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Friday, April 27, 2012 7:23 p.m.

Students kick off city-wide Amnesty International protest

Freshman Shani Shih speaks during an Amnesty International's panel held Friday at the Service Employees International Union headquarters. Freddo Lin | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Aliya Karim

Student activists spoke out Friday against human rights violations in Tibet during the kick off for Amnesty International’s Get on the Bus rally.

Junior Emi Kamemoto and freshman Shani Shih spoke about the mistreatment of Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, who was arrested in March 2008 for a controversial film about the nation’s relationship with China.

“We need to stand with him and honor his courage, rally for his release and speak out for Tibetan people. [Need to] do something here that the government can’t ignore, the Chinese government can’t ignore,” Shih said.

Shih, who has been involved with Amnesty International for five years and leads the chapter on campus, said the Chinese authorities persecuting Wangchen have acted unjustly. Wangchen was arrested and held for two years before receiving a sentence of six years – to be complete in December 2015.

Since March 2011, at least 30 Tibetans have lit themselves on fire in protest of the treatment of Tibetans by the Chinese authorities, Shih said.

“They want to be able to speak out freely, to say how they feel, to sing and dance, to celebrate their own culture. They want to be able to freely worship their own faith,” Shih said. “They have to hide pictures of the Dalai Lama. It’s very sad to see that people can’t even look at a picture of someone they admire.”

Kamemoto, who interned with the International Campaign for Tibet, said people should not stand by while Wangchen is imprisoned for producing his documentary. A practicing Buddhist, she said she became more interested in the issue after seeing video footage of monks being beaten in the street in 2007.

“If we were all to have compassion for people, for each other, for people we like and don’t like, we wouldn’t hurt each other,” Kamemoto said. “The root of compassion is you have to feel it for everybody.”

After the opening panel, more than 500 protesters took buses to Dupont Circle to rally for action against China for mistreatment of Tibet. The group also gathered at the White House and embassies of countries they claim have violated human rights, including Iraq, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Philippines.

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