Tweets From the Plateau

A few days after police took violent measures to clear the site of the two most recent Tibetan self-immolations in an ongoing trend of protest against Chinese rule, The Economist profiles the prominent Tibetan digital dissident Tsering Woeser:

IN A recent posting on her blog, Tsering Woeser accused the authorities in Lhasa of carrying out racial segregation, welcoming Han Chinese visitors to the Tibetan capital but not Tibetans. “Has the world forgotten its boycott of governments that practised apartheid?” she fumed. As a chronicler of repression in Tibet, Ms Woeser has long been China’s most daring voice online, and a very rare one.

Ms Woeser’s dogged determination, despite close surveillance by security agents in Beijing where she lives with her (Han Chinese) husband, has kept open a rare window on conditions in Tibetan-inhabited areas. These have been largely off-limits to foreign journalists since riots in Lhasa in 2008. The 46-year-old writer scours the social media for titbits of news from the plateau, passing them on through her blog, “Invisible Tibet”, or on Twitter. Her postings are in Chinese, which has helped to raise awareness among non-Tibetans.

[…]The police often contact Ms Woeser to make their displeasure known. At politically sensitive times, she and her husband, Wang Lixiong, himself a Tibetologist and outspoken dissident, are sometimes kept under virtual house arrest. Yet Ms Woeser, who worked for a state-owned publication in Lhasa before falling foul of the authorities in 2004 because of her politically edgy writings, is undeterred. She also uses China’s home-grown version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, to post messages under a pseudonym. Several times, Ms Woeser says, censors have shut down her accounts.

Woeser’s electronic activism fills an informational gap that the Committee to Protect Journalists has noted may be created by Beijing’s policies, as “placing travel restrictions on journalists may have one unintended effect. It means that when it comes to unofficial news from China, activists and advocacy groups play a vital role in collecting and disseminating information.

While microblogging platforms have been a boon for China’s nascent civil society, a recent analysis of Weibo revealed that Tibet and other areas populated with ethnic minorities experience relatively higher rates of censorship.

See the “‘City Moats’ and ‘Apartheid'” [‘护城河’与’种族隔离‘], the post referred to in The Economist article, or browse Woeser’s “Invisible Tibet” blog or Twitter stream [both zh] in their entirety. Stay tuned to the High Peaks Pure Earth for English translations of her posts. Also see prior CDT coverage of Woeser.


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