By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 15: The husband of late Tibetan vlogger Lhamo who was murdered last year in a gruesome crime, has been sentenced to death by a court on Thursday. The high profile case that shocked the masses in occupied Tibet and China sparked debates over domestic violence and systemic inadequacies to protect rights of women.
Tang Lu was sentenced to death for intentional homicide by a court in Ngaba Prefecture, in eastern Tibet’s so-called Sichuan province on Oct. 14. His crime “was extremely cruel and the social impact was extremely bad”, the court statement said, adding that it warranted “severe punishment”.
The famous Tibetan vlogger was brutally murdered on Sept. 14 last year. The 30-year-old female social media personality, according to local police, succumbed to her injuries after suffering 90% burn on Sept. 30, two weeks after her ex-husband Tang Lu, doused her body in petrol and set her on fire while she was live streaming. Lhamo divorced Tang who had a history of violence and had repeatedly harmed her physically during the course of their marriage.
Lhamo had more than 85,000 followers on Douyin, the Chinese Tik-Tok substitute and the Twitter-like platform Weibo. She regularly posted videos of her life foraging in the mountains, cooking, and lip-syncing to songs dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing and her people’s way of life.
The horrific death of Lhamo, a mother of two, has resonated throughout China, occupied Tibet as well as here in exile. Tenzin Choezin, the Executive Director of Active Non-Violence Education Center (ANEC), an organisation based in Dharamshala told Phayul, “Being part of an organisation that gives ‘Gender-based Violence’ training to the youth, among other things, I feel that people mustn’t switch off their radars now that Lhamo’s murderer is punished. The larger issue still remains, and that’s domestic violence. There are many who continue to suffer in silence in our community. And until the strain of violence continues, the debate must go on, so that both on a policy level and on grass roots level, changes can be made.”
The exile Tibetan government, known officially as the Central Tibetan Administration operates a helpline through the Women Empowerment Desk (WED), a measure that the administration said will help create a “safe space for women in their homes, workplaces and in the community”.
The international attention over the high profile case led to a frenzy of coverage that, however diluted and even masked the identity of the victim, an ethnic Tibetan who was labelled a Chinese. Dechen Pemba, Founder of High Peaks Pure Earth, earlier told Phayul, “It was disappointing to see the mainstream media coverage of this terrible incident as most headlines firstly sensationalized the horrific tragedy and also erased Lhamo’s Tibetan identity by calling her a “Chinese vlogger”. This isn’t a case of mistaken identity, it’s indicative of a tendency to generically label everyone who lives in China today as Chinese. However, what’s important here is that being Tibetan was at the heart of Lhamo’s live streams and videos. She was very proud of her Tibetan identity and traditions and it was a huge part of what made her popular online.”