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Tibet Vigils Held Around NZ

Tibet Vigils Held Around NZ

By Carly Tawhiao

Candlelight vigils throughout New Zealand this week highlighted events happening in Tibet, since last week’s peace march marking the 49th anniversary of Tibetan protest against Chinese occupation, became a military operation.

National chair of Friends of Tibet (NZ), Thuten Kesang QSM, says the Chinese government’s reaction to what was a peaceful demonstration on March 10th, will continue to be severe as Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city, is under constant surveillance.

“They will identify people and arrest them,” he says.

“I am calling on our government to make sure that those who are arrested for peaceful protest are released without harm.”

Green Party’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Keith Locke, who addressed Wellington demonstrators outside Parliament, wanted to explain the importance of New Zealand taking a stronger stand in support of the Tibetan people.

“New Zealand must speak out, whatever the consequences for the free trade agreement to be signed in Beijing next month,” he says.

“It is not enough to just express ‘concern’ as Helen Clark has done. I expect the vigil will show that ordinary New Zealanders want a more forthright stand.”

The free trade agreement with New Zealand will be China’s first with the western world, and Ms Clark’s diplomacy has the support of opposition leader John Key.

“By driving stronger trading relationships with China, that in fact can help us in terms of speaking out in areas like human rights,” says Key.

With the build up towards the Olympic Games in Beijing this August, an intolerance to protest demonstrations is high on the agenda of Chinese officials. Mr Kesang has concerns about the human rights of the tibetans.

“This (vigil) is to highlight the grave situation in Tibet, and to call on our government to make a strong statement condemning the brutal Chinese crackdown on the peaceful demonstrators in Tibet,” he says.

Consulate-General of the Peoples Republic of China in Auckland, Mr Chongren Ma, remains unavailable for comment.

Vigils took place last night in Aotea Square - Auckland, Cathedral Square - Christchurch, and at Otago University in Dunedin from 5.30pm.

Further protests are planned over the next week across New Zealand.


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