Mystery Man from Beijing

By Therang Buengu

As the upheavals of March settle into a new layer of memory, there are still a few things that linger in my mind. Among them, one still evokes in me a strange excitement every time I think about it. The mystery man from Beijing: who really is he?

In the first few days of the uprising, a person using the name of Jigme Namgyal started writing scathing articles in the Chinese language, critical of Beijing’s Tibet policy. Within a few weeks, Jigme Namgyal published seven lengthy articles–a total of 30,000 or so characters. What profoundly impressed me was not the length and prolificness of his writings, but rather his intimate knowledge of Beijing’s Tibet policy making circle , his intense frustration with the Beijing leadership’s short sightedness on Tibet policy and his ability to express his thoughts and feelings–yes, feelings: this guy is not pretending he is a detached analyst–his articles are filled with anger, frustration and often bitter pessimism. Then at the end of May, just as he appeared suddenly out of the stormy sky, the mystery man from Beijing disappeared into the darkness of Beijing’s insistence on a hardline policy on Tibet. We haven’t seen his writing again. Still don’t know who he or she is.

In the article entitled, “Let Our Dalai Lama Return Home”, the author points out five reasons why China rejects the Dalai Lama’s possible return. He then observes that “as long as CCP relies on this same irrational, inhuman, irresponsible and ineffective bunch of bureaucrats to continue managing Tibetan affairs, then the Dalai Lama will not be able to return home.” In his eyes “time and time again [in not dealing with the Dalai Lama directly] China erroneously sows the seeds of ethnic and political crisis.” He predicts that one day they will come back to hound the nation. In almost every line and sentence of his writing, we can feel his bitter frustration against the Chinese leadership’s inability to see an alternative way to manage the Tibet issue and his outright anger against those bureaucrats whose selfishness and low IQ (di zhineng) who have been charged with this responsibility. Yet this mystery man from Beijing still holds out hope. He doesn’t believe that the opportunity to resolve the Tibet issue has already “entered a an irreversible path of dead end” (西藏问题的解决已经进入了一个无可变更的死路也不竟然)”. This, he believes, because it is China’s interest to engage with Tibetans to resolve the issue.

In many of his articles, the mysterious man revisits the critical juncture in China’s Tibet policy in the past, pointing out their political consequences in the present. To me, the most intriguing part is that when he is talking about those historical events, you can almost sense that this is not learned knowledge from books, but rather that he witnessed or even experienced them as a participant. He has in-depth understanding of Tibet under Mao’s China, yet his language transcends the party phraseology to describe and analyze that tumultuous era (which is sadly not always the case–most people from that generation can’t get away from using the Party language, even when criticizing the Party). Reading Jigme Namgyal’s article is a rare treat. I can see the vast knowledge and experience of the older Tibetan generation, combined with the younger generation’s contemporary worldview, new language and most importantly, newfound boldness and courage in his writing. This combination is a scarce commodity in contemporary writing on Tibet in the Chinese language, particularly from Tibetan authors.

We haven’t seen this mysterious man’s new writing for more than a half year. Yet my curiosity and desire to know this mysterious man is not only alive but grows ever more intense . Among friends, the question of the identity of the mysterious man continues to animate our conversations. Yet among all the many Tibetans we know in Beijing, those who fit in profile of this man’s vast personal knowledge and have the ability to write them in the Chinese language doesn’t fit the courage and passion of the author. That is precisely the most intriguing part of the story. In today’s Tibetan elite, you never know what is alive deep in their hearts–who really possesses the passion and sometimes even have the courage to take enormous risks to express their sense of injustice and moral outrage against the current Tibetan predicament.

Whether this mysterious man is really living in Beijing–as he claims–or whether he is a Tibetan researcher who has been working on ethnic minority policy for many years–as he describes himself–we may never know. But I’d like to imagine that such a person exists: a Tibetan intellectual who is working on the inside the Party system, in public acting just like any other Tibetan cadre–overly cautious, obedient, most of the time blind to the suffering and humiliation that the majority of Tibetans endure–yet deep down in his heart carrying a fire of passion for Tibet that bursts forth in a time of crisis and tragedy.

Every time I think about this, I am moved.

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