Civil Resistance in Tibet

Matteo Pistono has a good piece in the Washington Post about the subtle acts of civil resistance Tibetans inside of Tibet have been taking. Pistono writes:

While authorities and security personnel in Lhasa on July 6, and other dates, keep a keen eye open and the detention cells ready for use, a quiet event occurs every Wednesday. On that day, Tibetans across Tibet and in particular in Lhasa carry out intensive popular religious practices, more than on any other day of the week. These include devotional practices such as circumambulating and prostrating in front of the Potala and Jokhang temples, making offerings of burning juniper incense, pouring libations in traditional vessels in front of the Tibet’s protector deity, Palden Lhamo, and tossing barley flour into the air. Why Wednesday? According to the complex Tibetan astrological calendar, the Dalai Lama’s birth sign falls on that day. As with many days in the Tibetan calendar that are deemed to be auspicious, pious and devoted behavior is believed to carry special weight on these days.

This unorganized yet massive expression of devotion to the Dalai Lama that is evident on Wednesdays took place in a similar fashion before the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959. But because of the political climate now and the volatility that surrounds the figure of the Dalai Lama in Tibet, according to elderly Lhasa residents, the Wednesday observances are carried out with even more vigor than before 1959. When asked about the possibility of police questioning prompted by these observances a 65-year-old Tibetan man responded, “What do you think, will they ban Wednesdays?”

Though he doesn’t cite it by name, this civil resistance and identity strengthening campaign is called Lhakar.  A simple definition is:

Lhakar is a homegrown people’s movement that has emerged in Tibet. In spite of China’s intensified crackdown, Tibetans have embraced the power of strategic nonviolent resistance. Every Wednesday, a growing number of Tibetans are making special effort to wear traditional clothes, speak Tibetan, eat in Tibetan restaurants and buy from Tibetan-owned businesses.

This activism has happened organically, originating inside of Tibet. Exiled Tibetans are taking part too and Lhakar is becoming a major nexus for activism for Tibetans inside and outside of Tibet.

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