High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on between June 26 and July 1, 2013 for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on July 4, 2013.
The blogpost focuses on a period over the summer when it was being reported that some Tibetan areas were experiencing a relaxation in anti-Dalai Lama policies. For example, see this news article from The Telegraph of June 28, 2013. For a good overview of the contradictory and confusing reports that came out at the time, see this roundup from China Digital Times.
On a separate note, today marks the publication in France of Woeser’s book “Immolations au Tibet La Honte du monde” (Immolations in Tibet: The shame of the world), by Indigène éditions that features a preface by former Minister of Justice Robert Badinter and cover art by renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. For further information (in French), follow this link: http://www.indigene-editions.fr/ceux-qui-marchent-contre-le-vent/immolations-au-tibet-la-honte-du-monde.html
On July 2, the CCP-approved 11th Panchen Lama arrived at Kumbum Monastery, on Weibo a Tibetan netizen called Kumbum Monastery “a place subject to martial law by military police”, the photos showed security checkpoints for monks inside the monastery. Another Tibetan commented: “…since martial law has already been declared, where do pilgrims come from? Do they also need to pass qualifications? Head touching ceremonies will have to be officially arranged, too? (strange kind of religion).”
“Have the Chinese Government’s Tibet Policies been Adjusted?”
Some time ago, Tibetans enthusiastically spread the following news on Weibo: “The recent adjustments of the Chinese government’s Tibet policies have attracted worldwide attention: firstly, all monasteries can freely worship sacred portraits of the Dalai Lama; secondly, it is forbidden to vilify or instruct others to deride the Dalai Lama; thirdly, if major incidents happen within a monastery, monastery leaders and senior monks will take measures first, military police will not immediately enter the monastery to take repressive or other measures.”
This news can be traced back to June 20 when Voice of Tibet reported that the Hainan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, permitted monasteries to worship portraits of His Holiness; without initially evaluating whether this news was correct or not, the report itself already takes a part as a whole, turning a Prefectural matter into a generalised statement that “the CCP allows monasteries to worship sacred portraits of the Dalai Lama”.
Voice of Tibet also claimed that the “Switzerland based Tulku Lobsang, a Rinpoche, said that…the local authorities set up various groups consisting of monk representatives… and propagated an official document containing these three main points.” I have a request for this Rinpoche, namely whether he could show us photos of this “official document containing these three main points”. Without photographic evidence, any such exciting news can be false, it can even be a scheme to make money.
On June 21, the mouthpiece of the Party abroad, DW News, silently adjusted the idea, saying that “the policy adjustments now allow people to hang portraits of the Dalai Lama up on their walls”, also turning something that happened in Hainan Prefecture into transformations that are happening in the entire Tibetan region. Almighty and remarkable DW News, please make this document public, we need to see it in order to believe it.
At this moment, it is said that only in Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai Province, there exists such a document, but has anyone actually seen the document? In all other parts of Tibet, there have not been any changes at all. In the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), hanging up a portrait of His Holiness is considered a big incident.
In the TAR, serving as a model for the entire Tibetan region, since the end of 2011, the “9 haves” project has been implemented; it forces all monasteries and farmers to not only fly the five-starred red flag on their roofs, but to also hang up portraits of the CCP’s great leaders. If people fail to do so, it is considered a political problem. Recently, they have even carried out inspections to check whether people follow these rules. Is it really possible that in the blink of an eye these “policies are adjusted” and that people are allowed to hang up portraits of the Dalai Lama inside monasteries and homes next to the portraits of China’s great leaders?
If the government now allows people to worship the Dalai Lama, it would also mean that what was previously considered to be criminal acts is now acceptable and that the Dalai Lama is no longer a separatist and an enemy of the country. Is that really possible? Since 1995 it is strictly prohibited to worship portraits of the Dalai Lama, since then countless officials have been promoted, have seized power in Beijing, does this policy mean that all these officials admit that they were wrong? If it does, it means that the entire political system of China has already been reformed and not merely “China’s policies towards Tibet”.
A Tibetan intellectual from inside the political system sent out a message on Weibo reminding us that “one has to cautiously decode the recently propagated news and one should not fall back into the kind of ‘destruction through hope’ state of mind; I actually attended some of the meetings that are being discussed in public and my feeling is that the situation is not as open as it is said in online discussions, goodwill and freedom come hand in hand with other activities; it is worrying to see how fast people enter into a state of happiness, running around spreading such news.” The question is, however, who then revealed this piece of news? And what is the intention?
The recent situation has indeed become quite complicated. The Chinese government reported that it will allocate 2.5 million Yuan to repair the former residence of the Dalai Lama; a professor from the CCP Party School said quite bluntly that “it is essential to work hard to bring into a being only a Chinese spirit of the Dalai Lama”; and on top of that, the news spread that Hainan Prefecture, Qinghai Province allows people to hang up a portrait of His Holiness, creating an image worldwide that the Chinese government’s Tibet policies are changing. However, I am afraid that this is only a game. Exiled Tibetans hope that there will be an opportunity for negotiations but I hope that some very fundamental bottom lines will be respected.
There exists a Tibetan proverb: “Tibetans are ruined by hope, Chinese are ruined by suspicion”, it is widespread among the people because its meaning turns out to be true again and again, it is too late to regret. Anyway, we need to cool-headedly and carefully examine and verify everything, we must not show any blind trust or be too optimistic, otherwise we might end up in a place unable to move in any direction. History has already taught us too many lessons. A few years ago, because of the Olympic Games, the Chinese government engaged in public relations work and carried out several rounds of Sino-Tibetan talks; they finally ended in an atmosphere characterised by hostility and despotism, how can one forget the trauma when the pain still lingers?
I took note of a Tibetan monk who under the screenname of “Guru Palden” said on Weibo regarding the above-mentioned three policy changes: “Too bad that this news is false”, “they spread quickly online but I have already contacted the local authorities and there are no such policies.”
Yet, what is necessary is to research where such news about “Tibet policy adjustments and improvements” actually comes from. Not only this recent news. Such apparently right but actually false news mysteriously spread from within China to the outside world (the exiled community or exiled Tibetans), they are easily trusted and spread, are being hastily reported on by exile media and then over-analysed by all sorts of people, they are continuously being fermented to an extent that it has extremely bad consequences.
Among others, this includes the dissemination of deliberately manufactured and unverified messages and also includes the erroneous understanding that some exiled Tibetans entertain towards the Chinese local authorities, towards Chinese society and the situation inside Tibet. And when the foreign media who is almost unable to enter Tibet for investigations then make use of such dissemination of false news, misconceptions are being spread at an even faster pace. The only way to approach politics is to be cool-headed; only experience, common sense and facts are reliable.
Regardless of what the situation is, one cannot be careful and doubtful enough when facing up to this scheming authoritarian power. The media has often enough been utilised, we should learn from previous failures. If the Tibet policies have really changed, allowing anyone to enter Lhasa at any time would be a real proof for this and not a rumour saying that one can hang up the portrait of His Holiness.
June 25, 2013 – July 1, 2013
This post is also available in: English