Mar 02, 2012

Tibet: Writer Under House Arrest In Beijing

Tibetan writer, Woeser, was placed under house arrest indefinitely on 29 March 2012 in her Beijing apartment, in a bid to prevent her from collecting a prize for culture from the Dutch Embassy. Woeser, whose previous writings have criticised Chinese policy on Tibet, was receiving the prize for her achievements in the areas of culture and development.

Below is an article published by the New York Times:

A prominent Tibetan writer living here in Beijing said on Thursday [1 March 2012] that the police had placed her under house arrest to prevent her from receiving a prize for culture from the Dutch Embassy.

The writer, Woeser, said in a telephone interview in the afternoon that there were police officers downstairs in her apartment building, where she lives on the 20th floor. She said she was unsure of the exact number, but had noticed at least two men in a car outside the main door and others waiting nearby. She said Beijing police officers came to her apartment on Wednesday night [29 March 2012] and told her she would not be allowed to receive the award. “I told the embassy last night that I probably won’t be able to go this evening,” said Woeser, who like many Tibetans goes by only one name.

The embassy is giving Woeser an award from the Prince Claus Fund. The fund’s Web site says the award is given out annually to individuals and organizations in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America “for their outstanding achievements in the field of culture and development.”

Woeser, who has written critically of the Chinese government’s policies in Tibet, said she had planned to go the Dutch ambassador’s residence on Thursday [1 March 2012] at 6 p.m. to have dinner and receive the award. The ceremony was originally to have been at the embassy but was recently moved to the residence.

Christa Meindersma, director of the Prince Claus Fund, said in a written statement that the fact “Woeser is not free to leave her home and freely express herself demonstrates once again the importance of her voice.”

Woeser said the police might stay at her apartment building for a couple weeks or even a month. “I just asked them how long they’ll be there, and they said they don’t know,” she said.

Security in Beijing has been bolstered ahead of the Monday opening of the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which are together known as the lianghui, or “two meetings.” During this time, people deemed to be potential troublemakers are kept under close watch by the police. Moreover, many critics of the Communist Party have been harassed in the past year, as senior officials, especially those in the security apparatus, have apparently watched with growing concern the revolutions that have toppled long-seated dictators in the Middle East.

It has also been a fraught year for Tibetans in particular. Since last March [2011], at least 22 Tibetans in western regions have set fire to themselves to protest rule by the Han, the dominant ethnic group in China. Fourteen of those died. In recent months, there have also been clashes between security forces and Tibetans in towns across the Tibetan plateau; in several cases, security forces opened fire with live ammunition, reportedly killing some of the protesters.

Most of the self-immolations have taken place in the town of Aba, known as Ngaba in Tibetan, which is home to Kirti Monastery, an important center of learning. The majority of those setting fire to themselves have been monks from Kirti. The town is now in a state of lockdown, with checkpoints on roads leading into it and paramilitary troops in riot gear standing or sitting on each block during the day.

The month of March is a delicate time in China-Tibet relations. The Dalai Lama fled to India in March 1959, after the Chinese Army quashed a Tibetan uprising in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, during the initial Chinese occupation there. There has been a history of Tibetans protesting Chinese rule on the anniversaries of the Dalai Lama’s flight, and one such protest by monks in 2008 in Lhasa, and the suppression of it by security forces, led to the widespread uprising that enveloped much of the Tibetan plateau that spring. Since then, the Chinese government has increased the presence of security forces across the plateau each March and has barred foreigners from traveling to many areas there during that month.