Two Chinese weblogs by a leading Tibetan poet, Woeser, have disappeared suddenly, and rights activists believe Beijing may be trying to stop her distributing her work online.
The blogs by Woeser, one of the few Tibetan writers to write in Chinese, were shut down by the websites that hosted them: Tibetcult.net, a Tibetan cultural portal, and Daqi.com, a local blog platform. There are more than 120 million internet users in China and the government sees cyberspace as a potential hotbed of dissent. Chinese search engines have updated their word filters to include more banned terms and many blogs, chat forums and bulletin boards have been closed.
Woeser (who is known in Chinese as Weise) had used the two blogs as forums for her poetry and essays about Tibetan culture, along with work by her husband, the writer Wang Lixiong. The disappearance of her blogs comes a few days after the closure of the forum of her husband's website Dijin-democracy.net.
"We are appalled by the closure of Woeser's blogs and we call for them to be reopened," the press freedom agency Reporters Without Borders said. "As her poetry is banned in China, these blogs were the only way she had left to express herself. Their disappearance shows how the Chinese authorities go out of their way to limit Tibetan culture to folklore for tourists."
Long committed to the defence of Tibetan culture, Woeser's book of travel notes and observation, Notes on Tibet, was banned in 2004 because of its positive references to the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the way it deviated from the official government line on Tibetan government and culture.
She was fired from her job as an editor of the Chinese language journal Tibetan Literature, and lost her home in Lhasa and her social welfare benefits. She was also forced to write articles recognising her " political errors". However, she keeps writing and several of her books have been published in Taiwan in recent years. Born in Lhasa in 1966, Woeser's family comes from the western Tibetan area of Sichuan. She was brought up in both the Tibetan and Han Chinese cultures.
Her output is diverse. Woeser's first poetry collection, Tibet Above, won a national ethnic minority literature award in 2001. Another one of her books, Forbidden Memory: Tibet During the Cultural Revolution, includes hundreds of photographs taken by her father, who was a Chinese military officer in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution.