Self-Immolation Failing, Tibetans Turn to New Protest

Lhakar emphasizes all things Tibetan

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 21, 2013 5:08 PM CDT

(Newser) – Since 2009, 112 Tibetans have died by setting themselves on fire to protest for the independence of Tibet from China. But increasingly Tibetans, both those in exile and those in China, are turning away from grisly self-immolation and instead are protesting through "Lhakar," as assertion of Tibetan identity through culture, reports Time. Literally meaning "White Wednesday" in Tibetan, Lhakar is one day set aside each week for speaking only Tibetan, eating Tibetan food, listening to Tibetan music, and buying Tibetan goods.

"I felt, as a leader, I had to rally around ideas or events that address the core of the Tibetan struggle and can mobilize people," says Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile. Lhakar is more cultural than religious, making it harder for China to crack down on it—though Chinese authorities are still trying to. “[Self-immolations] have not been an effective protest," says one student. "Lhakar will be. There is no way to put a stop to it.”

An exile Tibetan participates in a candlelit vigil in Dharmsala, India, Wednesday, April 17, 2013.
An exile Tibetan participates in a candlelit vigil in Dharmsala, India, Wednesday, April 17, 2013.   (AP Photo/ Ashwini Bhatia)
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