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Tibetan Freedom Torch arrives in St Paul

June 12, 2008

By Grant Kruger, Asian American Press
Daily Planet (Minneapolis, MI, USA)
June 8, 2008

Several hundred Minnesota Tibetans and supporters participated in the
Tibetan Freedom Torch Relay starting in St. Paul at our state's
capitol at 10:00 a.m.

The Torch was launched in Olympia, Greece on March 10, 2008 despite
China's security presence. It has been traveling around the world
since then. This Torch symbolizes the hopes and aspirations of the
Tibetan people for freedom and justice and the commitment of the
people around the world to helping achieve this dream. The Olympic
torch should embody the ideals of peace and harmony for all, but this
year, China's government is trying to use the Olympic torch relay to
cover up its brutal occupation of Tibet and abysmal human rights
record. The Tibetan Freedom Torch relay gives voice to the true
ideals of Tibetans and reminds the global public of the need for
action to bring an end to China's illegal occupation of Tibet. The
Tibetan Freedom Torch will travel to more than 50 cities between
March 10th and August 7th, when Tibetans plan to carry the torch to
Tibet. The relay will finish on August 8th, the day the Olympics
begin in Beijing.

The Tibetan community of Minnesota has organized the torch relay in
solidarity with the Tibetans in and outside of Tibet, and as part of
the International Tibetan Freedom Torch Relay. A moment of silence
and prayers was offered for the peaceful Tibetan demonstrators who
lost their lives and also for the Chinese and Burmese victims of the
devastating natural disasters. Three ladies along the route carried
the torch; they were Yiga, Kelsang Lhamo, and Tsering Dolma. The
marchers carried banners, flags, photos, and signs as they moved
along University Avenue towards the Tibetan Community Cultural Center
located at 1096 Raymond Avenue in St. Paul. Well wishers along the
way honked car horns and waved in support of the marchers as they
moved quietly along. Local members of the Hmong community offered
bottled water to the participates, this act of kindness was very much

The marchers arrived shortly before 3:00 p.m. at the Tibetan
Community Center. I had a chance to meet with both Thinly Woser the
President of the THFM (Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota) and
Ngodup Sangmo the TAFM Secretary. Mr. Woser told us the torch is
called "PALBAR" and represents health, wealth and all good things,
not only for Tibetans, but also for the Chinese and all people of the world.

A 3:45 p.m. the grand event took place with opening remarks made by
Ngodup Sango and Thinly Woser. Edward Yiu offered his support on
behalf of many Chinese here in the U.S.

Guest speaker Clara Gabriel, a constituent advocate for U.S. Senator
Amy Klobuchar. Ms Gabriel read a prepared statement from Senator
Klobuchar saying, "I am deeply concerned by the recent violence in
Tibet, and feel that promotion of human rights standards must be a
fundamental part of our nation's foreign policy toward China and all
other countries around the world." Saying also that the Senator has
recently joined with nearly 30 of my fellow Senators, Democrats and
Republicans alike, in calling on President Hu Jintao to quickly and
peacefully resolve the alarming situation in Tibet. This letter
expressed, such a resolution is essential to regional stability and
our fight for basic human rights. Working together not only at the
local level but with human rights advocates around the globe. The
Senator stated she is confident we can achieve this goal so that all
may live healthy, prosperous, and secure lives.

The keynote speaker at the event was Congressman Keith Ellison. He
said, "Today we come together to shine light on the continuing need
for international pressure in support of better conditions in Tibet.
In a world where tragedies compete for our attention, I want you to
know that I share your commitment to encouraging peace and respect
for human rights for Tibet and Tibetans everywhere."

The Congressman was deeply disturbed by the reports and pictures of
brutal violence against Tibetan citizens on the part of the Chinese
Government, at the time of the 49th anniversary of Tibetan National
Uprising Day.

He believes that, "the citizens of Minnesota and the United States
must not look the other way as Chinese soldiers beat and gun down
Tibetan citizens, or are silently complicit with the Sudanese
government as they commit genocide on the citizens of Darfur."

Following the violence, Congressman Ellison conveyed his concerns to
the Chinese Embassy in Washington. He said, "I was disappointed by
the tone of their response, which exhibited disrespect towards His
Holiness the Dalai Lama and asserted falsely that he and his
supporters were seeking breakaway independence from China by violent
means. That attempt to mischaracterize the peaceful efforts of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama does not stick."

He took a moment to read a passage from the State Department's latest
Human Rights Report, which provides a chilling summary of life in Tibet:

* The government's human rights record in Tibetan areas of China
remained poor, and the level of repression of religious freedom increased.

* Authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses,
including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and house arrest
and surveillance of dissidents.

* The government restricted freedom of speech, academic freedom, and
freedom of movement.

* The government adopted new regulations and other measures to
control the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, including measures that
require government approval to name all reincarnated lamas.

* The preservation and development of the unique religious, cultural,
and linguistic heritage of Tibetan areas and the protection of the
Tibetan people's other fundamental human rights continued to be of concern."

The Congressman went on to say, "In the face of natural disaster and
human tragedy, I again call on the Chinese government to work towards
resolution of its relationship with the people of Tibet. Acting in
this Olympic year to implement self-governance for Tibet to which
China pledged itself fifty years ago would be a gracious gesture
worthy of the great nation that China has become."

In closing, "I join you today in offering fervent prayers for the
well-being of all people. May the sacrifices of those who preceded us
serve as guidance in the struggle for peace today." These remarks
were very well received.

Following the speakers Cultural performances and freedom songs were
led by Tibetan artistes and local students.

The Tibetan Freedom Torch of Minnesota is being jointly organized by
the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan American Foundation of
Minnesota, Tibetan Women's Association and Students for Free Tibet.
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