Woeser: Replaying the Film “Serf” Won’t Brainwash Anyone!

In a blog post translated by High Peaks Pure Earth, Tibetan poet and writer Woeser describes Chinese efforts to dominate accounts of Tibet’s history.

The Chinese government proclaimed in January 2009 that a festival called “Serf Liberation Day” was to be celebrated in Tibet on March 28 every year to commemorate the “liberation” of Tibetans by the People’s Liberation Army. Woeser takes this festival as her starting point and in particular the replaying of the 1963 propaganda film “Serf” on Tibetan TV. Amongst Tibetans, the film is more commonly called “Jampa”, the name of the protagonist.

When the CCP propaganda film “Serf” pompously reappeared on Tibetan TV during the “Serf Liberation Day” celebrations, I felt like I was taken back to my childhood during which I had been forcefully brainwashed by the “red devil”. Indeed, I can only use “red devil” to describe this film and its content: for decades, the self-acclaimed “liberators” and “great benefactors” have in fact slowly swallowed up the entire Tibetan region. Deep hatred made me get up and leave; even though for a writer, this would have been an opportunity to study how those in power are rewriting history, but the harm I have experienced over the years made it impossible for me to endure these blatant lies.

In 2009, the International Campaign for Tibet published a collection of writings by Tibetan writers titled “Like Gold that Fears No Fire: New Writing from Tibet”. The genres ranged from poems, essays, and diary entries to critical art, and commentaries. The central theme is the protests that swept across Tibet in March 2008, but it also features writings about Tibetans being arrested, sentenced and persecuted. In my contribution to the volume [PDF] I wrote: “After half a century of mandatory brainwashing and education is not that the monasteries have all been destroyed, but that their memories have been erased or altered. Our duty now is to search for, recover and then amend our memories, and even to re-produce our history and reality.”

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