More than 150 mourners marched down State Street Wednesday night and gathered in front of the Capitol during a candlelight vigil to pray in memory of Tibetans who have been killed during more than 50 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet.
Before their walk, members of the Wisconsin Tibetan Association and sympathizers gathered on Library Mall to light candles and hand out signs with phrases like “Truth Will Prevail over Military Might!”
During their procession, those gathered sang a prayer for the people who have died at the hands of the Chinese government.
According to WTA President Thubden Sangha, the prayer thanked those who have died for their service to the Tibetan people and wished upon them a better life after reincarnation.
The candlelit walk and prayer service took place on the Tibetan New Year as members forwent their usual celebration in order to mourn.
According to Sangha, the memorial service replaced the normal New Year’s celebration because of the particularly horrific human rights atrocities committed against Tibetans by the Chinese government in the past year.
He said human rights violations have been an ongoing problem. He added due to China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics, they tried to remove Tibetans by killing, jailing and enforcing martial law against them.
“All these things made [Tibet] feel that now is not a time for celebration,” Sangha said. “In its place we are holding memorial, mourning and prayer sessions in order to relieve the suffering of Tibetans and, at the same time, hoping that those who have passed away will have some peace.”
Yangbum Gyal, a vigil participant and UW Human Resources specialist, echoed Sangha, saying now is a time to honor the brave people whose rights were violated instead of celebrating the new year.
He said Tibet is an independent country looking for a way to show the Chinese government its message.
“This is not against the Chinese people, but the Chinese government’s policy on Tibet,” Gyal said.
Sangha said the message WTA and the Tibetan people were trying to send to the Chinese government by mourning and holding the candlelight vigil was twofold.
His first aim was to let the Chinese government know that just because they have strong military and economic power does not mean they can subjugate Tibet. He wants them to know that those of Tibetan ethnicity will do whatever it takes to survive.
“Tibetans are going to be Tibetans for ages, and they are going to live and struggle for Tibet,” Sangha said.
Sangha added what the Tibetans want to get across is that they are not trying to take anything from the Chinese people, but rather that they wish to live in peace with them.
Sangha wants both governments to sit down and come to a mutual agreement that will stop the violence. He also wanted to make it clear that any anger and protest the Tibetan people have is not directed at the Chinese people but rather the communist government.