Julia Stephenson: The Green Goddess

Why the Tibetans deserve all the support in the world

A A A

I was intrigued and excited when an invitation dropped on to my mat inviting me to a do at Joanna Lumley's house to raise awareness for the continuing human-rights abuses in Tibet.

In 1959, the Chinese invaded Tibet, murdering 1.2 million of its citizens, and for the past 47 years has subjected the remainder to a brutal, repressive regime. The UK vaguely tuts yet continues to suck up to China. Ironically, the UK is not usually so shy to hold back when human rights are apparently at stake. Since 1959, we have been involved in military action in 17 countries, and in most cases, human rights were a much-cited excuse for such action, so it's outrageous that we haven't yet come to Tibet's aid.

Tibet would probably have dropped even further off the world's radar by now without Hollywood's support. People may sneer at celebrities using their position to draw attention to global atrocities - Richard Gere caused outrage for making anti-China comments at the 1993 Oscars - but in the case of Tibet, thank goodness they do.

I didn't spot Richard Gere at the Lumley soirée, but several eco-luminaries were there, including Jonathon Porritt (much taller than he appears on the telly and really quite handsome), my friend Hugo, a former Green Party chairman (quite tall and fairly handsome if you like that sort of thing), and Joanna Lumley, as svelte and glamorous as ever.

Joanna introduced Namdrol Lhamo and Gyaltsen Drolkar, two Tibetan nuns who, after a peaceful protest, were tortured and locked up in Drapchi prison in Lhasa for 12 years. Although they told their stories dispassionately and quietly, the horror of the regime from which they had escaped was only too clear.

There are, however, glimmers of hope. Due to the Olympics being held in Beijing in 2008, the spotlight is increasingly shining on Tibet. Recently, Wangpo Tethong, co-ordinator of the International Tibet Support Network's Olympic Campaign, staged a rare protest in Tiananmen Square, with a banner saying, "Hu, You Can't Stop Us - 2008-FreeTibet.org" in front of the Olympic countdown clock. Luckily, he cycled off too quickly to be caught.

This brave demonstration was the first of its kind by a Tibetan in Beijing, and is a sign of things to come if China does not solve the Tibetan issue before August 2008. The continuing destruction of Tibetan culture is heartbreaking. In a recent television programme, Michael Palin visited the Potala Palace and I winced as he cheerfully interviewed a brainwashed Tibetan about life in the brave new Tibet. "The Chinese are wonderful to us," smiled the Stepford Tibetan, but you could see the bleak reality in his eyes and imagine the Chinese mandarins pulling his strings as he spoke.

In 2002, I lived in Kathmandu, where many Tibetans now reside in exile. There, one gets a glimpse of the Tibetans' spirit and culture, so brutally suppressed in their native land. While there, I went to Dharamsala, in northern India, and stayed in Richard Gere's hotel. Dharamsala village was crowded and scruffy. The streams were full of rubbish because there was no proper collections; there were water and food shortages, and power cuts every night. Yet it was safe, vibrant and extraordinary. The Tibetans that I met yearned for home yet cheerfully got on with life.

In the West, the Dalai Lama inspires vague spiritual feelings but this doesn't translate into useful action. Endless round-robin e-mails are sent in the Dalai Lama's name - nonsense like: "This comes from the Dalai Lama. Send it to 10 people and receive boundless good fortune". Do the Dalai Lama a favour: delete these and join Free Tibet instead.

www.freetibet.org; 020-7324 4605

j.stephenson@independent.co.uk

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game