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China's ban on Dalai Lama images in Tibet still in force

by Lara Damiani, IndyBay, Aug 23, 2007

Many people don’t realise that images of the Dalai Lama have been banned in Tibet by the Chinese Government since 1959 when the Dalai Lama was forced to seek exile in India. Recently, independent Australian filmmaker Lara Damiani, managed to secretly film what is probably one of the only remaining two public images of the Dalai Lama in Tibet.

Lhasa, Tibet (China) -- All over the world, images of great leaders adorn public spaces. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King – the list goes on. One of the world’s greatest ironies is that images of today’s most compassionate and peaceful leader – His Holiness the Dalai Lama - are banned in Tibet.

<< Images of the Dalai Lama is banned in Tibet, HH's spiritual birthplace and the cradle of Vanjrayana Buddhism

Ask a Catholic in Rome or an Anglican in London how they would feel if images of their religious leaders were banned and their answers would be pretty obvious. Ask a Tibetan in Tibet and they can’t answer you for fear of the consequences.

Many people don’t realise that images of the Dalai Lama have been banned in Tibet by the Chinese Government since 1959 when the Dalai Lama was forced to seek exile in India.

Recently, independent Australian filmmaker Lara Damiani, managed to secretly film what is probably one of the only remaining two public images of the Dalai Lama in Tibet. The image is on a wall in Norbulingka - what was the Dalai Lama’s summer palace in Lhasa. The room and the entire building are heavily laden with security cameras.

This level of control and oppression by the Chinese Government in Tibet also extends to the banning of all religious and political websites. “I’d heard that religious and political websites were banned in Tibet but didn’t actually think it was true until I went there and saw it for myself” said Lara. “In Tibet and Beijing I couldn’t access any website with political or religious reference to Tibet while Tibet Tourism websites were numerous. Especially those operated by Chinese Tour Companies” she said.

Still today, Tibetans are too afraid to mention the Dalai Lama’s name or discuss politics in public for real fear of imprisonment. “World leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the atrocities occurring in Tibet – both on a human level and an environmental level” said Lara. “There are still so many people outside of Tibet who don’t really know what is going on there and what has happened since 1950. Including many Chinese people who’ve been getting a very skewed version of history. We want to help spread the message of Tibet through our documentary” she said.

Through their independent film production company, The Kollectiv, Lara Damiani and business partner Alex Alexander were inspired by the plight of Tibet and the Tibetans and a burning desire to spread the message of Tibet in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics. Lara and Alex knew that filming in Tibet would be a potentially dangerous task. To avoid suspicion and so as not to endanger the lives of the local Tibetan community, filming was undertaken under the guise of tourists.

The documentary explores whether there is hope for Tibet in a world that places such little value on what the Dalai Lama teaches - peace and compassion. It also explores the current debate between the Middle Way Approach and the struggle for Independence.

Post production for the documentary has now commenced and the filmmakers are on the lookout for like minded people interested in funding this stage of the project by becoming Executive Producers. It is scheduled for release later this year. The documentary, which highlights the last remaining non-violent freedom struggle in the world today, has been self-funded to date.

It includes interview footage with the Dalai Lama, Tibetan activist and poet Tenzin Tsundue and outspoken advocate for Independence, Lhasang Tsering. There are interviews with a 78-year-old woman imprisoned for 27 years and monks and nuns tortured and imprisoned in Tibet and now living in exile in India. It includes footage illustrating the extent of Chinese oppression and takeover in Tibet and has been filmed in India, Tibet, China and Australia.

For more information, visit http://www.thetibetproject.com.



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