Women delegates protesting at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conference

SECTION IV C. TWD Activities at the NGO Forum

The TWD experienced China's heavy handed surveillance on the
morning of the Forum's first day, when the TWD presented a video
on Tibetan refugee women entitled "Voices in Exile".At the packed
screening room, several unidentified Chinese men attempted to film
the video but, after several increasingly emphatic requests by TWD
delegates and supporters, stopped. An unidentified Chinese woman
left the room in the middle of the screening and carried off the
delegation's sign up sheet, but a participant noticed and informed
a TWD member who ran outside and retrieved the notepad. When the 
video ended, a TWD member attempted to remove it from the cassette 
player as she had been instructed to do prior to the presentation.
A second unidentified Chinese woman grabbed the video and passed it
on to another unidentified Chinese man. The two claimed it was their
tape and refused to return it, holding it out of reach, and a 
struggle for the tape ensued, with a crowd coming to the TWD's 
assistance. People barred the doors and the tape was wrested back
from the Chinese man and secreted away to safety. The incident became
a major news event of the Forum's opening, and heralded the 
host country's harassment campaign which would continue throughout
the Forum.  

To coincide with the 30th anniversary of the formal annexation of
Tibet, the TWD decided to hold a silent protest the following day,
and spent much of the rest of this first day notifying press and
supporters of the planned demonstration. The TWD staged the silent
protest in pouring rain at the entrance to the main grounds of the
Forum site.  At the designated time, the delegates gagged themselves
with silk scarves given by China to all guests at the Forum's opening 
ceremony as souvenir mementoes. They then proceeded, walking slowly 
in single file, to the designated spot. Several hundred women 
protectively surrounded TWD delegates in a half circle, as they stood 
wordlessly to symbolise Chinese attempts to silence Tibetan voices. 
As the crowd spontaneously started to sing freedom songs like
"We Shall Overcome", the NGO Forum anthem "Keep on Moving 
Forward", and chants of "Let the Tibetan Women Speak", cameras
from around the world captured the tears which silently flowed down 
the women's already drenched faces.These photographs appeared 
across the globe the next day. Following the protest the TWD gave 
dozens of interviews to the world media in the Peace Tent. 

On the third day, the TWD presented a workshop on "Women and 
Development in Tibet". When TWD members arrived at the room for
the workshop they found nearly all of the seats already taken by
Chinese delegates. Media packed the hallway and sides of the 
room as TWD delegates made presentations on the current situation
in Tibet, on Chinese family planning policies as they affect Tibetan
women, on persecution of Tibetan nuns, and on nuclear development
in Tibet. At the end of the presentation, the TWD opened the floor
for a question and answer period.At that point, two TAR delegates 
made their way up to the front of the jam-packed room, each with
transparencies in hand. They apparently planned to show the 
transparencies from an overhead projector, which had not been 
requested by the TWD, but, curiously, had been placed at the podium 
prior to the workshop. The TWD presenters asked the TAR delegates 
to remain where they were and to limit themselves to questions, 
in keeping with the format of the workshop.  The Chinese delegates 
in the room stood up and began to shout and chant in unison, 
pointing fingers at the TWD and anyone who questioned their 
conduct. One TWD member was forcefully shoved to the floor by 
a Chinese man. The TWD decided to conclude the workshop after 
repeated efforts to restore order to the room had failed. 

Following the workshop, the TWD held its first press conference 
in the Nordic Room. The conference was sponsored by the Scandinavian
NGOs who had donated the space.  Admission was limited to those
with press passes. The press conference lasted for thirty minutes
and proceeded smoothly. A formal statement was presented by the 
TWD, followed by a question and answer period.
The TWD participated in numerous workshops and collaborated with
other NGOs on a number of projects.  On the fifth day, the TWD 
held a well attended joint workshop with East Timorese women on 
the subject of women living under foreign occupation. Additional 
participants included delegates from Western Sahara, West Papua, 
Cyprus, Kanaky and Bougainvillaea, among others. The workshop was
followed by a demonstration march through the Forum grounds and
onto the street.The women chanted as they marched, calling for
the removal of all occupying countries from the occupied nations,
including "China out of Tibet", and carried a large banner boldly 
demanding an end to foreign occupation of specific nations, 
including Tibet. Chinese security men unsuccessfully attempted
to seize the banner. The joint effort led to the TWD's further
collaboration with the East Timorese in preparing a draft 
statement on women living under foreign occupation.

TWD members took part as panel speakers and active participants
in workshops on women and religion, Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan
women, conflict resolution and sources of conflict among peoples,
and cross-cultural forgiveness and reconciliation. One delegate 
spoke on Chinese nuclear development in Tibet, as a panellist on
the Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) program
on peace and militarism.The TWD also hosted a presentation of "Satya",
a half-hour film on persecution of Tibetan nuns, for another packed
audience. These presentations by TWD members were received warmly
by participants other than China's delegates.

2 Tibetan women at Women in Black Rally

Left- Dorji Dolma, Australia
Right- Chimi Thonden, US.
Women in Black Demonstration,
Hairou, China, September, 1995
Photo compliments of Lisa Tracey,ICLT member

The TWD participated as a group in several solidarity protest actions:
the Women in Black rally, to address violence against women
world-wide; the Amnesty International candle-light lantern vigil 
for women prisoners of conscience, including a Tibetan nun; and the
anti-nuke rally following French nuclear testing which occurred the
same week as the UN FWCW NGO Forum.  TWD members attended the Aung
San Suu Kyi birthday commemoration event held in front of the
Global Tent in honour of those still in detention in Burma.

On the days when it was not raining, TWD members staffed a kiosk
donated by the Canadian International Development Agency. The 
kiosk became a hub of activity. The TWD distributed literature
that had been smuggled in by supporters and handed out thousands
of Tibetan Solidarity Ribbons. Through the symbolic gesture of 
wearing the ribbon, NGO and government delegates openly displayed 
their support for Tibet. Some local Chinese volunteers were among 
those keen to wear the ribbons. Signatures were collected on the 
TWD's Petition (see Appendix V) which was later submitted to the 
Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. The Italian Foreign 
Minister, Dutch Social Affairs Minister, Australian Consulate staff,
United States State Department representatives and the head of the
NGO Forum, as well as hoards of reporters, came by to talk to the 
TWD delegates. Successful meetings were held with Swedish 
government delegates through the assistance of the Tibetan delegate
from Norway, and Tibet supporter Kent Harstadt, Adviser to the 
Swedish Minister of Aid.  This meeting led to the formation of a 
Scandinavian coalition of support for the TWD which extended to 
the official UN Conference (see Section VI).

The remainder of the Forum unfolded with relatively less tumult for 
the TWD, with the notable exception of individual attacks on delegates.
On the fourth day, Chinese delegation members attempted to physically
assault one TWD delegate after she tried to distribute reports on violations 
of reproductive rights of Tibetan women in occupied Tibet. Similarly,
on the fifth day, a large group of Chinese delegates and TAR delegates 
surrounded and verbally assaulted two the TWD delegates from Australia.
A Chinese delegate forcibly snatched the identification badge of 
one TWD delegate, taking note of her registration number. Fortunately,
the Australian Ambassador was with the TWD delegates at the time, 
and was himself harangued, turning the incident into a diplomatic row. 
The Australian Foreign Minister lodged a formal protest to the Chinese
Government the following day. Both incidents became major news events of
the Forum. 

Throughout the Forum, TWD members gave dozens of in-depth interviews,
several of which were transmitted live to Tibet on Voice of America.

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