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Tibetan journalists body honours Woeser on its 10th Anniversary

December 22, 2007

By Phurbu Thinley
Phayul
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dharamsala, December 19: Tibetan woman writer Tsering Woeser was on
Monday awarded an honorary medal by the Association of Tibetan
Journalists (ATJ)

during the commemoration of its 10th founding anniversary day.

The Chief Guest of the morning function, Mr Thupten Samphel, Secretary
for Department of Information and International Relations, Central Tibetan

Administration (CTA), presented the freedom of speech medal to a Voice
of Tibet reporter, who took the award on Woeser’s behalf.

Woeser is a Tibetan author writing in Chinese. Born in Lhasa in 1966,
Woeser was raised and educated in Kham-Derge during and post-Cultural
Revolution in

schools with Chinese medium curriculae. She graduated from the
Department of Chinese Language and Literature at the South West
University for

Nationalities in Chengdu, in 1988. She worked as a reporter for Ganze
(Kardze in Tibetan) Daily in Kham before joining as an editor of
Lhasa-based Tibetan

Literature (Xizang Wenxue), an official Chinese language journal of the
Literature Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

She is the author of books such as “Tibet Above” (Xizang Supreme),
“Notes on Tibet” (Xizang Biji) and “Map of Burgundy Red” (Xianghongsede
Ditu). It was

her second book, “Notes on Tibet”; a compilation of 38 short stories on
Tibetan culture, first published in 2003, that caused her troubles.

In October 2004, Chinese authorities decreed that the book contained
“political errors” and subsequently banned for revealing opinions "that
are harmful to

the unification and solidarity of our nation" and, containing
sympathetic and favourable references to the Dalai Lama.

Sine then, Woeser has been removed from her position in the “TAR”
Literature Association and the housing assigned to her has been
confiscated and was

further deprived of her income, medical insurance, and retirement
pension, and restricted from applying for a passport to leave the country.

Initially she was asked to admit her mistakes and apologize for harming
the reputation of the publishing house and disgracing the government.
However,

she refused flatly. Instead, in her letter, dated September 14, 2003,
explaining her refusal to admit any mistake to the TAR Literature
Association’s highest

decision-making circle Wenlian Party Group, she wrote “From my
perspective, to cooperate is to violate the calling and conscience of a
writer” saying “The

charges against ‘notes on Tibet’ have mainly centered around my points
of view on religion and Tibet’s reality.”

Her unrelenting courage to pen down the true realities of Tibet under
the wide attention of Chinese Communist authorities is known to have
ignited a new

literary movement inside Tibet. Because of the ban on her book, she is
now unemployed and living in self-exiled in Beijing.

In her acceptance speech, for ATJ’s medal of honour, from Beijing, (a
translated Tibetan version of which was read out by the ATJ’s General
Secretary Yeshi

Choesang); Woeser writes, “In reality, the three Tibetan writers Dawa
Gyaltsen, Jamphel Gyatso and Dolma Kyab and many other Tibetan political
prisoners

who are still subjected to torture and persecution in Chinese jails
inside Tibet are more deserving of this medal of honour”.

Insisting one must always stand up for one’s right to win freedom;
Woeser writes “If every one gives up their rights out of fear, then
there will be more

unrestricted oppression from leaders”. So, in her acceptance speech, she
writes, “The best way to enjoy freedom of speech and expression is to
break out of

the restricted rules and regulation curtailing freedom.”

The Tibetan journalists came together and formed the association in
1997. The Club has more than 40 members, who are mostly based in
Dharamsala, the

seat of the Dalai Lama led Tibetan Government-in-Exile.

The organisation aims to facilitate free, fair and accurate delivering
of news of the situation and developments both within and outside Tibet
and to protect

the democratic right of freedom of speech.

Speaking at the Tibetan journalists’ function, Spokesperson of the
Tibet’s Government-in-exile Mr Samphel said that the Tibetan media have
the greater

responsibility in further promoting the evolving Tibetan democracy and
safeguard the freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the exile
Tibetan

democracy.

Describing the democracy bestowed upon Tibetan people by His Holiness
the Dalai Lama as “very precious”, Mr Samphel said media has particular
role “to

promote democracy and especially the integral democratic principle of
free speech and expression”.
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