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Speech by Ugyen Choephell at Tibet Freedom Rally PDF Print E-mail
[18 March 2014] Ugyen Choephell, a UK-based Tibetan artist, gave a rousing speech at the rally outside the Chinese Embassy on 15 March 2014, following the Tibetan Freedom March which marked the 55th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising. Below is the text of his speech, including the poem "I am what I am", which he wrote especially for the anniversary.

[15 March 2014, London] I'm a traditional thangka artist and I know how important it is to keep our culture alive. I'm not here to represent any Tibetan organisations, I am here to share what an ordinary Tibetan thinks. And it is sad that this is the 55th anniversary of Tibetan National Uprising, but don't forget it is 65 years since the invasion of Chinese troops and today, Tibetans are a minority in their own country.

Ugyen ChoephellBeing Tibetan is almost impossible inside Tibet. China is trying to change our culture and our identity.

We Tibetans, have our own language, but why can't we use it in schools?

We are Tibetan, but why, must we have to speak Chinese to find a job?

We are Tibetan, then why are we not free to practice our religion?

We are Tibetan, then why don't we have the right to live as a Tibetan?

I can feel the pain and hopelessness of our brothers and sisters inside Tibet as they witness our Tibetan identity being wiped out forever.

We believe in interdependence, whatever we do has an effect.
We can affect everyone.
All actions count.

Ugyen ChoephellIn Tibet, Tibetans are not giving up. Lhakar began in Tibet, every Wednesday to celebrate being Tibetan.

We also believe in the impermanence of all things. Change is coming.
Empires rise and fall.
Now in China the red tide is beginning to turn.

Chinese voices are waking up, starting to question their own government. China is no longer producing the cheapest goods. They are fed up with the corruption of officials, the terrible pollution and the rights of individuals against the elite.

But Tibetans are already awake. Since February 2009, self-immolations started in Tibet. Not just one, two or three, but 126 Tibetans, who have burnt themselves in protest against Chinas brutal and ruthless intention to destroy every trace of Tibetan-ness inside Tibet and to alert the world.

That's why, I have written a poem, inspired by those brave Tibetans who sacrificed their life for Tibet. I imagined how they felt during the last moments of their life, with the Chinese regime forcing them to change and be Chinese and I would like to read this poem to you loud and clear, so that Ambassador Liu Xiaoming can take this message to President Xi Jinping. We Tibetans will never give up our Tibetan identity.

Ugyen ChoephellI am what I am!

I can't help
The way I look different to you

I can't help
The way I tie my chuba

I can't help
The way I pray for all sentient beings

I can't help
The way I drink my butter tea with a pinch of salt

I can't help
The way I want my language to be heard

I can't help
The way I wish His Holiness the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet

I can't help
The way I don't regret my actions

I can't help
The way I dream of freedom

I can't help it
I am Tibetan
I cannot change it

I am what I am - Tibetan!

This is the most powerful tool we Tibetans can have - to remain Tibetan in ourself. Wherever we are no one can take that away from us.

I truly believe that one day, we will fly our national flag on top of Potala Palace again.
And then we will say, We are what we are - Tibetan.

Ugyen Choephell is a traditional thangka painter, contemporary artist and musician based in Bristol, UK. He has showcased Tibetan culture through numerous exhibitions around the world. His work can be viewed at

Further reading & viewing:
Iona Liddell's speech at Tibet Freedom Rally
Sikyong's 10 March statement
Photos from Tibet Freedom March & Rally (via facebook)

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; Family 36; Life 500)
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