Originally published in Radio Free Asia click title to be taken directly to the article on RFA's website. I'm sharing here because Woeser's experience is an excellent example of just how deep the repression of Tibetan's in their own country has extended. To be turned away from the Holy city, the heart and capital of your country, must be painfully excruciating. Tibetans should be exempt from needing special permission to enter Lhasa. China has it all wrong.
An outspoken Tibetan poet describes the experience of entering the region’s capital city.
The Qinghai-Tibet train is packed with tourists from every part of China on their way to Tibet, singing several years’ worth of songs, including “On the Train to Lhasa.” A train attendant from Hubei asks me anxiously: “What is the security situation like in Lhasa?” “Very safe for you [Han Chinese],” I say, pointedly emphasizing the “you.” Some young people sitting nearby with real Beijing accents overhear this, and ask me about it. “There are army, police and plainclothes officers lining the streets,” I tell them.
The train attendant is pretty bright, and asks: “Do Tibetans feel very constricted?” Another young person chips in: “Does this have anything to do with those Tibetans who have self-immolated?”
So some people do know about the self-immolations by Tibetans, in spite of the Party’s deafening silence on the matter. Party organs at every level prevent people from talking openly about it.
I look at them, as if they were alien beings from another land: “These aren’t isolated incidents,” I say. “More than 50 Tibetans have self-immolated, from right across the Tibetan region, even some in exile.”
Someone follows up with a question: “Why do they want to set fire to themselves?” But others are already drawing away, turning their heads to look out at the scenery.
I am very conscious of the language barrier, even though we are all speaking Chinese. I reflect that self-immolation is hardly a rare tragedy these days, but that while another culture might understand why a person would self-immolate on their own behalf, they can’t see why someone would do that on behalf of a whole ethnic group. But I’d like to say a bit more about that, and tell them about the last words uttered by some of the Tibetans who have self-immolated.
Perhaps some people won’t want to listen any more. Going to Tibet on holiday is the dream of many Chinese people, and perhaps … they just want to get on and use the 10 days’ vacation they have carefully saved up, and just can’t wait to scrawl “So-and-so was here” at every tourist destination they go to. They are mostly concerned with seeing the scenery, and the “Tibetan tourist sites” picked out in advance by their tour company. They don’t care about the local people who have nothing to do with the tourist attractions, like Tibetans who set themselves on fire.
The Buddha’s enlightenment teaches us that all living things are equal. But in reality, there are a world of differences; particularly between different ethnic groups. When our train, packed full of so many living things, arrives at Lhasa station, the majority of non-Tibetan passengers breeze easily through, so very excited to be heading off to various parts of Lhasa, and looking quite perky; even those who are immediately hit by altitude sickness.
The dozen or so Tibetan passengers, on the other hand, are stopped by armed police and their identity cards checked with a device similar to those used to swipe credit cards. When I hand my card over, I am stopped with the words, “Woeser, stay behind!”
What can the Tibetans who were stopped do about it? We are all taken into the police station next to the railway station. I can’t help thinking of all those Tibetans from Lhasa who were sent to “study classes” for brainwashing after they traveled to India at the beginning of the year to attend an initiation presided over by the Dalai Lama. Were they feeling as nervous as I am now, when they were taken from their homes by police, or intercepted on their way home?
Two young Tibetans from the southern part of Qinghai province are to be sent back home the next day, because they didn’t have a “permit to enter Tibet.” The police dealing with Tibetans pay scant heed to their pleas, repeatedly telling them that a “permit to enter Tibet” must be issued by county level police departments or above. The really funny thing is, one of the young women, who did look a bit Chinese, tells the police that she is actually a fake Tibetan, which surprises them, and they ask her why. She says she changed her nationality from Han to Tibetan in order to take advantage of positive discrimination offered to ethnic minorities in the university admissions process. “This is now a huge pain for me,” she says, admitting that she deeply regrets it.
Those Tibetans who do hold a “permit to enter Tibet” have their ID cards photocopied, and are asked to fill out the address where they will be staying in Lhasa, the reason for their trip, and their identity, as well as signing their names and adding their fingerprints in blood-red ink. I have no “permit to enter Tibet,” but as a special person required to be outside Beijing for the duration of the 18th Party Congress, I also give them my fingerprints.
When I and the two young people from [Qinghai] are finally allowed to leave the police station and enter Lhasa, they say to each other, amid sobs: “Who’d have thought it would be so hard for Tibetans to get into Lhasa?”
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Tsering Woeser is a Tibetan activist, poet and blogger who lives in Beijing.
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Journalists are sneaking by road blocks and security in Tibetan areas. The videos and pictures coupled with eyewitness and interview testimonial provide concrete information about the ongoing events in Tibet. What we see does not represent a people who live in freedom.
Today March 10, 2012 53 years after the failed uprising in Lhasa took the lives of so many people and saw the final dismantling of Tibetan society as it was known for thousands of years; I want to thank the brave journalists who have borne witness to the military crackdown in Tibet. Please continue investigating and reporting on Tibet.
It’s been nearly a year since Phuntsog set himself on fire and essentially kicked off the stream of immolations that have continuously escalated attention to the situation in Tibet. Mainstream media is finally carrying the story with more vigor than in the past 10 months. Potentially this could create an avalanche of support for Tibet in ways we have not seen in the past.
If you are willing to vocalize your support, contact your local and national government representatives and ask them to take a stronger stance toward China.
Below are several links to reports that highlight attempts by journalists to investigate one of the biggest and most ignored stories of last year; one that shows no signs of abating this year. Let’s spread the word and make sure that Tibetan‘s receive the attention and assistance they deserve.
Join your local Tibetan community on March 10th to commemorate the 1959 uprising and please attend prayer vigils that are being held February 8th around the world. Contact your local Tibetan organization for details.
Tibet TV Online - Tibetan Version
Lobsang Sangay- English Version
As Chinese everywhere were celebrating the first couple of days of the Year of Dragon on
January 23rd and 24th, 2012. Chinese police fired indiscriminatelyon hundreds of Tibetans who had gathered peacefully to claim their basic rights in Drakgo, Serthar, Ngaba, Gyarong, and other neighboring Tibetan areas. Six Tibetans were reportedly killed and around sixty injured, some critically.
Because of gruesome acts such as these and the systematic repression of Tibetans, the resentment and anger amongst Tibetans against (the) Chinese government has only grown since the massive uprising of 2008. Ever since the invasion of Tibet, the Chinese government has claimed that it seeks to create a socialist paradise. However, basic human rights are being denied to Tibetans, the fragile environment is being destroyed, Tibetan language and culture is being assimilated, portraits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama are banned, and Tibetans are being economically marginalized.
Tibet is in virtual lockdown. Foreigners have been barred from travelling to Tibet now and the entire region is essentially under undeclared martial law. I urge the Chinese leadership to heed the cries of the Tibetan protestors and those who
have committed self-immolation. You will never address the genuine grievances of Tibetans and restore stability in Tibet through violence and killing. The only way to resolve the Tibet issue and bring about lasting peace is by respecting the rights of the Tibetan people and through dialogue.
As someone deeply committed to peaceful dialogue, the use of violence against Tibetans is unacceptable and
must be strongly condemned by all people in China and around the world. I call on the international community to show solidarity and to raise your voices in support of the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people at this critical time. I request that the international community and the United Nations send a fact-finding delegation to Tibet and that the world media be given access to the region as well. The leaders in Beijing must know that killing its own family members is in clear violation of international and Chinese laws, and such actions will cast further doubts on China’s moral legitimacy and their standing in world affairs.
I want to tell my dear brothers and sisters inside Tibet that we hear your cries loud and clear. We urge you not to despair and refrain from extreme measures. We feel your pain and will not allow the sacrifices you have made go in vain. You all are in our heart and prayers each and every day. To my fellow Tibetans, I request you not to celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year), which falls on February 22 this year. However, please observe the basic customary religious rituals such
as burning incense, going to temple and making traditional offerings. To demonstrate our solidarity with Tibetans in Tibet, I
urge Tibetans and our friends around the world, to participate in a worldwide vigil on Wednesday, February 8, 2012. Lets send a loud and clear message to the Chinese government that violence and killing of innocent Tibetans is unacceptable! I request everyone to conduct these vigils peacefully, in accordance with the laws of your country, and with dignity.
Yesterday Wednesday January 18, 2012 marked a crucial and important demonstration of the power of the internet to mobilize, educate, and influence our world. If you visited sites like Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, and our own WordPress you quickly would have realized something was different. Even more you may have been educated about two pieces of legislature circulating the U.S. Congress and Senate. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) on the surface appear to be aimed at controlling piracy of music, film and other copyrighted works found in plenty on the internet. I’m all for putting an end to piracy, for artists, musicians, writers, film makers to be able to protect their original work from being freely distributed across the internet. However the wording of the bills is a tad more sinister and instead infringes on the neutrality of the net that we now have. In other words it amounts to censorship and corporate and government control of internet content. If you aren’t in on the details of these two bills click here for information.
Yesterday’s internet blackout, a flood of Tweets and other social network activity and messages sent to Senate and Congress representatives has caused the momentum of these two bills to come to a near grinding halt. And it is this that excites me because it shows us how powerful the internet is in advancing a cause, spreading the word, creating a viral or epidemic like movement that actually creates change and makes a difference. From Tahrir Square to a blacked out Wikipedia the internet is playing an essential role in our collective ability to rise up and demand change in systems that do not serve the vast majority. While it is absolutely imperative that we as global citizens remain vigilant and aware of infringements on our rights it is also important that we recognize opportunities to plant seeds of change.
As we move into a politically sensitive time (Losar and March 10) I urge each of you to think about ways to utilize the internet on a global scale to affect change in Tibet. How can a movement that demands intervention on behalf of Tibet become viral through the use of the internet? What is the message that will stir activism on a grand and global scale not just among Tibetans and a few supporters? How can the message be made relevant to a larger audience and create a sense of urgency like never before?
There are many Tibetan related organizations all advocating for Tibet and Tibetans. Were they to unite under the exact same messaging and create a campaign that is more compelling and inspiring than ever and clearly states what is at stake beyond human rights, then a movement that is currently stalled could find new footing and new life. Disseminating the message consistently, actively, and without the confusion of middle way versus freedom or independence is imperative.
This is how we get governments to take action and change their continued passive stance on Tibet and China. As I keep saying the power of the people is more powerful than any government in existence today or ever. There are more of us than there are of them and when we really see that dynamic then we see where the ultimate power lies and we can unite fearlessly and create a world that is just for all beings.
Came across this article on Phayul this morning and thought it worthy of sharing with you…..
China has aroused international alarm by using its virtual monopoly of rare earths as a trade instrument and by stalling multilateral efforts to resolve disputes in the South China Sea. Among its neighbours, there is deep concern at the way it is seeking to make water a political weapon….
Read more at Water is the New Weapon in Beijing’s Armory
With its geographic location at the highest point on earth – 5 miles high at some points – the Tibetan Plateau is often referred to as the world’s third pole. One of the earths largest geologic features, this sometimes forbidding land is rich in resources, with a delicate ecosystem easily disrupted by careless human activity. Extremes in altitude and remoteness, Tibet for many is a mysterious land of beauty and hardship. Increasingly the roof of the world is being recognized as an important ecosystem deserving careful monitoring with increasing climate changes.
The Mekong, Brahmaputra, the Indus, and the Karnali rivers all originate in the Tibetan high peaks. These four rivers their tributaries and combined drainage basin provides water to half of the world’s human population. Not to mention the important ecosystems including animals and vegetation all along the natural routes of these mighty rivers.
Warming global temperatures melting glacial ice at an increasingly rapid rate is a cause for concern; as is careful water use and monitoring especially in the low-lying countries so dependent on this resource. Of even greater concern is the control of this water as rights to it are now solely in the hands of the People’s Republic of China. With this crucial resource at their command they wield an inordinate amount of power over neighboring countries like India with whom they have had a long adversarial relationship.
With ever-increasing need for grid power the Chinese have been building hydroelectric dams with fervor. As if The Three Gorges Dam weren’t bad enough, now they are actively working on the South North Water Transfer Project. A budget of 62 billion USD affords a plan to redirect 12 trillion gallons of water per year through three constructed canals from the southerly located Yangtze River to the Yellow River basin in Northern China. With no regard to environmental and human impacts this is yet another travesty in the making as China roars ahead failing to examine the long-term negative impacts of their super growth. The displacement of humans, environmental damage, and fouling precious resources is of no concern, as always the iron fist pumps along with economic gain as its sole goal.
Who will be affected by China’s control of water? India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Bhutan are all recipients of water originating from the Tibetan Plateau. With China controlling water resources for all of these countries they essentially have half the world at their disposal. Thus far the CRP has shown little concern for the welfare of any people including its own. Progress and development creating higher standards of living are undeniably positive outcomes for the Chinese citizens. However, progress at all costs will eventually be the undoing of this nation. China has the opportunity to learn from mistakes made by past developed countries like the U.S. and European nations who are now grappling with climate change, soaring gas and oil prices as supplies of fossil fuels diminish. Excessive lifestyles for westerners with little regard for long-term impacts on the environment and subsequently on human health leave many of us reconsidering our choices of the past 300 of industrial development. What might we have done differently on our path to wealth and convenience?
In thirty years when the ground water in China’s northern plain is tapped out, and the Himalayan glaciers have steadily retreated, decreasing the girth of the mightiest rivers in Asia, who will have the strength and resources to fight over water?