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China-free, March 10

By Tenpa Dugdak - posted Wednesday, 3 March 2010

2008 changed everything for the Tibetan people. It was the year Tibetans in Tibet couldn’t take it anymore and took to the streets. The true Tibetan spirit was on display in front of a world audience. Suddenly the image of Tibetans in the foreign imagination as placid, smiley, calm, lovey-dovey and picture-perfect, was changed. Shambala romanticism was refashioned.

The world could see that beneath the surface, Tibetans are human beings like everyone else, the only difference being our full gamut of emotions was on display on the global political stage to a greater extent than ever before.

We showed that we too want freedom, justice, democracy and to be able to live with dignity. Many non-Tibetan Buddhists were despondent - their imagined Tibet was shattered. One image resonates with me from 2008: CCP merchandise piled in a heap and burned by Tibetans. A stark symbol of how frustrated they were with being dehumanised and treated as second-class citizens in their own country. Their action demanded an end to 50 years of colonial rule, despite being born in a Tibet “liberated” from the darkest feudal system by “peaceful” CCP machineries.


Those fires triggered a memory of a campaign I heard as a school kid during the early 90s in India. It involved some exiled Tibetans in Dharamsala burning and destroying second-hand drinking thermoses- cheap Chinese products. I remember being inspired.

Fast-forward to 2010 in Australia. It is a different story. From frozen food to clothing, toys, electronic appliances, stationery, anti-virus software, prison officers’ and inmates’ clothing - even garlic comes from China. The whole world is a market where consumers have little choice but to buy “Made in China” products.

Here’s a grim irony: unbeknownst to me, during the 2008 March 10th and Olympic torch protests, I was kitted out in “Made in China” (MIC) clothing while I shouted my lungs out at the doorstep of the Chinese embassy in Australia’s capital city, Canberra, with other Tibetans who had bussed down from many states, without any pay (unlike thousands of CCP supporters paid a stipend to travel down and display the dragon’s fury - reportedly $300 a head).

Apart from my “Free Tibet” t-shirt, which was made in India, I was cloaked in CCP products. My pants, undies, socks and shoes were all manufactured in China. Little did I know that, inadvertently, I (and many others) am complicit in supporting the CCP. My money helps fund the CCP when it goes shopping for the best torture products money can buy on the international market - the products used to violate the private parts of political prisoners in Tibet. But this is just a glimpse.

Some of the CCP junkies in the embassy must have been laughing, seeing us outside crying with our MIC clothing, banners, microphone, sunglasses and placards. Apparently, even they prefer not to use their country’s home-made products. A little bird once told me that even the Politburo Standing Committee gangs and their families are more inclined to use non-CCP goods to be sure they are toxin-free. So, enough excuses …

I pledge, on March 10, 2010, I will follow in the footsteps of the Politburo member’s consumer choice - at least for one day outside the Chinese embassy. It is a pledge to all the brave men and women of Tibet inside CCP prisons. I will no longer bear my name on the electronic cattle-prods, batons or other torture products that suck the blood out of you. I pledge to you that I will be China-free this March 10th.


My preparations began during Christmas 2009. I went on a hunting spree for a t-shirt, pants, socks and underwear. I already had a pair of shoes not made in China.

Mission 1: Finding jeans

It took two hours (made in Pakistan) and this is all I could find within my budget. Hallelujah for Levis! Maybe on my next pilgrimage I can visit the Levis company headquarters and do a prostration? For the time being, I would like to thank them for saving me from potential nudity on March 10!

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About the Author

Tenpa Dugdak was born in the town of Sok in Kham province, twelve hours north-east of Lhasa. When Tenpa was four his mother decided to flee Tibet to be with his father who had escaped the year before. It took 30 days to cross the Himalayas. They travelled mostly in the darkness to avoid being seen by the Chinese troops. At the age of six he was sent to a Tibetan Homes boarding school in Mussoorie, India and was taught the Tibetan language, Buddhism and the history Tibetan culture. His mother died when he was a little boy. Dugdak moved to Australia with his father, and his two sisters, in 2002. Tenpa Dugdak lives in Sydney, Australia.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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