Free Tibet

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For other uses of "Free Tibet", see Free Tibet (disambiguation).
Free Tibet
Free Tibet logo.png
Founded 1987
Type Non-profit
Key people

Daniel Russell, Chair

Stephen Corry, Executive Committee Member

Free Tibet is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, founded in 1987 and based in London, England. It stands for the rights of Tibetans to determine their own future and campaigns for "an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected." [1][2] It is a member of the International Tibet Support Network (ITSN), a worldwide group of affiliated organizations campaigning for human rights and self-determination in Tibet.[3]

Free Tibet generates active support through public education about the situation in Tibet. It is independent of all governments and is funded by members and supporters. As of December 2010 Free Tibet had around 6,000 members, over 20,000 supporters, around 40 local groups around the UK and a further 15 around the world, involved in fund raising and letter writing campaigns.[4] Local groups spread awareness in their communities by participating in Free Tibet co-ordinated actions, including staging fundraising events and talks, local protesting,and lobbying their MPs.[5] All local groups are legally and financially autonomous.

Free Tibet issues a 3-time yearly magazine to its members in addition to regular mailings informing its supporters of the organization's activities. In addition, supporters can subscribe to urgent action campaigns.[6] Urgent action campaign subscribers receive immediate information on important cases needing their individual support.


Free Tibet works on a number of campaigns to create awareness of the situation in Tibet and contribute towards the improvement of human rights for the lives of the Tibetan people. Free Tibet continues to gather information from inside Tibet despite strict Government controls, and to push for international action to solve the current crisis in Tibet.[7]

Most notably Free Tibet focuses on the abolition of torture, freedom of religion, the release of political prisoners, and the lobbying of the UK government.

Break the Silence[edit]

Free Tibet launched the Break the Silence campaign page to highlight world leaders reluctance to publicly speak out in support of Tibet. The campaign encourages supporters to write to world leaders and ask them to speak out for Tibet.

Two videos were developed by Free Tibet, one featuring David Cameron and one featuring Barack Obama.

The campaign gained publicity when writer Julian Baggini used the campaign in an article for The Guardian.


In 2008 Free Tibet submitted evidence to the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva detailing the deteriorating record of abuse inside Tibet.[8] Subsequently the UN Committee concluded that torture in Tibet is 'widespread and routine'.

Free Tibet has also worked alongside celebrities such as Alan Rickman, David Threlfall, Juliet Stevenson, and Dominic West to record testimonies of tortured Tibetans.[9] The organisation has used the video testimonies to create more awareness and urge people to take action by writing to William Hague and Chinese representatives to put a stop to torture in Tibet.[10]


Religion has for centuries been the most defining aspect of Tibetan life and has fundamentally shaped Tibetan identity. Before, and especially during, the Cultural Revolution, all but eight of six thousand monasteries and nunneries were destroyed, religious artefacts and scripts burned, monks and religious leaders imprisoned and tortured.[11]

Free Tibet advocates the removal of controls and restrictions that prevent Tibetans practising their religion in a meaningful way.[12] ). Free Tibet urges its supporters to take action by writing to the Chinese representatives in supporters’ countries.[13]

Political Prisoners[edit]

Free Tibet seeks the release of political prisoners through lobbying,[14] petitions, and its Urgent Action Campaigns.[15] This approach has been successful in securing the early release of prominent political prisoners such as Phuntsog Nyidron, reducing Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's sentence from death to life and was possibly influential in ensuring Runggye Adak's relatively low-length sentence in 2007.[16]

Free Tibet has an extensive list of current prisoners,[17] released prisoners,[18] and those that have received death sentences.[19]

Lobbying the UK Government[edit]

In the run up to the 2010 elections Free Tibet lobbied MPs, with the help of their supporters,to pledge to promote human rights in Tibet and China. Over 200 candidates pledged.[20] In addition Free Tibet has a number of MPs that are championing human rights in Tibet and China.[21]

Free Tibet has a number of policy recommendations that it believes will result in a more robust and results-orientated approach to improving the human rights situation in Tibet. These recommendations include a restructuring of the UK Human Rights Dialogue, publicly raising the issue, and consulting human rights organisations.[22]

Past campaigns[edit]

Fly the Flag at the London Olympics[edit]

During the London 2012 Olympic Games, Free Tibet encouraged supporters to send in pictures of themselves with the flag of Tibet at Olympic locations around London and Great Britain.

The campaign was launched due to Tibet not being represented at the London Olympics and thereby not being recognised by games organisers as a country.

Photos were sent in and collated into a photostream on Flickr.

Protests against Olympic Torch Relay[edit]

In March 2008, the group reported extensively on the unrest and large series of protests in Tibet; protests which Tibet Support Groups (TSGs) continue to gather evidence about today.[23] As the Chinese government routinely bars journalists from Tibet and ensures that political dissent is punished harshly, the work of TSGs in getting information out of Tibet is difficult but vital to the Tibetan cause.[24]

Throughout 2008, Free Tibet and other TSGs have referred to what they claimed was the hypocrisy of China being awarded the Olympic Games while being one of the world's most serious human rights offenders. They argued that this contradicted spirit of the Games as well as promises made to the International Olympic Committee [IOC] that China would improve its human rights record in the build-up to the Beijing Olympics. This included the organizing of large scale rallies in central London during the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay in April, in which thousands of Tibet supporters filled the streets,[25] leading to China and the IOC reducing and re-routing relays in other cities.[26] The protests were supposed to dampen the impact of the Chinese Communist Party's external propaganda that China is a 'harmonious' state.

Following the Olympics, China analysts speculated on the possibility that the authorities would begin dealing harshly with Tibetan dissenters after world attention moved off Beijing.[27] Following the Olympics the Chinese authorities did initiate a state of de facto martial law in Tibet by moving troops into Tibetan areas and handing down harsh sentences for Tibetans who protested against Chinese rule, or reported on the human rights conditions in Tibet.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]