The Tibetan Government-in-Exile has expressed disappointment at the report of Chinese persecution of outspoken Tibetan writer Wei Se (Tibetan: Oser or Woeser) saying she was only exercising her rights enshrined in the Chinese Constitution.
In a press statement from Dharamsala, India, on October 28, 2004, Kalon Thupten Lungrik, Acting Kalon Tripa and Minister for the Tibetan Department of Religion & Culture and Education, said, “There are many Chinese writers who are much more vocal in their expression of these rights on various issues, including the issue of Tibet. No such heavy punishment has been brought upon them. Because of this very reason, we have grounds to believe that Woeser’s so-called “political errors” are those of being a Tibetan and exercising her right to freedom of speech and we express disappointment with China’s ethnic discrimination”.
Following is the full text of the Dharamsala statement:
Thubten Samphel (Secretary)
Department of Information and International Relations
Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala
Dharamsala – “The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) expresses its deep disappointment with the action by the Chinese authorities of depriving a Tibetan writer Woeser (Chinese: Wei Se), of a job, home and freedom of movement simply because the Chinese officials consider her writings favourable to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan issues”, said Kalon Thupten Lungrik, acting Kalon Tripa and Kalon for the Departments of Religion and Culture and Education.
Kalon Thupten Lungrik was reacting to a press release issued by Human Rights in China (HRIC) based in New York. The Human Rights in China, according to its press release of 27 October 2004, said that China’s United Front Department and Publications Bureau have determined that Woeser’s writings contained ” political errors”. These “political errors” refer to Woeser’s positive references to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Human Rights in China in its release said that as a result Woeser lost her job and her work unit, the Tibetan Cultural Association, has evicted her from her home and terminated her health and retirement benefits. She has also been prohibited from applying for a passport to leave the country.
“The right of expression that Woeser has exercised in her writings are those very rights which are enshrined in the constitution of the People’s Republic of China”, said Kalon Thupten Lungrik. “There are many Chinese writers who are much more vocal in their expression of these rights on various issues, including the issue of Tibet. No such heavy punishment has been brought upon them. Because of this very reason, we have grounds to believe that Woeser’s so-called “political errors” are those of being a Tibetan and exercising her right to freedom of speech and we express disappointment with China’s ethnic discrimination”.
Kalon Thupten Lungrik also expressed his hope that the Chinese authorities will provide a passport to Woeser for her to travel abroad to earn her living.
The main source of Woeser’s alleged political error is her book Tibet Journal (Xizang Biji), which was published and reprinted by the Guangzhou Huacheng Publishing Company in 2003. The book is a collection of essays relating to Tibet’s history, personalities and way of life. The book has since been banned by the Guangdong Provincial Publishing Bureau, and specific official criticisms of the book are recorded in Volume 22 of the officially distributed Book Publishing Newsletter (Tushu Chuban Tongxun).
Sources told HRIC that following the book’s publication, the Huacheng Publishing Company’s director and the book’s editor were subjected to criticism and investigation. Woeser’s work unit, the Tibetan Cultural Association, organized a special committee to carry out “thought correction” on Woeser, and Party organs sent various officials to talk with Woeser and her family on a daily basis. Woeser was also assigned to write an article praising the Railway to Lhasa, and was pressured to abandon her practice of Tibetan Buddhism. Feeling pressure from all sides, Woeser has felt obliged to avoid further persecution by leaving Lhasa to stay with friends in Beijing.
Woeser, born in 1966, is one of the few Tibetan writers publishing in Chinese. A resident of Sichuan’s Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Woeser graduated with a degree in Chinese from the Southwestern Institute for National Minorities, and has worked as a journalist. Woeser became editor of the journal Tibetan Literature (Xizang Wenxue) in 1990, and was subsequently sent to Beijing’s Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts as a visiting scholar. Following official criticism of Tibetan Journal, she was immediately recalled to Lhasa.
Woeser has participated in a number of petitions calling for preservation of traditional Tibetan culture and respect for ethnic values. One of her petitions resulted in the Han swimmer Zhang Jian abandoning his plans to swim across Namtso Lake, one of the three sacred lakes of Tibet. Another campaign resulted in the cancellation of a concert by the singer Han Hong planned at Lhasa’s Potala Palace. In a similar vein, Woeser has consistently protested construction of the Railway to Lhasa.