Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dergé - A Poem by Woeser

Photo of Tsering Dorje taken in Lhasa in 1959

On the 17th anniversary of his death, High Peaks Pure Earth is posting a poem written by Woeser in 1992 dedicated to her father Tsering Dorje.

For my father

This scripture, also, vanished before sunrise on the Lesser Chill.
I plunged my face in my hands and wept.
How could the horse I’d prayed for time and again,
which Fate made mine,
Advance into the hidden temple
As seven bones picked clean?

Where shall a monk’s robe floating in the air come down?
Where shall my father live his life again?
Three sticks of incense, a few burial−mounds…
O Dergé, my ancestral home, I wish it meant nothing!
Would that no road led there!
Aren’t a myriad snowflakes another khata,
An early welcome for this soul
Beyond the paths of men,
Among ghostly deer and white lotus
The perfect liberation?

My brothers and sisters, grieving, lose all care for life.
But O my soul, this side of the great bourn
You might as well wear one−and−twenty rings
When you fall prostrate: a glitter of silver
To light the nether world.

Auspicious streamers waft the hope of better fortune
like a subtle fragrance.
In the next life, we shall know justice together.

The deep red village feels deserted.
A shattered echo brands a falling star
Upon my brow.

This woman whose once−tapering nails are broken,
—Eyes blur as phantoms crowd her mind—
Why is her grief so hard to tell?
Why should the cool tinkling of a bell stir up affections
from the past?
Yet I, I will ride home on the horse of my destiny
Scattering lungta by the fistful toward the sky!

December 25, 1992

Many thanks to Ragged Banner for this translation taken from the poetry volume "Tibet's True Heart".
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Friday, December 19, 2008

"The Sudden Appearance of Advertisements for the Sale of Guns all over Tibet is Not A Joke" by Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a recent blogpost by Woeser that was published on her blog on 15th December 2008. Of course it was Deng Xiaoping who said "to get rich is glorious" and it seems that that saying still applies - and there are so many ways to get rich in China. This year, Tibet has brought unexpected commercial opportunities to astute business minded folks. Never mind the politics, the first example of making money off Tibet was perhaps this story by the BBC in April this year where it was revealed that a factory in Guangdong had been manufacturing Tibetan flags!

A Xinhua report from 23rd March 2008 about
an Amdo Tibetan found being in possession of a rifle and ammunition can be found here. In Tibet, the monasteries have often been the forces behind local-level initiatives to encourage nomads and farmers to hand in weapons in an effort to discourage hunting. This can explain the so-called "weapons caches" that was all over Chinese media reports.

In China, the sort of mini-advertisements that Woeser writes about are commonly sprawled all over walls, pavements, bridges, lamp posts, any surface really. They advertise everything you could possibly need in daily life, from getting your big bottles of drinking water delivered to fake ID vendors to rooms for rent to guns and knockout drops. A quick look at the dictionary tells us that knockout drops are "a solution, usually of chloral hydrate in alcohol, put into a drink surreptitiously in order to render the drinker unconscious". Woeser writes about seeing the mini-ads in Lhasa during her brief trip there in August. Her shortest trip ever to Lhasa actually as she was constantly monitored, detained for eight hours and had no choice but to go back to Beijing. Her detention was subsequently reported by The Times.

"The Sudden Appearance of Advertisements for the
Sale of Guns all over Tibet is Not A Joke"

by Woeser

(13579293739 is a mobile phone number,
the Chinese writing says: knockout drops and guns)

After the “Incident of March 14”, all official media, from Beijing to the various regions in China, exaggerated in the extreme incidents of “ beating, smashing, robbing and burning” in Lhasa and other regions in Tibet by continuously claiming that they had “hunted down and seized” batches and batches of “firearms and ammunition” in many monasteries and tried their best to create evidence that Tibetans had become “terrorists”. As a result, this not only caused people in inland China to change their attitude when talking about “Tibet” but also many mini-advertisements in Amdo, U-tsang and Kham (traditionally, Tibet includes Amdo, U-Tsang, Kham and other regions) have quietly appeared overnight, the content of which is unexpectedly about the sale of real firearms and ammunition!

It is said that these are all mini-advertisements put up by gun dealers from all over China. Since they are “terrorists,” they will be demand for firearms and ammunition. The gun dealers believe the propaganda of the authorities that Tibetans are “terrorists”, to the contrary, they hold that it is just the perfect business opportunity they wished for, thereupon, they have travelled a great distance to come to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where the sky is high and the rivers are long, and have sent out information about supplying firearms to the ubiquitous Tibetan terrorists by putting up mini-advertisements everywhere randomly.

This news, which sounds preposterous, was first told to me by a friend of mine from Amdo. He also said the following with a serious tone: “look, the power of market economy is great after all”.

I originally thought this was a joke made by Tibetans to mock current affairs, but, I did not expect that I would be fortunate enough to witness the joke to become a reality as soon as I arrived at my house in Lhasa. Opposite our house, there is a ‘retirement house’ which is rented to temporary workers from other places. On its walls where many mini-advertisements are repeatedly put up or written, I saw a line of hair-raising black words, which read “13579293739 for knockout drops and guns”.

Look, there are not only knockout drops for sale, but also firearms! Certainly, what they wrote in their ads are all in Chinese characters and they are not necessarily selling firearms specifically to Tibetans. But this was clearly the joke told to me by my Amdo friend. Morals of the world are indeed splendid! What is more splendid is that there was a patrol car parked next to the mini-advertisement!

Later, on the day of 21st August, after I had been taken by the Tibetan and Chinese public security and interrogated for eight hours, to show my gratitude for sending me home, I deliberately told the story to Wangdu, the fat deputy director of the Public Security Bureau. He gave a snort of contempt and said it was a fabricated story and he was about to criticize me for “having an ulterior motive’, so before the night fell on Lhasa, I immediately pointed out the rather eye-catching “knockout drops and guns” opposite my house and said the following words to the deputy director, “ Director, you should track down the gun dealer by following clues. Make a phone call to this phone number. So brazenly selling guns and knockout drops is simply damaging the great stability of Tibet.” All the public security officers were surprised. Ha, they hadn’t thought that even I could “ provide meritorious service by reporting [illegal activities] to the authorities”.

Later I read a blog written by a Han Chinese who went to Tibetan areas as a tourist and wrote that when he travelled to the famous travel destination Shangri-la he also saw the mini-advertisement about “guns” which made him shake with fear. He wrote baffled, “ Ads for the sale of ‘firearms’ in Tibetan areas are just like those of “ the [fake] I.D Group of Southeast Asia” in Beijing and those of “detectives” in Shenzhen, that leave their phone numbers openly and legally. I asked Xiaoxiao to take a photo of the advertisement which had shocked me, and his angle for the photo is rather interesting: next to the advertisement for firearms there is a hotpot restaurant which is permeated with warm-heartedness. The people in the photo sitting there eating hotpot are uniformed police.

Since the advertisements for firearms have suddenly been put up all over Tibet just as the spring wind comes overnight, it cannot be justified if I show indifference to a new thing like this, therefore, I document it as such.

Click here to read the blogpost written by the Chinese tourist who travelled to Shangri-la with a photo of the mini-advertisement.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tibetan NGO Worker Given A Life Sentence

High Peaks Pure Earth has been looking at the news behind the news today. Unfortunately the news is already over five weeks old but behind it is a wealth of information courtesy of the 9th November 2008 edition of the Lhasa Evening News (拉萨晚报 La Sa Wan Bao). Thankfully this one particular news story with the dramatic headline "Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court Pronounced Judgement on Four Criminal Cases of “March 14th Incident” Accused of Endangering National Security" was picked up sooner rather than later by the Dharamsala based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) in yesterday's press release titled "Chinese Court Sentences Seven Tibetans Between 8 Years to Life Imprisonment".

Electronic edition of the Lhasa Evening News

The news behind the news is intriguing to say the least. As usual, there is one scapegoat to deter other people from following their example. As the Chinese saying goes, 欲加之罪,何患无辞 (yùjiāzhīzuì, héhuànwúcí which roughly means that if you are out to condemn someone, you can always trump up a charge). In this case, the scapegoat goes by the name of Wangdu, a former Jokhang monk in his 40s. A former political prisoner, Wangdu had been working as an HIV/AIDS activist and was employed by the Australian medical research and public health NGO the Burnet Institute. An earlier press release from TCHRD tells us that Wangdu disappeared in Lhasa on 14th March 2008. Despite nine months having passed since then, the Burnet Institute's website poignantly still lists Wangdu as a staff member. Maybe they were waiting for his return. His disappearance had not gone entirely unnoticed, on the back of TCHRD's press release, his case was taken up as an urgent action by the Dublin based human rights group Frontline Defenders. For curious High Peaks Pure Earth readers who want to know all there is to know about Wangdu, his record number is 2004-00243 in the Congressional - Executive Commission On China's Political Prisoner Database. Look him up.

Wangdu (left) and colleague at an HIV/AIDS awareness stall in Lhasa
Photo: TCHRD

As Wangdu was charged on the grounds of "espionage", the people he allegedly gathered to conspire with him were duly punished including Migmar Dhondup, Phuntsok Dorjee and Tsewang Dorjee who received sentences of 14, 9 and 8 years respectively. The TCHRD press release left out some crucial information that was contained in the Lhasa Evening News. Namely that two Tibetans were charged with conspiring with Tibetan NGOs, Beijing's favourite scapegoat after the Dalai Clique, the Tibetan Youth Congress - as chronicled earlier in a previous post and this time a new one, a Dharamsala based NGO called Gu Chu Sum that helps Tibetan ex-political prisoners.

Here is the full High Peaks Pure Earth translation of the Lhasa Evening News article:

Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court Pronounced Judgement on Four Criminal Cases of “March 14th Incident” Accused of Endangering National Security

Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court of Tibet, in accordance with the law, recently held a public trial on four criminal cases of the “March 14th Incident” accused of endangering national security and announced the judgement publicly. Seven defendants, including Wangdu (Wangdui 旺堆) and others, have been held criminally responsible in accordance with the law.

A Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court spokesman said that the facts of crimes of the above-mentioned four criminal cases are clear, and its evidence is irrefutable and ample. All these have fully proved that the “March 14th Incident”, the serious and violent incidents that occurred in Lhasa and other areas, was well planned by the Dalai Clique and its "Tibetan independence" separatist forces, and was deliberately created after they had colluded with “Tibetan Independence” elements within Tibet in a well organized and pre-meditated manner.

After Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court held the trial, it ascertained that the defendant Wangdu received the assignments from the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique, and set up an underground intelligence network in Lhasa. He made a great number of copies of a CD, the contents of which were inciting to split the country, and leaflets inciting to hold a "People's Uprising in Tibet” given to him by the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique, then, he, together with the defendant Migmar Dhondup (Mima Dunzhu 米玛顿珠), distributed them in Tibet. In addition, right before and after the “March 14th Incident”, they also collected information concerning national security and interests and provided this to the Dalai Clique. Their actions violated the 110th article of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China [1], constituting the crime of espionage. The defendants Phuntsok Dorjee (Pingcuo Duoji 平措多吉) and the defendant Tsewang Dorjee (Ciwan Duoji 次旺多吉) collected information concerning national security and interests and they provided it to organizations outside of China through Wangdu. Their actions violated the 111th article of the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China [2], constituting the crime of providing intelligence illegally to organisations outside of China. Among the afore-mentioned defendants, Wangdu and Phuntsok Dorjee are recidivists, thus, in accordance with the law, they should be punished severely. On October 27th, Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court sentenced, in accordance with the law, defendant Wangdu to life imprisonment and deprived of political rights for life for the crime of espionage, defendant Migmar Dhondup to 14 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of espionage, defendant Phuntsok Dorjee to 9-year imprisonment with deprivation of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China and Tsewang Dorjee to 8 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China.

The defendant Sonam Dakpa (Suolang Zaba 索朗扎巴) joined the "Tibetan Youth Congress" of the Dalai clique and accepted assignments from this organization. Right before and after the "March 14th Incident" in Lhasa, he had collected a great amount of intelligence concerning national security and interests and had submitted this to the organisation. His actions violated the 111th article of the Criminal Code of the People's Republic of China, constituting the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China. On October 27th, the Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court, in accordance with the law, sentenced Sonam Dakpa to 10 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China.

The defendant Yeshi Choedon (Yixi Quzhen 益西曲珍)accepted assignments from the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique and also received funds from the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique. She provided intelligence and information endangering national security and interests to the “Public Security Department” of the Dalai Clique. Her actions violated the 110th article of the Criminal Code of the People's Republic of China, constituting the crime of espionage. On November 7th, Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court sentenced the defendant Yeshi Choedon to 15 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of espionage.

The defendant Sonam Tseten (Suolang Cidian 索朗次点) accepted assignments from the separatist organisation "Gu Chu Sum". He collected a great amount of intelligence concerning national security and interests and provided it to the afore-mentioned organisation. His actions have violated the 111th article of the Criminal Code of the People's Republic of China, constituting the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China. On November 7th, the Lhasa City Intermediate People's Court, in accordance with the law, sentenced Sonam Tseten to 10 years in prison and deprived of political rights for 5 years for the crime of illegally providing intelligence to organisations outside of China.

[1] Article 110 covers the crime of espionage dealt with in Article 97 of the 1979 law. While the sentencing range stays the same as before - three years to life imprisonment, or death - the former distinction between "agents" (tewu, which used to be reserved for Kuomintang spies from Taiwan) and "spies" (jiandie, denoting mainly non-Chinese agents) has now been dropped, and the latter term is used throughout. The new article includes two main categories of offense: "Joining an espionage organization or an accepting assignment from an espionage organization or its representative" in 110(1) and "identifying bombardment targets for an enemy" in 110(2). It is unclear from this article that those who carry out such "assignments" are required to be aware they are doing so for an entity identified by the authorities as a "spy organization."

In practice, "espionage" is a highly elastic term in Chinese criminal law. For example, in unconnected cases, Hada and Ngawang Choepel were accused of this offense, yet no evidence was ever presented to show that either had access to any privileged information or that they passed anything resembling "intelligence" to any "spy organization." Both are from sensitive ethnic minority regions - Inner Mongolia and Tibet - and both were concerned about the preservation of their respective cultures. And they received harsh sentences: 15 years in prison for Hada, 18 for Ngawang Choepel.

[2] Article 111 incorporates into the Criminal Code the main principles of the State Secrets Law and the 1988 Supplementary Regulations of the NPC Standing Committee on the Punishment of Crimes Involving Leaking State Secrets regarding the provision of secret material to parties outside China. Article 111 defines the offense as: "Stealing, prying into, purchasing or illegally providing state secrets or intelligence for institutions, organizations and individuals outside the country." While this generally mirrors the formulation of Article 32 of the State Secrets Law, the vague term "intelligence" (qingbao), which does not appear in that law, has been added, thus expanding the scope of materials covered beyond documents classified in accordance with the formal system it established. The full range of penalties is available for this crime, from probation to life imprisonment, or death.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

"An Owner and His Pet - Tibetan/Han Relations" by Woeser

This new translation by High Peaks Pure Earth of a blogpost by Woeser from 24th June 2008 focuses on Chinese/Tibetan relations and was written at the height of unrest and tensions that had started in Lhasa on March 10th. It was from 14th March this year that the Han fascination with all things Tibet suddenly stopped, a phenomenon that Woeser examines below. The "Tibetan Incident" that Woeser refers to are the violent incidents that took place in Lhasa on 14th March, footage of which was constantly played on Chinese State TV and news for months and popularly known in China as 3.14 (san yao si).

Tibetans, even those living in Beijing - far away from the Tibetan plateau - felt the difference in their treatment and standing in society. Tibetans were portrayed as violent and out for blood, the Dalai Lama was blamed for the unrest and accused of sabotaging the Olympics and the Tibetan Youth Congress was described by China as "a terror group worse than Bin Laden's".
By the way, for a truly mind-boggling analysis of the Tibetan Youth Congress, High Peaks Pure Earth recommends this China Daily article!

In her post, Woeser has also documented the fad amongst the Chinese nouveau riche of keeping Tibetan mastiffs as pets. Numerous Chinese websites extol the virtues of the Tibetan mastiff that fetch prices of up to £250,000. For American readers, that is almost half a million dollars! This may be an unexplored export commodity for Tibetan nomads and a possible future development programme for the plateau - thus solving the grasslands degradation problem! At the height of its fashion, The Times of London reported on this phenomenon.

The protests in Tibet and international outcry, the anger and humiliation felt by the Chinese at the Olympic Torch Relay beset by protestors all over the world along with the subsequent anti-CNN and anti-French sentiments in China all sparked a new wave of nationalistic feelings amongst Chinese citizens.
In this atmosphere, Woeser travelled to Kham and Amdo and wrote this post on the road in Kunming, Yunnan Province, on 2nd June. More anecdotes about being Tibetan in China by Woeser have been translated into English by Ragged Banner and can be found here.

"An Owner and His Pet - Tibetan/Han Relations"

In the aftermath of the “Tibetan Incident” in March this year, one of the most significant changes has been the relationship between the Han and Tibetan ethnic groups, in other words the question of the status of Tibetans in China.

It can be said that relations between Hans – who make up the majority of Chinese society - and Tibetans have never been so clearly revealed than after the "Tibetan Incident" last March. In the past, it was as though a veil separated the two and this not only made thing unclear but also produced a very beautiful effect similar to looking at a flower through the fog. Moreover, many Tibetans used to sing their own praises and believed that amongst the 55 minorities in China, their status was the highest, their minority was the one most likeable to the Han people, and they in particular meant much more to Chinese people than Uighur people. Tibetan reincarnated lamas and Tibetan monks, for instance, often come and go between Tibetan and Han areas, have numerous Han disciples and feel proud to serve as Hans’ Lamas. However, among the Chinese people there are many so-called “Tibet fans” and some of them call themselves "drifters in Tibet". Hardly have they spent a few years in Tibet that they find life has no taste. In 2006 when the train entered Lhasa, it seemed that the whole of China started feeling excited about the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, and nearly everyone wanted to climb to the Potala. It can be said that it has been a very long time since Hans and Tibetans, I mean the relationship between the common people of the two people, have been permeated by tender feelings that cannot endure the truth.

And after the events in Tibet last March, this veil was lifted. It turns out what many of the Tibetans are satisfied with is just their status of finding favour with the Han among the fifty-five ethnic minorities. Many Han people, be it their love for Tibetans before the events or their hate for Tibetans after the events, have clearly shown that the feelings they nurtured were similar to the feelings of an owner towards its pet. This can be compared to the Tibetan mastiff, the most famous animal living on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. It seems so rare and so valuable that some Chinese tycoons or those who pose as lovers of culture spend vast amounts of money in a rivalry to purchase the mastiff which they also have to feed with lots of meat every day. But one day, the Tibetan mastiff all of a sudden gets angry and bites the person who has become its owner, and the animal is beaten to death on the spot. Chinese newspapers often relate this kind of story. And it perfectly illustrates the relationship between Tibetans and Chinese. This is actually the real and fundamental relations between ethnic groups in Chinese society. If Tibetans are content with being pets, the Han people will maintain the tender feelings they once had towards Tibetans; and just like they are willing to feed cats or dog they like, those Hans will keep on “loving” Tibet. But human beings are not pets: pets do not have a volition of ego, whereas human beings do. Tibetans do not want to be pets, for the consequence of being a pet involves the loss of self, and ultimately the loss of Tibet. Therefore, as long as Tibetans are not content with being pets, or not content with accepting their fate of being pets, and bravely fight for the their being human beings and being Tibetans, then this is what brings trouble. In fact, trouble is already there; Tibetans are sometimes arrested, detained, tortured or even massacred. These are punishments inflicted by the country’s regime. To the Han people who evolve in the non-government sphere, the fact that some Han people changed sides so quickly allowed the truth to surface. And the truth is that Tibetans cannot act as humans. As soon as they do, they are exposed to fatal risks.

Actually, Uighur people obtained the same kind of result a long time ago. The bottom line is that Tibetans and Uighurs are the same: they have not been able to secure a status equal to the Hans in a Chinese society mostly made up of Hans. And this is what was revealed through the events that unfolded last March in Tibet. For many simple-minded and easily satisfied Tibetans, this was like a hit in the face or from another angle, a very significant lesson.

Kunming, 2nd June 2008
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Charter 08

Liu Xiaobo

The biggest China news story at the moment is “Charter 08”, a document signed by over three hundred prominent Chinese citizens all united in their calling on reform for the political system in China. As Perry Link, who translated the Charter into English, tells us, Charter 08 “was conceived and written in conscious admiration of the founding of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, where, in January 1977, ‘more than two hundred Czech and Slovak intellectuals formed a loose, informal, and open association of people…united by the will to strive individually and collectively for respect for human and civil rights in our country and throughout the world.’” Václav Havel was one of the key figures behind Charter 77 and has been a long-time supporter of Tibet and a symbol of freedom in his own right. The two recently met in Prague where Havel said "I dare say we have become good friends". Read Havel's editorial in the Wall Street Journal in support of Liu Xiaobo here.

Chinese intellectuals and liberal thinkers are fond of writing this kind of charter or petition to their government. Liu Xiaobo, a high-profile intellectual, writer and activist, was sentenced to three years in labour camp on 30th September 1996, for writing a joint letter addressed to China’s President Jiang Zemin supporting Tibetan self-determination and also calling for dialogue with the Dalai Lama. He was the first Chinese person to be sentenced for speaking up for Tibet.

Liu Xiaobo and Zhang Zuhua – both of whom were detained by police in Beijing on 8th December - spearheaded this particular Charter 08 initiative. Liu Xiaobo, alongside Wang Lixiong, was also a crucial figure behind this year’s “Twelve Suggestions for Dealing with the Tibetan Situation” which High Peaks Pure Earth had translated into English and published by the New York Review of Books. It is interesting to note that there are overlaps between the signatories of both documents, at least 28 names signed both “Charter 08” and “Twelve Suggestions”. Only one Tibetan, however, has signed “Charter 08” and that is Beijing based poet and blogger Woeser who just days ago on her blog wrote a touching tribute to Liu Xiaobo. Liu Xiaobo still remains in police custody.

Signatories of both “Charter 08” and “12 Suggestions…”:

Liu Xiaobo, (Beijing, writer)

Zhang Zuhua , (Beijing, Constitutional Scholar)

Yu Haocheng (Beijing, Legal Scholar)

Ding Ziling (Beijing, Professor)

Jiang Peikun (Beijing, Professor)

Sun Wenguang (Shandong, Professor)

Ran Yunfei (Sichuan, Scholar)

Pu Zhiqiang (Beijing, Lawyer)

Liao Yiwu (Sichuan, Writer)

Jiang Qisheng (Beijing, Scholar)

Zhang Xianling (Beijing, Engineer)

Wang Debang (Beijing, Writer)

Zhao Dagong (Shenzhen, Writer)

Jiang Danwen (Shanghai, Writer)

Wen Kejian (Zhejiang, Scholar)

Tian Yongde (Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Human Rights Defender)

Zan Aizong (Zhejiang, Journalist)

Liu Yiming (Hubei, Freelance Writer)

Che Hongnian (Shandong, Freelance Writer)

Zhang Jiankang (Shaanxi, Legal Professional)

Zhang Xianyang (Beijing, Ideologist)

Ye Xiaogang (Zhejiang, Retired University Faculty Member)

Yu Meisun (Beijing, Legal Professional)

Li Changyu (Shandong, Teacher)

Shi Ruoping (Shandong, Professor)

Wan Yanhai (Beijing, Public Health Expert)

Wang Xiaoshan (Beijing, Media Worker)

Ouyang Yi (Sichuan, Human Rights Defender)
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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Paljor Norbu, 81, Sentenced to 7 Years

A day ahead of President Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Human Rights Watch sent out a press release focusing on the detention and recent sentencing of 81 year old Lhasa native, Paljor Norbu (Dpal ’byor nor bu, private photo above), a printer by profession, to 7 years in prison for allegedly printing "prohibited material". Also mentioned in the press release were two cases that will be known to regular High Peaks Pure Earth readers, Jamyang Kyi’s good friend Norzin Wangmo and Labrang monk Jigme who still hasn’t been heard from since he was arrested just over a month ago.

Since the March protests, the two major international human rights organisations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been largely silent. In April, Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal for Jamyang Kyi and this is also the first appeal since then that Human Rights Watch have issued that focuses on Tibet.

Paljor Norbu ran a traditional Tibetan printing house, using woodblocks to print lungta (rlung ta) and religious texts known as (chos sku'i ring bsrel) which are sacred writings used for the consecration (rab gnas) of religious artworks. The picture below from Paljor Norbu's printing house shows rolls of text that are lodged inside newly consecrated religious statues. Human Rights Watch calls Paljor Norbu a “prominent Tibetan cultural figure”. He had been involved in printing since the age of 11 when he started an apprenticeship with his Uncle. No stranger to political climate changes, he had been imprisoned after the 1959 uprising as he was already considered a “rebellious person” for having been a printer under the direct employment of the Tibetan government (through the Guild at the time).

(Paljor Norbu's printing house, private photo)

Before 1959, apart from his regular work, he also went to Drepung Gomang to print texts from wooden blocks stored there, as well as Tashilhunpo and Narthang Monasteries. In Narthang, he supervised the printing of one set of the 224-volumes of the famous Narthang Tengyur (Snar thang Bstan ’gyur), an order from the Fifth Jamyang Shepa (1916-1947), the famous head of Labrang Monastery and book collector. It took him ten trips from Lhasa to Narthang to supervise the process.

Those who know him describe Paljor Norbu as a “very modest, quiet person” and he is widely considered as an elder by other printers in Lhasa, and is therefore widely respected. The Human Rights Watch press release mentions that his family-run printing press has been closed down since his detention.
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Monday, December 1, 2008

A Proposal to Establish A Tibetan Language Primary School in Xining

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a revealing blogpost written by someone calling themselves "The Messenger of the Land of Snow" (Chinese: 雪域使者 xueyu shizhe) and posted on their blog on 25th November 2008. Interestingly, the petition begins by pointing out that a Tibetan language school existed in Xining even during the rule of Ma Bufang and the Guomindang. Isn't the Communist Party supposed to be more enlightened in promoting the "equality of nationalities"?

A Proposal to Establish A Tibetan Language Primary School

At the beginning of 2008, the Tibetan residents of Xining City (Tibetan: zi ling) submitted a proposal entitled “A Proposal To Establish A Tibetan Language Primary School” to the First Session of the Tenth Meeting of Qinghai Provincial Political Consultative Conference and the First Session of the Eleventh Meeting of Qinghai Provincial People’s Congress via members of the Political Consultative Conference and members of the People’s Congress. But only now did they receive a response. In response to proposals No. 112 and No. 138 concerning the establishment of a Tibetan language primary school in Xining City, the Xining Municipal People’s Government replied that “at present, Xining City seriously lacks educational resources and the issues of large classes and large schools have not been completely solved yet. The current educational resources of Xining city are only able to address the issue of attending school for students belonging to the phase of compulsory education. Furthermore, Tibetan residents in Xining are rather scattered, thus, the government is not able to provide qualified teachers or funds to set up a Tibetan school. At present, the condition to build a Tibetan school has not matured yet, and it is temporarily impossible for us to achieve the goal”. In the column “a further request” attached to the appendix entitled “Survey Questions Concerning the Proposal”, the initiator of the proposal frankly wrote his opinion, expressing his firm belief in realizing his wish: “As always, we strongly demand the government to conform with public opinion and establish a Tibetan language school in Xining City!”

(The blog author’s comment: for the sake of political stability and sustainable development of a harmonious society, the government should respect popular will and sincerely and carefully consider the basic cultural demand of the minority nationalities).

Original Text of the Proposal:

A Proposal to Establish A Tibetan Language Primary School

For many years, Tibetan residents in Xining City, through various means including such channels as the proposals submitted by the Political Consultative Conference, have demanded
the relevant departments of the government to actively co-ordinate and implement the Qinghai Provincial Government’s order to establish a Mongolian and Tibetan language school in Xining, and establish a Tibetan language primary school with compulsory education system where the study mainly focuses on the Tibetan language in Xining. But this wish has never been realized. Recently we learned from the media that Xining city is carrying out large-scale integration and adjustment to educational resources. However, it is a pity that the Xining City Tibetan Language School, for which many Tibetan residents have petitioned for many years, has still not been put on the agenda of the government, thus, we have to report to you again in this way. We hope the issue can be solved appropriately so as to satisfy the right to receive education of around 4,000 school-age children who are descendants of approximately 20,000 Tibetans in Xining city, and to ensure the compulsory education system will reflect the rights of equality among nationalities and among languages.

To this end, we give the following reasons:
  1. The Tibetan education of the earlier period in Xining city started during the Republican Period. In 1933 (the 22nd year of the Republican Period), the Tibetan and Mongolian Upper Strata members Lobsang Jamcho (blo bzang ‘jam chos, Tian En-yu) and A Fushou advocated establishing the Association of Promoting Mongolian and Tibetan Culture in Qinghai and in 1934 the Mongolian and Tibetan Primary School, as well as the Mongolian and Tibetan Middle School, were established. While Ma Bufang was the Director of the association and was concurrently the principal of the schools, Lobsang Jamchu was a member of the board of directors of the association and the deputy principal. Both schools offered the Tibetan language and culture courses. In 1939 Sangre Gyatso also came to Xining to be the Tibetan language teacher and was responsible for compiling the textbooks. Later, Sangre was the Director of the Education Bureau of Qinghai province and held other positions. There were over 600 students at the peak of the school. Many Tibetan and Mongolian cadres right after the liberation, including many old cadres alive now, were trained in this school.

  2. Social development has provided a good basis for solving the problem of Tibetan education and the Qinghai Provincial Government has long realized the necessity of establishing a Tibetan language school in Xining city. The Qinghai Provincial Government has always adhered to the Marxist principle of the equality of languages, ensuring the freedom of study, using and developing the minority nationality languages, and fully taking into consideration the importance and urgency of Tibetan language education in the Xining area. It has studied and weighed the situation, and it is far-sighted that in the last century it made the decision to set up a nationality language school in Xining. It proposed that the Nationality Committee of Qinghai Province, the Education Committee of Qinghai Province and the Xining Municipal Government should actively create conditions so as to jointly establish a 12-year Mongolian and Tibetan school (Document No. 5 issued by Qinghai Province in 1997 and document No. 26 issued by Qinghai Provincial Office in 1998). But due to various reasons, the order of Qinghai Province has not been carried out. With the strong demand of Tibetan compatriots in Xining City, some educational institutions in Xining City once tried to set up schools on their own, or tried to satisfy the children’s need for the education in the mother tongue through training at weekends. But because of various reasons, including the institutions not being run smoothly, insufficient funds, bad management or the system of moving on to the next level of schooling, it is unavoidable for the various schools or projects that they have tragically ended prematurely. In response to the request of members of the Qinghai Tibetan Research Institute, the institute once attempted to establish a nine-year Tibetan language school non-governmentally but we do not know the reason why it has not received permission from the Xining Municipal Education Bureau.

  3. The Tibetan population in Xining city has increased drastically in the recent years and there are more and more Tibetans whose first language (mother tongue) and whose main language of communication is Tibetan, thus, there is an acute conflict between the increase of the Tibetan population and the fact that the education of the Tibetan children in their mother tongue is not guaranteed. At present there are approximately 200,000 Tibetans in Xining city and if we count at a ratio of 1,536 pupils or middle school students for every 10,000 people, there should be over 30,720 pupils and middle school students. If we estimate that over 60% of the Tibetan population has Tibetan as their first language, then there would be over 10,000 Tibetan children whose first language is Tibetan. In addition, there are another 40,000 Tibetans, including cadres who retired with special honors or who retired and are living in Xining city, traders and other temporary residents, the floating population and peasant workers. It is a conservative estimation that the number of Tibetan children alone reaches over 10,000. Therefore the Xining area has the characteristic that the Tibetan population lives in a comparatively concentrated area and there are many school-age children. In the entire Xining area, except the Tibetan language school in Sanmenxia area of Datong (gser khog) and Qiongjia area of Huangzhong (ru shar rdzong) county respectively, most urban communities or villages do not have Tibetan language schools, furthermore, there is not one Tibetan language school higher than primary school level. But the Tibetan population in Xining city has continuously increased, and the population of temporary residents and the floating population of farmers and nomads have increased sharply. In terms of the population, the Tibetan population in Xining City far exceeds that of Haibei (mtsho byang) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Haixi (mtsho nub) Mongolian and Tibetan Prefecture. The right of many Tibetan children to receive education in their mother tongue has not been guaranteed. Meanwhile, in Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, all Tibetan prefectures and their subordinating counties have built quarters for retired cadres but there is no condition to have Tibetan language education inside and outside the community. The lack of nationality education, especially the fundamental education of Tibetan language, has become an increasingly prominent problem in Tibetan society and it also has an impact on the great situation of the unity, progress and harmony among nationalities. Only if a Tibetan language primary school with compulsory education system is to be established in the capital Xining, can the acute conflict between the expectation of the basic education for the urban Tibetan population and the lack of the Tibetan language education be solved.

  4. At present, Xining City definitely has the ability to invest in setting up a Tibetan language primary school so as to satisfy the Tibetans’ need for basic education. Before the reform and opening to the outside world, or even a few years ago, Xining City and even the entire province was always in a comparatively backward state with an under-developed economy, and the investment in public facilities and projects was rather limited. In addition, it also lacked funds and ability to solve all the problems concerning Tibetan education in the urban area. With the development and improvement of the society, the social economy of the entire province and the entire city has continuously developed, and Xining City’s investment in the basic education has continuously risen, for instance, annual investment in the educational undertakings in 2005 reached 2,031,320,000 Yuan. But up to now, Xining City government has not built or does not have the intention to set up a Tibetan language school starting from primary school in Xining. The plan to build a Tibetan language school has never been placed on the agenda of the various governments and we can not help but view this as a regrettable matter! From the perspective of the degree of the social economic development and the educational investment, the condition for Xining City to completely solve the problem of basic education for Tibetans and to guarantee the Tibetans’ right to receive education has fully ripened. It has sufficient ability to do so, and measures should be taken.

  5. Basic Tibetan education is needed to improve the thinking ability of Tibetan children, to improve the overall quality and to ensure social harmony. Language is the important marker for a nationality which reflects the spirit of a nationality. Meanwhile, besides universal principles, language also has evident national characteristics, and it is a main vehicle for reflecting national culture. The right to receive language education is one of the basic rights for survival and development. In theory, offering Tibetan language courses targeted at the Tibetan children whose mother tongue is Tibetan, is closely related to the improvement of the cultural quality of all the people and a reflection of the degree of civilization of a society. It is also beneficial to the full development of the logical thinking of Tibetan children, the effective improvement of their cognitive ability and it is also helpful for one to learn the second language, Chinese, and foreign languages. In any country, the issue concerning one’s right to the education of the nationality language is related to the inheritance and continuity of the national tradition and the national culture, and any nationality has the right to receive education in one’s national language. Judging from the overall national trend, The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture has implemented the national education policy, which emphasizes both Korean, Chinese, and foreign languages and Inner Mongolia has also maintained that “none of the mother tongues, Chinese or English is dispensable”. They have all provided valuable experiences for the development of national education and the improvement of the overall quality. However, except Sanmenxia primary school of Datong County and some primary schools in the villages of Qiongjia Township have Tibetan language classes, so far none of the district or counties under the jurisdiction of Xining County has a Tibetan language school which conforms to the Tibetan children’s mother tongue and satisfies their need to learn culture. The issue concerning over 10,000 Tibetan children receiving education in their mother tongue has become a social problem which worries most people. We propose to establish Tibetan language schools targeting the city and its surrounding areas, to improve the comparatively more advanced mother tongue education system within the region, to scientifically foster and develop the children’s language and thinking. We also advocate to fully improve the children’s level of intelligence, to strengthen national unity and to promote the goal of social harmony through ensuring the harmony of languages.
We sincerely hope you will formally respond to our suggestions!
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Is it A Hotel or Is it A Temple?" by Woeser

The following blog post was originally written for Radio Free Asia by Woeser and published on her blog on August 22nd 2007. For High Peaks Pure Earth readers who are curious about Laurence J. Brahm, read about his books on China Tibet Information Center's website and more about him on China Today's website.

Following the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the House of Shambhala hotel has opened as befitting the times. It is situated in Lhasa’s old Barkhor district in the middle of a residential area, the area is mostly made up of new houses replacing old ones.

House of Shambhala is a kind of not big but very exquisite boutique hotel and inside, the construction imitates Tibetan courtyard-style architecture.

The hotel also emphasises “Tibetan culture” and it is apparent that the "Yarlu Tsangpo Hotel", which is like an upstart, can not be comparable to the House of Shambhala. The latter looks much more authentic, especially in the sense that much attention was put into details, as is the case of the splendid designs of Tibetan-style window frames, the carved stone images or carved scriptures which are placed on the walls, or pleasantly asymmetrical Tsatsas (miniature statues) etc. All this makes the House of Shambhala the most authentic Tibetan hotel.

However, the problem lies in the fact that its appearance highly resembles a temple. Hotels are not temples, just like hotels are neither Christian churches nor mosques. Everything in the world originally has its proper place, if there is a tendency insistently to make hotels look like temples then is this not a kind of ignorance and arbitrariness? At the House of Shambhala, I saw an old Tibetan Buddhist pilgrim mistake the place for a temple, entering whilst respectfully bowing her head, turning the tall prayer wheels at the door of the hotel with her hands, her mouth mumbling away but she quickly stopped to look around the courtyard in bewilderment, her face expressing confusion, not knowing what to do, as she turned around and ran away.

I still to this day remember the expression on her face, which is bewilderment as a result of one’s pious aspirations have not been settled but does not know where to place them.

House of Shambhala was opened by an American called Laurence J. Brahm (Chinese name: 龙安志, Long Anzhi), who is well-known in Lhasa now. He is not only a very successful western businessman in China, but also a writer who has written a dozen books about China. And what the Chinese government likes most about him is that he often writes for English publication articles in which the fundamentals are very similar to those of the People’s Daily. Recently, he nurtured a keen interest for Tibet, and wrote several books whose main topic is Tibetan culture. His documentaries have been used by the Chinese government as a propaganda tool, he shakes hands with government officials and was the first foreign disciple of the CCP’s Panchen Lama. It’s even said that his son recently became a tulku (reincarnated Lama) at a Tibetan monastery overseas.

Visiting his hotel, you would note that he uses the concept of Shambhala to build a new Tibet which has nothing to do with Tibet as it is known now. ‘Shambhala’ is originally an ideal world of Tibetan buddhism but he turns the concept into a hotel; therefore he intentionally has the hotel look like a temple in order to provide strangers with the feeling that they are staying in a ‘harmonious Tibet’, without suffering or risk. It does not matter much if this ‘harmonious Tibet’ only is an imitation or legend, however, books written by him are displayed in every room. In his books, he skilfully carries out misinterpretations about Tibet today which lead to spreading misconceptions. The aim is to ingratiate himself to the ruler of this piece of land. Tibet in fact has been turned into a symbol of consumerism; it is more a tool for him to earn more money. He is a true cultural imperialist. Tibet represents not only a money-making tool but also a garden and a stage on which to fulfil his imperialist interest.

I once saw Laurence J. Brahm at Lhasa’s Gendun Choephel Gallery at a lecture about art. There were painters, art lovers and foreigners studying Tibetan culture present. The little room was completely full. Amid the lecture, a foreigner wearing elegant clothes, sunglasses, and latching a big dog as white as his hair suddenly appeared and quickly disappeared after saying goodbye in a very fluent Beijing-accented Chinese. The entire process was carried out in a very theatrical, exaggerated and artificial way.

A hotel resembling a temple - House of Shambhala

Laurence J. Brahm
(in the centre, the silver-haired man wearing sunglasses)

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Letters to Norzin Wangmo by Jamyang Kyi

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated two blog posts by Jamyang Kyi regarding her friend Norzin Wangmo (Nor ‘dzin dbang mo). The first post was written on 26th June 2008, where Jamyang Kyi is wondering what has happened to her friend and where she voices her sadness of not knowing.

In the second post on 3rd November 2008 ( note that this post has since been removed, see picture above for how it looked), Jamyang Kyi learns that her friend has been sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Jamyang Kyi's post is interesting in many ways, it not only reveals names of Tibetan people who have been detained but she tells us that another Tibetan named Go Sherab Gyatso (sGo she rab rgya tsho) has gone missing, that his phone no longer works and also wonders what has happened to another blogger called Tsawa Da nyuk (Tsha ba mda’ smyug), who hasn’t posted since the troubles began.

What is most interesting is the human side of the story, here a woman is longing for news of her friends with apprehension and sadness. The way in which Jamyang Kyi is speaking to her friend in the blog is moving and we can sense the tragedy of the story, a bright and young child left behind and youth wasted in the darkness of a prison cell. The protests in Tibet destroyed the lives of so many bright people who were at the forefront of cultural activism in Tibet. It is apparent that Jamyang Kyi and Norzin Wangmo are close friends who share mutual interests in literature and writing. It appears that Norzin Wangmo is also a writer and whilst in detention her articles titled Games of Politics (chabs kyi rtse mo’i sko ra) was published in the magazine "Popular Arts" (Mang tshogs sgyu rtsal). In the second post, Jamyang Kyi posts additional information about Norzin Wangmo and the charges made against her.

According to Jamyang Kyi, Norzin Wangmo was charged with sending emails (dra thog) and making phone calls abroad. Norzin Wangmo is from Ngapa Trochu County (rNga ba Khru chu Dzong, Heishui 黑水县). She is thirty years old and worked at the Judicial Bureau of Trochu County (Khru chu Dzong khrim ‘dzin chu, 黑水县司法局).

Here we have translated Jamyang Kyi’s two blog posts from the original Tibetan.
For more background information on Jamyang Kyi please see the previous post on High Peaks Pure Earth called "They...".

*19th November 2008 update: Since posting the translations, High Peaks Pure Earth received the following photo of Norzin Wangmo:

"To Radiant Norzin Wangmo la" by Jamyang Kyi
26th June 2008

Dearest friend,

When I came out of that darkly lit cell, you certainly must have been taken to a similar house. I pray to the Three Jewels and wait for the word of your release. My hopes linger from day to day and it has been two months of waiting. Yet, as time passes, I haven’t heard a sound about you.

The feeling of longing fills me with nothing but sadness. Today, it is raining and the weather is filled with gloom as I look at the peak of greenish hills from the government office. Around this time last year, didn’t we go over those hills with our children to have a picnic? That day we talked and talked about future aspirations and dreams in our hearts. You said to me that you were happy that you had met me. As for me, I am even more elated to have met you. You are one of few women with dignity and self-respect that I have met in my life. To me, that is more precious than a diamond. I know you very well. From my own experience I can assume that in the last two months they have been endlessly tormenting you mentally and physically.

Dear friend, when I think about the mental suffering you might be going through, my heart is torn apart. The word is that you have been taken to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. Till now we have kept the news of your situation from your son. In truth, where can you be? Even though you are in my mind every single day, you haven’t come into my dreams even once.

My book on women that you diligently helped me to revise has finally been published. When the book arrived in Xining, that day was filled with sadness for me. You and Dorje Tsering, who helped me to revise the book, are now locked up separately in dark places. You phoned me a few times worrying about the delay in publication of my book. This is a memory that you left behind for me. Your article titled the Game of Politics has already been published in “Popular Arts” (Mang tshogs sgyu rtsal).

Go Sherab Gyatso (sGo she rab rgya tsho), the one you were enquiring about, was arrested a few months earlier. His phone has been cut off and we have no idea about his whereabouts. When people like you have disappeared so suddenly, one after another, I can do nothing but live helplessly and hope day by day. Tonight my heart is aching with sadness and the thoughts of all of you become stronger.

"Norzin Wangmo la..." by Jamyang Kyi
3rd November 2008

After 7 months of imprisonment and repeated torture inflicted on you, all this time I hoped that they might someday release you. And this wish that I cradled brought all forms and shapes of suffering to me. Last night I met with one of your colleagues and we talked about if there was any way to secure your release. I had my hopes high then.

But unfortunately today (November 3rd, 2008), around 12 noon, I heard that you are sentenced to 5 years. I also heard that after some time you will be moved to one of the internal prisons and for the next ten days, it seems that they will not let your relatives visit you. You are in your thirties, the prime of your life, and this is also an important stage in your son’s upbringing where your advice and guidance are crucial.

For the truth you, and many other heroes like you, had to separate from your parents, partners, and walk alone leaving your children in a destitute state. Five years is one thousand eight hundred and twenty five days. Forty three thousand eight hundred hours. How sad it is to spend the prime of one’s life within these dark walls of prison? Even though you can take pride in the sacrifice and courage you exhibited, you are also well aware that the reality behind this name and courage lies in the unspeakable ocean of suffering. These experiences can hinder your growth, love and dreams.

One thing that relieves my heart is when I heard that you were set and determined to face the challenges that lies ahead. The most difficult challenge must be the thought of separation from your bright son Dhondup Dorje (Don grub rdo rje). If the two of you consent, I have a genuine wish to raise Dhondup Dorje like my own son. Since you have the courage to go to prison for the sake of truth, likewise your son cannot be just an ordinary boy. I have always held and treasured Tibetans like you in the depth of my heart.

Tsawa Danyuk, (tsha ba mda’ smyug) the bright young man from Kham hasn’t participated in the blog for a long period of time. I have been cautious and worried these days thinking if anything has happened to him. If anyone knows anything, it is my hope that it will be brought to the attention of people.

I will consider today as an important day in my mind. Dear brave friend, Norzin Wangmo, you are close to my heart. I, truly, am helpless and I have only few tears to see you off.

An additional matter is that I would like to ask whether I should let your son Dhondup Dorje know about your imprisonment. Secondly, as I talked about before, I would like your son to study Tibetan well. And my ultimate hope is that there may not be any obstacles to your life and well being of your health.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

"They" - by Jamyang Kyi

Jamyang Kyi ('jam dbyangs skyid) was detained by the Public Security Bureau in Xining on 1st April 2008. She was accused of sending text messages to 17 of her friends, including Woeser, the Tibetan blogger based in Beijing. The Chinese secret services intercepted text messages between them and found that Jamyang Kyi had sent details of the unrest and the killing of Tibetans in Ngaba (Amdo). Jamyang Kyi was released with a huge fine. Since her release she has been posting accounts of her experiences during her incarceration on her blog. We have translated one of her posts which was originally written in Tibetan titled “They” (Kho tshos) as well as comments from readers.

Jamyang Kyi is one of the most well known figures that were detained in the aftermath of protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau in March 2008. She was born in 1965 in Jador Radza County in Amdo (Qinghai Province). Jamyang worked for 22 years as a news presenter and journalist at the Tibetan language section of Qinghai Provincial Television Station. She was a familiar face amongst the people in Amdo. Since 1990s, Jamyang Kyi devoted more time to her true passion that is music. She became a popular singer and has produced a CD titled Prayer and two VCDs, Distant Lover, Karma and her latest VCD, Fortunate Events (photo below). Even during her incarceration one of the interrogators confessed to liking her music.

Jamyang Kyi other passion is writing. She has published two books, an anthology of poems and while in detention her book title "Mixture of Snow and Rain, Joy and Sorrow of Women", (za mo’i skyid sdug gangs ma char) was published (photo below). A lengthy review of the book in Tibetan by Trisem (Khri sems) can be found here. The book was published with a support of her friend Norzin Wangmo (Nor ‘dzin dbang mo), who was also arrested in April 2008. Last week Jamyang Kyi posted on her blog that Norzin Wangmo had been sentenced to five years imprisonment on 3rd November.

The book is the first feminist’s critique of Tibetan society and her writing is widely influenced by Western feminist writers. The book is filled with her observations of treatment of women in Tibetan society, where wives are treated no better than servants, who attend only to household chores. She questions why it is that while a monk enters a house, automatically a higher seat is offered but when a man enters a room even a nun has to give her seat for the man. She asks Tibetan women to question if they were just born to be “only housewives”. Jamyang Kyi's concerns for the plight of Tibetan women
and desire to fight injustice within a patriarchal Tibetan society lead her to write an expose of the trafficking of girls in Amdo (Qinghai Province) for the Tibetan language version of Qinghai Daily (30 November 2005). Her staunch feminist stance made her unpopular with conservative sections of Tibetan society. Jamgyang Kyi argues how can the Tibetans fight to justice when injustice is perpetrated in our own community in the name of tradition.

In January 2008 a blog by Tsering Kyi, former Miss Tibet and accomplished writer who wrote a blog post in Tibetan hosted by mchod me (The Lamp) was shut down by the host because readers complained that pictures posted by Tsering Kyi showed her wearing “revealing western dress”. On January 7th, Jamyang Kyi's blogpost defended Tsering Kyi and saw the erasing of her blog as the silencing of women’s voice. Jamyang Kyi wrote: “the truth is that our culture fosters the physical and mental abuse of women. Women are expected to be obedient housewives. Women are expected to remain silent and when they speak their mind, it is seen as a bad omen. Women spend their lives near the stove in a house that belongs to the brutal and egotistical man”. She wrote that women of Tibet needed to proclaim their voice in the society. Jamyang Kyi applauded Tsering Kyi for breaking the shackles of tradition.

In o
ne of her recent blogposts she wrote critically about the failure of Tibetans to modernise and reform during the first half of the 20th century, which generated interesting comments from her readers. Through her blog, books and music, she has become an influential figure amongst a younger generation of Tibetans, particularly amongst college-educated women for whom she has given a voice to their concerns and struggles.

During her interrogations it became clear that one of the main charges against Jamyang Kyi was her friendship with Woeser and her husband Wang Lixiong (see photo below). Woeser and Jamyang Kyi are two of the most influential women in Tibet today and the friendship between the two women is based not only on their mutual intellectual curiosity but also on larger issues such as justice for the Tibetan people. In an account she has written of her incarceration, she writes how one of the Chinese female guards taunted her with racist and disparaging remarks about Tibetan people and the guard told her that her young child wants to see Tibetans killed. Jamyang Kyi recalls thinking, “You have the rights to speak of my people in these harsh words, where is my right to speak for my nationality?”.

(l-r, Wang Lixiong, Jamyang Kyi, Woeser, Lhamo Kyab
Photo taken in July 2007 in Xining)

The friendship between Jamyang Kyi and Woeser is marked by deep admiration for each other's works. A few years ago, Jamyang Kyi posted this poem dedicated to Woeser:

"Woeser, the Mother’s Daughter"
by Jamyang Kyi

In the beautiful rays of your thought
I see a lamp to clear the darkness of the Snowland.
By your warm flowing blood of love for our people
I am reminded of the compassionate mothers of the Plateau.
With the living words spread forth from your heart
I see the footprint of our ancestors in the mountains of the Plateau.
Oh, Woeser, the mother’s daughter,
You scattered the first seed of pride of Mother Snowland.
You fulfilled the wishes of the mothers of the Plateau.

Here is the translation of Jamyang Kyi's blogpost:

"They" by Jamyang Kyi

They constantly tried to use various methods to make me betray others. During that time, one scene from “The Lives of Others” occurred to me from time to time. The woman in the film, after endlessly suffering unimaginable degrees of intimidation and atrocity, loses herself and turns her back on her beloved man. When the man stares at her with a sense of disbelief, unable to bear her feelings, she runs onto the road in front of an oncoming vehicle. There, she ends her blooming beauty and precious life. Though it has been over two years since I saw the film, I cannot forget the depth of frustration in the man’s stare and the aggrieved look on the woman’s face. Today, these images from the film appear even more real in my mind.

My heart cracked like a dried out riverbank with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, frustration and anger. And I longed for the moisture of light rain. One evening when I was tied to that chair again, I heard the sound of religious songs of a melancholic nature. I realized that this was the first time I was hearing the sound of a living being. This was soothing medicine for my bleeding heart. Since then, I began paying attention to this prayer-tune and awaiting it with hope each day. At that mosque, the devout practitioner prayed 4 to 5 times every day. Normally that prayer-tune could have been perceived as being unpleasant but during those days, it became the best medicine to revive my spirit. For that, I’m deeply grateful to the Mosque and practitioner. If ever a day comes for me to get out, I swore to myself that I would pay a visit to the mosque. Even today, that wish hasn’t disappeared from my heart.

In a magazine there is an oil painting of a landscape that I have looked at countless times. In the painting there is a lone cottage of European style that stands by the lake. That was the only home in the wide hilly grassland. It affforded me a sense of tranquility and peace. Imagining that house to be my own family home, I began to visualize my two daughters playing chase in the grassy meadow near the house; my husband cutting grass beside the lake and I myself, busily cooking dinner awaiting the return of the cattle. That, too, became a means to console and revive my shattered spirit.

One day, as soon as the protests first began, my husband said with a sigh, “Those who have died are already gone. But those who have been arrested are certain to be cast into the eighteen realms of hell and bound to suffer immeasurably.” On the other hand, empathizing with those who had died and their bereaved and loved ones, I was deeply touched and moved to endless tears of sympathy. And at the time, I could not fully comprehend the implications of the incident in which three Tibetans had leapt to their death from a house top.

Each interrogation session aroused a different kind of fear in me. One day in the middle of an interrogation, I thought instead of enduring this, it would be better to be killed by a single bullet. My family and relatives would grieve but as for me, I would have to suffer the pain only once. One day when I was in the washroom, out of nowhere, I found myself thinking about the means or methods of taking my own life. Those days I remembered the small knife that was confiscated at Zhihu Hotel. They hadn’t seen another small knife that was in my handbag during the search. When the chief interrogator asked why I kept a small knife, I replied that it was for eating fruit. But on the other hand there is a small story about this small knife.

Ever since the Chinese-Tibetan conflict had flared up, and as result of the government’s deliberate propaganda, the Chinese would stare at Tibetans with hatred, whether it be in a bus, the market place or on any public road. Once, when I was walking down the road with my daughter who was wearing the traditional chuba that my friend Walza Norzin Wangmo had bought her as a gift, a Chinese kid of about six or seven years old came yelling in front of my daughter and stood blocking her way. This kind of Chinese attitude wasn’t an isolated incident that we experienced but rather the common experience of other Tibetans too. So, for self-defence I had bought another small knife. Later, on reflection, I felt relief that I hadn’t had the chance to get hold of those two knives. Otherwise, during an interrogation session, under unbearable torture, I frantically searched my pouch and then stared at the blue veins of my left wrist. Were I to get hold of the knife then, I would surely have cut the veins of my wrist.

During those days, Wang Lixong’s essay on the stages of suicide came to mind from time to time. And it was a completely different feeling from when I had first read it. I realized for the first time how difficult and harsh it is to betray and deceive someone. I felt that I could understand him now that I could understand it myself.

During those days when I was thrown in front of the six gates of hell, the person I thought of most was my kind and dear mother. Although it has been nearly three years since she passed away, she is very much alive in my heart. What is comforting is the realization that my dear mother has already left me. Otherwise, if she were alive and to witness my incarceration in prison, I know she would go insane.

At the height of unbearable torture, usually I invoked the name of my mother and Goddess Tara for protection. One afternoon when I was tied to a stool, everyone left for lunch except for one female secret police officer. For many days, I had suppressed my tears of suffering silently. But at that moment of weakness, I could not bear it any longer and cried out “Mother, Mother”. The longing for my mother grew more intense and the suffering worsened, and I sobbed. As I was sobbing with pain, all my limbs went numb. At that time the fat man came and said, “You’re crying intentionally because you know I’m here.” Pressing his finger to my forehead, he warned, “If you continue to wail, I will stop this interrogation.”

Shouting in a loud voice, “Are you this stubborn because you think we are making a false accusations?” he left the room. Although it was not something that I was doing, being aware of his presence there, I still couldn’t stop crying. At the time, the nerves in both my hands turned stiff and I could unclench my fist when I tried to force them open. A long time passed sobbing, with my entire body drenched in sweat...

1. Rangsai

Sad once, sad twice
Even the birds in the sky are sad
Ah. For me
This year is so sad

2. zelonged

Good, well done

3. Imgo

As soon as I read your essay, my whole mind was filled with sadness and left me speechless

4. Saizhi

If an opportunity comes where I can listen to these stories from you, I will never forget the story and sound from my ears. You are one of few brave Tibetan women. The courage, suffering, and endless intimidation you have endured cannot be forgotten by history and Tibet in general. You are the leader of Tibetan women. You are an angel of this age and an answer to embarrassing, useless Tibetan men who are drunk with arrogance. Your words of hardship and courage to stand in the face of fear is a song that is spreading in every corner of land of the snow and in the heart of every Tibetan.

5. lechjco1015

Someone called Adon on the blog talks at length about Tibetan women’s rights and so forth. I think, Adon is not a woman at all. The reason is that her thinking is not only strongly connected with religion. It is only in the enlightened realm where someone like Adon would live. Discussion about freedom and equality takes place among real people. And when he brings issues of god and religion into the conversation, [this] makes me think he is a monk.

6. adongzhou

I am going to relate to you a dream.
The dream comes from the experience of suffering and happiness.
The dream comes from the tears and sadness.
In the sleep of peaceful night.
The dream comes from the beauty of light and moon.
And it comes from karma and the lord of death.

7. xzhmdy

Dear friend. I have read your thoughts. All the best.

8. ganglin

Respect, Jamyang Kyi la.

9. ganglin

The film "The Lives of Others", on my blog I have titled it "Sneaking Storm". Everyone, please search for it.

10. glhamotashi

A bag that is made of my fragile heart
Tattered with suffering and sadness
Wind karma of my prayer flag
It had to tatter with the years.

11. DMKA

The flame in the storm
Even if you give life to the wind.
The ash in the wind
life is revived.

12. DMKA

Your friend sadly remembers her son in the beloved land
Through the kindness of an official, I managed to phone my beloved son
I wouldn’t be able to return home for few years
It is unclear if [i will] be released early.

13. Jose
[Let me] rest my head on your lap one day,
It is possible that even I can reach the shrine of freedom.

14. lhamo
These feelings and this pain are the remains of accumulation of past karma. Yet the struggle of [our] nationality and the truth is realised through tears and blood from each one of us. Oh Sister, with droplets from your pen, take us steadily forward.

15. niangjben

Sister Jamyang Kyi. My respect to you. I bow to you from the depth of my life.

16. SLJZ
You are our pride, you are our courage. May your life be free from hindrance forever.
17. Nyiwoe

Jamyang Kyi, I hope you are well. During your absence, all we could do was pray. You became someone that captured our thoughts this year. And became a witness to history. Pray that may your life be free of hindrances.


May your life be free from hindrance.

19. gemzhaxi

What you wrote is really excellent and I thank you for that.

20. zhuome
Sister. Thank you for your courageous composition.

21. jason3
I always wanted to have conversation with you in person. And I deeply respect you.

22. tsedrup
The reality is, that they are they and we are we. I believe that one day we will live under our own sky of freedom. This is evident from their conduct. There is no place for dictatorship in this world.
23. tblinghun

Sister Jamyang Kyi. Your courage and honour will remain in our hearts.

Whatever they do, we can trust that they cannot diminish our courage. An external physical pain will give birth to countless courage. Your pain has planted seeds of courage in the hearts of students. We believe that it will remain for hundreds of years.

25. tongga

I am a female student at Tibet Agricultrual University and I am studying environment sciences. Although this land is called Tibet, there is not much value to Tibetan language. Therefore we have found Tungkar Cultural Centre in order to preserve and allow the Tibetan language to flourish. I hope we will get your support and hope to keep in touch.


You suffered for the people of Tibet, how important it is to speak out the truth.
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