Tibetan National Uprising Day in Scotland

Tibetan flag

Tibetans and other supporters of Tibetan freedom held a demonstration in Scotland's capital Edinburgh on Sunday 10 March to mark the 54th anniversary of the Lhasa Uprising against Chinese rule. 

The demonstration was organised by Edinburgh University Tibet Society with support from the Tibetan community of Scotland, the Tibet Society UK, Students for a Free Tibet, the Kashmir Solidarity Movement and other groups. It was one of many demonstrations held in towns and cities around the world, including London, Brussels, Berlin, New York, Melbourne, Delhi, Dhramshala, Mumbai, Leh, Tokyo and Madrid.

The demonstrators assembled for a rally at the Mound, in the centre of Edinburgh, early in the afternoon. Speakers at the rally included Marco Biagi, a local member of the Scottish Parliament from the country's governing Scottish National Party (SNP). Other speakers included  Doris Jones from Nations Without States, Fiona Lyndsey from Torture Survival Programme and  James Moohan from the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland.

Demo for Tibet, the Mound, Edinburgh
Freedom for Tibet, the Mound, Edinburgh

Over 100 demonstrators then marched through the city to the Chinese Consulate carrying Tibetan flags and holding placards with photographs of the 107 Tibetans who have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule.

One of the demonstrators managed to enter the grounds of the consulate and attach a Tibetan flag to the building. Once he had left the grounds, the flag was removed by a member of the consulate staff. But a Tibetan flag continued to fly from the railings outside the consulate, where the demonstrators maintained a lively vigil for some time.

When the demonstrators finally dispersed, they left behind them on the consulate railings the photographs of men and women who have immolated themselves in support of Tibetan freedom.

Supporters of Tibetan freedom at the Chinese Consulate, Edinburgh

On the day of the worldwide demonstrations Lobsang Sangay, head of the Tibetan exile administration in Dhramashala, India, issued a statement calling for "the international community to take concrete actions to press the Chinese government to enter into meaningful dialogue with the Tibetan leadership." He said:

"The occupation and repression in Tibet by the government of the People’s Republic of China are the primary conditions driving Tibetans to self-immolation. Tibetans witness and experience China’s constant assault on Tibetan Buddhist civilization, their very identity and dignity. They deeply resent China’s demonization of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. They look on with alarm as Chinese settlers stream into Tibet, taking away Tibetan jobs, land and their very future  - and in the process, transforming Tibetan towns and cities into Chinatowns. They oppose the forced removal of hundreds of thousands of nomads from the grasslands to permanent ghettos, reducing formerly self-sufficient families to impoverishment. They see colonial-like development activities cart away billions of dollars worth of Tibetan natural resources to a resource-hungry China. These policies could easily lead one to suspect that China wants Tibet but not the Tibetan people."

The Tibetan exile Parliament also issued a statement, saying:

"It is a matter of great sadness to the Tibetan people that none in the international community has been able to make any productive move to address the harrowing, very tragic and critical situation in Tibet today – a situation  which is unprecedented in world history."

In eastern Tibet - in Kardze  Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province - three Tibetan monks were arrested for staging a protest on Tibetan National Uprising Day, along with two lay Tibetans who tried to dissuade them. This appears to be the first time Tibetans in that area have attempted to hold a demonstration on 10 March.

Last year, Lhasa was said to be in lockdown over the period of Uprising Day. No information seems to be available on the situation in Lhasa this year.

The 10 March Uprising

On 10 March 1959 the people of Tibet's capital, Lhasa, rose up against Chinese rule. On 12 March a huge gathering in Lhasa repudiated the 17-Point Agreement between China and Tibet – an agreement that had been imposed by Chinese arms in 1949 and provided for Tibet's "national regional autonomy under the leadership of the Central People's Government" [of China]. The gathering was probably the closest thing to people power that Tibet has ever seen. On 17 March, with a Chinese assault on the city imminent, the Dalai Lama fled to take refuge in India.

The Chinese attack began on 20 March. The people of Lhasa held out for three days against vastly superior forces. Thousands of Tibetans from Lhasa were killed or were taken prisoner. Though the uprising in Lhasa was crushed, the revolt continued elsewhere in central Tibet and by the autumn of 1960 had cost tens of thousands of Tibetan lives. Fighting also continued in eastern Tibet.

How you can support Tibet

  • Contact your democratic representatives and ask them to stand up for the human rights and the right to self-determination of the Tibetan people. If you live in the UK, you can contact your MP, MEPs, MSPs, or members of the Northern Ireland, or Welsh assemblies using www.writetothem.com.
  • Contact the Chinese embassy in your country and call for freedom for Tibet - see the list of Chinese embassies for contact details.
  • To find out more about Edinburgh University Tibet Society, visit their Facebook page or their website.