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Why I will protest Hu Jintao's visit
Tenzin Choeying in New Delhi
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November 17, 2006

When Chinese President Hu Jintao arrives in New Delhi on Monday, I will protest. I do this because it is my moral obligation, as a person living in a free country, to speak out for my brothers and sisters who are suffering under Chinese rule.

Tibet [Images]ans living in Tibet are forbidden from raising their voices against China's illegal occupation of our country. Therefore, I must use mine. This is not a choice. It is my duty.

Every Chinese leader who has visited India in the past has been met with protests. But Hu Jintao, in particular, will provoke a strong and emotional response from Tibetans because of his role in the most brutal and bloody crackdown in our recent history.  

Hu's visit will stir memories of the repression and murder of 1989, a year when most people remember Tiananmen but Tibetans remember Lhasa. As the Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Hu led a vicious attack on protesting Tibetans and imposed martial law. Hundreds were killed, imprisoned and tortured. For this effort, Hu was later rewarded with a promotion to the most senior levels of the Communist Party.

This is the man I will protest against on Monday. To me, he is not just the figurehead of a government that keeps my people in chains -- he is himself personally responsible for immense suffering in my homeland.

Opportunities for Tibetans to speak out against Chinese leaders are few and far between. The powerbrokers of Beijing [Images] are shielded from any dissent or opposition to their policies. This is certainly true in Tibet and China and it is now mostly the case when they travel abroad. When Hu arrives in India, Tibetans will be kept out of sight and even earshot. We are not seen as freedom-fighters but merely a security concern and a potential embarrassment that must be contained at all costs.

The recent order issued by the Indian government to my friend, the Tibetan activist Tenzin Tsundue, is a painful reminder that we do not belong here. Like Tsundue, I was born and raised in India. I love this country. It has sheltered and nurtured our people physically, spiritually and culturally for two generations now. But we are not Indian.

We are foreigners and subject to a different set of rules. Though I studied law, I cannot rely on it to protect my rights because I am an alien. This is what Hu Jintao reminds me when he comes to visit. Until we win our freedom, Tibetans will never find true security as refugees � no matter how comfortable we may become in our host countries.

Watching India negotiate borders with China deepens this sense of insecurity and makes all Tibetans uneasy. Aside from fear for our own interests, we fear for the future safety of our Indian brothers and sisters. We want to shout, to warn India -- 'Stop before it's too late. You can't trust the Chinese'. 

China's recent claim to Arunachal Pradesh, an integral part of India, should be warning enough that nothing is too much for them to ask. Far beyond the Great Wall that was built to keep the 'barbarians' out of their boundaries, they have not only occupied parts of Mongolia, East Turkestan and Tibet, but they are now reaching to India -- again. In fact, not much has changed since 1962. Tibetans know this. Chinese leaders, like Hu, are virtually the same, though they wear a fancier style of suit and speak with more sophistication.

The only way to deal with shrewd and calculating China is to be tough and stand strong in the face of their bluster and their threats. As in business, the Chinese are seeking to establish their dominance in the geopolitical realm. They are very busy buying friendship and spreading their influence throughout Asia and around the world. They have the appetite for more and, so far, few seem willing to stand in their way.

In pursuing good relations with China I, and all Tibetans, hope that India does not fall victim to China's game. From the sidelines, we watch with bated breath and foreboding in our hearts, all the while working to keep our freedom struggle alive.

When I protest against Hu Jintao on Monday, I will do so not just to express my anger and frustration as a landless Tibetan, but also to expose and shame him for the reality of his rule inside Tibet. I know the occupation of Tibet must be costly before China will ever consider changing its policies there. There are very few things we can do that truly irritate or impact Chinese leaders like Hu, but public protest is certainly one. The pressure they exert on those who host them to stop our activities shows us that they care. As a nonviolent movement, protest is one of only a few tools available to us. What is our alternative?

In school we learned the lessons of India's independence movement. We learned that imperial powers are pushed to make changes by public expressions of protest and dissent. Freedom is fought for, it is never granted out of pity. The leaders of the Indian freedom struggle -- Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose and Gandhiji -- set an exemplary path with their sacrifice and noble deeds. They are our inspiration. Today as we struggle to keep our freedom movement alive, a new generation of Tibetans, largely born and raised in free and democratic India, remain committed to the principles of non-violence, but determined in our resolution to make Tibet a free country.

Tenzin Choeying, director, Students for a Free Tibet India, graduated from Delhi University Law Faculty in 2003

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