Banned, Blocked Tibetan Writer Vows to Speak Out in China

2006-08-01
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woeser150.jpg
Woeser. Photo provided by Woeser.

WASHINGTON—A well-known Tibetan writer whose blogs have now been closed by the Chinese authorities vowed Tuesday to keep speaking out and raising awareness in China of Tibetan culture.

“Though my blogs are shut down, they cannot stop my speech and my writing,” Woeser said during an 80-minute call-in program on RFA’s Tibetan service. She joined the program by phone from her home in Beijing.

“I will be writing and speaking. Since I am writer in Chinese, I want to make more people know reality of Tibetan culture, history, and traditions. I especially want the Chinese people to learn the truth about Tibetan history, culture, religion, and traditions.”

Woeser, 40, who writes primarily in Chinese and is married to the Chinese writer Wang Lixiong, said she believed that Chinese authorities had closed her blogs because she had recently published a photo of Tibet’s exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, on one of them.

Woeser is a well-known writer of Tibetan origin. She is the author of 10 volumes, including one book of collected poems, a prose volume titled Tibet Journal , and two books on the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution. Most of her work is banned inside China.

Dalai Lama photo, diverse readers

Those who participated in my blog from outside China could access through it English translations. There are many Chinese intellectuals—particularly those who are interested in Tibetan culture and history. There are also many photographers, and intellectuals from [the] Uyghur [region], Mongolia, Manchuria, and Taiwan. They write to me, and some of their writing, particular [that of] one Uyghur, was of a very interesting and excellent writing,

She was sacked in 2004 from the Tibetan Cultural Association in Lhasa, the Tibetan regional capital, after publishing Tibet Journal .

Tibet Journal reported on Tibetans’ continuing reverence for the Dalai Lama, whom Chinese authorities regard as a “splittist” committed to Tibetan independence. She subsequently lived for a time under official surveillance.

Her blogs have addressed a number of highly sensitive issues, such as HIV/AIDS in Tibet, the recently completed Tibet railway, and the 40th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution.

“I think the main reason for shutting my blog was that I placed a photo of His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] in my blog. I also composed a poem wishing him long life on July 6, and offered a [butter] lamp. Chinese authorities don’t like such things,” she said.

On the Aug.1 call-in show, she described the readership of her blogs as diverse and largely young.

Father was PLA soldier

“I am making impact on a variety of people… Most of those who surf my blog are of course members of the younger Tibetan generation,” she said, along with “intellectuals in Tibet, China, and other foreign countries.”

“Those who participated in my blog from outside China could access through it English translations. There are many Chinese intellectuals—particularly those who are interested in Tibetan culture and history. There are also many photographers, and intellectuals from [the] Uyghur [region], Mongolia, Manchuria, and Taiwan. They write to me, and some of their writing, particular [that of] one Uyghur, was of a very interesting and excellent writing,” Woeser said.

My faith in religion and love for Buddhism largely led me to write. When I was working in an office in Lhasa, I was paid well. But I never felt free, and it bothered me… When I was fired from the job, this incident led me to freedom, freedom to express myself in writing.

Blogs closed without explanation

“I am a writer. One of the main ethics of a good writer is to present the truth. A good writer cannot be a liar. To tell the truth is the core of a good writing—it is the most important quality of a writer. I became a bold writer when I was fired my job,” she said.

“I love my [Tibetan] nationality and have faith in religion—I practice Buddhism. Early on, I knew nothing about religion. Then I started visiting monasteries and started worshipping but we didn’t have the freedom to practice,” she said.

“My faith in religion and love for Buddhism largely led me to write. When I was working in an office in Lhasa, I was paid well. But I never felt free, and it bothered me… When I was fired from the job, this incident led me to freedom, freedom to express myself in writing.”

Woeser was born in Lhasa, the Tibetan regional capital, in 1966, at the start of Mao Zedong’s disastrous Cultural Revolution.

Angry at Chinese interpretation of Tibet

Her father was a soldier in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and her mother was a civil servant, she said, and when she was four her father’s job required the family to relocate to the Tibetan Kham region.

“I was in Kham for 13 years. Then I lived for seven years in Chengdu, studying Chinese literature. When I graduated from Chengdu, I loved poetry and started writing poems,” she said.

For many years, the Party’s literary and art workers have, in this dramatized way, revised Tibet, re-painted Tibet, re-sung Tibet, re-danced Tibet, re-filmed Tibet, re-sculpted Tibet. Actual history was changed in this image colored by red ideology. The memories of generations of Tibetans were changed by this image colored by red ideology.

On July 28, Woeser said, she noticed that her blogs had been closed. “So I sent an e-mail to Tibetcul.net hoping for some answers,” she said at the time.

Orders from higher-up

“They responded around midday letting me know that Central United Front officials instructed the Gansu Web monitoring station to close my Weblog sites. My blog was registered in Gansu province.”

“My first site, Maroon Map, has received about 300,000 visitors. Most of them are Tibetans. In the case of the Woeser Blog, most visitors are Chinese.”

Agence France-Presse quoted a manager of one of two Web sites that carried Woeser’s blogs as saying, “I believe the order [to close] came from the central government.”

Wangxiu Caidan, a Tibetan who gave the Chinese transliteration of her name and manages tibetcul.net, said Woeser’s blog was one of the most popular on the site.

In a commentary on the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, broadcast by RFA, Woeser took vehement issue with the Communist Party's revision of Tibetan history and culture.

“Tibetans living in this transformative period are also divided into old and new. The old is unwanted; the new is required. How much effort is required to transform, repackage, and even change the ethics of an old people into a new people? Does it also imply how to grieve and fall to pieces?” she wrote.

“For many years, the Party’s literary and art workers have, in this dramatized way, revised Tibet, re-painted Tibet, re-sung Tibet, re-danced Tibet, re-filmed Tibet, re-sculpted Tibet,” Woeser wrote.

“Actual history was changed in this image, colored by red ideology. The memories of generations of Tibetans were changed….”

Press group 'appalled'

In a statement, the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders said it was “appalled by the closure of Woeser’s blogs, and we call for them to be reopened.”

“As her poetry is banned in China, these blogs were the only way she had left to express herself. Their disappearance shows how the Chinese authorities go out of their way to limit Tibetan culture to folklore for tourists.”

“Political control of the Chinese Internet is becoming more and more strict. The Chinese search engines recently updated their word filters while chat forums have been closed on government orders,” the group said in a statement.

“We again appeal to the Chinese authorities to respect freedom of expression, a right guaranteed under their constitution.”

Original reporting by Dolkar for RFA’s Tibetan service. Translated by Karma Dorjee. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Produced and written for the Web in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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