Wanted: Olympic athletes to remember Tibet in Beijing
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - One month from the beginning of the Beijing Olympics, the group Students for a Free Tibet, together with more than 150 pro-Tibet groups, has launched the campaign "Athlete Wanted", which is asking Olympic athletes to talk about Tibet when they are in Beijing, to reaffirm the Games as a an event of freedom and brotherhood. They have also launched the website www.AthleteWanted.org, which provides the athletes with ideas for expressing their solidarity with Tibet, such as carrying a Tibetan flag, wearing T-shirts reading "Team Tibet", or talking about the country when they are interviewed by the media.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 Tibetan monks have been taken from the main monasteries around Lhasa (Sera, Drepung, and Ganden) and have been locked up in distant prisons, like that of the city of Gormo, more than 1,000 kilometres north of Lhasa, "to crush any sign of dissent during the Olympics". This charge is made by Lhadon Tethong, executive director of SFT, who calls it "the latest in a series of Beijing's despicable acts that use the Olympics as an excuse to crack down on Tibetan cries for human rights and freedom".
The authoritative newspaper The Times says that the monks will be freed after the Games, and forcibly resettled in the villages where they were born.
SFT recalls that only two weeks ago, Lhasa was under martial law to permit the passage of the Olympic torch through the streets, between two rows of soldiers but without a single monk present. The organisation announces that since March, hundreds of Tibetans have been detained without trial, to the indifference of world leaders, while the Olympic Committee appears entirely uninterested in the problem of human rights in Tibet.
Under international pressure, Beijing has begun talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, but has made no concessions, and yesterday dictated some conditions to the Dalai Lama in order for talks to proceed: that he not support anti-Olympic demonstrations, that he carry out "concrete actions" against the activities of the Tibetan Youth Congress, and oppose Tibetan independence.
Thubten Samphel, spokesman of the Tibetan government-in-exile, notes that "His Holiness has dedicated his whole life to the principle of non-violence", and has repeatedly stated that there is no need to boycott the Olympics and that he is not asking for the independence of the region, but only greater autonomy and respect for human rights. The Dalai Lama has also asked to be allowed to participate in the opening ceremony.