Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More on Tibet...

March 25th, 2008

If you read anything, read the first link. One of the best commentaries I've read so far on the situation...




The NY Times and BBC also have some great articles coming out almost everyday - Like French President Sarkozy publicly threatening to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Games.

Or this article here, an interview with a monk inside Tibet. (Click on the Video Reports in the right column to see Olympic Torch relay protesters).

Tibetan eyewitness reports here. Chinese react here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What a Lovely International Embarrassment

From Sports Illustrated...


ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP) -- Even before the Olympic flame was lit Monday, a protester of China's human rights policies disrupted the solemn ceremony, foreshadowing the prospect of demonstrations throughout the torch-relay route right up to the Beijing Games themselves.

Forecasts of clouds and rain had been considered the main threat to the pomp-filled torch-lighting. But in the end, while the sun sparked the flame to life, it was the protesters who turned the joyful bow to the Olympics' roots into a political embarrassment for China over its crackdown in Tibet and other rights issues.

Three men advocating press freedom evaded massive security and ran onto the field at the ceremony in Ancient Olympia before they were seized by police. Minutes later, a Tibetan woman covered in fake blood briefly blocked the path of the torch relay.

The incidents came after International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge told The Associated Press in an interview that he was engaged in "silent diplomacy" with the Chinese but wouldn't intervene in politics to try to change their policies.

"We are discussing on a daily basis with Chinese authorities, including discussing these issues, while strictly respecting the sovereignty of China in its affairs," Rogge said.

Protests are bound to follow the torch throughout its 137,000-kilometer (85,000-mile), 136-day route across five continents and 20 countries. China pledged strict security measures to ensure its segment of the relay won't be marred by protests.

Tibetan activists have already said they plan to demonstrate elsewhere on the route.

"Later we will do protests in London and Paris," said Tenzin Dorjee, a member of Students for a Free Tibet who protested in Ancient Olympia.

China's communist leadership has faced a public relations disaster since protests of its rule turned violent March 14 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, sparking waves of unrest in surrounding provinces. China reported a death toll of 22 from the violence, but Tibet's exiled government says 80 Tibetans were killed. Nineteen died in subsequent violence in Gansu province, it said.

A rising chorus of international criticism and floated calls for a boycott have unnerved the Chinese leadership, which has turned up efforts to put its own version of the unrest before the international public.

China has blamed the riots on followers of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice again urged China to start talks with him in order to begin a dialogue that "is going to be the only policy that is sustainable in Tibet."

Luciano Barra, deputy CEO of the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, recalled how the torch relay in Italy was dogged by protesters opposed to construction of a rail tunnel. Organizers diverted the route at one stage to avoid the demonstrators.

"It makes me laugh compared to the current problem," Barra said.

Another potential flashpoint is the route through Tibet. The flame is due to be carried to the summit of Mount Everest in May and pass through Lhasa in June.

"It's crucial for everyone who works in Tibetan movement to emphasize to the public and get the message to the Chinese government that the Olympic torch should not be allowed to go up Mount Everest and through Tibet," said Anne Holmes, acting director of the London-based Free Tibet campaign. "The very idea that they will be able to parade the torch through Tibet after the crackdown is obscene given what's going on in Tibet."

Tibetan groups have also urged the IOC to keep the relay out of the Himalayan region. Rogge, speaking before the incidents, said there were no plans by Beijing organizers, known as BOCOG, to change the route, but he didn't rule it out.

"The original torch relay route has been confirmed by BOCOG and Chinese authorities," Rogge said. "So far, as I speak now, the IOC is in agreement with that. No one can foresee the future."

China hopes the Olympics will showcase its emergence from developing country into a world power. But as the games approach, various groups have used the Olympics to leverage their causes.

Apart from Tibet, China has come under international criticism for support of Sudan and its role in Darfur. Last month, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies over the Darfur issue.

The IOC has faced calls to take a hard line with China. But Rogge reiterated his long-standing position that the Olympic body is not a political organization and stressed he is involved in private dialogue with Chinese leaders.

"The IOC is engaged in what I call a 'silent diplomacy' with Chinese authorities since day one of the preparations of the games," Rogge said.

At Monday's ceremony, one of the three protesting members of the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders ran behind BOCOG President Liu Qi as he was giving a speech. The protester unfurled a black banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs.

"If the Olympic flame is sacred, human rights are even more so," the French group said. "We cannot let the Chinese government seize the Olympic flame, a symbol of peace, without denouncing the dramatic situation of human rights in the country."

China state TV cut away from the protest and showed a prerecorded scene, preventing Chinese viewers from seeing the incident. Chinese TV commentators did not mention the demonstration.

The first torchbearer in the relay was Greece's Alexandros Nikolaidis. After the torch left the stadium, a Tibetan woman covered in red paint or dye lay in the road approaching the village of Olympia while other protesters chanted "Free Tibet" and "Shame on China."

Japanese runner Haturi Yuuki came within a few meters (feet) of the protester, then stopped and ran in place while plainclothes police removed her. They also dragged off a man accompanying her who was waving a Tibetan flag.

Police said the woman and the three members of Reporters Without Borders were being detained. One of the men arrested was Robert Menard, the group's general secretary.

The three Frenchmen said that they were told they could face misdemeanor charges of offending national symbols. They were to appear before a prosecutor later Monday in the nearby town of Pyrgos.

"We're asking the heads of government to boycott the opening ceremony," one of the three protesters, Vincent Brossel, told AP Television News. "We're not calling for a boycott of the games."

Marcelle Roux, president of the French association France Tibet, said her group staged a demonstration at the Foreign Ministry in Paris, and planned more soon.

"These are the games of shame," Roux said. "The Chinese government must have expected this kind of thing."

Tsering Palden, president of the New York-based Tibetan Youth Congress, said Tibetan activist groups will urge Coca-Cola this week to pull its sponsorship of the Olympic Games.

Coca-Cola Co. spokeswoman Kerry Kerr said the company remained committed to supporting the torch relay. "The Coca-Cola Co. joins others in expressing deep concern for the situation on the ground in Tibet. We know that all parties involved hope for a peaceful resolution," she said.

China has promised a smooth run-up to the Beijing Games and is hoping a successful games will bolster its international image.

"The more determined the Dalai clique is to ruin the torch relay and the Olympic Games, the more hard and good work we need to do on the preparation and the implementation of all aspects," Yin Xunping, a Communist Party official, was quoted as saying by the Tibet Daily newspaper. Yin is party secretary of the Tibet Mountain Climbing Team, which is participating in the Mount Everest segment of the torch relay.

Meanwhile, Germany rejected calls for an Olympic boycott. Some German athletes had reacted to the Chinese crackdown by supporting boycott calls.

In Nepal, police in the capital of Katmandu broke up at least two separate protests by Tibetan refugees and monks and arrested as many as 475 protesters, officials said.

Chanting "China, stop killings in Tibet. U.N., we want justice," protesters were marching to U.N. headquarters in Katmandu when police stopped them about 100 meters (yards) away and snatched their banners.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama in Portland, Spring Break and an Acceptance!

March 21, 2008

Leigh and I got up early today to pilgrimage down to Memorial Coliseum to see Barack Obama give a speech. We couldn't make it to his first visit here a couple months ago, but we weren't going to miss this one. And for Portland (and OR), to finally be relevant in an election has got this town fired up...talking with a couple 'locals' while inside the auditorium with people shouting and clapping and jumping and waving their hands (looked like church to me...felt like church to me too!), they were awed that Portlanders (well known for their cynicism and distrust of American politics and politicians) could get so worked up over a Presidential candidate. Looking around they said, "This is for a politician?!".

It was one of a few poignant moments during the rally. I don't have the text of the speech with me here, but it was mostly a stump speech - nothing really new. But to finally see him in person and hear him say the things he believes was great. I sat there wondering if I would be able to tell my children or grandchildren that I saw the man who reshaped American politics, I saw Obama speak before he was even President. (I'm already assuming he's going to win the nomination and general election).

Some other highlights from the speech - quoting JFK, "Never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate" and then going on to say, "Talking to your enemies is not a weakness but the essence of wisdom" and also "You can not only talk with your allies, but must also talk with your enemies." And another great moment when he said that Clinton and Richardson and McCain said, "You can't say that. You can't negotiate with our enemies", Obama said "Watch me".

I wish I could remember more...It was a fun time. Very high spirits. Somewhat of a rock star glamoring. It was a good speech with many great ideas given by a great speaker and I felt very happy to have witnessed it. Have a become a political junkie? Or does this man inspire me like no other politician since Kucinich?

Also, Governor Bill Richardson joined Barack Obama on the stage this morning to give his full endorsement. I'm very pleased to see this. I've respected Bill Richardson for while. I like what I've seen and heard from him. I think this is a smart move and could help with the Latino vote and who knows? I wouldn't mind Richardson as VP either. Great foreign policy experience, great Washington experience. And to see a half black man and a Hispanic running this country would be AWESOME! The true fabric of this nation would be finally reflected by our two primary national leaders. I like the sound of Obama/Richardson, don't you?

To be fair, I will go see Clinton and/or McCain if they come to Portland. McCain in Portland....HA!

Spring break is upon me...thank god! I have to admit, I was getting very, very burnt. I managed an A in statistics, which is nothing short of a miracle. Still waiting for my Anatomy grade (which I hope is an A but think is a B). I'm looking forward to the next few days spent resting, working on my Tibet book (writing the intro letter to publishers, book's edited and ready!), visiting galleries here to try and get an exhibit and hike and enjoy the fair weather that has come to Portland. Next week I'll be flying to Colorado for my buddys' bachelor party. We are renting a couple cabins in southern Colorado by a ski resort and bombing hills for 3 days, while partying (and pretending we're 21 again) for 3 nights...can't wait for the craziness and debauchery!

And finally, I got accepted to a Nursing School Program!!!!!! The University of Portland has officially accepted me into their Junior Transfer Program starting in the Fall 08. YAY YAY YAY YAY YAY! We are so excited and SO relieved. UP is probably my #1 choice, too. I'm still waiting for Linfield College to get back to me but that won't happen until mid-April. For now, I'm so totally stoked to know that all my hard work has paid off and I'll be going somewhere in the fall. So awesome.

And what's even better? I'll be one slap my ass hottie of a murse (male nurse)! Grrrrrrr baby....grrrrrrrr....give me murse, give me murse. Ok! Now you're a tiger murse....give me tiger murse....Grrrrrrrrr.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lhasa Burns!

March 15th, 2008

Today our hearts are heavy with sadness and worry. Lhasa, our beloved home for a year and a half, is burning.
Information is scarce as the Chinese officials have blocked internet connection, satellite communications and virtually silenced any news coming out of Tibet. We don't really know any more than most of you who are following this story on the news. What we do know is this:

On the 49th anniversary of the 1959 uprising, March 10th, more than 300 monks and nuns began a march from Drepung Monastery towards the city center of Lhasa. This march was mirrored in other Tibetan concentrated places like Kathmandu, Labrang, Dharmsala and Toronto. With chants calling for an independent Tibet, the Lhasa march was halted by police and military before it made it more than a mile down the road.

The following days' protests, that brought both religious and lay people onto the streets, however were surprising in its scale and violence. Cars overturned, buildings smashed and burned, rocks being thrown, marches...it's like scenes from Beirut or Gaza.

Photos and video coming over the wires are but a trickle, but what they do show is heart stopping. To see pillars of black smoke covering the Lhasa valley, monks and women smashing windows to cars and hotels, buildings burnings, and the inevitable columns of army trucks full of soldiers entering the streets and locking down the city...There have been reports now of more than 30 tanks (yes TANKS!) plying the central streets.

We are speechless in our shock and anxiety. Many of our friends are there and I can only imagine the harsh response that has been pledged by the authorities. Even with the eyes of the world on China as it prepares for its apparent "coming out party" for the Olympics in August, I am very, very concerned there will be terribly harsh and universal punitive actions taken. Increased military, curfews, more restrictions, more beatings, less news...they have already started to shut Tibet off again - no tourists are allowed in or out (some even locked out of their hotels and from all their belongings including passports, etc), no TV, no internet, no radio.

The silence that follows this scream is scarier than the scream.

This is crazy! I am honestly surprised that the protests have risen to this level of scope and violence. I'm saddened that is has come to this. Obviously there is great resentment and simmering discontent by the population in Tibet. This we all know. What is unknown now is how will it play out? And will we ever know what's really happening? And how, if there is a harsh crackdown (with violence, beatings, shootings) can we as a nation dedicated to spreading liberty and justice around the world support such a government?

The BBC has been the most extensive in its coverage. For more information I'd go there -
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7297248.stm (eyewitness accounts)
There are many links here. The video and "in pictures" links should be viewed.

We got word from someone inside Tibet this morning - "Lhasa in curfew. Riots still happening".

We are praying for temperance, peace and protection for those in Lhasa right now...it's a very unsettling and anxious time for us personally...

May peace find hold again.