Sure, Tibetans are burning themselves alive to protest China’s brutal occupation, but… have you seen our latest rhino pics?

An excerpt from In Self-Immolations by Tibetans, Signs of New Turmoil, by Andrew Jacobs in the New York Times (22 March 2012):

Tsering Kyi, a 19 year-old student, self-immolated in the middle of a busy vegetable market in Tibet's Gansu province on March 3, 2012.

Tibetan scholars and exiles say the current resistance campaign is unlike anything seen before. The tactic — public, fiery suicides that do not harm bystanders or property — has profoundly moved ordinary Tibetans and bedeviled Chinese officials. Just as significant, they note, is that the protesters are mostly young — all but nine of them under 30.

Tsering Kyi was one of them. According to family members, she was a thoughtful student whose hard work earned her a place on the school’s honor roll. But in 2010, she joined classmates who took to the streets of this dusty county seat to protest the new Chinese-language textbooks and the decision to limit Tibetan to a single class. In the clampdown that followed, several teachers suspected of encouraging the protest were fired and the headmaster, a popular Tibetan writer, was sent to work on a dam project, according to local residents.Tsering Kyi’s death has been widely publicized by Tibetan activist groups eager to draw attention to the self-immolations. The Chinese state news media, which has ignored most of the cases, reported that she was mentally unstable after hitting her head on a radiator. Her grades started to sag, the official Xinhua news agency said, “which put a lot of pressure on her and made her lose courage for life and study.”

In interviews, several Tibetan residents and relatives of Tsering Kyi’s contemptuously waved away such assertions. Instead, they were eager to discuss her devotion to her Tibetan heritage and the final moments of her life. When she emerged from the public toilets in flames, they said, the market’s Han Chinese vegetable sellers locked the front gate to prevent her from taking her protest to the street. No one, they claim, tried to douse the fire.

When the police arrived, they forced witnesses to remain inside the market and returned Tsering Kyi’s body to the bathroom. Then, after collecting everyone’s cellphones, they methodically went through the devices and deleted any photographs of the incident.

That’s not to say the Chinese authorities are against all kinds of pictures. For example, Chinese authorities have a passion for surveillance photography:

A security camera hangs from the roof of a monastery in Qinghai Province.

Chinese authorities also give their official stamp of approval to cheetah pictures and the people who snap them:

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM's new publishing partnership in the People's Republic of China. (2007)

Please remember that our Society has not always been so editorially hamstrung and so institutionally silent. Twenty years ago, before NGM launched its local language editions, our Society had the freedom and editorial courage to publish stories like this one:   

Problem is, you can’t publish those types of stories if you aspire to be a global media company that (a) wants to do business in China, and (b) is joined at the hip with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns the National Geographic Channel:

Rupert Murdoch

Worth repeating:

Rupert Murdoch


John Fahey National Geographic

Dear John:
Any thoughts?


≡  Tsering Kyi via Candle4Tibet
≡  Surveillance camera by Shiho Fukada for the New York Times

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