High Peaks Pure Earth has the latest in Woeser’s travelogue from last summer, when she and husband Wang Lixiong traveled through Amdo and Kham:
The distance between Mani Gego and Kardze amounts to over 90 kilometres. I have been on this road many times and it is hard to forget the beautiful scenery along this route. But after 2008, Derge, Kardze, Drango, Tawu and other counties that are also known as “North Kham” or “Northern Road” have become restricted areas. Especially in Kardze County over the past three years, men and women, young and the old, monks and the laity have not ceased to protest against the restrictions.
These protests have been entirely non-violent. In summer 2008 when I was passing through Dartsedo, I heard a retired Tibetan cadre expressing his incomprehension: those nuns are really foolish, handing out leaflets right in front of special and armed police forces, they clearly want to be beaten up, they are asking to be arrested. Also, the retired cadre sighed: some of these leaflets are really ridiculous, saying things like “those who eat Chinese food are bastards”.
However, non-violent protests are met with violent repression. On March 4, 2008, Tongkhor Monastery in the Tonggu district of Kardze County was falsely accused of hiding weapons and was searched by military police forces; a 70-year-old monk was arrested because he refused to trample on a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, upon which monks and lay people gathered in front of the local government and demanded his release, but the County Secretary Liao Caikun gave orders to the military police to open fire, resulting in 19 Tibetans being shot and many more badly injured.
Wang Lixiong and I hurried around town like tourists not getting to know much about the real situation about a place, so we decided to take a taxi and have a conversation with the driver. He told us that he was from Ya’an and had only been in Kardze working as a driver for half a year. He said: “What did you come all the way here for, do you know that it is extremely dangerous here? Tibetans take to the streets everyday causing trouble”. I asked: “Have you seen this yourself?” He nodded: “I see it all the time. Those Tibetans are really crazy, deliberately running to the special and armed police forces to cause trouble; the result is that they are being beaten brutally, blood flowing all over the place.”
Many days later, in Dartsedo and Chengdu, we got to know about a pledge that reflects a non-violent spirit is being carried through. It is said that in Kardze County many villages get all their villagers to vote on who is going to take turns to go to the county seat to disseminate leaflets and chant slogans. Many of them are arrested, and their families rely on all other members of the village for help. Indeed, from the internet we came to know that two days after we had left Kardze, another Tibetan was arrested for shouting “Let the Dalai Lama return home”.