Agam's Gecko
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Paljor Norbu
Paljor Norbu, an 81 year-old traditional Tibetan printer from Lhasa, has been sent to prison by Chinese authorities.
Photo: Paljor Norbu

hatever anyone may tell you about traditional Chinese Confucian-inspired respect for elders, the Communist Party doesn't buy it. After all, China's "permanent" ruling party went to great lengths to obliterate Confucian values very early in its notorious career, and apparently its thinking hasn't changed much since then.

Last month, the International Campaign for Tibet reported on the detention of an 81 year-old traditional printer from Lhasa, evidently for printing "forbidden materials." Paljor Norbu, a prominent cultural figure in the Holy City, was arrested on October 31. (That report also details the sentencing of a Tibetan woman, Norzin Wangmo, to five years in prison for talking on the telephone.)

Human Rights Watch China now confirms that Paljor Norbu has been secretly sentenced to seven years in prison, after authorities illegally refused to inform his relatives of the detention or of the charges against him. The secret trial was held in November, and the family was only informed of the sentencing after the fact. Paljor Norbu's whereabouts are still unknown.
A descendant of a family with a long history of printing and publishing Buddhist texts for monasteries, Norbu is an internationally renowned master printer. He used both modern and traditional woodblock printing techniques in his workshop, which employed several dozen workers. In addition to religious texts, the shop printed prayer flags, folk reproductions, books, leaflets, and traditional literature.

After Norbu's arrest, the police closed his shop, affixed notices of official closure on the door, and prohibited employees from returning. The police also confiscated books and woodblocks from the shop's collection.
HRW notes that Paljor Norbu was not offered even the minimal rights "guararanteed" by Chinese criminal procedures. By refusing to notify the family of the arrest, of the trial, or of the place of detention either before or after trial, refusal of the defense representation of his choice, and refusal to communicate the full verdict to anyone, the Party-beholden legal system proves once again that "rule of law" in China is a sad myth.

The Chinese government lies to the world, saying they are "protecting and promoting" Tibetan culture. Were that actually true, Paljor Norbu would be celebrated as a cultural icon and hero for preserving traditional Tibetan printing arts. Instead, he languishes in some unknown Chinese dungeon somewhere for the next seven years (if he can hold on that long). Despicable! HRW is calling on all civilised countries of the world to strongly protest the illegal imprisonment of this great Tibetan, and to demand his immediate exoneration and immediate release.

I can't help but think of another 81 year old man who is currently on the minds of all his people, in a different Buddhist country. People who have reached that advanced age must be given every consideration possible for their health. Every Thai person's heart is with their King today, propelling their prayers and wishes for his speedy recovery from minor illness. While in communist-occupied Tibet, a man of the very same age has been thrown away into a dark, unhealthy hole as punishment for his own life's work and craftsmanship.

There are some things that Chinese people need to get disgusted with, and they all should rank higher than having their "hurt feelings" because the French President met with the Dalai Lama yesterday. Isn't it time for the Chinese to wake up?

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