Monday, 14 January 2013

Self-immolations, Writer Arrested, Artwork Banned

Prominent Buddhist writer, Gartse Jigmey, was arrested by Chinese police last week in the Amdo region of
Eastern Tibet. Jigmey, 36, had recently finished the second volume of his book Tsengpo’s Power of Heart, which describes “the self-immolations in Tibet, rights of minorities in China, human rights issues in Tibet and peaceful uprisings of Tibetans in Tibet,” Jigmey is a monk at Gartse Monastery.

At the same time Beijing-based artist Liu Yi, who is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, is working on a series of black-and-white portraits he knows will never be shown in a Chinese gallery. His varied subjects — men and women, young and old, smiling and pensive — have one thing in common: They are Tibetans who have set themselves on fire to protest repressive Chinese rule. Liu wants to paint a portrait of each of the hundred-or-so Tibetans who have self-immolated over the past three years, as a way of bearing witness to one of the biggest waves of fiery protests in recent history.

Liu is rare among his contemporaries for addressing the largely taboo topic. Only a tiny handful of activists from the Han Chinese majority have spoken out, among them the prominent legal scholar Xu Zhiyong.

At the heart of the silence is Han Chinese indifference or even hostility to the Tibetan cause, despite some overlap with liberal Han activists who chafe at authoritarian controls. "We are victims ourselves," Xu wrote in a recent op-ed piece in which he apologized for the silence.

Many among the majority see the immolations as part of attempts to break away from China and wonder why Tibetans aren't more grateful for government development of their region with rail links, expressways, houses and factories.

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