Beastie Boy Blasts Clinton At Tibet Rally

As president meets Chinese leader, thousands join Beastie's Buddhist bassist in call for freedom.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Chinese President Jiang Zemin met with

President Bill Clinton privately in the White House on Wednesday to discuss

everything from trade to international relations, Adam Yauch stood calmly

across the street in Lafayette Park speaking in his characteristic soft-spoken

voice about freedom.

Even as he stressed the importance of people "raising as much noise about

human rights as we can," the Beastie Boy and Buddhist convert made little on

his own. Instead, he remained focused on the issues at hand.

"We're here to try to remind the president that human rights are to be at the

forefront of all negotiations with China," Yauch told Addicted To Noise, his

hands tucked into a blue fleece pullover. "We need to make human rights

issues the number-one priority in everything we deal with. It's unacceptable to

put that on the back burner for big business."

Yauch was in Washington along with film star and fellow Buddhist Richard Gere

and several thousand activists to call on Clinton to take concrete steps to

address what they say are persistent human rights abuses perpetuated by the

Chinese government at home and in Tibet, which China has occupied since

1949. Wednesday's U.S.-Sino summit marked the first state visit by a Chinese

official since their military killed hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators at

Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

"We can't underestimate the value of what Tibetan culture has to provide

for the rest of the world," Yauch said, his back partially turned from the White

House.

Later, addressing the crowd of close to 5,000 from a stage adorned with a

replica of the Tiananmen Square Statue of Liberty, the punk-rap bassist said,

"Humanity has reached a crossroads. We've come to a point in time where with

our technology we can destroy ourselves. While we've been modernizing

ourselves, we haven't actually modernized our way of thinking, our

understanding of the interdependence of everything. Those lessons are

within Tibetan culture. Most of our problems aren't due to the machines we

have -- they're due to the greed that's motivating our entire society,"

Yauch said, drawing rousing applause.

For two summers running, Yauch has organized the all-star Tibetan Freedom

Concert through the Milarepa Fund, the organization he founded in 1994 to

raise funds to assist the Tibetan people in their quest for freedom. The

Tibetan Freedom Concert album -- a three-disc, 32-track set featuring the

likes of the Beastie Boys, Patti Smith, Lee Scratch Perry, the Fugees and

Pavement -- lands in stores Nov. 4. A film documentary of the event called

Free Tibet is scheduled to tour movie houses this winter, along with a

number of other movies focusing on the plight of the Tibetan people.

The protest drew activists from across the political spectrum in calling for

democracy in China and Tibet: Conservative Christians joined Buddhist monks

to demand religious freedom; the AFL-CIO called for fair labor practices, while

the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, assailed the displacement of

citizens by the Three Gorges Dam. Gere introduced as "my hero" former

Chinese dissident Harry Wu, who then assailed Beijing for allegedly profiting by

executing more of its people yearly than all other nations combined, then selling

their organs on the world market.

Fugazi's Ian MacKaye was also on hand for the demonstration. The hometown

hardcore hero said on a personal level, he came down to offer Yauch

moral support, but added that "It just seemed like a really logical place

to be this afternoon."

"It's certainly an issue -- whether it's easily resolved or not -- that deserves a lot

more attention than it's getting," said MacKaye, who in the past decade has

logged countless hours at protests in the nation's capital. "I think at this point

just taking the time to read about the situation would be an enormous help. I

think anyone who starts looking into it will find their own passions about it. It just

seems really obvious -- a clear, clear unfortunate situation."

Fugazi, he added, may play at next summer's Tibetan Freedom Concert (though

that's likely to jibe with the band's stringent politics only if the concert is a free

event), which is slated to be held in Washington, D.C. Yauch declined to offer

any details about the concert, but said the show is "definitely happening."

The Beastie's head Buddhist was not nearly so shy, however, when it came to

addressing presidents Clinton and Zemin. "I'd like to remind President Clinton

who he works for and who hired him," Yauch said from the stage, his voice

echoing across the lawn of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. "It's not the corporations

that have donated money to his campaigns. It's not the big business interests

that he's trying to move forward in China."

Then, he added, perhaps losing his cool for just a moment, "How dare

President Clinton go into negotiations about selling nuclear technology to

China without having human rights on the forefront of that issue."

Color="#720418">[Thurs., Oct. 30, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]