Shokjang’s Weibo Page, the most recent post was on March 19, 2015, the day of his detention. The profile says, “I am Shokjang, My previous page was closed down by others, this is where I write freely”.
Five years ago this morning, I was arrested, without warning or notice, along with this friend I am reminiscing about. We were taken to prison with black hoods covering our entire heads, our hands restrained in manacles, and we were consigned to small, narrow dungeons. He was consigned to the prison cell across from mine. I could catch sight of him every time they closed or opened his door, and he would also be staring at me every time he had the chance. I think he couldn’t see me clearly, because he would raise his eyebrows and study me with an acute expression of care and close attention. I can still vividly call to mind the image of his piercing gaze and perceptive expression. Later, I wrote a letter to him while I was in prison wherein I recounted my feelings and impression of him from that period. At that time, I was behind bars, and I was utterly inundated by a sense of intense emotional vim and vigour. Today, yet again, after five years of that encounter, I revisit the experience through recollection. Today, I am outside, but I carry an undissolvable permafrost of memory from the prison – a memory forever arrested in the captivity of the cold.
Shokjang (left) and Theurang (right)
I was detained in that prison for three days. Thrown into the prison cells facing one another, we kept staring at each other. Manacled in iron shackles, I perched on a chair for the entire three days. The nights were sleepless and the food unpalatable. It was no different for him. I was transferred to a different prison after the three days. While I was leaving, he did not notice. Hoping to catch sight of him, I looked back towards his dungeon a few times in vain. While leaving that dungeon, I lost a collection of invaluable books that they seized from my house when I was “arrested,” and in that dungeon across from mine, I left behind a treasured a friend who was captured with me. Later, I was taken to Sichuan, and he remained in Lanzhou.
He is from Gengya, Labrang. His real name is Druklo. I am used to calling him “Old Man from Labrang,” but he adopted the name “Shokjang.” We were in the same class in college. Initially, we had some online exchanges of views and disagreements. Later, incidentally, we became roommates in college, and then and there, we became very close friends. We helped each other in our works and inspired and encouraged one another in our aspirations. Over the years, we remained friends loyal to each other through thick and thin. I truly hold this friendship in high regard. Shokjang is not only a principled and dependable person; he is also a young, intelligent and spirited mind imbued with many dreams and aspirations.
I missed my friend Shokjang while I was behind bars, and I wrote to him about my experience and feelings from there. Through a female friend of mine, he sent me a book. It was a copy of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, and the accounts of Mandela’s long struggle and experience behind the bars for 27 years hardened my conviction and courage to remain steadfast in those critical times. I am filled with gratitude for that book, and I am even more indebted to my friend Shokjang.
Today is April 6, 2015, and exactly five years ago, we were arrested and thrown behind bars by Chinese police. This day remains an unforgettable day in my life, because I reflect on and revisit the experience time and again. Contrary to the circumstances, it is neither a sense of animosity and outrage nor a feeling of regret and loss that keeps this memory alive. Today is the day I was criminalised for being a Tibetan even though I have never accepted myself as a criminal and considered the date a dark day in my life. But it is an unforgettable day for reasons my words fail to demonstrate.
I remember today from five years ago, I remember the very day, vividly. I remember my long hair sheared off my head. I remember my proud and spirited friend. Shokjang is always animated and enthusiastic. He is someone who never deters from expressing his views, and whose courage and aspiration for freedom is unwavering. He devotes his time and intellect in the fight against darkness and oppression. When a mind or voice like his is stifled and silenced for a time or forever, it is the unpropitious cloud of darkness and oppression that ushers a reign of terror in the land.
Oh, my friend.
Oh, son of the darkened Snowland.
April 6, 2015