Czechs take action against growing repression in Eastern Tibet

Gathering for support of Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, photo: CTK

On Wednesday March 10, 2004, people around the world commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising that was crushed by the Chinese communist army. Oppression in Tibet is not just a matter of the past and the night before the anniversary a candlelight procession was held in 12 cities in the Czech Republic. The symbolic event was dedicated to a Tibetan political prisoner, and is part of a worldwide campaign coordinated in the Czech Republic. The Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, is currently being held by the Chinese authorities and may be executed as soon as this April.

Gathering for support of Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche,  photo: CTK
There were dark skies and snowfall in Prague while people gathered on Bethlehem Square Tuesday night. Candles were lit and messages written on paper with wishes of freedom for Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, sent up into the sky by helium balloons. Both young and old took part. One participant, Stanislav Drobny, spoke out at the gathering.

As a former political prisoner under the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, Mr. Drobny expressed the importance of remembering that it was not so long ago that the people of his country were also oppressed. During his time, going out to protest against injustice was unthinkable and now that the communist regime has collapsed he feels it is his duty to support people around the world in their fight against authoritarian regimes.

Gathering for support of Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche,  photo: CTK
The Tibetan Buddhist leader was detained over a year ago and sentenced to death by the Chinese authorities. This is not the first time that Czechs have responded to the situation in Tibet.

In 2001 an NGO was founded by former Czech dissidents in response to the International Olympic Committee's decision to stage the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The NGO is called Olympic Watch and its mission is to monitor the human rights situation in China in the run-up to the games. Petr Kutilek is the executive secretary at Olympic Watch.

"Olympic Watch on a regular basis adopts certain issues in which we feel the need for urgent action. At this point it is Tenzin Delek Rinpoche who, depending on how you read the law, may be executed in April 2004. We are asking people to write to the Chinese government and their governments and we'll soon be launching other campaigns. Typically we ask people to take action by writing to government and express their views."

The Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda has pledged to express the Czech Republic's concern about the case to the government of the People's Republic of China.