News / Asia

Tibetans Fight China With 'Weapon of Weak'

Tibetan activist, artist and musician Tamding Tsetan's first album, Open Road,  was inspired by the 2008 Lhasa uprising and the wave of Tibetan self-immolations since 2009, Dharamsala, India. (VOA/I. Broadhead)
Tibetan activist, artist and musician Tamding Tsetan's first album, Open Road, was inspired by the 2008 Lhasa uprising and the wave of Tibetan self-immolations since 2009, Dharamsala, India. (VOA/I. Broadhead)
Ivan Broadhead
In Chinese-ruled Tibet, activists have used various means to protest policies that human rights groups say subjugate, and even destroy the Tibetan identity. 

Self-immolations are the latest method used by protesters to draw the world's attention to their plight, but activists are also embracing other kinds of resistance. 

That includes the lhakar movement, which emphasizes individual acts of protest through personal actions such as wearing traditional clothes, eating Tibetan food, listening to Tibetan music and teaching the native language to their children.

Tamding Tsetan, a well-known artist who writes and performs folk songs, is one of the leading exponents of Tibetan heavy metal.
 
“My inspiration is freedom. I do not do many love songs because, I always say, we didn’t come here for love. We came here for freedom," Tsetan says. "So you do art, you sing, [but] you have to focus on the Tibetan cause.”
 
While Tamding represents the changing face of Tibetan protest, he supports the Dalai Lama’s continued espousal of the “Middle Way,” which includes Tibetan autonomy but not independence from China.
 
However, not all Tibetans are content with the idea of living under Chinese rule.
 
“Tibetans want independence," says Dorjee Tseten of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT). "They want to rule themselves, not to be ruled by the Chinese communist regime. That is what we are fighting for.”
 
The most obvious manifestation of that fight is the ongoing campaign of self-immolations that has seen more than 100 Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest Chinese authority.
 
However, organizations like SFT are keen to promote alternatives to direct action that are not only less radical, but difficult for Chinese law enforcement to disrupt.
 
The lhakar movement is prime among them. Developed inside Tibet after the uprising of 2008 and more recently exported to the Tibetan Diaspora, Tseten says it challenges Chinese rule while simultaneously allowing Tibetans to assert their culture and identity within the letter of Chinese law.
 
“So, Tibetans have started buying vegetables from Tibetan [grocers], going to Tibetan restaurants, not Chinese," Tseten says. "We are speaking as much Tibetan as possible, not Chinese. But Lakhar is not just about eating Tibetan food and wearing Tibetan dress, it is about getting back your identity. We are challenging the oppressor, fighting through non-cooperation.”

Activists see the lhakar movement not just as an evolution of the philosophy of passive resistance expounded by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Tseten says it can be used as a weapon by anyone who believes in the Tibetan cause.
 
“By boycotting the Chinese economy and its influence on your country, you are actually supporting the Tibetan cause,” he says.
 
After decades of living under Chinese rule, Tibetans say defending their identity, calling for improved rights and the return of the Dalai Lama, are acts which have united all Tibetans.
 
Tsomo Tsering of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy calls this “our one trump card.”
 
“You are facing China, the giant of modern times," Tsering says. "When you are united, when you know what your priorities are, the struggle will be a lot easier. This is what you call the weapon of the weak. It is really powerful.”
 
Later this year, activists from the diaspora will hold a conference with other minority communities, including Uighurs and Mongolians, that are battling to preserve their identities under Chinese rule.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Peter from: USA
February 26, 2013 1:04 PM
Nothing wrong with maintaining your own cultural identity. But to reject Chinese economy there and only buy Tibetan, they are locking themselves in isolation mode once again and Tibetans do not produce modern items that can improve their lives in a modern world.

In Response

by: Wangchuk from: NYC
February 28, 2013 9:38 AM
Prior to the Lhakar movement, Tibetans bought & used Chinese products. It's unavoidable. However, buying Chinese-made products didn't improve their lives or make them more free. The CCP still restricted our culture, religion, and speech. Chinese products have contained toxic paint, toxic milk, toxic dry wayll, and poor quality products. Many are made by slave labor by prisoners in work camps. If your country was occupied, what would you do?

In Response

by: philip from: oregon, usa
February 26, 2013 5:04 PM
spare us the chinese propaganda sir. the tibetans have always sought isolation and have no use for the cheap junk, toxic waste and foreign culture imposed upon them by their chinese oppressors. of course, almost all of the native tibetans have been killed so their country could be repopulated by overcrowded china.

     

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid