May 08 2009

Tibetans Seek New Ways to Plead their Case

by at 3:19 pm under 2008-09 Fellows

Geographically, politically, and historically, the issue of Tibet has been controversial for the Chinese leadership. On one hand, it represents the homeland to Tibetan Buddhists, a religious group that by its inherent existence poses a threat to the non-religious ideology of the Chinese Communist Party. On the other hand, it remains a point of contention between India and China (although the former has formally acknowledged China’s control over the Tibet Autonomous Region), and given India’s diametrically opposite position on freedom of speech, the Tibetan government in exile is given the ability to internationalize the cause for greater rights in Tibet.

The introduction of social media to Tibetan activists adds a new dimension in this fragile dynamic. The latest and most recent prominent example is of the Tibetan blogger, Ms. Woeser. After being indoctrinated into the Han Chinese educational system regarding the relationship between Tibet and the mainland, Woeser discovered a new reality when she moved to Lhasa at the age of 24. Since that time she has kept 4 different blogs – 3 of which have been shut down – and published some books relaying Tibet’s history through poetry, short stories and photography.

In her quest to unearth the realities of Tibet, she has been placed under house arrest, her friends have been detained, and she herself has been subjected to harsh interrogation. She has been able to circumvent the Internet patrols by sending email and skype messages to outside contacts, who are then able to post them on her blog, Invisible Tibet

Through the accounts of Ms. Woeser and other intrepid Tibetans, international readers and activists have been given significant ballast. In the West, her story has been highlighted by various media outlets including the New York Times and the Times Online. Further, non-government human rights groups such as Amnesty International have incorporated her work into their broader campaigns.

While the U.S. and other governments have shied away from making human rights the focal point of their relationship with China, the increasing social media documentation and the instant ability to disseminate this information, especially with regards to Tibet, has added a new layer of advocacy to the issue. It is only a matter of time before foreign governments will have to start operate on this compelling evidence.

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.