September 16, 2002: Canadian Tibetans across Canada are denouncing 'China's Tibet Cultural Week', calling it a cruel propaganda exercise orchestrated by the Government of China and designed to whitewash the cultural abuse that has devastated Tibet since 1959. The Week is set to begin tomorrow and is sponsored by several Chinese business people and special interest groups. No Tibetan organizations in Canada have been approached and none are involved in any way.
'This event is more about promoting China's occupation of Tibet than anything else', said CTC President Thubten Samdup, who is also a former Director of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts. 'Today's reality is that Tibetan culture is under attack in China's Tibet'.
Tibetans accuse the event promoters of misrepresenting facts, most notably lying about receiving a congratulatory letter from Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr'tien. The Prime Minister's office confirmed to the Canada Tibet Committee last week that no such letter was ever written.
Other inaccuracies in promotional materials include claims that this is 'first time' Tibetan culture has been showcased in North America', but at least three previous events have taken place, two of them in Canada. In 2000 the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. hosted a ten-day festival, 'Tibetan Culture from Beyond the Snows'. In February 2002, Vancouver-based Caravan World Rhythms in collaboration with the Canada Tibet Committee and the Tibetan Cultural Society of B.C. presented a fourteen-day 'Tibet Cultural Festival'. In July 2000, the St. Norbert Arts Centre in Winnipeg hosted three weeks of Tibetan cultural events entitled "Tibetan Sacred Arts in the Ruins". Over the past 30 years since Tibetans first came to Canada, there have been countless other cultural events and several Tibetan performing artists now live in Canada.
China's Tibet Cultural Week takes place as envoys of the Dalai Lama are in Beijing in what may be first steps towards negotiations aimed at resolving the Tibet issue. China's Tibet Week event is a stark reminder that despite the apparent thaw in relations, China still regards Tibet as its colony.
China's Tibet Week opens in Toronto on September 17, Ottawa on September 23 and Vancouver on September 25.
For more information:
Ottawa: Brian Given, Ottawa, 613-730-1723
Montreal: Deborah Lhasang, 514-487-0665 (French and English)
Toronto: Pema Lektsog, 416-269-8730
Vancouver: Deke Samchok, 604-732-9910