Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
A mighty woman
A representative of the Tibetan Youth Congress holds the Tibetan Independence Torch at Dharamsala, India yesterday.
Photo: AP / Gurinder Osan

"A mighty woman with a torch, to light the way for all yearning to breathe free...

"We are proud that the most recognizable symbol of America's love for freedom, is a mighty woman."

- President Bush on March 10, 2008,
International Women's Day,
and also Tibetan National Uprising Day.
He was citing the words of American poet Emma Lazarus, best known for her sonnet, written in 1883, which is engraved at the base of the Statue of Liberty. He honoured a number of mighty women in the speech, including Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. I posted the video clip on March 11.

The Statue of Liberty was the model for the emblematic statue created by the student movement for democracy in China in 1989. She was the "Goddess of Democracy." The young Dalai Lama, before the Chinese invasion, kept a model of the Statue of Liberty on his bedside table in the Potala.


he death toll of China's crackdown on Tibet's democracy movement continues to increase, with protests continuing across eastern Tibet and many monasteries around the capital sealed off by troops. Food and supplies are denied to the isolated monks, and now they are beginning to die of starvation. Ramoche Monastery is in the centre of Lhasa.
Since March 14, in Ramoche Monastery (Lhasa) Chinese military presence has been a regular scene, as they have completely surrounded the monastery premises and blocked of all exit and entry points. As a result of these tight restrictions, getting regular food and water supplies has been a huge problem for the monastery and on March 24, Thokmey (a monk from Ramoche) died from starvation as confirmed from a reliable source. From time to time, the military have been firing tear gas inside the Monastery premises.
This update from yesterday also indicates the CCP is taking yet another page from the Burmese book. In Kham region (Ch: Sichuan) government officials are making donations of money and rice to monasteries and households in Batang and Derong counties, in an attempt to win hearts (a nightly feature on Burmese TV). CTA notes the irony.

TCHRD puts the death toll so far confirmed from all information they've received, at 79. The Tibetan Government, likely receiving a greater volume of information due to its older network of reliable informants, estimates the number at around 140. TCHRD has recorded over 1200 arrests, and says more than 100 Tibetans have disappeared.

Following the death of a young monk reported yesterday, in a peaceful protest on Monday in Drango County, Kham, Kardze "TAP" (Ch: Sichuan province) the monks of Drango Gaden Rabten monastery organised a prayer session yesterday. After the prayers more than 400 monks walked in peaceful procession toward the county headquarters.
The monks in their complete monastic robes proceed with their plan by raising slogans "Dalai Lama should return to the rightful throne in the Potala Palace", "Release Panchen Lama", "Stop current repression in Tibet" and "Independence and Democracy for Tibet."
Although obstructed by PAP and PSB forces on a bridge, the monks managed to press on as lay people joined them.
[W]hen the protesters reached the County Market square, the security forces started firing live ammunitions and blocked all alleys of county market. In short time, protesters lay down on the road to avoid bullet fire and shouted for the protesters to stand together. Though few agitated protesters hurled stones at the military trucks during the protest, however, senior monks present in the protest stopped them from doing so. The monks continued with their protest shouting slogans for a couple of hours before being ruthlessly crushed by additional forces of PAP and PSB. According to sources within Tibet, the protesting monks rushed back to their monastery.
One of the monks shot in the incident is known to be in critical condition, but the extent of other casualties are unknown. The CTA has a few more details of the first shooting. It says the march was begun by nuns, who were joined by local people, several hundred monks from Chokri monastery, and another group of nuns. They shouted slogans etc. until 5 pm on Monday.
During the protest a monk (age 21) from Chokri Monastery was shot and killed on the spot by the military. When the military tried to take the dead body away, protestors were able to collectively keep the body in their possession and later hid the body in a safe spot. Another protestor, Tsewang Dhondup was also shot (on his kidney) and remains in extremely critical condition with little hope for survival.
Military helicopters patrolled the area yesterday. The update has information on numerous other protests in Amdo and Kham over the past few days, and more cases of sealed monasteries being denied basic supplies.

Although communication is becoming ever more difficult, Radio Free Asia continues to be contacted by Tibetans who have conversed with family and friends inside the country.
"In the Chabcha area of Amdo [Hainan/Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture], there is a small monastery called Atso. I am from this monastery...

"After these protests in the surroundings of the monastery, the monks all walked to the township center, not very far away. There, they pulled down the Chinese flag at the local government school and burned it. Then they returned to the monastery and continued their protest. Three trucks full of police then arrived, and the head of the police threatened the monks with 'serious consequences' if they continued their protest. He told them that 'with just one phone call, we can finish you.' "
At Kirti monastery in Amdo Ngaba, the site of one of the early massacres which included schoolchildren, the monks are also isolated behind security forces and running short of food.
Some local Tibetans and monks tried to bring food to the monks being held inside Kirti monastery, but security forces stopped them. The monks inside Kirti monastery are facing a severe shortage of food, and the main roads leading to the Ngaba county centers are blocked by the People's Armed Police. So both monks and laypeople are facing shortages of food, and if they become desperate they may rise again.
Much more at the link. Further local accounts from Kardze "TAP" via RFA Unplugged, from reporting done by RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese services. There are also some very interesting statements given by Chinese sources there.

PAP in Shangri-La
Paramilitary police practice manoeuvres in Zhongdian (which the government has claimed is the real and true legendary Shangri-La), Yunnan province, on March 25.
Photo: AP / Greg Baker
And here are some first hand accounts of protests in Amdo Tsolho, Amdo Golog and elsewhere in Qinghai province. One tells that the only monks inside his own monastery are those few who did not take part in the protests; the rest are hiding up in the mountains. I was struck by the final statements of two accounts:
"Now, security forces seem to be coming. Thank you. Please let others know what we are doing and broadcast it to the world."

"The monastery is now surrounded by security forces. Please let others know what we did and what our condition is. Thanks."
The Times Online UK has a reporter in Chengdu City, Sichuan province. Michael Sheridan says that the Tibetan Plateau once again "looks like a hostile place to most Chinese."
The uneasy sense of psychological defeat emerged from interviews with Chinese citizens and soldiers in Sichuan province, a vast region that includes a swathe of the Tibetan plateau, over the past week.

Almost without exception, people said they had lost faith in government propaganda and feared that Tibetans would turn to violence against China.
This is dangerous for any regime which depends on controlling the opinions of the masses. Signs of "psychological defeat" will be making them nervous in Beijing.
Foreign condemnation is officially scorned as biased. But public opinion at home, although hard to measure, suggests that many Chinese do not believe that Tibet is secure and do not think things can go on as they are.
There are some thumbnail biographies of the military commanders in the area, who ordered units out of Lhasa, Chengdu and Kangding last week to squelch the protests in Sichuan.
Western military attachés say there is no question that Generals Tong and Zhang can impose what China calls "stability" in short order. Yet the uprising has led some to sense that China’s empire is fraying at the edges. A bank clerk based in Lhasa told how his financial firm had ordered all staff to stay out of Tibet. A Chengdu entrepreneur said the city’s business people went to make money in Tibet but would never buy a home there.
I'll bet that last one is a dominant attitude among the Han majority these days.

From Beijing, the Times gives accounts of the incident mentioned earlier, but here giving the place name as Luhuo (which must be the Chinese name). The demonstration began with monks and nuns from various institutions in the district, as they marched toward government offices joined by farmers and nomads. Paramilitaries just opened fire on them.
Shouting "Long Live the Dalai Lama" and "Tibet belongs to Tibetans", they approached the office. The paramilitary People’s Armed Police appeared and ordered the crowd to turn back. Witnesses said that shots were fired and two people appeared to have died. They identified one as Congun Dengzhu, a farmer, and the second as an unknown monk.
There's also an item related to our post yesterday. Remember the "rioter" who appeared in photos brandishing a long knife, who was later identified by a Thai tourist as a policeman she'd seen changing from Tibetan clothes back to uniform in the Lhasa police station? The one who miraculously disappeared from subsequently released copies of the same photograph, after he was "outed" at a rally in India? The Times' Jane Macartney describes the latest issue of wanted posters.
The man whose picture appeared as number 52 on the list features in one of the most well-known images from that day of violence, in which a group of Tibetans can be seen setting light to a Chinese flag while a young man in Tibetan dress and carrying a machete-type knife stands in the background.
That's him! The full and cropped photos were carried at the Phayul article linked yesterday. It's the same scene described here. The Lhasa policeman is "number 52 most wanted".

Meanwhile an alarming development (as well as a rather childish one) is reported by Phayul, from the news service TNN (I don't know this source).
According to reports, China stationed forces on the Nepalese side of the border with Tibet last week, in order to keep tabs on protests by Tibetans in Nepal over the past few days.

The Chinese forces were in plainclothes, but armed with small weapons, sources said. This has rung alarm bells in India's security apparatus, but there's no official reaction.
Chinese officials have been operating inside Nepal with apparent impunity lately, spiriting refugees back across the border and have been photographed directing Nepali police during some of the protests in Kathmandu. And here is the childish part:
The government maintained a grim silence on the major diplomatic snub inflicted by China when its foreign office summoned Indian ambassador to Beijing, Nirupama Rao, at 2am to give her a list of demonstrations that Tibetans planned to organize in India.

While this could just as well have been done during working hours, summoning the envoy in the middle of the night is seen here as nothing short of utter high-handedness by the Chinese.

Meanwhile, global strategic analyst Stratfor said Beijing was disturbed by the sight of foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee and US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice jointly addressing the Tibet issue in Washington.
Summon the ambassador to your country at 2 am to complain. That will win them some friends. Times of India (again via Phayul) reports on China's alarm over rising support for the Tibetans.
"Alarm is rising in Beijing that the US, India and other nations — including the UK — are actively supporting the Dalai Lama in an attempt to force policy changes in China. Protecting its territorial integrity is of utmost concern to China... Beijing is hypersensitive to real or perceived threats, always assuming the worst about outsiders’ motives," global strategic analyst Stratfor said.
The government of China, stung by criticism for having expelled all possible witnesses to what is happening up on the Tibetan Plateau, has decided to admit a select group of journalists for a tightly-planned trip to Lhasa. They should be on the ground by now.
In reaction to criticism over its decision to bar foreign journalists from travelling to the areas of Tibet and neighbouring provinces that have been the sites of anti-China demonstrations, China announced Tuesday that it has organized a trip for a dozen selected foreign correspondents to Lhasa.

The foreign journalists, who are to leave Wednesday, would not be allowed freedom of movement with Qin saying the restriction was necessary to protect their safety.

Chinese authorities have organized interviews 'with victims of criminal acts' and visits to places that were 'looted and burned,' Qin said.
The information blackout also restricts Chinese media from operating in these areas.
Officials of the Tibet Autonomous Region have imposed a news blackout, authorising only the state Xinhua news agency, China Central Television and Phoenix television to operate in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. Local media must follow central government orders.
And despite the CCP's obvious and total failure with its long-running patriotic re-education campaigns (part of the "Strike Hard" strategy for dealing with recalcitrant Tibetans), Chinese "scholars" aligned with the Party have vowed to press ahead.
The education campaigns, which have increased under Tibet's current Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, are blamed by some for sowing resentment of Beijing within the region's Buddhist monasteries, but the scholars said they were necessary...

"Patriotic education ought to stop the infiltration attempts by the Dalai clique and provide education to the monks," he said.
Fat chance of that happening. Lhagpa Phuntshogs, director of the "China Tibetology Research Centre," reiterated that tired old canard that Han chauvinist (Mao's term, not mine) cyberwarriors have drawn on for years in online debates (I speak from experience). He says Dalai Lama instigated the marches and protests because he dreams of returning Tibet to serfdom.
"What do they want? I think it's very clear that they want to try to restore the old theocracy in Tibet. The separatist elements are not happy with the end of theocracy in Tibet ... and they are not happy with the end of backwardness in Tibet."
Sorry Quisling, that trick never works, and you'll only deepen the already burgeoning mistrust of CCP's judgement if you keep that line of attack.

In the Independent, Nigel Morris gives a short portrayal of some of those who have disappeared: Missing: monks who defied Beijing. And here are some extracts from an essay by the reform-minded (now under house arrest) ex-CCP high ranking official mentioned in yesterday's post, Bao Tong. Mr Bao was the top aide of ousted premier Zhao Ziyang.
Harmony means that you have to beat swords into ploughshares. It cannot flourish in a closed society, and it cannot be built by force. It should be an urgent priority to open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This should be Plan A. With his commitment to pacifism, the Dalai Lama is the only Tibetan leader with the ability to bring about a conciliatory agreement between the Tibetan and the Han Chinese peoples.
More at the link. [update: The essay ranslated in full here]

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