"In a Hostile Atmosphere, What is There to Talk About?" By Woeser

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was originally written for Radio Free Asia on January 27, 2010 and posted on her blog on January 31, 2010.

On Monday, January 25, 2010 a short press statement by the Secretary to the Dalai Lama announced:

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Special Envoy Lodi G. Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen will arrive in China tomorrow for discussions with the representatives of the Chinese leadership. This is the ninth round of dialogue. The Envoys are visiting China after a gap of 15 months in the process that began in 2002.

The visit of the envoys to China therefore started on Tuesday 26 January, 2010 in Hunan province and carried on to Beijing the weekend of January 30 and 31. As the state-run English language media outlet Global Times reported on January 27:

The envoys arrived in Hunan Province Tuesday, and were expected to be in Beijing “very soon” for talks.

The above Google map shows Changsha, the capital of Hunan province,
towards the south and Beijing to the north

The very idea of the envoys in Hunan province has invited cynical responses from both Tibetans outside Tibet and from Woeser herself, in fact it is the starting point for Woeser’s article below and commentary on the dialogue process.


The picture shows a scene on Potala Palace Square at the end of September 2008
(photo supplied by my friend on Twitter williamxu)

In a Hostile Atmosphere, What is There to Talk About?
By Woeser

This Tuesday, an event happened that was directly related to Tibet: marathon talks between the Chinese and the Tibetan sides were once more launched after the reign of terror in 2008. What was, however, unimaginably perplexing was that the Dalai Lama’s special envoys first arrived in the province of Hunan, which most certainly was not their personal wish. So why choose Hunan? Is it because of the spicy Hunan cuisine?  Or is it more because of the town of Shaoshan, the famous “sacred revolutionary place”? In fact, it’s the birthplace of Mao Zedong, who 50 years ago claimed to want to liberate Tibetans from the forces of imperialism, and who actually sent huge military forces into Tibet. Isn’t the real aim behind this to make the Dalai Lama’s special envoys travel along the classic “red” tourist route and to go to Mao Zedong’s birthplace and “thank the martyrs for their great achievements and relive the red memory” and receive “a lesson in patriotism”?

Once more, the media paid a great deal of attention to these long overdue talks, debating over whether they were going to present any results. Of course there will be a result, but the result is that there is no result at all. All previous talks were like this, they started with talking and they ended with talking. The Tibetan side regrettably once more played the part of the “talking partner”. Those who claim that they placed any hope upon the talks, unless they are completely unfamiliar with the situation or are totally oblivious to the Chinese side who are well versed in “The Thirty-Six Stratagems” or “Sun Zi’s Art of War”, are really hypocrites. But most of them only praise the talks on the surface; deep down they know exactly what is going on. Even more people argue that talking is always better than not talking at all. If they talk, it means that both sides are in contact with each other. That is right, this is a fact, no matter at what time or in what situation, dialogue is a matter of prime importance.
However, regardless of that, the basis of a dialogue is always equality and honesty, otherwise what would be the point in talking? Moreover, the parties involved in the dialogue should at least hold a minimum degree of courtesy; it is a sign of respect for the other party and for oneself. However, the words spoken by the representative of the Chinese side, the United Front Department Deputy Secretary, Zhu Weiqun, are still ringing in my ears. On public TV, he repeatedly used words full of contempt to refer to the Dalai Lama’s special envoy as “those people like Gyari”. It is really difficult to imagine whether next time when this arrogant Deputy Secretary, Zhu Weiqun, meets “those people like Gyari”, who he so much despises, he will be able to squeeze out a smile on his face. If this is politics, it simply is filthy and hypocritical! What makes people sad is that we seem not to have any choice; yet, do we really have no other choice? It is a bit like Edward Said’s comment on the present situation in Palestine: “only when we really respect ourselves and understand the genuine dignity and righteousness of our struggle, only then will we truly understand why no matter how we regard ourselves, there are so many people in the world who […] are willing to stand by our side.”
We should remind the world and remind ourselves that just before the current talks, the country’s former head of the Department for Religion, the Party’s high ranking official, Ye Xiaowen, who is responsible for brainwashing the religious personnel at present, published an article. It said that along with the recent rapid economic development in Tibet, the “body” of some temples in Tibet and other Tibetan areas had inflated − not only did their number and their size increase, but also their functions. Some temples “raised a group of lazy people and kept a number of bad people”; at the same time, the Dalai Lama “as the god” was just like a “political leader” integrating religion and politics, which is in fact quite far off. In order to positively steer the traditional Tibetan Buddhist to suit Tibet’s enormous development, the “body” has to be deflated, the “god” has to be fixed, and “faith” has to be reformed.
Mr. Ye’s so-called “deflation” is greatly offensive. Does he actually regard Tibetans as “lumps” or even “tumours”? And how will his so-called “deflation” be carried out? A human rights lawyer in Beijing once said to me that he had observed when the authorities tried to settle with Tibetan intellectuals in the past few years, they searched on the internet, and all the ones that were arrested were Tibetan intellectuals from Tibetan areas. This has definitely nothing to do with punishing criminals, but it clearly is about smothering a nationality’s culture and spirit. Yes, from Amdo, U-Tsang to Kham, from temples and the common people to the internet, traditional and contemporary intellectuals have one by one been expelled or in severe cases been sentenced; their wrongdoings or crimes were often merely speaking the truth. Also, Tibetan intellectuals’ exposure to this ruthless “deflation” reveals their long-lasting and profound intentions. However, in this abusive and tyrannical atmosphere, which is just like the dense fog that clouds above Beijing, we should clearly see the path that has been obscured.
Beijing, January 27, 2010


  1. High Peaks Pure Earth

    Thank you to Padma Kadag for submitting the following comment:

    "generally speaking I stay away from discussing politics. I am of a more religious mind set. Buddhism is my habit and some people have the habit of politics. But I understand your obvious frustration with China. More importantly, I agree with keeping the talking going between Tibet and China. I do have some questions though…Why do the Chinese even talk at all? Certainly their arm is strong enough to not warrant talking. Why do the Chinese "talk" with Tibetans anyway? Aren't the Tibetans regarded as Chinese by the Chinese? So why are the chinese playing this charade? Certainly it is not to win the hearts and minds of the Tibetans. Why would a prison guard "negotiate" with a prisoner? Or from the chinese perspective…why would the chinese feel the need to "negotiate" with chinese (Tibetans)? What is going on here? In America we say " Keep your friends close; but your enemies closer." I offer that advice to the Tibetans."

  2. Thank you Padma Kadag for your comment. In my opinion, Chinese put on a charade and pretend to talk (which usually ends up in scolding and chest thumping from the chinese side) to keep the Tibetan govt. in exile 'hopeful' and in doing so, sterile. It is akin to putting the carrot in front of the donkey (no disrespect here…just using a common saying) until the donkey dies of starvation. In the meantime, it doesn't occur to the donkey to look for other alternatives, however far fetched it might be. Just my opinion.

  3. HONESLY speaking,i really dont hab dat much knowledge about our politics.but after getting in touch wid u i store enough knowledge wat is happening around us, let me thank you so much for contributing for the course of our tibet. ppl like you inspired us alot. and i really like the way you write.
    thnk you.

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