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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."


February 21, 2009

High Peaks Pure Earth
Thursday, February 19, 2009

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost by Woeser that was
originally written for Radio Free Asia on 29th January 2009 and posted
on her blog on 4th February 2009. As already documented by High Peaks
Pure Earth, Tibetans not celebrating Chinese New Year (Spring Festival)
or Tibetan New Year (Losar) this year has been the subject of much
debate in the Tibetan blogosphere.

Woeser was an early observer of this phenomenon and was calling the No
Losar movement an act of civil disobedience before Time Magazine or the
McClatchy Group. The New York Times is calling the movement a boycott
and quotes Woeser as saying "It's deeply connected with Tibetan culture,
the idea that after such a horrible year filled with death, how can we
celebrate? [...] Instead, it should be a memorial." Regular readers will
remember that these were her sentiments as noted in previous blogposts
'Remember and Memorialise Louder Than The Gunfire!' and 'Let Us Make
Lamp Offerings and Light Candles to Commemorate the Souls of the Deceased'.

A Great "Civil Disobedience" Spreading Throughout All of Tibet

by Woeser

In recent days on my blog there have been a lot of opinions left about
the Spring Festival and Losar. Han netizens have said, "You celebrate
your Losar, we'll celebrate our Spring Festival – there's no connection
between the two. It's nothing to do with us whether you choose to
celebrate Losar or not." No mistake, every nationality has its own
festivals and shouldn't demand another nationality observe another
nationality's festivals. It started in 1913 when Yuan Shikai was
president of the Republic of China that the first day of the first month
in the lunar calendar was set as the Spring Festival and the entire
country had a holiday. Because the "Republic of Five Races" was
advocated at the time, the main Han festivals, such as the Dragon Boat
Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival were not made national festivals.
It seems China's current leadership doesn't have the breadth of mind of
even Warlord Yuan Shikai had. With the prevalence of the notion of "the
peoples of China," the hack writers of China are calling for a unified
"Chinese expression".

Since "Chinese expression" is wanted, "expressions" from other
nationalities are deleted or substituted. But in order to evince the
largesse and magnanimity of the Party's nationality policies, the Party
often needs "expressions" by other nationalities as embellishment.
Therefore, nationality festivals such as Losar are indispensable. It has
not only been made into a holiday, but evening television events like
those for Spring Festival are put on for the Tibetan New Year too. In
some Tibetan areas in Amdo and Kham, Losar has been replaced by Spring
Festival for many years now, and even though the Chinese new year is
celebrated in basically the same way as the Tibetan new year; Han
customs are being adopted more and more such as pasting couplets of
poetry on doorways, hanging lanterns and letting off fireworks. These
days, even when calls to abandon Spring Festival are growing, it'd be
difficult to remove in such a short time these habits that have already
become customary. Even though Losar has also been celebrated these past
few years, compared to the Spring Festival it is less lively.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with celebrating Spring Festival. Some
Han nietzens have said "If some Tibetans want to celebrate Han festivals
or if some Han want to celebrate Tibetan Losar, they are free to do so.
No one has any right or any reason to criticize them just because they
are the same nationality as themselves." Such opinions as this sound
rather reasonable, and I also agree with it. But the problem is, the
reason why so many Tibetans are conflicted about this year's Spring
Festival and Losar is less to do with both new year celebrations
belonging to different cultural systems, and more to do with the levels
of toleration in ones conscience and a religious sentiment full of

No matter whether it is Spring Festival or Losar, people who experienced
what happened in Tibetan areas in 2008 do not want to celebrate as they
had in previous years. As with last year's earthquake in Sichuan, when
thousands and thousands of ordinary people died, their surviving
families do not want to forget them in the New Year even as their
corpses are not yet cold. A volunteer who spent the New Year in the
disaster area said: "No one can stipulate that the atmosphere at Spring
Festival has to be lively; it must be peaceful. True emotions, whether
joyous or sad, all come from the bottom of one's heart." By the same
reason, with events in Tibet that started last new year and still
haven't stopped, there are countless ordinary Tibetans who died under
the barrels of the PAP's guns, and countless ordinary Tibetans who are
still behind bars, so how can their friends and families be in a happy
mood to celebrate the New Year when their grief is still there?

The absurdity is that the authorities do not see this. They hope that
the people will forget the hardships they created, thus, they have
resorted to all manner of tricks that leave you not knowing whether to
laugh or cry. For example, in Rebkong, the local government has gone
house to house with documents requiring Tibetans to sign their name or
leave their thumbprint on the documents which say: "I will ensure that
there will be absolutely no demonstrations this year as there were last
year, I will ensure I am obedient to the Party and government, and I
will ensure that I will celebrate the new year." In the Tibetan areas of
Labrang and Ngaba, the local government has given firecrackers to
government workers and cadres, telling them to set the firecrackers off
at New Year. And in Lhasa, Tibetans who put the word out not to mark the
New Year are even being detained. Some Tibetan commenters have left such
sarcastic remarks about this on my blog as: "The great Party is really
close [to the people], it pays close attention to [whether people are]
happy or not happy, and [whether they are] celebrating or not
celebrating the New Year", "when it wants you to be happy, you're not
happy. And that's a problem with your thinking, and it can even be
contrived into making you a member of some 'clique' or other."

As citizens, Tibetans do not even have the most basic right to mark – or
not – the New Year. Tibetans with their indomitable spirit who persist
on their right not to mark the New Year are becoming a completely new
kind of contention, the significance of which is a great "civil
disobedience" spreading throughout all of Tibet.

January 29th 2009, Beijing
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