MYPLACE researcher Liga Rudzite from our Latvian team on the recent “Flame of Truth” event in Riga.
For more information on the MYPLACE project visit the project’s website: HERE
9th of October was a cool autumn’s day in Riga when a torch carrying a message for truth and freedom for Tibetans reached the capital of Latvia and was greeted by a handful of activists by the City Council of Riga. “Flame of Truth” is a worldwide relay drawing attention to the human rights abuses in Tibet and asking all supporters of Tibetan independence to sign a petition demanding the United Nations to intervene immediately on behalf of Tibet, and hold China to the same standard of human rights decency as any other country. Collected signatures will be submitted at the end of the relay on the 10th of December to the UN Headquarters in New York City, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, and the UN information office in New Dehli.
This blog entry offers a retrospect at the “Flame of Truth” torch’s visit to Riga where it was accompanied by Ven. Thupten Wangchen, member of Tibetan Parliament in-Exile.
“Flame of Truth” event in Riga was hosted by one of Riga City Council councillors who is also the leader of the NGO Latvia for Tibet. After the official welcoming of the torch near the City Council with flags of Tibet, activists and the few journalists from TV and Internet media were invited to an open press conference in the office of the councillor’s political group, where Ven. Thupten Wangchen spoke of the current situation in Tibet, describing it as hell on earth. The second press conference was organized in the Parliament of Latvia, but this was attended only by members of Parliamentary group for Support of Tibet. No media representatives were present here and the councillor commented that this might be connected to the close ties with China. No further explanation regarding this comment was provided.
Later on there was a special meeting arranged with councillors of Riga City Council, which was attended by only three councillors including the host of the event. During the meeting the hosting councillor voiced his concern regarding the situation in Tibet and what he might be able to do to support Tibetan cause if he would be elected in the next year’s Council elections. Also here he mentioned the close ties of Mayor of Riga Nils Usakovs with the Chinese government. When Ven. Thupten Wangchen briefed the councillors on the situation in Tibet, the other two attending councillors seemed to be not sure if this had anything to do with them.
The most visible event of the day was a street campaign to collect signatures for a petition to the UN – several activists of Latvia for Tibet approached passerbies on one of the most central streets of Riga, explaining them the situation in Tibet and inviting them to sign the petition. The current state of affairs in Tibet was compared to the former occupation of Latvia by USSR meaning that people in Latvia should help the small nation of Tibet to gain their freedom.
Activists were carrying flags and wearing hats with Free Tibet symbols, which prompted many passerbies to approach activists and sign the petition without enquiring any explanations on the content of it.
Mostly it was young people signing the petition, though people of all ages were approaching Ven. Thupten Wangchen, asking him about the meaning of Tibetan flag, current events there and other Tibet-related questions. In total within two hours activists collected over 300 signatures.
The day was continued in University of Latvia where Ven. Thupten Wangchen spoke to students and promoted his cause and ended by a reception in a cafe “Tibet” which was attended by a few more Latvia for Tibet activists.
Twitter account of Latvia for Tibet and its leader mentioned the opportunity to sign the petition even after the event, but there is no information as to how many signatures were collected in Latvia in total.
Even though the number of people actively promoting the signing of petition or participating in the official events of the day was not as high as expected, the organizers were impressed by the number of people that did sign the petition during the street action. This seems to be a very typical reaction of Latvia’s public to the Latvia for Tibet activities – though people are happy to express their support for freedom of Tibet, they are not as keen to actively get engaged with the movement.
Here are more photos from the event: Flame of Truth in Riga http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.379925758753407.91880.366684756744174&type=1