Tibet Will Be Free (the SFT Blog!)

WELCOME TO THE STUDENTS FOR A FREE TIBET BLOG--------> This is the weblog of the SFT Headquarters. Here you can peek into the minds (not to mention actions, events, trainings, brainstorms, parties...) of the SFT staff, board members, volunteers, friends and fellow activists. Tibet will be free.

We've Moved:

Tibet Will Be Free has moved off of this site because Blogger is owned by Google. Visit the new TIBET WILL BE FREE at blog.studentsforafreetibet.org

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NoLuv4Google: February 14th!


[UPDATE]: Read SFT's satirical press release announcing the launch of NoLuv4Google.com

SFT has launched our site dedicated to getting people to break up with Google. It's called NoLuv4Google.com and it has a ton of ways for people to show their outrage at Google. Included on the site:
So please, check out NoLuv4Google.com -- the central location for progressive action against Google, for free access to information, and on behalf of the Tibetan people and repressed people throughout China.

Behind the Struggle: An SFT Videoblog




We know you can't get enough of our online battle against those big corporate pushovers Google, and so we're giving you a little bit more. Last night, we filmed a state-of-the-art videoblog to give you personal access inside our freedom-minding minds.



Behind the Struggle: An SFT Videoblog (Quicktime, ~17MB) (thanks blip.tv for hosting!)

UPDATE: here's a link to the Flash version if you're having problems with the Quicktime

p.s. - If you are on Windows and you don't have iTunes, you might need Apple Quicktime to watch it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

"Hack" the Google homepage



Thanks to the amazing Amos, you can now replace the Google logo with our own jammed version (courtesy of Free Range).

Here's the step-by-step:

1) Make sure you have the latest Firefox web browser

2) Install the Grease Monkey extension (make sure to restart Firefox after you do!)

3) Install the "Evil Google Logo" greasemonkey script (Go to the page; click on "Install this Script"; Third, click the "Tools" menu, and Install User Script in your Firefox menu. Then just click OK and it's all done. Easy!) [The script has been updated with LouCypher's to work on all Google local domains.]

4) Go to google.com, google.ca, or google.co.uk and laugh! show all your friends! laugh! (repeat)

Right now the script doesn't work with google.cn, but its pretty obvious that's evil. And don't worry, you aren't actually doing anything to the google servers - its just replacing it on your computer.

[UPDATE]: LouCypher has modified Amo's script so that it now works for all local Google pages. Thanks Lou and thanks again Amos!!!

You Are Not Must Look: Free Tibet

Bad translation aside, this is what you see when you search for "Free Tibet" in Chinese (Xizang Ziyou). Click on it to enlarge:


Yep, that's some fun loving, free access to information Google's got going over in China...

I Guess He's Just Not Photographed Often...

I just did a search of google.com images vs. google.cn images for the term "dalai lama".

Google.com (free world): 42,800

Google.cn (censored world): 38, though only ONE picture of the current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. HHDL is with Bush in this picture.

Then I did a comparative search using the term "free Tibet" on Google images.

Google.com: 11,800 sparkling pictures and logos calling for a free Tibet.

Google.cn: 20 pictures and map's, mostly from the PRC's propaganda website tibet.cn

Anyone else want to toss out some comparative searches between Google and Google.cn?

[UPDATE 1]: Boing Boing links to SFT's Google logo jam and the protest at Google's HQ! Thanks guys!

[UPDATE 2]: Pamela of Atlas Shrugs has linked to our Google logo jam and TWBF. Thanks Pamela!

[UPDATE 3]: Working Assets/Act For Change has added SFT's jammed logo to their online action campaign.

Nathan Weinberg takes apart Google's justifications for censorship:

I believe Google has the right to censor its searches. That is the cost of doing business in China. But to cloak it in their typical PR-bullshit, to claim that it is in the best interests of Chinese users and not their bottom line, to not once acknowledge that this is the result of laws that should never be, that disgusts me. People have died for this, and how dare you ignore them.

There’s been talk of a boycott passed around, with some discussion on the term “Red Tuesday”, and I am completely on board. On that day, I will replace my Google ads with an image explaining exactly why. I hope enough people do this to affect Google’s bottom line. I hope enough people do it that it hits Google’s founders where it really hurts, in the stock price. I hope it sends a message that its better to stick by your guns and lose than to sell your soul and win.
I'd hope other companies see the outrage that Google has sparked and realize that doing business by China's rules isn't worth prostituting their moral values.

[UPDATE 4]: Google Blogoscoped has a partial list of terms google.cn filters results of and/or returns censored websites. Scroll down to see the list, which is ironically posted as an image to prevent the page from being censored for having restricted terms. Google Blogoscoped has lots of other information about how Google.cn is censoring tremendously more websites than google.com -- not to mention the immoral stance Google has taken in partnering in China's massive censorship & propaganda program.

[UPDATE 5]: Mark Fiore has created an incredible flash movie on Google: iRepress. Watch it now!!!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Google Tries to Defend Itself, Fails

There has been a massive outcry against Google's unethical partnership with the Chinese government. People around the world, online and off, are shocked that a company claiming to be for the free flow of information and operating while not doing evil would hypocritically
push Chinese propaganda and censor the truth. Over 15,000 letters have been sent by Tibetans and Tibet supporters to executives at Google through Students for a Free Tibet's online action.

Not surprisingly, Google has posted a very defensive justification of their actions on their blog. Google senior policy counsel/shill Andrew McLaughlin penned the defense (you can email him here), which, not surprisingly is filled with hypocrisy, misinformation, half-truths, and a hell of a lot of crap. Let's get to the heart of the matter right away:
Filtering our search results clearly compromises our mission. Failing to offer Google search at all to a fifth of the world's population, however, does so far more severely. Whether our critics agree with our decision or not, due to the severe quality problems faced by users trying to access Google.com from within China, this is precisely the choice we believe we faced. By launching Google.cn and making a major ongoing investment in people and infrastructure within China, we intend to change that.
You don't say. I agree whole-heartedly with McLaughlin's assessment that the launch of google.cn compromises their corporate mission. Of course another way to describe this assessment would be to say that the censorship of search results is hypocritical, immoral, and soundly anti-democratic. While google.cn may be an improvement for users in China when it comes to searches for cupcakes and daisies, it does nothing to help people inside a totalitarian state access the information that they want and need to make political changes and bring actual freedom to Tibet and China.
And yes, Chinese regulations will require us to remove some sensitive information from our search results. When we do so, we'll disclose this to users, just as we already do in those rare instances where we alter results in order to comply with local laws in France, Germany and the U.S.
Gee, that's nice of you. I'm sure a Tibetan at an internet cafe in Lhasa with government printed signs reading "Do not use Internet for any political or other unintelligent purposes" doesn't know that the Chinese Communist Party doesn't want them reading information on Tibetan independence, the Dalai Lama or the Tiananmen Square massacre. They probably haven't realized by the lack of jobs available to Tibetan language speakers or the constant flow of Han Chinese settlers that they're living in a land occupied by the military of a totalitarian regime. No, you, Google will have the good will to tell them that they are AND that you're the ones preventing them from finding the information they're literally dying to get.
Obviously, the situation in China is far different than it is in those other countries; while China has made great strides in the past decades, it remains in many ways closed. We aren't happy about what we had to do this week, and we hope that over time everyone in the world will come to enjoy full access to information.
Was that you just now calling for the overthrow of the CCP, Andy? It sure sounded like it. How, exactly, does providing more advanced censorship technology advance people's access to information?
Our continued engagement with China is the best (perhaps only) way for Google to help bring the tremendous benefits of universal information access to all our users there.
The only way to spread information is to not spread information? I'm really lost here. If I suggested the only way for Google to make money for its investors is to go bankrupt, I think you'd question my logic too.
We're in this for the long haul. In the years to come, we'll be making significant and growing investments in China. Our launch of google.cn, though filtered, is a necessary first step toward achieving a productive presence in a rapidly changing country that will be one of the world's most important and dynamic for decades to come.
No, I'm sorry, but you're just flat out wrong. The partnership in censorship and propaganda is NOT the necessary first step to the end of censorship and propaganda. A first step would be for Google to refuse to do the Chinese government's dirty work for them. A first step would be for Google to announce it would redirect all searches of "politically sensitive" terms on google.cn to the uncensored google engines outside of China -- allowing Tibetans and Chinese alike to know what the whole free world knows. The first step to democracy is not tyranny and the first step to freedom is not jail. I cannot for the life of me grasp why McLaughlin thinks the first step to free information is censorship and the first step to true information is propaganda.
We ultimately reached our decision by asking ourselves which course would most effectively further Google's mission to organize the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible. Or, put simply: how can we provide the greatest access to information to the greatest number of people?
I was surprised McLaughlin went so far without invoking the White Man's Burden as a justification for Google's hypocritical censorship program. Thank God the executives at Google spent so much time in their corporate board room plotting how they help all those millions of poor, under-informed people in Tibet and China. Where oh where would we be without Google's noble brand of imperialistic racism?

The problem with this is Google isn't pushing information, they're pushing a product. Their product, like all other products, is sold to make money, not to inform the ignorant. Their previous Chinese language website was recognized as the #1 customer-rated search engine in China and held a strong second in the Chinese market. Now they have the full support of the Chinese government in exchange for the most advanced propaganda and censorship machine available to people inside Tibet and China.

Contrary McLaughlin's wishes, information that is "universally useful and accessible" in the North America or Europe or Japan is no closer to being accessible in Tibet and China today than before the launch of google.cn. Not the information that matters, not the information people need to place themselves in their political situation. When 1.3 billion people cannot access information about their country's political history and status, there has been no progress. Google hasn't made information more available, they've made it less accessible by systematizing the work of China's internet censors into an easy to use platform.

Propaganda has never been so easy to spread. The truth has never been so easy to hide. This is Google's doing and their actions are truly a study in hypocrisy, cowardice, greed, and delusion.

Email Google's corporate leadership responsible for these outrageous actions (click here).
Email Andrew McLaughlin to tell him what you think about his bogus defense of hypocrisy (click here).

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Fighting the Fight: The Anti-Censorship, Anti-Google Blogroll

While Students for a Free Tibet is leading the opposition to Google's partnership with China to censor information and spread propaganda, other organizations and blogs have also expressed righteous outrage at Google. Some have created other jammed logos, many have written extensively on Google's hypocrisy. Here's a list of links to blogs and websites.
Note: Many of the blogs linked above have multiple posts on Google's partnership with China.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Working Assets: Stop Chinese Search Engine Censorship

Working Assets/Act For Change has launched a campaign to stop Google's censorship program in China. Click here to take part in their email action to Google.

This Is Google





Any question as to whose side they're on?

Take action and tell Google's CEO Eric Schmidt to end their partnership with China and to stop spreading propaganda as if it were truth. Click here to go to Student's for a Free Tibet's Action Network and tell Google "Don't be evil!"

Google's Censorship Blocks More Information Than Ever Before

It was clear from the beginning that Google's custom-built Chinese would block out "politically sensitive" searches on Tibet, Taiwan, Tiananmen, and other heavily censored topics from users inside Tibet and China. Google did their best to go beyond any previous censorship software by Microsoft and Yahoo and it looks like they've succeeded. It turns out Google.cn doesn't just stop at repressing political information and dissident sites, but actually prevents people inside Tibet and China from viewing sites about humor, alcohol, gay communities, news, and sexual education. CNet.com has the story, as well as a huge list of sites of this kind that Google blocks and Microsoft and Yahoo do not block.

Google's new China search engine not only censors many Web sites that question the Chinese government, but it goes further than similar services from Microsoft and Yahoo by targeting teen pregnancy, homosexuality, dating, beer and jokes.

In addition, CNET News.com has found that contrary to Google co-founder Sergey Brin's promise to inform users when their search results are censored, the company frequently filters out sites without revealing it.

[...]

The results showed that Google blocked the most sites, filtering out about 13 percent of the host names tested compared with MSN's 10 percent. But while both MSN and Google deleted pornography and political sites from search listings, Google also singled out more humor sites and more sites related to homosexuality--and it was the only search engine to block information related to alcohol, dating and marijuana.

[...]

Mickey Spiegel, senior researcher in the Asia division of Human Rights Watch (blocked by Google and Yahoo but not Microsoft), said Google.cn was "a step backwards in terms of freedom of expression issues."

"It will leave the Chinese populace with less and less ability to, in a sense, think for themselves about some of the issues facing them today," Spiegel said. "They are going to have a restricted diet of info, and that is going to color how they view the world. It's a big story, and it's a stain on their image."

Here are the specifics on google.cn's blocking of information on Tibet. Warning, Google defenders, these are 100% damning.

It's not just Google's Web search site that looks different to Chinese users. A search for "Tibet" on Google News through the Google.com site shows links to articles about a benefit for Tibet House, a speech by exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, and at the fifth spot, a story about the Chinese government censoring information.

That's a sharp contrast with news search results on Google.cn. In English, a search there for news articles about Tibet brings up four results: one about archaeology in Tibet, one with translations of seemingly random sentences, a girl's blog about her first love, and a news story about camel farming that mentions Tibet once. Using Chinese characters to search for "Tibet" news on Google.cn brought up thousands of sites but none among the top 10 results that mentioned Google, Chinese censorship or anything controversial.

A search on news at Google.cn for "Tibet" and "freedom" in English returned no results, while 144 appeared with the same search on Google.com.

This is inexcusable. Google squashed the ability of advocates for democracy, human rights, and self-determination inside Tibet and China to access information available to the free world through regular Google searches. Not only that, they're assisting China in repressing information about health care and social outlets, they're blocking online communities, and they're enabling homophobic bigotry. By my count that makes Google complicit in the repression of free speech, free assembly, free press, freedom of religion, freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender and sexuality, and even freedom to have a good time.

Google thinks it's OK for the Chinese government to starve people from the truth. They're comfortable assisting the Chinese Communist Party to spin their web of propaganda so tight people can't turn their heads to the truth -- and they're making huge profits while doing it. Google needs to end it's partnership with China and stop spreading propaganda as if it were truth. Their censorship and disinformation is nothing short of evil hypocrisy.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Google Protest News Coverage

There has been some strong news coverage of the outcry over Google's hypocritical actions. There were apparently a number of excellent pieces on the SFT-led protest at Google Headquarters all over the evening news throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Photos of the protest are also appearing in places like the Washington Post, ABC News and the South Korean Donga.com. Check out video on the site of CBS Channel 5 and check out the video below from KTVU Fox Channel 2 (it may take some time for the video to load): Link to video (windows media)

Your search - "Tibet" and "Freedom" - did not match any documents....


It became clear pretty early this morning that the Bay Area SFT crew was going to be responsible for representing what has become, by most accounts, a sea of outrage directed toward Google for it's collusion with the Chinese Government's internet censorship project.

By 11am or so we had placards, a couple of media lists, three cars, a bunch of sharpie markers, handcuffs, and a bunch of junked computer keyboards and other parts from the late 90's. The idea was to help Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA along with an accurate visual depiction of what they will be doing to the 1 billion Chinese users who will rely on the search engine to provide them with information on the things that matter to their lives (things like free speech, forming unions and worker cooperatives, etc.).

We decided that handcuffs were really the catch all symbol of the day. On the one hand, you will be "handcuffed" in your search for information. You will visit a web page who's very mission statement involves "the free flow of information" and "accuracy" only to get back a bunch of crap generated by the CCP propaganda dept. when you type in anything having to do with human rights and political reform. On the other hand, having a company with the capicity to gather as much information on indivudual users as Google has makes you suspect that people are going to end up in actual handcuffs at some point. As the Boston Globe reported today, we can't have a company that's in charge of this much information sell out this quickly without being really worried.

The turnout at the protest was awesome for a few hours notice. All the ABC and NBC local affiliates were there, and Yangchen, an SFTer from Stanford, stepped to the mic and did a phenomenal job as spokeswoman. Alma just called to say that she ended up all over the 10 o'clock news looking all proffessional and articulate. According to the reporting, the "protestors sounded angry and betrayed."
Indeed...

We''ll check the papers tomorrow morning and post any print stories and video that we find. For now, good night and many thanks to all the dedicated young Tibetans in the Bay Area.

Chris
Tibet Justice Center

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mikel Dunham Comments on Google's Repression of Freedom

Mikel Dunham, Pulitzer Prize nominated author of Buddha's Warriors has this to say about Google's outrageous partnership with China to censor information about Tibet, Tiananmen and other "politically sensitive" topics. The quote comes from an email to the SFT staff, so no link is available.
As for the "Google in China" situation, I appreciate [the] argument that there are precedents set in Germany, etc [filtering searches for Nazi]. Shame on Google for that as well. I believe in freedom of speech. Period. I don't want anyone censoring my information and I don't want a corporation or a government censoring me. Nevertheless Google's stated position in China will certainly target MY book as something unsuitable for a sixth of the world's population. So screw Do-No-Evil-Google and it's "greater good" bullshit. Google is in China to make money. It's presence there has nothing to do with ethics or greater goods and those who would promote that idea are the ones who are being naive. In Beijing, the leaders are laughing their asses off at their latest American coup. In the California corporate executive offices, Google should vote to change it's name to Grovel, in compliance with what China has already dubbed it.
Mikel's right. It's unacceptable for people to pass of China's censorship and complete ban on free speech as OK because, well it's China and that's what they do. As Mikel makes clear China's actions are incontrovertibly wrong, as are Google's decision to facilitate them and make a buck doing it. The fallout of China's censorship goes beyond the inability of people inside Tibet and China to get information about their country and the abuses the CCP perpetrates on people within their borders. Journalists inside China can't access the same information you or I can -- not to mention that Westerners travelling inside China are victim to the same blocking of information as citizens. Google hasn't just blocked web searches in accordance with China's requests, they've neutered the capacity for people to spread the truth from within China. This stands in firm contradiction the principles Google claims to stand for of free and easy access to information. It is hypocrisy at it's worst.

Also, check out the Boston Globe's scathing critique of Google's partnership in tyranny. Of note:
A FEW YEARS ago, I walked into an Internet room in Tibet's capital, Lhasa. There were no Chinese soldiers in the room, and no visible government censors nearby. A sign on the wall, however, reminded Web users that even after entering the stateless world of the Web, China's all-seeing eye had not disappeared. ''Do not use Internet," the warning instructed crassly, ''for any political or other unintelligent purposes."

Since then, China's ruling regime has perfected the science of controlling what the Chinese can read or write on the Internet to such a degree that it has become the envy of tyrants and dictators the world over. We might have expected that from a regime that has proven it will do whatever it takes to stay in power. What we never expected was to see Google, the company whose guiding motto reads ''Don't be evil," helping in the effort.

Google's decision to help China censor searches on the company's brand-new Chinese website is not only a violation of its own righteous-sounding principles, and it's not just an affront to those working to bring international standards of human rights for the Chinese people. No, Google's sellout to Beijing is a threat to every person who ever used Google anywhere in the world. That means all of us.

That's no exaggeration. Google saves every search, every e-mail, every fingerprint we leave on the Web when we move through its Google search engine, or its Gmail service, or its fast-growing collection of Internet offerings. Google knows more about us than the FBI or the CIA or the NSA or any spy agency of any government. And nobody regulates it. When a company that holds digital dossiers on millions of people decides profits are more important than principles, we are all at risk. Google will now participate actively in a censorship program whose implications, according to Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, ''are profound and disturbing." The government blocks thousands of search terms -- including censorship.

Here here!

US Congress to Hold Hearings On Google's Partnership With China

Representative Chris Smith, Republican from New Jersey's 4th District and Chair of the House Committee on International Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights, and International Operations (phew), has announced that he will call hearings on February 16th into the activities US internet companies like Google are taking inside China. Here are some quotes from his press release (his emphasis):
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) criticized Google Inc. for caving to the demands of the Chinese government by agreeing to censor its own search results.
[...]

“It is astounding that Google, whose corporate philosophy is ‘don’t be evil,’ would enable evil by cooperating with China’s censorship policies just to make a buck,” said Smith, who has been a leading human rights advocate since being elected to Congress. China’s policy of cutting off the free flow of information is prohibitive for the growth of democracy and the rule of law. Many Chinese have suffered imprisonment and torture in the service of truth – and now Google is collaborating with their persecutors.”

Congressman Smith noted that the internet is a powerful tool that could be used to empower voices calling for freedom and democracy across the globe.

“Internet companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft attract some of the best and brightest minds to develop cutting edge technology that can be used for good throughout the world,” said Smith. “The ability to communicate openly is the key to unlock the door to freedom for those who cannot feel its touch, and these companies can help to provide that.”

Rep. Smith has invited various US companies to testify at the hearing, including: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Cisco. Also scheduled to testify are: State Department Senior Advisor for China and Mongolia James Keefe, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Communications and Information Policy David Gross, Julien Pain from Reporters Without Borders and Harry Wu from the LaoGai Research Foundation.

“Years ago we fought to give Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia the capacity to empower the voices of freedom throughout communist countries and look at the success that followed,” said Smith, who authored the law to authorize Radio Free Asia to broadcast 24 hours daily. “Americans need to empower those who seek the path of democracy, not stifle their ability to speak.”

This is a huge step towards holding Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo accountable for their deplorable operating procedures inside China. American companies should not be providing custom-made censorship apparatus for China. I wonder if Google thinks Congressional hearings into their repression of freedom will help their bottom-line? More so, do Google's investors want to watch while their company is disgraced and revealed as the true hypocrites they are?

You can contact Representative Chris Smith and thank him for taking this initiative and doing the right thing -- and encourage him to stay strong in his pursuit of truth and justice. If you're a Tibetan tell him what it means to you that a US Congressman is standing up for the rights of Tibetans inside of Tibet.

His contact info:
Washington DC Office Phone: (202) 225-3765
Email him through http://www.house.gov/writerep/. He's from New Jersey and use 08759 as the zip code to reach him. You'll then fill out forms saying where you're from -- since this form only works if you're from his district, make sure you enter your home city as Hamilton and use a general address like # Main St.
Write him at:
Representative Chris Smith
2373 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515

G$$gle Making Bad Situation Worse

Let's be clear: Google hasn't created a bad situation, it's made a bad situation worse. Apparently, though, Google thinks explicitly presenting people with falsehoods or the wrong information is a good thing for people inside of China and Tibet.
"Google.cn will "provide meaningful benefits to Chinese Internet users," said Google senior policy counsel Andrew McLaughlin, referring to the company's new China site.
I'm guessing McLaughlin was only thinking of internet users who work for the Chinese Communist Party and have a vested interest in preventing Tibetans and Chinese citizens alike from having free access to information. Any suggestion that Google's filtering of 1,000+ "politically sensitive" search terms is good for users inside China is patently false and antithetical to Google's accurate assesment that "the need for information crosses all borders." That statement was once true, but now clearly needs to be amended to read "the need for information crosses all borders except those guarded by Chinese tyrants and their Google guard dogs."

Besides being a shill for Google's anti-democratic censorship deal with China, McLaughlin is a senior fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. You'd think with credentials like that McLaughlin would have taken the time to read the report by his colleague at the Berkman Center, John Palfry. Palfry's report, written for the Open Net Initiative, is called Internet Filtering in China 2004-2005, finds massive restrictions of access to both websites and searches for information about a wide array of subjects. After detailing hundreds of blocked websites and Google search results, Palfry concludes:

China’s intricate technical filtering regime is buttressed by an equally complex series of laws and regulations that control the access to and publication of material online. While no single statute specifically describes the manner in which the state will carry out its filtering regime, a broad range of laws – including media regulation, protections of “state secrets,” controls on Internet service providers and Internet content providers, laws specific to cybercafés, and so forth – provide a patchwork series of rationales and, in sum, massive legal support for filtering by the state. The rights afforded to citizens as protection against filtering and surveillance, such as a limited privacy right in the Chinese Constitution, which otherwise might provide a counter-balance against state action on filtering and surveillance, are not clearly stated and are likely considered by the state to be inapplicable in this context.

China operates the most extensive, technologically sophisticated, and broad-reaching system of Internet filtering in the world. The implications of this distorted on-line information environment for China’s users are profound, and disturbing.

[...]

Importantly, China’s filtering efforts lack transparency: the state does not generally admit to censoring Internet content, and concomitantly there is no list of banned sites and no ability for citizens to request reconsideration of blocking, as some other states that filter provide. The topics defined as sensitive, or prohibited, by China’s legal code are broad and non-specific, and enforcement of laws such as the ban on spreading state secrets discourages citizens from testing the boundaries of these areas. China’s legal and technological systems combine to form a broad, potent, and effective means of controlling the information that Chinese users can see and share on the Internet.

[...]

While there can be legitimate debates about whether democratization and liberalization are taking place in China’s economy and government, there is no doubt that neither is taking place in China’s Internet environment today.

This was before Google started to actively block the truth from people inside of China. Now not only will China's army of 300,000 plus internet police - newly branded as adorbale doe-eyed cartoon characters - be shutting down "politically sensitive" websites, blogs, emails, and searches, but they'll have Google's powerful tools working according to their rules. Palfry's study notes the success rate of Google searches inside China before the launch of google.cn and finds, depending on the term, blockage rates as high as 93% of what's normally accessible outside of China. Today searches for "Falun Gong" and "Tibet" turn up only sites approved by the Chinese Communist Party and Google filters out the rest. The truth is no longer just difficult to access, but searches for the truth lead directly to falsehood and propaganda.

Google clearly doesn't understand this. They've subverted the prospects of democracy and liberalization reaching China through the internet. They've blocked the Tibetan people from finding strength and solidarity with exile communities. Google has facilitated China's repression of its people. By caving to the CCP authorities demands for assistance in censoring the free flow of information, Google has facilitated China's repression of Tibetans, Uyghurs, Catholics, democracy advocates, the Falun Gong, and the supporters of Taiwanese independence.

Andrew McLaughlin has lied to the press about the effect of Google's actions and he is indicative of Google's hypocrisy. You can email McLaughlin to tell him what you think about his shilling for China's tools of oppression with the information below.

Contact:
Andrew McLaughlin
Senior Policy Counsel of Google
mclaughlin@pobox.com

"Communist Google's" Complicity in China's Censorship Spawning Global Outrage

People around the world woke up today to hear one of the internet's leading companies, Google, had abandoned it's recognition of "the need for information cross[ing] all borders" and partnered with the Chinese government to repress access to information about Tibet, Taiwan, the Falun Gong and other "politically sensitive" issues for people inside Tibet and China. The anger was palpable and seen at news outlets like The Guardian, CNN, The Drudge Report, ABC, Reuters and the Associated Press -- not to mention numerous political and technological blogs.

Google is actively blocking the truth from people inside Tibet and China. It's not just censorship or filtering, but delibrate partnership in the Chinese government's campaign against free speech, against the flow of information, and against the propagation of democratizing ideas and values. Fortunately most of the free world sees Google's move for the hypocrisy that it is. From the Financial Times:
Google on Wednesday came in for some harsh criticism from bloggers, outraged at its decision to set up a censored Chinese version of its website which will block results in order to avoid angering the country’s Communist government. The site will not provide Gmail or other services that will open up its use to unfettered expression.




A quick query on Google’s own blog search service service brought up hundreds of references to the move. A random sample showed that most bloggers were vehemently against the policy...

Jay Nargundkar on Citizens Band reminded Google of three of the “Ten Things” that outline its philosophy: “4. Democracy on the web works, 6. You can make money and my favourite 8. The need for information crosses all borders”...

Many in the blogosphere agreed that Google had now joined other internet companies, such as Yahoo and Microsoft, in selling out their principles for rapid growth and big bucks in China.

“This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night,” said Kean a Canadian blogger on Live Journal.

“Because business with China is so damn lucrative, not even Google is immune to China’s demands for censorship. It’s extremely disappointing that no one is taking a hard stance against China and their ongoing efforts to curb free speech,” he added....

Dave Briggs described Google’s reasons for limiting the Chinese service as “utter nonsense”.

“Google is a search engine, and is measured by it’s reliability and accuracy in searching. If they are deliberately providing a hamstrung performance just to please an authoritarian government, then they are going directly against their very reason for existence. I am not claiming that Google should act as an agent on behalf of subversive groups in China, but to exclude results because of their political content is a disgrace.

“I can only assume that this comes down to revenue. For Google to earn the revenues they can in China they must provide an always-on, reliable service. They are putting money ahead of ethics.”

Yet for all the outrage Google has caused in countries that have the full and uncensored version of their search engine, none of the criticism is viewable on google.cn (via Good Morning Silicon Valley).

"The main story on the Google.cn news site is about the resumption of direct flights between China and Taiwan. There is a lot about a visit by the Saudi King and more discussion of the toxic spill which poisoned a river in north-east China but no, there's no mention of this story about Google. I've been trying all day."

-- Jane Macartney, Beijing correspondent for The Times, finds the first sign of Google's complicity in Chinese censorship -- the omission of any news reporting that complicity.

The whole world is watching Google as it abandons its corporate mission and becomes an active participant in the repression of human freedom. Today is a sad day for China, Tibet, and anyone who works for Google that still values the free search for knowledge through the internet.

Google Aids China's Censorship of Information

Google played a cowardly joke on their investors and patrons by abandoning their "Do No Evil" mission to enable Communist China block web searches on Tibet, Taiwan, Tianamen, the Falun Gong, and CCP supremacy from their google.cn site.

Google has remained outside this system until now. But its search results are still filtered and delayed by the giant banks of government servers, known as the great firewall of China. Type "Falun Gong" in the search engine from a Beijing computer and the only results that can be accessed are official condemnations.

Now, however, Google will actively assist the government to limit content. There are technical precedents. In Germany, Google follows government orders by restricting references to sites that deny the Holocaust. In France, it obeys local rules prohibiting sites that stir up racial hatred. And in the US, it assists the authorities' crackdown on copyright infringements.

The scale of censorship in China is likely to dwarf anything the company has done before. According to one internet media insider, the main taboos are the three Ts: Tibet, Taiwan and the Tiananmen massacre, and the two Cs: cults such as Falun Gong and criticism of the Communist party. But this list is frequently updated.

Google's action is already coming under massive criticism around the world. It is cowardly and disgraceful for a company the prides itself on allegedly advancing the spread of information and democracy through the internet is now the tool of a brutal regime in the systematic repression of freedom and thought. Shame on Google. They deserve whatever comes next.

###

It hasn't taken long for Google's new policy of blocking people's access to information to take effect. Via Drudge:
Within minutes of the launch of the new site bearing China's Web suffix ".cn," searches for the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement showed scores of sites omitted and users directed to articles condemning the group posted on Chinese government Web sites.

Searches for other sensitive subjects such as exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, Taiwan independence, and terms such as "democracy" and "human rights" yielded similar results.
Communist Google: Helping Totalitarian Governments Repress Information Since 2006.

###

Great commentary by John Murrell of Good Morning Silicon Valley:
Apparently you can scratch "censorship in pursuit of profit" off your list of Things That Are Evil.
[...]
I have a ton of respect for all that the Google folks have done and aspire to do, and they can dress the decision up in whatever way makes them comfortable, but this is just wrong to the bone, a capitulation that is anti-everything the Net and the communications revolution is supposed to represent. Google made a nice deposit in its credibility account with its refusal to join the U.S. government on a fishing trip... But a few more moves like this China kowtow and that account will be drained dry.
Absolutely right John. While Google earned my respect this week by opposing the Bush administration's request for information about its users, they can't expect the net to afford them respect when they act like puppets to a totalitarian regime. Censorship and the repression of information is antithetical to the egalitarian spread of ideas on the internet.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

China responds to Human Rights Watch

Here's China's official response to the Human Rights Watch country report. I'm sure the folks at HRW were pleased to know they spend all that time and money on staff that do nothing but pull facts from the "thin air." I've got one word for Kong: weak.

China says rights criticisms come from 'thin air'
Reuters[Thursday, January 19, 2006 17:21]
BEIJING - China lashed out at an international human rights group for its routinely dim assessments on Thursday, but also said it had room to improve citizens' rights.

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based organization that campaigns against political repression and torture, said in its annual worldwide report that China remained beset by widespread abuses of citizens' rights.

The report, released on Wednesday, said the Chinese government had reacted to growing unrest among its people "with a multi-faceted crackdown on demonstrators and their allies and with repression of means for disseminating information and organizing protest, particularly the Internet".

Kong Quan, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, told reporters he had not bothered to read the report.

"The Human Rights Watch organization has always held a strong prejudice against China's government, people and realities. Its annual reports always patch together claims out of thin air that are entirely politically motivated," he said at a regular briefing.

Human Rights Watch's report listed a series of issues where it said China was increasing, rather than relaxing, repressive controls.

Closed trials, a lack of an independent judiciary, and vague and arbitrary laws cut against rule of law, it said. And the government monitors China's 100 million-plus Internet users with increasingly sophisticated and intrusive technology.

Over 60 Chinese citizens are imprisoned "for peaceful expression over the Internet", the report said.

Xinjiang, the western Chinese region largely populated by Uighurs, a Muslim Turkic-speaking group, faced tightening repression, as did Tibet, the report said.

"Chinese authorities appear determined to eradicate an independent cultural identity," it said of the Uighurs.

Kong said China had made "unprecedented" efforts to improve citizens' legal rights. But he said China also recognizes it needs to improve.

"As in other developing countries constrained by natural conditions, history and levels of politics and economic development, China does have room for improvement," he said.

In solidarity to all opressed.........

It was an accident how I conceived an idea of being a Tibetan activist and got obsessed with it. I would like to shed some light on my family background, which I think would largely explain the quantum transition I underwent from an uninterested layperson to someone who would vow not to cease to work until Tibet regains her sovereignty.

I come from a Walung family. To those who don't know, Walung is a Tibetan village in north east region of Nepal. Because Walung lies in Nepal, people there weren't directly affected by the Chinese occupation. However, people from Sakya region in Tibet who fled Chinese occupation established a settlement in Walung. Some of them ended up marrying with local Walungs. Those who didn't marry, and who were denied asylum were either sent back or imprisoned after they failed to obey the ultimatum to voluntarily leave the place. Since the Chinese occupation didn't directly inflict any effect on my parents, they weren't vocal or I don't think they even bothered about it. In retrospect, I grew up a total layperson. The first time I read something about Tibet was a comic book, which I remember was about the dalai lama's escape from Tibet to India. Well, obviously it didn't mean anything because I wasn't as grown up as to ask what, how and why.

Four years ago when I came to New York for school, it was really strange to see bunch of Tibetans, some of whom I knew, sometimes protesting in front of UN building and other times just walking miles with placards, banners desecrating China. They didn't really appease me for some reasons, however. I pictured myths on their grievances. My arrival in New York in 2002 and the years that followed also coincided with major geo-political developments in the world. America hadn't completely gotten over the sorrow from the worst inferno of twin towers after the second world war. War in Afghanistan against Taliban had begun, but wasn't really over. Iraq invasion began under false premises. Second intifada had begun in middle east. Govt. sponsored Janjaweed militias were launching genocide against western Christians in Darfur, Sudan. Dismantling nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran emerged as a next challenge. These political developments made me politically very vigilant.

Then came the worst nightmare, which in fact would pitch me into Tibetan politics. Chinese and Korean students vehemently opposed Japanese govt.'s decision to change the history curriculum, which would conceal her militarism and atrocities conducted to the subjects of occupied territories during the second world war. Thousands of people in Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul protested against Japanese govt. and the protest turned violent in Beijing and Shanghai, where they damaged businesses owned by Japanese citizens. This stigmatized me and unable to hold myself on, I talked to my social science professor about the whole situation and the repercussions it would bring in the regional politics. She didn't really answer my question but fired back saying it was nothing more than a power game. She asked me, "what about atrocities China has been committing inside Tibet?". I was speechless, but somewhere deep into me, I already felt some weight. I started researching on Tibet. I read books and in a very short time, everything came right in front of my eyes. THE MYTHS TURNED REALITY. No aberration. No anomalies. There was truth. There was URGENCY. There was PAIN, PANIC AND PLIGHT.

The occupation was unjust, they didn't liberate Tibetans, they held them captive instead, monastic institutions were voluntarily destroyed, Tibetan women were forced to sterilization and still are, religious persecution did take place and there are still hundreds of political prisoners in Chinese jails. Panchen Lama was kidnapped and his whereabouts is unknown. Tenzin delek rinpoche is put into prison accusing false charges on him. Carrying dalai lama's photo is a taboo inside Tibet. Centuries-old arts and artifacts have been stolen from Tibet and placed in museums in Beijing and Shanghai. Mines and minerals excavated from Tibetan earth have been transported into mainland China, processed and sold to foreign nations, which would buy China arms and tanks that would roll down the TIANANMEN SQUARE, military trucks and muskets to crush uprisings in Lhasa and, which of course would pay communist elites' spouses for vacation. Environment in Tibet has been exploited by Chinese building dams for electricity to sell to neighboring states and now railroad from Golmud to Lhasa to transport red PIMPS to crush dissidents. One monk was killed and several others were imprisoned when monks in drepung monastery dissented to listen SELF PROCLAIMED PROFESSORS LECTURING IN PATRIOTIC EDUCATION. Worst of all, ethnic cleansing is undergoing which is similar to what Russian Tsar did in central Asia during 18th century. The unique and rich Tibetan culture is in danger.

I felt very strongly drawn into the plight of Tibetans living inside oppressive regime and also felt very strongly motivated to work to free millions of hands tied, mouths shut Tibetans and save this nation from being robbed by Chinese thugs. Freedom will prevail!!

The conference in Santa Barbara rejuvenated the energy and fervor to work for Tibet until it is free. Free from oppressors, free from undemocratic sinisters, free from religiously intolerant communists and free from tyrants. The warm winter of Santa Barbara revealed me of a warm nature inviting to embrace the young freedom loving activists and BECKONING THE
GLORY DAYS AHEAD. BHOD RANGZEN!!!!

- Tashi Lama
City Tech, New York

<-- I'm standing in the middle (in front of the table) in this workshop on "Teaching Tibet"

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Thoughts from Dawa on the last day...

So today [editor's note: Sunday 1/15] Dickyi and I facilitated a very tough group of activists for 30mins. We had to basically help steer the group in the right direction in making a decision about a topic to discuss for the next two hours. Before Dickyi and I even started, we discussed how we should go about facilitating with Lhadon. I was a bit nervous but I thought it wasn't going to be that bad since I usually facilitate all the meetings I have with my SFT chapterback at school and Dickyi and I had a list of steps we copied down from our facilitating workshop the day before.

Boy was I wrong! First of all, this was not my usual 2 or 3 group of people. I was helping to facilitate more then 20 people who were all hardcore Tibet activists with Dickyi. Everyone shouted out very good ideas but we were not doing well on time and needed to come to a consensus in terms of what topic/s we needed to discuss for the next two hours. With lots of
facilitating skills from Dickyi (Wow Dickyi, you should facilitated more often in Cambridge) and some help from Lhadon, we finally decided to talk about Olympics as a group and then divide in our own regional area SFT groups to discuss what we were going to do.

Well, facilitating was a lot harder then I thought. Dickyi and Pasang did a great job.

As for the whole experience, it was great! I am once again re-energized, re-inspired and reminded again about the importance and the impact we have doing what we do best as SFTers. The past four days have been full ofworkshops, sleepless nights and so much fun.

I cannot wait to go back and get started on SFT work.

P.S. Dickyi, who was making out? I don't remember anyone making out, maybe I missed out. Any idea who they were? Let me know.

- Dawa
SFT @ UMass Amherst

Six Years With Tibet

It was very fitting for me to wrap up our North American Training Conference in Santa Barbara on Martin Luther King Day. Six years ago, on MLK Day, I got involved with Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibet movement after seeing Lhadon Tethong, then Programs Coordinator, speak at my high school. I went to high school in New Hampshire which does not celebrate MLK Day as a holiday at the time. Fortunately for me, my school devoted the day to a series of workshops on racial equality, women's rights, sexual harassment, Native American rights, and in January of 2000, Tibetan history.

I had been loosely aware of Tibet's plight before I saw Lhadon talk. I'd seen the various Hollywood movies and I'd wanted to go to the Freedom Concerts, being a big fan of Rage Against the Machine and the Beastie Boys. My father was a supporter of ICT and I'd even worn a Rangzen bracelet for a while that ICT had sent out with a mailing. But I'd never been involved in SFT or gone to an SFT meeting.

Lhadon spoke about China's brutal and unprovoked invasion of Tibet and how the Dalai Lama eventually fled into exile. She spoke about the horrendous repression that has occurred inside Tibet and the overwhelming punishments that met the smallest actions of Tibetan resistance. I heard about the complete lack of freedom of religion, speech, assembly, movement, employment, and education. Lhadon spoke about what it was like as a young Tibetan growing up in exile and how she longed to return to a free Tibet. If you've seen Lhadon Tethong speak about Tibet, you know how great a speaker she is and how strong her convictions are.

Maybe it was that I hadn't had the opportunity to think about Tibet in an full and authentic way before. Maybe I just was ready to give myself to a worthy cause -- despite dabbling in work with environmental protection, the homeless, and anti-death penalty campaigning, I'd never found myself fully invested in a movement. Maybe it was hearing an impassioned, educated, clear call for help for the Tibetan people by a Tibetan (and not, say Richard Gere or Steven Seagal). Whatever the case, I was convinced.

I immediately got involved in my high school's SFT chapter and before I new it I was participating in a relay hunger fast, selling momos to fundraise for SFT, interning at SFT's office in New York, and camping out outside the World Bank. I found it easy to devote myself to a cause that I saw as true and just and right. The Tibetan people in exile and inside Tibet needed help amplifying their voice for independence. I would do what I could to make it possible.

Six years later I'm working for SFT full-time. It's kinda shocking to realize that it's been six years, considering how much of a different place I find myself in now than when I first became involved. I've been connected to SFT for a much shorter time than my coworkers and other board members, but I think that speaks to the power Tibet has as a moral issue and the way Tibetan independence resonates with Westerners. Not many SFTers end up walking away from SFT and I'm no different -- just think, two former staff members voluntarily drove twelve hours to help out at our Santa Barbara conference.

I'm working for SFT because I believe Tibet will be free and I can see that coming true in the next six years. I don't think that's a radical statement or overly optimistic, but one that we can make true by the actions we take today. I'm working for Tibet because I believe that every nation has a right to choose their own government, practice their own religion, say or sing whatever they want, and meet in public to express their views. I believe people have a right NOT to be silenced, NOT to have their religious beliefs banned or limited, NOT to be treated as second class citizens, and NOT to be imprisoned for voicing their opposition to a harsh military dictatorship. These are not extreme positions to hold, but ones steeped in democracy and respect for the idea of the rule of law.

Tibet will be free and I believe that change will come by demanding the rights Tibetans, like all other people, deserve. Independence and freedom are only radical ideas when you live in a dictatorship. Those outside of China's totalitarian communist state have a moral obligation to do what we can to support the Tibetan people in their search for freedom and independence. I'm happy I've spent so much time over the last six years working with the Tibetan independence movement and SFT in particular. Hopefully in another six years you will find me blogging from a cyber cafe in a free Lhasa.

Bhod rangzen! Free Tibet!

In solidarity,
Matt

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Attention conference participants!!

Want to post something here on the SFT HQ Blog? ...share your thoughts on your experience at the Leadership Training in Santa Barbara? Please do! Email me (Han) and I'll tell you how. And send me your best photos too! Thanks Tenzing Chemey for your great shots [see Chemey's photos in SFT's Flickr stream] and David [see all of David Huang's great photos on his website: www.poeticdream.com]

Sunday, January 15, 2006

of Tibet and trainings


It's over.

It has been a four-day whirlwind of trainings and workshops, meeting other hardcore Tibet activists, and Thupten's famous chili paste and averaging five hours of sleep at night because we were up talking or singing or because we slept next to Jigme who generates snores the way the CCP generates propaganda.

Anyway, this is definitely the most helpful training I have attended so far. The workshop I liked best was the one where we talked about SFT's mission, vision, and operating statement. The workshop cleared up confusion I didn't even know I had about SFT like our stand on nonviolence. I encourage everyone to read the mission and values statement carefully. I also really really liked the brainstorming session for the Olympics 2008 in Beijing.We talked about creating Team Tibet, the Forbidden Team, because the China has forbidden the concept and existence of the Tibetan nation. Someone suggested making fake newspaper fronts with fake headlines about Team Tibet and distributing them nationally or globally. Tsering from Canada suggested that Tibet support groups and communities could start up funds to help pay for people to get to Beijing. And I thought, a free trip to Beijing, yes please.

I am going back to school with new energy and new tools. In some ways, this leadership training was like a major shot of Red Bull, and I think the skills and knowledge I learned from this one will sustain and inspire me till the next one.

But for now, I am going to the lovely Santa Barbara beaches to chill with the other SFTers and talk about how we are going out for a drink tonight!

Tenzin Dickyi, SFT, Harvard University.

Regional planning... i snuck away for a minute

This morning, everyone assembled in the theater space and a couple of the "advanced track" participants - trainers-in-training Dickyi and Dawa - facilitated a process to decide how to use our last two hours together. We left the time open on purpose because we wanted the last part of the agenda driven by the desires of the group... you never know before the conference how people are goinng to be thinking at the end.

Well, it wasn't the smoothest, easiest consensus process I've ever witnessed but it was also a hell of a lot better than many I've been a part of, even (or maybe especially) with long-time experienced activists. And of course, it's a stubborn group of smart, driven people with strong ideas and personalities. The trainers and core SFT leaders tried to stay out of the way and let the group do it themselves. Dickyi and Dawa drew out suggestions from the assembled crew about a variety of topics deserving of more discussion, or skills that people wanted to spend a bit more time on. They skillfully facilitated a discussion that resulted in some ideas being consolidated into others and other topics being clarified.

Then the group voted to see what the top priorities were. It was carefully whittled down until we decided to spend an hour focused on the Olympics campaign - the worldwide drive to use the opportunity of the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a way to turn the spotlight on Tibet and push the Chinese government for change - and spend another hour on regional planning. In the end, it actually didn't take that long to bring the group of fifty hard-headed activists to agreement and we got down to business. Nice job y'all.

The Olympics brainstorm and discussion was excellent. Maybe someone else will write about it. Now, folks from SFT chapters and communities are in regional planning sessions talking abuot upcoming initiatives and how to increase our coordination, improve our communication etc. There's some good work getting done... which makes me think I better jump back into it.
-Han Shan

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Day 3 Highlights

From Chris McKenna
Director, Tibet Justice Center

Celia on working with corporate and sometimes lazy journalists

Longtime SFT supporter and trainer Celia Alario took the tough questions from the track 2 advanced group at the conference today – those SFTer’s who now written their fair share of press releases, called journalists at 8am to cover their Tibet event, and who have generally begun to struggle with the mechanics of getting media professionals to pay attention to what they are doing for Tibet in their communities. Celia just nailed it…. Don’t like the way that camera man is filming the way our friend is suspended from the Chinese consulate? Go over and tell him and suggest a better shot! Journalists are human beings, not robots. You need to get comfortable interacting with them if you want to get your issue covered. Camera crew caught in traffic on the way to your event? Have your own freelancer shooting stills and video footage that you can offer up to media outlets later as incentive to get more in depth coverage. Besides these tricks gleamed from years of doing media work, Celia walked people through the internal life of a typical journalist – their deadlines, pressures, and the way they will likely cover your Tibet activities. Above and beyond anything, she encouraged the group to really speak up and engage the media. On a fundamental level it is their job to listen to you because you are the one making the news. So pick up the phone, speak frankly, and don’t be personally offended if they don’t cover it!

Alma and Han holding down direct action as always

Listening to Alma and Han sketch out goals, strategies, and tactics for Tibet direct actions is like watching master musicians tune instruments. It’s so second nature and kind of casual that you almost feel like they could be doing some totally unrelated task simultaneously without breaking a sweat. The main point? People need to up their level of critical analysis if they really want to make actions work. You need to have a nice, long, thorough group meditation on why you are doing something, what you want from it, who you are targeting, and who your partners are. Planning is not wimpy, and in fact most of the success for the best stuff SFT has done resides in the amount and quality of the planning. It’s great to see all the old school veterans empowering all these rising stars to have the same level of vigilance.

Thupten and Chris cook dhal, hella spicy chile, and dent van in Santa Barbara parking lot

People can’t eat Costco junk food if they’re going to sit through 8 hours of workshops, so Thupten and I set out to make an Indian veggie dinner with works in order to create a nice group food coma in preparation for an early bedtime (didn’t happen). What we didn’t bank on was the UCSB cooking class and subsequent ice cream social that absolutely filled the kitchen for the whole afternoon. Screaming UCSB freshman, oreo’s, lot’s of make-up, mountain dew, that kind of thing…. In the midst of all of this was Thupten the Warrior swearing a little but otherwise flawlessly executing a veggie meal for fifty. I myself stirred so much dhal and sabzi that my right forearm became sore in that tennis elbow kind of way. This loss of mobility also might have contributed to running the side of a van into a pole in what has to be the smallest and most poorly designed parking garage in history. Sorry van!

More later from Santa Barbara

The SUN

Sunny California is proving that surfing and sand are not its only amazing facets. We are in the middle of the third day of the SFT leadership conference where the people and the programs are proving to be ever more inspiring. The track two group is undergoing training for trainers; the most helpful workshop thus far was Media. In the past I have found that the the media world has been extremely difficult to penetrate. Now I realize the importance of cultivating a relationship with reporters and plan to make a ton of new friends when I get back to Vancouver! Thanks SFT Santa Barbara, you've been great hosts and SFT HQ, you know you are awe inspiring.
-Pema Lhalungpa
SFT Canada
PS Hey, check out the SFT Canada blog too!

SFT North American Conference, UCSB, California

DAY TWO
It wasn't any ordinary day for me. This day, i wanted to get the hell out of my sleeping bag and rush to everybody, everywhere everytime: looking forward to all the workshops that was in store for us. Firstly, i needed my energy booster, which was being brewed right below us by Thupten and Jigme. Breakfast was the usual stuff: juice, coffee, croissant, varieties of bagels, cream cheese, peanut butter and fruits. I had my fill with cream cheese and peanut butter on two sesame seed bagels and hot strong black coffee. Secondly, i needed another set of beautiful pictures for the SFT link, hence the PICTURES you see here. By the way, i was designated to be the semi-official photographer of this event. I say "semi-official" because i am a participant at the workshops and a volunteer at the kitchen and the so-called paparazzi of SFT too. Hell yeah, i love all my positions.
After breakfast, we headed down to the meeting room where we were to have an opening circle before the scheduled workshops began. As usual, opening circle is always fun and we play the same games almost everywhere, but without getting tired of it. It is an excercise which refreshes your mind and relaxes your body to further strengthen to last the long hour workshops. As we were done with the Opening Circle, we were divided into Track One and Track Two. Former one being the new comers, and peope who have attended more than two conferences and FTACs fitted the latter group. Since i have been to Conferences and FTACs before, i was transfered to Track two, where they teach leadership and, most importantly, train us to become future workshop facilitators. Track two left the opening circle and headed towards the MCC where our meeting room was located. We were only ten of us in our Track two course.
I did go for one of the workshops in the morning for messaging and facilitation, but was later called for the rescue in the kitc
hen where it was a "one man show". Thupten was trying to manage everything at once which was not impossible, only that, the dinner would be ready by 10 the next morning. Yeah, i did help cut most of the vegetables and wash the plates in the sink.
The rest of the evening i was preparing dinner
and the setup the dining table.
Dinner was fabulous. It was awesome,
Partly because i helped in making some stuff.
Hey i have to tell you this quick. We had the town hall at the end of the night after dinner and rest is history. There was after dinner stuff but, What happens in Santa Barbara, stays in Santa Barbara. Its almost five in the morning and i need to get some sleep, besides my battery is about to die on me. G-nite and Boe Rangzen

Friday, January 13, 2006

Welcome relief from Vancouver rain...

Having just suffered through a whole month of rain in Vancouver, it was such a relief to get off the plane yesterday in Santa Barbara and feel the warmth of the sun. It was a great start to what has so far been an amazingconference and I'm sure it's just going to keep getting better.

I spent most of the day with the advanced group made up of participants, mostly Tibetan, who've previously attended SFT camps and conferences. We've focused on worskop facilitation and other skills that will enable us to organize conferences and action camps back in our own communities. Especially in the lead up to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, it's so important for us to be able to offer our members and supporters all around the world the opportunity to develop and increase their direct action, media,grassroots organizing and other activist and skills.

Tonight we have a town hall meeting, where members have the opportunity to provide feedback to SFT's leadership about what they feel is and isn't working. But before this, we've got dinner prepared for us by our wonderfulconference volunteers.

Stay tuned for more updates from Santa Barbara!

Kate
SFT Canada

Great crew in Santa Barbara


DAY TWO - FRIDAY
More folks arrived overnight and this morning and the workshops began with a Nonviolence 101 workshop facilitated by SFT Board member Sophia, and Matt, SFT HQ's Operations guy. We've got a good crew of volunteer trainers and staff on the ground with former SFT staff Thupten & Alma, top-notch media trainer Celia Alario, Susan Mizrahi from Int'l Campaign for Tibet, Dorothy Berger from Int'l Tibet Support Network, and many others. More importantly, we've got a diverse group of fifty young freedom fighters from all over - about half Tibetan. We're just gettin' started but it's already obvious we have a great crowd here.

The weather here in Santa Barbara is smiling on us. It's quite a difference from the last time we came to Southern California in January - for SFT's second Free Tibet! Action Camp in Malibu. Torrential rains and mudslides had us evacuating 2/3 through camp, relocating to the "Jolly Roger Motor Hotel" in Venice for the conclusion of the training. We conducted media workshops and protest role-plays in the motel's conference room!

SFT North American Conference, UCSB, California

Guest Blogging: Tenzing Chemey
DAY ONE

This is the second SFT conference I have attended and it couldn't get any better than this. I met a lot of friends from the previous conference and Action Camp-4, while making another dozen new friends from all parts of the country such as LA, Utah, Alabama, Mass., SF, even Vancouver, Canada.

Today, the conference started with checking-in and registration at the M
ulticultural Center (MMC) at the main campus. Although participants poured in at a very slow pace, the number of total attendees hit thirty-five and still counting. We are expecting a dozen more during the weekend from the neighboring cities. I personally thanked many students who flew hundreds of miles to be here, either to lecture us or learn new skills or hmmm... to enjoy this beautiful Cali weather. Whatever the reason maybe, i'm glad you guys are here.

The very first thing that did excite me about this university was the waterfront. There is a lake by the campus!! How romantic. And to top it off, there are beautiful birds that sit on the middle island of the lake.


After touring around the campus, we gathered at the MMC for the Welcoming and the Opening Circle ceremony. We welcomed each other and introduced ourselves in typical SFT manner. You know how it is, a little joke here from Haan and a little addition to it there from Tendor; whatever there is to break the ice, these two will come up with something. Too bad we couldn't play the running game (something like musical chairs), since we were running behind schedule. Well, it was all over and we headed straight down to the theatre where we were to watch the movie "We're no monks" by Pema Dhondup who was present here for a Q & A session. Everybody loved the movie which was quite an experience. Did i tell you that most of us were really really hungry for some reason? I could hear the rumbling of the stomach from some people near and far. Everybody headed for the UCSB hot spot called FreeBird where you can get a monstrous Burito with thousands of fillings of your choice for just $6.00. By the way, despite being very hungry, i could eat only half of the burito.

After the invasion of FreeBird, we headed back to our barracks and tucked
ourselves in our cozy sleepy bags, except for me, i'm still trying to finish posting this. As i look around the room, i hear the snores and the grunting which does annoy me; therefore, in order to avoid this i need to get the rest because tommorrow is another long and beautiful day. Boe Rangzen.