High Peaks Pure Earth has translated an article by Tashibod that was originally written in Chinese and published on the website “Democratic China” and also on Woeser’s blog earlier this month.
Regular High Peaks Pure Earth will be familiar with Lama Jigme’s story as his testimony, arrest and release have all been documented here in the past.
Also highly recommended reading, for those who may have missed it last year, is Tashibod’s personal, insightful and moving “Olympics Diary of a Tibetan“.
A few months later he was arrested, taken away again and was not released until half a year later.
1. On May 5, 2009 and over the next few days, media such as The Times, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and the Tibetan writer Woeser’s blog reported the news that Lama Jigme from Labrang Monastery, Tibet, has been released after he had been imprisoned for six months. They related the true story that Lama Jigme was jailed and tortured by the Chinese authorities for over twenty days and almost died after he revealed his full identity and gave an account of the protests over the various regions in a video made known to the world in September 2008. In November 2008, after Lama Jigme had been in hiding for about two months, he was again arrested and taken away from his living quarters in the monastery. He was not released until May 3, 2009. However, during the six months when he was in jail, Lama Jigme’s family did not receive any clear explanation from the authorities. Not long after his family hired two Chinese lawyers from Beijing, Lama Jigme was released on bail. The incident — the entire process from the video of Lama Jigme being made public, his being arrested to his release − has generated great attention from all circles. Furthermore, his eventual release can be said to be a good ending.
2. To the media, the “Lama Jigme Incident” is considered to be news; to those people who care for Tibet, the incident is a case to show China’s suppression of Tibet; to Tibetans, in particular, to Tibetans in Tibet, besides denouncing the authorities and admiring Lama Jigme, if we conduct further in-depth analysis, in fact the “Lama Jigme Incident” has additional important inspiration and is of profound significance.
A Tibetan monk who was illegally imprisoned as a suspect, and cruelly abused, used a video to tell the truth to the world through the means of modern international media such as Voice of America. After he was arrested and taken away once again, under the pressure of extensive reporting by the international media, eventually he was released when Chinese lawyers hired by his family became involved. Though Lama Jigme was imprisoned, at the end he was able to get out of jail after not such a long time. Though at present we do not know what will happen next, yet judging from the current situation and taking all the representative factors into consideration, among the numerous sacrifices unknown to the outside world and countless immense sacrifices made in the Tibetan areas, even if we rationally examine the incident without any judgment or political viewpoints, the incident can be rated as a successful case for the peaceful protests by Tibetans and for exposing atrocities committed by the authorities. We can see from this incident the wonderful combination of courage and wisdom.
3. In the film “Cry Freedom”, which recounts the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement Biko’s struggle against apartheid in South Africa, when Biko, who was under house arrest by the South African government, wanted to participate in the ceremony of the student movement, people around him said to him, “Your action is very dangerous” to which he replied, “you are right. My action is indeed very dangerous, because South Africa is a dangerous country”.
Similarly, living in a country where Tibetans, in particular Tibetan monks, are viewed as “terrorist suspects” and can be dealt with at any time, it is impossible for Lama Jigme who was arbitrarily arrested and cruelly tortured twice not to know the consequence of his public speech. Though he realized fully the danger, yet he still did it, and he was willing to risk his life to reveal the truth. What is courage? This is courage!
For the sake of truth and freedom, there are many actions which one knows one should not take but one will still do so. We can see in this “Lama Jigme Incident” how he brought into play his courage throughout the entire process:
A: Through international media, which has strong influence and enjoys public credibility, he revealed his full identity and told the world the truth in a short digital video clip.
B. The content of his twenty-minute testimony has not gone beyond the legal stipulations of China. He did not cross the line, on the contrary, he stuck to his position of seeking truth from facts. Therefore, while he told the truth, meanwhile he did not give the authorities a handle against him.
In addition, the following factors are important external factors ensuring the success of the incident:
C. The continuous attention paid by Tibetans in Tibet and outside of Tibet as well as the reporting of the international media.
D. The involvement of Chinese lawyers.
The final result is: Lama Jigme was released. There was no violent confrontation or fierce bloody conflict, let alone resulting in any death. If he had chosen to be silent or to engage in active violent resistance, he might have received sympathy or understanding, but there would not be any one-sided support and praise; if any of his speeches or actions had violated the laws of the Chinese Communist Party, even if his was right morally, yet it would have given the authorities excuses to imprison him; if Lama Jigme had been in jail for a long time or had sacrificed his life, though he would be worthy of respect and praise, yet if the person involved died, no matter how much significance others endowed on him, there would only be sorrow and memory. Even the noble values however worthy of seeking, should not have people sacrifice their lives at random. Lama Jigme successfully and accurately used modern media and the Chinese law, avoided a potential tragedy, and kept hold of his rights. Meanwhile, he revealed the truth to the utmost degree, and this is exactly how his wisdom worked.
4. In September 2008 Voice of America published the video clip made by Lama Jigme, after which many international media reported the news, and the video was ardently aired further on YouTube. Later the arrest of Lama Jigme caused a sensation among the international media, next, The Times and other newspapers reported Lama Jigme’s release. Furthermore, with the promotion by the well-known Tibetan writer Woeser in Beijing throughout the entire process, the international media has always paid great attention to the”Lama Jigme Incident”.
With her compassionate heart as a Buddhist, Tibetan writer Woeser heroically shoulders the responsibility for her nationality. With the prominence of the Tibetan issue, Woeser and her blog has attracted world attention because of her rich, timely and true news sources and her outstanding writing talents. In her blog which is known as “one person’s media”, she has bravely exposed many dark sides which have been carefully and brutally hidden by the authorities. And the “Lama Jigme Incident” is one of these issues hidden by the authorities.
Without Woeser promoting or appealing as well as the reports by the international media, it is unimaginable that many unfair incidents, including the “Lama Jigme Incident”, in Tibetan areas would have received so much attention from the outside world, instead of being covered up or left unsolved.
When German President Richard von Weizsäcker read the story about the Hans brother and mother who were the core members of the anti-Hitler “White Rose Group” and were later executed by the Nazi “People’s Court”, he said the following words: “The courage of each era always determines our civilization once again.” We can say that Woeser, Lama Jigme and many known or nameless, alive or dead people who have tried to have their voice heard for the sake of freedom and peace are adding new content for our civilization in a strange era like this.
5. In this incident, the involvement of lawyers, in particular the Chinese lawyers, is of great significance. The relatives of Lama Jigme hired Li Fangping and Jiang Tianyong, two famous human rights lawyers in China. Amongst these two, on April 11, Jiang, together with Teng Biao and sixteen other Chinese lawyers, signed and published an open letter making the statement that they were willing to represent and defend Tibetans who had been arrested. Meanwhile, they also appealed to the authorities to treat Tibetans who were arrested strictly in accordance with legal stipulations. Soon after, there were three more lawyers who joined the group but the authorities warned these 21 lawyers who expressed their willingness to provide legal assistance to Tibetans, forbidding them to be involved in cases of Tibetans, and they have also been repressed.
Before their involvement in Lama Jigme’s case, Li and Jiang also defended Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche in Kham (Eastern Tibet). This is the first case where there was no representation by a defense lawyer designated by the authorities since the “Tibet Incident” last year, and is of great significance. Soon after, Lama Jigme was released after the intervention of these two lawyers. This further shows the effect of the involvement of professionals in the process of the legal case.
It is like what Jiang said during his interview with Voice of America: “As Han Chinese lawyers, our providing legal assistance to Tibetans who were arrested is conducive to national unity.” The two lawyers’ actions to represent the Tibetans not only expounded and safeguarded justice but also were beneficial to eliminate the misunderstanding that people simply consider “the Tibet Issue as the conflict between Han Chinese and Tibetans as two ethnic groups”. On the other hand, it also restored Sino-Tibetan relations which have been damaged by the “Anti-splittist cliques” and the official media, and strengthened the understanding and unity of Han Chinese and Tibetans.
A year after the eruption of Chinese ultra-nationalism, the Chinese intellectual and legal circles have begun to reflect on the issue. And they are willing to remedy the situation. This is a very good beginning, and I hope there will be more intellectuals who have similar awareness and who will make similar efforts.
6. Fear has always enveloped the Land of Snows, especially since March 2008. The authorities are wantonly abusing the rights of Tibetans as citizens and have continuously suppressed the non-violent protests by Tibetans with violent means. But as the CCP leader Mao Zedong himself once said, “Where there is oppression, there is resistance”, the voices of Tibetan resistance rises one after another. The greater the pressure is, the stronger the resistance becomes. The situation has also become more and more intense, and the means of protests have also become diversified.
But it is a pity on one hand the authorities are doing their utmost to block and distort the true situation, on the other hand, Tibetans lack the awareness of individual rights and the importance of publicity, and they do not have the resources either. In addition, the overall strategy is out of the question, as a result, the voices of resistance and the truth about the persecution by the authorities are unknown to the outside world. Therefore, the heroic deeds of these protesters are even more tragic.
For a long period of time, if there had been disputes or conflicts amongst Tibetans, usually disputes or conflicts were solved through private negotiations or mediations presided over by local personages who enjoyed high prestige or by high-ranking and eminent monks. However, when faced with the injustices of the government, though there are people who have resorted to such legal means as petitioning to higher authorities or hiring lawyers, yet very few people are doing so. When investigating the reasons for this, we find factors including the government ignoring such cases, its usual practices of elevating common civil disputes so as to criticise them from the higher plane of principles, labeling people involved with such names as ethnic or religious “splittists” or “agitators”, and politicising the issues so as to cover up one’s own mistakes or errors. In addition, other reasons include such factors that Tibetans ourselves lack awareness of laws, we have not made enough effort to safeguard and strive for our legal rights through legal means and we lack confidence in doing so.
The “Lama Jigme Incident” shows that within the framework of the Chinese constitution and regional ethnic autonomy law, he took the initiative to actively safeguard and strive for his legal rights and unyieldingly express his reasonable and legal appeals through peaceful means and by means of law and media. This time Lama Jigme’s family did not yield to the government’s wonton manipulations, instead, they took the initiative to hire lawyers. In addition, the verdict on Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche, who has been framed in Kham, has been deferred after his family hired the same two Han Chinese lawyers. These two cases will surely boost the confidence of people who are still under the shadow of fear and inspire them. When faced with imperious rule, not all injustices will have undergone just trials but through the “Lama Jigme Incident” we can vaguely see the path of hope and the models to be emulated.
7. Those who have courage are worthy of admiration; those who have wisdom are worthy of being followed; however, only those who have both courage and wisdom have the possibility to defeat evil, and only such people are real heroes.
Pay tribute to heroes like Jigme! Pay tribute to Woeser and others who have worked very hard for the sake of Jigme! Pay tribute to these two Han Chinese lawyers and people who dedicate their lives to any just cause!
This post is also available in: English