Spotlight On Tibet: Tibet’s Unlikely Defender PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rebecca Novick   

Zhu Rui
Zhu Rui
As a writer, I feel that Tibet is my home. I miss Tibet all the time.” These words come from an unlikely source, a Chinese journalist who has gone from being an ardent critic of Tibetan society to one of its most passionate defenders. As a young girl growing up in Northeast China, forty-eight-year-old Zhu Rui (pronounced Joo Ree) used to go to meetings called recalling the bitterness and thinking about the sweetness. “In the meetings, we used to criticize the Dalai Lama as the symbol of serfdom and we had to eat a kind of food that we were told was eaten by the serfs in old Tibet. It tasted awfully bitter. I used to really pity those poor Tibetans.” Zhu Rui laughs at the memory. In the late 1980s she read some books that inspired her curiosity, such as Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer. She found herself desperately wanting to visit Tibet and to see what it was like for herself.

In 1997, she traveled there as a tourist. On her way east, she arrived at Kumbum Monastery. There, she saw pilgrims performing full-body prostrations on big flat wooden boards. “I was really amazed that there were still people with such devotion in this world,” she recalls, “because there are no longer such things in China.”

Up until that time, Zhu Rui had never even seen a photo of the Dalai Lama. “When I saw his picture for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes – that this was the man who we’d criticized for the last fifty years, the man who in my imagination was a monster. It was astonishing for me to see his face, so full of kindness.” She has since had three meetings with the Dalai Lama times. “His Holiness has such simplicity,” she says, “which is why many Chinese leaders don’t understand him. They are much too complicated.”

She accepted an offer to work with the Tibet Literature Association in Lhasa, and began to meet Tibetans from different backgrounds, especially the older generation. “It was such a great opportunity for me to listen to their stories; those Tibetans who in earlier times were criticized for being serf-owners. I had been taught that they were the exploiting class, but their stories were totally different from what I’d learned.”

Zhu Rui talks openly about the debilitating effect that the repressive policies of the Chinese government have had in Tibet. “Being Chinese, I feel very guilty about all of this. I used to think, ‘What can I do to make amends?’” When the March, 2008, uprising erupted in Tibet, Zhu Rui was not a bit surprised. “I understood what it was all about – the pain in the hearts of the Tibetans. I found it so absurd when the Communist Party accused the Dalai Lama of inciting the protests.”

Although she’s not a practicing Buddhist, Zhu Rui wonders if she has a karmic connection with Tibet from a previous life. “I have been through such a transformation,” she says, “I want to tell everyone what I saw and what I heard, even if it’s just to a single Chinese person. Whenever I hold a pen, it is all about Tibet. I won’t write about anything else but Tibet until the end of my life.”

Rebecca Novick is the founding producer of The Tibet Connection radio program found online at:

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