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Geopolitics

Tibet: How Many More Sacrifices?

Journalist Ursula Gauthier managed to get past Chinese roadblocks to get into Tibet, where she met the families and friends of those who have sacrificed themselves by immolation to protest against Chinese rule.

Tibetan students protesting in Chabcha against the use of Chinese in school in 2010 (SFTHQ)
Tibetan students protesting in Chabcha against the use of Chinese in school in 2010 (SFTHQ)
Ursula Gauthier

QINGHAI - At the end of the veranda, below the big, smiling portraits of the Dalai Lama hanging on the walls, an altar has been created. The crowd, squeezed together in the confined space, is absolutely silent. Glowing with fervor and pride, their gazes are fixed on a small photo which has been placed on the altar on top of a pile of ceremonial scarves: dressed in a white buttoned-up shirt, hair sensibly parted to the side, a delicate face looks timidly out at the visitors who have come from all over the Tibetan highlands.

Dressed in their Sunday best, the procession weaves its way along the dirt track to Shabrang, a tiny hamlet lost in the middle of this endless landscape. They climb the muddy track between the mud brick walls and thatched roofs, before placing their presents at the foot of the altar with reverence. Bricks of tea, bags of grain, slabs of butter… the person in charge of the offerings makes a note when money is given. These are very generous offerings, given the poverty of the region. The visitors then join the rest of the crowd assembled in front of the modest altar dedicated to Sonam Dargye and recite prayers in honor of this peasant who has become the people's hero.

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