Unofficial Writings & Dissent

Very few documents exist that were produced unofficially by Tibetans in Tibet discussing political complaints against the government, its policies and historical claims. The most famous is the “Precious Manifesto” produced by four monks at Drepung monastery in 1989, based on their reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on the policies of the Dalai Lama. The monks received sentences of up to 19 years in prison for circulating their booklet.

Outside central Tibet (the TAR), a handful of Tibetan writers have been able to publish political commentaries abroad. The best-know are the essays, books and blog-posts produced by the dissident Beijing-based Tibetan writer Woeser, many of which have been published in translation by the website High Peaks, Pure Earth. Some of the most important essays by Woeser and her husband Wang Lixiong have been published in English as Unlocking Tibet (2005), and some shorter commentaries appear in the volume Voices from Tibet (Hong Kong University, 2013), together with a 2-pt interview in the New York Review of Books in 2014, and a book on Tibetan self-immolations (Verso, 2016). Some other writings by Wang Lixiong, the leading independent Chinese writer on the Tibetan political situation, have been published in English, including The Struggle for Tibet (with Tsering Shakya, Verso, 2009).

A theoretical treatise by the Amdo writer Shogdung on notions of resistance,  The Division of Heaven and Earth, was published in English (translated by Matthew Akester, 2016).  The Amdo writer Tashi Rabten, under the penname “Theurang”, wrote a collection of essays and poems called Trag yig (“Written in Blood”), which led to his imprisonment from 2008 to 2011. He also co-edited an issue of a literary journal called Shar Dungri (“Eastern Conch Mountain”) in 2008, which led to the imprisonment of all the editors.  Mourning, a poem about self-immolation protests in Tibet, by an Amdo writer using the name Sengdor appeared in 2011. Some writings by the dissident Rebkong-based writer Shokjang, who produced four books and served three years in jail, have been translated on the High Peaks Pure Earth site, and others have been published in German under the title Für Freiheit bereue ich nichts.