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

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs