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Tibet activists don panda costumes at Taipei Zoo

February 9, 2009

OH, THE IRONY: Children and parents visiting the zoo yesterday lined up
outside to take their pictures with a Tibetan activist dressed as a
panda before going inside
By Loa Iok-sin
Sunday, Feb 08, 2009, Page 2

Wearing panda costumes and panda hats, Tibetan activists handed out
flyers yesterday outside the Taipei Zoo with cartoons directed at
children explaining the connection between the giant pandas and Tibet.

“Do you know where Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan come from? They come from
Tibet,” Taiwan Friends of Tibet (TFOT) vice chairman Yang Chang-chen
told a group of children and their parents as they waited in line to
take pictures with a Tibetan activist dressed in a panda costume outside
the zoo.

The giant pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan were gifts from China and
arrived in December.

Activists handed out flyers to people waiting in line to get a photo and
to passersby. The cartoon explained the Tibetan background of Sichuan

“You all know that pandas come from Wolong in Sichuan, but do you know
that Wolong is also home to Tibetans?” the flyer said.

It said the name “Wolong” came from the word wo-dhom in the local
dialect of the Tibetan language, meaning “the place where pandas live.”
Dhom is the Tibetan word for “panda” and wo the word for “residence.”

“Many people think that pandas are from China, but pandas actually lived
side-by-side with Tibetans throughout history,” Yang said. “We want
people to know that and perhaps they will realize the threat China can
pose to its neighbors.”

The flyer also said events would be held across the globe to commemorate
the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

Most people reacted positively to the activists and many seemed
surprised by the information on the flyer.

Freddy Lim, the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Chthonic, and the
band’s bassist, Doris Yeh, were among the dozens of volunteers
distributing flyers. Some of the band’s fans also joined in the effort.

One of the volunteers was an off-duty police officer who helped hand out
stacks of flyers “because my son is a big fan of Chthonic,” he said.

But not everyone was interested in hearing what the activists had to say
about Wolong.

When Yeh tried to give an elementary school student a flyer at the zoo’s
entrance and asked: “Do you want to know where Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan
come from?” the child shouted in response: “I don’t like Tuan Tuan and
Yuan Yuan and I’m not here to see them!”

Gary Chiang, spokesman of Guts United Taiwan, a group that co-organized
the effort, said it was a success.

“We handed out about 2,500 flyers the whole morning and I’d say it was
quite a big success,” he said after the activists wrapped up their
activity shortly after noon. “We plan to do this regularly until March
14, when this year’s free Tibet parade is held in Taipei.”
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