"How CCTV’s Propaganda Film Depicts the Tibetan Self-Immolators" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on June 3o, 2012 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and posted on her blog on July 11, 2012.
In this post, Woeser continues to discuss a documentary made and broadcast by Chinese state media about the Tibetan self-immolations. See Woeser’s earlier article about this documentary by following this link: http://highpeakspureearth.com/2012/cctvs-explanation-for-the-tibetan-self-immolations-by-woeser/


The above photos are screenshots from the CCTV propaganda film:
(from top to bottom) Tapey, Lobsang Kunchok, Tenzin Wangmo

Both the English and the Chinese versions of the film appeared on YouTube, the CCTV logo does not show on the screen, so it is believed that CCTV uploaded it themselves.

Note: Three days ago, on July 7, in the county seat of Damshung, Lhasa, the 20-year-old Tsewang Dorje (from today’s Damshung County, Lhasa; from Damchukha Town, Qudeng village, a Jangtang nomad) self-immolated, was forcefully taken away by military police and has since been missing; I do not currently have any photo of him. The number of Tibetan self-immolations between February 27, 2009 and July 7, 2012, amounts to 45 in Tibet. There have been 3 cases within the Tibetan exile community, which equals 48 cases of self-immolation in total, of which 8 were female (4 Buddhist nuns, 3 mothers, 1 female middle school student), 35 of them have already passed away. Of those, about 12 have left behind last words, suicide notes or testaments, which have been found and made public; all of these serve as valuable testimonies.

“How CCTV’s Propaganda Film Depicts the
Tibetan Self-Immolators”
By Woeser

 

In a totally unusual, secretive and sneaky way, in early May this year, CCTV broadcast a propaganda film about the Tibetan self-immolations, which is worth studying in detail. I downloaded the propaganda film from YouTube and after watching it repeatedly, I came to the following analysis:

1. The propaganda film completed in May 2012, only mentions 13 Tibetan self-immolators.
Yet, in actual fact, between February 27, 2009 when the monk Tapey from Ngaba Monastery, Ngaba County, self-immolated, until the completion of the documentary, 35 people self-immolated inside the whole of Tibet, encompassing Sichuan Province, Qinghai Province, Gansu Province and the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Even if the cases of self-immolations were initially limited to “Ngaba and Kardze Prefectures of Sichuan Province”, as this propaganda film conveys, simply in those two places the number of self-immolations has already reached 28, 25 in Ngaba and 3 in Kardze.
2. The CCTV documentary mainly describes the events surrounding the self-immolations of Tapey, Phuntsog, Tsultrim and Tennyi. It further mentions the names of Chongweng Luobu (which is Tsewang Norbu), Gaerrang (which is Lobsang Kelsang), Gongque Danba (which is Lobsang Kunchok), Gaerrang Wangxiu (which is Kelsang Wangchuk) as well as time and place of their self-immolations. Yet, for the self-immolators Choephel, Kayang, Norbu Damdrul, Tenzin Wangmo and Dawa Tsering it was only mentioned where and when there had been self-immolations, these people’s names were not revealed.
CCTV claimed that Tapey self-immolated because he had not participated in the protests that happened on March 16, 2008 and had thus been laughed at by fellows monks, which is why he tried to make up for it and self-immolated.
Yet, a report in the New York Times from February 6 denied this claim and instead said that two days before he self-immolated, Tapey “walked along the street and kicked a PLA military vehicle with his feet”, a monk and former classmate of Tapey said that “he wanted to deliberately provoke the soldiers (…) I could see in his eyes the bitter hatred for the soldiers.”
CCTV also let Phuntsog’s father speak about how his son “easily trusted people”, how he was “simple-minded”, which is why he self-immolated. But in March last year, yet another mouthpiece of the Chinese government, Xinhua News Agency, explained Puntsog’s self-immolation with the fact that he had suffered from “epilepsy” and was “abnormal”. Obviously, the Chinese media just says whatever they want about one and the same person.
The stigmatisation of self-immolators is vividly revealed in how the propaganda film explains the self-immolation cases of Tsultrim and Tennyi. They self-immolated at the same time, Tennyi died on the spot, while the burning Tsultrim ran onto the street and was forcefully taken away by military police after they had extinguished the fire; he died the next day. Subsequently, the local authorities provided very detailed “transcripts of Tsultrim’s interrogation”.
As someone suffering from severe burns, leaving a bit more than a day between the self-immolation and him passing away, Tsultrim was obviously going through immense struggles on his way to death. A Chinese doctor working at a hospital dealing with injuries from burns responded to my questions on Twitter: “after sustaining injuries, people can normally speak for a short period of time, but not for very long. Then they will lose consciousness or suffocate. The inner body immediately suffers from various disorders, states of shock and oxygen deficiencies. Unless the patient gets very special and advanced medical treatment, their entire bodies will suffer from multiple organ failures.”
I continued to ask: “can a person suffering from such severe injuries consciously, systematically and in a clear-headed way answer a set of questions? The transcripts of the interrogation were at least two or three pages long, large segments include confessions of theft, robbery and experience with prostitution, doesn’t this look like it has been made up?” The doctor replied in an implicit way: “you know what is going on”.
These “interrogation transcripts” depict the two self-immolators not only as thieves and bandits robbing money from relatives, but also as “patrons of brothels” before they self-immolated. For this, CCTV showed a woman speaking a few sentences in a Sichuan dialect; this woman was clearly a prostitute, her face was blurred and her upper body was more or less covered up, is CCTV protecting the rights of prostitutes? Since when is the media of this country so concerned about protecting the rights and benefits of prostitutes?
3. Among the 13 self-immolators that CCTV mentioned, four were so-called “survivors”: Tapey, Lobsang Kelsang, Lobsang Kunchok and Kelsang Wangchuk. CCTV even showed scenes of them in hospital. However, a foreign journalist felt indignant when they were questioned as to whether they would ever self-immolate again, he thought of this as being utterly inhumane. But what the foreign journalist did not know was that some of these Tibetan self-immolators who were required to answer questions, had already had all their limbs amputated. What this journalist knew even less was that these so-called “survivors” have by no means returned to their hometown’s hospital and in fact no one knows of their whereabouts.
June 30, 2012

This post is also available in: English

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  1. Pingback: Recommended Links: Tibet, Senkakus, and Revolutionary Opera | Justrecently's Weblog

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