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Voices of Freedom PDF Print E-mail
[18 December 2012] On 12 December 2012, the coalition group Chinese, Uyghur & Tibetan Solidarity UK, of which Tibet Society is a founding member, held a concert in central London to mark Human Rights Day 2012 and to highlight cultural resistance in Tibet, East Turkestan and China. Voices of Freedom featured songs, poems and writings by those the Chinese government have attempted to silence, either through censorship or imprisonment.

The evening was introduced by Paul Golding from Tibet Society, a founding member organisation of the coalition. He said that not only is freedom of expression a basic human right, but its restriction is the downfall of a society. "If you clamp down on free speech you imprison an individual's soul. If you restrict cultural freedom you destroy the heart of society."

Voices of FreedomJessica Trevis, from Amnesty International, provided context for the event, describing the extent of human rights abuses faced by ethnic minirities and Han Chinese alike. She described human rights violations in China as "systematic" and that "all groups within China are vulnerable to the violation of their most basic human rights". For ethnic minorities, even "voicing the desire to speak in your mother tongue can be a crime worth punishable by detainment, a prison sentence or even torture".

Voices of Freedom concertMs Trevis said that events such as Voices of Freedom are crucial in order to achieve the understanding and unity needed to bring about real change in China. She concluded, "To give a voice to the human rights situation in China, we must first give a voice to all individuals that it affects."
(Read Jessica's full speech on Tibet Society's blog.)

The concert performances ranged from the comic Gangnam style music video by Ai Wei Wei, to the poignant "My Pen is Broken", by Abdurehim Otkur (Uyghur poet); and, from the uplifting song "Victory to Tibet" by Gepey (Tibetan singer) to the chilling poem "June" by Shi Tao (Chinese poet).

Voices of FreedomThe Tibetan community were represented by singers Ngawang and Tenzin Samphel and musician Jamyang Dorje. Dechen Pemba, who edits the High Peaks Pure Earth website, read a poem by blogger Woeser and letters by journalist and singer Jamyang Kyi about her own imprisonment.

As well Ai Wei Wei, a video was shown of Chinese musician Liao Yiwu and poems by Zhu Yufu and Liu Xiaobo were read out. Zheng Di from the Falun Gong, completed the Chinese line-up with a beautiful traditional song.

Voices of FreedomThe Uyghur community were represented by members from the Uyghur Ensemble including singer Rahime and musician Nizamidiu. As well as three exquisite songs, two poems were read out including one by imprisoned poet  Nurmuhemmet Yasin.

The concert not only reflected the cultural diversity amongst the peoples living under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party, but demonstrated the strength and courage of those willing to risk their personal freedom in order to defend the right to freedom of expression.

Voices of FreedomBefore the audience had the chance to mingle with the performers and members of the Chinese, Uyghur and Tibetan communities over drinks and refreshments, Paul Golding wrapped up the programme by asking those present to stand together with the oppressed peoples of China, Tibet and East Turkestan:

"It is not only a right, but our duty, as citizens living in a free society, to speak out and stand up for those whose freedoms have been repressed, whose works are banned, whose voices are censored. We must ensure that these voices are not silenced, but are amplified to resonate across China, in the corridors of authority, and across the world, and become true voices of freedom."

More information:
An overview of persecution in China, Tibet and East Turkestan by Jessica Trevis
Guardian: Video interview with Ai Wei Wei (on making the Gangnam style music video)
High Peak Pure Earth - commentary and translations from Tibet and China

Chinese, Uyghur & Tibetan Solidarity UK is a coalition of organisations and activists that opposes the tyrannical rule of the Chinese Communist Party and works to promote human rights, freedom and democracy for all the oppressed people and nations under the Chinese Communist Party. The coalition includes the following organisations: Chinese Solidarity Campaign, Federation for Democratic China, Friends of Tiananmen Mothers, Tibetan Community in Britain, Tibet Society, Tibetan Youth UK, Students for a Free Tibet UK, Uighur Association and Uighur Community UK.

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Tibet Society, the worlds first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. (Annual membership 24; Overseas 36; Life 500).

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