Over 1.25 mn sign online petition for Tibet dialogue

April 11th, 2008 - 10:15 am ICT by admin  

By Jaideep Sarin
Dharamsala, April 11 (IANS) In what could be the fastest growing online petition, people across the world - from Rio de Janeiro to Rome and New York to New Delhi - have signed up to mount pressure on China for a dialogue with Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Tibet. The online petition campaign launched by a global advocacy network - www.avaaz.org - has so far obtained over 1.25 million signatures to force China to discuss Tibet with the Dalai Lama.

“One million signatures in seven days is unprecedented. We believe it is the largest global online petition in history and the fastest growing internet petition ever - obtaining over a million signatures in just seven days,” Avaaz campaign director Ben Wikler told IANS.

“If all the signatories of this petition joined hands in a line, it would stretch from London to Rome.”

Hard copies of the petition - addressed to Chinese President Hu Jintao and carrying all the 1.25 million signatures - will now be stacked up outside Chinese embassies in most countries across the globe.

“As citizens around the world, we call on you to show restraint and respect for human rights in your response to the protests in Tibet, and to address the concerns of all Tibetans by opening meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Only dialogue and reform will bring lasting stability. China’s brightest future, and its most positive relationship with the world, lies in harmonious development, dialogue and respect,” the petition says.

“The petition is online, and it has been signed by citizens of every country on earth, as well as every inhabited, dependent territory. The only exception is Antarctica, where scientists are not allowed to participate in political activity.

“As of this moment, the petition has been signed by 13,159 people in India, as well as more than 100,000 each in the US and UK, and nearly a million in mainland Europe,” Wikler pointed out.

Avaaz - which means ‘voice’ in several languages - itself exists as a virtual organisation on the internet and its staff reside in London, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, New York City, Geneva, and Manama. It is legally incorporated as an NGO in the state of New York in the United States, Wikler said.

The idea for an online petition started last month following the violence and protests inside Tibet against Chinese rule there.

The Tibetan government-in-exile based in this Himalayan abode of the Dalai Lama in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is excited with the response to the petition and the overall reaction of people to the Tibet issue.

“This gives a lot of support to our cause. We are hoping that China too will see reason,” a top Tibetan exiled government official, requesting anonymity, told IANS here.

“This is a clear message to the Chinese government that the Tibetan people have a vast amount of support around the world. The popularity of the ‘Made in China’ brand and the Olympics will be significantly affected by how China deals with Tibetan grievances,” said Ricken Patel, executive director of Avaaz.

The greatest response to the petition has come from France, where 376,568 people have signed the petition. That’s six per 1,000 French citizens and more than one percent of all internet users there, Wikler pointed out.

As a fraction of the population, the response is even greater in Switzerland, where nine per 1,000 Swiss citizens have signed, he added.

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