Thursday, June 25, 2009

‘June 4th’: Facing the Mirror, Seeing Our Common Fate By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser originally written for Radio Free Asia and posted on her blog on June 5th 2009 on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the historic events on Tiananmen Square, June 4th 1989.

Amidst all the media attention surrounding the anniversary, Woeser's reflections on What Being A Dissident Means, published on the blog pages of the New York Times on June 2nd 2009, were one of the few Tibetan voices on the topic.

‘June 4th’: Facing the Mirror, Seeing Our Common Fate
By Woeser

1989 Tiananmen

2008 Lhasa

One of my friends, a Chinese musician born in the ’80s, sent me one of the songs he had just written. After listening to it only once, I could remember the lyrics. Tears quietly slid down my face because that penetrating sound of remembrance contained the following melancholic lyrics: “One day in June there were only young faces. Amid the spring breeze, they forgot time. One day in June there were only young faces. Under the sunlight, they were imagining the world. A gust of wind blew you away; a strong shower cleared up the sky. A gust of wind blew me far away; a strong shower erased footprints…”

I know whom this song is dedicated to. In the meantime, appearing before my eyes were not only Tiananmen twenty years ago, but also the three Tibetan regions of Kham, U-Tsang and Amdo last year; appearing before my eyes were not only the three Tibetan regions of Kham, U-Tsang and Amdo last year but also the streets of the Barkhor twenty years ago, or Norbulingka Palace fifty years ago. That time there were the faces of Tibetan people, but not only the faces of young people; there were also the faces of middle-aged people, and of old people, although the faces of young people were in the largest numbers. This allowed people to complain about the loss of beautiful lives, which solemnly disappeared like the sacrifice. Only yesterday, I was talking about ‘June 4th’ with a Tibetan living overseas. We think that ‘June 4th’ is not an accidental special event, and it is not the sort of event that only happens in China; if you compare it with what happened last year in Tibet, there are similarities in the nature of these events.

Chinese dissident writer Yu Jie described in his writings that after the ‘June 4th’ massacre, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shed tears for the Chinese people who had been killed and said sadly: “How can they use such ruthless means to oppose students leading a peaceful demonstration? These fresh and lively lives are so precious!” His Holiness indicated that he would openly condemn the crackdown carried out by the Communist Party. However, at that time the contact between Tibet and China entered a key era, and if such a statement were to be announced, the mutual dialogue between them would probably be suspended one more time. Yet His Holiness used stronger terms and said: “In this moment of grief, we must stand together with the people who have been massacred, and we must pray for their souls.”

But before the events of ‘June 4th’, that same year in March in the old part of Lhasa, the exact same massacre was carried out against Tibetans. Except for the place and the time that were different, another difference lay in ethnic groups. However, the people who perpetrated the massacre were all the military forces under the command of the Communist Party. In Beijing, they call themselves ‘The People’s Army’ whereas in Lhasa they call themselves ‘The Liberators of a Million Freed Serfs’. When the army crushed the protests by Tibetan people in the name of putting an end to the ‘unrest’, what most Chinese believed was the authorities’ excuse. When the army crushed the protests by the students and the common people in Tiananmen and in many other places throughout China in the name of putting an end to the ‘counterrevolutionary riot’, did most Chinese people still believe the authorities’ excuse? In fact, one of the lessons taught by ‘June 4th’ is that we must have the world wake up to the reality: since this political regime can open fire without mercy on its children, on its people, therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that it opens fire against different ethnic groups (or ethnic minorities) that are governed under its rule. Thus it is an issue of the nature of the political power and not an issue originating in minorities.

In other words, in fact, ‘June 4th’ is just like a mirror, which clearly and completely reflects the nature of the political regime. Inside the mirror of ‘June 4th’, we can see that Tiananmen Square has become the scene of a bloody massacre; we can also see that Lhasa in 1959, 1989 and 2008 has turned into a scene of a bloody massacre; but there is also Kashgar, the plains of Inner Mongolia…Han people, Tibetan people, Uighur people, Mongolian people etc. As long as this autocratic political regime exists for one more day, whichever minority, they all face the risk of being plunged into misery and suffering. Some people believe that ‘June 4th’ was provoked by a mistake of the political power at one time but this is not the case. Therefore, when we recall ‘June 4th’, we also recall the events that happened in our Tibet in 1959, and we also recall the events that happened in our Tibet in 2008.

The tears of His Holiness the Dalai Lama were shed for each life that was taken away; the prayers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama were said for each person, for the fate of each person who has suffered. On the 20th anniversary of ‘June 4th’, His Holiness once again issued an open statement, appealing to the Chinese leaders while the Chinese economy has developed, “they should have the courage to accept the true principle of equality, and accommodate different views. A tolerant and normal new policy would lead the Chinese society towards genuine harmony, and could also increase the popularity of China within the international community”. If this happens, Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols would live in happiness, and everyone would live in happiness.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

"Answers to Three Questions" by Jamyang Kyi

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost from Jamyang Kyi that was posted on her blog on 20th May 2009. The post is in reply to questions to Jamyang Kyi that were posed by a student.

There is much discussion in the Tibetan blogosphere about the increasing number of Tibetan women engaged in the sex trade and also larger discussions about gender equality. The debate is conducted largely amongst college students. Jamyang Kyi expresses concern over the situation in the rural community, where male dominance persists. She also raises the issue of rape in Tibetan society where the men are never punished for their crimes.

The post reflects Jamyang Kyi's personal sentiments and advocacy for women’s rights, which she considers as her life’s purpose. As mentioned in our earlier post about Jamyang Kyi, she is the only Tibetan woman either inside Tibet or amongst the diaspora who write advocating the gender issue within Tibetan society.

Earlier blogposts by Jamyang Kyi that have also been translated by High Peaks Pure Earth include the moving letters to her imprisoned friend Norzin Wangmo, a letter to her friend Chakmo-la and a letter to her missing friend Go Sherab Gyatso la.

"Answers to Three Questions" by Jamyang Kyi

Question: What do you think of the increasing number of Tibetan prostitutes in the cities?

Nowadays, there are men writing with a hostile attitude on the net and in journals describing women in general in hurtful words such as “prostitute” (smad ‘tshong ma), harlot (‘phyon ma) and floozy (g.yon ma). Even intellectuals like Sangyal Dondrub, who usually speak out for the rights and equality of woman, are fond of using these words. These words have left a wound in me and my sisters. Today when I am suddenly posed with such a question I feel so sad.

It is a universally accepted fact that if there is a market then products will be sold, whereas without markets, products cannot be sold. It is a pity that all of the men who write [about women] neglect this principle, which actually most of them should be aware of. Furthermore, it is laughable that they still do not realize that everyone who purchases the products is no different from the seller. Who is to say who is better, the seller or the buyer?

The French writer Simone de Beauvoir studied the causes and conditions of prostitution systematically. She pointed out that the causes behind becoming a sex trader are multiple, many of the young women become involved in the sex business because they have broken up with their lovers or when poor women who moved from the countryside to the city and work as a servants are raped by their employers and lose their virginity. It is not without reason why a woman would consider her virginity something extremely precious to her so that it should be protected as her soul. The custom of considering virginity as something sacred can be traced back to when society treated woman as the private property of men. And men are concerned with not mistaking their scion. Therefore, any woman at the time of marriage must be a virgin. This how the tradition of considering virginity as important originated.

According to information provided by my friend Dzamkar who comes from southern Amdo, the cult of virginity has not disappeared in her hometown. Yet, those young girls are raped, in fact someone she knows was recently raped. We have to acknowledge that such criminal activity is committed by men and the ones praising such behavior also are men.

We know that in ancient China, the source of prostitutes were women who were prisoners or mistresses of the criminal men. But where are those Tibetan prostitutes from? We do not know much about their background, the reason and their willingness to engage in such a dangerous business. There must be certain reasons for Tibetan women becoming prostitutes. No matter what reason they have, people look down upon them without hesitation and there is no room for their voices to be heard and taken into consideration.

In Tibet, most of the prostitutes are from the countryside and have not received any education, they are not aware of any epidemic diseases. They do not have knowledge of prevention and protection. Many men from rural areas also bring diseases from the city and carry them to rural areas when they return to their home villages. In her talk on women’s health care and clinics, Doctor Sonam Tso mentioned that there is a young girl from the Kokonor region who has caught syphilis. Every time her wound was bound she cried and did not want to cooperate with the treatment at the hospital. A ridiculous thing was that she caught the disease from her husband who got the disease when he visited a brothel near Xining bus station. When I asked her if the female patient complained about her husband, Doctor Sonam Tso told me that the woman came from the countryside and did not know how to complain about her husband. She could not do anything but just had to accept the reality and the fate of being a woman.

The fact is that some men are bringing suffering and even grave threats to the lives of their wives and children. This is becoming a serious problem in the poor nomadic areas where there is an obvious lack of medical care and treatment. Those men full of libido and without value for money have so much desire to meet women who want to escape hard work but love money. When they meet such a woman they throw away all their money.

We have to think of what we can do about issues like this and what we can do to save the lives of women and children from danger. One of the serious problems is of AIDS spreading worldwide and this disease transfers from one to another through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions and so on. There is no cure yet for this kind of disease.

90% of Tibetans are illiterate and we should be aware that these diseases might eliminate the whole Tibetan nation if we neglect this ongoing problem. We should educate people and make people aware of disease through media such as newspapers, radio and television. The social problem of prostitution is not something that is easy to bring to the surface but this is the reality we have to confront and cannot avoid. Here I want to appeal to all women who cannot turn away from this matter that in order to protect yourself you must please use a condom. This is a desperate appeal from me and I do not know what more I can say than this.

Question: Compared to foreign women, do you think that Tibetan women are too dependent on men?

When I hear men saying that women are dependent creatures, I suddenly imagine it means that women do not have to walk through heavy snow, they stay home with nice clothes and good food, and women do not have to do anything but relax and enjoy themselves. The reality, however, is that all men and women work equally both in the fields and on the nomadic grasslands. In particular, most of the work in the field and in the house is done by women. Due to the ideological tradition of our society, women are usually labeled as dependent on the “trinity” of the father, the husband and son respectively. In my opinion, the only things women do less are the jobs which need strong physical strength. Therefore, the title of dependent creatures is not a suitable description for women and it should be removed from their heads.

In Tibetan households in the urban areas, women work in public office as men do and they have to spend more time taking care of the family such as raising children and maintaining the daily life of the family. This means that the main responsibility is on the shoulder of the women. Therefore, the description dependent creature is not an accurate description of women but it may be more apt to describe men.

Question: Now it has become common amongst university students to say that to attract girls is just a matter of playing with words; in other words, the art of flattery wins the heart of the girl. Do you have any comment on this?

I think there are many reasons which are taken into consideration when a woman chooses a man as her friend. Yes, the skill of language may be one of the reasons. But, it is not as easy as just obtaining a skill of language - there are some other preconditions that should be fulfilled before proclaiming a woman as his lover.

It is natural for men to talk about women. In our villages, men have been talking about women ever since I can remember and at university male friends talked about women all the time. Similarly there are men in our office who chat about women. In a word, this is a topic, which can last a lifetime and never come to an end. Love is not only their precious treasure of the heart but also a thorn of the mind. When I compare the time of the past with that of the present, I find that the way of dealing with love and the attitude towards love has changed dramatically. People in the past were a bit more sincere and purer towards love, more than the people of today. They elevated love before selfish interest. Of course, I am not saying that people of today are only concerned with selfish interests, but it seems to be like this.

As the saying goes, man is a creature of worldly desire and woman is a creature of love. I am a follower of love and I have experienced both the sweetness and bitterness of love. There is evidence that love and regards between the male and female have declined.

My experience and little knowledge I have learned have given me new strength and energy. Since my brain has given me the ability to think, I have totally discarded the old habit of thinking that we need male authority. This is an important wish.

Thank you very much and I hope you will continue to pay attention to this issue of women in Tibet in order make more people aware of the condition of women and promote change.

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