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Coalition Lobbies For Permission To Protest Zhu on MIT Property

By Zareena Hussain

As MIT gears up to welcome Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji for his speaking engagement in Kresge Auditorium on April 14, groups from MIT, Cambridge, and Boston are planning to protest human rights violations in China during his visit.

The protesters have been given preliminary confirmation that MIT will allow them to protest on MIT property with a view to Kresge, according to Douglas K. Wyatt ’96, former member of MIT Amnesty International which is helping to organize the protests.

“MIT has given us oral permission to protest on the grassy area between the Student Center and Massachusetts Avenue,” Wyatt said.

Despite this confirmation, with lack of a firm commitment in writing, there is concern among those organizing the protests that MIT may take back this space.

Protesters may be pushed off campus

At Chinese President Jiang Zemin’s visit to Harvard last year, the university and Cambridge Police had promised protesters space on the campus until the last minute when all those without Harvard IDs were kicked off, according to Phurbu Tsomo-Thargay, president of the Tibetan Association of Boston, who participated in those protests and will be at MIT for Rongji’s speech.

“The day of [the protest] came and they were told they weren’t allowed to be there,” Wyatt said.

Protesters moved to the Swedenborg Chapel from which they continued to protest, Tsomo-thargay said.

At Harvard, Zemin acknowledged that he heard the protesters, despite their having been pushed off-campus.

Adding to the worries of this year’s protest organizers is the refusal of Cambridge Police to issue a permit to the protests in the city of Cambridge, according to Wyatt.

“It sounds like what they’re concerned about is traffic flow,” Wyatt said.

“We don’t think the state or the city should be able to offload its First Amendment requirements on MIT because MIT can then restrict that,” Wyatt said. “MIT has private property and is not required to let us be there.”

With no space and no permit, the protesters may be pushed as far as back as Memorial Drive.

“We are very concerned we will not get the adequate space. Nevertheless, we will get our voices heard,” Tsomo-thargay said.

Pan-Chen Lama is focus of protest

One goal of the protesters is to lobby for the release of the Pan-Chen Lama of Tibet, Tsomo-thargay said.

At ten years old, the Pan-Chen is the youngest political prisoner in China. He is the second most important spiritual leader for Tibetans. Only the Dalai Lama ranks higher in importance.

Gendhyn-Choeyi Nyina was named Pan-Chen Lama on May 14, 1995 by the Dalai Lama. Three days later he, his family, and the monk that led the search to find and name the Pan-Chen Lama were arrested by the Chinese government and taken to Beijing, she said.

“These persons are now missing and no one has seen or talked with them ever since,” Tsomo-thargay said.