Notes on a Scandal | Issue 21

Notes on a Scandal | Issue 21

Tibet is burning

Three weeks ago I attended my first-ever protest, organised by the Organisation for Global Nonviolent Action (OGNA) on campus. I figured itíd be rude not to go, given that my academic raison díÍtre is ostensibly nonviolence. Also, as Iím in the twilight years of my university career, it was about time my hitherto dormant inner political activist was unleashed.

We were protesting Chinaís occupation and repression of Tibet, a wee region in the Himalayas snuggled between China and Nepal that is famous for yaks, Mt. Everest, and the Dalai Lama. Tibet declared independence in 1913, but since the 1950s China has ignored this and continues to rape and pillage Tibet with reckless abandon.

Shit things China has done to Tibet include destroying monasteries and temples, stationing nuclear missiles and dumping Chinese nuclear waste there, forced late-term abortions and sterilisation of Tibetan women, imprisoning at least 4000 and exiling over 175,000 Tibetans, and of course, committing good old-fashioned genocide before Hotel Rwanda made the word fashionable.

The campaign for Tibetan independence has been around for ages, and because of this has become a bit passť. But recently Tibet has returned to the spotlight due to the large number of Tibetan monks who have self-immolated (set themselves on fire) in protest of the Chinese occupation.

Most of the monks were our age or even younger, and many hold China directly responsible for their deaths. Since 2009 around 50 Tibetan monks have self-immolated, and almost all of these events have occurred within the last year or so. The image of the burning monk has become a gruesome hallmark of the ďFree TibetĒ movement.

Back to the protest. A question you may reasonably ask is: what are students in a country thatís practically falling off the bottom of the globe trying to prove with their exasperating but lovable hijinks? For me, it was about standing shoulder to shoulder with people who I will never meet but whose lives suck, in the hope that my acknowledgment of their suffering will give them the strength to keep fighting for their freedom.

My Instagram of the protest prompted my Indian friend to say he knows heaps of Tibetans ďwho would be stoked to know Kiwis get behind themĒ. If giving up an hour of my time on a Friday afternoon to make an embarrassing spectacle of myself shows Tibetans there are a few people out there who have neither forgotten nor forsaken them, then I am more than happy to do it. Whatís more, the people who saw us that day can choose not to care about Tibet, and thatís okay. But at least now they cannot claim they never knew there was an issue.
This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2012.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 19th August 2012 by Brittany Mann.