The panel discussion, “Surviving the Chinese System” examined the dark side of China with two survivors of its prison system, Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu and Tibetan nun Ngawang Sangdrol. Wu and Sangdrol both shared their experiences of detention and torture, Wu in the Chinese laogai (work camp) and Sangdrol in Tibet’s notorious Drapchi prison. They spoke on how they were able to not only survive but also to find their way to freedom. The discussion also looked to China’s future and possibilities for change. The event was attended by representatives from the German Bundestag and Federal Foreign Office.
Despite the freezing temperatures, over a thousand Tibetans and Tibet supporters descended on the Chinese Embassy in Berlin on the morning of 12th March, the starting point of the demonstration. A memorandum with the main demands of the organisers of the demonstration and the demonstrators was read aloud and handed over to the Embassy along with thousands of signatures for the release of political prisoner Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.
The demonstration then marched through Berlin’s centre to the Brandenburg Gate. Amongst the large crowd were Tibetans and Tibet supporters from countries far and wide as Belgium, France, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Holland and Liechtenstein. An especially strong presence from Swiss Tibetans could be seen.
Guest speakers at the closing rally at the Brandenburg Gate included Harry Wu, Ngawang Sangdrol, the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Chhime Choekyapa in Geneva, head of the World Uyghur Congress Erkin Alptekin and representatives from three major political parties from the German Bundestag. Thomas Mann, Chairman of the Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament, was also a guest speaker and had braved the bad weather to walk in solidarity with the demonstrators.
The representatives from the political parties all spoke out against the proposed lifting of the EU arms embargo on China. The ruling party, the Social Democrats, the only party advocating the lifting of the ban, was the only major party not to be represented at the event. The demonstration was covered on radio, in print and online media and was on the evening news on ZDF, one of the biggest TV Channels in Germany.
At a well-known Berlin club venue “Maria am Ostbahnhof” in former-east Berlin, an eclectic line-up of Tibetan artists performed both traditional and modern Tibetan music and dance in a cultural show. A live concert from a Berlin electro band and Berlin and Swiss-Tibetan DJs then kept the activists and clubbers partying into the early hours.
“Freedom for Tibet – Europe Speaks Out” was organised by Tibet Support Group Germany, Tibet Initiative Munich, Association of Tibetans in Germany, Tibetan Youth Association of Europe and the International Campaign for Tibet Germany.
Report submitted by Dechen Pemba, Campaigns Coordinator, International Campaign for Tibet Germany (and cultural event organiser extraordinaire!)