My Interview with Norwegian site about Media Freedom in China

Gir stemme til tibetanske bloggarar

Tilrettlagt for web: Tora Hope

Publisert: 29.04.10

Dechen Pemba omset tibetanske bloggar og nyheiter til engelsk. Foto: David Brulotte/Stigmat Photo 2009.
Rett før OL i 2008 vart britisk-tibetanske Dechen Pemba møtt av åtte kinesiske sikkerheitsvakter utanfor leiligheiten sin i Beijing. Dei satte Pemba på første fly til London, og nekta ho visum for dei neste fem åra.


Vi er i Beijing i juli 2008. Millionbyen har aldri vore så rein, og himmelen har aldri vore så blå. Dei olympiske leikar nærmar seg. Kinesiske myndigheiter strammar til. Sikkerheiten skal betrast før OL, heiter det. Opposisjonelle vert fengsla, bloggar og andre nettstader stengt.

Dechen Pemba vaknar til det ho trur er ein vanleg dag, i hennar toårige opphald som student og engelsklærar i Kina.

– Eg møtte åtte sivilkledde sikkerheitsvakter utanfor leiligheiten min den morgonen. Dei villle sjå passet og opphaldstillatelsen min. Etterpå tok dei mobilen min, og alle tok bankkontodetaljane mine, inkludert pin-koden.

– Kva hadde du gjort?

– Dei sa eg hadde brote kinesiske lover, og at eg difor måtte forlate Kina med det samme. Eg spurte kvifor, og fekk til svar at det burde eg vite.

Knappe fem timar seinare sat Pemba på flyet til London.

OL-paranoia i Beijing

– Korleis opplevde du den julimorgonen?

– Først tykte eg ikkje det var rart at dei sjekka papira mine. Alle utlendingar som var i Beijing før OL opplevde det samme. Beijing var i ein feber av paranoia og trygginstiltak.

Pemba vart ikkje skremd. Ho hadde britisk pass, og risikerte berre bli sendt heim.

– Eg var ikkje redd, for sikkerheitsvaktene var ikkje trugande. Sjølv om eg vart deportert til London – urettvist – hadde det vore ein mykje verre situasjon for mine tibetanske venner.

Lett å halde auge med folk

– Korleis fann kinesiske myndigheiter deg?

– Etter protestane i Tibet i mars same år, var alle tibetanerar under tett overvaking. Eg trur eg skilde meg ut som ein britiskfødd tibetaner, busett i Beijing, med mange tibetanske venner.

Det var heller ikkje første gong Pemba møtte sikkerheitsvakter i Kina. Ho hadde allereie blitt avhøyrt to gongar tidlegare.

– Det er lett for myndigheitene å halde auge med folk i Kina. Eg gøymte meg jo ikkje heller.

Pemba får ikkje innfridd visum til Kina før tidlegast i 2013, etter at vart deportert i 2008. Foto: Privat

Gir stemme til tibetanske bloggarar

Ein av dei viktigaste bloggane High Peaks Pure Earth overset, er Woeser’s blogg. Woeser er ein kjent kinesisk forfattar og bloggar.

Rundt OL vart sikkerheitstiltaka kring Tibet intensivert. Ifølgje Pemba var det då svært lite informasjon som kom ut av Kina, men Woeser’s blogg var eit av unntaka. Pemba meinte det var viktig at denne informasjonen nådde eit breiare publikum, og begynte å oversette bloggen til engelsk.

– På Woeser’s blogg kunne ein lese om arrestasjoner, dødsfall, protestar, og tankane og ynskjene til vanlege tibetanerar.

Etter OL flytta verda blikket andre stader, og Pemban meinte tibetanske bloggar vart oversett. Ho meiner bloggane er kjelder til ikkje berre informasjon, men óg debatt og litterær rikdom.

– Eg ynskte å introdusere den tibetanske bloggsfæren til eit engelsk publikum, og gi stemme til Woeser og andre tibetanske bloggarar.

Fryktlause bloggarar

Kjenner du bloggarar som står i fare for fengsling?

– Ja. Men den «vanlege kinesiske bloggar» har ikkje mykje å frykte. Dei fleste på nettkafear i Kina er unge menneske som chatter med vennane sine, bloggar om dagleglivet og spelar nettspel.

– Bør politiske bloggarar vere redde?

– Eg trur sjansane for at noko skjer med dei som bloggar politisk er store. Men om dei skal vere redde eller ikkje, det er opp til dei. Om Liu Xiaobo hadde vore redd, så hadde han ikkje publisert «Charter 08». Om Hu Jia hadde vore redd tvilar eg på at han vore involvert i slik aktivisme. Eg ser Ai Weiwei blogge heile tida, og han synast å vere fryktlaus.

That was the interview as appeared on their site. I don’t know what they edited or how they did it but this is the full interview transcript in English:

1. You were studying in China until you were literally removed by officials. Can you tell us the story of how this came to happen and what happened that day? What was the police’s official reason for throwing you out? Can you also please explain what they told you, if you knew what happened, etc.

I found 8 Chinese security officials waiting for me outside the door of my flat in Beijing on the morning of 8th July 2008.  They asked to see my passport and resident permit first and then took away my mobile phone.

I was then told that I had broken the laws of the country and according to those laws had to leave immediately. When I asked why I was being made to leave, I was told that I ought to know what I had
done wrong. I asked to contact the British Embassy, this was denied.
Two of the security officials were filming every moment, my flat was searched and some of my personal belongings were confiscated. They all took the details of my bank account, including my PIN number.

It was 9am when they came to deport me and at 1:30pm I was on an Air China flight bound for London.

2. Can you describe your feelings when the police knocked on your door?

At first I didn’t think that it was strange that they wanted to check my papers. It was almost the Olympics after all and Beijing was in a fervour of paranoia and security clampdowns. If you ask any foreigner
who was in Beijing at the time, they will tell you that it was a crazy time. It was routine for local public security bureaus to go around checking resident permits of all foreigners in the city at any time.

Of course when I realised what was actually happening, it was a much more alarming situation. I wasn’t worried for my personal safety as the people dealing with me were civil and not threatening. If I was
really being deported back to London, although unjust, I thought that it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to a person…my Tibetan friends or anyone in Tibet would not have been as fortunate as I was
with my British passport.

How did they find you?

Since the protests in Tibet that started on March 10, 2008, all Tibetans were under close surveillance. This was true for the Tibetans in Beijing and I think that I stood out as a UK born Tibetan living in the city and having many Tibetan friends and knowing many foreign expats. I was living in Beijing legitimately, I had a work visa, a flat, a bank account, I wasn’t hiding at all, I was there to learn Chinese and I had a part time job teaching English in a language school.

It also wasn’t the first time that I had been visited by Chinese security officials, I had been detained for a short time at Beijing airport in April 2008 for being Tibetan. I was questioned for a short while but that time they let me back into the country. Also, 5 security officials came to my flat at the end of May 2008 to ask more questions and to check my papers. In China, it’s easy for authorities to keep an eye on someone.

3. Can you tell us and our readers what you are presently doing in London?

Yes. From September 2008 until September 2009 I was studying for a Masters in Chinese Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies here in London. At present I run a translations blog called
High Peaks Pure Earth that monitors blogs from Tibet and translates internet writings from Tibet.

4. You play an important role in translating amongst others, Woeser’s blog. How did you come to involve yourself in these difficult issues? And what is your motivation to continue?

Following the intense security crackdown in Tibet in 2008, there was in effect a media blackout and very little information coming out. Woeser’s blog was the most important source of information at the
time. Through her contacts and her blogging, it was possible to find out about arrests, detentions, deaths, protests and the thoughts and wishes of ordinary Tibetans. As Woeser blogs in Chinese, it was essential for the blog to be translated into English in order to reach a larger audience. This kind of information is crucial and several individuals worked very hard to have Woeser’s Tibet Updates translated quickly into English and published online on China Digital Times.

However, Woeser is not only an important voice in times of great crisis, as 2008 was. Once the protests in Tibet seemed to be over and the Olympics had been and gone, the spotlight off China, Woeser continued to write articles, commentaries, travel diaries of journeys through Tibet and Lhasa and, of course, poems. There was no forum anywhere online dedicated to regularly translating her work. In fact, Tibetan blogs were being overlooked as a source of not only information but also a place full of much debate and literary wealth.
So the motivation behind setting up High Peaks Pure Earth in September 2008 was very much to introduce the Tibetan blogosphere to an English language audience and to give voice to Woeser and other Tibetan
bloggers in Tibet.

On the situation in China.

5. Can you describe the situation for Chinese bloggers? Should the average Chinese blogger be scared f.ex?

Actually I don’t think the “average Chinese blogger” should be scared. When you visit internet cafes in China, most of the people there are young people playing online games, chatting with their friends,
blogging about their every day lives and not generally blogging politically subversive articles about overthrowing the government.

But on a more serious note, of course the Chinese bloggers who are using blogs as a forum for their political views, yes I do think that the chances of something happening to them are very high. But whether they should be scared or not, that’s up to them. If Liu Xiaobo had been scared then he certainly would not have published Charter 08. If Hu Jia had been scared I doubt he would have been involved in such amazing activism. I see Ai Weiwei blogging all the time and he seems to be fearless!

6. Do you know people who are in danger of being imprisoned?