Tibetans and supporters marched to Downing Street and then on to the Chinese Embassy remembering the 1959 Tibetan uprising and victims of the brutal repression of the 2008 protests and calling for a free Tibet. London, UK. 12/03/2011
Approaching a thousand people, including many Tibetans, marched to Downing Street and then on to the Chinese Embassy, in their annual commemoration of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, remembering the victims of the brutal repression of the 2008 protests and calling for a free Tibet. London, UK. 12/03/2011
Tibet became an empire around 1500 years ago but through the years had strong links with China, at times being under Chinese domination and at others gaining autonomy. In 1910 the Chinese invaded, deposed the Dalai Lama and established direct rule, but in 1912 the newly formed Republic of China allowed the Dalai Lama to set up an independent Tibet. But in 1950, the People's Liberation Army New invaded Tibet and forced an agreement which re-established Chinese sovereignty but allowed Tibet autonomy under Chinese control.
Following the 1959 Tibetan uprising, in which 87,000 Tibetans were killed, the Dalai Lama and his government fled to India and China took over the country implementing social and political reforms. Following the end of the cultural revolution in China there was some liberalisation of Chinese policies in Tibet, allowing freedom of religio and reubuilding monasteries. But by the end of the 1980s, following protests for independence, the Chinese administration clamped down on protests, often with brutal disregard for human rights, and halted the process of reform.
The marchers formed up by the side of Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, under the plaque commemorating the inaugural meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations held there in 1946. Many of those taking part carried or wore the the Snow Lion or Free Tibet Flag. Used as the Tibetan army flag from 1912 to 1959, it was adopted by the Dalai Lama in exile as a unifying symbol for the country and is now the symbol of the Tibetan independence movement. It is banned in China and Tibet.
At the start the crowd sang the Tibetan national anthem, and the march then moved off past Westminster Abbey and through Parliament Square and then up Whitehall, where it halted outside 10 Downing Street, where a small deputation went in to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the British government to press for an end of human rights abuses in Tibet and to support the claim of the Tibetan people for freedom. I left them at this point to cover another event.
From there the march continued through the West End to the Chinese Embassy in Portland Place, where a short rally was held opposite the embassy.
The commemoration continued later with "an afternoon of Tibetan dance, words, music and food to showcase and celebrate Tibet's unique culture" in Westminster Cathedral Hall.