August 27, 2008
Tibet: Famous Blogger, Woeser, Detained
Blogger, Woeser, was arbitrarily arrested by police and questioned for eight hours before being released.
Tibet’s most famous woman writer and blogger was accused of taking photographs of military installations and arrested by police after she returned home briefly to Lhasa, the capital.
The detention of Woeser, who, like many Tibetans, goes by a single name, underscores the nervousness of the authorities in the Himalayan city [of Lhasa].
Eight police arrived at the home of Woeser’s mother on Thursday [21 August 2008] and presented the writer with a summons to accompany them for questioning. Her husband, the author Wang Lixiong, said: “They had used the wrong name on the document so I insisted that they correct the name before they could take her away. I reminded them that they had to bring her home within the stipulated 12 hours.” She was held for questioning for eight hours by several officers who said that they were acting on a tip-off from a member of the public who had seen her photographing army and police positions in Lhasa from a taxi.
Mr Wang, who spoke on behalf of his wife because he was worried for her safety, told The Times: “She told them that it was not illegal to take photographs in a public place and she had not visited any secret areas or military installations. They had no legal basis for holding her.”
The police searched her mother’s home and removed several documents as well as Mr Wang’s laptop. They hacked his password, checked all his documents and required Woeser to erase every photograph that showed a policeman or army officer.
Mr Wang said: “I can’t say whether their intention was to intimidate. But if they can do this to an influential writer who has done nothing more than take photographs, then one can only imagine the kind of threat that ordinary people in Tibet must feel every day.”
The couple decided to return home to Beijing but first organised a reunion party with Woeser’s many family and friends in Lhasa. Many did not attend, apparently afraid of possible consequences after her arrest. The couple flew back to Beijing on Saturday [23 August 2008], less than 48 hours after her summons and six days into a planned month-long visit to Lhasa.
Woeser has become one of the best-known Tibetans, first as a poet whose works were approved by the Government and then as a dissident after her first book of prose was banned in 2003. She has not been allowed to publish in China since, but the restrictions have failed to deter her. She was forced to place a blog that she began in 2005 on a server outside China after it was hacked and closed. Her current blog — woeser.middle-way.net — is the most popular site for many Tibetans and has recorded three million hits since she launched it on an overseas server early last year.
The Tibetan capital remains under lockdown. The city is patrolled by police and paramilitary forces, many deployed around the Jokhang temple, the holiest shrine in Tibetan Buddhism in the heart of the Old City. On the pilgrim route that circles the temple at least four teams of paramilitary police are on guard around the clock.
Each comprises five men carrying rifles who patrol a section of the route. Buddhists twirling prayer wheels and performing prostrations wend their way among the armed men. Some of the teams, dressed in camouflage, have recently been replaced by patrols carrying what appear to be teargas launchers in tubes on their backs.
There is little sign of increased security in the areas of Lhasa where most ethnic Han Chinese live.