January has often been a quiet month. Not this year.
The streets of London – and many other cities - have been full of protesters. It’s been very encouraging to see so many people engaging with what’s going on politically at the moment and deciding that human rights are worth getting out of bed for on a Saturday morning, or heading towards Parliament instead of going home after a long day at work. I guess the Sikyong was right when he said 2017 would be the year of protest. Although I have to confess I do feel occasional pangs of jealousy. I wish we could get a tenth of those numbers at Tibet protests. We’ll just have to keep campaigning until we do!
The Free Tibet office has also been busier than usual this year. We’ve had quite a bit of news coming through from Tibet and the Tibet Watch team have been busy gathering information at the Kalachakra in Bodh Gaya. As always, that information is stored on our custom-designed human rights database, which is heavily encrypted and protected by several layers of additional security.
Our campaign for Tashi Wangchuk reached a milestone and we commemorated the one year anniversary of his arrest. We organised a vigil at the Chinese embassy in London on Friday 27 January and had a very good turnout despite the weather. Solidarity protests were also held in New York and Dharamsala. Some local Tibetans here in London designed a fantastic Tashi Wangchuk poster for the vigil. It got a well-deserved response on social media and they’ve since had requests from Tibet group in other countries asking if they can use the artwork.
January is also when we start work on the 2017/18 budget. Being immersed in spreadsheets and financial data is rarely fun but it is essential that we have clear plans for the coming year and also know that we have the funds to deliver them all. We’re hoping to do lots of outreach this year, both online and in person. I’ll be heading up to Manchester in a couple of weeks to celebrate Losar with the Tibetan Community UK North Association. I haven’t been to Manchester since the Blood on the Snows tour last April so I’m really looking forward to the visit. Hopefully I’ll have some good photos to share in my next blog.
When I get back we’ll be finalising our preparations for 10th March. We’re working with the Tibetan Community UK, Tibet Society and SFT UK to ensure a full programme of events. You can register for the rally on our Facebook event page. You can also sign up for lobby training – the actual date for our UK lobby day will be confirmed soon.
Both the rally and the lobbying will have a focus on Larung Gar. The demolitions have recently been paused, seemingly due to the winter weather. There are conflicting reports as to whether work will resume in February or April but Tibet Watch sources suggest April is more likely. We know that governments are aware of the situation in Larung Gar and have been discussing it with China but we need to keep the pressure on.
Finally, we’re expecting the results from our Tibet poll soon and they will help us refine our campaign plans and ensure that we’re effective in growing support for Tibet. As we promised during our crowdfunding campaign, we’ll share the data with other groups once it’s been processed. Hopefully it will help to make the whole movement more effective and help us all get one step closer to a free Tibet.
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.