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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Torch Relay in Korea

April 29, 2008

Forwarded by Tshoko Lhakpa
Tibet House in Japan
April 28, 2008

I guess you have already heard about the Beijing Olympic torch relay
tarnished by a series of violence in Seoul. Pro-China protesters threw
pavement blocks, water bottles or whatever they had at their disposal at
pro-Tibet or anti-China demonstrators. They attacked Americans and
Europeans who were simply standing around City Hall wearing free-Tibet
t-shirts. In fact, they attacked anybody carrying or wearing any sign of
Tibet support. Even reporters and police were hurt. One police official
said that they deployed 9300 police to guard the Olympic torch, but 6500
Chinese students were more than enough to protect it.

All these news and the conflict between anti- and pro-China
demonstrators were well covered by CNN and other major international
news, so I won’t talk about this to you. Instead, I will talk about one
peaceful pro-Tibet protest I joined with Tibetan monks and 50 Korean
groups as you can see in the above pictures.

This protest was joined by about 50 Korean groups and organized by Tibet
Peace Solidarity. At 4 pm, over 300 people marched at the heart of Seoul
carrying a torch made of flowers signifying peace for Tibet. This relay
was heavily guarded by police who was very concerned about potential
conflict with Chinese supporters. Later, it turned out that the police
was our only protection against Chinese students trying to attack us.
During the peaceful march, we experienced young Chinese students trying
to tear off our Tibet flags and charge at us, swearing as well. They
were repeatedly stopped by the police.

Our planned final stop was City Hall which was also the last stop for
the Olympic torch. However, our march was stopped by the police a few
blocks away. We were disappointed at that time. But later hearing about
violent actions by Chinese students attacking anyone wearing or carrying
any sign of free Tibet, we even appreciated the police. Some Koreans who
were holding yellow balloons given out by us were also attacked by the
Chinese youths around City Hall. Because of this, the police tried to
seize and pop any yellow balloons. The Citizens criticized the police
for seizing the balloons instead of stopping the violent students.

We could easily imagine how China had responded to peaceful protesters
in Tibet if they behaved in this manner in Korea. The Chinese were very
pleased with their ‘successful’ torch relay in Seoul, but their violent
actions already provoked anti-China sentiment among ordinary Koreans.
The Korean government expressed their regret about the violence and the
Chinese ambassador apologized for it. But we can not stop criticizing
our government’s consistent kowtowing to China. We will show to China
that the Korean government action doesn’t represent the feelings of
ordinary Koreans.
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