I went along to the Tibetan Freedom Rally, where I managed to stand near the stage and see what was happening. I'll admit to being non-plussed as to why a man in a kilt playing the bagpipes opened the rally. I missed the point.
Matt Whitticase, introduced Sonam Frasi, a Tibetan MP, who spoke movingly about the plight of his people in Tibet. Norman Baker, MP and Kate Hoey, former Sports Minister were both characteristically vociferous and eloquent in their condemnation of the Chinese Governments behaviour in Tibet, and our Government's inability to speak out loudly about the torture and slaughter in Tibet these past few weeks. Hoey and Baker called on Brown and others to refuse to go to the opening ceremony of the Olympics. . Baker raised the point that Tibet did not belong to China, it belonged to the Tibetans and had done for centuries, but that China invaded Tibet in the 1950's. This fact seems to have evaded the Chinese Ambassador in London, among others. Joanna Lumley read out what the Dalai Lama had said in response to China's claim that he had organized these protests in Tibet. i.e come and find the evidence, you're most welcome. (Documented elsewhere for those interested.)
Joe Driscoll, an idiosyncratic one-man band enchanted us with a song called 'Just Us'. 'There's no justice, there's just us'. His song was a rallying cry for us all to speak out for those who face repression, torture and violation of their basic human rights. Joe Driscoll was joined by Chino who told us he's half Black and half Tibetan, and a Londone. Chino is a powerful young rapper, with some poignant and punchy lyrics.
'The Drapchi Nuns , Gyaltsen Drolkar, Phuntsok Nyidron, Namdrol Lhamo and Ngawang Sangdrol who had all been jailed at Drapchi for peaceful protests which included mention of the Dalai Lama, when they were about 15 years old, sang a very beautiful song . It was one of the songs they recorded and smuggled out of Drapchi, for which their sentences were extended and they were further tortured when this was discovered; too late to stop the songs getting out though. These small women, with indomitable Tibetan spirits, sang from their hearts. As one of them said, their time in jail was remembered just like yesterday.They are also known as the ' Singing Nuns' . It is as well to remember, many of the Drapchi nuns in jail with them, didn't make it. I couldn't take my eyes off them, they were compelling.
Another Tibetan woman, Lhadon Thethong, .who has organised various high profile publicity campaigns, such as unfurling a banner saying, 'One World, One Dream, Free Tibet' on the Great Wall of China, chose to focus her speech around three words:
Courage, Hope and Freedom. Tethong illustrated how the Tibetans have shown courage and hope for freedom. It is up to us, to take these human attributes and relay them on. Lhadon then lit an alternative Olympic Torch which was then taken by the Drapchi Nuns to St Pancras to start it's journey around on Eurostar to Paris and beyond, carrying on our hopes for freedom for the Tibetan peoples.
There were other performers, Tibetan singers, Tibetan performers, musicians and actors who as Tibetan prisoners, and a monk, were shown being beaten up by Chinese Guards. One of the prisoners chained round his neck and ankles, they sang the song from the floor for sometime before they stood up again. It was a moving testament to the Tibetan spirit, and shocking to hear that there are only 6 million Tibetans left in the world. That's less than the population of London. We can't afford to ignore them any longer.
Joanna Lumley refered to something I too had thought of, before I set out in the snow this morning, that Tibet is known as 'the Land of Snow'. It seems even the weather was highlighting Tibet here in London today- lest we forget, lest we forget.