The British Disease Hits March 10 Tibetan Uprising Day


What has been so encouraging about this year’s March 10 rallies is the central prominence of banners demanding Bod Rangzen (Tibetan independence) after all it is the heartbeat of Tibet’s true cause, the lifeblood of the hopes and dreams of those brave Tibetans who resist China’s despotic rule. Such a shame therefore that once again, while Tibetans and supporters in New York, Brussels, Vienna, Minnesota, Paris and other cities across India and Europe (as seen in the images in this post) were asserting independence for Tibet, we heard on the streets of London a very different tune was being played.


According to a number of people there instead of offering the Chinese consulate a unified and forceful demand for an independent Tibet a non-Tibetan speaker presented literally an olive branch. No placards calling for independence, nor banners displaying Rangzen, indeed it looks like once again to have been a mediocre turnout, part protest, part social gathering. When contrasted with the growing determination and collective spirit of solidarity with Tibet’s true cause, seen on the rise around the world, it’s all very disappointing.


Not only is a diluted and confused message being displayed by those who organize the event in London, one that is clearly not in harmony with the struggle waged by Tibetans in occupied Tibet, but the general support there seems to be stagnating. We refer not to the wider sense of sympathy or awareness that may exist within the English public, but to that body of people who have signed up to Tibet as members and supporters of the numerous related advocacy organizations that exist there. These are the Tibetan Community in Britain, Tibetan Youth UK, Students For Free Tibet UK, Tibet Society and Free Tibet.


Between those groups there maybe a total of 30, 000 or more people who have felt sufficiently motivated and interested to go beyond a mild concern on Tibet to actively associate themselves with organizations dedicated to political support for Tibetans. Yet for whatever reasons, despite organizers having twelve months to prepare, resource and promote, at best only 10% of that mass of people are present on March 10 outside the Chinese Consulate. Just what is going down in Britain? Is it that public demonstrations are not valued by those pulling the strings within those groups, do some organizations value more their membership as cash-cows to fund salaries, office rental, publications and other expenses?


Is a more concerted effort dedicated to fund-raising and marketing than assembling a mass demonstration? Whatever the facts, in terms of street profile Tibet’s cause there on March 10, far from gaining strength is at best in stasis and possibly in decline. A condition that must be music to the ears of the British Foreign Office (equivalent of the State Department) who are no friends of Tibetan independence.

One Comment

  1. As co-founder of the first Tibet Support Group UK (which morphed into ‘FREE TIBET CAMPAIGN’ about 1997) which was formed in connection with HH the Dalai Lama’s UK visit in 1988 (and which served, at the time, as a model and template for other similar groups to be formed around the world – it was in the forefront of the global Tibet support movement which mushroomed after 1988, in fact), I can add an insider’s insight here.
    After helping to form, nurture and develop this seminal UK group from day one myself, acting as Director and holding its meetings in my own London office to start with, I continued on the management committee (Board) and as hon.treasurer of the group, until about 2000, when I was voted off the board. Who forced me out? It was a clique who opposed my recommended financial policy as hon.treasurer. Why did they do this, what was the problem? It happened that I was experienced and portrayed by certain colleagues as ‘difficult’ because I tried to insist, as hon.treasurer, that whatever funds were raised by the fund raisers in small donations (on the back of the suffering of the Tibetans in Tibet) should be spent in the most effective way possible within a reasonably short space of time, as this is what all those generous small donors themselves would SURELY want. However, the Chair of the Board (supported by a narrow majority), disagreed. He opined that we must be very economical and save up as much as possible of the funds raised and keep them in a deposit account at the bank, as a cushion, in case of future shortages, in order to guarantee 100% that we would be able pay future salaries and rent, even if our income dried up altogether. Against my recommendation as treasurer, he persuaded a majority of the board to adopt the policy that we should accumulate THREE YEARS COMPLETE RUNNING COSTS – £150,000 at the time – and keep them in reserve, on deposit, earning interest at the bank. His stated long term plan was even worse that this – it was to increase this reserve to cover TEN YEARS RUNNING COSTS.
    I opposed this policy as hon.treasurer tooth and nail, since I saw it as not only as selfish, insecure, ultra-conservative, unnecessary, self-indulgent and a wrong priority but also a betrayal not only of the donors’ own wishes but also of the Tibetans’ in Tibet who were suffering under the Chinese jackboot (and on whose back we were raising funds). I argued that reserves should not exceed funds sufficient to cover current liabilities, and to spend all the rest of our donations received, as and when received, in the most effective possible way to achieve our aims.
    As a result of my efforts, I was voted off the board and basically thrown out, after founding and supporting the group for a dozen years as a volunteer.
    I hope this gives readers an insight as to where the kinds of symptoms you have noted in the attitudes and policies of the UK Tibet-support movement have originated.


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