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Over 40 Olympic Athletes in Bejing Download Tibet Solidarity Album “Songs for Tibet”
In Atmosphere of Fear and Intimidation, Download Initiative Gives Athletes Ability to Protest Chinese Policies in Tibet
Washington DC, (August 19, 2008) - ‘Songs for Tibet – The Art of Peace,’ a top-selling rock album, has been downloaded by more than 40 Olympic athletes from North America, Europe and even Beijing, as an act of solidarity with Tibet. The album of 20 tracks from Sting, Alanis Morissette, Dave Matthews, John Mayer, Moby and others is a celebration of Tibet and the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of peace, non-violence and compassion.
Michael Wohl, Executive Director of the Art of Peace Foundation, which initiated the project, said: “Many athletes wanted to speak their mind, but couldn’t without considerable risk. We are delighted that Olympic athletes took the opportunity to contact us and downloaded the album. It conveys a message of hope and solidarity with the Tibetan people and a commitment to freedom of expression that cannot be suppressed.” Several of the athletes, who were assured anonymity, thanked the Art of Peace Foundation. In one case, an Olympian commended the Foundation’s “efforts, music and passion for peace.”
The initiative took place in an atmosphere of repression that made overt protests all but impossible. A number of dramatic assaults on freedoms of expression engulfed the Olympics and raised interest in the download initiative, including:
“The downloading of the album represents an understanding that compassion and non-violence can overcome intolerance and oppression – beautiful ideals to be associated with the Olympic spirit.” continued Wohl, “Though you can stop people from speaking out, you can’t stop them from listening and thinking.” International Campaign for Tibet, Students for a Free Tibet, and Team Darfur assisted in getting the athletes in touch with the Foundation.
Following international media coverage of the album and its success, which became a top seller in the US. Europe and Japan and hit the #4 spot on Billboard’s top downloaded digital album chart, an article was published on china.org.cn – the authorized government portal site to China, managed by the Information Office of the State Council. The article reported that “angry netizens” who “are rallying together to denounce internet retailers that offer ‘Songs for Tibet’ for purchase” have even called for a boycott on companies that make the pro-peace album available for sale on the web, and a ban on those involved in making the album from entering China. "The predictably hostile response to the album from Chinese internet users as reported by an official Chinese media outlet reflects continued attempts to suppress any support for Tibet at a time of crisis for the Tibetan people, as well as the level of entrenched misinformation about Tibet propagated by the Beijing government among the Chinese public," said Kate Saunders from the International Campaign for Tibet, which is supporting the project.
Proceeds that the foundation receives support initiatives promoting peace and Tibetan cultural preservation projects. Details at www.ArtofPeaceFoundation.org. A video for the album, ‘Songs for Tibet – Freedom is Expression,’ is available on YouTube.
About The Art of Peace Foundation
The Art of Peace Foundation is a 501(C)(3) non-profit founded on the Dalai Lama’s belief of ‘Universal Responsibility.’ The Foundation’s mission is to engage the world in a proactive way while remaining grounded in the Dalai Lama’s vision of non-violence. Please visit www.ArtOfPeaceFoundation.org
About Meridian Trust The Art of Peace Foundation also works with their UK partner, Meridian Trust, to preserve Tibetan cultural traditions. Meridian Trust’s patron is the Dalai Lama, who has asked them to raise the awareness of Tibetan cultural traditions. www.Meridian-Trust.org
About the International Campaign for Tibet
The International Campaign for Tibet (www.savetibet.org) works to promote human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet. ICT
The Art of Peace Foundation’s Executive Director Michael Wohl, as well as the producer, Rupert Hine and artists from the album "Songs for Tibet - The Art of Peace." We will also be joined by Tibetan scholar Professor Robert Thurman from Columbia. The following will be discussed.
Transcript of the August 7th Press Briefing
My name is Michael Wohl and I am the Executive Director of The Art of Peace Foundation. As many of you may know, the Foundation seeks to affect change in the world by adhering to the philosophy of non-violence and compassion as championed by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. We work closely with our counterparts in the UK, the Meridian Trust, whose primary purpose is to preserve Tibetan culture and raise awareness of Tibet in the West.
We created an album to both celebrate the people of Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as to send a strong message of support at this critical time. Begun in May of 2008, the album, "Songs for Tibet - The Art of Peace" was completed in just 2 months. The outpouring of support for this project throughout the music industry and beyond is unparalleled. We hoped for enough tracks for a single album. Within weeks, we realized it would be a double album or more. Tracks are still coming in and the album could easily have been a triple album or more if we had another month.
The effort by artists worldwide was incredible. Alanis Morissette, for instance, recorded her song during a jam-packed world tour while in a dressing room before a concert in Germany. Stories like this were typical. The impossible task of completing this project was propelled by the affection people feel for the Dalai Lama and Tibet, as well as the urgency of the situation.
A few weeks into the project, I visited London to take part in a previously scheduled audience with His Holiness. When asked how the West could help the Tibetans, he answered, and I am paraphrasing here, "If you care about Tibet, then you care about justice for all people. Wherever there is injustice, work to enable people to have freedom of expression: freedom of speech, press and religion. Then their problems will disappear."
To accomplish this ideal, we focused on raising awareness of "The Great Firewall of China," the state sponsored information filtering apparatus that monitors and controls emails and websites within China. The Great Firewall is a tool used by the Chinese government to stifle grass roots dissent and prevent the freedoms of speech and press. US corporations play a roll in aiding and abetting the implementation of the Great Firewall of China. Though the issue is complex, it requires substantially more public discussion on how US information technology is being used to deny 1.3 billion people fundamental rights.
The Great Firewall was not supposed to be in existence by the opening of the Olympics. Beijing had been awarded the Olympics on several conditions, including free access for journalist throughout China, open internet access and improved human rights for all Chinese citizens, none of which have occurred. This non-compliance by Beijing has sadly resulted China politicizing of the Olympics. Moreover, a blatant politicization of the Olympics occurred when a government official used the Olympic podium in Lhasa during the torch relay to announce the need to smash the Dalai clique, China has turned this situation around by claiming that anyone holding Beijing and the IOC accountable to the conditions on which Beijing was awarded the Olympics is politicizing the Olympics. This travesty of logic needs to be stopped – and we must all speak out clearly on this - Beijing has politicized the Olympics by failing to adhere to the conditions on which they were granted the privilege of hosting the Olympics. People with a conscience are merely pointing this out and should not be punished or ridiculed.
Those that could speak out for these injustices and have the greatest impact, the Olympic athletes themselves, have been strongly discouraged from expressing their discontent with the situation where it matters most – at Olympic venues. Athletes were initially told by several national sports committees that the only way they could go to Beijing was to sign a contract that effectively prevented them from speaking their minds. Athletes that speak out may in theory have medals revoked and be forced out of the Olympics. We believe that free societies should do better than this in supporting our great athletes in the face of great injustices.
We support the Olympics, the athletes and the accomplishments of the Chinese citizens in hosting the Olympics and acknowledge all of their efforts and sacrifices. If Olympic athletes cannot speak their conscience, however, the Chinese government is treating them like modern day gladiators to be used for sport and entertainment. This is against everything the Olympics stand for. One can’t support the Olympics while denying athletes their fundamental freedom of speaking the truth.
In the face of this situation, we offered the athletes a solution in the form of a free download of the album "Songs for Tibet - The Art of Peace " and a suggestion to wear a MP3 Player during the games as a symbol of freedom of expression. Wearing a MP3 Player, a simple icon of personal freedom, provides Olympic athletes with an acceptable way to protest these conditions. We began contacting athletes as soon as the album was done. We knew once the athletes were in Beijing, The Great Firewall of China’ might prevent accessibility to downloads.
Recently, 20,000 Western journalists had a taste of limited freedoms when they found themselves caught behind the Great Firewall, unable to access websites, such as the International Campaign for Tibet, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The Chinese government’s unapologetic response was that journalists need not worry about human rights when in China, they should just focus on sports. The IOC fought for limited internet access for foreign journalists while allowing the host country to fail their obligations to the other 1.3 billion people under Chinese rule. To date, the world refuses to pressure the Chinese government to grant the Chinese people and Tibetans the basic freedoms of speech and press on which the Beijing Olympics were predicated.
"Songs for Tibet - The Art of Peace" is now available as a download worldwide. It will be available as a CD on August 12th. The album quickly jumped to become a top-selling rock album download across much of the free world. This is an astonishing, quantifiable show of support for Tibet by the world.
We are also announcing a 60 second Public Service Announcement directed by Mark Pellington called, "Songs for Tibet - Freedom is Expression." Besides being available on YouTube, Tibet groups around the world will support its rollout. HD, SD and download versions of the Public Service Announcement will be available to anyone that wants to show it. Please contact us on our website to receive a copy. We will be showing it in a moment.
The album’s musical director, Rupert Hine is here to take any questions you may have about the album and Professor Robert Thurman is here to answer any questions you might have regarding the situation in Tibet.