04/28/2010, 00.00
CHINA – TIBET
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Tibetan writers and intellectuals systematically arrested

The leader of a Tibetan group slams China for arresting Tibetan intellectuals, writers and educators. This is having a devastating impact on Tibetan society. The recent arrest of writer Shogdung is part of this trend.
Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Tenzin Choeying, national director of Students for a Free Tibet, told AsiaNews that China is systematically targeting Tibetan artists and intellectuals to prevent them from telling the world about their people’s tragedy. For him, the recent arrest of Shogdung falls within “the context of a larger trend of arrests of prominent Tibetan writers, artists and educators.”

Shogdung, one of Tibetan writer Tra Gyal’s many pen names, was arrested last Friday, in the evening, in Xining, capital of Qinghai province. In addition to taking him away, police seized his two computers and many of his writings.

Those who know him think he was arrested for publishing a book in Tibetan, Distinguishing Sky from Earth, in which he slams Beijing for its bloody crackdown of anti-government protests in Tibet in March 2008. Police also seized copies of the book in raids against a number of bookstores. Others believe that his arrest could be related to his fund raising activities to help Qinghai quake victims and his criticism of the authorities’ ineffective rescue and relief operations following that natural disaster.

It is surprising that in the not so distant past, Tra Gyal was viewed as close to the Chinese Communist Party because of his criticism of traditional Buddhism and his support for modernisation. Unsurprisingly, the writer was not the only intellectual to be arrested.

Tenzin Choeying (pictured) said in fact that other Tibetan intellectuals were also arrested, people like Therang (Tashi Rabten) and Shokjang (Druklo) from the Northwest Nationalities University. For him, “these arrests seem to fit into a still larger trend of arresting prominent Tibetan artists, musicians and writers”. Indeed, it is hard to image “how devastating it will be for Tibetan society.”

Tibetan society has few “independent thinkers who reflect critically on issues of identity, history, culture and larger power politics. It took years (decades) of Chinese occupation and ‘education’ to produce the ‘first generation of Tibetan writer-intellectuals’ like the late Palden Gyal and Dhondrup Gyal who wrote between 1979 and 1989. Shogdung and his compatriots became popular with their writings published between 1989 and 2000 and are regarded as ‘the second generation of writer-intellectuals’.” All of them “are popular among Tibetan high school and college students. For those of us who care for the future of Tibet, the value of the continuity of this secular Tibetan intellectual heritage cannot be underestimated.”

Indeed, the list of intellectuals locked up by the Chinese is long. It includes  writers like Bya mdo Rin bzang, who disappeared last summer; Tshering Don grub, who lost his government job; Sgrol ma skyabs, arrested in March 2005 and sentenced to ten years; Od zer/Weise/Woeser, arrested and released on and off in the last few years; Druklo and Tashi Rabte, both arrested this month; The’u rang, who disappeared in August 2009; Kunga Tsevang, a monk from Labrang monastery who was arrested in March 2009; Sgo Shes rabs Rgya mtsho, detained in 2008 and then released; and internet writer Kunchok Tsephel Gopev Tsang, detained in February 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Some of those arrested are musicians, people like Jam dbyangs skyid, arrested in April 2008; Jamyang Kyi, detained then released; and Bkra shis Don grub, sentenced on 15 January 2010 to 15 months in a re-education-through-labour camp. Filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen was also arrested in March 2008. Chos skyongs tshe brtan, headmaster of a Tibetan school in Machu, also disappeared.

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