CAMDEN, Maine — Amnesty International’s midcoast chapter was on the Village Green on Sunday to show its support for Tibet.
The purpose of the gathering was to circulate petitions and record personal messages to the premier of the People’s Republic of China asking that Tibetans be granted freedom of speech and assembly.
The event was a prelude to the appearance Sunday night of Jigme Norbu, nephew of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at the First Congregational United Church of Christ. Norbu recently walked 900 miles from Indiana to New York City to draw attention to the plight of the Tibetan people. His late father was the Dalai Lama’s brother.
“We want to draw attention to the lack of human rights in the Tibetan Autonomous Region China,” said event coordinator Mary Ellen Crowley of the local Amnesty International chapter. “This is all about freedom, primarily the lack of freedom in Tibet.”
Crowley said the Chinese government cracked down on Tibet after riots in the capital city of Lhasa last year. Since then, Tibetans have not been allowed to assemble or petition the Chinese government. Telephone communications from within and outside the region have been blocked, and restrictions have been placed on journalists attempting to enter there.
“There’s been a large military buildup since 2008. Monks were removed from monasteries and sent to re-education camps,” Crowley said. “Thousands have disappeared and hundreds have been sentenced to death. We are afraid they did not receive fair trials.”
The village green was festooned with Tibetan prayer cloths, posters and banners. Tables bearing petitions were scattered around the lawn and many of those collecting signatures were members of the Amnesty International student groups at Camden Hills Regional High School and Watershed School of Camden.
Faculty adviser Liz Dailey said the high school group consisted of 10 “very active” members and has had about 25 active members depending on the class. The high school has 625 students.
“They’ve worked very hard,” Dailey said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Dailey was one of many people who attended the event and took time to sit down before Crowley’s video camera and record a message to People’s Republic of China Premier Wen Jiabao. The messages to the premier were spoken softly and with respect. The resolutions and petitions and recorded messages on DVD will be sent to China in the coming weeks, she said
“You can accomplish a lot more by speaking with respect instead of pointing fingers,” Crowley said.