By Bhuchung D. Sonam
Review of LIKE GOLD THAT FEARS NO FIRE− New Writing From Tibet
Publisher: International Campaign for Tibet
Jamyang Kyi hastily brushed her teeth, put on her clothes and dashed out of her house without having breakfast. Before exiting the door she called to her niece, “Prepare some vegetables for lunch.” It was just another working day.
Once inside her office, a group of policemen in civilian dress arrested her. She was escorted to an unmarked vehicle and driven away to the local police station. On the way a Chinese officer lectured, “Under the special policy of the government, Tibet has undergone transformational development, and the construction goes on with massive infusions of funding every year. Official salaries are much higher than in other provinces. How can [you] they be so ungrateful?”
This fittingly sums up the fundamental problem that Beijing has with Tibet and Tibetan people. They utterly fail to understand that what we need is not money but freedom − freedom to ride our yaks, plough our fields, grow our barley and decide who our leaders are. What we need is not bullets exploding from the PLA’s guns, but to let our words soar freely in the wide blue sky. But of course, Beijing does not allow Tibetans to just be − because being Tibetan is being anti-Motherland; a crime big enough for you to be arrested on your way to work.
The fifty years of PRC occupation − and propaganda about astounding material development − has not changed the basic balance between the Chinese ruler and the ruled Tibetans. The half-truths dressed in quotable socialist maxims have brought Tibetans neither the promised socialist paradise nor the basic rights based on which some semblance of their lives can be built.
Thus, from her exile in Beijing, this was the response of our iconic writer, Woeser, to China’s massive military crackdown on the 2008 peaceful protests inside Tibet. “Tibet is no longer the Tibet of the past, and the Tibetan people are no longer the Tibetan people of the past – everything has undergone a genuine transformation. If one pretends to be aloof and indifferent and thinks that blood can just be washed away and that the truth can be covered over; or that atrocities will not be condemned and suffering will not be pondered; if one acts as though nothing ever happened and thinks life goes on as before, and the sun will rise as ever, this is just self deception… Tibetans are breaking through the silence.”
From Amdo, a young Tibetan, Kunga Tsangyang − a popular writer, blogger and photographer who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on November 12, 2009 − writes that “the portrayal of Tibetans in Chinese official media this year has left an image of Tibetans as enemies,” and that “Tibetans are driven to a desperate position because of them being accused of doing things, which they never did, and small incidents were exaggerated and paraded before the world.”
Dolma Kyab, another young Tibetan writer, who is serving ten and a half years in prison for authoring The Restless Himalayas, wrote that “it should be known that understanding the realm and range of Tibet, and understanding that Tibet was formerly a viable independent nation before being colonized by China, is of great benefit to all Tibetan people in understanding ourselves,” and that “… it is only when we understand ourselves that we then have the power to understand this land that belongs to us.”
These are some of the powerful voices from Like Gold That Fears No Fire: New Writing From Tibet. It is a compilation of hard, unrepentant, creative voices with total authority to speak for their silenced brothers and sisters. All the writers have either faced persecution, exile, imprisonment or disappearance. Kunga Tsangyang is held in a prison somewhere in Kanlho Tibet Autonomous Prefecture; Dolma Kyab is being incarcerated in Chushur high-security prison; Woeser is in exile in Beijing and Jamyang Kyi is being surveilled every day by watchful eyes after paying a huge sum for her release. Many others are restricted in their locality by the heavily-armed PLA and the dreaded PSB personnel.
The battle between people’s desire for freedom − and the regime’s appetite to crack down − rages on. This fight is between a roaming band of unarmed yaks and armoured tanks with red flags and yellow stars. As happened in Vietnam and the Soviet Union, the men with weapons of chemical dust are not destined to win in the end.
As a Tibetan, I will never give up the struggle for the rights of my people
As a religious person, I will never criticize the leader of my religion
As a writer, I am committed to the power of truth and reality
This is the pledge I make to my fellow Tibetans with my own life
The words are from Gartse Jigme. This reflects the spirit of a younger generation of Tibetans who have not experienced the terrible death and destruction of the Cultural Revolution but are well aware about the denial of basic rights and freedom. Until and unless Tibetans will achieve these, one generation of Tibetans will be followed by another who will creatively resist the Chinese occupation with the same determination as their predecessors.
Like Gold That Fears No Fire is a thoroughly inspiring compilation of current writing by Tibetans. Just as the Dalai Lama so often stresses the importance of education and intellectual exercise, these writers are clearly showing that the power of words is as enduring as the Himalayan mountains and more powerful than the barrel of a gun.
International Campaign for Tibet deserves a firm pat on its back for putting together this essential book. It comes at the right time with the right message. As we have known all along, the Tibetan issue is not only about religious freedom, cultural preservation or improvement in human rights situations. It is about the survival of a nation and self-determination of a people. This book will go a long way in proving to the world that people inside Tibet and in exile will neither compromise nor give up in their struggle for an independent Tibet.
Download a PDF copy of the book here