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British Tibetans lobby with UK government to restore suzerainty clause with China

Tibetan leaders pay their respects to the Dalai Lama's portrait on his 87th birthday in London (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

The Tibetan community in London celebrated the 87th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Saturday at Stratford, London, where hundreds of Tibetans converged to renew their campaign for Tibet's independence from China.

The Tibetans observed a minute of silence for Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe–a friend of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a strong supporter of the Tibetan cause. They prayed for world peace and wished the Dalai Lama a long and healthy life.

Sonam Frasi, from the Office of Tibet, London, urged the new generation of Tibetans to be fully aware of what Sinicization means and how it is being implemented in Tibet. He said: "Sinicization is a three-pronged attempt by China to convert Tibetans into Chinese".

Traditional Tibetan music and dance marked His Holiness the Dalai Lama's 87th birthday in London (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

Frasi, who is among one of the top Tibetan leaders in the UK, said that under a March 2022 regulation, China has banned listening to video and audio related to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan teachers from India. He added that Tibetan children are being sent to boarding schools where they are only taught Mandarin and China has embarked upon a programme to convert the Tibetan society into a Han Chinese one.

Speaking about the linguistic crackdown on Chinese minorities, he said: "The Tibetans, Ughyurs and Southern Mongolian people are not allowed to teach their languages".

Frasi added that the Tibetan government in exile is working closely with the British government's foreign office to nullify the Communist Party of China's (CPC) stand that Tibet is a part of China.

He said this in reference to the British government's 2008 decision under which the UK recognised Tibet as being a part of China. Frasi said that the British government changed its long-standing view of Tibet as an autonomous region after pressure from China.

The Chair of the Tibetan Community Britain (TCB) Tenzin Wangdue La also emphasised upon the Tibetans settled in the UK to "remember our brothers and sisters in Tibet who face torture everyday. We will not stop advocating till Tibet is free". He urged the Tibetans to work for a stronger harmonious community so that they can achieve freedom for Tibet.

The Tibetan community chose to celebrate the Dalai Lama's 87th birthday on July 9 instead of July 6 as the small British community found it convenient to travel to London from other cities Bristol and Bournemouth on a weekend. A handful of British people who have begun following the Buddhist faith and activists from Hong Kong also attended the celebrations.

A few members of the community also traveled from Europe. Thupten Gyatso La, a member of the Tibetan Parliament Europe, advocated a non-violent freedom struggle for a free Tibet. He said: "We have to be smart and united to challenge the CPC's constant lies and bullying. Tibet will be free not just because of our determination and struggle but also because of support by the people of the world".

The occasion provided the Tibetan diaspora to bond over an evening of music and dance, fun and food with Children enjoying themselves all over the place. Besides Tibetan and English, one could overhear the diaspora speak in chaste Hindi. The food included Tibetan as well as Indian dishes. With many Tibetans, the bond with India remains strong and nostalgic.

A theme that constantly reverberated throughout the celebrations and the speeches was sustainable living and planting of saplings. The community also collected donations to plant more trees for a greener planet and as dedication to the Dalai Lama.

Read more:

Covid restrictions force Tibetans in Delhi to hold low key celebrations for the Dalai Lama

Xi Jinping visits Nyngchi, close to Arunachal Pradesh amid strong undercurrents of turbulence in Tibet

(India Narrative spot report from London)