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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."

Lhasa, Making Sound in Fear (Part 2) -- by Woeser

July 22, 2008

by TSERING WOESER
Shadow of Tibet
July 16, 2008

(Original title "The Fear of Lhasa Seen in Beijing," Part Two. The
first part was destroyed when her computer was hacked. Hopefully it
will be recovered soon and translated into English and Tibetan.)

But oh that we might be
As splinters of glass
In cupped hands"
-- Aung San Suu Kyi

One day in April I used the payphone at a newsstand to call and say
hello to my two friends in Amdo and Kham, and it is fortunate that
they are both safe. What made me want to laugh and make me feel sad
is that though they live in different Tibetan areas, both of them
repeatedly urged me to zab zab je (zab zab gsogs byas) (meaning be
careful and cautious). It reminded me that when I was in Lhasa during
Losar (Tibetan New Year) last year, my friend who only tells me his
true feelings said that now we should not use "Tashi Delek" (bkra
shis bde legs, auspicious and good fortune) to greet each other
because we are neither "tashi" (auspicious) nor delek (fortunate), so
what we should use to admonish others is "zab zab je."

So does WD. When he said goodbye to me, he just said "zab zab je,"
then he disappeared into the crowd of people. He is a Tibetan man who
would be recognized as Tibetan even if he did not wear Tibetan
clothes. I only recently got to know him, and I have met him three
times. But I can not describe it in too much detail, as he repeatedly
told me, "Do not write who I am. I still want to go back to Lhasa. My
I.D. card was recorded by them and they also took my picture. Do not
write who I am, otherwise they will find me." He is a young and
handsome Amdo Tibetan, but his two eyebrows were knotted showing that
many worries were weighing on his mind, and frequently he would
suddenly look around as if he were frightened. In spite of the
situation, he readily agreed to my request to interview him. At that
time we accidentally met each other, and it was so accidental that it
appears to have been destined. Meeting each other at that place and
at that moment unexpectedly seems as if he just wanted to tell me
about his experience. However, it did not go smoothly when we tried
to meet again. Soon we parted with each other and each went our own
way because there were people following us. Only when we met the
third time very cautiously, perhaps because no one paid any attention
to us, I was able to have a complete record.

On one afternoon we chose to sit at a table in a corner facing far
away from the windows and the door so that we could see whether there
were any unusual things going on. The backs of our seats were
comparatively high, so it was not easy for people to notice us. Also
there were not many people around us. They were either playing cards
or chatting, and they hardly interfered with each other's business.
When WD saw me getting ready to record, then he said:

"I need to start with March 10. About 5:00pm that afternoon, when I
just arrived at "Makye Ame" (the Tibetan restaurant located at the
intersection of the South Street and East Street in Barkhor), I ran
into a friend who told me that an incident happened at Tsulhakhang
(Jokhang Temple) square. We ran to see what happened and we saw eight
people were arrested and thrown into the police car. Four of them
were Ku zhab (sku zhabs, monks), and some said that the other four
were Khampas but others said that they were from Amdo. Anyway, they
were very young. Still others said that before this some monks were
already arrested. It seems that the policemen were from Barkhor
Police Station and they beat people viciously. There were many
onlookers. Some Tibetans said quietly "nying je, nying je" (rnying
rje, pity, pity) a few mola (old women) were crying, covering their
mouths. My friend used his cell phone to take pictures, then a
policeman in plain clothes came over and snatched the camera away,
and confiscated it. We were very frightened.

"On the second day, the policemen in plain clothes increased greatly
right away in the Barkhor Street. There were also thirty or forty
women with very short hair, and all of them were Han Chinese. When
they saw there were people chatting with each other, they would walk
over to listen to the conversations. I do not know whether they could
understand but they scared people. They had their lunch and dinner on
the square, they ate food in boxes delivered to them. There were cars
that sent boxed lunches and dinners. The crowd did not disperse until
it was about to be dusk. All Tibetans knew that they were policemen
in plain clothes, and we were reminding each other quietly. There
were also more policemen, who looked very serious, and were walking
back and forth in the square. Oh, that's right, I heard that monks
from Drepung and Sera Monasteries had staged a demonstration but they
were beaten back by many armed police. The Jokhang and Ramoche
Temples were also closed [to the public].

"On the day of 14th I remember very clearly that I left at 11:20am"
(I omitted this part). Before that time, I had already heard shouting…"

I interrupted him and said, "I heard about this on TV. Only Tibetans,
and only Tibetans from the countryside and grassland could make that
kind of sound. Tibetans in the cities could not make any such sound
as their throats have already degenerated." Furthermore, I also
wanted to say it is a pure Tibetan­style whistle, but it was
portrayed as "howling of wolves."

WD nodded his head, and said: "Yes, it is exactly that kind of sound.
After 11:20 am, like any other day, when I, together with a few of my
friends, passed by Ramoche Temple, an incident had already happened
there. Many Tibetans were shouting, and were throwing stones at the
soldiers. We were all stupefied. We heard somebody near us saying
that for these last few days there had been police cars at the gate
of Ramoche Temple, and just now some monks rushed out to overturn the
cars as they claimed that the cars were blocking the road to the
monastery. Immediately, the policemen called the armed police to come
to assist them, then those armed police who had shields and sticks in
their hands began to beat the monks. Tibetans on the streets could
not bear to continue to watch the zhim jang (zhim chang) thus the
people began to demonstrate … I saw many Tibetans were very young,
and not well dressed. While throwing stones, they were shouting "come
out, tsampa eaters". A Tibetan peddler wanted to join the others, but
his wife exerted all her strength to drag his arms while crying, and
pleaded him not to go. There were also many girls, who said to us
"young man, are you still a Tibetan? If you are, then come over to
join us", and when they saw we did not join them, they spat on the
ground, and said scornfully, "ngo tsa, ngo tsa (ngo tsha, shame on
you)". To tell you the truth, I was very sad, but I dared not to
participate, and only stood aside to watch. Among my friends, some of
them ran over there and threw a stone, but immediately they came back again."

"Wait," I again interrupted him, "do you think this is an organized
and pre-meditated event?"

"Kun chok sum (sku mchog gsum, Vow to the Three Jewels of Buddha,
Dharma and Sangha), it is not so." WD sadly waved his head. He
continued to say:

"The stones they threw were those used by people in the neighborhood
to build their houses. Some of them were holding knives, but they
were not Tibetan knives, instead, they were long knives. I do not
know where they got them either. Many people were waving khatas, and
it is possible they seized them from the nearby shops, anyway, there
were many khatas in those shops. Then they poured into Tromsikhang
(the market at the corner of Barkhor Street) from Ramoche Temple. On
the way, many shops owned by Chinese and Chinese Muslims (Hui) were
destroyed. Part of the Tromsikhang market was also burned down. The
Chinese all ran away, and the Chinese Muslims took off their white
caps and ran away, too. It is strange that no policemen were there,
and all of them also ran away."

I asked, "don't they know there are video cameras all over the Barkhor area?"

"They know. Many people know that there are video cameras, but they
weren't afraid," WD paused for a little while and he appeared to be
hesitant, finally he said,

"They did it for the sake of our nationality. They are really tough."
This is what WD said, and I had a rather deep impression of his words.

"I had been following the people all the time. There were more and
more people pouring from Tromsikhang into the Barkhor area. There
were about 100 people. There were people from Amdo, Kham and Lhasa.
There were also a few monks. People walked around the Barkhor twice.
While walking, they were shouting "Gyawa Rinpoche kutse trilo tenpa
sho (Long live the Dalai Lama), "Bo Rangzen" (Tibetan Independence).
While they were walking around, they destroyed the shops owed by the
Chinese and Chinese Muslims. Silk and satin in one shop were thrown
out, which was colourful and they were scattered all over the ground.
Some people also set fire to Barkhor police station diagonally across
from Jokhang Temple but it did not burn fiercely. I called JM in
Beijing and he was very excited when he heard the news. It was
because in March 1988, similar things happened. At that time JM was a
teenager, he burned the gate of a shop and he was imprisoned for four
years. Probably when it was nearly 3:00pm or it just after 3:00pm,
people in black clothes came, their faces covered and only showing
two eyes. They were holding guns and they fired at people.

"Who are these people?" I asked surprised.

"Special police! Like the "Flying Tigers"

Flying tigers? I did not know who they were, they probably have
something to do with some films or TV programmes but I know who the
special police are, thus, I did not interrupt him again.

"There were about thirty or forty people who were all dressed in
black with their faces covered. They only showed their eyes and were
holding their guns high. At that time, I was at the entrance of North
Barkhor street, I saw them rushing to Tsulhakhang Square, and they
threw teargas bombs into the crowd. People in the front were stopped
and arrested. Then they fired and killed people in the back. I,
together with many people, was frightened and we retreated back into
Barkhor Street. But not very far from the entrance of North Barkor
Street, it was right there when a teenaged girl picked up a stone and
was about to throw it, the special police fired at her, and the
bullet pierced through her throat. She fell on the ground right away.
At that time I was over ten or twenty meters away from her and I saw
it very clearly. Many people saw that. It was really horrible… I
think she was only seventeen or eighteen years old."

I realized that WD was shivering, and it seems that he still had
lingering fear. This made me feel anxious, and the pain I was feeling
was just like I was on that scene.

After quite a while WD began to recall again, "That girl fell on the
ground, twitching and bleeding. Very soon the car of the special
police drove over, their car looked like a Toyota 4500 in a dark
color. The car stopped right in front of the girl, then two special
policemen jumped off the car, and threw the girl's corpse into the
car. The car again continued to drive forward a little, then turned
back. It is very strange that after the car drove back and forth,
there was no blood on the ground. There was not even a blood stain on
the ground.

I had never heard this before. This was apparently a police car, not
a street cleaning car! But WD insisted on this and said, "Yes. It is
not a street cleaning car but it is just like a street cleaning car
which completely cleans the blood on the ground." Can that be a
new-style police car? Does that even have the function to clean the
slaughter scene? Later I searched for the police car for special
police on the internet, and I found a police car which can spray
water. Except special police cars which can spray water up and down
as well as left and right, there are also those equipped with
supervision video cameras which can revolve 360 degrees. There were
also those equipped with revolving platforms from which to shoot
tear-gas canons. But I still do not know whether there are any police
cars equipped with cleaning functions to clean blood stains and
others. Are they any such kinds of police cars?

WD said, "Except this girl, I did not see any dead people. But a
friend who owns a restaurant in Barkhor saw from the roof that the
special police fired and killed many people in Barkhor. It is strange
that these special policemen seemed to be in charge of Barkhor only,
not other areas. At that time, we saw that the corpse of the girl was
being taken away by the police car, I, together with other people,
started to flee. I ran all the way to Makye Ame restaurant, then
turned a corner, and ran across the small alley. Most of the shops on
both sides were destroyed, and many messy things were scattered all
over on the way. As you know, this area is mostly Chinese Muslim and
the mosque is just ahead. I saw some Tibetans burning cars. Three
cars and one motorcycle were set on fire in front of the mosque. I
dared not stay, so I walked through the crowd and walked through that
especially high gate. TAR Public Security Bureau is located just
across the street. What is more strange is that there were over ten
policemen in front of the gate of the TAR Public Security Bureau, but
they only stood there looking on. But only one street away, there
were actually Tibetans smashing and burning things. I remember two
butcher shops owned by Chinese Muslims and seven cars were destroyed,
but the policemen did not do anything. They acted as if this had
nothing to do with them. There were also many onlookers, who were
standing on the edge of the streets. They were watching and
discussing things amongst themselves."

"They did not do anything? Why?" I asked.

"Who knows? Right, I saw a few policemen taking pictures. Ah, there
were also policemen videotaping." WD was recalling. "Now I remember
that it is indeed very strange. There was only one street between
these two sides, but they were like two worlds.

Even now I still do not understand why the special policemen in
Barkhor fired and killed people, but the policemen outside of Barkhor
did not go to stop [the people] at all? It seems that not long after
there were three tanks that drove over from Jiangsu Road, and arrived
at Lingkhor East Road. All the soldiers in the tanks were holding guns.

"Tanks?" I asked in disbelief, "were they tanks or armoured cars?
Those government officials said that no tanks entered Lhasa."

"Of course, they were tanks, only later were there armoured cars." WD
said absolutely, "Do you mean to say that I can not even tell apart
tanks from armored cars? They are tanks with tracks. When the tanks
drove over, the ground was vibrating. As soon as people saw tanks
coming, all the onlookers dispersed. I ran away too, but I dared not
to go back to the nearby house I rented, so I had to go straight to
the left side. I have a friend living there."

"What were the tanks doing?" I again interrupted his recalling. What
appeared in my mind were the scenes of the PLA tanks rolling over the
civilians and students on Beijing streets on June 4th, 1989.

"I don't know what the tanks were doing because I simply fled," WD
said. "I ran away to my friend's house. He had also just came back
home from somewhere. Both of us were still badly startled, so we
drank some alcohol to help us to get over the shock. I never drink
any white liquor, and if I want to drink, I only drink beer, but my
friend only had barley beer from Huzhu (Gonlung) County in Qinghai, a
few bottles. Later two more friends came to my friend's house, thus,
we started to drink one bottle after another. We drank beer until
past 11:00 at night,and we were all drunk. We were not very drunk,
but it seems that we all had courage now and no matter what, we
wanted to go back to our own places. When we three arrived at the
crossroads of Jiangsu East Road, we were stunned, and almost sobered
up. Because forty or fifty soldiers were standing there, with their
guns in their hands, and they were also holding rubber clubs, batons
or something like them. We were ordered to stop and hand in our
papers. Luckily we had our I.D cards in our wallets, then the
soldiers said "beat it." One of my friends shot off his mouth, "We
have our papers, on what grounds do you scold us?" Immediately we
were done for. The soldiers pounced on us and started to beat us. Two
of them held our arms and two others started to randomly beat us
right in the face. My eyes were beaten severely and began to swell
and at that time I thought I would be beaten so severely that I would
become blind. These soldiers kicked us and scolded us, until we fell
down… (this part was omitted)… We were taken to the police station.
There two policemen came who took our pictures and recorded our I.D.
numbers. When we were interrogated, one Tibetan police said in
Tibetan "Don't say too much." He sounded very vicious, so the Chinese
policeman must have thought that he was scolding us. I did not expect
at this time there would be a policeman who would help Tibetans.
Perhaps because they could not get anything out of three drunkards,
eventually they released us. Luckily the house I rented is not very
far from the police station. Because I heard gun shots all the way
home, so I do not know, I really do not know how many people like
that girl were killed."

"My two friends live in the area over the Tibet Academy of Social
Sciences, but they dared not go further so they stayed at my house.
But we did not expect that they had to stay there for four days. On
the morning of 15th, I wanted to buy some food, drinks and
cigarettes, but I began to regret it as soon as I went out of my
house. Soldiers were everywhere on the streets. Some were holding
guns and pickaxes without the tips. I was about to turn back, but a
little boy ten metres away, who was only seven or eight years old,
actually threw a stone at the soldiers, immediately, the soldiers
started to shoot tear-gas. Suddenly, people were running everywhere.
I dared not to go out any more. Luckily the house I rented was used
by a work unit to store odds and ends, thus, no soldiers broke into
to check the house. But there were soldiers on the roof of the
building, and there were also soldiers in the courtyard. In addition,
there were many military trucks and cars. For the entire four days,
we closed the curtains, sat in the room to watch TV, or to sleep. At
the beginning we still chatted with each other, but later we seldom
talked any more, and each was thinking about the weight on his mind.
During the daytime, sometimes we couldn't help but open the curtain a
little to look out, but no matter when we looked out, all we saw were
soldiers. When it was dark, we dared not turn on the lights, nor did
we dare to watch TV. While sitting in the dark, we dared not make any
noise, and we were very hungry…"

"Then what did you eat?" I can not help asking him.

"Ah, ah, we were lucky that I had bought a box of milk earlier, and I
also had bread I had brought back from home when I went back to
celebrate New Year. At the time, I did not want to eat these, because
there were so many restaurants in Lhasa, so who wanted to eat bread
at home? As a result, there was green mildew on the bread. But at
that time we had to eat the bread with the milk. After we got rid of
the green mildew on the bread, we would swallow it together with the
milk. There was a disgusting taste, but we could not afford to care
about that. As I said before, fortunately the house I rented belongs
to a work unit, later I heard that all three of my friends who rented
rooms at the big compounds inhabited by many families were all
arrested. Though they never shouted a slogan, did not throw a stone,
nor were they even among the onlookers, they were actually arrested
and taken away. What made it very funny is the reason for their
arrest is that one of them has very long hair and looks like an
impressive Khampa, the other has very short hair and looks very much
like a monk. As for the reason for the third one, ah, ah, he has a
gold tooth inlaid in his mouth."

"Gold tooth?" I was so astonished that I promptly asked him why.

"Oh, As you know, many Khampas and Amdo people love to inlay gold in
their teeth, and there were many Khampas and Amdo people who
participated in this uprising. The reason he was arrested because of
his golden tooth is probably because he was suspected to be a Khampa
or an Amdo person. I heard he was arrested because of this reason.
But I do not know what happened to them now. The person who is in
charge of houses in the work unit from which I rented my house was
very nervous. He is from Lhasa, and he is very timid. Every night he
would come to my house quietly to remind me not to turn on any
lights, but later he simply drove me out. I told him that I rented
the house for three months, and it was not three months yet, then he
gave back part of the rent to me, and wrote a testimonial for me. He
insisted that no matter what I should move out. On the 19th, I was
forced out of the house. Since then I bid goodbye to my two friends,
and went out on our own separate ways.

"I stayed at a friend's house for three days, then I heard that they
had begun to sell train tickets, then I directly went to the train
station. On my way to the train station, only two kilometers from my
friend's house to the railway station, I was checked by soldiers with
guns and clubs seven times. They all spoke Sichuan dialect. They were
thin and small, and looked like mice, but they were more frightened
than tigers.

They repeatedly checked my I.D card and my certificate of temporary
residence. If the person does not look like the photo in the papers,
he would be arrested and taken away right on the spot. They also
checked very carefully the text messages and pictures in people's
cell phones. Fortunately, I can not take pictures with my cell phone.
My luggage was also leafed through and checked. I had one small album
in it, and they opened the album and looked at the pictures one by
one. The strangest thing is that they actually told me to roll back
my sleeves, and stroked my two arms back and forth several times.
Why? Were they looking for rosaries? If a person was wearing rosaries
on one's wrist, if one is not a monk, then one is somebody who
believes in Buddhism. Later I heard there were people who were
arrested because of rosaries. Eventually, I was able to buy a
standing room ticket. After I entered the train, before I had time to
feel that I was lucky, over a dozen policemen came. So many people
came over and surrounded me, they actually only checked me. When I
saw they only checked me, not the Chinese who filled the railway
carriage, and also witnessed that they leafed thought my bag and
messed it up, I was so angry that I began to quiver, and I almost burst out."

"It is fortunate that you did not burst out." I gazed at the young
Amdo man with bushy eyebrows and big eyes, thinking to myself that
after all he endured and survived all this.

"I understand what you mean," he said, "you feel that I am like a
refugee, and there is only the last moment. I should absolutely not
resist, is that so?"

"Certainly." I said.

WD lowered his head, then raised his head and looked around, then he
bowed down his head again. After a while, he said in feeble voice,
"In fact I regret very much and have been regretting all the time.
After I saw with my own eyes that the girl was killed, I began to
regret. But no matter how regretful I feel, I will not do anything.
Because in my ears, I always hear a voice saying "zab zab je".

By then I knew WD's recalling had ended at last. When he rose and
left before me, and repeatedly told me to "zab zab je," I sighed with
unspeakable emotions. Apparently he is still afraid, but he did not
keep silent because of fear, on the contrary, he was willing to allow
me to record and make public his experience full of fear. Why? Once I
read an article by Aung San Suu Kyi about fear and freedom, and she
used verses to describe people who show courage when they were
attempting to free themselves of suppression. When I read it again at
this moment, I found that it to also be true for Tibetans:

"Emerald cool we may be
As water in cupped hands
But oh that we might be
As splinters of glass
In cupped hands..."

June 1, 2008, Beijing
http://woeser.middle-way.net/2008/07/blog-post_04.html
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