Gere speaks for Tibetan hunger strikers

Says six will probably die as a result of strike

NEW DELHI – Hollywood star Richard Gere voiced the demands of six Tibetan hunger strikers Monday, urging the United Nations to reopen debate on the political status of the protesters’ Himalayan homeland.

Gere told a news conference in New Delhi that the six, who began their fast two weeks ago, probably would die.

“There are six human beings in the tent next door, and these six human beings represent 6 million Tibetans inside and outside Tibet,” Gere said.

Gere, co-chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, is a disciple of the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Buddhism and a fierce critic of what he calls China’s “cultural genocide” in Tibet.

The hunger strikers, who lay listlessly on beds under a canopy behind the actor, are demanding the United Na-tions appoint a special envoy to resolve the issue of Tibet’s sovereignty peacefully under a U.N.-sponsored plebi-scite.

They also are calling for appointment of a U.N. rapporteur to investigate alleged human rights violations in Tibet.

“I am not frightened,” said Yungdung Tsering, 28, an artist of Buddhist thangka paintings. “Because I am doing it for freedom.”

Another hunger striker, Karma Sichoe, 25, spoke slowly, quietly and with tears in his eyes. “We want people to know the true suffering of Tibet,” he said.

Gere said the United Nations should resume debate on Tibet based on resolutions of 1959, 1961 and 1965, which included an endorsement of self-determination of peoples and nations.

The Tibetan Youth Congress said the strikers’ demands follow recommendations of a recent report by the International Commission of Jurists on Tibet.

The report urged China to enter into discussions with the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile on the question of Tibet’s political status based on the will of the Tibetan people.

It also recommended that Beijing ensure respect for the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people and end practices which it said threatened to erode their cultural, religious and national identity.

Chinese forces swept into Tibet in 1950, putting an end to its centuries of near-total autonomy. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after China crushed an anti-communist uprising.

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