Monday, March 17, 2008
CHINA'S DEADLINE APPROACHES; PROTESTS CONTINUE
he deadline for Tibetan demonstrators to surrender themselves to the Chinese government comes at midnight tonight, about 4 hours from now, as further clashes are reported from the eastern Tibetan regions of Amdo and Kham. ICT has the text of the order:
1. Those who on their own volition submit themselves to police or judicial offices prior to midnight on March 17 shall be punished lightly or dealt mitigated punishment; those who surrender themselves and report on other criminal elements will be performing meritorious acts and may escape punishment. Criminal elements who do not submit themselves in time shall be punished severely according to law.
2. Those who harbor or hide criminal elements shall be punished severely according to law upon completion of investigations.
3. Those citizens who actively report and expose the criminal behavior of criminal elements shall receive personal protection, and granted commendations and awards.
"I have talked with army personnel and they appear very disorganised. They do not know what is going on and who is giving orders... Now it looks like a total war zone. Maybe half the shops are burnt...hundreds of them. There is telegraph poles knocked down by tanks, a tank has driven straight over the top of an SUV out the front of the hotel. There is a barricade of smashed cars that the tanks have bulldozed into a protective ring around the Army compound out front of the Jokhang. We have heard that the army is inside the Jokhang but cannot go over there to look..."In the Kham region, more information on the crackdown at Kirti monastery in Ngaba County.
"I saw army going from door to door, knocking and sometimes dragging people outside. We could hear them banging on doors for some time. I saw what I think is Chinese special forces with high powered rifles. I saw one soldier fire his weapon into a shop. The noise was so loud. I couldn't see what was inside..."
"Friends heard the train whistle or horn this morning so we think the train is running. But we assume only outgoing traffic. We think a lot of Chinese people will be leaving Lhasa."
"Today (Saturday morning) is martial law [martial law is not believed to have been formally imposed, although eyewitness reports refer to security conditions that are similar], there are soldiers every five feet on all major roads (ie: just down the street from our hotel). Tanks are lining the main street in the old part of town (center of the trouble). One guy estimated 20,000 troops on the streets."
"...[We have heard] there are so called 'massacres' over by the Great Mosque, with intense fighting between Muslims & Tibetans. One Tibetan [told a friend] that he saw 50 Tibetans and a child get gunned down by soldiers on Ramoche street." [Disturbing reports of what happened at Ramoche continue to emerge, but no confirmation is currently possible.]
More than a thousand monks were joined by laypeople in a major protest at Kirti monastery and town in Ngaba (Chinese: Aba) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, this morning, which led to at least eight, possibly many more, people being killed, according to several sources. Three were named as Norbu, a 15-year old high school student, 30-year old Tsering, and Lobsang Tashi, 35. According to one reliable report, eight bodies had been on display outside the police station in Ngaba, in an act that appeared to have been intended to deter the local populace from further acts of protest.There's much more; reports have flooded in to ICT on Sunday describing protests in many areas, including Tibet's second city Shigatse (west of Lhasa, site of Tashilunpo Monastery, which is the seat of the Panchen Lama - whom China kidnapped at a very young age 13 years ago).
According to one eyewitness report, the paramilitary armed police had been carrying out drills in the town in a display of force which appears to have angered Tibetans. After a morning prayer ceremony, monks reportedly joined laypeople in a spontaneous protest, shouting slogans of Tibetan freedom and in support of the Dalai Lama before armed police fired into the crowd. An eyewitness report from the area said that the local government run hospital was refusing to treat the wounded.
Lody Gyari, the Dalai Lama's special envoy to China and participant in the six rounds of "discussions" between the two sides since 2002, focused attention on the turning-point decision which now must be made by the Chinese president.
"China's President, Hu Jintao, who presided over the imposition of martial law after protests by monks and laypeople in Lhasa in 1989, has a dark legacy in Tibet. The question is whether he will break with precedent and engage with the genuine Tibetan concerns that have led to these protests, or whether he will allow the hardliners to dominate the Tibet issue and follow the path he has taken in the past of violent reprisals. This is an unprecedented historic opportunity for Hu to leave behind a positive legacy on Tibet. The world now knows of the Tibetan people's suffering, and the world is watching."Phayul is doing some independent reporting through its contacts inside Tibet, and have audio of a phone conversation with a source in Ngaba County, Kham. TCHRD also offers information on the ongoing house-to-house arrests as of Sunday -- well in advance of the so-called "deadline for cooperation" later tonight. Former political prisoners have also been rounded up and thrown behind bars.
With streets filled with patrolling Chinese armed troops and tanks in Lhasa city, the security agencies comb each and every house in Lhasa and pick up all suspected Tibetans, especially youth, from their houses accompanied by severe beatings by the armed forces. In testimonies received by TCHRD, mothers and elderlies in the families helplessly plea at security forces upon seeing their sons and loved ones being beaten and dragged away.Also in Kham region, around 100 students of a Middle School in Marthang County (in what is now deemed part of Sichuan province of China) erupted into a spontaneous demonstration during morning classes today, calling for return of Dalai Lama.
According to witnesses, the People's Armed Police (PAP) and Marthang County Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials blocked and immediately crushed the students while they came out of the school premises shouting slogan calling for the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet. Students were severely beaten and manhandled before being dragged into the waiting police vehicles.Radio Free Asia reports that Tibetan students in Lanzhou, at the Northwest National University staged a peaceful demonstration on their campus.
According to the latest information coming out of Tibet, it indicates that around 700 students of the Marthang Nationality Middle School in a solemn gesture of solidarity with the arrested students are staging protest outside Marthang County PSB office.
"Hundreds of Tibetan students took part, and Tibetan students from other departments tried to join in but were blocked. They declared that their protest was peaceful, and they urged the Chinese authorities to stop their crackdown on Tibetans in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas,” a witness said.RFA was also informed of more details on the ongoing sweeps in Lhasa.
"They also expressed solidarity with those Tibetans who protested in Lhasa, Labrang, and others outside Tibet. They had a banner that read, ‘We stand together with Tibetans, for glorious democracy and life.’”
"Official warnings were issued to all Tibetan residents of Lhasa that all Tibetan houses will be searched for photos of the Dalai Lama and for Tibetans who were involved in the riots. They were warned that no one should attempt to stop the searches and arrests, and people are not allowed to gather in groups when arrests are made," the source said.The only journalist now known to be in Lhasa is James Miles, writing in the Times of London.
The same person said TAR officials had recalled all Tibetan government workers now in different parts of China, telling them "to report back to Lhasa within three days—they are needed to secure TAR railway lines. Failure to report in will result in 'consequences.' "
By late afternoon [Saturday] the troops, members of the People’s Armed Police, were entering the alleyways themselves, firing the occasional shot. One appeared suddenly on the roof of my hotel where two Americans and a Tibetan crouched in terror. I was told he looked like a teenager, as surprised to see the foreigners as much as they him. He quickly left for another rooftop.And an Oregon newspaper, the Willamette Week gave an account by an Oregonian filmmaker who was working on a documentary for National Geographic at the Labrang monastery (Amdo), which he sent them by email. Spence Palermo writes:
This area was originally part of Tibet until the 1950s and is still very much Tibetan in nature. Actually, according to some of our local sources, this area at present is perhaps "more Tibetan" culturally than the Lhasa area due to the intense "Chinafication" of present day Tibet...The following day, this crew's filming project was abruptly halted and they were not even allowed to pick up their equipment and belongings from their hotel. Everything possible was done to prevent them from seeing what was going on in Xiahe town. As they were escorted under heavy guard back to Lanzhou city for their rushed departure out of the country, the writer was only able to see a hint of what was coming down for the monks of Labrang.
When we returned to the hotel the following evening [Friday, March 14 - ed.] after shooting out of town all day, we were met by yet more officials who promptly informed us that no one was to leave the group, that we would be escorted to dinner and after dinner returned to the hotel, where we would be placed under house arrest!
At the end of the hall on our floor was a room full of , well, "goons" is the best way to describe them. They kept the door to their room open, monitoring any activity in the hall, and throughout the night a guy in a cheap leather jacket (no Italian leather here folks, most likely made in China!) who stayed glued to his cell phone paced up and down our floor. Outside the hotel, similar types patrolled the exits...
As if on cue as we were allowed to pass through the gate, our way was blocked by a FAST moving military convoy of about 20 trucks headed for Xiahe. Most of them were loaded with Chinese soldiers, but I couldn't help noticing that about half of the trucks were empty. All I could think of was that they would soon be filled with the amazing, wonderful, kind and happy monks who would most likely be taken away to who knows where.Read the whole thing, as they say.
I know this has been a long e-mail and I know that many of you haven't heard from me in a while, but considering China's treatment of the Tibetans in general, the Buddhist monks specifically and considering the "Happy Face" this government is putting on for the upcoming 2008 games, I feel like it's important for as many people as possible to get an understanding of how things really work here. I also feel extremely fortunate to have experienced the compassionate spirituality and hospitality of the Monks of Labrang, but also to have witnessed the pathetic, deceitful, desperate and violent oppression of this incredible culture and the suppression of those of us who would tell this story to the world.
The Chinese authorities today insisted that they had used "massive restraint" in dealing with the demonstrations over the past week. It was massive alright, but it was anything but restrained.
China is well on its way to putting itself into international pariah status, on a par with the ruthless thugs they defend and support in Burma and Sudan. If there is no significant change in their policies in Tibet, including a demonstrated willingness to rethink their hardline stance, no one should even be considering to attend their self-glorification party in Beijing this summer.
UPDATE: A partial list of worldwide support demonstrations is kept by Students for a Free Tibet right here. San Francisco, Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles, Utah (Salt Lake City presumably), Toronto and London (UK) -- you're up today, so check it. Chicago, you're up tomorrow. Ottawa and Montreal will show up en mass on Wednesday, and Vancouver will flood Robson Square on Saturday, I'm sure. Latin America and India contacts are also given, so let's get this happening people!