This post was written at the time that Woeser and her husband Wang Lixiong had been placed under house arrest and a delegation of foreign journalists was being taken on a stage-managed visit to Tibet. This delegation prompted Woeser’s post about two delegations that had been taken to Tibet in 2008. Woeser mentions the case of Labrang monk Jamyang Jinpa, read a media report about his sad death in 2011 here.
“Remembering Groups of Foreign Journalists Visiting Tibet in 2008”
In June, on the third day after my having been placed under house arrest, chinatibetnews.com reported that “A delegation of journalists led by the Belgian journalist, Andre Buiezve, coming from Belgium, Denmark, and Holland visited Tibet to conduct interviews between June 16 and June 20”. Moreover, it said: “This delegation of European journalists is by no means the first one to enter Tibet to carry out interviews. Inviting these foreign journalists to come and let them witness with their own eyes today’s Tibet, is one of the Chinese government’s and Tibetans’ measure to restore the truth and let the outside world know that the separatist forces are just lies.”
This made me remember two incidents 5 years ago.
On March 26, 2008, journalists from 17 media outlets, including the Associated Press, Al Jazeera and media from Hong Kong and Taiwan, arrived in Lhasa to conduct interviews. This was the first group of journalists allowed to enter Tibet after March 14; the visit was organised by China’s State Council Information Office and the journalists were accompanied all along by government officials with plain clothes policemen following behind. At the time, the soldiers in the streets of Lhasa had been radically reduced, the checkpoints all across Lhasa had disappeared and between March 19 and 24, the lists of wanted criminals that were normally issued on a daily basis were withheld. When the journalists were visiting Jokhang Temple on their second day, however, there were at least 30 young monks openly expressing their protest. The result was that the original scripted plan of presenting a happy Tibet where people enjoyed religious freedom was debunked.
These 30 young monks rushed out of the main hall and surrounded the journalists, using broken Mandarin to complain to the journalists: “No, we are not free! The Dalai Lama is innocent…” “These pilgrims are all disguised officials, they are cheaters…” This scene continued for about five minutes and the CCP officials were clearly embarrassed. The journalists who had come to Lhasa to enjoy the theatre of “Happy Tibet” had finally seen shocking and noteworthy news and at that moment the official manipulators who had controlled their trip through Lhasa were exposed. This news was broadcast on TV in many different countries and also appeared all over the internet. At the time if one searched for “Jokhang” on Youtube on the first 10 pages one could find over 10 related short videos.
Many months later, another group of foreign journalists visited Lhasa, one of them was a journalist from the British newspaper The Guardian who interviewed the head of the religious bureau of the TAR and inquired about those 30 monks from Jokhang Temple who had revealed the truth. The head of the religious bureau claimed that he had never heard of such an incident. Instead he said that “the monks of the monastery were all very satisfied about and thankful for the policies and care of the government.” But in reality, two of these monks were arrested, some were expelled from the monastery and those that remained had been suffering a lot.
On April 9, 2008, the Chinese Foreign Ministry arranged for a group of journalists to visit the Tibetan areas of Gansu Province. When they were at Labrang Monastery, over 20 monks came out of the monastery hall, holding up self-made banners with the Tibetan flag and slogans that they had themselves written; they shouted in Tibetan: “We want human rights, we want freedom, we want the Dalai Lama to return.” They also used English to shout, “Free Tibet.”
Afterwards, over 10 monks escaped, hiding in the pastures, protected by the herdsmen. But when they contacted the outside world with their mobile phones they were tracked down by local authorities who launched a surprise attack in the middle of the night. The monks fled in all directions. A few managed to hide and eventually escaped to Dharamsala. The monk Sangay Gyatso died after a whole hard year on the run. Two were arrested and sentenced to lifelong and 15 years in prison.
The most tragic case was that of 37-year-old monk Jamyang Jinba. He could speak English and was the one who had shouted “Free Tibet” at the time. He was arrested the same evening. After being held for 15 days he was let go, but “he had not only become blind, all the bones in his body had been smashed to bits, he could not longer stand or sleep,” less than three years later he died a painful death.
The CCP calls the invitation of foreign journalists “opening the window and letting Tibetan people confidently and truthfully tell the world about ‘the real Tibet’.” This is not wrong, so after the monks at Jokhang Temple and Labrang Monastery “confidently and truthfully told the world about ‘the real Tibet’”, why were they persecuted in the most dreadful way? Where is the soul of Jamyang Jinba who died such a tragic death?
June 28, 2013
1. Labrang monks telling the truth to foreign media:
2. Jokhang monks desperately begging the foreign media to reveal the truth: http://map.woeser.com/?action=show&id=414