Tibetans take up “direct action”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2006:
KATHMANDU–“Large numbers of troops and police are patrolling
the streets of Rebkong, Quinghai Province, Tibet, to prevent a
bonfire of skins originally scheduled for February 12, 2006. It
appears that the Chinese government has banned the public burning of
chuba costumes trimmed with tiger, leopard and otter skins,” the
Wildlife Protection Society of India posted on February 15, based on
information received from Tibet Info Net.
Fiery protests resembling western-style “direct action”
continued in Tibet into March 2006, despite the military presence,
according to Nepal-based Radio Free Asia, and have occurred for at
least eight months, contrary to previous belief that they began with
fur burnings in January 2006.
Radio Free Asia on February 1, 2006 reported that in August
2005 at Manikengo, “Tibetans, some of whom said they were angry
because they had been pressured to sell their animals for slaughter
at below-market prices, broke into a Chinese-owned slaughterhouse
during the annual Tibetan horse race festival, which attracts
thousands of people. They found what they described as a large
number of animals, including dogs and horses, sources said.
“They freed all the animals and set fire to the building,
sources said. Whether the building was completely razed or badly
damaged was unclear.” Also unclear was why the animals were freed
rather than just removed, if the issue was strictly monetary.
More than 160 Tibetans were said to have been detained for questioning.
“Six who were suspected as the main culprits were arrested and
jailed,” a source told Radio Free Tibet. One of the six,”
identified as Sogya, about 50, “was released after he lost both his
eyes due to beatings by Chinese prison officials and a severe
Many Tibetans use only one name. Still in custody, Radio
Free Asia said, are two men named Dawa, ages about 30 and about 50,
a man named Sherab Yeshi, about 70, and two men of whom nothing was
Built in 2004, the slaughterhouse was reportedly not
welcomed by Tibetans. It was identified as Dege Longsheng Yak LLC,
a subsidiary of Chengdu Ganzi Longsheng Meizi Yak Ltd. Inc.
The fur burnings “give a little bit of light at the end of
the tunnel for the Indian tiger,” Belinda Wright of the Wildlife
Protect-ion Society of India told Simon Denyer of The Independent.
“Wright said she saw 83 fresh Tiger skins and thousands of
fresh leopard skins on a trip to Tibet last year,” wrote Denyer.
“On one street in Linxia, Gansu province, she counted 163 leopard
skins, most or all from India, on open display.”
“I was numb,” Wright told Denyer. “India’s enforcement
effort had totally failed.”
The fur burnings, for which only eight people are known to
have been arrested, put the Chinese government in a difficult
position. China is committed by global treaty to conserving tigers,
snow leopards, chiru antelope, and other species benefiting by the
Tibetan turn against fur. China is also anxious to avoid
confrontations with animal advocates and Tibetan nationalists before
the 2008 Olympic Games, to be hosted in Beijing.
However, public displays of Tibetan nationalism are an
embarrassment to Beijing, and a potential threat, if they inspire
opposition to national unity in other parts of China.
The fur-burnings appear to have been inspired by anti-fur
remarks made in January 2006 by the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader
of Tibetan Buddhism, at the 2006 Kalachakra celebration in Amravati,
Andhra Pradesh, India.
While the Nepalese sources of information about the
slaughterhouse arson and animal release did not make the link, it
came several months after the Dalai Lama announced that he had become