Last week, Tibetan activists in exile turned to the world’s most viral video to make their voices heard. The invisible-horse-riding dance has turned political.
Students for a Free Tibet, a New York City–based organization campaigning for political freedom in the Chinese-controlled Himalayan territory, has posted a “Gangnam Style” parody video on their YouTube channel, satirizing China’s incoming leader Xi Jinping. The 59-year-old is expected take over the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday and assume the Chinese presidency in spring 2013.
Nine Tibetans have set themselves on fire in China since the Chinese Communist Party started its transitional 18th Party Congress in the capital, Beijing, last week. At the congress, Chinese officials have put great effort into stressing the great amount of infrastructure investments and the apparent social stability in western China following unrelenting reports of discontent among the local Tibetan population. Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, has been voted the happiest city in China four times in a five-year period, journalists were told last week during the congress.
South Korean rapper Psy’s viral “Gangnam Style” online video has attracted more than 700 million views on YouTube over the past four months and has made Psy, a.k.a. Park Jae-sang, a global star. The quirky music video has spawned dozens of parodies — like the obligatory U.S. presidential campaign spoofs — as well as a few more serious political statements.
North Korean state media used the song to make fun of a South Korean presidential candidate, Park Geun-hye. The South Korean coast guard used it to assert their country’s sovereignty over the disputed Dokdo Islands, which are also claimed by Japan and called Takeshima Islands by Japanese. Members of the Chinese coast guard, whose country was embroiled in a territorial spat with Japan over other islands in the East China Sea, had themselves photographed horse dancing. And members of the Royal Thai Armed Forces also produced their version of the song.
The video’s been used plenty of times to comment on domestic Chinese issues as well. In Hong Kong, a “Gangnam Style” parody on “rude” mainland Chinese living in the former British colony has quickly gathered 1.3 million views. Police in China’s restive region of Xinjiang have filmed themselves horse dancing. And even China’s most famous dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, filmed himself dancing to the viral song last month.