Upcoming Event: “Discussing Autonomy and Human Rights in Tibet”

Photo credit: Du Bin (杜斌)

On Wednesday I’ll be joining Dibyesh Anand and Shao Jiang on a panel titled “Discussing Autonomy and Human Rights in Tibet” at Kings College, London. Corinna-Barbara Francis will be chairing the event.

This event will begin with the screening of excerpts from The Dialogue / 对话, a 2014 documentary film by Wang Wo and Zhu Rikun that records dialogues among Tibetans, Uighurs and Han Chinese living inside and outside China. Wednesday’s focus will be the online video talk between two Chinese rights lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao, a scholar and the Dalai Lama in 2011.


I remember very well reading about the video dialogues in Woeser’s memorable blog post  “How I Met His Holiness the Dalai Lama Without a Passport”. Because the video dialogues were being coordinated from her and Wang Lixiong’s small flat in Beijing, Woeser was able to be present during the dialogues and also to have a moment herself with the Dalai Lama which she describes in her post:

I cried and I cried. When I, as Tibetans do, prostrated three times, silently reciting some prayers, holding a khata in my hands and kneeling in front of the computer with tear-dimmed eyes, I saw His Holiness reaching out both of his hands as if he was going to take the Khata, as if he was going to give me his blessings.

Woeser’s moving blog post is still one of the most read and popular posts on High Peaks Pure Earth!

The documentary and topic’s significance is sadly heightened, in the run up to Human Rights Day, by lawyer Jiang Tianyong’s recent disappearance/abduction.

I’m very much looking forward to discussing the film. The event is free and open to all but there is registration via the link below. Thank you to Dr Eva Pils and Corinna-Barbara Francis for the invitation to take part in the event!

Date & Time
Wednesday, 7 December, 2016
16:15 – 17:45 GMT


The Dickson Poon School of Law
Somerset House East Wing

Link for booking:

My Second Piece for Huffington Post: Shangri-La or Tibet Without Tibetans

Shangri La Poster

Poster from the play taken from their Facebook page

I’m averaging one article a year for Huffington Post, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I published Kundun: The Presence of an Absence!

I published my second piece this morning, it’s my thoughts on a new play in London called “Shangri-La” and the lack of Tibetan involvement in it, check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/shangri-la-or-tibet-without-tibetans_us_5791d00ae4b0a9208b5f61db



My Article on Music Censorship in Tibet Published And New Information on Imprisoned Tibetan Singers

2014-07-11 Gebey on GV

I’m happy that my article on the situation faced by musicians and singers in Tibet has been published online. It was commissioned by Freemuse, the leading defender of musicians worldwide and Global Voices for Artsfreedom.org.

One new development that only came to light after the article was published was that China responded to the UN’s February expression of concern about China’s detention of musicians. As reported by Free Tibet yesterday, “China has had to confirm that the musicians have been jailed for “separatist” activities”.

2014-07-11 Gebey on Freemuse


The full response from China is interesting to read, it was sent to the UN at the end of April 2014 but has only just been published by the UN. There is a PDF of the English translation here: https://spdb.ohchr.org/hrdb/26th/China_30.04.14_%281.2014%29.pdf

This is the most new information on musicians we have seen from the Chinese authorities in a long time so it’s worth re-publishing their response on a few of the singers here:

  • Lolo, originally known as Luo Xiang, is a man of 31 years of age. He is a villager from the First Commune, Dhomda village, Chengduo County, Yushu, Qinghai Province. On the 26th of February, 2013, he was sentenced to six years in prison by the judicial organ on a charge of seditiously splitting the state with three years’ deprivation of political rights. At present, Luo is in the process of serving his prison sentence.
  • Pema Trinley is a Tibetan man of 24 years of age. He originates from the Malma, Aba County, Sichuan Province. Chakdor, also known as Xuegduo, is a Tibetan man of 32 years of age. He originates from the Malma, Aba County, Sichuang Province. On the 3rd of February, 2013, these two people were sentenced to four years in prison by the judicial organ on a charge of seditiously splitting the state with three years’ deprivation of political rights. At present, these two people are in the process of serving their respective prison sentences.

Free Tibet have on online petition for Tibet’s Jailed Musicians so please support their campaign here: http://freetibet.org/petitions/1742

You can also keep up to date with the Banned Expression campaign by Liking this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/freespeechtibet

As many of you already know, the High Peaks Pure Earth weekly music video series is still going strong so please visit us there every Wednesday!



A BoZhu interview with JustRecently

A mystery blogger that I regularly keep up with, JustRecently, has today published an interview with me that was carried out over the course of several email exchanges. Here is the link to the interview: http://justrecently.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/the-bozhu-interviews-the-tibetan-blogosphere-is-expanding-but-the-risks-remain-the-same/

The interview is part of a series compiled by JustRecently called the BoZhu interviews. As JR explains:

A blogmaster (博主, bózhǔ) is just a blogmaster (博客的主人, bókè de zhǔrén), explains the Baidu Encyclopedia (百度百科).

It’s a great idea for a series and I’m wondering how I can steal this idea and use it for High Peaks (!)

Here is a link to all the BoZhu interviews so far: http://justrecently.wordpress.com/category/interviews/

Panel Discussion in DC on November 17: Role and Impact of New Social Media on Tibetans

I'll be joining this smurf in DC!

It’s been over five years since I left my position as campaigns coordinator at International Campaign for Tibet Germany in Berlin but this week I get to “return” to ICT to speak at a panel discussion on Thursday evening titled “Role and Impact of New Social Media on Tibetans”.

I’ll be speaking alongside Louisa Chiang who is East Asia Officer at the National Endowment for Democracy and the event will be moderated by my fellow Brit Kate Saunders, Communications Director at ICT.

Full details of the event are on ICT’s website here:

Looking forward to it! For those who can’t make it in person the event will be livestreamed.

More Tibetan Simulation Fonts!!!

Hopefully not a new trend but following on from my post about Alan Dawa Dolma and the Tibetan simulation fonts I have now found yet another music video using these fonts for the subtitles. Take a look at the new video from wildly popular in PRC 3-piece girl band called Acha:

I have been receiving new photos of these fonts so will update my online gallery collection soon! Note to self, must actually start posting good music on my blog. You can always go read my old post about Cowboy Junkies in China.

Upcoming Speaking Events in London

I’m excited to be speaking at two events in London in June.

On June 2, I’ll be speaking at a conference on democracy and dissent in China and India called “Resistance and Accommodation in Tibet and Kashmir” with an intimidatingly impressive list of guest speakers including Arundhati Roy and Wang Lixiong. The conference is organised by Dr. Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster, London.

My panel will specifically be on Tibet, see the whole programme on the conference site. Sadly Tenzin Tsundue won’t be joining after all but he will be replaced with another speaker.

Then as part of “Tibetan Fortnight” at University College London, I’ll be giving a talk on June 8 titled “The Virtual Sweet Tea House: Tibetan Voices in Cyberspace”. The programme for the fortnight looks great and it will be kind of weird to be speaking at UCL, which is where I did my undergraduate studies! See the whole programme on the UCLU European Society Website.

Hope to see some of you at either or both events!

On Mastiffs, Typography and the Taming of Tibet

"The Call" By Alan Dawa Dolma: Single Cover

After last week’s Shapale excitement, I’m going to write about a music video that is most definitely not banned in China, in fact quite the opposite. It’s the music video called “The Call” and it’s for a new animated feature film “Tibetan Mastiff Dorje”, set for cinema release in China this year on June 28. The singer is Alan Dawa Dolma.

According to Chinese state media, “Tibet Mastiff Dorje” is the debut cooperation film between China and Japan on animation, which explains why Alan Dawa Dolma is singing the theme song. For those of you down with contemporary Tibetan pop culture, you’ll know that Dartsedo born Alan Dawa Dolma is a bit of a pop sensation in Japan. She is also properly famous, having done the theme songs for John Woo’s two episode film “Red Cliff” back in 2008. If anyone can explain why she calls herself Alan though, I’d be interested in knowing that!

I’m sorry I made you watch the video and listen to the music but there are a couple of things here that are worth a closer look I think. First of all, there’s the matter of the mastiff, according to this news article,

“Tibetan Mastiff Dorje” is adapted from a best-selling novel, which described the story of Tian Jin, a ten-year-old boy and a mastiff he saved on the plateau in southwest China’s Tibet.

Given the huge appetite nouveau riche Chinese people seem to have for Tibetan mastiffs, both in real life and in cultural matters related to Tibet, it makes sense for a major animation film to feature a Tibetan mastiff! Hardly a month seems to go by without some kind of headline describing how a rich Chinese business person paid an obscene amount of money for a Tibetan mastiff, they are really obsessed with mastiffs as a status symbol. I think the most recent news story was last month, a Chinese coal baron paid $1.5 million for a Red Tibetan Mastiff.

Tibetan mastiffs have also been voraciously consumed in Chinese language fiction, over the last few years there have been several bestselling novels focusing on mastiffs, am posting the covers of two below, the book on the left is “The Tibet Code” by He Ma and on the right we have “Tibetan Mastiff” by Yang Zhijun on which the animation is based. “The Tibet Code” series of books already runs into 8 or 9 volumes and every single one has been a huge bestseller since the first volume was published in March 2008 (somewhat ironically!). I have only read the first one but basically the whole plot centres around a mythical Tibetan mastiff creature which the protagonists spend the whole novel searching for…

My personal favourite Tibetan mastiff cultural treat is the two-part 2009 graphic novel called “Tibetan Rock Dog” written by a Chinese rock star called Zheng Jun who had a huge hit in the 1980s with a song called “Return to Lhasa”.

The story is about a Tibetan mastiff called Metal who grows up in a monastery in Tibet and is then taken off to Beijing by a “Tibet Drifter” type rocker where he forms a rock band! All pretty silly stuff but I find it quite cute and it also leads me nicely into the next thing I want to take a closer look at – FONTS!

Take another look at the fonts on the book covers above, “Tibetan Mastiff” and “Tibetan Rock Dog” are good examples of the Chinese font that is trying to look like Tibetan script! There is a term in typography for one style of writing trying to imitate the stereotypical letter forms of another language: simulation fonts. Here is a link to a font called Al-Andalus, an Arabic simulation font.

Over the years I have been obsessively saving any of this kind of font I have come across so am excited now that the collection can be viewed here below:

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The only thing I have found written specifically about Chinese and Tibetan is this 2007 post from Danwei.Org, they call it Tibetan-style Chinese. It’s widespread in the PRC and you can see it from book covers to food packaging to album covers, basically for anything packaged as “Tibetan”. This brings me back to the Alan Dawa Dolma video as it’s the first time that I have seen an entire music video subtitled in this font. The font is fascinating, as is her singing in Chinese, Tibetan and English. Alan Dawa Dolma fan forums also suggest that there is a Japanese version of the song somewhere.

The mastiff, the singer, the music and the simulation fonts are all connected – they all exoticise Tibet and Tibetans. From being amused by the things I have mentioned above, I am going to move to a more scholarly interpretation… The traditional Chinese image of Tibet is of wild and cultureless natives so this exoticisation in a way neutralises and pacifies Tibetans. Even the font turns Tibetan script into nothing more than a novelty. This is also a way in which uncomfortable politics can be evaded. The backward natives have now been turned into exotic natives – could this be the taming of Tibet!?