Canadian incarcerated in China during protest in Tibet speaks out at Concordia

This summer, Melanie Raoul was one of three Canadian activists who braved the risk of persecution by Chinese authorities when they hung a protest banner on the Great Wall of China. She came to Concordia last Monday to tell the tale and to speak out against China at a conference hosted by Students for a Free Tibet.

This summer, Melanie Raoul was one of three Canadian activists who braved the risk of persecution by Chinese authorities when they hung a protest banner on the Great Wall of China.
She came to Concordia last Monday to tell the tale and to speak out against China at a conference hosted by Students for a Free Tibet.
Last August, Raoul was detained for 40 hours for hanging a banner reading: “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet” onto China’s greatest touristic attraction.
The slogan mocked the Chinese government’s slogan for the 2008 Beijing games “One World, One Dream”. Within a matter of minutes, the political demonstration had been broadcast on the Internet by members of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT).
Raoul says that even though the outcome of the stunt did go according to plan, things almost got out of hand while rappelling down the wall structure.
“At one point a Chinese citizen climbed onto the wall and stepped over the ledge, took out a lighter and started to try and light my rappelling rope,” she said.
Upon hanging their banner, Raoul and the other activists immediately turned themselves in to Chinese police.
Although she was not appalled by her incarceration conditions, Raoul says her experience in Chinese detention was not a pleasant experience either.
“We were put in a bright lighted room, we weren’t allowed to sleep, we weren’t allowed to talk to each other. Of course we would eventually dose off and fall asleep but every time a Chinese officer would come in and shout ‘Don’t sleep, don’t sleep!’ And then make us get up and apologize for sleeping. But then they would say ‘No, no, you go ahead and sleep, you’re a hero,’ and then ten minutes later they would come back and take us out for interrogation,” she said.
Now back in Canada, Raoul is currently involved in touring around universities to encourage students to get actively involved in the fight for freedom in Tibet.
With the upcoming Olympic games bringing exceptional media coverage and attention to China, Raoul says it is the perfect time for students to get involved in Students for a Free Tibet.
“China is on trial right now. This is what the lead up to the Olympic games is all about. It is now up to us, that the atrocities that they inflict upon Tibetans as well as their own people is at the forefront of every single discussion that takes place about the upcoming games,” she said.
Students for a Free Tibet is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the cultural and religious rights of Tibetans.
Besides demonstrating as they did at the Great Wall, SFT promotes its campaign through benefit concerts, lectures and film screenings.
SFT claim that China is using the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games to legitimize its controversial claim on Tibet. As part of the lead up to the Olympic Games, the Chinese government will have the Olympic torch go through the Tibet-owned part of Mount Everest.
In response, SFT plans to use symbolism as well; as a tactic to counter the Chinese government’s public relations campaign.
“We want to use every tool we have whether its symbols, imagery, messaging, non-violent direct action, grassroots mobilization, Internet, technology, etc. We want to use these tools, to create a crisis of legitimacy to force the Chinese government to [address] on the issue of Tibet,” said Tsering Lama, the National Director for SFT Canada.
SFT’s message seems to be getting across as their demonstration last August received massive media coverage around the world.
Furthermore, the video of the stunt has been viewed over 27,000 times on YouTube. However, the Chinese authorities practiced censorship over this video and kept it from being viewed inside China.
According to SFT, 1 million Tibetans have perished in direct consequence of the Chinese occupation which took place in 1959.
China has since suppressed cultural, political and religious freedoms. The religious head of the state, the Dalai Lama has been forced into exile to India and thousands of Tibetans are choosing to do the same every year to flee persecution.
Through non-violent, direct action such as the Great Wall stunt and other peaceful protests, Students for a Free Tibet ultimately want to put enough pressure on the Chinese government to give Tibetans in Tibet enough space to organize their own political rallies.
“Our goal is to make China realize that the occupation of Tibet is more costly economically and politically than it is worth,” said Tsering Lama.

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