Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tibetan monks listen to RFA
Tibetan Buddhist monks listen to Radio Free Asia on shortwave radio, as they rest on the first night of their long march to Lhasa. About 100 Tibetan exiles made 40 km. progress on the first day, after setting out from Dharamsala, India.
Photo: AP / Ashwini Bhatia

ibetans and their supporters around the world mounted protest rallies, freedom marches and other actions to mark the 49th Tibetan National Uprising Day. Thousands of cities and towns in dozens of countries raised the Snow Lion flag -- the Tibetan national flag -- over city halls where "Tibet Day" had been declared, usually in spite of strong, often threatening counter-pressure from Chinese consulates and embassies.

Most notable among these events was the strongest uprising of popular national sentiment in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in nearly two decades. A mass protest there in 1989 resulted in a violent crackdown and declaration of martial law by the then Party Secretary of Tibet (the defacto ruler of the region) Hu Jintao, who is the current Chinese president. Protests have continued for a second day; dozens have been arrested, monks beaten and tear-gassed, major monasteries are now isolated by troops, and gunfire has been reported emanating from at least one of these, Drepung.

The similarities to Rangoon five and a half months ago will not be lost on the Chinese occupying forces.

In Greece, which boasts itself the birthplace of both the Olympics and democracy itself, Tibetan exiles attempted to enter the site of Olympia, but were barred by Greek authorities from the public space with the excuse that they carried "big bags." The Tibetans wanted to light the Tibetan Freedom Torch, which will pass through 50 cities on its way to the Tibetan border on August 8, at the Olympia site. With Greek police doing the manhandling of Tibetan athletes (while Chinese embassy officials watched and snickered approvingly), they lit their torch outside the gates and conducted a short ceremony including the Tibetan National Anthem.

The incident was caught on camera, and the video can be viewed here. Please watch it, and marvel at the thuggish behaviour of plainclothes police in democracy's birthplace, while the reporter corners some of the undercover Chinese agents with embarrassing questions. I love seeing those guys squirm. You'll see and hear them screaming, "Tibet is ours!" Despite the official opposition and hindrance to their activity, and the clear foreign interference from the long arm of China, Tibet Olympic Committee spokesman Kelsang Gope said that the people of Olympia clapped and cheered the Tibetans along their main street.

In the Nepali capital Kathmandu, more than 200 Tibetans have been arrested after a violent crackdown on their peaceful attempt to march to the Chinese embassy there.
Thousands of Tibetans had initially gathered in Boudha, a Buddhist enclave in Kathmandu, to mark the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising day.

The clashes began after police tried to stop some few hundred Tibetan exiles from leaving Boudha to hold protest outside Chinese embassy against China’s invasion and occupation of their once independent country.
Chinese agents were even more blatant in their foreign interference activities than they were at Olympia, and were observed giving directions to Nepali police, and even spitting on the Tibetans. There were many injuries suffered by the Tibetan protesters, as can be seen in the photos in this report. The American photographer who took them was also spat upon by the arrogant Chinese officials directing the crackdown. Apparently Nepal is now ruled from Beijing.
It has been well known in Nepal that due to strong Chinese influence on the multi-party government, the Chinese embassy issues instructions to the Nepalese Home Ministry to direct the police on various important Tibetan anniversaries. But yesterday the Chinese embassy was visible on the streets with the Nepalese police, and according to one experienced observer, Chinese officials were "directing them, positioning them, [and] telling them to remove people".
This is the "peaceful rise of China" to be celebrated by the Totalitarian Olympics 2008.

As already mentioned, March 10 in Lhasa was nearly the Tibetan National Uprising all over again. Hundreds of monks set out from Drepung Monastery on Monday for a 10 km. walk to the Potala Palace at the centre of Lhasa. Sources said their purpose was to demand the release of monks detained last October for celebrating an award of the US Congressional Gold Medal to their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama. Those monks had been guilty of whitewashing their buildings, in his honour.

The marchers were stopped along their way into the city, and dozens detained; their current whereabouts are unknown. Drepung and other Buddhist monasteries are now blocked and isolated by the paramilitary People's Armed Police. In a separate incident in the Tibetan capital, a small group conducted a pro-Tibet march in the Jokhang Square area, distributing pamphlets and raising the banned Tibetan national flag. The group was immediately surrounded by onlookers in an attempt to protect them from police, but they were arrested in any case by the Public Security Bureau. Eyewitness reports claim they were manhandled and beaten severely by PSB officials.

Protest was also reported from the eastern Tibetan province of Amdo (now eaten up by China's Qinghai province). Around 137 monks from Lhutsang Monastery, along with over 200 lay persons converged on a county assembly hall where the government was sponsoring a show.
Sensing a protest by the Tibetans, the show was forced to discontinue. Later monks and laypeople started shouting slogans "Long live Dalai Lama" and "The Dalai Lama should return to Tibet". At the moment there is no report of people having been arrested from the area, although, the concerned authorities are known to be investigating those involved in the protest.
Chinese officials at first denied that any Tibetans had been detained during these peaceful demonstrations, but the government now acknowledges the arrests as the protests have continued for a second day. Sources in Tibet report that tear gas has been used against the monks.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the demonstration in Lhasa Monday was an illegal act that challenged social stability.

He says the participants were "ignorant monks," abetted by what he describes as a "small handful of other people." He will not say who the other people are.
After around 600 monks marched to police headquarters on Tuesday demanding the release of their brothers detained the previous day, Chinese police fired tear gas to disperse them.
Some of the marchers in Lhasa on Tuesday shouted slogans such as "Free our people" and "We want an independent Tibet," according to Radio Free Asia, a US-funded broadcaster that broke the news of the initial protests on Monday.

On arrival at police headquarters, they were confronted by "a couple of thousand" armed police officers, who fired tear gas to break up the gathering, Radio Free Asia said, quoting witnesses.
AFP contacted the Public Security Bureau in Lhasa today, where an officer denied any knowledge of any such incident. More details of the two days of unrest in Lhasa are here, including accounts and photos from tourist witnesses. The sounds of gunfire were reported from the vicinity of Drepung Monastery on Monday night, but confirmation was impossible due to severe restrictions on information by the authorities.

Meanwhile, the Tibetans' long march for freedom which kicked off Monday morning from the heart of exiled Tibet at Dharamsala, India, was halted at its first overnight encampment at km. 40. Indian authorities had given the order to prevent the peaceful march from continuing.
India, apparently fearful that the march could embarrass Beijing and jeopardize warming ties between the Asian giants, banned the exiles from leaving the Kangra district that surrounds Dharmsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Local police chief Atul Fulzele said Monday the ban was made following a recommendation by the Indian government.
The Tibetans thought about it overnight, and decided to push on for the district border.
Tenzin Tsundue, one of the march leaders, said the protesters would likely reach the border by Wednesday and would try to evade the police.

"This is the fun part now," Tsundue said. "We are ready for any kind of obstruction. We will be very peaceful but when so many people are determined to give their lives up, no police can stop us."
The sight of Indian officials barring a non-violent Satyagraha for truth in Gandhi's own tradition, would be most unfortunate. Tenzin Tsundue has previously had his own freedom to travel curtailed by the Indian government, but he has nevertheless been quite successful in his creative acts of dissent against Chinese rule of his homeland. He has managed several times to get his peaceful visage and non-violent banners right into the faces of visiting Chinese officials, including Hu Jintao himself once, at his high security hotel window.

It was a good March 10 this year, and the tenacious Tibetans are not giving up any time soon.


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