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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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