Why I was arrested in Greece
Growing up, I always heard stories about Tibet, my father’s homeland, and celebrated my culture - dressing up in chuba, making momos, and singing my heart out to Tibetan folk songs. Yet one disconcerting question always lingered in my mind: why could I not go to Tibet? Every year, my family and I attended the March 10 Tibetan National Uprising Day protest, where I’d listen intently to the impassioned speeches of Tibetan activists who were committed to fighting the Chinese occupation and chant alongside hundreds of united voices calling for a free Tibet.
It was there I learned that the 2008 Beijing Olympics had been awarded to China and witnessed young activists speak about why they were combating it. Their actions reminded me that our unity and determination make a Free Tibet possible, and that feeling still drives me today. Now it is 2021, and the Olympic Games are again being awarded to China, a country with one of the world’s worst human rights records.
Two weeks ago, ahead of the Olympic torch ceremony, myself and Hong Konger activist Joey Siu staged a nonviolent direct action against the Beijing 2022 Olympics atop the Acropolis in Athens. We were arrested and held in detention for two days.
The Beijing 2022 Olympics are intended to represent international unity. This is the message that will be broadcast to the world. But this February, when millions sit down to watch these games, what they do not see is that beyond the screen there are Tibetan nomads who are being forcefully removed from their lands, Tibetan children who must learn Mandarin in place of their mother tongue, and Tibetan activists sent to prison for merely opposing China’s repressive policies. The athletes do not see that, not far beyond that arena, Uyghurs are being sent to concentration camps and Hong Kongers are being imprisoned for standing up for freedom and democracy. The IOC’s decision to hold such prestigious and influential games in China is nothing less than an endorsement of these atrocities committed by the CCP.
Our actions in Greece this month sent a clear message to the IOC that hosting these games in a country committing genocide is unnacceptable. But one thing is certain: this would not have been possible back in our home countries. I am reminded of Tenzin Nyima, who died earlier this year from beatings and torture in Chinese prison. His offense? Handing out leaflets calling for Tibetan independence. At 19, he was just one year older than me. So, as a Tibetan in exile, I felt compelled to use my voice and freedom to take action for the countless Tibetans like Nyima. I feel hopeful, inspired and strong seeing the conversations our actions have brought about, and the support we have received globally. No amount of censorship can hide the truth.
(18-year-old Tibetan student Tsela Zoksang is a US resident and has been a Free Tibet activist)
November 02 2021