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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