16dalai lama protest/md
By Jeff Kiger
Two groups calling for peace spoke out on Rochester’s streets today, brought here by a visit of the Dalai Lama.
Carrying signs with messages like "Dalai Lama Please Stop Hijacking the Olympics for Politics" and "Tell The Whole Story," a crowd of 30 to 35 demonstrators stood in front of the Mayo Building on Second Street Southwest.
Made up of mostly Chinese students studying at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, the group denounced riots in China in support of the "Free Tibet" cause.
When asked why she drove to Rochester to stand on a street corner in heavy winds, Yang Wu said she did it to show support.
"To support the truth of the Olympic spirit and peace," she said. "And to say no to the violence."
As the Chinese group tightly clutched their flapping flags, a group of people – also from the Twin Cities – wearing "Free Tibet" shirts and waving a small Tibetan flag proudly marched by on their way to hear the Dalai Lama speak.
Wearing a "Free Tibet" headband, Ugen Namgyal said he had come to Rochester on a bus trip organized by the Tibetan Community Center in the Twin Cities.
Why did he make the trip?
"To help with a peaceful demonstration against China, against the Olympics and the Chinese human rights violations against Tibet," he said. He said that as he waited in a long line of people waiting to get into the Siebens Building at Mayo Clinic where the Dalai Lama would speak.
Walking into the room, a young boy in traditional Chinese clothing smiled and flashed the peace sign to nearby photographers.
While Namgyal and his family waited, Kaimay Terry of Edina explained why she was standing with the pro-Chinese group on the sidewalk.
"Because you have to take to the street, otherwise your voice won’t be heard," said the former president of the Chinese American Association of Minnesota. "The story that has been told is one-sided."
Saying that media favors the "Free Tibet" faction, Terry said she recently tried to add the China side to the story by writing an column for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s editorial page.
"Retreating to protectionism and China-bashing is offensive to all fair-minded people of the world. It will not solve the prickly relationship between China and its semiautonomous region of Tibet (China has more than 40 minority groups) or our own pressing and serious challenges at home and abroad," she wrote.
So what spurred her to drive to Rochester to stand with university students on a sidewalk?
"I don’t usually do these things, but not everyone can write editorials," she said. "People know very little about Tibet. We have to get out and ask, ‘Who is hijacking who?"