Tibet: Obama’s lacking struggle

Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama didn´t pronounce the word «human rights» correctly in Beijing. But I´m not disappointed. That´s exactly what I expected.

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Every Friday some of the world′s leading advocates for freedom of expression write for Ny Tid. Our columnists are: Parvin Ardalan (Iran), Nawal El-Saadawi (Egypt), Irshad Manji (Canada), Elena Milashina (Russia), Orzala Nemat (Afghanistan), Marta Roque (Cuba), Blessing Musariri (Zimbabwe) & Tsering Woeser (Tibet).

Tsering Woeser is a poet and essayist from Lhasa in Tibet. In 2003 she wrote the book Notes on Tibet, which was forbidden by the Chinese government. Read her webpage: http://woeser.middle-way.net

On November 17, for many people all over the world, the most important news was US President Obama’s arrival in Beijing. The international focus rested upon his sunny smile, upon him and the deadpan Chinese head of state, Hu Jintao, speaking to the globe’s most important media; it also rested upon him finally mentioning that «all men and women possess certain fundamental rights, […] which are universal rights and all people, ethnic and religious minority groups should be able to obtain these fundamental rights.» Yes, he even mentioned the Dalai Lama, who, as Zhu Weiqun, an official from the United Front Department of the Party Central Committee, recently said, «always makes China unhappy». The day before, when he spoke to a carefully selected and trained group of Chinese male and female youths, he also mentioned freedom of speech saying that «freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom of information and freedom of political participation are everybody’s rights.»

But at the exact same time, on this extremely cold winter’s day, there were a few minority people, whose voices are not heard and who do not possess the power to change things, who had to find out in a state of shock about what happened to two young Tibetan writers, Kunchok Tsephel and Kunga Tsangyang. Because of their opinion and speech, they were sentenced harshly on Tibetan soil which is tightly controlled, and hence lost all those «fundamental rights, which all men and women possess.»

There are a few foreign journalists who have asked me questions like «what did you make of Obama’s visit to China? Did he fulfill your expectations?» In my answer I always had to admit that I had already prepared myself. From Hilary Clinton’s China visit last year when she avoided any questions concerning human rights up to Obama’s arrival in China now, although they claim that the subject of human rights has been of some concern, President Obama in his natural and unaffected demeanour, like a star coming on stage, still seemed to place too little emphasis on them. Thus, although I wouldn’t say that I am greatly disappointed about this, I am able even to view all this with a certain degree of indifference because I have expected the situation to be like this. Yet, I did feel moved when, facing the head of state of the world’s greatest totalitarian system, President Obama still said that «all men and women possess certain fundamental rights». But I did not understand why he was not able to clearly state what those «certain fundamental rights» really are. Is the term «human rights» that difficult to pronounce? Perhaps President Obama is more poetically inclined and needs to make use of embellished and indirect language to refer to human rights, so if he bluntly spoke out the two words, it would probably sound a bit crude.

Kunchok Tsephel and Kunga Tsayang are two well-known authors who publish in Tibetan. During last year’s «Tibet incident», they themselves witnessed how their fellow countrymen of their hometown determinedly took to the streets and voiced their opposition. The two writers revealed their aspirations and discussed facts on the internet, which then unexpectedly became the reason for them becoming criminals accused of jeopardising «state security» and revealing «state secrets». In other words, one could say that the country’s action of using its power to suppress the violent behaviour of the opposing masses belongs to the category of secret which is often practiced but never spoken of. Whoever dares to reveal the secret, he or she will become the country’s enemy and be confronted with harsh and merciless punishment.

Kunchok Tsephel was arrested on February 26 this year and was recently sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment by the local government; Kunga Tsayang was arrested on March 17 this year and was recently sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment by the local government. Moreover, before the judgment was passed, none of their family members knew anything about their whereabouts. In fact, these kinds of situations are very common in Tibet, many families don’t know if their relatives have been arrested or had much worse accidents, and they don’t even know where to go and look for them. The law has turned into mere scraps of paper and the outcomes of these black-box operations can hardly be called impartial. What really worries people is that judging from the known cases, in the near future there will probably be more and more Tibetans who might be faced with, or have already been faced with, heavy prison sentences because of the lack of impartiality and the black-box operations of the judiciary. This also means that there are and will be more and more Tibetans who have already lost what President Obama called «certain fundamental rights, which all men and women possess.»

There exists an increasing amount of suppression; this is the reality in Tibet. But to be honest, it is already very difficult for us to believe that those important world leaders, who are unable to speak out the two words «human rights», will maintain a firm humanitarian stand.

Beijing, November 19, 2009

The Tibetan writer Kunchok Tsephel (R) was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on November 12 by the local government; Kunga Tsayang (L) was arrested on March 17 this year and was recently sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment.

Read the column in Chinese:

在奥巴马总统提及»某些根本权利»的时候

文/唯色

11月17日,对于世界上许许多多的人来说,最重要的新闻是美国总统奥巴马到北京了。全世界都在注目他阳光般的微笑,注目他与面无表情的中共元首胡锦涛向全球重要媒体讲话,也注目他终于提到了»所有的男女拥有某些根本的权利……是普世的权利,应该是所有的人民、所有的民族和宗教信仰的少数群体都应该可以得到»。是的,他还提到了中共统战部官员朱维群最近声称的总是»让中共不快»的达赖喇嘛。之前的一天,他在上海向一些精挑细选且被集中培训过的中国男女青年演讲时,还提到了言论自由,说»言论自由,信仰自由,信息自由和政治上的参与自由是普世权利。»

但与此同时,在这个极其寒冷的冬天,还有一些相当少数的人,人微言轻的人,无力回天的人,深感震惊地获悉了在严密禁锢中的藏地,两位年轻的藏人作家贡却才培和更嘎仓央,因言获罪,被判重刑,失去了»所有的男女拥有某些根本的权利»。

几位外媒记者问过我类似的问题,即怎么看待奥巴马的访华?他有没有符合你的期待?我的答复是,应该说,已经有了心理准备,从去年希拉里访华避谈人权,直至奥巴马抵达中国,虽然声称人权议题将会是话题,然而风度潇洒地犹如明星登场的奥巴马总统,依然显得过于地轻描淡写了。对此,虽然不能说大失所望,甚至因为有所预料而基本上可以淡定地看待,然而,当奥巴马总统能够面对世界上最大的极权制度的首脑,说出»所有的男女拥有某些根本的权利»,我还是感动了。尽管我不理解,为何奥巴马总统就不能清晰地说出这»某些根本的权利»是什么?难道»人权»这个词是这么拗口吗?也许奥巴马总统更有文学家的情怀,需要用修饰的、婉转的方式来指代人权,而直截了当地说出»人权»,或许会显得比较粗鲁吧。

贡却才培和更嘎仓央都是用藏语写作的知名作家,在去年西藏事件中,亲眼目睹家乡的父老乡亲不顾一切走上街头,发出抗议的声音,为此在网络上披露心声,讨论真相,而这竟然就成了获罪的理由,被认为是危害了»国家安全»,泄露了»国家机密»,也即是说,国家利用权力镇压反抗民众的暴力行为,属于做得而说不得的»秘密»,谁敢说出去,那就成了国家的敌人,将遭到国家毫不留情的制裁。

贡却才培于今年2月26日被捕,最近被当地政府判处有期徒刑15年;更嘎仓央于今年3月17日被捕,最近被当地政府判处有期徒刑5年,而在判决之前,他们的家人谁也不知道他们的下落。类似状况实际上在藏地非常普遍,许多家庭根本就不知道自己失踪的亲人是被捕了,还是遇到更大的不测了,甚至不知道应该去哪里寻找他们。法律成了一纸空文,黑箱操作的结果毫无公正可言。令人担忧的是,从已经获悉的情况来看,不久的将来恐将有更多的藏人,亦可能面临或已经面临因司法不公正、黑箱操作而构成的牢狱重刑,这也意味着,将有或者已经有更多的藏人失去奥巴马总统所说的»所有的男女拥有某些根本的权利»。

有增无减的镇压,这才是西藏的现实。但说实话,我们已经很难寄望那些说不出人权两个字的世界政要们,秉持坚定的人道立场了。

2009-11-19,北京

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