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"Avatar" in Tibet?

September 15, 2010

By Woeser
High Peaks Pure Earth
September 13, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost
by Woeser that was originally written for
broadcast on Radio Free Asia on September 1, 2010 in Beijing
and posted on her blog on September 8, 2010

In this blogpost, Woeser refers to recent
incidents in Tibet involving protests against the
extraction of natural resources such as mining.
Photos of the protest that occurred in the
Shigatse area in May 2010 that were sent to Radio
Free Asia at the time were re-posted on Woeser's
blog, follow this link to see the photos that Woeser refers to in her blogpost.

More recently, there have been various reports of
protests in eastern Tibet in August 2010 in which
several Tibetans were shot dead, at least four
according to this report by Radio Free Asia.
However, official Chinese state media have only
reported one death, read the Xinhua article "17
police injured, one Tibetan dead in dispute" here
and the Associated Press report "Police accidentally killed Tibetan" here.

"Avatar" in Tibet?
By Woeser

Exploitative behaviour and the fight against it,
as shown in the blockbuster film "Avatar," has
become more and more common everywhere in Tibet.
What I am referring to are ruthless mining
activities disguised as economic development
which have led to local Tibetans having to
sacrifice their basic rights to live and which
have gone as far as Tibetans being shot by armed
police for petitioning. This is what happened on
August 17 in the Kham region of eastern Tibet, a
region that can be compared to the beautiful
world in "Avatar" in terms of its scenery and
natural resources. Today, that region has been
administratively determined as the Pelyul County
of the Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of
Sichuan Province. According to accounts by
locals, several hundred Tibetans had gone to the
local government building and called for an end
to mining activities, a protest that ended in
bloodshed; at least 3 people were shot, more than
30 injured and many were arrested.

Because this event was covered in the foreign
media, recently, Xinhua news agency actually
admitted that these protests had occurred and
that some Tibetans had been shot dead. However,
they reported a fantastically different version
of the story. Not only did they argue that the
local authorities were entirely innocent in this
matter, they also claimed that local Tibetans had
violently attacked the police forcing them to
fire warning shots, which caused the accidental
death of a Tibetan who was hit by a bullet. Their
reason for why this incident had occurred in the
first place was even more ridiculous: the Tibetan
protesters had not been calling for an end to
mining activities, instead they had requested a
local Han Chinese gold miner, who had been
arrested for destroying grasslands, to be set
free. This really does not make any sense; a
story with this many loopholes will never
convince anyone. The authorities are hardly able
to justify themselves, yet, they grandly present
to the world this ridiculous story; do they think
everyone in this world is just stupid?

I have been to Pelyul County; it is a remote
place, difficult to access and surrounded by
steep mountains and rapid rivers. At each of the
two entrances are protective tollgates making it
almost impossible for any outsiders to enter. So
it is very difficult for outsiders to know what
actually happens inside. For example, in 2008, in
many Tibetan regions, war-like massacres took
place, which were never known to the outside
world. Herdsman wrapped in sheepskin robes were
riding horses, shouting "ka hee he" instigating
an uprising and were strafed by military police
using modern weapons. An armed policeman who had
been sent to Litang from Chengdu later posted
photos of new handheld machine guns on the
internet proudly writing: “it blows off the heads
of any thugs within the range of 100 metres.” By
thugs he meant the unarmed and defenceless
Tibetans and the only reason why their heads were
"blown off" was that they took to the streets and
raised their voices in protest.

But let us not mention the never dissolving
bloodstains from two years ago. In actual fact,
it is just like those indigenous people in
"Avatar", who, with their own flesh and blood,
had to fight against the weapons of the mercenary
army trying to seize their homeland. For many
years now, this is the Tibetan people’s story:
Tibetans have experienced this themselves for many generations.

I still want to talk about similar events that
occurred in Kham region’s Pelyul County. Earlier
this year, on May 21, some Tibetans from Sokchen
Village in Namling County of Shigatse Region went
to the village government to protest against a
mining company from Weifang, Shandong province,
arguing that mining causes ecological damage,
drinking water pollution and problems for cattle
etc. The local authorities sent a thousand
military policemen to cope with those
"emancipated serfs" who petitioned carrying the
Chinese flag (see image 3, above), some Tibetans
were beaten up, many were arrested.

Someone at the scene took photos and sent them to
the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia; I would
like to pay my respect to the courage of this
person. On these photos we can clearly observe a
very ironic reality: the Chinese government
claims that fifty years ago, it "liberated" the
"serfs" living a life in misery and ever since,
"tens of thousands of emancipated serfs" have
been living a life in happiness which has been
the best period in Tibetan history ever and so on
and so forth. Yet, the photos show "emancipated
serfs" being forced to kneel on the ground, how
is it possible that the army that "liberated"
them is now approaching them with strong weapons?
Or maybe those elderly, those women and
good-natured herdsmen are all secret “splittists”
of the village? If these people are really
"splittists," maybe the reasoning about the past
50 years of a "liberated" life in "happiness" is not convincing!

Beijing, September 1, 2010
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