Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Tibet in Jakarta
Tibet supporters in Jakarta, before their demonstration was broken up by police.
Photo: REUTERS / Beawiharta

he Beijing Olympic torch relay passed off with a big yawn in Indonesia yesterday, as the flame was run in circles around the main sports stadium in Jakarta with the public kept well away from the festivities.

Jakarta police swooped down on a pre-event demonstration outside Bung Karno Stadium, detaining at least nine people, including one foreigner from the Netherlands who was taken to police headquarters. The other eight, including four from the Legal Aid Foundation, were released after questioning.
"These arrests show that Indonesia is afraid of China's pressure," protest organiser Tri Agus said at the scene.

He asked why police failed to act to stop recent violence against a minority Muslim sect but pounced on peaceful rights activists.
The "by invitation-only" Jakarta leg of the relay was mostly ignored by the city's 12 million inhabitants, with the run mainly witnessed by officials, Chinese nationals, and those invited by corporate sponsors. The event was not broadcast live, as no broadcaster was prepared to pay for the rights.

Enrico Soekarno
Artist Enrico Soekarno founded the Indonesian Roof of the World Foundation.
Photo: Jakarta Post
One of the activists promoting the Tibetan cause in Indonesia is the artist Enrico Soekarno. Enrico established the Roof of the World Foundation after a visit with some of his friends to Tibet in 2003. That trip resulted in an exhibition of his work and a book. The foundation is under the leadership of Abdurrahman Wahid (affectionately known to Indonesians as "Gus Dur"), a former president of Indonesia, who himself is a good friend of the Tibetan leader.

A delegation of the Foundation (Yayasan Atap Dunia) including Enrico, visited Dharamsala in 2006. YAD's main purpose is to organise interfaith dialogues for religious harmony, for which both Dalai Lama and Gus Dur have made life-long commitments. It also aims to inform the people of Indonesia about Tibet and its culture. Enrico says he can't use words to describe his meeting with His Holiness that year.
"He was reading our introductory letter and he knew everything about President Sukarno -- and he knows the Pancasila. He is very well read. And the people in his government, the parliament -their choice of words -- they are intelligent, they are amazing. I wish my DPR (the Indonesian House of Representatives) was as smart and as caring. And they were so humble. The prime minister met us, the ministers; they opened the parliament to us. We were just a bunch of artists."
He had an art exhibition of his Tibet related works last month in Jakarta, which opened on March 10. Dalai Lama had given him a forward for the exhibition catalogue, and he says with a grin, "I was so happy. When it arrived in the post, so happy."

After the demonstrations erupted across Tibet, he contacted the Jakarta Post with this message:
"Since March 10, both inside and outside Tibet, a popular nationwide demonstration against Chinese rule has being taking place. It is high time Chinese leaders settle the issue of Tibet peacefully through the Middle Way Policy, whereby Tibetans are willing to accept and live under Chinese rule if genuine autonomy is given to them to preserve and practice their religion."
Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge displayed laser beam messages in support of Tibet, on April 22, 2008. In this shot, the words are "China, Talk to the Dalai Lama".
Photo: Jamie Williams / Reuters
Two people were arrested in Sydney for displaying a banner without a permit (on the Harbour Bridge), as her sacred little flameyness touched down today at a military airfield near Canberra. Last night, activists beamed lasers onto the iconic bridge, forming messages which read, "Don't Torch Tibet," "China, Talk to the Dalai Lama," and "Peace in Tibet." A group of Tibetans are on a 43 mile march to Canberra while on hunger strike.

Media reports said that the Chinese embassy in Canberra had hired 20 buses to ferry supporters in from Sydney and Melbourne. The torch route has been shortened to keep it out of narrow downtown streets and away from the Chinese embassy.

Canberra police commander Mike Phelan said the torch route would be "dynamic" in case of trouble.
Phelan stressed Australian police alone would handle security after Beijing Olympic Committee Spokesman Qu Yingpu hinted Chinese attendants could step in, prompting hurried denials from city officials.
Just look at that. The BOC is trying to dictate the security measures of another sovereign country, after they've been told weeks ago that the People's Liberation Army Sacred Flame Protection Unit would have no security role in Australia under any circumstances. The nerve of some people.

Hafiz Noor, down in Kuala Lumpur has put his pictures up from from Monday, showing some of those who attacked and intimidated him for holding up a banner written with "Liberty." The Nation has a good gallery of images from Bangkok on Saturday.

Nepal has expelled a mountain climber who was found with a "Free Tibet" banner inside his bags at Everest Base Camp. Good thing he went peaceably or he might have been shot! The parliament of Chile has approved a resolution calling on their Foreign Minister to "condemn the violence and repression in Tibet and request that the Government of China open direct conversations with the Dalai Lama to find a peaceful solution" to the conflict.

Two more South Koreans have withdrawn from the torch relay in Seoul, joining a civic leader who announced his boycott last month.
"The decision was unavoidable and it has been determined that the Tibetan crisis counters the spirit of the Olympics," said Choi Seung-kook, secretary-general of the major environmental group Green Korea, who dropped out of the run.

Park Won-sun, a lawyer who heads the Seoul-based civic group and think tank Hope Institute, also will not participate in the relay because of the Chinese government's crackdown in Tibet, institute official Park Eun-ju said.

The two men joined another civic leader who announced a boycott in late March citing a similar reason, according to Solidarity for Tibet Peace, a Seoul-based civic group.
Meanwhile in China, the Foreign Ministry has called for halt in 'radical' anti-France demonstrations. The two countries are trying to patch things up, even as the city of Paris honours the Tibetan spiritual leader with honorary citizenship. The Ministry spokeswoman went on to blast this "wanton action" as an "insult" - but only on the Ministry's website rather than verbally.

And here's one that I really like. The International PEN, a worldwide association of writers with 145 centres in 104 countries, which promotes freedom of expression and works for prisoners of conscience, has an "International PEN Poem Relay" going on now. The poem June, written by Chinese poet and journalist Shi Tao, is travelling around the world and being translated into as many languages as possible (now 90 and counting). It's in Philippines right now, and will be in Australia tomorrow. You can follow its progress with an interactive map on the linked page.

by Shi Tao

My whole life

Will never get past “June”
June, when my heart died
When my poetry died
When my lover
Died in romance’s pool of blood

June, the scorching sun burns open my skin
Revealing the true nature of my wound
June, the fish swims out of the blood-red sea
Toward another place to hibernate
June, the earth shifts, the rivers fall silent
Piled up letters unable to be delivered to the dead

Translated to English from Chinese by Chip Rolley.

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