VOA Unveils Film, “Fire in the Land of Snow: Self-Immolations in Tibet”

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Human Rights Subcommittee, speaking to reporters at the premiere of the VOA documentary on self-immolations in Tibet.
Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of the House Human Rights Subcommittee, speaking to reporters at the premiere of the VOA documentary on self-immolations in Tibet.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Disturbing images of Tibetans setting themselves on fire, interviews with protesters, and background on Tibet’s rich culture are woven together in a compelling new VOA documentary that examines the deadly wave of political self-immolations that have taken place since 2009.

“This documentary provides a sobering and comprehensive look at the reasons driving people to take their own lives in such a painful and dramatic way,” said VOA Director David Ensor.  “By broadcasting this film and streaming it online, we are also giving audiences in Tibet and China access to information they simply cannot get on domestic media.”  (click here for trailer)

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) said the film “is a really important contribution, and hopefully it will spur the world to act on behalf of Tibet and the Dalai Lama.” Speaking to reporters after the screening, he said the documentary “brings further understanding to what Chinese repression is all about.”

Since 2009, at least 118 Tibetans are known to have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese government policy in their homeland.  More than 100 have died. Chinese officials have clamped down on security and accused the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, of encouraging the incidents.

Many of the videos used in the documentary (click here) were made by citizen journalists who risk imprisonment or worse to record the protests and what is happening in their ancient homeland.

“Chinese state media have characterized the people involved in these self-immolations as outcasts and delinquents,” said VOA Tibetan Service Chief Losang Gyatso, who narrates the film.  “What we found, when we took an honest and balanced look at the issue, was that these people were very community-minded and cared deeply about what was happening in Tibet.”

Fire in the Land of Snow features interviews with leading scholars and experts on Tibet, including the Dalai Lama, Steven Marshall, from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Robert Barnett, Director of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University, Dhundup Tashi Rekjong, a Tibetan writer and editor at Karkhung, Tsering Woeser, a Beijing-based Tibetan writer, and Wang Lixiong, a Chinese writer and scholar.

VOA is now broadcasting the film around the world in Tibetan, Mandarin and English on direct-to-home satellite, affiliate stations, and VOA websites. In addition, the documentary is available on social media platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and as a podcast in the iTunes store.

In an effort to circumvent jamming and Internet blocking, VOA’s Tibetan Service and the VOA Mandarin Service also employ email newsletters designed to reach audiences with information that is unavailable on Chinese state media.

For more information about this release contact Kyle King at the VOA Public Relations office in Washington at (202) 203-4959, or write kking@voanews.com.   For more information about VOA visit our Public Relations website at www.insidevoa.com, or the main VOA news site at www.voanews.com.