As the location for the United Nations Headquarters, East Manhattan is always a highly active epicenter for politics, diplomatic exchanges and conferences, it attracts not only a regular stream of tourists but serves as a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Non-Governmental Organizations, some of whom seem regard the steel and glass edifice as a sacred capital. If that building had the power of voice what infamies and betrayals it could speak of, the abandonment of peoples, the denials of justice and rightful freedom, collaborations and cynical deals, all realized and safely concealed behind the silky assurances of international diplomacy, ratified by Statutes which affirm human rights principles and self-determination. Yet for decades Tibetans (indeed there are many others too) have been callously marginalized, ignored and betrayed, by a UN dominated by the national interests of a presiding cabal, including of course China, that while posturing as a champion of justice and freedom, in reality is a toxic political and economic compromise. It’s most vital mantra is real politic, a sophistry used to justify and advance the commercial, political and military interests of those powerful few seeking to exploit a weaker many. Given such a context of corruption what more appropriate venue then for the disenfranchised and oppressed to gather in protest, beneath that sterile façade on the banks of the East River.
Tibetans know all about the United Nations, having for over six decades appealed, lobbied and informed its various departments, from the dusty streets of Delhi to the avenues of New York and boulevards of Geneva, the cry ‘UNO we want just justice’ has been raised. The latest action sees three Tibetans on an indefinite hunger-strike outside the UN Building, enduring the chill winds of February, minus the relative comfort of any protective awnings, courtesy of the orders of New York’s Police Department. The spirit of determination is undaunted as H.E. 11th Shingza Rinpoche, Mr Dorje Gyalpo and Mr Yeshi Tenzing continue their fast in support of Tibet’s rightful independence and to remind the UN of the genocidal oppression endured by Tibetans, their nation under foreign occupation. What a contrast their values and aspirations present, juxtaposed against the venality, cynicism and perfidy which stalks the marbled corridors of the United Nations. These three Tibetans are powerful symbols of their national cause, representing as they do integrity, justice and a solidarity with the truth. They stand like Titans in a neighborhood characterized by duplicity and political decay, shining light into some very dark places, that the UN would prefer left alone.
Anyone making the trip down to see the Hunger Strike cannot fail to experience the sense of goodness that is present, as Tibetans stand in hope and defiance against a largely corrupted international community, entranced by China’s economic allure and influence. Before leaving the protest yesterday had a chance to speak with a woman who was attending the nearby meeting of the United Nations Commission on The Status of Women, she was genuinely moved to tears by what she saw, the unity of purpose and spirit of determination. “It’s just so wrong on every level” she said, adding “The way Tibet’s being treated by the UN is shameful, and it disturbs me too that at the meetings I am involved with there is no mention of how Tibetan women are being treated by China, like for example its horrendous population control program”.
The Tibetan national emblem snapped in the winds off the river, prayer flags dancing over the UN and three courageous Tibetans committed to their country’s independence, let’s hope such selfless dedication can inspire those within the United Nations and beyond to act with a similar sense of principle and justness.