LHASA, TIBET—Seven members of the Tibetan Free People's Resistance Movement, acting in the name of "all citizens of occupied Tibet," seized a Chinese yak during a daylight raid Monday.
The raid is the most significant since July 1995, when a group of Tibetan nationalists stole a basket.
Striking from their secret base behind a tree, the seven non-violent freedom fighters were able to lay their hands upon the yak and seize it, shouting, "We hereby seize this yak in the name of the oppressed people of the Buddhist Republic of Tibet!" They then defiantly roped the yak to their tree/base, where it reportedly ate some grass.
Despite the freedom fighters' success, the group met with strong resistance early on in the raid. "The yak dug its hooves into the ground briefly before it would budge," said group member Dar Rhamsala. "For a moment, I feared the Chinese would prevail yet again."
"Let this Freedom Yak shine as a beacon of justice to all yaks and non-yak peoples alike," Rhamsala added. "We take this yak in defiance of the Chinese war machine. Let this yak suffer the boot of oppression no more!"
Emboldened by their success, the freedom fighters returned several hours later to "seal off" a full six-foot square area around the yak with a stick-drawn line in the dirt.
According to witnesses, the Tibetan resistance leaders' victory was momentarily placed in jeopardy when the yak chewed through its rope and began to wander off. "Fortunately," said freedom fighter Rama Parlhasarian, "using passive, non-violent pulling techniques we were able to drag it back to its spot within several hours."
Official Chinese reaction to the raid was subdued. "Yak? What are you talking about?" Chinese president Jiang Zemin said, speaking via messenger from his walled fortress in Beijing. "Whatever."
News of the incident soon reached the Dalai Lama. "Let love flow through your soul like a gentle river. Do not give in to hatred," said the Tibetan spiritual leader-in-exile, in a statement to the yak.
Within 24 hours of the yak seizure, dozens of small Tibetan villages were burned to the ground by Chinese tank battalions. In the capital city of Lhasa, 49 people were executed by Chinese intelligence. Additionally, helicopter brigades roamed the Tibetan countryside, shooting Tibetan activists.
The string of brutal attacks, however, had no connection to the yak incident. "That was a coincidence," Chinese army general Li Zhouang said. "We do that the second Tuesday of every month."
Tibetan sympathizers have been quick to praise the heroic freedom fighters. Actor Richard Gere, speaking from atop the yak, said, "These courageous people have shown that non-violent resistance is possible in a world torn by cruelty and war."
The yak is scheduled to be flown to Seattle Friday for this weekend's Concert For A Free Tibet, where it will perform songs with Bjork and the Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch.