High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written between December 27, 2012 and January 1, 2013 for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia, as well as the Tibetan service and published on her blog on January 3, 2013.
The blogpost is a look back on 2012 and, despite being several months old, is still a moving read. Many of the cases of disappearances and detentions that Woeser has mentioned are still current and more information can be found elsewhere on High Peaks Pure Earth on Jigme Gyatso, Golog Jigme, Dawa Dorje, Choegon, Lolo and Phuljung.
“2012: The Bone of the Heart”
In the history of Tibet, especially in the modern history, there has probably never been a year like that of 2012, a year in which across the whole region, in towns and villages, Tibetans bathed their bodies in flames. In 2012 – just as foreign media described it by writing “Tibet in Flames” – between January and December, 85 Tibetans self-immolated, 84 inside Tibet and 1 exiled Tibetan living in India.
In fact, in the past year, every single month, some bodies went up in flames. The highest number was counted in November, 28 men and women, young and old, monks and herdsmen self-immolated. Second comes March, when 11 Tibetans sacrificed themselves, including 6 monks and the parents of a middle-school child. Why were these two months particularly bad? It is because these two months were “sensitive months”, as it is commonly said in China today.
To put it correctly, March is a “sensitive month” in Tibetan history, for example March 5 is a commemoration day for the suppression of the protests in 1989; March 10 is commemoration of “Tibetan Uprising Day” in 1959; March 14 is the anniversary of the Tibetan protests of 2008; March 16 is the commemoration day for the protestors in Ngaba County who were shot dead in 2008; March 28 is “Serf Emancipation Day” created by the Chinese government in 2009. Over these decades, every year, March is a “sensitive month”, during which the occupiers are over cautious and the occupied are continuously resisting.
And November was a sensitive month because of the 18th Party Congress. Two days before the beginning of the 18th Party Congress, on the day it started and during the 7 days that it was going on, people in Tibet self-immolated, reaching more than 9 per day. This clearly shows that self-immolations are a kind of political resistance. The mouthpiece of the Party, the official media, however, completely avoided the 18th Party Congress, and instead kept insisting that the self-immolations were related to the “Second Special General Meeting of the Tibetan People” held in Dharamsala in September, hereby framing the series of self-immolations as being “instigated by the scheming of the Dalai clique”.
On top of that, at the 18th Party Press Conference, a high official of the TAR lied without turning a hair: “People say Tibet is currently burning, well I say it is not… the self-immolations were simply imported into Tibet.” This is glossing over the facts and a sly play with words, reducing the name “Tibet” to the TAR, which in reality includes Amdo, U-Tsang and Kham. It was an attempt to say that the self-immolations that happened in the other areas didn’t count, it was an attempt to say that even though there happened so many self-immolations they had nothing to do with “my TAR”. However, even within the TAR, there occurred 7 cases of self-immolations, of which 5 were in Chamdo, Damshung, and Deru Counties, which were all farmers and herdsmen.
There is an English song that fights for freedom that has been around for many years, it is also a portrayal of “Tibet is burning”. At some point the lyrics go: “You can blow out a candle, but you cannot blow out a fire; once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher.”
I have visited all the places (Ngaba County, Barkam County, Tsoe County, Zamthang County, Tawo County, Kardze County, Dartsedo County, Serthar County, Lhasa, Chamdo County, Damshung County, Nagchu County, Deru County, Darlag County, Pema County, Rebgong County, Chentsa County, Zeku County, Yushu County, Trindu County, Temchen County, Xunhua Salazu County, Hezuo City, Sangchu County, Machu County, Luchu County) in which the so far 97 people self-immolated except for three; I have friends and acquaintances in all of them and even if I didn’t know anyone at first, as soon as I met them I felt like I was meeting a relative from my hometown, which is why the feeling of pain is so profound. The only thing I can do is to record every single person that has self-immolated so far and engrave them in my memory.
Last year, too many things happened, too many Tibetan writers were suppressed, arrested, sentenced or they disappeared because of articles they published and circulated, they are Kesang Tsultrim (from Sangchu county), Gangkye Drubpa Kyab (from Serthar County), Dawa Dorje (from Deru County), Tsering Norbu (from Palyul County) etc. In addition to those, many Tibetan folk artists who expressed the feelings of the Tibetan people in their works were arrested, sentenced or disappeared, they are Choegon (from Jomda County), Adak (from Lithang county), Ugyen Tenzin (from Nangchen County), Lolo (from Yushu County), Phuljung (from Kakhok County), Choesar (from Deru County), Sogtrug Sherab (from Henan county, Qinghai Province) etc. Moreover, many influential senior monks, monks and nuns all across the Tibetan region have been arrested or have disappeared, they are Lama Jigme and Lama Golog Jigme from Labrang Monastery in Sangchu County, Khenpo Lodoe Rabsal and Khenpo Namsel Sonam from Karma Monastery in Chamdo county, nun Chimey from Kardze County as well as many monks from Drepung Monastery in Lhasa. In fact, this name list could be very very long.
Tibet has a metaphor: “the bone of the heart”. The sons and daughters of Tibet named above are all the “bone of the heart”. This is why Tibet will not give up in the midst of this calamity.
Written between December 27, 2012 and January 1, 2013
Jigme Gyatso from Labrang Monastery in Sangchu county, Kanlho prefecture, Gansu Province. On August 20, 2011, he was arrested for the fourth time, according to reports, he was secretly sentenced, but the prison term or the exact prison remain unknown
Jigme Gyatso from Labrang Monastery in Sangchu county, Kanlho prefecture, Gansu Province. He had been arrested twice and tortured. He disappeared in September 2012. On November 28, 2012, the Kanlho prefecture Public Security Bureau issued a “Wanted” notice, claiming that Golog Jigme was suspected of murder; any reports on his whereabouts would be rewarded with 200,000 RMB
Lodoe Rabsal from Karma Monastery in Chamdo county, Chamdo prefecture, TAR. He was arrested while practicing Buddhism in seclusion in a faraway mountain cave, until now, he remains locked up inside Chamdo prison, whether he has already been secretly sentenced remains unknown
Khenpo Namsel Sonam from Karma Monastery in Chamdo county. He was arrested on January 28, 2012. Until now, he remains locked up inside Chamdo prison, whether he has already been secretly sentenced remains unknown
Kelsang Tsultrim (pen name Gyitsang Takmik) from Sangchu County, Kanlho prefecture, Gansu Province. He was sentenced to 4 years on December 30, 2011. He is known for the book “Love Dedicated to the Human Realm” and he made a DVD called “A Report About the Lack of Freedom in Tibet”
The writer and teacher Gangkye Drubpa Kyab (pen name Gang Mai Da) from Serthar county, Kardze prefecture, Sichuan Province. He was arrested on February 15, 2012. Nothing has been heard from him since. “Call of Fate”, “Pain of this Era”, “Today’s Tear of Pain”, “The Changing Years” etc, are all his works, including novels, essays, commentaries, poems etc. He also edited the Tibetan newspaper “Khata”.
The writer Dawa Dorje from Deru county, Nagchu prefecture, TAR. He was arrested on February 31, 2012, until now, his situation remains unknown. He is the author of a series of allegorical poems. He was also the chief editor of the Tibetan magazine “Road” belonging to the intellectual circles of Deru County. He graduated from the department for Tibetan at the University of Tibet and used to work at the prosecutor’s office in Nyenrong County, Nagchu prefecture, TAR.
During March of 2012, other people that have been arrested in Deru county are: the writer and former chair of the Tibetan county hospital, Ugyen Tenzin. The writer and cataract surgeon, Sonam Damdul who lived in Lhasa and had graduated from Lhasa Tibetan Medical School. The Lhasa based writer Tenzin Thake who managed several schools in Deru County, Lhasa and other areas; he had graduated from Lhasa Tibetan Medical School. The Deru County teacher, Mari Pasang who has previously hosted numerous discussion forums, he had previously also studied at Serthar’s Larung Gar Buddhist Institute.
The singer Choegon from Jomda county, Chamdo prefecture, TAR. He was arrested on October 25, 2012 and his current situation remains unknown.
The singer Lolo from Trindu County, Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province. He was arrested on April 19, 2012 for releasing the album “Raise the Tibetan Flag, Children of the Snowland”, his current situation remains unknown.
The singer Phuljung from Kakhok county, Ngaba Prefecture, Sichuan Province. He was arrested on May 8, 2012 because his fifth album included a song praising His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lobsang Sangay of the Central Tibetan Administration. His current situation remains unknown.
The singer Choesar from Deru County, Nagchu Prefecture, TAR. He was arrested at the end of July 2012 because he performed his albums (“The Dream of the Sons and Daughters of the Snowland”, “The Duty of Our Compatriots”, “The Feeling of our Compatriots”, The Son of the Snowland” etc.) that praised the Tibetan people, prayed for the health and a long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, requested the local authorities to release the 10th Panchen Lama, and encouraged all young Tibetans to unite and study culture. His current situation remains unknown.
The performing artist Sogtrug Sherab from Henan County, Malho Prefecture, Qinghai Province. He was arrested on September 20, 2012, probably because he put together small skits that reflect the current bad situation in Tibet and because he performed ethnic songs. His current situation remains unknown.
This post is also available in: English
Woeser la, Thank you very much for shedding light on the most tragic moment in our history so far. Very touching and sad reading through the article and the images. These brave martyrs sacrificed their lives for Tibet and its people and one can only wish and pray that every Tibetan can continue to do their best to achieve the goal of these martyrs. I am doing my part and will continue to do the best I can.
Meet you soon,
Thonsur Tsering Norzom