Sun, Feb 08, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Tibet activists don panda costumes at Taipei Zoo

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  /  STAFF REPORTER

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 (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓) come from? They come from Tibet,” Taiwan Friends of Tibet (TFOT) vice chairman Yang Chang-chen (楊長鎮) 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 Province.

“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” (臥龍) 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 (林昶佐), the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Chthonic, and the band’s bassist, Doris Yeh (葉湘怡), 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 (江季剛), 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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