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Silas Walker, Deseret News
Kelsang Tenzin holds a photo of the Dali Lama during a rally to commemorate the 60th anniversary of resistance to illegal occupation by Chinese government forces in Tibet on March 10, 1959at the capitol in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 10, 2019.

SALT LAKE CITY — About 100 Tibetans marched to the Utah State Capitol on Sunday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising.

On March 10, 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in exile into northern India during a failed uprising by Tibetans fighting against Chinese occupation. More than 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a result of China's occupation of Tibet since the 1950's, according to the Utah Tibetan Association. The Chinese government has also been aggressive in taking away Tibetans' freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and press.

Silas Walker, Deseret News
Tibetans march through downtown with signs and flags in a rally to commemorate the 60th anniversary of resistance to illegal occupation by Chinese government forces in Tibet on March 10, 1959 in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 10, 2019.

The marchers in Salt Lake City on Sunday joined Tibetans across the world in holding a rally to mark the 60th Tibetan National Uprising Day, and renewed their call for an end to Chinese occupation and the return of the Dalai Lama to his home. Waving Tibetan and American flags and holding signs with statements such as "Human Rights in Tibet," "Long live his Holiness the Dalai Lama," and "China out of Tibet," local Tibetans marched from the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building, 125 South State Street, to the state Capitol.

Before the march, the group rallied with prayers, chants and the reading of several proclamations, both in English and their native language.

A proclamation by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski declaring Sunday as "Tibet Day in Salt Lake City" was read. In it, the mayor stated that, "Salt Lake City is committed to promoting and preserving the Tibetan culture, heritage and religion."

Silas Walker, Deseret News
Tashi Porong listens to Tenzin Phunrab speak during a rally to commemorate the 60th anniversary of resistance to illegal occupation by Chinese government forces in Tibet on March 10, 1959 in Salt Lake City on Sunday, March 10, 2019.

A statement by the Central Tibetan Administration was also read to the group. The administration called for "freedom-loving people of the world to commit to end oppression in Tibet and to commit to fight against impunity."

There are approximately 280 Tibetans in Salt Lake City, according to the Utah Tibetan Association, including many that came to America directly from Tibet.

"I think most of us Tibetans, we were born in exile, but our parents’ generation thought that they would get to return back to Tibet after a couple of years in exile, and now we’re at 60 years. The Dalai Lama is 83, so we’re kind of pressed against time for him to return to his homeland. We want China to have a dialogue with his holiness, the Dalai Lama. We want to be able to go visit our country. We want to be able to have the basic rights that Tibetans are given, or birth right, to be able to practice their religion, their language, to be able to speak and be able to worship whoever they want,” said Tenzin, treasurer for the Utah Tibetan Association, who asked to only be identified by her first name.

Tenzin said her parents fled to India in their teens before moving to Utah 40 years ago. She said they still have a desire to return one day to Tibet.

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"One of our biggest desires is to go back to our homeland and settle there. Unfortunately it’s really difficult with the amount of surveillance and the amount of systematic pressures from China. They have surveillance where my father is trying to go there and he cannot. We had to get a lot of documentation from family members in Tibet, but it makes it really difficult because with those verifications now those family members are under surveillance. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword,” she said.

Tenzin did not want to give her last name because she fears surveillance. She said the Chinese government monitors Western media and then uses facial recognition methods against her people. That's why while Tibetans want to rally at events like the one on Sunday, in support of their homeland, Tenzin said they also want to do it anonymously.