May 22, 2008 · Print This Article
|Picture: Adele Holland
Kesang Wangmo is staging her own personal protest
By Adele Holland
If it weren’t for all the noise, silence would not be as powerful as it has become. Following the recent mass protests around the world in regards to China, there has been plenty of noise, but in a stand against Chinese treatment of Tibet, one Melbourne woman is going against the trend.
Kesang, was born in Tibet and is currently undertaking a silent vigil outside the Chinese Consulate in Melbourne every Sunday for two hours, as part of her own personal protest against the treatment of her family, her friends and her country.
“It is a very peaceful vigil, and we do not want to create any problems for Chinese consulate members or the Australian police,” she said.
Although Kesang has lived in Australia for nearly 18 years, she still has strong links to her home country of Tibet. In 1959 her family moved to India, where Kesang grew up in exile, along with thousands of other Tibetan people. She moved to Australian with her husband in her mid-20s.
“For the first time in my life I experienced what real freedom means,” she said.
“What it means to be an individual, what power we have. So I thought, I have to do something. I knew that the Chinese were bullying our government, into believing they were willing to negotiate, but they had no intention of negotiation, and also I felt like I have a responsibility to stand up for the human rights issues and to push for the general autonomy.”
In an effort to make Australian’s aware of the lack of basic human rights in Tibet, Kesang sits at an altar outside the Chinese Consulate between 2pm and 4pm every Sunday, in the lead up the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Much controversy has surrounded the Free Tibet protests as many believe the Olympic Games should be kept separate from world politics.
The Olympic Torch relay has been the focus of media attention recently, and Kesang believes it is the perfect opportunity for Tibetans and supporters of the movement to get their word out.
“It’s not like now the torch has come and suddenly we are protesting, we were protesting before, but nobody was paying attention,” she said.
“People are saying the torch is sacred and asking why we are attacking it? What does the torch symbolise? It is a mark of civilisation, and in our culture we say, the torch symbolises wisdom. Because when light is shone, darkness is gone, and people can see the truth. The Games stand for equality and harmony… but that is not happening in Tibet.”
Although her protest is peaceful, Chinese Consulate members have not made it easy for Kesang to undertake her vigil.
Originally Kesang set her altar up under the branch of a tree outside the consulate. It gave her shade through the warmer months, and was a place she could hang her prayer flags. However one day she arrived to find someone had stripped the branches of the tree. Kesang believes this is a reflection of the bullying nature of the Chinese government.
“We Tibetans have nothing against the Chinese people; it is just the totalitarian government,” she said.
“At the same time I would like to thank all of the Australians, for so much love, for their understanding. There is not one Tibetan whose life hasn’t been touched by this tragedy. Sometime you feel like why did we live? Wouldn’t we have been better off dying and not having to go through this? But I heard a writer say once, ‘To live is to suffer but to survive to find a meaning’. So I think my purpose is that. I have met so many kind, compassionate people. Australian’s have such big hearts.”
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