Spotlight On Tibet: A Tibetan Voice, A Ray of Light PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Julie Adler   

With the uncertain rollercoaster state of the worlds’ economies and the vociferous political race occurring in our own country, this cacophony of tribulations has all but drowned out continued exposure to the ongoing human rights struggles still raging in places such as Burma, Darfur and Tibet.

One voice that is determined not to be washed away with the downpour is Woeser, a 42-year-old Tibetan woman who lives in Beijing. Woeser (her name literally translates to ray of light) is becoming known as one of China’s greatest woman writers. Over the past five years, in relative obscurity but not anonymously, through her poems, essays and blog, she has managed to eloquently illuminate what it feels like to be Tibetan under Chinese occupation. Even though it is banned in China, her work is read worldwide. She unflinchingly tackles the subject of injustice and imprisonment of her people and openly criticizes her tormentors. She seems to be beyond fear, even of the Chinese government: In July, 2008, she sued the Chinese government for not granting her a passport after three years of requests. In August, she traveled to Lhasa for what she planned to be a one-month trip; after six days there, she was arrested and flown back to Beijing for questioning on a trumped-up charge of photographing military police. Today, she remains in her apartment in Beijing, unemployed, under constant police surveillance. Her blog was officially shut down but her writing continues.

With the help of A.E. Clark, a new collection of Woeser’s poems has been translated into English. To find out more, visit: To find out the latest news on Woeser, visit:

Julie Adler is a producer of the radio show The Tibet Connection. For more info, broadcast times and updates:

A Selection of Woeser’s Poetry:

The Fear in Lhasa (August 23, 2008)

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Now a city of fear.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear is greater than all the fear
after ’59, ’69, and ’89 put together.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear is in your breathing,
in the beating of your heart,
In the silence when you want to speak
but don’t,
In the catch in your throat.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where constant fear has been wrought
by legions with their guns,
By countless police with their guns,
By plainclothesmen beyond counting,
And still more by the colossal machinery
of the State that stands behind them
night and day;
But you mustn’t point a camera at them
or you’ll get a gun pointed at you,
maybe hauled off into some corner
and no one will know.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear starts at the Potala and
strengthens as you go east, through the
Tibetans’ quarter.
Dreadful footsteps reverberate all round,
but in daylight you won’t glimpse even their shadow;
They are like demons invisible by day,
but the horror is worse, it could drive you mad.
A few times I have passed them and the
cold weapons in their hands.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa,
Where the fear is now minutely scanned by
the cameras that stud avenues and alleys
and offices,
and every monastery and temple hall;
All those cameras,
Taking it all in,
Swiveling from the outer world to peer
inside your mind.
“Zap zap jé!” They’re watching us —
among Tibetans this has become a byword,
furtively whispered.

A hurried farewell to Lhasa:
The fear in Lhasa breaks my heart.
Got to write it down.

The Past (September 2002 Yunnan, in sight of Mt. Khawa Karpo)

This snow-clad mountain, melting,
is not my snow mountain.
My snow mountains are the
mountains of the past,
Far at the sky’s edge, holy and pure:
Many a lotus, eight petals opening,
Oh, many a lotus, eight petals opening.

This lotus, withering,
cannot be my lotus.
My lotus is the lotus of the past,
Enfolding the snow mountains, lovely,
Many a prayer flag, five colors fluttering,
Oh, many prayer flags,
five colors fluttering.

The past, the past…such a past!
A host of divinities sheltered
our homeland
As a lama keeps watch over souls,
As a mastiff stands guard by the tent.
But the host of divinities is
long gone, now,
The host of divinities is long gone.

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