Australian Politicians Defy China’s Pressure, Join Tibetans in Commemoration

More than 250 Tibetans and Tibet supporters from across Australia gathered in Canberra for the 50th Anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising on 10 March.

MPs and Senators from the major political parties took to the stage on the lawns of Parliament House to speak passionately in support Tibetans’ right to genuine autonomy and in condemnation of China’s intensifying crackdown.

Michael Danby MP, Chair of the Australian All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, was officially deputed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to receive a letter from the leaders of Australia’s Tibetan communities on his behalf. The letter appealed for stronger support from the Australian Government and urged the Prime Minister to spearhead a new multilateral effort for Tibet and to press the Chinese leadership to negotiate sincerely on Tibet’s future.

Read the letter from the Tibetan Community.

Mr. Danby was undeterred by a written request from the Chinese Ambassador to not speak at the event, retorting that “China has to understand the democratic norms of Australia”.

“No self-respecting MP would listen to a letter like this and not turn up to some political event because an ambassador of another country told him.”

In a lengthy and impassioned speech Senator Bob Brown, long time Tibet supporter and friend of His Holiness, called on the Prime Minister to declare the widespread Australian support for Tibetan autonomy. “What we need is political leaders…who have got the gumption to reflect Australians’ call to the Chinese dictators to give Tibet back its freedom, its peace and its rights.”

From Parliament House the group marched to the nearby Chinese Embassy for an emotionally charged demonstration condemning China’s worsening human rights abuses in Tibet.

“Today is a day to celebrate the strength of the Tibetan people and their perseverance, and to commit ourselves to continuing the struggle,” said Tibetan community spokesman Tsewang Thupten.

“We are also commemorating the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans and millions who are still under the Chinese occupation.”