21 February 2006


Tigers skins burn in Tibet

Tibetans have been burning clothing made from endangered animal skins following a request by the Dalai Lama to give up the use of pelts from rare animals. China, which officially opposes the trade of endangered animals, has now banned the burning of skins and arrested paricipants for "colluding with the Dalai Lama".

The story has run in the mainstream press and you can also read about Tibetans in Nepal burning robes at whatabouttibet.com, the excellent website run by Luke at Leeds Uni Tibet Society.

You can see a Channel 4 News special report on this by clicking here

It's also been reported by Radio Free Asia that, in addition to the 9 Tibetans who've already been arrested for taking part in these fur-burning campaigns, a further 8 Tibetan youths have been arrested under suspicion of taking part in the anti-fur campaign. Read the full article here
First, Conall, thanks for the post. One thing however I want to see clarified -- you use the word "traditional" to describe the garments Tibetans are burning. This is how much of the media is talking about it. And yes, much of it is - there has been a fervor to this, a rebellion from the long-standing use of certain skins and furs in "traditional" Tibetan clothing and it seems like it's all going into the bonfires!

But a key component of this is also the burning of pelts and garments made from skins in a way that is a relatively new phenomenon... the extravagant whole-tiger skin outfits worn by Khampas and Amdoans competing for "best Tibetan costume" at rural festivals and the accompanying growth in popularity of this fashion. This is something that has appeared in response to a complex and multi-faceted effort by Chinese officials to encourage Tibetans to flaunt (or really, to engender in a totally unprecedented and false way) their 'exotic" Tibetan-ness.

Why? Well basically because 1) it propagates the stereotype of the savage Tibetan who needs the Chinese influence to modernize and "liberate" them from their backward ways -and- 2) it excites the Chinese tourists who come to see "China's wild west"... and bring their tourist dollars - oops, yuan - with them.

So the Tibetans are not only now waging a campaign to end a market for endangered wildlife that they themselves were nourishing. They are also reclaiming their "true Tibetan-ness" by simultaneously destroying the costumes representing the way Chinese view them, asserting their unity, and displaying their devotion to the Dalai Lama. Now, there's a reason for the Chinese authorities to be fearful!

I know I've now written a comment longer than the original post... sorry about the verbosity. I wrote a post on the SFT HQ blog that ends with a long excerpt from the TibetInfoNet report on the new Tibetan wildlife trafficking.

Oh, and one more thing - Ben, I believe the 8 Tibetan youths you refer to are part of the other 9 - it's possible that the "9th" is Tseten Gyal, the "organizer" of the Kirti Monastery burnings but this is unclear.

But the article you link to refers to the same arrestees as before. I haven't seen any other info about new arrests (but of course, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened). Am I misunderstanding something?
Thanks for the clarification Cold mtn (or should that be Han?), I was under the impression they were new and seperate arrests, but I do seem to have got that wrong.

I had meant to put a link to your very informative post on the SFT HQ blog, but I'm afraid I forgot. I would still strongly recommend people read it.
Thanks for the comment Cold Mtn. As you can see, the word "traditional" has been removed from the original post as factually incorrect.
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