High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on 31st March 2009 and posted on her blog on 4th April 2009.
Woeser’s piece focuses on the ongoing “Farming Boycott” in areas of Kham that has been reported by various media including Radio Free Asia and continues her thoughts about civil disobedience that started in her writings about the decision made by Tibetans earlier this year not to celebrate Tibetan New Year.
Woeser’s article also mentions another episode of non-violent non-cooperation as exercised in Kham in May 2008. In her Tibet Update of 21st May 2008 Woeser wrote:
In Tawu (Ch. Daofu) County (Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province), for the past 15 days, many owners of trucks who are engaging in transporting goods have stopped driving their trucks so as to show their dissatisfaction with the authorities’ suppression of Tibetan people. It is learned that there are altogether over 2,000 domestic transportation trucks in Tawu County, and at present several hundred of them have stopped engaging in transportation.
Finally, for High Peaks Pure Earth readers not familiar with the term “fifty cent party”, these are internet commentators in China who are paid by the government to post on internet forums and blogs, more information here in this BBC article of 16 December 2008.
the military police are rushed in to suppress Tibetans engaged in the “farming boycott”.
“‘Farming Boycott’: Continuation of Non-Violent Non-Cooperation”
Recent media attention has been on Tibetan rural areas where Tibetans are currently engaged in a “farming boycott.” What is meant by “farming boycott” is that farmers are refusing to cultivate farmland. According to information coming from northern Kham in eastern Tibet, authorities arrested a large number of young adults in last year’s protests and countless households have been left with only the elderly and young children. Those Tibetans who have been caught were either heavily fined or harshly sentenced, and there are even those we never heard from again and do not know whether they are dead or alive. In Kham in June last year I saw arrest warrants that were posted everywhere in towns and villages. Of the 36 wanted people as many as 30 whose age ranged from over 10 to over 40 years old. This shows how devastating an affect this has on ground level. The information is telling us that in view of this, the family members who lost principal members of the family labour force collectively refused to farm in protest.
Lack of labour force is, of course, a reason but I think that this is similar to the decision at the beginning of the year not to celebrate Losar, this is the continuation of “civil disobedience”! Our elders and fellow villagers — these masses who hold “no power”, in their own way as farmers and herdsmen, practice the spirit of “non-violence and non-cooperation” firmly, persistently and silently when they are living under gunpoint full of hostility. Yes, the “farming boycott” and “no Losar” have the same meaning, they are ordinary Tibetan people giving up major parts of their individual lives, and even hurting themselves, in order to express protest. And the “farming boycott” compared to not celebrating Losar is far more costly. The latter only involves not wanting to be happy during a sorrowful time but the “farming boycott” involves people and their livelihoods on an everyday level similar to May last year when in Tawo and Drakgo and other places in Kham, thousands of domestic transport delivery trucks stopped their movements for scores of days out of protest.
On the eve of Losar this year, a leaflet was in circulation in Tibetan areas which said, “To the Tibetans of the three provinces; monks, nuns, lay men and women who have the same root and who belong to the same nationality, let us unite our strength, let us jointed resist, and not to surrender to the government who has invaded our homeland. People of the three provinces should share weal and woe. We must never forget that those killed did not die fighting for their own interests, they died fighting for the freedom of our nationality and justice. For that matter, as Tibetans, we must not celebrate Losar this year…”. Recently, in Drakgo in northern Kham, a 27-year-old monk Phuntsok was beaten to death by police for posting leaflets. The leaflets read, “Even if we go hungry or die of hunger, because of last year’s peaceful protests our brothers and sisters were tortured, arrested and killed so we must give up farming to show respect and our condolences and express our solidarity with them…” The significance of these messages are the calls for non-cooperation that are issued.
Not even taking into account last year, just this past month or so, people in Kardze in Kham have been taking to the streets to start peaceful demonstrations, more than 60 Tibetans have been arrested and the protests average one a day. According to local witnesses, all the protesters understand what the outcome of raising one arm and calling out in protest can be, but still one after another they shouted loudly for freedom and rights. Some did so after they even intentionally walked out in front of armed soldiers and police. Not one of those Tibetans who did so won’t be beaten or arrested, however it is said that it was the hands of the military police that were shaking and, they were frightened by the strength of “filling up the prisons” shown by Tibetans, which is similar to what Martin Luther King advocated. The great pioneer of non-violent non-cooperation Martin Luther King also said: “We will meet your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not resort to hating you but we will not obey your unjust laws. ”
The “farming boycott” in this case demonstrates the “power of no power”. Therefore, using both hard and soft tactics, the authorities sent work teams and the military police demanded Tibetans not to engage in this “farming boycott”, and furthermore, they view the “farming boycott” as separatist activity manipulated by the “Dalai Clique”. In order to intimidate other Tibetans, the authorities arrested Tibetans who refused to farm or who publicly paraded. Online “fifty cent Party” commentators have angrily ridiculed: “Refusing to farm is too slow a process, it would be better to stop drinking water and to go on hunger strike, this would appear that they are more determined and the effect would be even better.” Aren’t there quite many cases that Tibetans have been forced to commit suicide? One by one, Tibetans are engaging in “non-violent non-cooperation” so that the world realises that even though the Communist Party of China has been the master of Tibet for 50 years, Tibetans have neither recognized nor submitted to it.
March 31 2009, Beijing
This post is also available in: English