Sunday, November 04, 2007
NEW ACCOUNTS OF CHINA'S CRACKDOWN AT LABRANG MONASTERY
ritish newspaper The Independent has a report from China's Gansu province (formerly part of Tibet's Amdo region) with details of security forces' crackdown on celebrations for Dalai Lama's Congressional Gold Medal Award on October 17. The celebrations at Labrang included a fireworks display which was halted by police. (ICT has photos). The Independent's Clifford Coonan was there two weeks later.
Eyewitnesses, who cannot be named for fear of retribution, told of how the monks met stiff opposition from the police, and the celebrations on the night of 17 October quickly turned into a confrontation.The Tibetans had been watching the event over banned satellite receivers or listening to shortwave radio broadcasts from Voice of America or Radio Free Asia.
The demonstration of support was a brave and significant display of dissent by the Dalai Lama's supporters in China and offers a rare insight into the tensions that exist between the three million Tibetans who live in Chinese territory outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the Chinese authorities, who insist that Tibet is part of China.
Truck-loads of police and paramilitary police were called in to deal with the escalating situation. Firefighters used hoses to clear the monks, shopowners were ordered to close their shops and foreign visitors were told to stay indoors.
"It's been a bit tense here lately. On the night, the police came, the People's Armed Police came, though they weren't armed on the night. The firefighters came with hoses and turned them on the monks. The monks threw stones at the police and there was a clash," said one Tibetan.The writer says tensions were still running high in the Labrang area, and monks were clearly afraid to speak to him openly. But they found ways to get their message across.
Following a religious rite, where throat-singing monks intoned deep-voiced sutras, all the monks rush into a courtyard, a number of youthful monks pulled at my coat sleeve and said "Dalai Lama, Dalai Lama" and gave the international thumbs-up sign.Coonan says morale has been boosted in Tibet, and in the Tibetan regions now subsumed into various Chinese provinces, by the welcome His Holiness has received in Australia, Germany, United States and Canada.
Down one of the alleyways threading through the monastery, another monk pulled me aside to tell of his love for the Dalai Lama in broken Chinese, saying the police had come but they had celebrated anyway.