High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser, originally written for the Mandarin service of Radio Free Asia and published on her blog on October 14, 2017.
This incident of this Chinese woman’s behaviour, including wielding scissors and physically assaulting Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar of Gu Chu Sum in Dharamsala, north India, prompted outcry among Tibetans. Gu Chu Sum lodged an official complaint to Kangra District Police detailing the incident and requesting intervention.
Woeser takes this incident as a starting point upon which to consider relations between Chinese and Tibetan people. Below is part one and the second part of this piece will be posted separately.
“The Scissors Woman, Freedom of Speech and ‘Sino-Tibetan Exchange’ etc. (Part 1)”
A few days ago, I remembered a short video I had seen on Facebook that had really shocked me immensely. It shows a Chinese woman in front of the Hall in the Tsuglakhang that is used by His Holiness to give teachings located in Dharamsala, northern India where the Tibetan exile community lives; we see her brandishing sharp scissors, damaging the images of an exhibition, while also attacking several Tibetans in, what can be called, a violent way. There was not only one video, but also many photos, showing that this incident happened on October 1.
October 1 is China’s “National Day,” the most ideological holiday. Not only is the government granting everyone seven days off, the five-starred red flag is found everywhere across the vast territory of this country. Even Buddhist monasteries in Tibet and mosques in Xinjiang are required to fly the national flag. All media is propagating how to be even more patriotic, how to be even more thankful to the Party. Nationalist sentiments are at a particular high during these days. But October 1 is also a Tibetan memorial day, commemorating October 1, 1987, when Tibetans protested in front of the Tsuglakhang (also known as the Jokhang) in Lhasa, demanding the release of demonstrating monks who had been arrested a few days before. The whole thing turned into the police opening fire against the protestors. According to reports by Tibetan historians, “between 6 and 20 Tibetans were killed;” it is also believed to be the first large-scale political protest since the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government has labelled this the “1987 Lhasa riots.”
But this memorial day is only commemorated among some Tibetans outside Tibet. For example, in Dharamsala, the Gu Chu Sum Political Prisoners Movement of Tibet put up an exhibition board in front of the Tsuglakhang, using images to portray how Tibetan protestors were suppressed 30 years ago. There were not many images and they were not big, visitors were mainly passersby, but because of this sudden attack it turned into a big event.
This video and related pictures were circulated widely beyond the “great firewall,” and several international Chinese media as well as Tibetan media reported on the incident. On October 4, I received a call from Voice of America (VOA), requesting an interview, since I had already observed this matter on Facebook and Twitter for several days. But because of the limited interview time, I didn’t have the opportunity to say that much, even though I had many thoughts about the case.
By now, we already know that this violent Chinese woman holds an American passport and she herself claims to be the “Dalai Lama’s student”. So, let’s have a look at who this woman really is. What is her real identity? Some people said that she may assume a special status and deliberately instigated these disturbances to create hatred between Tibetans and Chinese. But in order to find out whether this is true, one would need to investigate the respective departments responsible for Tibet within the Chinese and the Indian governments. Others say that she is mentally ill, giving the example of summer 2015, at Dzongsar Monastery in Kham, when she single handedly went to the sleeping quarters of Khyentse Rinpoche, stole some things to later claim that the Rinpoche had given them to her. She even followed the Rinpoche to Bhutan and when she was tactfully turned down, she went to India to attend the Dalai Lama’s teachings. She would always offer flowers, also this time, because the Dalai Lama was now giving teachings especially for Chinese people. There is even a group photo of this woman showing her with many other Chinese people and with His Holiness. In fact, this makes one feel even more worried, if she is really mentally ill, being so close to His Holiness, what if she had suddenly lost her mind and become violent? In any case, no matter whether she offered flowers or prostrated, it cannot cover up what we all saw in that video: her using scissors to damage photos showing how protesting Tibetans were violently suppressed, her destroying a camera that was filming her destructive behaviour, her slapping a Tibetan woman who was trying to obstruct her, her also slapping and biting a Tibetan man who told her to stop, her criticising them for “being merciless,” her even swearing at her fellow Buddhist from Hong Kong who also criticised her, calling her “disgraceful” etc. etc.
However, the reasons why we are interested in this incident is because it is about so much more than this simple attack, it allows us to reflect on some broader issues. There is not much point in only looking at this woman and her behaviour. Just as I explained in my interview with VOA, it is more important to analyse and come to understand what this case tells us about freedom of speech, “Sino-Tibetan exchange” as well as the relationship between the “Tibet issue” and the increasing number of Chinese followers of Tibetan Buddhism.
Firstly, this woman is someone who grew up under the autocratic regime that we are so familiar with, but she holds an American passport, so she now lives in a democratic country. So, doesn’t she know that one of the key principles of democracy is freedom of speech? She claims that the photos showing the violent suppression of Tibetan protestors 30 years ago are “all fake,” so will she also claim that the violence 28 years at Tiananmen Square during June 4 was also “fake”? It is evident that this 43-year-old woman has been completely brainwashed by the CCP, that she is completely oblivious to history and reality, just like many Chinese people today.
On Facebook, an unknown friend told the story of a Chinese woman who had been brainwashed and who then moved to the US to slowly wake up to reality: “…this realisation is really shocking and painful, she kept crying in front of me, she didn’t want to believe that this history actually existed, it completely turned her world upside down. This tells us one thing, people who come to see the world after having been brainwashed will see the truth based on their very own convictions and are unable to accept any other kind of explanation of the same history.
And not every Chinese person is willing to leave his or her nest to look at themselves from the outside, including those who are against separatism; but do they have the power to intervene in other people’s pursuit of freedom? History exists and individual madness or the attempts to deny historical truths will only make the world feel more pity for those ignorant souls who have long become subdued animals living in this zombie motherland and who are not able to think for themselves.”
[End of Part One – Part Two of this article will be posted separately]
This post is also available in: English