The “Olympics Diary” of a Tibetan

The following diary was originally posted in Chinese and provides a glimpse into life in a remote Tibetan area as the Olympics were being celebrated in Beijing:

The “Olympics Diary” of a Tibetan
By Tashibod

Today is Tuesday, July 22, 2008, and it is the tenth day since I came back to my hometown. Within these ten days, even when I refused to watch any TV and kept myself away from the internet, almost every day I could still hear about and see things concerning the Beijing Olympics in the home of a countryman in a remote area in Tibet. Therefore, today I decided to write a special diary – an Olympic Diary. I want to record all the details about how I felt about the Beijing Olympics in this remote place in Tibet when the Olympics were about to begin in Beijing, when I had no access to internet or TV.

July 22, 2008, Tuesday, The Olympics Blow against My Face

During breakfast my father, who had just come back from herding the cattle, said that there was a new bunker (diaobao) made up of sandbags at the end of the bridge over the big river, and fully armed soldiers were on duty. My father clicked his tongue in wonder and was amazed at the speed, saying “yesterday there was nothing, then this morning it suddenly appeared like this.” My family was discussing this while having breakfast. Though the old people could not remember the time when a bunker was built at the end of the bridge, no one was surprised at the appearance of the bunker. In addition, my family unanimously believes that this change was a preparatory measure taken by the government for the imminent Olympics. I was surprised to see my family’s natural and calm reaction to this event and their unanimous judgment concerning it, and I found out that they were accustomed to such things – such actions taken by the government, especially when the Olympics were about to begin.

At the dinner table, my father said that he heard that every county seat of the entire prefecture would be sealed off, all public transport would be stopped and no cars or people were allowed to travel between the county seats. I asked my father how was it possible to do this! He said to me everything was possible, and told me that at the time of the March 14 Incident they also did this. At that time, all the transportation stopped, and only some sedan cars were allowed to travel between counties after passing through many inspections. As soon as I heard my father’s words, I also felt it is possible to do this, and the government was capable of doing anything imaginable. As long as one could ensure there would be no incidents during the Olympics, and as long as one could report to one’s superiors on completing their tasks, then interfering with the normal living habits of the people and obstructing the normal social order would be considered to be minor issues. They do not even need to think about them, let alone provide explanations for their actions.

When I though about it further, I felt it was not good! If the county seat were to be sealed off in August, then what should I do with the present to ZH? Originally I had agreed to send it to him in late August, but if the county seat were to be sealed off, then it would be impossible for me to go to Chengdu. I pondered it over further, then I decided to send the present to my friend in Beijing.

In the afternoon, I went to the post office, and I saw many people were in front of the counters. For post offices in small towns, there are neither rules for people to wait for their number nor the habit to line up, thus, everybody was trying to push forward. After all the trouble for me to get to the front, and after a few Han Chinese male workers from other regions finished sending their money, the clerk asked me what I wanted to send, and told me that some things which we could usually send could not be sent during the Olympics. I was thinking to myself, “Olympics this and Olympics that, in the end would it allow people to live or not?” I said to the clerk, “Why can’t I send it? I am just sending a small present!” I should be grateful to the government for not listing this small toy in the list of the contraband. Though it took me a while, at long last, I sent the present.

Ah, I felt the flavor of the Olympics had already blown against my face.
July 23, 2008, Wednesday, Cordyceps, Pine Mushrooms and the Olympics

There are more and more pine mushrooms on the mountains now. In the small town of the county seat where common people’s income mainly comes from cordyceps and pine mushrooms, every family is analyzing the market price for them, and is preparing to welcome the arrival of the pine mushroom season.

In the afternoon, the husband of my mother’s sister came to our house to discuss with my uncle how to do this year’s business concerning pine mushrooms. I learned from their discussion that since last year there had been hearsay among the common people that a great number of foreigners and their leaders would come to Beijing during the Beijing Olympics, and at that time Beijing would buy a large amount of pine mushrooms and cordyceps to treat these foreigners. In addition, when these foreigners went home, they would also buy pine mushrooms and cordyceps, therefore, they believed that the prices for cordyceps and pine mushrooms during the Olympics would be very high, and they were filled with joy.

The price of cordyceps last year and at the beginning of this year was very high, but at the time when the season of cordyceps is about to end the price began to fall, and the average price fell one third of the original price. Since the common people have great expectations for the stimulation to the market brought by the arrival of the Olympics, many people have not even sold cordyceps collected last year. They have been waiting for the Olympics, and they have been planning to exchange them for more money during the Olympics. Unexpectedly, eventually the Olympics indeed brought great stimulation to the market, but the stimulation was negative. Now, before the arrival of the Olympics, the price of cordyceps has already hit the bottom.

My uncle said that this year’s pine mushroom market was rather slow. In former years, before pine mushrooms even started to grow, the Chinese businessmen from inland China, both the big and the small, would have rushed here. But this year pine mushrooms had already started to grow, yet only a few businessmen had come, and the price was much lower than that of last year. For the past few years, due to the fact that the transportation has become more and more convenient, the form of pine mushrooms sold changed from being boiled to being frozen to be sent directly to Inland China and abroad. In addition, some people also cut pine mushrooms into pieces, then dried them, and finally sold them as dry pieces. My uncle said that if the county seat was to be sealed off, or even now when the county seat had not been sealed off, it had already been rather troublesome for Tibetans to travel between inland China and Tibetan areas. On their way there were many checkpoints, and when they arrived at inland China, it was not convenient for them to stay in hotels. Usually the hotels would refuse to allow you to register to stay there because you were Tibetan. If the government restricted or stopped cars or people from travelling between cities, it would be a fatal strike against the pine mushroom market.

My uncle said with a forced smile, “I originally thought that the Olympics would bring us common people some good luck, but I never expected it would be like this. If the situation continues, it will be impossible for us to do anything. It seems that during the Olympics I can only stay home and watch the Olympics.”

July 26, 2008, Saturday The Olympic Syndrome

In the morning my younger brother got a call from a friend in the same village. A few of his friends had quarreled with the patrol group (known as 110 in China) after drinking, as a result, they were severely beaten and locked up. He called my brother, hoping that he would ask our relatives working at the Public Security Bureau to intercede on their behalf and release them. As soon as my brother told us about it, this immediately caused my father to lecture him. My father said to my brother, “Now it is the special period of the Olympics, you must be very cautious and should not go out as you please. In the event that any incidents happen, then the patrolling group will exaggeratedly label you as somebody who attempts to sabotage the stability of the society during the Olympics, then you will bite off more than you can chew.” My father said that if it were not the special period of the Olympics, these drunkards would have been released earlier on, thus, my brother also had to be cautious.

At noon I received a call from a friend, telling me that a British friend of mine who had been working in Beijing had been deported. My British friend, a second generation Tibetan from Britain, grew up abroad and is a graduate from a world famous university. She is well versed in a few languages, and had been teaching in Beijing. She and I have a lot of common things to talk about, and we frequently discuss the different hobbies, likings and viewpoints between Tibetans in Tibet and abroad. When I left Beijing, I pleaded with her to be cautious and to take good care of herself. I reminded her that during the Olympics she had to be particularly careful because even if one had not done anything which merited their attention, the government was in an extremely sensitive and intense state. As a Tibetan and as a Tibetan in Beijing, especially as an overseas Tibetan in Beijing, I believe that all her actions were under the government’s surveillance. Since I do not have access to internet or do not watch TV, it is impossible for me to know the details about her deportation. I learned some through this phone call. I heard that she was suddenly taken away when she was at home, and after a few hours’ interrogation, she was directly taken to a plane heading for Britain. The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry later said that she was a core member of the Tibetan Youth Congress, but at that time she thought that she had not done anything which violated the Chinese law; furthermore her visa had not yet expired, thus, she was very angry. When she asked those Public Security officers to show her the evidence, those people told her that she knew clearly what she had done. I know when she came back to Beijing from Britain in April, she was interrogated for over two hours at the airport, and it was because she was a Tibetan. Now, it is very likely that her identity started all the “trouble”.

I remember that this time it is the Olympics which granted me the chance to come home and have a rather long vacation. As early as June, or after the March 14 Incident, the life of Tibetans in Beijing was not very easy. I arrived in Beijing from Lhasa in May. On the train, the policemen recorded my I.D. number several times. After arriving in Beijing, I learned from Tibetans in Beijing that the Public Security Bureau of every Tibetan area had sent local policemen to interrogate and examine Tibetans from the various Tibetan areas, and they would not leave until the Olympics was over. Many Tibetans working in Beijing left for home one after another, and are planning to come back after the Olympics. I should also be counted as one of them.

When I was having a meal with some foreign tourists in a Tibetan area, they said that all the Chinese have the “Olympics Syndrome.” Indeed, all the Chinese have the “Olympics Syndrome” and display different symptoms. Some are excited, others are scared. While some people are looking forward to it, others hate it. For some people, the Olympics are just like a holiday, but to others they are like a nightmare. That foreign tourist said that he could feel that the Olympics had already become the object of cursing among the common Tibetans.

The Olympics has indeed already become a “sickness”, an illness like SARS, at least for Tibetan areas and Tibetan people. Tibetans like me fled Beijing to avoid the Olympics as if we have were trying to avoid SARS. However, after I came back to the Tibetan area, I saw that the local government was in combat readiness, and even though it is not SARS, yet it is more like SARS because of the checkpoints at all the intersections and the fact that the county seat is going to be sealed off shortly.

In fact, what we are trying to avoid is not the Olympics. If we Tibetans did not enjoy the identity of being “second class citizens” in China or we were not suspected of being ‘terrorists” as long as we are Tibetans, most of us would probably welcome the world’s great sport gathering, and most of us would probably stay in Beijing to watch the Olympic games.

The Olympics is just like a mirror, which shows the situation of Tibetans in China

July 29, 2008, Tuesday The Olympics Are Very Odd

I have met many fellow villagers. They asked me why I did not stay in Beijing to watch the Olympic Games, I could only smile and tell them that there were too many people in Beijing, so I came back to watch the Olympics.

At night I saw the lights of police cars flashing, and many people gathering together. I learned from my friend who is a policeman that since this evening the Public Security Bureau is going to formally carry out one task, that is every day they are going to check and register all outsiders, especially Tibetans. My friend said that this is one of the measures taken by the local public security forces to welcome the Olympics.

As a matter of fact, the activities by the Public Security Bureau of the county to welcome the Olympics started a long time ago. On the street whose main road is no longer than two kilometers the police have already installed monitors, and there are also monitors filling the areas near the local monasteries. It is said that the monitors in the monasteries are being directly controlled by the Public Security Bureau of the prefecture.

My policeman friend was assigned to guard the intersection near the county seat. He loves fun and games, and he often rides his motorcycle to visit us. When we were taking a walk along the street, because he was afraid that his colleagues sitting in front of the monitors would find him with us on the street, whenever we arrived at a place where the monitor was, he would always hide behind us or take a detour around it. Luckily he himself is a policeman and he is familiar with where the monitors have been installed. As for us common people, even if we want to elude the monitors, we will not be able to do so. I was thinking to myself at that time if we calculate the proportion between the number of monitors and population, even London, which allegedly has the most densely distributed monitors, will definitely have fewer monitors than the small county seat in the Tibetan area.

In this sense, the Olympics has pushed the modernization of the Tibetan areas forward a great stride.

In the afternoon my friend who is teaching in the countryside went back to his working unit. The county government required each working unit to have people on duty 24 hours a day, including the schools already on vacation. The county authorities call this the task of “welcoming the Olympics and safeguarding stability.”

On local streets there are police cars patrolling 24 hours a day, and the fully armed soldiers are guarding the main roads with weapons in their hands. The county government acts as if they were confronting a mortal enemy, and their propaganda has always emphasized “stability”… The tense facial expression of people who are working for the government institutions is a charming contrast to the big red banner with the words “Happily welcoming the Olympics” hanging on the streets.

The Olympics are very odd.

July 31, 2008 Thursday What on Earth Are We Doing?

In the morning my sister who is in the primary school said to me, “Brother, the Olympics will start in eight days.” Yesterday I even saw the mayor of Beijing crying on TV. I asked why he cried, my sister said he might be too happy.

In the afternoon I saw some pictures displayed at the public square. On one side of the square one sees the publicity pictures introducing the history of the Olympics and the preparatory works for the Beijing Olympics, but on the other side of the square one sees the pictures revealing the darkness of the serfdom in old Tibetan society, what they call the “despicable deeds” of the “Dalai clique” and the “earth-shaking” changes in Tibetan areas after the founding of the New China.

When the torch relay met with demonstrations abroad, the Chinese government sternly criticized others saying that one should not politicize the Olympics; however, when the same torch burned in front of the Potala Palace, the Chinese government claimed that TAR party secretary Zhang’s rebuking of the Dalai Lama is only expressing his personal view. Now when that torch is going to be ignited in Beijing, even when a small county seat like this is publicizing the Olympics, it is still criticizing the Dalai Lama. May I ask who is politicizing the Olympics?

My friend who works in the propaganda department was dispatched to teach the local Tibetan dialect to the troops stationed in the area. He told me that they needed to teach the soldiers how to say “Stop”, “Don’t move”, “Tibetans and the Chinese belong to the same family,” etc.

He told me that the soldiers asked him, “We heard that the monks in the monasteries are very strong and they are very good at fighting. Is that so?”

My friend said that when he was teaching the soldiers these contradictory and extremely hypocritical words such as “stop”, “do not move” and “Tibetans and Chinese belong to the same family,” it was already hard for him to bear. Then when he heard the questions these soldiers asked, and when he saw these fully armed soldiers considered the monasteries and monks we respect the most as imagined enemies, he shuddered, and was at a loss for words.

He lowered his head, and repeatedly said the following sentences, “We are providing assistance to those outsiders who are employed to fight the war, and their objects of war are monks we respect the most and our compatriots. What are we doing?”, “What on earth are we doing?”

August 1, 2008 Friday The Holiday

Today is Army Day. The local government organized an art performance entitled “Welcoming the Olympics and celebrating August 1st.” The main performers are the officers and soldiers who began to be stationed in the region after the “March 14 Incident” and the art troupe formed by retired cadres.

There were many policemen on duty near the site of the performance, and all the leaders of the county came to watch the performance. The soldiers and militias were watching the performance, and many common people also came to join the fun.

The first program was the song “ the daughters of one mother” sang in chorus by the art troupe. Next they performed a few other programs with either singing or dancing. The content of their performances was simply either praising the motherland or the Communist Party. These people have worked within the system of the Communist Party for their whole life, but they are not resting after their retirement, and they are still contributing to “the communist cause.” As a member of the group who has benefited from the system, they have enough time and energy to rehearse these programs to be performed specifically for the leaders, and they do not need to busy themselves for their living like most of the Tibetan people. As people who have benefited after the Communist Party entered Tibet, they certainly have ample reason and fervour to praise the party who brought new life for them.

The host of the show called the troops stationed in the area after “March 14 Incident” “the troops stationed and patrolling the area.” But their performance was completely another style which I do not think of as performance, but it is a kind of intimidation, which makes people feel horrified and disgusted. They “performed” the Chinese martial arts, various fistfights, using the various parts of one’s body to break sticks, putting a few bricks on their bodies and smashing them with hammers and other various ways to subdue “bad guys” with shiny daggers… Their performances like these made the common people who came to watch them excited and scared as well. Every time when they performed an action which showed that their bodies were suffering, the spectators off the platform began to scream, and they were all worrying whether their bodies would be hurt or injured by the sticks. An old woman next to me prayed repeatedly and said, “Do not do this, why bother to do these things? It must hurt a lot. The Three Jewels bless these poor children.” After the performance was over, the common people repeatedly wondered at the skills of these soldiers, and they, to some degree, held these soldiers in awe.

Ah, my compatriots, I am wondering whether you know that the cruel actions they performed on the stage today were specially “prepared” for us. My kind-hearted compatriots, when others were wantonly displaying the various means to torture us in our land, we not only did not feel it was intimidation or provocation; on the contrary, we worry about them, and appreciated it as an outstanding performance. My compatriots, the people who are really pitiful are ourselves.

Throughout the entire performance, those leaders were smiling. I do not know whether they did so to pose before the video cameras so as to serve as a foil to the ardent festival atmosphere or they were really satisfied with the performance today.

They should be satisfied that their performance achieved the effect that they were hoping for.

When I carefully pondered over such a program which would be performed in every place in Tibetan areas and every holiday, and was a very common and very normal activity in Tibetan areas, I found that it reflected such a truth: On the big stage of Tibetan areas, most Tibetans who should be the main characters have passively become bystanders, but the directors and the main characters are a minority of Tibetans who represent the interest group who have benefited from the current system and the army and the government who represented the strong ruler from outside. The design of the stage, the arrangement of the content of the programs, the timing of the programs and the choice of the place are determined by these people. These two groups of people co-ordinated so well on the stage, and they praised and flattered each other. It seems that their relations are perfect, and they truly consider themselves to be main characters!

But, how about most of our Tibetan compatriots? Though we are not able to speak with our own voice in the main home field, we are marginalized in our land, we have become bystanders on the stage which should belong to us, and we have become a powerless group in our own home, yet most of our people still do not feel anything at all, and are still muddleheaded. Even if some of them are aware of something, they are not willing to ponder the issue. Under the circumstances, don’t they feel that they have no ability to save the desperate situation? Do they think it is better to feel the pleasant sensation when they are raped rather then resisting? Is it possible that they even fell in love with the rapist after being raped several times? Or isn’t it that we have not plunged to the most pitiful situation yet? Or is it possible that our kind-hearted and compassionate hearts deceived our ability to think rationally?

During the entire performance, I have not heard anybody saying one Tibetan line on the stage, including the host, the actors and actresses.

I saw the Tibetans onstage in Tibetan robes decorated with tiger skins singing the so-called Tibetan songs in Chinese.

The performers were trying their best, the audience was having a great time, the leaders were satisfied with the performance, thus, everybody was happy.

I looked at them, then looked at myself. At that moment I wanted to cry.

August 5, 2008, Tuesday The Torch in Chengdu and the Torch in Tibet

I heard that in Xinjiang there were incidents in which the troops were ambushed, and my family all thought that these were done by the “Xinjiang separatists” to stop the Olympics. My kind-hearted mother sighed and said, “ The government has taken great pains in preparing for it for a long time, and they must want the Olympics to go smoothly. What are those people who sabotage it doing? The government is trying so hard, they should help the government to achieve their goal. If they want to stir up trouble, they can do so later. The government is rather pitiful.” My kind mother has the virtue of helping others to fulfill their wish, which is intrinsic to all Tibetans, but she does not know that the so-called “separatists” were risking their lives to fight for the basic qualifications to be a human.

My uncle said that today the torch relay had been held in Chengdu. When he saw on TV the exaggerated postures of those people carrying the torch, he really felt those people did not have any conscience, “We should think how long ago the earthquake just ended. They must be without any conscience, otherwise how can they make those exaggerated and arrogant actions? These Chengdu people are indeed exaggerated and doing things without taking the situation into consideration.” My uncle appeared to be very angry.

I asked him whether he watched the TV broadcast of the torch relay in Lhasa, but he said he did not. The county seat under the jurisdiction of Sichuan Province has the word “Tibetan” and “Autonomous” in front of its name, yet even under the Chinese Communist Party’s policy of stultifying the masses and assimilation, even in the eyes of a young Tibetan intellectual, Chengdu will be the center in real life, rather than Lhasa. Thus, he would not watch the torch relay in Lhasa, but he would watch the torch relay in Chengdu very carefully.

When the torch relay reached Lhasa, Lhasa just experienced a “political earthquake” as well, unlike the torch relay in Chengdu where there were no traces left by the earthquake except a few minutes of standing in silent tribute. In the process of the torch relay in Lhasa one could feel everywhere that the impact of this political earthquake was far from fading away.

Even though the Lhasa authorities would like to try their best to display the enthusiastic scenes of the Tibetan people welcoming the arrival of the Olympic torch relay in Lhasa, one could still see the tense situation and anxiety of the holy city even in the TV broadcasts with skillful filming. One saw the armed police and troops guarding the area all the way as the torch relay went through as well as the torch bearers who functioned as political symbols. Except the starting point and the ending point where one would see some people, in other places along the way of the torch relay it was desolate without many people. In particular, the political speech full of provocations made by the Party Secretary Zhang show that the Lhasa people did not really welcome the torch relay, and even if they welcomed the torch relay, they did so with fear.

It is said that on the day when the torch relay took place in Lhasa, the common people were notified they were not allowed to go outdoors as they pleased. The groups of people on both sides of the streets welcoming the torch relay, as appeared on TV, were actually painstakingly arranged by the authorities. Those people were selected through much investigation many days in advance, then they were gathered together one day before the torch relay and were arranged to stay in designated hotels. The authorities checked the number of people and their names three times. On the day when the torch relay took place, at 4:00 am they were gathered together. After countless checks, they put on their robes and held the red flags in their hands as they were required to do so, then they were transported to the streets through which the torch relay would go, and would wait for the arrival of the torch relay under the supervision of the Chinese troops. Their task was to show the excitement and happiness of the Lhasa people in front of the Chinese people when the torch relay and the video cameras arrived.

If the torch bearers in Chengdu were to be criticized for having no conscience, then we should have more sympathy and feel more distressed for the Lhasa people.

The psychological and political “earthquake” will have greater damage than the geographical earthquake, and its impact will last longer.

I do not know whether the authorities thought of this.

August 9, 2008 Saturday The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics Tells the World: China Has only one Nationality – the Han Nationality

First

The Olympics started, and it seems that Chinese could eventually relax after they had held their breath for a long time.

Second

The scene of the Opening ceremony was magnificent with an impressive display of power. The Chinese are best at making large-scale things, and what they like most is to make everything grand. The current system also provides the vital support for large scale performance like the opening ceremony. What the Communist Party provides is not just money, personnel, facilities and the unconditional co-operation of the various departments, but more importantly, the conditions of its despotic rule. Even if such activities harass people, waste money, were time-consuming and strenuous, as long as they can achieve the Communist party’s goal, then all these issues which make the governments of the democratic countries rack their brains to take them into consideration will became the least important things in China.

Third

All the vehicles symbolizing Chinese culture appeared in the opening ceremony. They include Chinese drums, Chinese paintings, the writer’s four essentials – brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper, the Chinese characters, Confucius, the Great Wall of China, traditional operas, the Silk Road, rites and music and the Supreme Ultimate etc. During the few hours of the performance, the “fifty-five flowers” (the minority nationalities) among the “fifty-six flowers” only flashed by twice, and each time their appearance could be counted in seconds.

The host said that the opening ceremony shows the profoundness of the Chinese traditional culture.

China indeed has a long history and profound culture, but one needs to understand that there are fifty-six nationalities in China, not just Han Chinese. Among the fifty-six nationalities, it is not just Han Chinese who have a history and culture to be shown off to the world. But through this Olympics, the Chinese government is telling the world that China equals the Han nationality, and Chinese history equals Han Chinese history.

I originally had some expectations for the opening ceremony of the Olympics, because I thought it should be a formal overall performance in the presence of the people of the entire world, but after I finished watching the opening ceremony, I was deeply disappointed.

When I saw 2008 people performing and wearing the ancient Han Chinese costumes and citing sayings of Confucius; when I saw the Great Wall of China which is called “the symbol of the Chinese nation,” but in fact which was used to defend against the ancestors of us minorities; and when I saw the so-called Chinese culture fill the scene – actually the culture of the Han nationality alone, I felt a sort of familiar strangeness.

Who is Confucius? What is the Great Wall of China? As a member of the minority nationality, and as a member of a nationality who has a completely different culture, history and psychological quality from those of the Han nationality, in my opinion, Confucius is just an intellectual of an alien race. Though he made certain contributions to mankind, yet I have never been or will never be proud of him as my ancestor. In my eyes, the Great Wall of China is only a building displaying the wisdom and hard work of mankind in the history of mankind, and in fact it was built to defend against what they called “barbarians”, our ancestors, thus, is there any possibility that we minorities will find a sense of pride in the Great wall of China?

In the future, please do not nag me with such phrases as the “Chinese nation” and such hypocritical and disgusting words as “We are all descendants of Yan Di and Huang Di, and we are all children of the Chinese nation.” The Han nationality who is already holding power told the world and 100 million minorities in China that it is China, and its history is the history of China.

Fourth

What makes one sadder is that Beijing is in revelry and the entire Tibetan area is shrouded in terror. Even though the precautions taken by the government are strict and the atmosphere is tense, it is fortunate that the sealing off of the town has not happened yet. Isn’t this something we should feel fortunate for?

But, at the time when the entire country is celebrating, we are going so far as to feel so fortunate that we have not been segregated collectively by the country to which we are supposed to belong. This again is such an absurd thing!

If all belongs to the Chinese nation, then should it be like this? Is it reasonable to go so far as it is now?

On one hand the Chinese government, in the name of sports, kidnapped the appeals for democracy and freedom, and shamelessly criticized those appeals for “politicizing the Olympics”; on the other hand they are pushing the whole world into the trap of a carnival named “The world’s sports,” with hopes of strengthening the basis for their autocracy so as to realize their aim of long-term political despotic rule.

Such a contemptible action is just their style.

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Web Chat on Sky News

Julian @ Sky –  Good afternoon all, welcome to today’s Lunchtime
Debate.   After yesterday’s webchat with a Chinese government official we
get a very different perspective today.

A very warm welcome to Dechen Pemba, a British Tibetan deported from China 1
month ago
12:32
[Comment From Dechen]
hi
12:32
[Comment From joh]
Hello everyone .
12:33
Julian @ Sky –  Dechen, 1st question coming up from StolenMonkey
(top prize for username today!))
12:33
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
Do you believe the latest threat from islamic terrorists in China is just a
smokescreen to enable the Chinese Governemnt to crack down on free protest?
12:33
Dechen –  it certainly provides the chinese government with the
perfect excuse to crack down very hard, not unlike the US after 9/11
12:34
Julian @ Sky –  (sorry – still grappling with this bug that Dechen’s
names doesn’t show up)
12:35
Dechen –  however, i feel that the problems in Xinjiang and other
areas, such as Tibet, can be solved peacefully – its a question of their
will. endlessly cracking down wont achieve long term stability anywhere!
12:35
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
the more afraid a governemt can make a people the more laws they people will
allow the governemt to introduce in the name of anti terror measures . the
same here in the UK. peace is the only way we can achieve our goals
12:35
[Comment From Chris]
Get the Chinese out, RIGHT OUT
12:36
Dechen –  StolenMonkey, i agree with you completely.
12:36
Julian @ Sky –

StolenMonkey – are you Tibetan too?
12:37
Julian @ Sky –  Dechen – how would you describe the Chinese
authorities’ attitude to dissent?
12:37
[Comment From CM]
Haven’t done this webchat before, hope this question doesn’t interrupt/gets
through all the same.Do you feel that the expose of CNN as having cropped a
photo to show only soldiers and not just protesters at the time of the Tibet
unrest has hurt the credibility of the reporting of the issue, and as a
consequence the trust and support of the public?
12:37
Julian @ Sky –  Welcome CM – hope this won;t be your first time on
our daily 12.30pm webchats
12:37
Dechen –  the olympics have shown that the chinese government is
extremely paranoid and does not tolerate dissent in any form
12:38
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
no i am not Tibetan i am from Yorkshire in England
12:38
Dechen –  CM- you are right that there were some errors in
journalistic coverage of the unrest in tibet, such as photo captions etc
12:39
Dechen –  however, in news reporting that is not unheard of and i am
sure that they were not done deliberately
12:39
Dechen –  i dont think it hurt the credibilty of the issue
12:40
Dechen –  also, it was inevitable that news had to find image
sources outside of tibet as nothing was getting out save for chinese state
tv images…
12:40
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
i try to gather my news coverage from as many media angles as possible so as
not to colour my thoughts and be manipulated in anyway. always try to find
as many sides to a story as possible and then and only then can u make an
educated statement or opinion
12:40
[Comment From James, Leeds]
Could Shami Chakathingy from Liberty go to China to advise them – at least
she would then not be interfering over here!
12:41
Dechen –  StolenMonkey, thats exactly the kind of thing not possible
in china
12:42
[Comment From CM]
Apologies to the other poster for interrupting earlier. It’s good news that
it hasn’t hurt the credibility.
12:42
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
During previous Olympics games ahtletes have protested in various ways such
as black athletes wearing black gloves as a symbol of civil liberties fir
afro americans. what will be the reaction if say the winner of the 100m were
to wear a free tibet tshirt ????
12:43
Dechen –  it looks like the IOC as well as the Chinese government
are working overtime to avoid this free tibet t shirt kind of incident!
12:45
Julian @ Sky –

Dechen – on tolerating dissent etc – don;t you detect any change at all? a)
you weren’t roughed up in any way, b) we’ve managed to report on some
sensitive stories like Unwanted
http://news.sky.com/sky-news/app/flash/SkyvideoWrapper.swf?playerType=embedd
ed&type=sky_prod_v7&videoSourceID=1571883&flashVideoUrl=/feeds/skynews/lates
t/flash/p11217_unwanted.flv   and c) we were webchatting with a Chinese
government offical yesterday!
12:45
[Comment From CM]
I read 2 months ago that any athlete displaying a Tibetan flag, even in the
Olympic village, will be sent home.
12:45
[Comment From James, Leeds]
Dechen, are you able to advise us why you were deported?
12:46
Dechen –  ok well about tolerating dissent i think that the chinese
government hasnt changed at all, thats my feeling after having lived in
china and got a sense of the place
12:46
Dechen –  what the foreign media can report on is one thing, what
Chinese journalists report on is quite another
12:47
Dechen –  James, i was suddenly deported on 7th July from Beijing.
They didnt tell me why at the time, they said that i had “broken the law”
but wouldnt tell me any more than that.
12:47
[Comment From ray]
is it true that the Chinese are restricting internet access for the worlds
press now???? and wasnt it a condition of their bid that they would allow
unrestricted access
12:47
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
they can send the winner of the 100m event home after he waves the flag
getting his 100m gold medal . . will he care? the point will have been made
12:47
Dechen –  oh and even Hu Jintao went on a webchat – answered 3
pre-screened questions 😉
12:49
Dechen –  ray, up until a month ago – till i had to leave – internet
was severely restricted. not sure what it is like now but there has been
much in the press about sites that are still blocked. yeah, the media were
promised full freedom as far as i remember.
12:49
[Comment From James, Leeds]
Ah – a touch of Kafka then
12:50
Dechen –  james, very much so, especially when they told me that i
ought to know what i had done.
12:50
Julian @ Sky –  Re. censorship – yes you’re right Ray.
12:50
[Comment From CM]
There were many conditions for the Olympics, I don’t know of one that was
met. I’m not happy with China receiving the Olympics, but at the same time
it has brought unprecedented publicity for the time being to the Tibetan
struggle. What are your thoughts on that Dechen?
12:50
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
they were promised full access but sights such as amnesty international are
not accesable from the media village
12:50
[Comment From Alec]
do you think more assurances should beeen made to make sure there isnt a
reversal in all the changes china have made all be it very little
12:51
Dechen –  CM, the unrest in tibet starting from march this year was
an incredible cry for help from tibetans inside tibet, it is something
really very very significant
12:51
Dechen –  the media had many problems covering the full story, the
protests were mostly peaceful and were very very widespread
12:52
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
will the games make a difference ??
12:52
[Comment From James, Leeds]
I believe that all coverage will be 100% live rather than the normal time
delay for TV – maybe this won’t happen now…
12:52
[Comment From ray]
Can anyone explain why they actually got the games??? I mean their human
rights record is appalling and they dont allow freedom of speech or
information so what propelled the people in charge to let them host the
olympics???? Money or something……..it makes no sense to me. Its a
disgrace.
12:52
Dechen –  the tibetans inside tibet put tibet in the spotlight
12:52
[Comment From Tom, Newcastle]
Do you think that the terrorists will manage to interupt the olympics in any
way?
12:53
[Comment From Alec]
wouldnt the protest have been better placed during the olympics when the
world and its media where all looking upon china
12:53
Dechen –  i find it really hard to talk about “terrorists”. if the
chinese had their way, the whole world would be talking about Tibetans,
Uyghurs and Chinese dissidents as terrorists.
12:54
Julian @ Sky –  We have saying here in the newsroom – “one man’s
terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ – Terrorist is a word we must ne
very careful with
12:54
[Comment From CM]
Thank you for the chat Dechen, unfortunately I have to go now. Goodbye and
good luck.
12:54
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
as the old saying go’s one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter
12:55
Dechen –  Alec, March 10th is an historic day of Tibetan resistance
against Chinese rule. Also, them monks were demonstrating for basic rights
and freedoms, i doubt it was really targeted against the Olympics as sucn.
and it just started a wave as tibetans realised 2008 was a year in which
China would be in the spotlight.
12:55
Dechen –  CM, bye!
12:55
Julian @ Sky –  Dechen I have a question for you.   Do you think the
games will bring any improvement to China? (compare Moscow 1980 was the very
beginning..)
12:56
[Comment From Alec]
Dechen what if any are the chinese peoples real views on tibet do they
recognise tibet?
12:56
Dechen –  i am quite pessimistic about the outlook for China
post-Games
12:56
Julian @ Sky –  Go on,,
12:56
[Comment From Tom, Newcastle]
Yes, ok that is a very good Point! When do they begin on the televsion, i
hear it will be broadcast live on channel 1. Is this correct?
12:57
Dechen –  but thats mostly because i think about Tibet and the
situation of Tibetans and once the world’s spotlight has fallen away from
China – I am not sure we will be able to determine what is really going on
there. Crackdowns could be even worse.
12:57
Dechen –  At least Beijing has a few more tube lines though, they
are lovely!
12:58
Dechen –  much better than london!
12:58
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
the Chinese will call Tibetan dissidents terrorists as that is to them what
they are. they strike terror into the Heart of the Chinese state system. and
in my opinion rightly so .
12:58
[Comment From ray]
well i reckon there will be protests or a terrorist/freedom fighter attack.
This is their best opportunity now that the worlds press is there and they
will have to try to make the world aware as they wont get another chance
12:58
[Comment From StolenMonkey]
once the media turn away from tibet the hand will come down quickly and even
more brutal than before. news organisations must not be afraid to enter
tibet and report what is happening (take note SKY ! ! ! )
12:59
Julian @ Sky –  OK nearly 1pm and time to wrap up – Dechen – final
thought from you?
12:59
Dechen –  Alec, Chinese people really dont know much about Tibet. at
least they didnt. this year in March, they started to be afraid of tibetans.
the chinese state media portrayed tibetans in this terrorist kind of light,
ignoring the reality of the situation behind the protests.
1:00
[Comment From Tom, Newcastle]
Do think that they like the Label “terrorists”? I think this makes them feel
powerful, that they know people fear them and there actions>
1:00
Dechen –  Oh, thanks for the chat. Let’s hope China sees the light
and the need to peacefully solve its issues without hurting people.
1:01
Julian @ Sky –  Dechen – thank you so much for taking the time  to
chat with us.   Is there a website or 2 you can point in the direction of
anyone interested?
1:01
[Comment From Guest]
thank you for your time Dechen i hope the struggle will continue till it
success is revealed in a free democractic Tibet
1:01
Dechen –  sure, http://www.phayul.com is created by tibetans and is full of
tibet related news (and some gossip too).
1:02
Julian @ Sky –  Great stuff – good luck & stay in touch with us!

And thank to you all for taking part – same time tomorrow
1:02
[Comment From Alec]
thank you Dechen
1:02
[Comment From Tom, Newcastle]
Thank you for your response to my questions! Very Helpful!
1:02

Leaving Beijing…

I never imagined that my departure from China would involve a huge security operation straight out of a TV crime thriller. The 30 strong team whose job it was to get rid of me didn’t have much of a job frankly, I found around 8 of them lurking around outside my flat in Beijing the morning of 8th July 2008 and I couldn’t exactly put up a fight. Besides, when they only tell you that they are deporting you once they have already confiscated your mobile phones and passport, what options are there really?

I was told that I had broken the laws of the country and according to those laws had to leave immediately. When I asked exactly why I was being made to leave, I was told that I ought to know what I had done wrong. Was there a law about not being allowed to be a UK-born Tibetan living in Beijing that I didn’t know about? I don’t know what was most disconcerting: that two cameramen filmed everything, that they confiscated some of my personal belongings or took all details of my bank account, including the PIN? Not to mention that I wasn’t allowed to contact the British Embassy.  They came to deport me at 9am from my flat, at 1:30pm I was on an Air China flight bound for London. As a Tibetan in China’s capital with the Olympic Games exactly a month away, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Beijing life had never been quite ordinary or normal. The city had always been Olympics crazy ever since I had moved there in 2006. Anyone who has ever lived in Beijing I am sure would say the same things about the city, the fast-paced change, the amazing food, the endless stream of people, the pollution, the crazy weather. It’s the kind of city that really grows on you though and you can almost pretend that you can breathe and don’t miss blue sky. Of course I was aware of the greater political picture in which I was living but actually if you live in Beijing and choose to stay away from certain things, then you can have a nice life.

Ever since last September I had rented a small place, signed up for Chinese language classes in a private school, found part time teaching work and had quite happily cycled around everywhere and hung out with lots of friends, Chinese, Tibetan, French, Norwegian, German, Turkish, American, Argentinean…just all kinds of people. That was something I loved about living there. I had made many Tibetan friends in my one year of full-time Chinese language study at the Central University for Nationalities, the university with the highest concentration of Tibetans in Beijing. I got to know many of them on a casual everyday basis and found them to be bright, smart and remarkably well-informed on current affairs and Tibet issues. We wouldn’t have radical discussions about how to fight for Tibetan independence but we would just chat and talk about the challenges they faced as Tibetans in China, how they would find a job, how the Tibetan language was of no real value for them to compete in Chinese society for example. I learned so much about Tibet and China through these conversations.

That was the fun and interesting aspect of Beijing life. The turning point was definitely March this year where my whole relationship with the place changed and sinister reality revealed itself to me. Protests that started in Lhasa on 10th March quickly spread to all Tibetan areas and the fear and uncertainty felt by all Tibetans was all too tangible in Beijing. All my Tibetan friends suddenly started to feel uneasy about being Tibetan and being surrounded by Han Chinese in their capital. Many of my friends received phone calls from their friends and family with vague hints of unrest, tensions, detentions. Suddenly there was Tibet propaganda everywhere you looked, news on TV showing all Tibetans as rioters, murderers and looters, documentaries shown on the bus about how much Tibet had benefited from China’s investments and there was even a massive exhibition about how Tibet was better off today under Chinese rule. The tour guides at the exhibition were Chinese dressed in traditional Tibetan costume, it was really quite bizarre. Everyone I knew told each other to be careful all the time, the pressure was almost too much to take, as oppressive as the heat. That Tibetans would be followed, questioned, visited and searched at home all became quite run of the mill – it’s amazing what you can get used to after a while.

I can’t forget how one of my best friends, a Tibetan guy, suddenly vanished one day in June without a trace. At the time of my deportation I still had no clue as to what had happened to him and the thought occurred to me many times in those few hours about how fortunate I was to have the protection of a British passport. My friend had been ‘disappeared’ for two weeks whereas I would be at home with my parents in London before the day was out.

From what I understand the tensions in the city have not eased up. Some of my Tibetan friends who work in Beijing have been made to leave for the summer, some have left voluntarily, unable to stand the constant hassle and pressures. Being Tibetan in Beijing at the moment is enough to put you under tight scrutiny from security – the question is though, if something happens to an innocent Tibetan, what are the chances that we will ever find out about it? It was such a shame to have to leave China in that way and they told me I can’t go back for five years. It’s incredibly difficult for me to associate the Olympic Games with Tibet and come up with anything positive. As a force for change and a force for good, it has failed Tibetans in all imaginable ways.