News / Asia

Traces of Tibetan Plight Go Global

A chalk outline of a body is seen near the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
A chalk outline of a body is seen near the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.

Pro-Tibet activists are holding a Global Day of Action Wednesday, but when the demonstrations are over, they're hoping another, quieter protest will continue to gain momentum online.

Chalk Tibet began in mid-October to draw international attention to the increasingly extreme calls for greater political and religious freedom in Tibet. At least 10 Buddhist monks and nuns have set themselves on fire in the past year, mostly in southwestern China. The most recent incident took place on October 25.

The concept behind Chalk Tibet is simple. One person lays down on a sidewalk or street in a busy or symbolic place while the other draws a chalk outline around them. They either tape a message or a name plate in the middle of the outline and take a photo, which can be uploaded to the website.

“[The chalk outlines] look like a crime scene, which we feel Tibet is,” said Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan political activist and writer, who is the de facto spokesperson for the site.

In just over two weeks, the site, which was started by a Western activist who prefers to remain anonymous, has over 100 photos from several cities in Europe and the U.S., as well as Australia and Japan.

The site’s founder said in an email that he doesn't want to be named because he thinks it would be inappropriate to take credit, and, while he is critical of China, he isn’t always in agreement with the Tibetan exile community.

Originally, the idea was to get images of self-immolation that could be used for a poster or a movie clip, he wrote.

“I came across a photo taken after the body of a man had been removed from his self-immolation spot, where only black burns could be seen on the ground. It was particularly disturbing without being graphic," he wrote in the email. "However, although the visual impact would have been impressive, this would have been difficult to reproduce as fire crackers and small explosives needed for that are not always welcomed."

The chalk outlines, on the other hand, are easy to reproduce, don’t require handling dangerous materials and don’t destroy property.

Sustainability was another factor.

“Actual demonstrations can't go on for a long time,” said Norbu. “They're not tenable in the long run. There must be a way to keep it alive over a long period of time.”

Norbu said online actions like Chalk Tibet should not be seen as a substitute for taking part in other forms of protest such as the Global Day of Action, being held in Washington, DC and San Francisco, California as well as other cities in North America, India and Europe.

Tibetans have long sought greater freedom from Beijing's rule, with some seeking complete independence and others wanting greater autonomy within China.

The immolations that have taken place mark a dramatic escalation in the tactics opposing Beijing’s rule, and the Chinese government has been very critical of the actions.

“The terrifying immolation incidents are obviously the result of political instigation by Tibetan splittist forces, which are aimed to create trouble to attract international attention for the purpose of applying pressure on China and pushing forward the separatist activities," wrote Baodong Wang, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington. “The instigators deserve to be strongly denounced, and their despicable attempts are deemed to failure.”

Supporters of Chalk Tibet are not deterred.

Elliot Sperling, an associate professor of Central Eurasian Studies and an expert on Tibetan history and Tibetan-Chinese relations at Indiana University, has helped spread the word about Chalk Tibet. He said it represents a departure from traditional forms of protest, which often require gathering a large group of people and considerable organization.

Furthermore, “it gets your attention,” he said.

Signs are it is starting to catch on. Sperling said his daughter was walking down the street in Washington, DC and randomly saw a pair of chalk outlines on the sidewalk. She took a picture of them for the site.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More