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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

"Remembering the First Time I Met Karma Samdrup" by Woeser

July 1, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth
June 28, 2010

High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a blogpost
by Woeser that was originally written for Radio
Free Asia on June 17, 2010 in Beijing and posted on her blog on June 21, 2010.

In this blogpost, Woeser writes an account of her
first encounters with Karma Samdrup, the Tibetan
businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist
who was sentenced to 15 years in prison on June
24, 2010 in Xinjiang. Read a report about Karma
Samdrup by Human Rights Watch here, a report
which is also cited by Woeser in her blogpost.

High Peaks Pure Earth has also translated two
blogposts by Karma Samdrup's wife Dolkar Tso,
read the first one "Praying" here and the second
one, in which she thanks Karma Samdrup's lawyers, here.

"Remembering the First Time I met Karma Samdrup"
By Woeser
June 17, 2010

Beijing -- A number of days ago, Human Rights
Watch submitted a report to the Chinese
government requesting to rescind the accusations
against the philanthropist and environmentalist
of the Tibetan people, Karma Samdrup and his
brothers. It states: “these people embody the
characteristics the government says it wants in
modern Tibetans – economically successful,
lending ssupport to only approved cultural and
environmental pursuits, and apolitical – yet
they, too, are being treated as criminals.”
This madde me remember when I first met Karma
Samdrup. It was one day in May 1998; I had
travelled from Lhasa to Chengdu for business and
at the entrance of the Chenghua District
Government, to my surprise, I saw a group of
Tibetans quietly sitting on newspapers, bamboo or
plastic mats, they looked exhausted and their
clothes were tatty but one glance was sufficient
to see their anger and grievance. I went over to
speak to them; I wanted to know why they were
there. Right at this moment, Karma appeared
carrying two large boxes of bottled mineral water.

Originally, those Tibetans were trading with
Chinese caterpillar fungus, most of them were
Khampas from eastern Tibet but some also came
from the Ngaba grasslands of Amdo. After the
caterpillar fungus season the year before, they
had brought more than 5000 kilos of caterpillar
fungus to sell, which had been collected by over
7000 families to Chengdu. All of their
merchandise was collected by some Pharmaceutical
Company belonging to the Chenghua District
Government. It had been agreed that payment would
be made on a certain day. But when it came to
that day, the boss of the Pharmaceutical Company
had vanished into thin air and the 5000 kilos of
caterpillar fungus had also disappeared without a
trace. When the traders saw the altogether almost
40 million RMB coming to naught, they were
burning with impatience because they had taken
the fungus from the local villagers merely on the
basis of goodwill and promise, as it is
traditionally done. So the hard working villagers
looked forward to promptly receiving the money to
take back home. Some of them had to settle many
urgent payments. For those traders who don't do
big business, their entire belongings are at
stake. In addition, 15 million RMB was loaned
from the bank and another 5 million RMB was taken
from the poverty alleviation funds. Thus, they
had no alternative but to stay in Tibetan places
around the Chengdu Office, demanding payment
every day. But after countless months had passed
without any results, they could do nothing but
carry out a quiet sit-down protest. It was said
that the number of traders participating in the
sit-down protest reached 60. Yet, can a sit-down
protest solve the problem? Who can make up for a
loss of 40 million RMB? I heard that a trader
named Dorgey from Ngaba was in such extreme despair that he committed suicide.

So, was Karma also one of the people who had been
tricked? No, he wasn't. At the time, he was a
little over 30; he was trading in "dzi" (heavenly
beads) and had also just arrived in Chengdu and
randomly run into this group of Tibetans carrying
out a sit-down protest. Without any hesitation he
put aside his business and took the initiative to
help them. He firstly brought them water,
medicine and food and secondly, he used his
network to find an important person to speak for
them. For example, after much effort, Karma found
Phuntsog Wangyal who was living in Beijing.
Although Phuntsog Wangyal had retired from his
position as the Deputy Director of the State
Ethnic Affairs Commission many years ago, he was
still influential. Moreover, he was the very
first Tibetan revolutionary, an eminent patriot.
Of course he would lend a helping hand when the
lives of so many common Tibetans were affected.
He explained this situation to the then Premier
of the State Council, Zhu Rongji. Thereupon, as I
came to know much later, after a period of three
years, provincial departments on all levels in
Tibet, Sichuan and Qinghai provinces, as well as
Chengdu, renumerated those Tibetans who had been cheated.

At the time, the noble Karma and I had both been
in a rush, I had not been able to help him. It
wasn't until summer 2002 at a banquet in Lhasa
that I met Karma again. I was astonished by his
brilliant words saying that when one carries out
environmental protection work in Tibet one should
also consider the benefits of local Tibetans,
otherwise one might as well not do it. It is said
that Karma established the very first
environmental non-government organisation in
Tibet – “Three Rivers Environmental
Protection Group”, which he also sponsors
himself. After interviewing him a few times I
wrote an article titled “Karma, ‘King of
Heavenly Beads’”, which was published in 2006
in the “Southern Weekend” newspaper. I
remember how in the very beginning he said to me:
“I have never been to hell, I don’t know how
terrifying hell really is but I have suffered a
lot; I have never been to heaven, I don’t know
how magnificent heaven really is but I often feel
happy.” What really is a shame is that today,
Karma is commonly portrayed in the light of the
first half of this sentence, which really is very unjust.
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