21st Annual Tibet Day Report

A celebration of peace, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, human rights, & community

by Giovanni Vassallo with Tsering Gyurme and Diane Hume

(Dec. 10, 2006) A succession of three heavy rain and wind storms were not enough to keep hundreds of Tibetans, friends of Tibet and others from attending a 21 year old San Francisco tradition: Tibet Day. The 21st Annual Tibet Day was held for the first time at the Sunset District's Saint Anne Events Center. This December 10 community and cultural fair also marked the 17th Anniversary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama receiving the Nobel Prize Peace, as well as International Human Rights Day, the 58th Anniversary of the signing of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The program began with an opening blessing by the Ven. Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Thupten Dawa, abbot of Namgyal Monastery, assisted by Ven. Ngawang Khenrab of Nechung Buddhist Center , Albany , California . Then there were the singings of the anthems of the United States of America and Tibet . After welcoming remarks by Giovanni Vassallo, President of the Bay Area Friends of Tibet (BAFoT) and Tenzin Tsephel, President of the Tibetan Association of Northern California (TANC), crowds flocked to the stage to offer of numerous good luck scarves to Tibet 's temporal and spiritual leader, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, at a throne set with His portrait.

US Government officials support Tibet , Tibet Day, His Holiness, and Human Rights

Speaker-Elect of the United States House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was represented by her staff-person, Harriet Ishimoto, who read her statement at the event, which called for international support to the Dalai Lama's efforts for negotiations with the Chinese Government and the doubling of efforts to bring freedom to the Chinese and Tibetan people. The full text of Congresswoman Pelosi's remarks is available near the end of this article. Ms. Ishimoto also expressed her best wishes for the success of the Tibetan Community Center of Northern California (TCCNC).

Congressman Tom Lantos, the ranking member on the House International Relations Committee, in a statement read by his Special Human Rights Assistant, Margery Farrar, recalled the brutality he received when Hungary was occupied by Nazi Germany and compared it to the brutal Chinese occupation of Tibet . Congressman Lantos stated that "Continuing accusations by Chinese government representatives that the Dalai Lama represents a so-called "splittist" influence are entirely false, and by now the Chinese government has no excuse whatsoever to fail to understand this major point." Mr. Lantos's statement assured that as the incoming Chairman of the House International Relations Committee that he would confidently "continue to engage fully with China 's leaders regarding their government's actions that have negatively affected the human rights and security of their own peoples and the entire world." Congressman Lantos's full statement is copied at the end of this article.

Representation of Congresswoman Barbara Lee was announced at the event and was in the form of a Special Certificate of Congressional Recognition sent to each of Tibet Day's organizers, the Tibetan Association of Northern California (TANC) and the Bay Area Friends of Tibet (BAFoT). The certificates are made available to persons or individuals to congratulate for achieving a qualifying public distinction and for outstanding public service to the community.

The Mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom had also sent The City and County of San Francisco Certificates of Honor to TANC & BAFoT for organizing the 21st Tibet Day 2006. Each certificate stated that as a day of celebration to peace, human rights, and community, the organizers lead "by example," which he was "pleased to recognize and honor."

US President George Bush who had been invited to speak declined to attend due to scheduling conflicts; however, he sent his "Best Wishes" for the success of the event.

A moment of silence was held at Tibet Day in memory of a great friend of Tibet , a member of the Committee of 100 for Tibet , Jeanne Kirkpatrick, who was the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, who had passed away Friday, December 8, 2006.

Community Fair

The day served many purposes. It was a major fundraising drive for the Tibetan Community Center of Northern California . Tibet Day also brought together a unique web of Tibetan vendors, Tibetan Buddhist organizations, Tibetan entertainers including Semshug Pundha, Tibetan Child Star, Tenzin Kunsel, photographers of Tibetan culture, a Tibetan doctor Yangdron Kalzang, author Thomas Laird, ardent lovers of Tibet and representatives of various Tibetan human rights organizations.

TANC honored Tashi Techung with a special commemorative plaque for his recent winning of a US music award. Techung is a Tibetan singer living in the US has won the best Asian album award for his compilation of freedom songs at the 2006 Just Plain Folks (JPF) Music Awards in Los Angeles . "A Compilation of Tibetan Folk and Freedom Songs" is a solo album by Techung that deals with traditional Tibetan music and opera. JPF is one of America 's largest grassroots music communities.

Attendees were presented with several options to spend their time at material exhibitions to inform the public about the rich cultural heritage of Tibet , as well as the ongoing political situation in Tibet . The fair included a Tibetan film festival which showed such films as Satya , Tibet : Cry of the Snow Lion, a film on the recent Nangpa Pass killing of unarmed Tibetan refugees fleeing Tibet , as well as film entitled Devotion and Defiance . Other slideshows presented included images of recent trips to the Tibetan regions of Amdo and Kham as well as a Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery. Representatives of the many of the represented groups working for Tibetans gave updates on their continuing works.

Author Thomas Laird gave a slide show about his book, The Story of Tibet , Conversations with the Dalai Lama. Thomas Laird spent over sixty hours interviewing and probing His Holiness the Dalai Lama about the unique history of Tibet . His book refutes every major Chinese Community propaganda claim on Tibet and Tibetan history.

Numerous individuals purchased raffle tickets for prizes made available by the Tibetan vendors and merchants. Also, items, such as a collector's edition of at 1959 Life magazine, with His Holiness gracing the cover, were auctioned. Proceeds from the auction went to benefit the capital campaign for the Tibetan Community Center of Northern California.

Attendees also had munched on plates of world-famous Tibetan dumplings, momos, prepared for the occasion by an army of TANC volunteers.

Tibetan merchants, vendors, nonprofit organizations and individuals participating at the fair included The Tibet Shop, Tibet Moon, Dilo Lama, Tenzing Gallery, The Tibetan Nuns Project, Tibet Himalaya House 1, Tibet Art & Gifts, Tsering Jewelry, Tibetan Gift Corner, Pachen from Palo Alto, Thukson Bachen/Gangchen, Tibetan Gift House, Tibet Books & Designs, Tibet Treasures Tsa Tsa Studio, Tibetan Aid Project, Nechung Tibetan Buddhist Center, Tsering Gyurmey, Choekyi, Tibet Oral History Project, The Dalai Lama Foundation, The Committee of 100 for Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet, the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, The Sogan Foundation, Tibet Justice Center, and others.

Dhondup Tsering, ex-RTYC president and member of Semshug Pundha, was instrumental in securing a $1,000 donation from Wells Fargo Bank that helped underwrite the costs of the event.

Panel Discussion on a "Path to Peace"

A panel discussion entitled "A Path to Peace" included as panelists, the President of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, Dawa Dorjee, Students for a Free Tibet's regional coordinator, Yangchen Chagzoetsang, as well as author and Tibet researcher, Thomas Laird and Christine Lin, an activist representing the Falun Gong, a religious sect persecuted by the Chinese government's Communist Party. Mr. Dorjee articulated that Tibetan struggle is a "People's movement and that Tibetans inside Tibet need to be able to decide their own future." Thomas Laird spoke about His Holiness's vision for peace. He said that fighting for peace was not about shouting and yelling, rather about educating oneself about China and Tibet and then taking positive action. Ms. Lin described the persecution of thousands of Chinese Falun Gong practitioners and the abusive treatment, including organ harvesting allowed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of the People's Republic of China and mentioned that Tibetans in Tibet should educate themselves about the true nature of CCP, which could be obtained by a thorough reading of the "9 Imperatives," editorials by the Epoch Times. She suggested that Tibet would be free once it frees itself of the CCP. The panelists encouraged specific actions to help free the Chinese and Tibetan people from oppression such as faxing messages calling for human rights protections to Chinese embassies and consulates, education on factual Chinese and Tibetan history and taking appropriate actions in response to this history, understanding the true nature of the Chinese Communist Party and auto-telephoning millions of Chinese and Tibetans about the Communists, and supporting Students for a Free Tibet's human rights campaign around the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games. The panel's moderator, Mr. Vassallo respectfully informed the audience about the wide consensus that the best short term for shedding light on the situation in Tibet was to focus on the human rights campaign surrounding these Beijing-based Olympic Games.

Candlelight vigil

Tibet Day's evening program began with a candlelight vigil led by the representatives of the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress. The main reason for the vigil was the killings by Chinese soldiers at the Nangpa Pass of unarmed refugees fleeing Tibet . The President of BAFoT, Giovanni Vassallo spoke at the vigil, "Use your precious human rights available to you here in the US to take concrete actions for Tibet , he said. He recalled his own childhood experience witnessing the pain of a Tibetan torture survivor who had been hung with his arms tied behind his back and left swinging for three days, an atrocity that occurred in occupied-Tibet during the Cultural Revolution. The victim was left in constant agonizing back pain. Mr. Vassallo encouraged the crowd to actively take part in the Beijing Olympics campaign and to not forget the important coming of age anniversary of the Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and take actions to seek his release such as emailing Chinese embassies. The Panchen Lama is Tibet 's second most revered religious figure after the Dalai Lama. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was kidnapped and disappeared by the Chinese government after His Holiness employed his historical and religious right to select him as the rebirth of the previous deceased 10th Panchen Lama. The Panchen Lama, if still alive, will turn 18 years old on April 25, 2007. He has been missing since May 1995, a disappearance which represents one of the Chinese government's grossest violation of Tibetan religious freedom.

Tibetan Child Star Kunsel

A twelve year old singing sensation, Tenzin Kunsel awed and wowed audience through out the day. She also gave a well-attended special evening performance. Several young Tibetan girls could be heard commenting on the performer's beauty and many people were transfixed by her extraordinary confidence and wonderful voice.

Major proceeds of the event went to support the capital campaign for the Tibetan Community Center of Northern California .

Helping educate Tibetans in Tibet and India "gives hope ", says Dalai Lama's former minister.

Financial report

Here's the financial report for Tibet day.

Total Income: $11394
Total Expenses: $5276.39
Net Income: $6117.61
TCCNC - 80%: $4894.08
BFOT - 20%: $1223.52

Income includes the $1000 from wells fargo and also $500 from the Dalai Lama Foundation. It also includes 17 vendor tables $2400.

Founded in 1983, BAFoT is a non-sectarian, non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization and is the US West Coast's original Tibet support group. BAFoT educates the public about Tibet and the Tibetan people; organizes grassroots projects and events to benefit Tibetans locally and internationally. BAFoT organizes events in cooperation with local Tibetan groups including the Tibetan Association of Northern California, San Francisco Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibet Justice Center, Tibetan Nuns Project, Committee of 100 for Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet, as well as Dharma groups. Check out www.friends-of-tibet.org for more information.