by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Brian Hioe

CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS held a march today in Taipei to commemorate the 64th anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day. Tibetan Uprising Day marks the uprising that took place on March 10th, 1959 against the PRC presence in Tibet, and is commemorated on March 10th each year. Today’s march was part of a series of activities to commemorate Tibetan Uprising Day, including cycling around Taipei in the prior month with Tibetan flags, and a vigil that will be held at Liberty Plaza on Friday.

Start of the march outside the Zhongxiao Fuxing SOGO. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

The march this year, as in past years, started in front of the SOGO by Zhongxiao Fuxing. Participants began gathering at 1 PM, with the proceedings starting at 1:30 PM with the singing of the Tibetan national anthem, and a moment of silence for the deceased. This was followed by a series of talks from politicians supportive of Tibet. This included legislators Freddy Lim and Hung Sun-han, as well as Taipei city councilors Sabrina Lim and Miao Poya.

The march set out around 2:30 PM. Subsequently, the march moved east, to the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial. At the Sun Yat-Sen, traditional mourning ceremonies were held. The march then moved south to the Bank of China building in Xinyi, which often is used as a symbol for China by demonstrators, such as regarding Hong Kong or Tibet issues. This is due to the absence of any official representative office by China in Taiwan.

Mourning ceremony held outside the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

A skit was held in front of the Bank of China building, with five participants in the demonstration wearing masks representing Tibetan and Uyghur political prisoners, including Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti and the Panchen Lama. Two other participants dressed as Chinese police officials put ropes around the demonstrators representing the prisoners, who then later took off the ropes to represent liberation.

Afterward, the march proceeded south to Taipei 101, circling around the building. The demonstration then ended in the plaza outside of Taipei 101 with comments by the Dalai Lama’s representative in Taiwan.

Skit held outside of the Bank of China building. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Participant groups included many of the mainstays of Taiwanese civil society, such as the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, Economic Democracy Union, Covenants Watch, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, as well as groups representing Hongkongers and Uyghurs, such as the Hong Kong Outlanders and the East Turkestan Association. Protest chants included calls to free Hong Kong, Tibet, and East Turkestan, as well as to keep Taiwan free. During the march, speakers gave talks from the speaker truck that led the march, with one of the speakers being Lee Ming-che, the Taiwanese human rights advocate who was imprisoned by China for five years.

The politicians that spoke at the start of the rally highlighted the common cause between Taiwan and Tibet, in the face of Chinese oppression. Miao Poya highlighted how democracy in Taiwan today, allowing for demonstrations such as the march, only took place because of the sacrifice of countless individuals in the course of Taiwan’s history, such as the victims of the 228 Massacre. Likewise, speakers called on Taiwanese not to believe China’s promises regarding a peace agreement–such as advocated by some members of the KMT–given that a putative peace agreement was how Tibet lost its freedom to China.

The march approaching Taipei 101. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Tibetan speakers such as Tashi Tsering, the chair of the Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan, spoke of how he had never seen his homeland due to being born among the Tibetan exile community. Tsering stated that he did not hold anything against Chinese, but that he viewed Chinese and Tibetans as both oppressed by the authoritarian rule of the CCP. Tsering, too, cited the numerous deaths that continue to take place in Tibet as a result of self-immolation, many of which are young people consumed by a sense of hopelessness. Otherwise, Tsering and other Tibetan speakers also highlighted actions of the CCP such as collecting the genetic information of Tibetans.

In the course of the march, there were some incidents involving individuals trying to confront the participants. At one point, police removed an individual from the proceedings.

The end of the march. Photo credit: Brian Hioe

Before the march ended, Lin Hsinyi, one of the directors of the Human Rights Network for Tibet and Taiwan, warned of past incidents in which someone crashed a vehicle into the speaker truck for the march. In particular, these and other incidents are sometimes photographed and edited by pro-CCP individuals for propaganda purposes, to depict pro-Tibet demonstrators as violent, sometimes by deliberately seeking to provoke them. According to Lin, an individual who had engaged in such behavior in the past was seen at the march, as a result of which it is possible that doctored clips or photographs might later appear online.

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