Go Sherab Gyatso is one of four cases PEN International is featuring for this year’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer.
Tashi Delek, Go Sherab Gyatso la,
We were born on different sides of a doorless border inflicted by the Chinese regime — a separation between those of us living in exile and those under occupation, a separation between Tibet and the world.
But your story and your words cannot be caged. I write to let you know that good people around the world are learning from your work. Nation states, organizations, and individuals see that you have simply advocated for rights that people elsewhere enjoy everyday — to learn one’s mother tongue, to practice one’s faith, to celebrate and preserve one’s culture and identity.
Why has the Chinese state, a regime so powerful and so vast, imprisoned you, a lone Buddhist monk and writer, for a decade? It’s not because you have an army or even a single weapon, but because your words frighten them.
The Chinese state cannot control the Tibetan heart, so they grip it tighter and tighter. Yet the more they oppress Tibetans, the more they will fail. Our people’s spirit cannot be extinguished.
Of course, it’s easy for me to say this, living in relative comfort in Canada. But you are proof of this, aren’t you? I learned today that this is your fourth time in a Chinese prison. You have sacrificed your life over and over.
Your moral courage humbles me even as it gives me strength. Most of us live in our private bubbles of small, daily concerns. But you, with your clarion calls for action, pierce through the darkness and confusion. You show us what true resistance looks like. Your example blazes, bright and illuminating as a sun. I wish to honour you and to thank you, yet I cannot reach you.
Buddhism teaches us that nothing is permanent. So I pray for the colonizer to learn from you. I pray for our world leaders to rise to your courage. May you be spared from suffering today and everyday. May you be released soon. And may we all see Tibetan people living in freedom.
Tsering Yangzom Lama
Tsering Yangzom Lama is an award-winning Tibetan novelist. She holds an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and a BA in Creative Writing and International Relations from the University of British Columbia.