UN Secretary-General reacts to Tibetan hunger strikers in New York

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reacted this week to a hunger strike by three Tibetans outside UN headquarters in New York, according to his spokesman Martin Nesirky who said: “The secretary general affirms the right of all people to peaceful protest. He is however very concerned about the health of the hunger striking protesters.” (March 14, 2012).

Now in its 24th day, the ‘indefinite’ hunger strike, organized by the Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest world-wide organization of Tibetans, began on February 22, the first day of Losar (Tibetan New Year). The three hunger strikers are Dorjee Gyalpo, Shingza Rinpoche and Yeshi Tenzing (brief bio-sketches below). The hunger strikers are appealing to the United Nations to take the following actions:

  1. Send a fact-finding delegation to assess the critical situation in Tibet;
  2. Urge China to stop the undeclared martial law in Tibet;
  3. Urge China to allow international media to investigate and report on the ongoing atrocities in Tibet;
  4. Urge China to release the Panchen Lama, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and all Tibetan political prisoners; and
  5. Urge China Stop ‘Patriotic Re-Education’ campaigns in Tibet.

“The International Campaign for Tibet deeply respects the determination of the three Tibetans and recognizes the urgency of their situation. We sincerely hope that the hunger strike will draw the attention of the United Nations to the critical situation in Tibet and compel China to change its policies,” said Mary Beth Markey, ICT President.

On March 9, ICT Board Chairman, Richard Gere, visited the hunger strikers. Obviously moved by the weakened condition of the Tibetans, Mr. Gere spoke of their courage and the rights of all Tibetans to fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights (watch video).

On March 12, UN Assistant Secretary General Ivan Simonovic met with the three protesters who told him they want “concrete action” by the Chinese authorities to ease the ongoing crackdown in their homeland before they will consider ending their hunger strike. Mr. Simonovic said he would convey the group’s concerns “to the relevant Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva in line with established procedure in line with handling human rights matters.”

More information on the hunger strike, including daily updates, can be viewed on the website of the Tibetan Youth Congress. Following are the bio-sketches of the three protestors.

His Eminence 11th Shingza Rinpoche H.E. 11th Shingza Rinpoche Tenzin Choekyi Gyaltsen was born on January 15, 1980 in the Bongtag area of Tsongon, Tibet. His Holiness the Dalai Lama recognized him as the reincarnation of the 10th Shingza Rinpoche when he was 13 years old, and he joined Ragya monastery in Golok, Tibet. Rinpoche fled into exile in 1997 and joined Sera monastery in South India. In 2008, He took part in the “March to Tibet” organized by five Tibetan NGOs. Thereafter he led ‘Return to Tibet’ a clandestine mission of 60 monk activists to Tibet. He received a Geshe Degree in Buddhist philosophy in 2011. He founded the annual Tibetan National Poetry Recitation contest to create interest and pride in Tibetan language among young Tibetans. He is a staunch advocate for Tibet’s independence and a freelance writer who has authored two books in Tibetan titled Lewang Marpo and Gerchod. Rinpoche is also the founder and editor of www.wokar.net which is widely popular inside Tibet among Tibetan writers and scholars.

Mr. Dorjee Gyalpo Dorje Gyalpo was born on March 5th 1953 in Kyidong Pang-Shing region of Tibet. He escaped to Nepal in 1960. In 1965 he moved to India. He served as an Executive member of the Regional TYC in Mainpat in 1978. He came to United States in 1992 as part of the US Tibetan Resettlement Project and lives in Minnesota. His found inspiration to participate in this campaign in a 1992 speech by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibetans migrating to the United States when he said they are “the representatives of six million Tibetans”.

Mr.Yeshi Tenzing Yeshi Tenzing was born on March 15, 1973 in exile. He served as President of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress in Herbertpur for two consecutive terms (2004-2007 and 2007-2010). He has been an active member of Tibetan Youth Congress and has participated in many of its campaigns in India.

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