(<- Previous Report) June 14th
Throughout the course of the entire march the walkers only made two wrong turns: one a few weeks ago in Milford, New York, and one today while trying to find the path across the George Washington Bridge.
The correct path was eventually found and the bridge crossing was punctuated by early morning traffic beeps and honks, thumbs up and waving hands.
The walk, now consisting of hundreds of people, wound its way through Central Park...
...and blocked traffic in Manhattan.
After navigating twelve miles of hot city street the walk ended across the street from the United Nations. A small stage was set with a huge Tibetan flag for a backdrop and representatives of all the groups involved held their flags and banners.
Dawa Tsering, head of the Office of Tibet in New York City and Representative of His Holiness to the United States, brought all the walkers to the stage and then gave the following speech:
"On behalf of the Office of Tibet and myself I would like to thank everybody for participating in this last day of the independence march from Toronto to New York. Particularly I would like to say a hearty thank you to Professor Jigme Norbu Rinpoche and his other colleagues who have started this long march from Toronto in March 10th and has now ended on the 14th of June, today. They have spent their time for more than 90 days to do this work, and have covered hundreds of miles. Considering the age of Jigme Norbu and the other elderly people on this march it really is a remarkable effort and self sacrifice of their time.
On the 25th of May in upstate New York I was there, and His Holiness appreciated very much their effort. Also, in Los Angeles I was in the Tibetan community audience with His Holiness and He mentioned about the very good effort taken by professor Norbu and other walkers. So, this has been personally blessed by His Holiness and this I want to make known to you.
Tibet has a recorded history of more than two thousand years living independently from any outside occupation. We had our own kings, our own Lamas as rulers, but we have never in our history had any Chinese dynasty -- there isn't any trace of their ruling over Tibet. We had our own national flag, our own postal systems, our own currency, our own rulers, our own country, our own nation. That is why it is our legitimate right to fight for the independence of Tibet.
Also, I would like to make clear to the participants here, that sometimes you may hear that there are some groups of Tibetans who take this kind of stand on the Tibetan issue. On the other side people say that His Holiness is taking another step on the Tibetan issue. Well, as I said, it is the legitimate right of the Tibetan people to speak the voice to regain Tibetan independence. We are in a free country and we have, in the Tibetan community, a democratic free society, so it is the wish of the people to express their views and whatever sort of activities they want to launch it is up to them. Well, on His Holiness's side, as you all know, we have taken a number of steps to negotiate with the Chinese on this long standing Tibetan problem. So far, as you know, we have not received from the Chinese side an encouraging response despite many considerate gestures shown by His Holiness and the Tibetan government in exile. So, I think that these kind of activities are appropriate, and perhaps, nobody knows, we will have to go for the worst one day. So, I would like to say to the Chinese, it is high time that the voice of His Holiness The Dalai Lama should be heard. Otherwise the Tibetan people will get more frustrated on this long standing issue and the final outcome may not be in the interest of the Chinese people, as well as the Tibetans.
So, we have these different types of movements from different Tibet support groups in this country. Also, I am very happy that so many people have joined in from Canada and many have just arrived from California after His Holiness's visit. So many people from different groups are here at this rally. This is a very good thing. Thank you to you all.
Now, I would like to mention to the support groups and the Tibetans who are launching this type of activity that in the future we should discuss more so that we have a national coordinated activity in this part of the world so that our movement can be more effective."
Dawa Tsering presented all the walkers with katas.
"I'm standing here today, and we are all gathered together asking to stop the killing in Tibet. Just this morning I walked across the bridge and my friends informed me that recently, maybe two or three days ago, in Shigaste the Chinese arrested over 50 people. I don't know exactly the numbers but executed 10. This is very sad -- those people are lost. I think we should be silent for a minute please.
I think the Chinese government are not really human beings. They are worse than ghosts, I think, I cannot stay with these guys so I left Tibet. I came to the United States, and I think I'm very lucky I found this wonderful place with freedom and everything. In my life I have made many mistakes, but coming to this country is not a mistake.
Because I'm from Tibet and I am Tibetan I have a responsibility. My brothers and sisters in Tibet are dying and being killed. Anyone the Chinese want to put in jail they can put in jail. Anyone they want to execute they can execute. For these reasons I felt that I must leave Tibet and inform the world. This walk for me is like a picnic. Everyday I go out and go for a walk and joke and laugh and eat nice food, but my walkers who organized this and prepared for everyday, how many miles, where we were going to stop -- they worked day and night nonstop. I am thankful for them.
I think independence for Tibet is most important. Tibet must belong to Tibetans. I have one reason and maybe you all agree or not, but look, His Holiness choose the Panchen Lama. He recognized Gendhun Choekyi Nyima and when He announced this the Chinese took him away. Why? Chinese not believe any religion. Why did they take the Panchen Lama? Because the Panchen Lama is our Buddhist way and we are devoted to Him. This is a simple reason why Tibet must be independent. If not then we always will have problems.
I have been waiting for that for a long time. Please say it louder!
Following his speech, Thubten Jigme Norbu cut one of the four small stars out of the Chinese flag.
Larry Gerstein, Director of ITIM, explained the reason for the flag cutting ceremony.
"On October 1, 1949 the PRC was founded and this flag behind me was introduced. For those of you who don't know about this flag this large star stands for the Han people. The four smaller stars, one of which has been removed, stand for Tibet, Eastern Turkistan, Southern Mongolia and Manchuria. You should realize that this particular flag was introduced before the invasion of Tibet or Eastern Turkistan was completed. So, the PRC had in its mind that it was going to overthrow these countries when it introduced this flag. We are here today to tell the truth about this flag and these four small stars do not belong in this flag. We have no problems with the large star. Our problem is with the smaller stars. As Taktser Rinpoche said earlier, we cut these stars out not with anger, not with revenge, but with respect, compassion, justice and wisdom and the desire to tell the truth about this symbol.
You saw Taktser Rinpoche cut a star out of this flag. What you'll see now are representatives of Eastern Turkistan and Southern Mongolia cut a star out of the flag. Unfortunately, we have searched for months now, and have not been able to find a Manchurian freedom movement. If you know of any Manchurian freedom movement contact us. Apparently, the Manchus have been totally absorbed by the PRC. We will cut a star out for the Manchurians in respect for those people who have died wanting to preserve their country. A Taiwanese individual will do this for us."
Erkhtemtsel Borjigin of the Inner Mongolian People's Party spoke and cut out the star for the Southern Mongolians.
"Today, as we review the past 50 years of Chinese communist occupation of Inner Mongolia, we Inner Mongols have not seen one day of self-government. Furthermore, the ecology of Inner Mongolia has suffered great destruction, and Mongol ethnic identity is on the verge of extinction. The Chinese colonialists have mounted a policy of ethnic annihilation, and they have transferred 20 million Chinese peasants from other provinces of China into Inner Mongolia. Fifty years ago, the population of Inner Mongolia was 80% Mongol. In 1996, it was only 14% Mongol. We have become a minority in our own lands. The rampant farming of our grasslands has turned 150,000 square kilometers of pastures into desert. More than 1,500 Buddhist temples and memorials have been destroyed, and more than 600,000 Mongols have been killed or maimed through campaigns of ethnic violence directed against the Mongols."
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the plight of my people. Please lend us your moral support. Now on behalf of the Mongols of China, I will remove one more star from the flag of the PRC, so that the world will know that we Mongols do not belong to China."
Anwar Yusuf, president of the Eastern Turkistan Center, spoke and cut out one star.
"I thank you for the opportunity to be here today at this important event. I am pleased to speak to the international community about a part of the world they usually don't hear of -- the part of the world that is my homeland: Eastern Turkistan. It is known to Chinese as Xinjiang province. And I am pleased to stand with others who call out for an end to Chinese occupation and repression of Tibet and Mongolia. And to stand with Taiwanese who also seek independence."
"Today, Eastern Turkistan is one of the poorest parts of China. This is ironic since the land is rich with natural resources including uranium, platinum, gold, diamonds, iron and silver. Geologists estimate that the province contains 1600 billion tons of coal. One third of China's oil reserves are believed to be within Eastern Turkistan. In 1994, the Washington Post reported that "oil in China's Tarim Basin (the southern part of Eastern Turkistan) may contain nearly as much crude as Saudi Arabia."
China's desire to exploit Eastern Turkistan's natural resources has been matched only by its desire to use the land as an environmental dumping ground. Most devastating has been China's nuclear testing program, centered at Lop Nor region has rates of cancer far higher than the rest of China.
All these are truths about my homeland that China does not want known. Yet, we who believe in the future of Eastern Turkistan believe these truths will be known, and that Chinese rule of our land will end."
For an ailing Peter Chang from World United for Formosa Independence, Chong-Hi Chhoa read his speech and cut out the star.
"Many thanks to Dr. Gerstein and Prof. Norbu for organizing this wonderful "Independence March." As we know the purpose of this long march is to demand Tibetan Independence. This is why we are here to unequivocally support the Tibetan Independence. Yes, we also come here to support East Turkistan, Southern Mogolian, and Taiwan Independence.
Tibet, East Turkistan, or Southern Mongolia is an independent sovereign country under illegal occupation by China. Taiwan too is an independent sovereign country, and Taiwan has never been ruled by the Communist government in China for even a single day. However, China claims Taiwan is a renegade province and constantly threatens and intimidates Taiwan. The political future of these countries can only be decided, not by China or anyone else, but by the respective peoples of Tibet, East Turkistan, Southern Mongolia and Taiwan. We call upon the international community to recognize these countries' sovereignty and to respect their peoples' rights to pursue an independent country."
While other speeches continued, the four representatives of Tibet, Southern Mongolia, Eastern Turkistan and Taiwan delivered the cut out stars and the rightful flags of their countries to headquarters of the president of the United Nations General Assembly. Of course the doors were locked and the gate was chained shut, so the flags were neatly folded, the stars lain on top, and where slipped between the gate and the front door.
Next, the representatives drove to the PRC Mission to tell them that if they want to fly a PRC flag that they should fly the flag without the smaller stars.
Of course, once again, the doors where locked, but there were definitely people inside choosing to ignore the ringing doorbell. Anwar Yusuf held the flag in front of the video camera outside the door and explained, "Here is your flag. You may notice that we've made some adjustments to it."
Finally it was decided that the flag would be left hanging from the outside door handle. After doing so, the representatives got into their car, drove around the block once and the flag was gone. It is now in the PRC's hands. The walk is over, and the message has been delivered.
Tibet Independence Movement