For the past two weeks, Cornell’s East Asia Program has been collaborating with Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) in the yearly “Ithaca-Cornell Tibet Weeks” event. The highlight of this week occurred Wednesday evening at Anabel Taylor Hall as world-renowned Tibetan monk Palden Gyatso spoke of his 33-year experience as a political prisoner in China.
During “Tibet Weeks,” organizers hope to educate members of the Cornell and Ithaca communities on Tibet’s past, present and future status and to celebrate the Tibetan refugees’ culture and history.
One SFT member explained, “We just want to educate the public on social and political problems of Tibet as we embrace their culture — from our heart to yours.”
Gyatso, 64, explained to the audience about the Tibetan experience since the Chinese invasion of 1950. Gyatso not only spoke of the atrocities he endured, but he also exhibited various devices utilized by Chinese jailers to torture Tibetan prisoners. He became a monk in 1941 at the age of 10. When the Chinese military invasion of Tibet climaxed in 1959, Gyatso was arrested, spending the following 20 years between prisons and Chinese work camps.
After his escape in 1979 from a labor camp, Gyatso embarked on a poster campaign calling for Tibetan independence. However, in 1983 he was arrested again in China by authorities and was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment without legal representation or defense.
Finally, immediately after his release in August 1992, Gyatso fled to India with smuggled implements of torture which were handed over in 1995 to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. Since his release, Gyatso has been a leading spokesperson for the Tibetan human rights cause; he has traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States.
Gyatso’s words seemed to penetrate the audience deeply.
“The admiration and respect that I hold for Gyatso is inexpressible,” said Miriam Frengs ’05. “Any man who can endure those cruelties must be some sort of superhuman. My heart goes out to all Tibetans.”
Since April 7, Ithaca’s Namgyal Monastery has also been screening films, holding lectures and organizing an event to introduce local Tibetan monks. The “Tibet Weeks,” however, have yet to come to an end.
Tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the Robert Purcell Community Center, the Magic Garden Puppets will present the classic tale of a poor Tibetan boy called “The Gift of the Naga King: A Tibetan Folk Tale.” Suited for children ages four and up, many Tibetans intend to educate their children early on so that they, too, can experience Tibetan culture.
“I hope that my children will carry on our Tibetan culture,” said one Ithaca community member. “I know that they are looking forward to Saturday’s show.”
All events in the series are free and open to the public.
Archived article by Sejal Udani