High Peaks Pure Earth is re-posting Woeser’s acceptance speech that was sent to the International Women’s Media Foundation on the occasion of being awarded their Courage in Journalism Award, 2010.
Woeser posted the speech on her blog on October 20, 2010, a day after the awards ceremony took place in New York. As reported by the media, Woeser was unable to attend the ceremony as the Chinese government refuses to grant her a passport.
Woeser’s acceptance speech was translated into English by A. E. Clark of Ragged Banner. For those who have not yet read Woeser’s poetry, High Peaks Pure Earth recommends the volume published by Ragged Banner titled “Tibet’s True Heart”.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
My heartfelt thanks to the International Women’s Media Foundation for its Courage in Journalism Award. Since the Chinese government will not give me a passport, I am unable to come and accept this honor in person. But my spirit cannot be locked away, and I feel I am with you now, touched by your kind encouragement.
I am not really a journalist or media person in the traditional sense. In this Age of the Internet, I have taken my books, my blog, my regular commentaries for radio, Twitter, and Facebook −as well as a camera, a camcorder, and the interviews I give reporters− and combined them into a new medium: a one-person medium. I began deliberately using this approach in March of 2008. At that time, protests which had spread across Tibet were being violently suppressed, but the Chinese government was using its monopoly on information to make sure people could hear only its distorted account, blasted at high volume. The might of this world was asserting its power over the facts, and I realized that unless I could find some way, working by myself, to record what was happening and get the news out, the anguish of an entire people would vanish forever behind a veil of darkness. History would be rewritten; memories would be buried; our descendants would never know the sacrifices their ancestors had made.
I was then in Beijing, the imperial capital. Using both traditional and modern tools of communication, I contacted people on the scene and wove a network that covered all the Tibetan lands. Some of my sources were acquaintances; others I had never met. With their help I gathered factual accounts of what was happening, and each day posted the information to my blog so that the world could know, in real time, how Tibet was being engulfed in blood and fire. At that time I was the only channel through which Tibetans inside the PRC could make their voices heard, and my blog received several million hits, as the work of one person standing against the propaganda machine of a colossal State.
I want to thank these friends of mine, though I cannot mention their names; we supported and encouraged each other through those hard days. Though we found ourselves in different places, we had all become witnesses and reporters at the same epochal moment in history. I remember what a young Tibetan told me from Lhasa late one night, just after the protests erupted: “Although we often have the words ‘nationality’ and ‘Tibet’ on our lips, when things get really bad it’s usually the humblest stratum of the common people who take the risks and step out in front. They’re a lot braver than we are.” But in fact this young man was seized for taking photographs and was detained for nearly two months.
My blog was destroyed by hackers and my Skype account was hijacked. Each day was like combat, with events in constant flux as on a battlefield. Again and again, my friends helped me keep going. In the face of constant threats from the political police, I packed a small bag with articles I would need in prison and kept it within reach.
Later I traveled through the Tibetan region taking notes and pictures. The entire journey I was followed and repeatedly intercepted and questioned. The police limited my contacts with Tibetans and interrogated any who had dealings with me. They were trying to make me someone no one would talk to. While I was in Lhasa, a squad of police raided my mother’s apartment and took me away after searching my room and confiscating my materials. It was on account of the Beijing Olympics which were then underway. Eventually they let me go. This experience is actually not unusual for
Tibetans living under dictatorship.
Even now, every kind of inhumanity and injustice is still being visited upon Tibet. Many outstanding people, innocent people, have been arrested and sentenced and are suffering unimaginable torment. I will keep my one-person media operation going, for it is the weapon of the powerless. To be sure, this weapon consists of the written word; it rests on principles of nonviolence and noncooperation; it draws its energy from our religion, traditions, and culture, as well as the broken condition to which we have been reduced; these provide the strength with which we resist oppression and are the reason why I will never give up or compromise. The support that comes in from every side, including from you, is a lasting source of my courage.
August 28, 2010