As of this writing 55 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in what is referred to as a non-violent protest of Chinese occupation and all that accompanies their colonialist rule in Tibetan regions. All but 10 of these immolators have died, and all of them are currently heralded as heroes committing acts of non-violence.
The following sentiments will likely be unpopular and some of you will even be offended, but I am unwilling to continue to sit by and pretend that self-immolation is non-violent. It is my belief that these acts are in fact incredibly violent. Non-violence goes far beyond eliminating physical injury and must also encompass emotional and psychological wellbeing. Gandhi declared that even a negative thought about someone was an act of violence.
From my work as a former crisis interventionist for a police department I can attest to the emotional and psychological injuries inflicted upon those who are witness to horrific events. Surviving family members or the person who discovers the body of an individual who has committed suicide or has died in some violent manner are traumatized, especially if they witnessed the death. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a common side effect from any event that is highly disturbing to an individual’s psyche and the level of disturbance is unpredictable and different for everyone. The effects can be devastating and disruptive to the life and overall well-being and health of the person traumatized by such events.
Self-immolations may not physically endanger others, but what of the emotional and psychological wounds inflicted upon those who witness the immolator engulfed in flames? What of those who have risked their own safety to care for the immolator who did not die immediately and bore witness to the unbearable pain of such injuries? What of the family members who are left behind, especially the young children whose parents died from their act of protest? And what of those of us who see the video’s, the pictures, read the reports and wait everyday with trepidation that another Tibetan will douse themselves in flammable liquid and become a human torch for freedom?
Living with a truly compassionate heart requires one to also understand the ramifications of ones actions in the world and how they will or will not adversely affect one’s direct or indirect sphere of influence. These acts are violent pure and simple because of the psychological and emotional harm inflicted on the witnesses and families and the community at large. It is equally violent and perverse to hope that these acts will garner support and attention for the Tibetan cause.
A scholar of Tibetan history I have spent years examining and analyzing the political history and geopolitical underpinnings of Tibet versus China and have come to understand very clearly what will and what won’t motivate a change in CCP attitudes and in the way western leaders respond to the Tibet situation. Self-immolations are not that motivator, western sympathizers may abound but the lack of action speaks volumes and has since before China even stepped foot in Tibet 62 years ago.
And as a long time supporter with many Tibetan friends I consider my family, I am heartbroken to see these misguided actions and support for its continuance. Instead of encouraging more pointless acts that have done nothing to change conditions for Tibetans in Tibet, it’s time to speak the truth and admit that self-immolation is violent; as violent as standing in the middle of street with a gun to one’s head only worse. It’s time to send a clear and strong message to Tibetans in Tibetan regions that immolations are not effective; in fact they have done more to harm Tibetan communities in those regions, than incite the desired move toward political liberation. The Tibetan diaspora need to let their brothers and sisters know that ending their lives in these violent acts won’t bring freedom or the Dalai Lama to Tibet. Stand in solidarity by encouraging them to live instead of die.
Journalists are sneaking by road blocks and security in Tibetan areas. The videos and pictures coupled with eyewitness and interview testimonial provide concrete information about the ongoing events in Tibet. What we see does not represent a people who live in freedom.
Today March 10, 2012 53 years after the failed uprising in Lhasa took the lives of so many people and saw the final dismantling of Tibetan society as it was known for thousands of years; I want to thank the brave journalists who have borne witness to the military crackdown in Tibet. Please continue investigating and reporting on Tibet.
|From Phayul……….Breaking News: Three Tibetans self-immolate in Serthar|
It’s been nearly a year since Phuntsog set himself on fire and essentially kicked off the stream of immolations that have continuously escalated attention to the situation in Tibet. Mainstream media is finally carrying the story with more vigor than in the past 10 months. Potentially this could create an avalanche of support for Tibet in ways we have not seen in the past.
If you are willing to vocalize your support, contact your local and national government representatives and ask them to take a stronger stance toward China.
Below are several links to reports that highlight attempts by journalists to investigate one of the biggest and most ignored stories of last year; one that shows no signs of abating this year. Let’s spread the word and make sure that Tibetan‘s receive the attention and assistance they deserve.
Join your local Tibetan community on March 10th to commemorate the 1959 uprising and please attend prayer vigils that are being held February 8th around the world. Contact your local Tibetan organization for details.
U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke speaks with Charlie Rose on his role with China, the increasing human rights infractions, economics and some future trends.
To listen click here: Charlie Rose/Gary Locke
Yesterday Wednesday January 18, 2012 marked a crucial and important demonstration of the power of the internet to mobilize, educate, and influence our world. If you visited sites like Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, and our own WordPress you quickly would have realized something was different. Even more you may have been educated about two pieces of legislature circulating the U.S. Congress and Senate. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) on the surface appear to be aimed at controlling piracy of music, film and other copyrighted works found in plenty on the internet. I’m all for putting an end to piracy, for artists, musicians, writers, film makers to be able to protect their original work from being freely distributed across the internet. However the wording of the bills is a tad more sinister and instead infringes on the neutrality of the net that we now have. In other words it amounts to censorship and corporate and government control of internet content. If you aren’t in on the details of these two bills click here for information.
Yesterday’s internet blackout, a flood of Tweets and other social network activity and messages sent to Senate and Congress representatives has caused the momentum of these two bills to come to a near grinding halt. And it is this that excites me because it shows us how powerful the internet is in advancing a cause, spreading the word, creating a viral or epidemic like movement that actually creates change and makes a difference. From Tahrir Square to a blacked out Wikipedia the internet is playing an essential role in our collective ability to rise up and demand change in systems that do not serve the vast majority. While it is absolutely imperative that we as global citizens remain vigilant and aware of infringements on our rights it is also important that we recognize opportunities to plant seeds of change.
As we move into a politically sensitive time (Losar and March 10) I urge each of you to think about ways to utilize the internet on a global scale to affect change in Tibet. How can a movement that demands intervention on behalf of Tibet become viral through the use of the internet? What is the message that will stir activism on a grand and global scale not just among Tibetans and a few supporters? How can the message be made relevant to a larger audience and create a sense of urgency like never before?
There are many Tibetan related organizations all advocating for Tibet and Tibetans. Were they to unite under the exact same messaging and create a campaign that is more compelling and inspiring than ever and clearly states what is at stake beyond human rights, then a movement that is currently stalled could find new footing and new life. Disseminating the message consistently, actively, and without the confusion of middle way versus freedom or independence is imperative.
This is how we get governments to take action and change their continued passive stance on Tibet and China. As I keep saying the power of the people is more powerful than any government in existence today or ever. There are more of us than there are of them and when we really see that dynamic then we see where the ultimate power lies and we can unite fearlessly and create a world that is just for all beings.
In the wake of last year’s immolations, I had hoped that the New Year would bring a different story out of Tibet, but alas not. The immolations continue and today (yesterday in Tibet) a 16th Tibetan is reported to have set himself on fire in Aba, Sichuan Prefecture. This makes four people setting themselves on fire in the past week. The Associated Press distributed the most recent story noting that unrest followed the immolations and Tibetans in the area rose up in spontaneous protest only to be met with the usual military force. Woeser is quoted on her blog saying, “A young Tibetan person self-immolated … the local area has erupted in public protests and marches, and they have been met with military police fire and suppression. There are Tibetan casualties.” Phayul has posted a more detailed account of the situation in Ngaba (Aba), an area that has seen 11 immolations since March of last year.
My heart goes out to Tibetans across the globe, especially to those in the Ngaba area who must at this point be traumatized beyond simple comprehension. There is nothing I can say that will alleviate the emotional turmoil of my husband and our friends who are constantly worried about their families in Tibet. Those whose hearts break a little more with each immolation, with each death, with each report of turmoil in Tibet. I have no words to comfort and am instead filled with frustration, sadness and anger. Especially I am angry at governments who shake their fingers at China, condemn their repressive policies and ask them to behave themselves, but continue unabated trade relations. Why should China change anything when it seems the world is at their feet? When the Rupert Murdoch’s of the world eagerly and greedily reap the rewards of business dealings with China, promoting foreign investment in a country run by heartless thugs who lie, cheat, murder and behave with arrogant pomposity as they strut upon the world’s stage.
Nothing will change in China until we the people unite to overthrow corrupt people and their corporations holding sway on China’s economic growth. Not until we the people demand that governments across the globe place economic sanctions on China demanding that they adopt democracy, adhere to human rights expectations and until they are expelled from their position on the U.N. Human Rights Council. China has no right what-so-ever to be on the Human Rights Council, they have not in any way earned a place at that table. In my estimation their presence weakens and undermines the U.N. as an entity formed for the good of humanity; instead, China’s membership represents an insult to humanity.
I don’t believe that Tibetans will stop killing themselves. I want them to but I don’t think they will. This is the most attention that Tibet has received in years and maybe they see a certain kind of success in making the gravity of their situation known to the world by sacrificing their precious lives. I can’t help but wonder how many deaths will serve as the tipping point. How many will have to set themselves ablaze before meaningful intervention into the Tibetan situation occurs?
Rest in Peace. Bhod Gyalo!
For the past several days I’ve wrestled with whether or not to post the video showing Palden Choetso in flames. It’s a disturbing video, a surreal visual to be sure and at first I wondered if it was authentic, so vivid and unreal is the image of her engulfed in bright orange flames. Not until she falls does it become believable. The mere idea of a human being or any living being on fire is so incredibly difficult to fathom, and seeing it doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.
We will never know what was going on in her mind as the reality of pain bore down on her in the moments during the event that claimed her life, but our hearts and prayers go out to her and her family and friends as well as those who were witness to this tragic event.
The image of her burning is disturbing, but not grotesque or gory however, keep in mind that this is a real person under those very real flames. If you’d like to read more here is the story from the SFT website.
“shocking images of Palden Choetso, a 35-year-old nun from Geden Choeling Nunnery in Tawu, eastern Tibet, who died after lighting herself on fire on November 3, has been obtained from sources in Tibet. One video shows Palden Choetso standing upright as flames engulf her body. Additional footage shows Tibetans’ response to the self-immolation, including nuns protesting and chanting “Freedom to Tibet”; thousands of Tibetans at a candlelight vigil early on the morning of her funeral; and Chinese security forces converging on Nyitso Monastery”.
Click here for video Palden Choetso