High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on October 10, 2013 for the Mandarin and Tibetan services of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on October 14, 2013.
In this post, Woeser writes about the tragic death of Akong Rinpoche, murdered on October 8, 2013 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province’s provincial capital along with his nephew and driver. Woeser firstly questions the official explanation of the murder by the Chengdu police that came very quickly after the incident happened and also highlights Chinese media portrayals and attitudes to Tibetans as violent or barbaric.
Read about Akong Rinpoche’s life and achievements in this obituary published in the UK’s Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10368123/Choje-Akong-Rinpoche.html
“The Open Questions Regarding the Murder of Akong Rinpoche”
On the evening of October 8, 2013, in Lhasa I was shocked when I saw the news that the British Tibetan Akong Rinpoche had been murdered in Chengdu. But was this really because of an “economic dispute” as the Chengdu police quickly announced? Before the truth was revealed (a truth that we might never be able to know), we had our reasonable doubts in this explanation.
Many years ago my husband and I met Akong Rinpoche in Yushu, we had a conversation, which left a long-lasting impression. I prostrate before Akong Rinpoche who supported Tibetan education for many years and embraced Tibet with his benevolence! Akong Rinpoche was murdered in Chengdu on the morning of October 8, 2013; on the same evening at 20:22 the Chengdu police announced on their official Weibo – “Peaceful Chengdu” – that “3 suspected criminals were arrested” and that those 3 people immediately “confessed the murder of 3 people”. Weren’t these confessions and the solving of this case a little bit too fast?
A netizen questioned on Twitter: “How come they asked someone home to negotiate an economic dispute? Would a philanthropist want money and not life? Solving an economic dispute by murder but without asking for property? … they didn’t leave anyone alive, their only goal was to murder…”
A Tibetan called into question on WeChat: “The three suspects went to negotiate with Akong Rinpoche, and only ‘a verbal disagreement led to a violent conflict’. So what I don’t understand is: since they wanted to negotiate, why did they carry a knife with them? What is even stranger is that they went to meet a well-respected Rinpoche, this is not something Tibetans would normally do. The three suspects carried a knife to negotiate and after a ‘verbal disagreement’ they simply broke the Buddhist prohibition against taking human lives, not only murdering the Rinpoche but also his nephew and driver, not leaving a single soul alive. This clearly shows that it was a planned act of completely eliminating the source of their trouble.”
Below the Weibo post of “Peace Chengdu” there were many comments that are worth looking at, the terms that probably appeared most often was “Tibetan barbarians”. One sarcastic comment said, “and yet another good deed done by Tibetan barbarians!”
It is also worth reading the hundreds of comments under Sina news centre’s report titled “3 Tibetan men murdered one British Tibetan, his nephew and driver in Chengdu”; for instance, one comment read, “well, Tibetans really shouldn’t carry knives with them”. Actually, regardless of whether in Tibet or in Chinese areas, Tibetans are constantly and thoroughly searched, so carrying any knife, and particularly a knife of the size that can kill people, is almost impossible.
As for the headline by Sina news centre, what does it tell us? “British Tibetan” was “murdered by 3 Tibetan men”, this portrays Tibetan society as chaotic and dangerous, and it fabricates an international image of Tibetan society: Tibet as a place of chaos and danger. In this way the over 120 cases of self-immolations can also be labelled with similar headlines, which will at least give some people out there the impression that Tibet is indeed “dangerous” and “barbarian”.
It is quite a coincidence that around the same time, an anonymous person left a comment under my Weibo post about self-immolations, please pay particular attention to the last sentence: “On the 8th in the morning, in a compound in Wuhou district of Chengdu, 3 Tibetans stabbed 3 of their fellow compatriots to death because of some economic dispute. Woeser, you should talk about this incident of Tibetans massacring each other! Don’t always just praise them to the skies, making people falsely believe that they are pure angels. You should also let people know about the crude, arrogant and barbaric nature of Tibetans who are only good at using simple violence to solve problems.” Once more, please carefully read the last sentence, it is profound indeed.
On Weibo, most Tibetans were grieving because of the Rinpoche’s death, and they showed their deep hatred against the murderers, most comments lacked any more profound reflections.
The reason for the murder of the Rinpoche was an “economic dispute” and a “verbal argument”, but is it really that simple? There were also some smarter Tibetans who said: “…this great master would never have been involved in an economic dispute!” “A genuine international philanthropist, a truly merciful Rinpoche of Tibetan Buddhism, an overseas Tibetan welcomed by many governments outside China being murdered by a few fellow Tibetan Buddhists is an utterly unimaginable thing to happen.” “This moral master spent years collecting funds to help orphans in need and gave countless children the opportunity to go to school; simply the orphanage of Yushu received 600,000 Yuan from Akong Rinpoche per year and there are countless other such examples. This generous person was killed because of an ‘economic dispute’? I urge everyone to be very cautious of how the official government media selectively portrays this case. One of our radiant stars has just fallen down onto the earth, this already causes infinite grief, and now we are also affected by these imperceptibly transformed words. This obscure world does not deserve such an open-hearted person.”
OK, I won’t say anymore, if the murder of Akong Rinpoche turns out to have much broader implications, perhaps the covering up of some really important issues – for instance the United Nations Human Rights Council comprehensively discussing the human rights situation in China on October 22, which has already started to turn global attention on to China and the self-immolations in Tibet – well then the reasons become a lot clearer.
October 10, 2013