Yesterday, a Tibetan monk in a predominately Tibetan province of Gansu of China drank gasoline, set himself on fire and chanted “Free Tibet”.
This is the second such suicide of defiance in the past 6 months. The last one resulted in 300 monks being illegally detained and put into re-education programs (ie. indoctrination of propaganda). I'm in Tibet right now and I am concerned about the fallout of the actions of this poor and desperate monk on the rest of the 500,000 Tibetans within the reach of the strong arm of the Chinese government.
No one who knows me will say I lack opinions – but I'm usually not a hardcore activist or political town crier. But in this case, I want to scream from the rooftop of Jokhang temple in central Lhasa – "Free Tibet, Free Tibet, Free Tibet". Of course I also don't want to go to Chinese prison so I will abstain.
It is not just some hippie bullshit to jump on the political bandwagon because the Dalai Lama seems like a cool dude. It is the overt colonization of the Tibetan territory and blatant Chinese propaganda that fills the streets that saddens and angers me. The Chinese say they are modernizing a rural backwater. I say they are polluting a beautiful city with hideous flashing neon lights and pointless consumerism.
And yet, the Tibetans live on. They spin their prayer wheels, prostrate themselves in front of Potala Palace and emit a deep-rooted spirit like nothing I have seen anywhere in the world. They have the confidence and the knowledge that their culture has and will survive, despite everything the Chinese can throw at them. As I join in the kora around Jokhang temple, I am swept up in their peaceful energy and quiet confidence. That is until the pimple faced Chinese soldiers armed with machine guns march counter clockwise and demand everyone moves out of their way.
I want to have hope for the Tibetan people, but the Chinese have nuclear weapons, an army of millions and all the money in the world. All the Tibetans have to fight with is compassion.