Monday, July 27, 2009

"The Chinese and Tibetan Legal Contexts: Which is Worse?" by Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser originally written for Radio Free Asia on June 26, 2009 and posted on her blog on June 30.

In this article Woeser re-visits the theme of her earlier blogpost titled 'Tibetan Lawyers: Why Don’t They Come Forward?' dealing with the issue of legal rights for Tibetans. In the weeks since the blogpost was written, Chinese lawyers have been in the news as Beijing shut down an independent legal research centre that, amongst other activities, published an insightful report and enquiry into the events in Tibet of 2008 that boldly spoke against official state narrative.

It has also since been reported that another Beijing lawyer, Li Dunyong, was barred from representing Tibetan
amateur filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen who faces charges of 'inciting separatism' for making a documentary.

Finally, for more on the five monks from Labrang monastery who escaped to India, see this article from the New York Times published on June 20.

The photo shows a closed trial after the verdict has been passed, as broadcast on Gannan TV (TV of southern Gansu province), where two Labrang Monastery monks Tsultrim Gyatso and Thabkhay Gyatso were on trial. This is a photo of the television screen taken by a local Tibetan so it's not very clear.

The Chinese and Tibetan legal contexts: which is worse?
By Woeser

Last month, two Tibetan monks were again punished by authorities because they took to the streets during the protests in March last year. The sentence was extremely harsh and they had to pay a tremendous price: Tsultrim Gyatso was condemned to life imprisonment while Thabkhay Gyatso was condemned to a fifteen-year jail sentence. In reality, these two monks from Labrang Monastery were not the only ones to receive this kind of harsh punishment. News coming from the whole Tibetan territory confirms that up till today, many Tibetans still remain in detention, and many Tibetans are still sentenced secretly. This was notably the case in Jomda County, Chamdo Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region, where six monks have recently been sentenced to 12 to 15 years imprisonment.

Faced repeatedly with hard times, Tibetans can only accept their fate and endure adversity. For instance, since they were arrested and condemned, more than a year ago, Tsultrim Gyatso and Thabkhay Gyatso’s family have not been allowed to visit them in prison, or to attend their trial. In addition, the two monks have been tortured during their imprisonment so that they would confess, and have been compelled to take a lawyer appointed by the authorities for their trial. In the meantime, five monks from Labrang Monastery were able to flee to Dharamsala. Even though it was a very painful experience, this is extremely lucky since the monks would have otherwise run the risk of being detained and condemned to the same kind of harsh sentence.

Even though the main reason that his license to practice law was revoked was that he represented two Tibetans who had been detained during their trials, lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who has just been prevented from taking the bar examination for registration, still spoke bluntly to foreign media: “As Chinese citizens, Tibetan monks should enjoy legitimate legal rights that entitle them to an open and fair trial as stated in the law. Even if the Chinese authorities want to prove that China is a country of rights as they say, then they should provide the defendants with an open and fair trial, to show how China protects the legal rights of the defendents, instead of merely announcing the sentence.”

In recent years, in China, a group of courageous human rights lawyers have assumed safeguarding rule by law, defending human rights, protecting the citizen’s legal rights and safeguarding justice as their own responsibilities. They have been active in providing legal services for public welfare and for safeguarding citizen’s rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of belief, racial equality, human rights workers’ rights, ethnic minorities’ rights, rights of equality, the right to information, the right to participation, the right to supervision. However, they have been considered by the Chinese political and judicial system as well as by special interest groups as a challenge, and have continuously been attacked and criticized. Recently, authorities have acted very harshly towards these lawyers, and at once have revoked the license of more than a thousand lawyers, stating that they failed the bar examination for registration. This created a sensation in news around the world.

Even if lawyers face the risk of having their license suspended, such as Jiang Tianyong and Li Fangping, they still fight for the statutory rights of Tibetans who are not being treated fairly and speak on behalf of silent Tibetans. This already is very valuable. What is really moving is that when I sent an article that I wrote not long ago entitled ‘Tibetan Lawyers, Why Don’t They Come Forward?’ to lawyer Jiang Tianyong, he, who is in a difficult situation, said tolerantly, “I can understand my fellow Tibetan lawyers, they have no space or opposition margin, once they are hit, then it’s over, they cannot be lawyers any more.” In fact, when I heard these words, I was extremely sad. Thus it can be seen that the Tibetan legal context is far worse than the Chinese legal context.

It must be said that in real life, many of us do not understand at all, as citizens, which rights we are entitled to enjoy, or how many rights we have. Also, what does the legal system, often described as holy and sublime, eventually mean as far as citizens are concerned? I wrote in a previous article that many Tibetans have always lacked the consciousness of their rights and of how to safeguard their rights. Especially when there is high political pressure, because of extreme fear, they will not dare to fight for their own rights. However, whatever circumstances may be, we must understand what our rights are as human beings, even if under the system in this country, human rights have already been cut down greatly. We must not only understand, but also fight for and most importantly defend our rights. This is because human rights are strongly linked to human dignity and humans’ intuitive knowledge of what is right or wrong. Therefore, human rights are worth fighting for.

Beijing, June 24, 2009
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Heavy Rainfall and Serious Floods in Amdo Machu

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a Tibetan blogpost about the recent heavy rainfall and serious flooding in Amdo's Machu area (Tibetan: rma chu rdzong, Chinese: 玛曲县 maqu xian, Gansu Province) on the evening of July 20, 2009 that left five people dead.

Screenshot taken from Google Maps, A marks the county of Machu.
The nearest big towns are Lanzhou in Gansu Province and Xining in Qinghai Province.

The blogpost represents another example of citizen journalism in Amdo and official state media has only reported on the floods in Chinese and not Tibetan (or English). For dramatic photos and an official news report in Chinese see

High Peaks Pure Earth came across the blogpost (photo above) on a young Tibetan middle-school student’s blog.

The motto on his blog (the last three lines on the photo above) reads:

I am searching for a sky that will empower me,
I am searching for a sky under which there is equality and freedom,
I am searching for a sky under which there is no deception and hypocrisy.

The blogpost was written on the afternoon of July 21 and includes this

The writing on the photo reads: Her name is Trakho (bkra kho). She is from Machu Tsho Ru. Her beloved children drowned in floodwater. Now, her hope rests with her simple, young, sick handicapped daughter and rents a room from the neighbours.

Read more accounts and see photos of the floods on the following Tibetan blogs:

News from Machu

On the night of 20th July, a flood destroyed villages around Machu County (Dzong). Countless numbers of people’s houses have been washed away. More importantly, three children were carried by the floodwater. Although the mother was stricken with grief, she is searching for her children.

This morning when I arrived, the cries of families who lost everything and the mother of the three children filled my ears and this made me weep. Sadly, the family lost everything; the income earner is not only handicapped but is also of ill health. The family will face great difficulties in the future. Her beloved children and belongings accumulated through blood and sweat have been washed away by the floodwater. Now her life has been plunged into darkness.

I am only a poor student and lacking means to help people of my race. I appeal to brothers and sisters of the land of snows, to think and give support for the future livelihood of the mother and child .
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Third Letter to My Friend Norzin Wangmo" by Jamyang Kyi

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated Jamyang Kyi's third letter to her friend Norzin Wangmo (Nor ‘dzin dbang mo). The letter was orginally written in Tibetan and posted on Jamyang Kyi's blog on 6th June 2009.

Regular readers of High Peaks Pure Earth will be familiar with the friendship between Jamyang Kyi and Norzin Wangmo. The emotionally written first two letters from last year were translated and published here on 5th January 2009. Norzin Wangmo is currently serving a five year prison sentence for sending emails and making phone calls abroad last year. Jamyang Kyi herself was arrested and detained for some time in 2008 and wrote a blogpost full of emotional anguish about her experience, the tones of this experience can also be detected in her letters.

Jamyang Kyi mentions Phuntsog Wangyal, one of the most important figures in modern Tibetan history who, as she points out, spent eighteen years in prison starting in 1958. Phuntsog Wangyal's autobiography 'A Tibetan Revolutionary' was originally released in English in 2004 and was translated into Tibetan and published by The Tibet Times in Dharamsala in 2006.

"Third Letter to My Friend Norzin Wangmo" by Jamyang Kyi

Today I am trying to finish the third letter. I know that you are waiting for the letter which should be written in Chinese since all letters must be checked by the jailors. When I realised that the letter will not be passed on to you by the jailors, I started to think of composing a letter which would reach you eventually and it took me some time to prepare this letter. This is the reason why this letter is late. When I wrote my first letter to you, I really did not know how to begin the letter and wondered how you would understand the letter.

It was a year after your arrest around 3rd April that I wrote my first letter which contained over a hundred words. The letter was filled with my sadness, the reason is that I could not write all the things I wanted to say and discuss with you, whilst writing the letter I was in tears and could only write some words of encouragement in the letter.

A month after sending the letter, I still had not heard any news from you, so I started to think that you may not have received my letter. Then I called your sister to try to find out about your situation. After some days I heard that you had received my letter and we also learned that you are so busy all the time with heavy physical work and you would be punished if you did not finish your work in time. I heard they deprived you of your right to make a phone call to your son Dhondup Dorje once a month. I also heard that in order to regain the right to call your son, now you have been working double time and this has caused you to lose weight.

The day we learned that you had received our letters, it was delightful news and immediately I wrote the second letter. I went to Karma Mindru Tibetan Restaurant to look for my niece and tell her to post the letter in the morning. She told me that she had finished her letter to you. My niece met you only once and you two do not know each other well. She knows you because I talk about you. She promised to write to you every month. I am so happy to see her doing this.

When I wrote my second letter, I was not as sad as the previous time, yet I was not sure what I should write. It is difficult for me to write something which is artificial in the letter. I know you would not be satisfied if I wrote only a few sentences. At the time I was reading ‘A Tibetan Revolutionary’, a book about Phuntshog Wangyal and wrote to you about the book. The reason why I mentioned the book to you is that Phuntshog Wangyal spent eighteen years in jail and whilst in prison he read many books, as a result he eventually became a famous scholar. You should learn from his courage and perseverance that will bring great benefits for your life in the future.

The punishment given to you by the jailor is an attempt to intimidate you. You should not fall into a deceiving trap and I hope that you will devote yourself to reading books the little time you have. If I were to write a more direct letter, I fear that the jailor would not give you the letter.

It is raining today and the weather brings sadness. I remember one time at the end of the autumn, while all the leaves turned a yellowish colour, you with your son, and three members of my family went hiking, when we reached the forest, a (fire) guard prevented us from going further. The children started to play with stones and built the shape of a house. We three adults played a traditional stone game from Ngapa Khyungchu. Do you remember? I remember telling you that I will write down the rules of the game, recently I have started the project along with a collection of folk music of the Ngapa Kyungchu.

How come we Tibetans are so unfortunate? All the people who love our nation have been wasted one after another. At the beginning of March this year, Sanggya Dundrup passed away. I thought of writing something about him, but I was unable to as it was so painful. When he was alive, Sanggya Dundrup voluntarily taught Tibetan language to a group of children in Xining and he loved his students. He was teaching on the day he passed away, and this demonstrates his affection for his nation and this is also the legacy he left for us to carry forward. His death is a great loss to his family and to all of Tibet.

Palsa la (dPal bzang lags), the place where we played the stone game is exactly located on the hillside which stands behind our office building. From the window of the restroom on the top of the building you can see the mountain range, and every time I recall our meeting my heart pains like a weight of stone pressing on it. The pain in my heart lingers on as this year there are so many sad incidents. In the meantime, I have not found an answer why I always think of you with such deep sorrow. Therefore, it is impossible for me to find a moment of clear mind resembling the pure sky. Since last year I have been taking sleeping pills to calm down my mind and heart. When people ask me to sing a song, I reply to them that I have no reason to sing songs this year.

I wrote in my last letter that four years is not a long time to console and give strength to you, nonetheless, I am counting the years on my fingers. Dear friend, it has been a year and two months since your arrest. There is not a single day that passes by without my missing you.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

To All Those Longing and Hoping, Summer is Approaching, the Dragon Boat Festival has Arrived!

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost originally written in Chinese by a Tibetan blogger calling himself "The Lost Curse" and was prompted by the Dragon Boat Festival holiday* (端午节 - duanwu jie) which this year fell on May 28th.

The Chinese government grants a 3-day holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival that this year also coincided with the Tibetan holy month of Saga Dawa (sa ga zla ba).
In different years of his life, Lord Buddha took birth, achieved Enlightenment and passed away attaining Nirvana, all three of these important events are celebrated in the festival of Saga Dawa.

Which festivals to celebrate and which festivals not to celebrate have been the subject of much debate this year for Tibetans. Perhaps the most well-known example earlier this year was the decision by Tibetans in all Tibetan areas not to celebrate either Chinese New Year or Losar, Tibetan New Year. At the same time, it was reported that Tibetans were forced to celebrate Chinese and Tibetan new years against their will. Not long after, a newly designated 'celebratory day' was introduced by the Chinese government in the form of "Serf Emancipation Day".

This Tibetan blogger has cleverly used the enforced celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival instead of Saga Dawa as a starting point from which to ruminate on the greater issue of patriotism and concepts of a nation. By invoking Chinese historical figures and writing in an ironic style (that continues in the comments), this blogger has managed to avoid making overtly political statements related to Tibet.

Interestingly, one politically provocative was removed from the blog (High Peaks Pure Earth has translated it below the article), it is unclear who removed it and for what reason. However, the other comments are worth reading and show the familiarity and friendship between the blogger and the readers.

*The original link only works with Internet Explorer.

To All Those Longing and Hoping, Summer is Approaching,
the Dragon Boat Festival has Arrived!
By "The Lost Curse"

Recently, the work unit held a mass meeting demanding that the country’s cadres not celebrate the Saga Dawa Festival and also instructing their families not to participate. Three days ago, the work unit held a small meeting demanding all of us to correctly celebrate our Dragon Boat Festival and commemorate the patriotic poet Qu Yuan. After the meeting was over, I fostered a great interest towards this patriotic poet, who during his lifetime loved his country and after his death loved his country more than ever. Personally, I don’t remember history that well; I barely remember how Qu Yuan died; I cannot recall if he fell from grace with his superiors, lost all hope in his official career, took too many blows in life and jumped into a river or if he, facing all the corruption among officials, seeing the GDP drop severely, could not be bothered anymore and hence jumped into a river? Or did he jump and sacrifice his life when the Qin Dynasty was established and the northern as well as the southern sphere of his home soil (the Chu State) had disappeared? If he jumped because he saw his small homeland vanishing in an instant, well then he really was a truly remarkable patriot, and his end was really very tragic.

Talking about patriotism, Murong Fu, as vividly put in writing by the old fellow Jin Yong, was probably even more patriotic than Qu Yuan; he devoted everything to his thoughts and ideas, performing the greatest martial art stunts in order to restore his country (the Yanguo). But in the end this was not achieved, and he became insane. He was also a truly remarkable patriot, and his end was also really very tragic.

Now someone will surely ask: how is it possible that the two greatest patriots Chinese history ever witnessed are both so tragically tainted? Well, this is why: the surge of world events is gigantic; those who follow prosper, whereas those who oppose perish. These two people both opposed the great undertaking of uniting this ancient nation named China. They did not intentionally nurture the desire to divide the nation and to split China. Yet looking at it objectively, their behaviour did work towards obstructing the unification of the motherland and the great revival of the Chinese nation, going against the interest of the Chinese nation as a unit, hurting the feelings of the Chinese people who have the idea of unity. This is exactly why writing poems was fruitless; jumping off a building or into a river didn’t work either, and even if Qu Yuan had become the King (of the Chu State), would it have made any difference? Or would Murong Fu who had become the son-in-law of the Western Xia Dynasty’s emperor have been able to restore his country?......On a different note, at present, as a Marxist, one’s aim would be to eliminate the differences between countries and ethnic groups, to implement communism, and to liberate all human beings. Patriotism shouldn’t be growing as the size of a country diminishes; it should be: the bigger the country the greater the patriotism; along the lines of, it should be so until all its mountains and rivers have turned “red” and until there is no country to love. Hence, why tell people to excessively commemorate Qu Yuan? Isn’t it enough to just stay at home and eat some zongzi (rice dumplings)...... But the general masses can still say: if one cannot love a small country, how can one love a big country? We common people should still love Qu Yuan’s patriotic spirit, no matter whether what he loved was Hunan, Hubei, Henan, or Hebei. Besides, we’ve all got some days off now, everybody enjoy some nice food, there’s nothing wrong with that... so, let’s celebrate!

Today is the Dragon Boat Festival, let’s celebrate, and eat some moon cakes! Lha Gyalo!

July 10 2009
Oh, there’s a lot going on here. It seems I’m a bit late, the Dragon Boat Festival was a month ago, really sorry! I’m still in the process of acclimatising; everyday my brain feels muddy and obtuse, there’s no leisurely sophistication anymore, it’s all in black and white, all in decimal points, like a swarm blowing into my face...painful!
Sigh, long time no see. My deskmate is as charming as ever. Enjoying the festival and writing a short commemoration for an ancient honoured personality. It’s just showing respect for the patriotic Qu Yuan. You are a good cadre! I’m thinking that cadres who are this obedient will be above me in the future as sports committee members or as art and literature committee members, wow, amazing!!! Committee member comrade, what are you going to do on July 1st (the day the Chinese Communist Party was founded in 1921), and then it’s August 1st (the day of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army in 1927), and after that it’s October 1st (the day of the declaration of the People’s Republic of China in 1949). The good cadres will be really busy! I think highly of you!!!

[The following comment was subsequently deleted from the blog]

Those stupid Tibetans! They just don’t deserve to stay in China, just get out of here!

The Lost Curse's reply:
You are hostile towards Tibetans; you are against Tibetans speaking out! Who are those stupid Tibetans? Apart from me, which other ones are there? Tell me! Idiots should get out of China? Chinese citizens should be deported because they’re stupid? According to which paragraph of the law is this? Are the stupid Tibetans in fact a foreign nation? Should we apply the same law that is used against foreigners? I see, you don’t only know anything about law, you are actually also a separatist!

June 15 2009
Very well written, very discerning.

The Lost Curse's reply:
Thanks a lot!

June 12 2009
Hey, zongzi actually taste really good.

The Lost Curse's reply:
In terms of taste, they are quite good, although I don’t really like eating sweet things.
They say that the Koreans have already successfully declared the Dragon Boat Festival as Korean cultural heritage, and the Chinese are naturally very unhappy about that. But taking zongzi as an example, South Asia is the home of rice; many have the habit of eating rice wrapped in a palm leaf, for instance, the Dai minority, the Thai people etc. Each one of them differs and is unique in terms of taste and style. In the future we should jointly hold a South Asian zongzi Festival, wouldn’t that be great? You would approve by raising both of your hands, right? Yes, the world’s people unite!

June 1 2009
Haha! A most intriguing piece of writing!
Be grateful, be happy, eat zongzi, commemorate Qu Yuan, I’m brimming with tears...The Saga Dawa Festival has nothing to do with zongzi, nothing to do with Qu Yuan, we just have to yield in order to avoid conflict...

The Lost Curse's reply:
But we are happy! We are in their favour: let’s take good care of ourselves. Let’s not leave the house (let’s look after each other), we might get lost; let’s stay at home with our brothers and sisters, eat zongzi, which our forefathers have never eaten, and yearn for a patriot, which our forefathers have never heard of...!

30 May 2009
I always thought that the Dragon Boat Festival is our greatest celebration, our act of kindness. Let us reject this extremely ignorant and backward religious Saga Dawa Festival, and grant us the exclusive authority to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. Some Koreans say that the Dragon Boat Festival is theirs; some countries’ people are just really irritating. I am currently at home feeling deeply thankful, eating some zongzi. Patriotic feelings will arise naturally.

The Lost Curse's reply:
It is!!! Celebrating traditional Chinese festival really is such an act of happiness! Eating jiaozi (dumplings), eating tangyuan (stuffed sweet dumplings), eating yuebing (mooncakes), eating zongzi, eating...eating...eating...eating...eating... You didn’t eat the wrong food, right?! Today’s the 29th; do we not have to eat yuebing? You definitely mustn’t eat the wrong thing...
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Does This Kind of Special Policy Really Exist?" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser originally written for Radio Free Asia on June 30, 2009 and posted on her blog earlier today.

The blogpost, which examines China's approach to ethnic minority policy, was written after deadly riots broke out in a factory in China's south between Han Chinese and Uighur workers and before the current unrest in Xinjiang that is attracting international media attention.

"Does This Kind of Special Policy Really Exist?"
By Woeser

All nationalities of our nation have already united
into a great family of independent and equal nationalities

Recently, due to clashes between several thousand Han Chinese and a few hundred Uighur workers in a factory in Guangdong province, the internet has been loaded with extremely harsh words towards Uighurs. This is similar to what happened last year in March in the wake of the Tibet incident. The internet was loaded with extremely harsh words towards Tibetans, uttered by authorities as well as ordinary people. At the time, people were already discussing the special policy known as ‘three restraints and one leniency’ (fewer arrests, fewer sentences, fewer death penalties and greater leniency) and ‘two restraints and one leniency’ (fewer arrests, fewer death penalties and greater leniency). This time, the armed clash between Han and Uighur workers contributed more to the troubles caused by the ‘three restraints and one leniency’ and ‘two restraints and one leniency’ policy. So, what is this special policy about? Based on information gathered from the internet, let’s have a simple account of what the policy is.

The so-called ‘three restraints and one leniency’ policy was formulated in 1980 as an important part of Hu Yaobang’s ethnic minority policy, which consisted in being ‘lenient in punishments’ to people from ethnic minorities when handling criminals and in applying the principles of ‘three restraints and one leniency’. The so-called ‘two restraints and one leniency’ policy, according to information gathered, was stipulated in the No. 5 official document issued by the Chinese Central Government in [1984] and the original text stated “when dealing with criminals from ethnic minorities, we have to adhere to the principle of killing less and arresting less, and, as a general rule, we must be lenient in those matters.” These two policies were four years apart, and called ‘two restraints and one leniency’ policy was more practical than ‘three restraints and one leniency’ policy. However, since the origins lay in the first policy, and because his other policies were really daring and his speeches were considered to exceed what is proper, thus, Hu Yaobang was nicknamed Hu Luanbang*.

On the internet a lot of people are protesting the injustice, arguing that the two policies seriously violated the constitution, for according to the constitution, the citizens of the People’s Republic of China are all equal before the law. This sounds quite right. If we change the way we think, what do we base ourselves on when faced with the same crime, ethnic minorities should enjoy special rights when Han people have to endure harsh punishment? Therefore, we can totally understand that Han people took the issue to heart.

But if we take as an example the Tibetan territory of this past half-century, have these two policies been applied over the years? A long time ago, for instance between the ’50s and ’70s, before the special policy was drawn up, the main policy applied to Tibetans was for more punishment against “rioters”, in addition to severe punishment of various kinds of “counter-revolutionaries” as in inland Chinese regions. Countless Tibetans charged with ‘acts of rioting’ were beheaded. According to records of ‘Extracts gathered from important documents from Tibet Autonomous Region’, in 1980 the Tibet Autonomous Region held a “meeting for the implementation of policies”, and numbers recorded in the meeting are the following: “According to rough statistics, people affected by or involved in rioting are counted in hundreds of thousands, which represent more than 10% of the total population”. These numbers are naturally appalling. But real numbers are much higher than those released during the meetings of the Communist Party.

I have interviewed in the past the leader of a Tibetan rebel group, who is a Han**. As early as 1969, Tibetans were sentenced by court to death by shooting because of a so-called ‘second riot’. Later, they were found to have been killed by mistake, the miscarriage of justice was redressed and the families received ‘comfort compensations’. This leader of the Tibetan rebel group said: “Tibetans are too good-natured, when they are about to be shot, they say ‘thanks’; when they are given 200 RMB, they also say ‘thanks’; when they are given 800 RMB, they say ‘thanks’ as well; these Tibetans really are pitiful”. A Tibetan who has experienced the ‘Red Terror’ several times says: “So many bloody incidents have frozen our Tibetans hearts. The so-called ‘disturbances’ of 1987 and 1989 are in fact linked to this hurt.”

What about previous years in Tibetan areas, including the years since the policy was drawn up, has there been anyone who was granted pardon according to the principles of ‘three restraints and one leniency’ or ‘two restraints and one leniency’? Ngawang Sangdrol, a Buddhist nun, yelled slogans in the Barkhor in 1990 and was consequently arrested when she was only 12 years old; she became the youngest political prisoner and remained 11 years behind bars. In 2005, writer Dolma Kyap was arrested because he wrote a book manuscript commenting on Tibetan history and reality, and he was condemned to a ten and a half year-jail sentence for “agitation and subversion of the country”. Since the age of six, the reincarnation of the tenth Panchen Lama has been imprisoned in a place that is still unknown and has remained there for 14 years already simply because he had been recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Nonetheless, from last year until today, in the whole Tibetan territory, the huge suffering that Tibetans undergo is known throughout the world, and it is even more a tremendous irony of the policies of ‘three restraints and one leniency’ and ‘two restraints and one leniency’. It is only that the lies have actually become truth after having been repeated a thousand times, and as a result they have tricked countless Han crowds who do not know the truth. If ethnic minorities are to enjoy their rights, it is essential that these facts be clarified.

June 30, 2009, Beijing

*Note: 'luan' (乱) means disorder in Chinese.
** This refers to a rebel group made up of Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution in Tibet.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Tibetan Lawyers: Why Don’t They Come Forward?" 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 8th 2009.

Since the protests in Tibet that started last year in March, some Chinese lawyers have emerged publicly in support of Tibetans. As Woeser has written below, high-profile cases such as the case of Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche in Kham and of Labrang monk Lama Jigme have benefitted from their involvement.

Amnesty International also reports that amateur Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen
"now has legal representation of two family-appointed lawyers" but the outcome of his case is still unknown.

For more background, please read this article from the Washington Post of June 26, 2009 and this article from February 20, 2009, presents the official Chinese position.

The top photo shows arrest warrants that were put up on the streets of Lhasa last year on March 26, 2008. The photo below shows arrest warrants that were put up in May 2008 in the northern part of Kham in a small town called Mani Gango. No such warrants have been seen in Amdo as yet.

Tibetan Lawyers: Why Don’t They Come Forward?

By Woeser

On May 31st, more than 20 Chinese lawyers were running the risk of ceasing their professional activity temporarily or indefinitely. After the “Tibet Incident” last year, among them, 8 lawyers, together with 13 other lawyers, had jointly signed a petition which openly stated that they would provide such legal service as representation and defence for Tibetan people who were being detained. These 8 lawyers are: Jiang Tianyong, Cheng Hai, Li Xiongbing, Li Dunyong, Li Jinglin, Liu Wei, Peng Jian, Wen Haibo. At that time, the 21 signatory lawyers received a tough warning from the authorities, and have been prohibited from interfering in the Tibetan legal cases; all the law firms where the lawyers work have been forbidden to accept the entrust of the Tibetans by the Bureau of Justice, and they also received a warning stating that they would be temporarily prevented from taking the annual examination for registration. Lawyer Teng Biao has had his lawyer’s licence suspended; Jiang Tianyong has been temporarily prevented from taking the annual bar examination for registration; the President of the Bar Association of the municipality of Beijing has said: “We must use our wisdom to take the means of livelihood of the signatory lawyers away”.

In addition, one of the reasons stated by authorities for preventing signatory lawyers from participating in the trial of Tibetans was that “lawyers were in sufficient numbers in Tibet and that there was no need for the help of lawyers from other regions”. This is true because in the Tibetan areas, for the Tibet Autonomous Region alone, according to the report by Tibet TV of December 20, 2008, there were 94 practicing lawyers and 17 law firms. However, what really is a shame is that during the ‘Tibetan incident’ last year, those Tibetan lawyers not only did not sign the petition but did not provide genuine and meaningful legal aid for Tibetan people who had been arrested either.

Ordinary Tibetan people have always lacked the consciousness of their rights and of how to safeguard their rights. Especially when there is high political pressure, because of extreme fear, they will not dare to fight for their own rights. Conversely, authorities excel in having tribunals appointing barristers. In other words, the authorities claim that Tibetans in custody have defence lawyers, in reality, these lawyers exist in name only. For instance, last year on May 2, Chinese official media released an article referring to the procedures of Tibetans being tried in the ‘March 14 Lhasa incident’. The article stated that there were 31 lawyers defending 30 accused. In fact, they were all barristers designated by the tribunal. In addition to the local Tibetan lawyers appointed, they also nominated two Beijing lawyers who had not signed the petition. No one would be fooled by the outcome of such a trial. A good example is the description made by Tibetan lawyer Migmar Dolkar of her meeting with the defendant Lobsang Samten: “When I entered the prison, two doctors were examining suspects who were detained. At that time there were more than ten suspects waiting to see a doctor, and in addition there were two people who were on a drip.” It sounds as though Tibetans in custody received quite good medical care. However, according to polls carried out on some people who had been released, all the Tibetans in custody have suffered different degrees of beatings and abuse. Some monks and ordinary people were injured or even died or lost their minds following beatings. Some Tibetans who became critically ill as a result of beatings were sent to hospital for treatment but were threatened by the local police who prevented them from telling anyone that they had been tortured to extort confessions.

The 21 lawyers from Beijing and other places, who signed a petition to support Tibetans who were in custody, not only had to face pressure from authorities, they also had to face pressure from netizens. A few Chinese radical nationalists sent messages to the general mailbox of the supportive lawyers, insulting and threatening these lawyers: “… wait until I catch you animals, see how I’ll punish you, go ahead and be in the limelight. Whoever comes forward to defend Tibetan terrorists, I want your life or the life of your family members…” It is really a pity, even if one would seek the limelight, it should be the local lawyers in Tibet to do so. But where are they? Why is it that Tibetan lawyers could not do what lawyers from Beijing and from other places achieved? Was it because the latter had more courage? Or was it because authorities were watching Tibetan lawyers more closely, and all lawyers are not on an equal footing? Though they are all lawyers, when Tibetan lawyers were informed about the fact that lawyers from Beijing and other places used the law in order to preserve the rights of the Tibetan people, was it with peace of mind or with shame?

In fact, many Tibetans really need to cooperate with lawyers, and obtain their legal aid. Recently, two trials taking place in Amdo and Kham, namely the trials of Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche and Lama Jigme, have had excellent results, thanks to the brave participation of two Beijing lawyers, Li Fangping and Jiang Tianyong. Let us pay tribute to them! We should also pay tribute to other human rights lawyers who are willing to assist Tibetans. We also look forward to seeing the rise of other similar genuine human rights lawyers who would become involved in cases of Tibetans enduring biased treatment.
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