exile.
Kelsang Gyaltsen said the situation in Tibet was even worse today, as Tibetans under the control of China’s leader Xi Jinping are facing the annihilation of their culture.
He cited a United Nations report as saying that 1 million Tibetan children had been taken away from their families and placed in residential schools as part of Beijing’s efforts to enforce cultural, religious and linguistic assimilation.
He went on to say that Hong Kong faced similar situations, with its civil liberty and autonomy seriously encroached upon in the years following the 1997 handover from the United Kingdom.
Tashi Tsering, head of the Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association, expressed gratitude to thousands of Taiwanese who had joined the march in Taipei after he and six other Taiwan-based Tibetans started it 20 years ago.
The 6 million Tibetans who are “suffering” in Tibet do not have the freedom to take to the streets or defend their faith and customs, Tsering said.
That is why at least 150 Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation, he said, adding that they were calling for freedoms at home by “abandoning their own bodies.”
According to the organizers, a procession will assemble at Exit 2 of MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station in Taipei at 1 p.m. on Sunday. It will set out at 2 p.m., marching through Section 4 of Zhongxiao E. Road and Songren Road before arriving at the shopping area on Songshou Road.
The procession will continue marching on Songshou Road, passing Songzhi Road and Section 5 of Xinyi Road and reaching the Taipei City government building on Shifu Road.
Sunday’s march is organized by the Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association, the Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan, in partnership with more than a dozen rights groups, such as the Taiwan Labor Front, Taiwan Association for Human Rights and Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy.
The groups will also organize a rally at Liberty Square next Friday evening to observe the Tibetan Uprising Day on March 10.