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Hu Jintao Visit to Canada: Update from Toronto
Saturday was an incredible day of action by Tibetans and Tibet supporters in Toronto. Hundreds of people with Tibetan flags, placards, and banners attended the rally jointly organized by the Canada Tibet Committee, Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women’s Association, Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontraio, Chushi Gangdruk of Canada and Students for a Free Tibet Canada. Chris Schwartz, an SFT member was arrested for locking down inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and disrupting the gala dinner organized in honour of Hu Jintao’s visit. Read below for an account of the day’s events.
By 10:00am, Tibetans and supporters had assembled alongside members of the Falun Gong and Taiwanese organizations to fill the entire block in front of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Around 11am, Hu Jintao arrived at the hotel adjacent to the Convention Centre. We chanted Free Tibet slogans, making sure that we were louder than the pro-China supporters who had been bused in to the counter the protests. At about 2:30pm, in direct view of the Tibetan flags, Hu Jintao’s entourage left the hotel for Niagara Falls and after four hours of yelling we were able to take a much needed break and prepare for the evening demonstrations.
The crowd reconvened at around 5:00pm with renewed energy. By 6:00pm, guests were beginning to arrive for the gala dinner organized by the Canada China Business Council. We repeatedly called on the Canadian business community to stop financing China’s occupation of Tibet, specifically targeting gala dinner sponsors Bombardier and Nortel for their involvement in the China- Tibet railway.
At 7:00pm, SFT members Chris Schwartz and Leah Henderson entered the Convention Centre. Dressed in a suit and tie, Chris entered the lobby area on the 1st floor of the convention centre, where the gala dinner was being held. In less than five seconds he had locked down to a bench next to the table where event organizers were checking tickets. Yelling at the top of his lungs, Chris addressed the stunned businessmen and women who believed they had successfully avoided the demonstrations. “I am here today in solidarity with the 6 million Tibetans inside Tibet who continued to live without basic human and civil rights. “Until Tibet is free”, he
continued, “Trade with China must be conditional on significant human rights improvements in Tibet.” Security personnel reacted by trying to block Chris who continued to shout “Free Tibet”. About five minutes later eight police officers arrived on the scene, cut Chris free and dragged him to the nearest exit. Once outside, he was met with cheers of support by the demonstrators. Chris was arrested but later released.