Welcome to the future. According to the Tibetan calendar it’s the year 2144 and it’s the year of the Firebird. Losar, Tibetan New Year, traditionally takes place over a period of 15 days, which officially commenced on 27 February this year. The festival often coincides with Chinese New Year but this time there is almost a month between the two events. This, of course, helps to highlight the uniqueness of Tibet’s culture.
I was invited to an advance Losar celebration in Manchester, which was hosted by the Tibetan Community UK North Association on Saturday 25 February. It was a very enjoyable evening with lots of activities, singing, dancing and great food provided by the Tibetan Kitchen. I was able to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and also meet a few new people.
One of the main things happening in the London office during February was Tibet Match. This is an online funding appeal for Tibet Watch which we now do annually around this time of year. We previously used to take part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge, which is supported by the Reed Foundation. The basic idea is that supporters donate online and the Foundation finds people who are willing to match the total raised – so all our online donors see their money doubled.
However, in 2015 we were told that human rights in Tibet were no longer a priority issue for the organisers and we wouldn’t be able to take part in the next Christmas Challenge. Initially we were devastated because that was one of Tibet Watch’s main sources of income. But then we decided that we weren’t going to let this stop us and that if the Big Give was no longer an option then we would run our own funding appeal. We found a small group of generous people who were willing to provide the match funding and we created Tibet Match. Our first appeal in 2016 was very successful and we raised over the target amount. This year we increased the target by securing an amazing £6,000 for the match pot. We still managed to beat it and received £7,403 worth of contributions, which, when combined with £6,000 of matched funds totalled £12,403 for Tibet Watch! We really appreciate the incredible response from our supporters.
The other thing that’s been keeping the team busy is our preparations for Uprising Day on 10th March. Yesterday we had a placard making session in the office, with colleagues from Students for a Free Tibet, the Tibetan Community UK and other volunteers coming along to help. We treated everyone to some pizza afterwards to thank them for all their hard work.
For full details of the event taking place on 10th March in London, please see the facebook event page.
For those of you who can't attend the London event, there are a range of 10th March events happening all over the world. Check this handy map to see if there is a demonstration near you. If you are already attending an event, please visit the page where you can add the details to the map to let others in your area know.
We are also co-organising Tibet Lobby Day for this Tuesday (7 March). This is a chance for you (if you live in the UK) to talk directly to your MP and ask them to take action for Tibet. Please visit our facebook event page for more info, or sign up here and we will be in touch.
We’ve also been busy making a video about the situation in Larung Gar, which provides an update on the international campaign as well as the latest news on the ground. It will be getting its debut screening at the evening event taking place after the rally in London on 10th March.
The Larung Gar campaign has recently been boosted by the news that six independent experts at the United Nations, known as Special Rapporteurs, have written to the Chinese government to express their deep concern and call for an end to the human rights violations taking place, as well as for the person(s) responsible to be held to account. This is an important milestone in the campaign and our video will help make sure everyone knows.
For those who can't attend the event, make sure you 'like' our Facebook page where we will be posting a version of the video for you to see in the coming weeks.
Eleanor is Director of Free Tibet and also of our research partner Tibet Watch. She joined the movement professionally in April 2013, having previously been Director of Casework for legal charity Amicus, where her work focused on the death penalty in the US. With a law degree and an MA in human rights, Eleanor has worked for many other campaigns and projects, including One For Ten, PeaceBrigades International, the Burma Human Rights Documentation Unit and the British Institute of International & Comparative Law. She has been a supporter of Free Tibet since her student days and has supported the Tibetan cause for over 20 years. Read updates from her on Twitter and each month on our blog.