High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on May 23, 2014 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on May 28, 2014.
In this post, Woeser writes about Golog Jigme, the monk who helped Dhondup Wangchen to make the documentary film “Leaving Fear Behind”. Golog Jigme made a dramatic escape from Tibet to India in May 2014, as announced by Filming for Tibet. Woeser tells his story below.
“The Great Life and Death Escape of Golog Jigme”
A few days ago, I received a call from a stranger. I had received such a call before, namely in October 2012, it was only a voice in Amdo Tibetan hastily telling me information about Golog Jigme. Back then, I was informed that he had been arrested, this time the voice told me about him having escaped to “Gyagar” (India). The former was sad news, the latter, 20 entire months later, was a pleasant surprise.
Within those 20 months, the life of Golog Jigme was severely threatened, mainly because of a “wanted” order that had been issued by the Gansu Provincial Security Bureau on November 27, 2012. This order, furnished with a big red stamp, was put up at Labrang monastery to which Golog Jigme belonged, and it was sent out as an SMS to countless different people, charging Golog Jigme as being “suspected of committing voluntary manslaughter” and promising a reward of 200,000 Yuan to any informants.
“Being suspected of committing voluntary manslaughter” is a dangerous criminal charge. It was said that this accusation was related to Tibetan self-immolations. Since 2009, out of the 135 self-immolators, 29 came from Gansu province, out of which 16 were from Labrang monastery in Xiahe County. This makes it the place with the second highest self-immolation rate after Ngaba County. Furthermore, March 2012 was full of various “sensitive dates”. March and November, when the CCP held the 18th Party Congress, were the months when self-immolations peaked. Hence, the central authorities passed down related documents, which among other things stipulated that “any person who organises, schemes, incites, forces, coerces, conspires, or helps with self-immolations (…) ought to be considered as committing a willful murder and must be investigated and punished accordingly”. In fact, many Tibetans have already been accused of “voluntary manslaughter” and sentenced to deferred death penalties, over 10 years or lifelong in prison.
Give a dog a bad name and hang him! Golog Jigme’s partner in making the documentary “Leaving Fear Behind”, Dhondup Wangchen, was arrested in March 2008, charged with “inciting national separation” and sentenced to 6 years, he is still in prison today. Lama Jigme, also from Labrang monastery, was arrested four times between 2006 and 2010 and interrogated by means of third-degree tactics. In the end he was also accused of “inciting national separation” and kept in a secret prison. His situation remains unknown. It is extremely absurd that an experienced Buddhist, a person loyal to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people who has been arrested again and again for shooting a documentary, is being charged with “voluntary manslaughter” for documenting “the highest wave of politically driven self-immolations that has swept across Tibet in recent history”, as the international media phrases it.
Over the past 20 months, the whereabouts of Golog Jigme were unknown. Some media reports claimed that he had already been killed, others said that he had escaped. Again others reported that he was living in a cave deep in the snow mountains. I did not believe any of this, or rather, I did not dare to believe it. So when I received this unexpected call, informing me that he had arrived in India, I still had doubts. Until I saw an image of him wearing a khata with other Tibetans in Dharamsala.
It is hard to imagine how Golog Jigme managed to leave Tibet, this prison-like place. And it is hard to imagine how he managed to get to Dharamsala, the symbol of freedom and belief. In fact, the long way in which danger lurked in every direction was a great escape, a matter of life and death. Just as Golog Jigme was on his way, an unexpected award arrived – the international NGO Reporters Without Borders listed Golog Jigme among their “100 Information Heroes”, praising him and other heroes around the world for their devotion and work towards “serving the public good”, they have shown exceptional courage in their efforts and struggles.
This honour really arrived at exactly the right time.
May 23, 2014
“Remembering the Missing Monk Golog Jigme” By Woeser: http://highpeakspureearth.com/2012/remembering-the-missing-monk-golog-jigme-by-woeser/
“Paying Respect to Dhondup Wangchen and Golog Jigme” By Woeser: http://highpeakspureearth.com/2013/paying-respect-to-dhondup-wangchen-and-golog-jigme-by-woeser/
This post is also available in: English