By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 6: A famous Tibetan vlogger Lhamo’s (Chinese: Lamu) brutal murder on Sept. 14 in Eastern Tibet’s Ngaba region in the so-called Sichuan province has sparked debate on domestic violence. The 30-year-old female social media personality, according to local police, has died after suffering 90% burn on Sept. 30, days after her ex-husband Tang doused her body in petrol and set her on fire.
Debate over the incident is trending on Chinese social media platforms like the Chinese Tik-Tok substitute Douyin and the Twitter-like platform Weibo. Lhamo had more than 85,000 followers on Douyin and regularly posted videos of her life foraging in the mountains, cooking, and lip-syncing to songs dressed in traditional Tibetan clothing. Lamu’s family sought financial help from the public on Sept. 17 and managed to raise 1 million yuan ($147,265) in a day.
Tang who had a history of domestic violence reportedly attacked her while she was live-streaming. He has been detained on suspicion of intentional homicide. According to state media, Tang broke into her home while she was live-streaming.
Tibetans in exile also raised concerns over the death of the Tibetan woman. Tenzin Pelyoun, Co-founder of Drokmo, told Phayul about the importance of discussions on domestic violence in the Tibetan community, “Considering the nature of the gruesome act that led to Lhamo’s death, we have no information on acts of similar nature. But there are cases that are violent and have been taking place against women, and these are not only limited to physical violence but also psychological, emotional, economical, sexual, intimidation, isolation, and verbal abuse . . . Our exile’s comprehension on domestic violence is still regressive.”
Though the extent of violence committed in the domestic cases are largely underreported, Tsering Kyi, Project Officer at the Women Empowerment Desk (WED), CTA told Phayul that there is no denying that such abuse is prevalent in the community, “We have a Tibetan women helpline that helps women experiencing domestic violence in their homes. There are variations of violence in such cases; Lhamo’s case is an extreme example. Domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence have been reported to our office but it is also difficult for women to speak up against such violence. Some have even backed off after reporting a case as there is a lot of victim-blaming in our society.”
The social activists also raised concerns about the lack of awareness in the community which then further strengthens the mindset that allows such violence onto women. Pelyoun remarked, “I think we have to start by acknowledging that there is inequality in our community and most often it is mostly the women who face various kinds of violence at the hands of men.” She further advised the community to set up safe spaces with services such as counseling, financial resource, legal, and rehabilitation support in every settlement across India.
The international reportage on the incident identified Lhamo as Chinese as some Tibetan netizens pointed out the damage of misreporting. Dechen Pemba, Founder of High Peaks Pure Earth, 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.”