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Woeser Detained on Eve of Beijing Climax; a Tibetan's 'Olympic Diary'

August 27, 2008

Agam's Gecko Blog
August 26, 2008

Last week, the Beijing-based Tibetan poet Woeser and her writer
husband Wang Lixiong travelled to Lhasa for a planned month-long
visit with family and friends in her hometown. On Thursday August 21,
just before the CCP's big party reached its finishing climax in
Beijing, eight police arrived at Woeser's mother's house and took the
poet away for questioning. The police had come armed with a "summons"
bearing the wrong name, said her husband.

"She was held for questioning for eight hours by several officers who
said that they were acting on a tip-off from a member of the public
who had seen her photographing army and police positions in Lhasa from a taxi.

 From all information available on conditions in Lhasa at the moment,
it's impossible to look in any direction and not see army and police
positions. They're everywhere in this militarily-occupied city. But
apparently taking photos from a public conveyance travelling on
public roads, showing what anyone can see with their own eyes whether
they want to or not, is a security risk.

"The police searched her mother's home and removed several documents
as well as Mr Wang's laptop. They hacked his password, checked all
his documents and required Woeser to erase every photograph that
showed a policeman or army officer."

Mr Wang said: "I can't say whether their intention was to intimidate.
But if they can do this to an influential writer who has done nothing
more than take photographs, then one can only imagine the kind of
threat that ordinary people in Tibet must feel every day."

The authorities may as well declare cameras illegal in Lhasa, given
that the most photogenic parts of the city are literally crawling
with police and military personnel. If they're shy and don't want
their pictures taken, they should stay in their barracks (or just go
back home to China).

"The Tibetan capital remains under lockdown. The city is patrolled by
police and paramilitary forces, many deployed around the Jokhang
temple, the holiest shrine in Tibetan Buddhism in the heart of the
Old City. On the pilgrim route that circles the temple at least four
teams of paramilitary police are on guard around the clock."

"Each comprises five men carrying rifles who patrol a section of the
route. Buddhsts twirling prayer wheels and performing prostrations
wend their way among the armed men. Some of the teams, dressed in
camouflage, have recently been replaced by patrols carrying what
appear to be teargas launchers in tubes on their backs."

The couple decided to return to Beijing after this harassment, but
wished to have a reunion with family and friends before they left.
Many were afraid of the consequences and didn't attend. They returned
to Beijing on Saturday, while the Party smoked a cigarette and coyly
asked its international partners, "Was it as good for you as it was for us?"

Hours before the closing ceremony, security agents arrested the
elderly bishop of an underground Catholic Church, 73 year old Bishop
Julius Jia Zhiguo, according to a statement by the Cardinal Kung Foundation.

Another Tibetan Beijing resident decided to get out of town even
before the foreplay got started, returning to his hometown
(apparently somewhere in the Tibetan prefectures of Sichuan) in
mid-July. Even there, refusing to watch television or use the
internet, it was impossible to escape the Olympic hype. So "Tashibod"
began writing an "Olympics Diary" from a remote part of the Tibetan
plateau. It was published in Chinese on New Century News on August
16, and has been thankfully translated to English for China Digital Times.

The diary is very valuable for conveying the atmosphere in Tibet
before and during the $40 billion bash in China's capital, full of
the writer's interactions with family and friends, observations of
the current situation in this unnamed locality, and especially of his
own feelings about all these experiences related to the "Olympic Syndrome."

"The Olympics has indeed already become a "sickness", an illness like
SARS, at least for Tibetan areas and Tibetan people. Tibetans like me
fled Beijing to avoid the Olympics as if we have were trying to avoid
SARS. However, after I came back to the Tibetan area, I saw that the
local government was in combat readiness, and even though it is not
SARS, yet it is more like SARS because of the checkpoints at all the
intersections and the fact that the county seat is going to be sealed
off shortly.

"In fact, what we are trying to avoid is not the Olympics. If we
Tibetans did not enjoy the identity of being "second class citizens"
in China or we were not suspected of being "terrorists" as long as we
are Tibetans, most of us would probably welcome the world's great
sport gathering, and most of us would probably stay in Beijing to
watch the Olympic games.

"The Olympics is just like a mirror, which shows the situation of
Tibetans in China"


What does a patriotic Chinese person feel if he or she were to look
into this mirror? I wonder.

"On local streets there are police cars patrolling 24 hours a day,
and the fully armed soldiers are guarding the main roads with weapons
in their hands. The county government acts as if they were
confronting a mortal enemy, and their propaganda has always
emphasized "stability" The tense facial expression of people who are
working for the government institutions is a charming contrast to the
big red banner with the words "Happily welcoming the Olympics"
hanging on the streets.

"The Olympics are very odd."

Tashibod has a friend working in the propaganda department who was
tasked with teaching selected Tibetan phrases to the soldiers --
things like "Stop," "Don't move," and "Tibetans and the Chinese
belong to the same family." For their part, the soldiers were keen to
question the Tibetan about how tough monks are, how well they can
fight, and so on. When he realised that these heavily armed Chinese
soldiers considered as their prime enemies those whom Tibetans hold
in highest regard, it was hard for him to bear.

"He lowered his head, and repeatedly said the following sentences,
'We are providing assistance to those outsiders who are employed to
fight the war, and their objects of war are monks we respect the most
and our compatriots. What are we doing?,' 'What on earth are we doing?'"

On "Army Day" (August 1) a performance was put on in the town for all
the county leaders, soldiers and militia. Local people also came to
watch, but it was certainly not geared for their enjoyment. Praise
the Motherland, praise the Communist Party, not a word of it in
Tibetan. The "leaders" of course don't speak the language either. The
show was filled with martial arts combat displays; the bystanders
were awed, the "leaders" smiled and were satisfied.

"During the entire performance, I have not heard anybody saying one
Tibetan line on the stage, including the host, the actors and actresses.

"I saw the Tibetans onstage in Tibetan robes decorated with tiger
skins singing the so-called Tibetan songs in Chinese.

"The performers were trying their best, the audience was having a
great time, the leaders were satisfied with the performance, thus,
everybody was happy.

"I looked at them, then looked at myself. At that moment I wanted to cry."

The last entry is August 9, and Tashibod ponders the meaning of the
previous night's grand spectacle of the Olympic opening ceremony. The
nearly four-hour program was principally a display of Han culture and
history -- Chinese drums, Chinese paintings, printing, caligraphy,
Confucius, the Great Wall, Chinese opera, etc. The "fifty-five
flowers" ("ethnic minority nationalities") were seen briefly
(Tashibod seems not know that those "flowers" were all of the
majority flower group). The government's message was, "China equals
the Han nationality, and Chinese history equals Han Chinese history."

"In my eyes, the Great Wall of China is only a building displaying
the wisdom and hard work of mankind in the history of mankind, and in
fact it was built to defend against what they called "barbarians",
our ancestors, thus, is there any possibility that we minorities will
find a sense of pride in the Great wall of China?

"In the future, please do not nag me with such phrases as the
"Chinese nation" and such hypocritical and disgusting words as "We
are all descendants of Yan Di and Huang Di, and we are all children
of the Chinese nation." The Han nationality who is already holding
power told the world and 100 million minorities in China that it is
China, and its history is the history of China."

And while they all revelled in Beijing at this massive party with
their international guests, "the entire Tibetan area is shrouded in terror."

The security precautions in his town are strict, the atmosphere very
tense, yet the place isn't yet sealed off like other towns have been.
Should he feel fortunate?

But, at the time when the entire country is celebrating, we are going
so far as to feel so fortunate that we have not been segregated
collectively by the country to which we are supposed to belong. This
again is such an absurd thing!

If all belongs to the Chinese nation, then should it be like this? Is
it reasonable to go so far as it is now?

I vote for "unreasonable," and could certainly come up with some
juicier adjectives as well. If this is how the Party wishes to
promote "harmony," they're all plainly insane.

An earthquake measuring 6.6 magnitude struck western Tibet last
night. The epicenter is located in the Drongpa region of Shigatse
Prefecture, at Palung Tso (Palung Lake). Is there any chance that the
wonderful "openness" the international media drooled about in Sichuan
a few months ago would be replicated for a major earthquake in Tibet?
That's a rhetorical question, by the way.

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