High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser written on September 21, 2011 for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia and posted on her blog on September 12, 2011.
In a series of posts making up Woeser’s summer travels to Lhasa, through Amdo and Kham, the post below is the follow up to “Mani Gego’s Yak Meat Processing Plant”. This post finds Woeser still in Kardze Prefecture and this time focuses on non-violent resistance which appears to be particularly strong in this region. It was in Tawu, Kardze Prefecture, that Tsewang Norbu’s self-immolation on August 15, 2011 took place.
Read a French translation of this post here: http://woeser.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/l%E2%80%99engagement-de-garze/
The distance between Mani Gego and Kardze amounts to over 90 kilometres. I have been on this road many times and it is hard to forget the beautiful scenery along this route. But after 2008, Derge, Kardze, Drango, Tawu and other counties that are also known as “North Kham” or “Northern Road” have become restricted areas. Especially in Kardze County over the past three years, men and women, young and the old, monks and the laity have not ceased to protest against the restrictions.
These protests have been entirely non-violent. In summer 2008 when I was passing through Dartsedo, I heard a retired Tibetan cadre expressing his incomprehension: those nuns are really foolish, handing out leaflets right in front of special and armed police forces, they clearly want to be beaten up, they are asking to be arrested. Also, the retired cadre sighed: some of these leaflets are really ridiculous, saying things like “those who eat Chinese food are bastards”.
However, non-violent protests are met with violent repression. On March 4, 2008, Tongkhor Monastery in the Tonggu district of Kardze County was falsely accused of hiding weapons and was searched by military police forces; a 70-year-old monk was arrested because he refused to trample on a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, upon which monks and lay people gathered in front of the local government and demanded his release, but the County Secretary Liao Caikun gave orders to the military police to open fire, resulting in 19 Tibetans being shot and many more badly injured.
Because the executors quickly ordered to erase all traces and strictly sealed off all news channels, the outer world did not hear about this massive murder case. But for Tibetans, this represents a debt of blood that they will not easily forget. Three years later, news arrived that Tibetans were once more disseminating leaflets and chanting slogans on the streets. Of course, this was also non-violent protest but very persistent, taking place every day from June to August. Before we entered Kardze County we already knew from the internet that 60 or 70 Tibetans had already been arrested and over 10 had been sentenced.
Hence, when we saw the once familiar scenery of Kardze, countless fully armed military police had transformed it into a strange and deeply uneasy place. At the same time, we were full of respect for our local compatriots. Even though I did not recognise the Tibetans I had met before, I did not know which one was the hero ready to devote himself to fighting for justice, I knew that he was among them. For example, I walked into a small tsampa shop and, when I raised my head, I could see the benevolent smile of His Holiness. I exclaimed in admiration to myself because in the streets of Lhasa that are filled with armed police forces, no one would ever dare to enshrine and worship a portrait of His Holiness in a public space. The man selling tsampa told us in a cheerful way that the ground tsampa from Kardze is famous in the whole of Tibet.
Wang Lixiong and I hurried around town like tourists not getting to know much about the real situation about a place, so we decided to take a taxi and have a conversation with the driver. He told us that he was from Ya’an and had only been in Kardze working as a driver for half a year. He said: “What did you come all the way here for, do you know that it is extremely dangerous here? Tibetans take to the streets everyday causing trouble”. I asked: “Have you seen this yourself?” He nodded: “I see it all the time. Those Tibetans are really crazy, deliberately running to the special and armed police forces to cause trouble; the result is that they are being beaten brutally, blood flowing all over the place.”
The driver told us that he witnessed such an incident yesterday, in the middle of the road at a bridgehead. When I looked back I saw a blind beggar squatting at the bridgehead, holding a microphone in his hand, singing at the top of his voice but what came out of his simple hand-held loudspeaker was “Without the Communist Party there would be no new China”. Is it fashionable for today’s beggars to beg by singing “Red Songs”? Of course, this beggar was Chinese, so the two police cars stopping next time him did not pay any further attention to him; but what if he had been Tibetan? He would probably have been taken away immediately.
Many days later, in Dartsedo and Chengdu, we got to know about a pledge that reflects a non-violent spirit is being carried through. It is said that in Kardze County many villages get all their villagers to vote on who is going to take turns to go to the county seat to disseminate leaflets and chant slogans. Many of them are arrested, and their families rely on all other members of the village for help. Indeed, from the internet we came to know that two days after we had left Kardze, another Tibetan was arrested for shouting “Let the Dalai Lama return home”.
Lhasa, September 21, 2011