Friday, February 11, 2011

Fear and Discrimination in Lhasa

High Peaks Pure Earth has noticed several status updates and anecdotes by Tibetans on social networking sites recently that give an insight into everyday life for people in Lhasa.

Previous posts on High Peaks Pure Earth that deal with the issue of discrimination against Tibetans include examples of Tibetans not being allowed to stay in hotels in Beijing or needing to be reported in public hostelries and baths

A status update written in November 2010 on the popular Chinese language social networking site by a young Tibetan illustrates the everyday treatment of locals in Lhasa:

60% of taxi drivers in Lhasa are people from Henan Province. [I know this because] I have asked many taxi drivers this question. Just now we, three young Tibetans, first waved at the taxi driver to indicate our intention to take the taxi, but it happened that another Han Chinese “comrade” waved at the same time, and the taxi driver chose the Han Chinese over us right on the spot. I originally wanted to take pictures of the license plate and make a complaint against him. But I thought this would have no effect, so I let him leave. I resign myself to this reality.
More recently, Tibetan netizens have been updating their statuses with practical information to stay safe in Lhasa. As readers will be aware of, there is less than a month to go until Losar (Tibetan New Year) and also March 10, it is usually always a tense period. In February 2009, The Times reported that "police have scoured Lhasa for possible troublemakers in a new Strike Hard campaign and detained 81 people, including two found to have "reactionary" songs – probably praising the Dalai Lama – on their mobile phones."

For more background on what constitutes a "reactionary song", please read this informative article by Woeser. These status updates below offer advice to Tibetans and cites the Amdo singer Sherten as being particularly sensitive. Sherten became hugely popular amongst Tibetans last year with his song "The Sound of Unity", follow this link to see that music video and to read the translated lyrics.

Posted on February 10, 2011
When you walk down a certain street in Lhasa, if somebody runs up to you asking whether you have a mobile phone, you should answer resolutely “no, I don’t.”
- Has it started again?

It never stopped. Now it seems that they have started to check the Tibetans songs in one’s mobile phone...

Posted on February 9, 2011
Friends who came down from Lhasa said that there were public security officers everywhere checking the pictures and songs in one’s mobile phone. It seems that they are checking those of us who come from the nomadic areas and people from outside. They did not give any explanations, but directly demanded one’s mobile phone and checked it. They also warned people not to save songs by such singers as Sherten and others.

Please note that we have removed all names from the screenshots and not mentioned them in the translations either.

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