Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Tibetan poet / author / citizen journalist Woeser.
Photo: Jack Hill / Times Online

ast 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. Buddhists 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
Chinese soldiers ride armoured military vehicles, with their identification markings covered by newspaper, as they enforce "harmony" in Tibetan areas.
Photo: Tibetan Solidarity Committee
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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