“Saga Dawa In Flames” and “Lighthouse for Tibetans”

Two Woeser-related things today- first, a translation of one of her posts by the always-excellent High Peaks Pure Earth:

As Saga Dawa was approaching, the atmosphere in Lhasa and in the whole of Tibet was more tense than before. In fact, no matter whether it is a local festival, a traditional or a foreign imposed one, to use a currently popular saying, they are all, without exception, considered sensitive days.

As expected, the Tibet Daily sententiously published a notice of the Commission for Discipline Inspection and Supervision Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the second day of Saga Dawa, explaining that this notice had been “issued the day before”, but clearly, it had been publicised before Saga Dawa had even started. The notice linked Saga Dawa to the “struggle against separatism” and requested that “the battle against separatism must not be challenged in any way”, “it has to be ensured that during the religious activities of Saga Dawa, large-scale, medium-scale or minor events must be prevented in the entire region”; the use of military language immediately pervaded the originally religious festival with the smell of gunpowder.

It looks as if the notice was directed at the following people: “Party cadres”, “retired cadres”, “Party members, government employees, students” as well as Party members’ “families and personnel” etc. But in fact, it reached out to a broad audience and its rhetoric was highly threatening; in this very short notice, “do not participate” or “not allowed to participate” in Saga Dawa appeared more than three times and even clearly expressed that “if one did, the person will be dealt with in a serious manner and the leaders of the person’s work unit will be held responsible.”

Interestingly, the notice reprimanded “Party cadres”, “retired cadres” in several instances not to “follow the Dalai”, “let alone to openly follow the Dalai” or “leave the country to worship the Dalai”, expressing that “such actions will be dealt with in a strict manner according to the law”. This was perhaps the first time that the local authorities in their official media publicly acknowledged the Dalai Lama’s central position and influence upon Tibetan people, even upon those working within the system, those occupying official positions; they do not only “follow” him in their hearts, they even actively “follow” him, which means that the “struggle against separatism” has lost people’s support, to the extent that the local authorities, completely ignorant of the consequences, publicly violated their own constitution and issued in their media an official order to prohibit a religious festival.

Next, a profile of Woeser by Tienchi Martin-Liao from Sampsonia Way:

“Life will never be the same after March 14, 2008,” Weise, the Tibetan poet and writer, said sadly. She grew up in the Kham area of Sichuan province, and when she speaks Chinese it has a slight touch of the Sichuan dialect. Weise’s real name is Tsering Woeser, and she is internationally known for her writing. For years she has used her fearless pen to report the situation in Tibet and write about the fate of her countrymen and women. Although granted many international awards, Woeser has never been to a foreign country. She is not allowed to leave China to personally accept the honors. Instead, she has become a kind of hostage like Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, and others.

After March 2008, video cameras were installed on the main street [in Lhasa]. Big Brother is watching with high-tech equipment. The police carry machine guns and truncheons, and in their pocket, a cell phone or iPad. Recently they have taken to carrying fire extinguishers on their backs—not to save lives, but to prevent pictures of the person on fire from being disseminated online. Photos like that damage China’s image.

Lots of the self-immolated people are monks because the “Patriotic movement” has taken over all the monasteries in the Autonomous Region as well as in Kham and Amdo. This political campaign started in 1995, but after 2008 it became unendurable. As part of the movement the Chinese national flag must be hoisted and the portraits of the “big Four”—Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, and Hu Jintao—need to be hung in each temple. Very soon the “big Four” will turn to the “big Five” as Xi Jinping will be added.

Meanwhile the picture of Dalai Lama is forbidden.

Woeser updates her blog every day. One day she posted about the latest self-immolation, a 20 year-old man named Ngawang Norphel. She also wrote about the April 6th double immolation of an uncle and his niece, the 45 year-old Lama, Chugu Tudeng, and the 23 year-old nun, Ani Aze.

“How can you keep all of these terrible stories in your mind and not get ill?” I asked Woeser.

“Maybe I am a Tibetan and a Buddhist,” she muttered.

But the Chinese authority does not think so. In their eyes this delicate woman is dangerous and her blog has been attacked and shut down frequently. Therefore Woeser was told that she had to leave her home in Beijing before the CCP’s 18th Party Congress, although her house is already monitored by police day and night. Woeser obeys the “order” silently. Beijing is not her true home anyway—it is too political and the power struggle inside the Zhongnanhai wall constantly shakes and rattles the city. “I am not unhappy,” she said, “that I can avoid all this and go back to the Tibetan plateau for two months or more.” Well, there are police and soldiers patrolling Lhasa too, but Woeser can stay with her mother and family, and her husband Wang Lixiong can visit her from time to time, bringing the newest political jokes from the capital city.

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Filed under prison, Self-Immolation Crisis, Tibet

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