Tibetan writer and activist Tsering Woeser waving from the balcony of her home in Beijing on Friday. (Photo/AP)
DHARAMSHALA, March 9: Tsering Woeser, the Tibetan writer and activist, was awarded in absentia the 2013 International Women of Courage Award by the First Lady Michelle Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry in a formal function held at the State Department on Friday.
Woeser is currently under house arrest and has been repeatedly denied passport by the Chinese government.
Secretary John Kerry, while awarding the prize to Woeser, said, “for courageously striving to improve human rights conditions for China’s Tibetan citizens by illuminating their plight through her writings, and thus giving eloquent voice to those whose stories might otherwise never be heard, Tsering Woeser is a woman of courage.”
Secretary Kerry noted that Tibet has become “increasingly identified with self-immolations and protests against the deteriorating human rights condition” of Tibetans.
“Against this backdrop, Tsering Woeser has emerged as a clarion voice of the people, even as the Chinese Government has worked to curtail the flow of information from Tibet. Through her website, called Invisible Tibet, her poetry, her nonfiction works, her savvy use of communication networks like Twitter, Tsering has bravely documented the situation around her,” Secretary Kerry said.
“She says that “to bear witness is to give voice,” and that is what she is doing for the millions of Tibetans who cannot speak for themselves. And she has vowed to never give up or compromise.”
In her remarks, First Lady Michelle Obama said, "This is not an honor bestowed on a few but a call for action to all of us." "These honorees ... have shown the potential to stand up and demand action for the next generation." "With every blog post these women have inspired millions," she added.
Woeser had earlier dedicated the award to the Tibetan self-immolators, numbering 107, who have set themselves on fire protesting China’s occupation and demanding freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama from exile.
Beijing reacted sharply to the honour bestowed on Woeser, accusing her of distorting facts about Tibet.
"Woeser has frequently published articles distorting facts about Tibet that vilify China's ethnic policies, incite ethnic separatist feelings, and destroy China's ethnic unity," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily news briefing Friday.
"The United States giving this kind of person an award is the same as public support for her separatist speech, and clearly violates its frequent promises to recognise Tibet as part of China."
Since 2007, the International Women of Courage Award has been presented in recognition of women around the globe who have demonstrated courage and leadership, often at great personal risk, to promote justice and rights. Tsering Woeser is among ten awardees this year.