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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tibet culture show opening in Toronto is ‘insidious’ propaganda from China, protesters say

November 10, 2014

By Natalie Alcoba

The National Post, November 3, 2014 - It’s billed as a “breathtaking” display of Tibet’s culture, but Canadian-Tibetans are denouncing programs about the contested region as an “insulting” and “deeply disrespectful” display of propaganda.

The Canada China Tibetan Culture Week opens in Toronto Tuesday at the TIFF Bell Lightbox with a documentary screening, followed by traditional song and dance performances by a Tibet-based troupe at the Bluma Appel Theatre. Events are also being held in Vancouver.

It is part of an international touring exhibition co-sponsored by China’s State Council Information Office, which has made stops in Australia, Germany and Spain, among others, since 2001.

Toronto’s event is organized by the Justin Poy Agency, but critics consider it to be as part of a “well-oiled and insidious” propaganda campaign by the Chinese Communist Party.

It comes days after the Toronto District School Board cancelled its planned partnership with the Confucius Institute, a Chinese government-funded non-profit, amid concerns about how it would promote the ruling party.

‘Right now Tibet is one of the least free countries in the world’

The image put forward by the Culture Week of Tibetans as “happy, dancing, exotic people” is far from reality, said Urgyen Badheytsang, Canadian director of Students for a Free Tibet.

“Right now Tibet is one of the least free countries in the world,” he said.

Members of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario, Students for a Free Tibet Canada and Dokham Chushe Gangdruk Society of Canada are threatening to protest the TIFF screening if organizers do not cancel it.

“This is no different than if you were to be showing [Leni] Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will in the 1930s, with an accompanying dance troupe of Jewish and Roma performers,” the group writes in an open letter to TIFF and media partner the Toronto Star.

“While you show films and images, and host dancers celebrating ‘Glorious Tibet’ and the ‘new socialist reality,’ over 130 Tibetan men and women, mothers and fathers, monks and
lay persons have doused themselves in gasoline and lit themselves on fire in protest of China’s occupation, and countless others are suffering decades of torture and imprisonment in China’s Lao Gai prison camps.”

The Justin Poy Agency did not respond to a request for comment.

In an email, a representative from TIFF wrote it often rents out its facilities to other organizations.

“This event is not being hosted or programmed by TIFF, our building is simply the venue,” the email said.

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