Tibet activist on path to Hollywood

The photo showing Yangzom Brauen's arrest went around the world. ( dpa )

It was taken in Moscow in front of the building where the International Olympic Committee was meeting to decide what city would host the 2008 Summer Games. It shows Brauen, dressed in a Tibetan robe, being arrested in the summer of 2001.

Members of a special Russian police unit pick her up, remove her from a street demonstration and place her into a paddy wagon. Her offense: demonstrating with friends against human-rights violations in China.

Brauen, now 27, is an actress living in Berlin and is still fighting for the freedom of Tibet.

"What's happening now in Tibet makes me sad and furious at the same time," said the Swiss-born Brauen, who is half Tibetan.

"The Tibetans are being oppressed and persecuted in China. Everyone knows that. Everyone knows that the Chinese lie, but nothing happens," she said in an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Brauen's father is ethnically Swiss, while her mother is a Tibetan artist. When her mother was 6 years old, she had to leave her Himalayan homeland with her grandmother because the Chinese entered her village. Brauen said that her mother and grandmother fled to India and worked on the street, somehow getting by.

Her grandmother, a Tibetan nun, today is the family member who most strongly represents her connection to Tibet. Now 85, she prays daily and still knows the ancient Tibetan stories, myths and rituals.

Mixed emotions are aroused when Brauen thinks back on her experience seven years ago in Moscow. As chairwoman of the Union of Tibetan Youths, she traveled to Russia with friends from Switzerland to protest granting the games to China.

In her baggage was a poster by the renowned Swiss commercial artist Frank Bodin showing the five Olympic rings as bullet holes in a wall. As she unrolled the poster and began talking with journalists about the situation in Tibet, the police took action.

"They told us back then that the Olympic Games represented a possibility for China to open up," the activist said. "Now it is 2008, and everything has gotten worse."

She is demanding a boycott of the Beijing Games, or at least of the opening ceremony.

"How can you celebrate when people who live in the highest peaks of the world are being tortured and killed?" she asked, noting that China in the last year has executed 8,000 people, according to estimates by human-rights organizations.

In light of the recent violence in Tibet, Brauen wants to use her position as an actress to bring attention to human-rights violations in Tibet. Just before she went to Moscow in 2001, she made a movie for a German private television station. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Berlin and has had roles in theatre and independent film while she tries to gain a foothold in Hollywood.

"In Hollywood, the only things that count are faith, hard work and patience," she said.

Brauen has worked on about 20 movies. She had a foot-in-the-door role in a 2005 action film, Aeon Flux, that also starred Oscar winner Charlize Theron. Soon, Brauen will be seen again in the Al Pacino film Salomaybe, a reinterpretation of the Oscar Wilde play Salome. In addition, she moderates the radio programme The Tibet Connection, an English-language broadcast with news from Tibet.

She understands the growing impatience many young Tibetans have with the careful course taken by the exiled Dalai Lama, but considers him nevertheless the realistic alternative to Chinese rule.

"I am also for a free Tibet," she said. "But autonomy would also be a path to freedom."

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