High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for broadcast on Radio Free Asia on January 19, 2011 and posted on her blog on January 25, 2011.
This article follows on from Woeser’s previous post titled “How I Met His Holiness the Dalai Lama Without A Passport” in which she recalled “meeting” the Dalai Lama via Skype on January 4, 2011.
I remember, ten to twelve years ago, I was an editor of “Tibetan Literature”, which belonged to the Tibet Autonomous Region Federation of Literary and Art Circles. One day Jamyang Sherab, a good friend of mine who has already passed away, told me that the next day the head of the Tibet Autonomous Region Federation of Literary and Art Circles was going to inspect the homes of all Tibetan staff and I should quickly hide my portrait of Gyalwa Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama), which I had standing in the Buddhist altar at home. Jamyang Sherab was the Vice-Chairman of the Writers’ Union and hence of course informed of this secret action to inspect the houses of Tibetans. The Tibet Autonomous Region Federation of Literary and Art Circles employed about 70 staff, of which half were Han Chinese and half Tibetan, and reportedly, they were only going to check Tibetan people’s houses, not those of the Han. The initiator was the Vice-Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region Federation of Literary and Art Circles, the famous author Ma Lihua.
Later, I wrote in an article: “That afternoon, in the dormitory of my work unit, the thangka, the sacred lamps, the Buddhist clay sculptures in the small home altar as well as the portrait of Gyalwa Rinpoche, which had been brought back from India, all these items, which have accompanied me so many times, are symbols of belief and artistic beauty. I had to hide them because they have given out the strict order that it is prohibited to keep any religious objects at home and the next day, they were going to go from house to house and inspect; yes, this one word: inspect! When I was hiding the thangka, the sacred lamps, the portrait and the small altar in paper boxes, I couldn’t help but feel deeply ashamed. When I left home early next morning, although my room was already completely empty, I never wanted to feel this humiliated again.”
Not long ago, because of a video dialogue between Gyalwa Rinpoche and some Han Chinese intellectuals, I was blessed to be able to meet Gyalwa Rinpoche on screen, listened attentively to his advice, and wrote the article “How I Met His Holiness the Dalai Lama Without a Passport”, which was broadcast in three dialects on Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan Programme. The Tibetan programme of Voice of America also reported on this and as I heard, it evoked great public interest.
A Tibetan wrote on the internet: “The internet made it possible to have an audience without a passport, when I had told this part of the story to my old father, he nibbled on his biscuit and had tears in his eyes.” I also received phone calls from Tibetans late at night telling me that they shed tears of excitement after they had heard the news, and that they took it as an encouragement. The significance of this does not solely lie in my own “sode chenpo” (great karmic reward), one comment on my blogpost revealed the heavy truth: “As everyone knows, some of our compatriots were put into prison or even tormented to death just because they had spoken some words of fairness and hidden a photo of the Dalai Lama.” Just like the 23-year-old Tibetan from Nagchu, Kesang Loten, who was recently sentenced to 2 years in prison, being accused of surfing foreign websites and saving a picture of the Dalai Lama in his QQ online photo album.
“All human beings are born free…”, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…” − those two sentences are the ones that shook and comforted people the most out of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was announced to the world over half a century ago. But they are also the most fantastic ones. This is especially true with regards to today’s Tibet, we never know if we ever have the chance to sense the rights of these words that are directly linked to humans living in this world. We do not have these rights. Like thunder piercing through our ears, day and night, we are forced to sense that everything is not allowed, not allowed, not allowed!
So, having an audience with Gyalwa Rinpoche, is that the worst crime one can commit before those who yield absolute power? In an interview with Dolkar La, a journalist with the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia, the Chinese lawyer, Teng Biao, who also engaged in a video dialogue with the Dalai Lama, stated very clearly: “For Tibetans, being arrested or sentenced because of owning a photo or symbol of the Dalai Lama, means brutally trampling all over their religious rights as well as their rights as citizens… Having a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, no matter what it is about, no matter how it is done, is clearly not violating any law.”
Hence, I wrote in my article: “In fact, today, many people from all over China meet with His Holiness and they have not at all lost their freedom; since we are all citizens of this country, Tibetans should also not be punished for having an audience with His Holiness.” This point is particularly important. This is also why I publicly talked about my audience with His Holiness and with this I want to tell this brutal power that controls our bodies and minds: “Tibetans having an audience with the Dalai Lama are not criminals!” At the same time, I also want to let my compatriots know to be brave and keep going; and help bring the exiled Dalai Lama back home, including using the internet; and perhaps one day, His Holiness will be able to see the Potala Palace via video, which he has been separated from for so long.
Beijing, January 19, 2011