To mark the passing of fifty years of oppression since the uprising in Lhasa, when Tibetans first grew weary of, and rebelled against Communist dictatorship, Tibet Support Group Grampian held a number of publicity events in Aberdeen.
On Saturday the 7th March 2009, we held a stall in St Nicholas Square, Aberdeen. The focus of this event was the collections of signatures for a petition to Scottish EuroMPs, asking the European Union to urge the Chinese Government to allow an independent delegation into Tibet, and free access to international journalists. It also calls upon EU member states not to send/accept trade delegations with China until the breaches of the UN Human Rights act in Tibet have been investigated and remedied. Signatures for the petition were collected in Edinburgh, Moray and Aberdeen.
Around mid-day the weather unfortunately changed to heavy rain, forcing us to move the stall under shelter. Nevertheless we still managed to attract some interest from umbrella-wielding passersby.After an hour or so the rain let up and we were able to retake our position in the square proper.
The petition gained a total of 332 signatures between this stall and the Losar (Tibetan new year) event. Additionally we received £59.62 in unsolicited donations, which will go towards good causes.
On Tuesday 10th, March, the Aberdeen University Debating Society held a debate entiteld 'THIS HOUSE BELIEVES TIBET SHOULD BE FREE.‘ Some interesting points were put by both For and Against camps. Speaking in favour Martin Mills, Tibet specialist and co-director of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research, underlined the fact that -whatever your political views on the Dalai Lama's government, or on Maoist Communinsm- it has to be admitted that Chinese management of Tibet's economy and infrastructure has been less than successful. This is mainly owing to policies designed for the fertile plains of lowland China being implemented in mountainous Tibet with its poor soil and limited resources. For example the mass planting of wheat (which is known to be an unsuitable crop for high-altitude zones) led to very large numbers of deaths by starvation. As Martin Mills underlined, the singularly unimaginative and inflexible management of Tibet by Beijing is in itself a pressing reason to look at alternatives. Other speakers focused on the human-righs aspects of Beijing's rule, with the lack of understanding of Buddhism by the Communists leading to friction and clashes of ideologies which could have been avoided by way of a more sensitive approach.
Those speaking against the motion had, I feel, much more difficult task, especially as a large part of the audience was made-up of Tibetsupporters. They nevertheless did a remarkably good job. A key point which they reiterated is that human-rights and religious freedoms are a major item of concern thoughout China, not just in Tibet. This is in fact very true, although their argument that this disproves the need to make a 'special case' of Tibet is, I think, a tenuous one.
A Chinese student joined the debate to make the point that his government had, in fact, done a great deal for Tibet, and that Tibetans did in fact enjoy priveleges that ordinary Chinese people did not, for example freedom from taxation. His point was eloquently made, and it was interesting to hear the reasoned and informed views of a Communist supporter on these matter. Even if we don't agree, it is always important to understand the position held by the other side in any matter.
The debate ran for some considerable time, and was both entertaining and informative. Perhaps not surprisingly, the motion was carried by a substantial majority.
On the same day, the 10th, we arranged for the Tibetan flag to be flown from the Aberdeen Town House. It was a fairly windy day, and the flag wrapped itself around the pole on a number of occasions. In fact, it decided to do so just as our official photographer arrived, making a photo at that time impossible. On other occasions it was seen to be flying straight upwards from the horizontal flagpole, defying gravity. Nevertheless, other TSGG members managed to catch some photos at other times in the day when the flag was fully unfurled and displaying its striking colours and design.