Celebrities should avoid Tibetan separatist mire

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-1 0:18:02

After several Chinese superstars were pictured sitting close to two key figures connected with the Dalai Lama and the self-claimed "Tibetan government-in-exile" in mid-February at a Buddhist assembly in Bodh Gaya, India, the government-backed website China Tibet Online last week warned in an article that Chinese celebrities should keep in mind the boundaries of freedom of religion and in line with the national position on Tibet related issues.

The three superstars include singer Faye Wong, Hong Kong actor Tony Leung and Chinese mainland actor Hu Jun. With the other two remaining silent, Hu later clarified that he had no idea of the presence of the separatists and opposes all separatist words and deeds.

There is nothing wrong with celebrities believing in Buddhism. But as India hosts about 110,000 Tibetans and many have a connection to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan separatists, celebrities have to learn about local backgrounds before arriving there and stay vigilant before attending religious events to avoid touching on sensitivities and hence raising controversies.

This kind of discretion is not unnecessary. After all, the Dalai Lama and Tibetan separatists are adept at using religion for political ends on the international stage. They are also  keen to attract celebrities to help expand influence. Many Western leaders have played this Tibetan  separatism card to needle China by getting somewhat hooked up to the Dalai Lama and his followers. On this list are US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and heads of some other European countries. Every time they hype up the issue, there is strong opposition from Chinese public. Many of those leaders have drawn lessons from the repercussions.

A growing number of Chinese celebrities now convert to Buddhism. But they do not act cautiously, as suggested by the frequently exposed scandals, and sometimes are even capricious in this respect. Actually, the wide influence of celebrities makes it necessary for them to show more prudence in their words and behavior.

Last year, Chinese actor Zhang Tielin was shown in video footage being ordained by a self-claimed Living Buddha named Baima Aose, which ignited uproar among Chinese netizens. However, Baima Aose was later found to be a charlatan and hence Zhang became a laughing stock across the country. The soaring number of celebrity believers has prompted the expanding numbers of fake Living Buddhas.

A mistake by celebrities will bring wider and worse consequences than ordinary people and eventually taint the cherished image of stars. With great power comes great responsibility. Celebrities can never be too discrete in their words and deeds.  

Posted in: Observer

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