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Calgarians march for a free Tibet

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A small group of masked Tibetan protesters scaled the downtown Chinese embassy Sat., Mar. 10 to drape a banner from the roof denouncing the anniversary of China's 48-year occupation of Tibet.

About 60 Calgarians gathered at the corner of 10 St. and 6 Ave. to commemorate the 1959 Tibetan people's peaceful uprising and the enduring exile of the Dalai Lama­--the Tibetan theocratic head of state--to India.

"This is happening in places all around the world right now," said Tenchoe Darjee, a 15-year-old Tibetan-Canadian who has been attending such rallies annually for as long as she can remember. "We just want to inform people more, because a lot of people don't know what's happening. The first step is getting the information out."

The rally attracted much attention from local media and passing motorists. Two camera crews filmed the activists as they unraveled their 14-foot "Free Tibet" banner, while passing cars honked at the colourful Tibetans on the corner waving their bright red, yellow and blue Tibetan flags. For anybody who missed the demonstration, the activists uploaded a video of the rally onto Youtube.com, in an attempt to draw as much attention as possible to their cause.

Lobsang Dorjee, one of the organizers of the event, insisted they need all the attention they can get this year. Recently, the People's Republic of China has taken a hard-line stance in negotiations, infusing this year's rally with a sense of urgency.

"We want to make a bigger show of force this year because there have been talks with the Chinese government, and there has been no progress," said Dorjee, while protesters sang the Tibetan national anthem in the background. "The Chinese still will not accept a compromising solution. Their strategy, I believe, is that the issue will go away with the death of the Dalai Lama. It's a dangerous and naïve solution."

The Dalai Lama's government-in-exile has been in negotiations with China for autonomy, which would keep Tibet part of China but give Tibetans regional control.

"[T]he Chinese constitution guarantees national regional autonomy to minority nationalities," wrote the Dalai Lama in his 2007 edition of the annual Tibetan National Uprising Day speech. "The problem is that it is not implemented fully, and thus fails to serve its express purpose of preserving and protecting the distinct identity, culture and language of the minority populations."

Negotiations between Tibet and China have been ongoing since the early '80s. Tibetans are concerned with the preservation of their culture in the midst of an influx of alleged state-sponsored Chinese immigration. China denies accusations of 'demographic swamping,' insisting the harsh, high-altitude living conditions in Tibet prevent the government from encouraging immigration.

Throughout Tibet's struggle, the Dalai Lama has insisted on non-violent means to achieve a solution, and every March 10, Tibetans around the world march upon their local Chinese embassies to attract media attention, in hopes that coverage will raise public awareness and put pressure on China to act.

"It's tragic that a struggle like Tibet, which is a non-violent cause, gets no attention [in the media]," said Dorjee. "What hope do we have for a peaceful, non-violent solution?"

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