Live from Tibet: A Video Interview with Tsering Woeser
Tsering Woeser is a Tibetan-Chinese writer, blogger, and activist. Her blog Invisible Tibet aims to spread accurate information about what is happening in Tibet via articles, essays, and poetry. Her site has been shut down repeatedly, and because of her work Woeser was placed under house arrest in March 2012. Recently she was able to return to her home in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city, when the Chinese government began moving dissidents out of Beijing in preparation for the 18th Party Congress.
At the beginning of September Sampsonia Way contacted Woeser via Skype. In this video interview Woeser discusses her history of harassment at the hands of the CCP, the current situation in Tibet, and what people can do to help. After the conversation Woeser also read one of her poems, “A Sheet of Paper Can Become a Knife.” Watch the video above, or read the transcript below.
Your blogs have been shut down many times. You are under house arrest and can’t leave China. And you have suffered constant surveillance from the Communist Party. Why does the Chinese government persecute you in such a way?
I began my first blog in 2005. I established two blogs at two different sites, but the Chinese government closed both. I then started a blog that was connected to a site in the United States and continued writing, but people in China couldn’t read it. That blog was closed in 2008. I began again and continue blogging today, but it is very hard for people in China to access it. I have no freedom here.
I have lived between Beijing and Lhasa (Tibet) since 2004. The Chinese government will not issue me a passport, so I can’t leave. My blog “Invisible Tibet” describes the current situation of Tibet, which the Chinese government tries to cover up. My stories about the real Tibet make the government very angry.
How would you describe the current situation in Tibet?
I am currently in Lhasa. The situation in Tibet is terrible. Normally, it is not easy to return to Tibet, but the 18th People’s Congress that will be held in October is so important that the government wants me out of Beijing. At sensitive times like this, dissidents are often forbidden to travel and are contained through house arrest. I had wanted to return to Lhasa for a while, but couldn’t receive permission. This time my request was granted.
Many Tibetans protest against the Chinese government, and since 2009 many have done self-immolation as their final act of protest. Lhasa is a racially segregated city. Tibetans must have special permits to enter the capital while Han Chinese can come and go easily with their ID’s. Between 2009 and today, fifty-six Tibetans have chosen self-immolation, and fifty-three of them did it recently. Who would choose to die in that fashion unless there’s no hope for one to continue living!? The government has tight control of Tibet and its people. There is little freedom.
How does the fact that your work has been banned affect you?
I have written over ten books, but only three of them were published in China. And two of my three books were banned. No journals and newspapers will publish my essays and poetry. My writing is not permitted to reach the Chinese audience. Fortunately, there’s another Chinese language world: Most of my books have been published in Taiwan. Even though the readership in Taiwan is smaller than in China, people can hear my voice after all.
What can our readers do to help you and your people?
I am moved, to be able to share my story with people in Pittsburgh. Despite many invitations, I cannot visit the U.S., because the Chinese government refuses to issue me a passport. I hope more of you will care about Tibet.
A Sheet of Paper Can Become a Knife
A sheet of paper can become a knife
—A rather sharp one, too.
I was only turning the page
When the ring finger of my right hand got sliced at the knuckle.
Though small, the sudden wound oozed blood,
A thread as fine as silk, and stung a little.
From paper into knife:
There must have been some mistake, or
Some kind of turning point.
This ordinary paper… a chill of awe.
Translated by A. E. Clark
from Tibet’s True Heart, published by Ragged Banner Press