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New images of burning of wild animal pelts in dramatic act of dissent

May 30, 2009

ICT report
May 27, 2009

New images received from Tibet depict thousands
of dollars worth of wild animal pelts being
burned in the Tibetan area of Amdo, eastern
Tibet, in a dramatic assertion of Tibetan
identity at the height of the current crackdown
on dissent. The photographs were taken in
February 2009, during Tibetan New Year, at a time
when Tibetans sought to mark the festival by
mourning those killed in the protests. This was
in defiance of the Chinese authorities' attempts
to enforce celebration of the New Year. (The
images, along with this report, can be viewed at
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-news-reports/new-images-burning-wild-animal-pelts-dramatic-act-dissent)

The burning of the wild animal furs as an
expression of Tibetan loyalties was originally
inspired by a statement made by the Dalai Lama
during a major religious festival in 2006 in
which he said he felt "ashamed" when he saw
Tibetans wearing the pelts of endangered animals such as tigers or leopards.

Immediately after he made the comments, Tibetans
all over Tibet began to burn animal skins - in
monetary value the equivalent of burning family
cars or houses. Their actions were expressions of
loyalty both to the Dalai Lama and to the Tibetan
Buddhist culture, which advocates compassion for
all sentient beings. This is the first known
instance of wild animal pelt burning linked to
the protests that broke out across Tibet in March, 2008.

The animal pelts were burnt on February 9, 2009
in a village in Tsolho (Chinese: Hainan) Tibetan
Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province in
February, and the images have only just reached
Tibetan exiles. A Tibetan source told ICT said
that they believed the pelts had a monetary value
of more than 100,000 yuan (at least US$14,000).
Estimates of GNP per capita per year in Tibet range from US$65 to US$200.

The Tibetan source who provided the images said:
"The purpose of the action is to show that
Tibetans will give up wearing animal skins
completely and that they did not want to
celebrate the New Year in 2009, because everyone
thought it was a very black year for all Tibetan
people in and outside of Tibet. Also by
organizing this action, they would like to show
their solidarity for the people who have
sacrificed their precious lives for the freedom
of Tibet after the violent crackdown in Lhasa
last year and across Tibetan areas inside Tibet
by the Chinese military forces."

The Chinese authorities had attempted to persuade
Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year in order
to convey an impression of normalcy. The Tibetan
writer Woeser expressed Tibetans' widespread
feelings on 'no Losar' in a blog published
earlier this year: "With events in Tibet that
started last year and still haven't stopped,
there are countless ordinary Tibetans still
living and dying under the barrels of the
People's Armed Police guns, countless ordinary
Tibetans who are still behind bars, and so how
can their friends and families be happy in their
grief to see in the new year? The absurdity is
that the authorities do not see this." (A full
translation of the blog, 'A Great 'Civil
Disobedience' spreading throughout all of Tibet'
appears in A Great Mountain Burned by Fire:
China¹s Crackdown in Tibet,
http://www.savetibet.org/media-center/ict-press-releases/a-great-mountain-burned-fire-chinas-crackdown-tibet).

Chinese authorities encourage Tibetans to wear
furs to showcase the "exotic" Tibetan culture.
This has included encouraging - or requiring -
Tibetans at official events or performances to
adorn themselves with expensive hats and robes
made of pelts from endangered animals such as tigers or leopards.

Following the Dalai Lama's comments three years
ago, many Tibetans had stopped wearing such
adornments and critised those who did. (ICT
reports at:
https://nl.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=1172
and http://www.savetibet.org/news/newsitem.php?id=910).

A Tibetan blogger commented: "Obviously wearing
fur has become an expression of one's political
standpoint, and [at one festival in 2007 in
eastern Tibet] the high officials on their
platform were watching to see which people from
which parts of Tibet had "political
consciousness". But the people watching the
performances were wearing considerably less fur
than in previous years; many wore colorful cotton
where once they wore fur trim."
(http://woeser.middle-way.net/?action=show&id=191).

The Tibetan source who provided the new images of
wild animal pelt burning this year said that the
protests that have swept the Tibetan plateau
since March, 2008, were an expression of the
frustration and resentment against the
vilification of the Dalai Lama by the Chinese
authorities.  He told ICT: "It is not possible
even to say the name of His Holiness The Dalai
Lama in the presence of officials. But despite
their propaganda, we all know how highly honored
and respected His Holiness is in the world, and
if he makes a speech anywhere, so many people are
waiting to hear about it. But all information
about His Holiness the Dalai Lama is shut down
inside Tibet. If the authorities noticed a small
picture of him somewhere in your work place or
home, you would be in jail for a while. That is
the real situation in Tibet today. Many of
Tibetan people are dying without hearing anything
about His Holiness The Dalai Lama."

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, ICT
Tel: +44 7947 138612
email: press@savetibet.org
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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