The People’s Republic of China invaded and forcefully took control of the peaceful country of Tibet in 1951. The Chinese government even dubbed the events that transpired as the “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet’. After years of Chinese oppression, in 1959 there was a Tibetan uprising where residents of the region demanded their autonomy and freedom from their oppressors.
The resulting clashes forced many, including His Holiness Dalai Lama to flee to Dharamshala, India. After the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet, the government of Tibet and Tibetan social structures were dissolved by the Chinese government.
In the years that followed, the Chinese government has ruthlessly perused the Dalai Lama as he has advocated for greater autonomy for Tibet. Simultaneously China has actively tried to destroy Tibetan culture, language, religion and its people.
Despite Beijing’s best effort, there has been an ongoing campaign in the international community working towards the freedom of Tibet. Activists, journalists and scholars have continued to keep the issue of Tibet alive and ensure that Chinese propaganda does not hide the truth from the world that China forcefully annexed Tibet and continues to oppress Tibetans.
The Tibetan cause has also been championed by many eminent personalities from around the globe including celebrities and star athletes. These individuals have used their platforms to advocate for the freedom of Tibet and have not bowed down to China and its bullying tactics.
Most recently, legendary Caribbean batsman Sir Vivian Richards shared a tweet on February 13 with the hashtag Freedom for Tibet (#FreedomForTibet). The former West Indies cricketer in his tweet said “Happy Independence Day, Tibet’. The batsman’s tweet quickly went viral and dozens of netizens replied and thanked Richards for his tweet and for acknowledging the plight of Tibetans.
Among the world-renowned actors, Golden Globe award-winning American actor Richard Gere has been one of the most active, vocal and open supporters of the Tibetan cause. He has been spotted at countless Tibetan events and programs around the world. Gere has also met His Holiness the Dalai Lama and spoken alongside His Holiness in several events. He supports and endorses several charities such as — Tibet House US, International Campaign for Tibet, Free Tibet Campaign and the Dalai Lama Foundation.
Other Hollywood alums that have also supported the cause for Tibet over the years are — American actress Amy Adams, actor Bradley Cooper, Hugh Jackman who is widely known for playing Wolverine in the X-Men movies and Jeremy Renner, everyone’s favorite archer Hawkeye from the Avengers.
Legends like Martin Scorsese and George Lucas, the brain behind the Star Wars franchise, have also supported and endorsed the freedom of Tibet in the past. Other eminent personalities who have expressed their support for the Dalai Lama and Tibet’s freedom include American singer-songwriter Ben Harper, The Beastie Boys, English songwriter Sting, and peace activist and Japanese multimedia artist Yoko Ono.
India and Tibet share a deep cultural and spiritual connection which is evident from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and countless Tibetans taking refuge in India while they were fleeing from the atrocities of the Chinese forces. India welcomed them with open arms. Lobsang Sangay, the Tibetan Prime Minister in Exile, while speaking to the media recently, stated that all the monasteries and cultural institutions that were destroyed in Tibet by the Chinese were rebuilt in India and that Indians had done the most to help Tibetans by allowing them to have a second home in India after they were forced by Chinese oppressors to flee from Tibet.
Despite this connection and history between India and Tibet, rarely has any Indian celebrity, star athlete, or musician voiced their support for the freedom of Tibet and the Tibetans. Why is it that we have to rely on Vivian Richards to remind us of the fact that our neighbours the Tibetans, to this day, are suffering under the oppressive regime of the Chinese government?
The few Indian celebrities that have championed Tibet’s cause include Actor Ranbir Kapoor, who openly displayed support for the Tibetan cause through his song ‘Sadda Haq’ from the movie Rockstar by showing Tibetan flags and placards. The movie director of Rockstar Imtiaz Ali has also been very close to the Tibetan community, which may be seen in his previous movie Jab We Met. One of India’s most famous footballers, Baichung Bhutia, is also a supporter of the Tibetan cause and Tibetan people. Bhutia even refused to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics stating that this was his way of standing by the Tibetan people and their continued struggle.
Tibetan activists have been championing the cause for independent Tibet for decades. China’s bullying tactics like proclaiming that meeting the Dalai Lama was a crime have failed as various celebrities like those mentioned above and many others have used their platforms to raise knowledge and awareness of the Tibetan cause. Though China seeks to destroy and erase all traces of Tibetan culture and identity, from destroying monasteries to banning local Tibetan language to trying to change the very demography of Tibet, the fight and campaign for Tibet’s freedom and independence lives on, Given the deep links between India and Tibet, more Indian celebrities must speak up for the Tibetan cause.