An exhibit at the Dhaka Art Summit which featured the writings of five Tibetans who self-immolated has been covered at the request of the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh. The exhibit, by Dharamsala-based filmmakers Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, featured letters by five individuals written just before they set themselves on fire in protest against China’s policies in the region. Close to 150 Tibetans have self-immolated in recent years. From AFP:
The work belonged to Indian filmmaker Ritu Sarin and her husband Tenzing Sonam, a Tibetan living in exile, and were part of a larger multimedia installation on Tibetan self-immolations in the past six years.
“The Chinese ambassador was offended when he saw the artworks. He sent us a mail in protest and asked us to remove the works. And we’ve covered up the five works with white sheets,” Sazzad Hossain, head of administration at the Dhaka Art Summit, told AFP.
Bangladesh is a staunch ally of China, which has bankrolled many of the impoverished nation’s key infrastructure projects.
“It was intimidating. I, personally, have started to feel threatened since then,” another organiser of the show said on condition of anonymity. [Source]
The artists agreed to have their work covered in order to avoid have the entire art fair shut down. Rosalyn Dmello of Huffington Post reports:
“The organizers discussed the situation with us and we agreed to have the work covered for the rest of the Summit,” wrote Sarin and Sonam in a post in their Facebook album in which they had posted not just the photograph of the now shrouded work but also pictures of each letter with the translations in the description, using the hashtag #ChinaCensorshipArtTibet. “The fact that the Chinese government continues to dictate its terms on other nations with arrogance and impunity and tries to shut down every avenue of expression for us in exile to raise our voices on behalf of our beleaguered compatriots in Tibet, will only make us redouble our efforts,” they wrote. “We can take pride in the fact that the last words of the self-immolators still have the power to disturb and upset the CCP [China Communist Party]. This is why we need to keep their voices.” [Source]
Hong Kong Free Press has posted images of the five letters, including this one from Tsultrim Gyatso, who self-immolated in December 2013:
I, Tsultrim Gyatso, the warrior of the snows, set myself on fire for the welfare of all Tibetans. The golden teardrops. Alas, tears. Heartbreak. Brothers, do you hear? Do you see? Do you hear? To whom shall I tell about the suffering of six million Tibetans? Precious human body engulfed in flames. I set myself on fire for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet, to free Panchen Rinpoche from prison, and for the welfare of six million Tibetans. May all sentient beings residing in the three realms be free from the three poisons and attain Buddhahood. May the lama and the Three Jewels hold dear those who are downtrodden and without refuge. Brothers and sisters of the Land of Snow, for the sake of Tibet’s unity, do not fall under the deceitful ways of the foxes. [Source]
Read more about the Chinese government’s efforts to carry out censorship beyond its borders, via CDT.