Sunday, March 30, 2008
NEW PROTESTS IN LHASA
eports began coming in last night that new protests in the Tibetan capital had broken out mid-afternoon on Saturday. It's likely that despite government controls over information, the people of Lhasa were aware of the hastily-arranged visit of foreign diplomats, and wanted to make a point -- in the same way the Jokhang monks interrupted a stage-managed tour for foreign journalists to make their point on Thursday. Activists in Lhasa may have wanted to make the diplomatic tour backfire on the CCP the same way the media tour did.
Many news outlets based in free countries didn't pick up on the diplomats' visit until they were already on their way back to Beijing. Embassies were only informed of the invitation on Thursday, they flew in on Friday night, and they left on Saturday. It's believed the demonstrations began around 2 pm, shortly after their departure. The delegation was not permitted to move freely.
The Tibetan government in exile was the first to pass on the reports they were getting from the capital.
Around 2 PM (local time) in the afternoon, Tibetans gathered for a protest in front of Ramoche Monastery, Lhasa. Also, nearby, in front of Tsuglag-khang (Jokhang) temple and Beijing East road, protests were started, and thousands joined into the protests within no time.The first reports on western wire services also cited citizen reports which came out through Radio Free Asia.
These protests are happening after many days of intense suppression, where we witnessed Chinese armoured vehicles and tanks being brought in to forcefully stop the protests.
"People were running in every direction," one witness said. "It was a huge protest, and people were shouting."Among the wireservices, AFP writer Lobsang Wangyal is the only Tibetan journalist covering the issue.
Another source who declined to be identified reported seeing "fistfights" but she didn't give details. The protest continued for several hours but no further details were immediately available.
"The local government is now sending mass text messages using local cell phone companies to spread the word that the situation is now under control and people shouldn't be influenced by divisive-sounding news and gossip," another source said.
The area around the Jokhang temple was cordoned off by Chinese police shortly after the demonstrations began, a man told AFP citing information from Lhasa. He did not want to be named to protect his sources.Associated Press reports that the foreign diplomats did not see the protests, as they had departed around 1 pm. AP also reports on the latest instalment of shrill CCP propaganda released on Sunday, accusing Dalai Lama of being the one who has closed the door to dialogue. Maybe some of that pressure from international leaders, for China to consent to genuine dialogue, is having some effect.
"It was the Dalai Lama clique that closed the door of dialogue," Xinhua said, using China's standard term for the Tibetan government-in-exile...Xinhua claims to have proof of the "Dalai clique's" instigation of violence, from a "confession" from one of the estimated several thousand Tibetans now being detained. It also claims police have found weapons and explosives, along with Tibetan flags and independence banners in monks' rooms at a monastery in Ngaba County (likely these stories come out of the raid at Kirti Monastery, where dozens were killed by security forces two weeks ago, and demonstrations - and further shootings - persisted through last week). The CCP mouthpiece also said satellite phones and dishes, fax machines and computers were also seized.
A woman who answered the phone at Lhasa government headquarters said the reported protest on Saturday was merely a rumor.
"You shouldn't believe such things," said the woman, who hung up without giving her name. No new incidents were reported on Sunday.
Calls to the monastery rang unanswered and officers who answered the phone at police headquarters in Aba county and the surrounding prefecture said they had no information about the reports.Reuters cites information received by ICT on the protests yesterday.
"The monastery has been very quiet these days," said a woman who answered the phone at county police headquarters. None of the officers gave their names as is common among Chinese government officials.
The London-based International Campaign for Tibet said it had heard from three sources that security forces had surrounded Lhasa's main temples, Jokhang and Ramoche.The spontaneous protests appear to have been set off by security checks in the old Tibetan quarter of the capital. Mobile text messages, mass distributed by the authorities, said the ID checks had caused panic among "frightened citizens."
"The whole area has been shut down," said the group's spokeswoman, Kate Saunders.
"Severely battle any creation or any spreading of rumours that would upset or frighten people or cause social disorder or illegal criminal behavior that could damage social stability," read the text message, which was reprinted by the Free Tibet Campaign and International Campaign for Tibet.Washington Post has few more details of what went on yesterday in Lhasa.
Although details were sketchy, reports indicated that armed police began massing shortly before 2 p.m. to check the identity papers of people in the area where the March 14 riot started, and Tibetans began running away rather than risk arrest...It also quotes a little more of that mass text message translation.
A Lhasa resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said a friend of hers had been shopping at a government store in the area when someone ran in about 2 p.m. saying another riot had begun...
The woman ran out to the street but could not get a taxi or bus to stop. "Everybody was in a panic," her friend said she told her.
The cellphone signal in the area had apparently been cut off, so the woman ran for nearly an hour to reach her home. She told her friend that she did not see a protest and that the streets were empty.
"Currently the social order in our city is nothing abnormal." The message said that the security department was carrying out identity checks and that the procedures "caused some frightened citizens whose identification [documents] are not clear to run away."Over this past weekend, more evidence has emerged of the authorities' deceit with regards to the March 14 Lhasa riots. We'll be covering that here tomorrow.
The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has an excellent new interactive map showing the locations (at the county level) of the freedom demonstrations inside Tibet over the past three weeks. Location markers (white doves, I like that) contain descriptions of the actions (and security apparatus reactions), with links to the fuller accounts on their website.