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Friday, April 4, 2008

Unrest in Tibet Hits Home

Milwaukeean Has a Personal Connection to Protests

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The recent uprising in Tibet, where civilians and Buddhist monks are protesting the 50-year occupation of their land by China, may seem far away and difficult to comprehend— especially since uncensored reports are so difficult to find in the media.

But KT Rusch, a Milwaukee musician, has a personal connection to the protests. For 14 years, Rusch has sponsored and exchanged letters with a Tibetan monk who has been exiled in India. They finally met when she visited his Buddhist monastery in India in January, somehow finding each other with only a grainy photograph in a crowd of 30,000.

Since her visit, Rusch has been communicating with another exiled monk, who she calls Tenzin. She’s afraid to give out more information about him, even though he is an Indian citizen and lives in India. Tenzin has been e-mailing Rusch photos of the uprising, photos deemed too disturbing or graphic for the mainstream media. Rusch has confirmed through the Australian press that the photos are real.

Tenzin told her that he has heard that Chinese forces are going house to house, looking for resisters, “trying to keep things out of sight,” Rusch said. Rusch said the protests were peaceful until the Chinese reacted violently. She takes issue with the Chinese government’s portrayal of the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Buddhists worldwide, as an evil force for Tibetans.

“It’s almost a caricature—like an evil character in a cartoon,” Rusch said. “But they [the Chinese government] won’t even meet with him. They haven’t and they won’t. If you are in his presence you would know that he’s not this evil wolf plotting to throw China out of Tibet.” While younger Tibetans seem to support independence from China and a total boycott of the Olympics, to be held in Beijing this summer, the Dalai Lama has been urging China to grant Tibetans autonomy.

Rusch said that she feels the uprisings are likely due to pent-up frustration with 50 years of Chinese oppression, as well as the increased media attention devoted to the upcoming Olympics. The Games have already come under fire from humanitarian activists because of Chinese connections to the forces of genocide in Darfur. Now, Tibetans seem to be raising awareness of the Chinese occupation at the same time that China is trying to promote its vibrant society and economy at the Olympics.

Rusch and fellow musician Saskia Pretorius are sponsoring a Rally for Compassion to raise awareness of the human rights violations in Tibet and China. They ask supporters to wear red to symbolize compassion, and to bring supportive signs and photos of the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King and Gandhi. It will be held on Sunday, April 6, from 11 a.m.-noon at the corner of 12th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

To read more of Rusch’s views on the Tibetan uprising, go to www.milwaukeerenaissance.com.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.

In reference to photo: In a Tibetan village, a 17-year-old student was killed by a gunshot. One news outlet reported that Chinese law enforcement arrested 572 monks under suspicion of communicating with exiled Tibetans.