|Man, I wish I had gotten the word. $350 to wave a flag, socialize with cute Oriental chicks and catch some rays? Heck, I would have jumped in.
The Global Human Rights Torch Relay, scheduled to pass through 37 countries, arrived in Minnesota (MN) State on April 16 on its America leg of the ongoing relay. The torch arrived after passing through New York earlier on Sunday. The organisers of the torch relay hope to draw attention to human rights concerns in Tibet, as well as the Chinese government's persecution of the Falun Gong, Buddhists, rights advocates and others.
In Minnesota, the relay kicked off from the State Capitol and arrived at the University of Minnesota Coffman Front Plaza, covering 11 miles, for the main even of the torch relay. Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong, China Democracy Movement, MN Tibetan community, Falun Dafa Twin Cities Club, Burmese representative, Genocide Intervene were among others taking part in the torch relay advocating: “The Olympics and crimes against humanity cannot coexist in China”.
Upon reaching the University of Minnesota, Tenzin Namlha, a good friend of mine who now resides in MN, was taken aback seeing an unusually large contingent of supposedly pro-China campaigners protesting side by side, apparently to disrupt the relay’s event. Tenzin, who recently moved to US from Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-exile, was among some 300 odd members of MN Tibetan community, who took a day off from work on Wednesday, to take part in the peaceful human rights torch relay.
What shocked Tenzin most was when a Chinese student carrying a pro-China banner approached him, in the midst of event, and asked him how much he got to take part in it; evidently with no idea of the whole torch relay event.
“What happened is that there were lots of pro-Chinese, and one of them came to me and asks me how much I got,” Tenzin wrote in our usual online chat. “He thought I might be one of them (Chinese),” Tenzin went on.
“And then I asked him back (the same question) and he said he got 350 dollars (US) from the Chinese government to protest against us (Tibetans and human rights activists). He specifically told us that lots of students, almost all of them were paid to protest against Tibetans,” he added.
During his brief interaction with the outwardly frank Chinese student, Tenzin said he learned that pro-Chinese activists at the San Francisco leg of Olympic torch relay were all paid to protest against pro-Tibet campaigners. “And it’s not just yesterday, they were paid to go to protest against us in San Francisco too,” Tenzin wrote in our chat on Wednesday.
“The pro-Chinese in San Francisco were all paid to protest against us man,” he wrote in his casual chat language.
Interestingly, what happened later proved even more unexpected for Tenzin.
“So I asked him ‘why are you protesting, I mean do you have any idea about what’s going on’” Tenzin went on with his narration.
“That Chinese guy told me he didn’t know what’s going on,” Tenzin wrote saying he literally had to explain to his Chinese counterpart in “detail” about what had been “going on in Tibet” and that the “Human Rights Torch Relay” is “not talking about Tibet at all”.
According to Tenzin, on hearing the explanation, the bemused ‘Chinese guy’ later put his banner down to join Tibetans and other groups to denounce Chinese government of its human rights record.
“We were all talking about human rights in China and then he put his banner down and joined our group!” Tenzin exclaimed, adding “It’s really funny man”.
Tenzin further wrote: “He doesn’t even know why he is protesting. And it’s not just him; he said most of the students who are pro-Chinese don’t know why they are protesting”.
When asked how they get money from Chinese Government, Tenzin said he was told by the Chinese stranger that one of the student’s or a group’s leaders would take money from Chinese embassy or consulates from respective locations and then pay them to individuals.
Tenzin and other Tibetans later on the very same day went to Rochester, which is almost two hours drive from Minneapolis, to see the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to hear him speak.
The Dalai Lama was attending a day-long conference at Mayo Clinic's Siebens Building titled "Investigating the Mind-Body Connection: The Science and Clinical Applications of Meditation" where he also gave a talk titled "Compassion in Medicine".
Tenzin said he was again disturbed seeing many Chinese protesters, made up of mostly Chinese students studying at the University of Minnesota, outside the Mayo Clinic building, carrying Chinese flags and anti-Dalai Lama and anti-Tibetan banners.
Tenzin said he and other Tibetans expected to get a glimpse of their leader, but could not see him after waiting there for more than an hour. He blames the Chinese govt-funded protest for obstructing their chance to see the Da