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

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.
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.
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