October 25 , 2001

Contact: Sarah Ray
Posted: October 25, 2001

MIDDLEBURY, VT - Middlebury College Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) will hold a Tibetan festival from 12-3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, at McCullough Student Center on Old Chapel Road off South Main Street (Route 30). The event will celebrate traditional Tibetan culture with folk music, dance, food and displays while also highlighting the current efforts to release political prisoner Ngawang Choephel. The festival is free and open to the public.

A Tibetan refugee, Choephel studied ethnomusicology as a Fulbright scholar and a visiting scholar at Middlebury in 1993 and 1994. He subsequently traveled to Tibet, where he was making a documentary about the region’s traditional music and dance when he was arrested in September 1995 by Chinese authorities, charged with espionage, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Both Vermont Sen. James Jeffords and Rep. Bernard Sanders have worked to bring attention to Choephel’s case at an international level.

Tenzin Wangyal, a junior at Middlebury and the student who organized the event, said, “The national organization of SFT, which is located in New York, has adopted the release of Choepel on medical parole as its prime objective and has urged students at Middlebury College involved in the organization to help lead the nationwide movement. His release would also set a favorable precedent for other political prisoners in Tibet.”

Displays at the festival will include a Tibetan monk’s reflections on his people’s struggle for freedom, music and dance performances, and a tent called Little Tibet that will house an altar and a guide, who will explain the significance of statues of Buddha and other religious items. At the festival’s conclusion, there will be a “lhabsoe”?an offering made to the gods by raising and throwing flour in the air. Students will be available to teach Tibetan group dances, which are popular in Tibet on special occasions. Prayer flags will serve as decorations, and Tibetan and Indian food will be available.

Throughout the event, SFT members will offer festival goers the opportunity to sign petitions regarding the release of Choepel, who is reportedly very ill. A video about him willplay continuously. "We are confident that this festival will offer more than entertainment? It will educate festival goers about Ngawang’s condition and about the richness of Tibetan culture,” said Wangyal.

For more information, contact event organizer Tenzin Wangyal at or call 802-443-4552.