Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Students take on Tibet conflict

With worldwide attention turning to China’s conflict with Tibet before the summer Olympics, a local University of Wisconsin student is taking time to protest and attempt to garner support for Tibet.

Senior Tenzin Tsetan didn’t spend his spring break getting a tan in Florida but instead spent his time handing out flyers on Library Mall and attended a protest in Chicago with the University of Wisconsin Students for a Free Tibet.

Tsetan is the chapter coordinator for the organization, which was started on campus in 1995. SFT has over 650 chapters throughout the world and has a chapter at almost every major American and Canadian university.


“We’re just trying to accomplish better human rights in Tibet. We’re trying to accomplish an achievement of actually spreading the awareness to people who doesn’t know anything about Tibet,” Tsetan said. “This is the only way that I could actually help my people back in India and in Tibet to make a difference in their lives.”

The UW chapter of SFT traveled to Chicago on March 18 to protest outside the Chinese Consulate. Nearly 600 protesters from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois spent the day protesting China’s recently increased military presence in Tibet. At one point, a man climbed to the top of the building and waved the Tibetan flag before being removed by consulate guards.

Tsetan said SFT has also participated in local protests and candlelight vigils. They will be sending a group of students to protest the Chinese Olympic Torch when it comes to San Francisco April 8-9.

Ethnically Tibetan but born in India, Tsetan moved to the United States when he was 16. His father was born in Tibet and was a member of the Tibetan guerilla army until age 20 when he fled to India. There he met and married Tsetan’s mother.

The president of Wisconsin Tibetan Association — which works closely with SFT to raise awareness of Tibet throughout the entire Madison area — was also born in Tibet but moved to India when he was only a few months old. Lobsang Tenzin moved to the U.S. in 1992. Tenzin still has family in Tibet but is unable to contact them.

“If you tried to call them, everything is censored,” Tenzin said.

Tenzin and his organization often collaborate with SFT to organize demonstrations in downtown Madison, as well as candlelight vigils.

“Our main mission is to help Tibetans to immigrate to the United States and Madison,” Tenzin said. “At the same time, we also preserve our Tibetan culture, tradition and religion.”

Kalaya’an Mendoza, grassroots coordinator for the international SFT organization headquartered in New York, said UW-SFT does great things for the movement.

“The University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter does an amazing job of working with the Madison Tibetan community as well as the Chicago Tibetan community,” Mendoza said. “They realize that our role as supporters is to support the Tibetan people’s fight for freedom and independence.”

Mendoza said the current state of affairs in Tibet is clearly on the downturn, harking back to the infamous invasion by China in 1949.

“Any scholar will tell you that things in Tibet were not perfect, but the fact of the matter is the Tibetan people ruled themselves,” Mendoza said. “For a foreign government and foreign force to invade was a distinct attack on their own sovereignty.”

The Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans fled to India in 1959, according to Mendoza. He also said Tibet had made an attempt to appeal to the United Nations, but China shut them out, claiming that any issues with Tibet were an internal matter.

“It is a grievous insult to what the U.N. is supposed to stand for that they have pretty much kept silent over China’s brutal occupation of Tibet,” Mendoza said. “The U.N. needs to intervene in Tibet immediately.”

Mendoza said this is the reason the SFT will be protesting the Chinese Olympic Torch in San Francisco, London, Paris, New Delhi and Canberra.

“We’re not protesting the essence of the Olympics; we’re protesting the fact that the Olympics was unfairly given to the Chinese government,” Mendoza said.

UW-SFT member Tsering Kharitsang will be going to San Francisco in April to peacefully protest the torch. Kharitsang is a student at Southwest Technical College in Fennimore, Wis. but travels to Madison for SFT meetings because there is no chapter on her own campus. She estimates the Olympic torch protest could draw as many as 2,000 people.

“Right now the Chinese have cracked down. Everything is blacked out. [Tibetans] don’t have access to the Internet, the phone,” Kharitsang said.

See also: Local Buddhist monk commends protest in Tibet in The City Within

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