By Phurbu Thinley
Mr Thubten Samphel, Secretary for Information of the Department of Information and International Relations, holds the medal to be presented to the famed Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser (Photo: Tibet.net)
Dharamsala, December 19: Tibetan woman writer Tsering Woeser was on Monday awarded an honorary medal by the Association of Tibetan Journalists (ATJ) during the commemoration of its 10th founding anniversary day.
The Chief Guest of the morning function, Mr Thupten Samphel, Secretary for Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), presented the freedom of speech medal to a Voice of Tibet reporter, who took the award on Woeser’s behalf.
Woeser is a Tibetan author writing in Chinese. Born in Lhasa in 1966, Woeser was raised and educated in Kham-Derge during and post-Cultural Revolution in schools with Chinese medium curriculae. She graduated from the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at the South West University for Nationalities in Chengdu, in 1988. She worked as a reporter for Ganze (Kardze in Tibetan) Daily in Kham before joining as an editor of Lhasa-based Tibetan Literature (Xizang Wenxue
), an official Chinese language journal of the Literature Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Tsering Woeser (File Photo: Tibetwrites.org)
She is the author of books such as “Tibet Above” (Xizang Supreme
), “Notes on Tibet” (Xizang Biji
) and “Map of Burgundy Red” (Xianghongsede Ditu
). It was her second book, “Notes on Tibet”; a compilation of 38 short stories on Tibetan culture, first published in 2003, that caused her troubles.
In October 2004, Chinese authorities decreed that the book contained “political errors” and subsequently banned for revealing opinions "that are harmful to the unification and solidarity of our nation" and, containing sympathetic and favourable references to the Dalai Lama.
Sine then, Woeser has been removed from her position in the “TAR” Literature Association and the housing assigned to her has been confiscated and was further deprived of her income, medical insurance, and retirement pension, and restricted from applying for a passport to leave the country.
Initially she was asked to admit her mistakes and apologize for harming the reputation of the publishing house and disgracing the government. However, she refused flatly. Instead, in her letter, dated September 14, 2003, explaining her refusal to admit any mistake to the TAR Literature Association’s highest decision-making circle Wenlian Party Group, she wrote “From my perspective, to cooperate is to violate the calling and conscience of a writer” saying “The charges against ‘notes on Tibet’ have mainly centered around my points of view on religion and Tibet’s reality.”
Her unrelenting courage to pen down the true realities of Tibet under the wide attention of Chinese Communist authorities is known to have ignited a new literary movement inside Tibet. Because of the ban on her book, she is now unemployed and living in self-exiled in Beijing.
In her acceptance speech, for ATJ’s medal of honour, from Beijing, (a translated Tibetan version of which was read out by the ATJ’s General Secretary Yeshi Choesang); Woeser writes, “In reality, the three Tibetan writers Dawa Gyaltsen, Jamphel Gyatso and Dolma Kyab and many other Tibetan political prisoners who are still subjected to torture and persecution in Chinese jails inside Tibet are more deserving of this medal of honour”.
Insisting one must always stand up for one’s right to win freedom; Woeser writes “If every one gives up their rights out of fear, then there will be more unrestricted oppression from leaders”. So, in her acceptance speech, she writes, “The best way to enjoy freedom of speech and expression is to break out of the restricted rules and regulation curtailing freedom.”
The Tibetan journalists came together and formed the association in 1997. The Club has more than 40 members, who are mostly based in Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama led Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
The organisation aims to facilitate free, fair and accurate delivering of news of the situation and developments both within and outside Tibet and to protect the democratic right of freedom of speech.
Speaking at the Tibetan journalists’ function, Spokesperson of the Tibet’s Government-in-exile Mr Samphel said that the Tibetan media have the greater responsibility in further promoting the evolving Tibetan democracy and safeguard the freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the exile Tibetan democracy.
Describing the democracy bestowed upon Tibetan people by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as “very precious”, Mr Samphel said media has particular role “to promote democracy and especially the integral democratic principle of free speech and expression”.